Category Archives: 41. AvPG: FUBAR FTW

Aliens versus Psycho Gecko, at long last. Who wins? Who survives? Who walks funny the next day? Whoever wins, do we lose? Find out now.




You know, space is a lovely place. The rhyme was unintentional, but I couldn’t help but admire the view as I sped off toward the Fluidic fleet in my new spaceship. I got it fairly cheap; it only cost some lives. Now, given how I’ve been getting wounded regularly against these foes, it would be pretty reasonable to ask how I could have pulled off such a feat as capturing the ship.

I suppose I could answer with pushups, situps, and plenty of juice, but one of the things making this trip tougher is that I ran off without any food or water. I’ve looked around this place, and I have yet to identify any food. Could be they have it and I’m incapable of recognizing it as such, but I’m not yet to the point of gnawing on everything around to find out if it’s edible. Could be they have some sort of beam system, or nutrition pills. Could be I’ll start chewing on what I think is food, only to find out it’s mold because the janitors were all conscripted to fight. Maybe they eat lightning crap thunder, who knows?

Anyway, the truth is always simpler and more disappointing to those used to my tendency for overly-elaborate plans. I got into their engineering sections, which I recognized through a combination of guesswork and a minor ability, perhaps you’ve heard of it: I can physically merge with computers. Granted, it took some poking and prodding to be able to pull off the ol’ Vulcan mind meld with something from Vulcan itself, but it worked. I found it, got into the computer systems that handled life support, and played around.

I know, it seems dishonorable, like a vegetarian Klingon, but as any Qo’noS chef would agree, today was a good day to fry. Cranking up the heat was just a matter of minor inconvenience. After that, it was a matter of turning off the airscrubbers. It surprised me to find out our alien buddies breathed a mixture of gasses similar to Earth’s own, but it shouldn’t have. Otherwise, how would they have survived on the planet at all without their suits? I took a brief smell of things and found it to be a little off, but that could also have to do with the odor of a bunch of people sharing a confined space. Including the odor of any of them getting it on, it’s safe to say assume. Gorn porn aside, once there’s no playing fair when Romulans like these want to ream us.

After that, they panicked and tried to go over my head with higher and higher levels of authorization. Then they sent someone to break down the door. Oh yeah, they had doors. With the things being all weird and fluid, they were smaller than I was used to and crescent-shaped. Just as long as they didn’t take me to the moon, let me play among the stars, I’d be fine. I had no desire to see what life was like on Jupiter or Mars. Besides, like anyone would really want to go see John Carter?

So I heated the ship up hot enough to kill a Sebacean, backed up the gas enough to kill a Hynerian, and waited them out like a…I’m drawing a blank here. Let’s just call that one a reference to the Silence. End result, they all died painful, slow deaths like a Decapodian having choke sex. Ok, I’m having a bit too much fun with all these references. Unlike a Nibblonian, these stopped being cute awhile back. No one wants to hear me Babylon 5 times as long as necessary just to fit in a bunch of alien names.

Good thing I couldn’t smell anything in my suit, too, because I didn’t bother cleaning the whole ship out. I just didn’t want to, nor did I have the time. Plus, I kept getting this feeling some of them were faking me out. They were weird gemstones laying in puddles of black goo; how could I tell they were dead from a distance?

So, yay, I told the ship to rejoin the rest of the fleet and found a way for it to give me a visual of Earth. Then I put on Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech. Ah, the lone planet of humanity. It’s a shame people are such assholes to each other. Makes it real easy for someone like me to justify what they do. Then again, as I realized on the way up there, I did run off to risk my life ending the alien threat once and for all. I didn’t do that for any noble reason, either. I mean, the planet is where I keep my stuff, and I have friends there. And considering how the Fluidics treat people, they put up with me a lot better on Earth. If not for the fact that I think all those incompetent morons back on the planet were incapable of solving the problem, this little trip almost looks heroic.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel it was going a little too according to plan…

That’s when the hailing frequency came in. My only bridge crew was a bomb designed to tear a hole in reality, so I had few options for dealing with communication. I couldn’t even swivel a chair around. The closest they had to seats were these bowls. But why not stick a serial killer in a bowl, eh?

I had to merge enough to bring up audio-only communications. To my surprise, the aliens communicated amongst themselves in the universal language: English. “Hail, expeditionary ship Neir. You are returning for repairs?”

When in Roman, speak as aliens do. “Yes. We are badly in need.”

The next sounds I heard sounded like sloshing and splashing. Several important-looking lights came on indicating something about the mass of ships I was in a direct course for. Figuring I’d said something wrong, I started mimicking a crackly sound and broke up my speech. “Sor-…pairs. Transla…cuckolded minotaur…sploosh.”

The lights changed from yellow to blue. I didn’t know if that was good where these guys came from, so I adjusted the ship’s velocity. “Number two,” I said to my bridge crew. “Make a note of this: when diplomacy fails, the next step…is ramming speed.”

Shots struck the ship, causing much shaking. Luckily, no consoles exploded. I fired back at the first ship to attack, despite knowing my one vessel could never repel firepower of the magnitude coming from a fleet of what looked like at least forty.

“I hope you have a better plan than this, chap,” said a British-sounding voice through the panel suddenly. I’d forgotten I had the aliens on the phone.

“Well, to quote Sun Tzu, ‘No plan survives contact with anemone,’ though I like to think most lovable jokers like myself would prefer to throw coconut cream octopi,” I answered back.

A smaller group of ships, five of them, broke away from the main fleet to intercept me, firing on after the other. Suddenly, a glowing blue orb of light flew out from underneath my stolen ship. Its tail expanded to cover the front of the ship, forcing the sensors to compensate when giving me a visual. The shots connected, but lacked the impact of previous hits. The computer showed less damage where they hit. “I never expected you to be the one to lead a martyr’s charge, Psycho Gecko. Not after we met so long ago.”

“Mobian?” I asked. “It was just last summer. Not even a year ago, I think.”

“A year for you. Do you have anything to stop these guys?”

I shrugged. “Just a little something I whipped up once to destroy a planet. I know how sensitive you are to violence, though, so I toned it down.”

“You let me worry about the violence. Just keep whatever it is ready. I shouldn’t think we’ll need it, but they haven’t been listening to me before now. Maybe this will make them shut up and consider peace,” Mobian said.

Before I could do much of anything, the light of his ship grew brighter. The ship felt like it was breaking apart around me as more shot struck. Something exploded. I didn’t know Mobian’s game plan, but I directed a message back to Earth all the same, “People of Earth, this is the USS Gecko, boldly going where some-damn-body’s got to go to save the planet. The ship is heavily damaged, so this may be my final message, and I just want to say I hate your guts. All of you, starting with Aaron A. Aaronson. I hate you. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and nobody else but you.” The ship shuddered. “Ok, I think something just took out the salad bar, so I need to cut this short. I just want to say, kiss my ass you rotten motherfuckers. And if anyone wants to find my secret hidden treasure from all my heists, it’s buried at the-.” I added some crackling, then cut off the channel to Earth.

Moments later, the ships fired and the light from Mobian flared up again. By the time I got sensors to compensate, it had faded and they insisted we had bigger problems than a light show. Like avoiding collision with the rest of the Fluidic fleet, which we were now in the midst of.

“Attention, would-be conquerors of the planet Earth,” The Mobian began while I checked over the ship, wondering how much I had left. Life support was failing, engines were gone, and I didn’t even want to guess what the bathrooms looked like after all that shaking. And due to the aliens being a mass of fluid around a solid core, which probably explained the hardiness of the artificial gravity. Liquid does interesting thing in a vacuum.

Long story short, the Titanic was in better shape at this point. This thing just didn’t have any water to sink into.

Anyway, Mobian was still talking, “I have with me a psychopath with a really nasty weapon capable of blowing you all away, every last one of you. He will do this. You don’t get it! You can set humans back a couple hundred years if you lose, but if they lose, they will commit genocide on you. They will take this further than you ever could, or you can listen to me, stand down, and we’ll talk this out. This planet is big enough for the two of you. You don’t have to be invaders. You can be partners, if you can show an ounce of compromise. I’ll make it happen.”

Of course, I might be recalling that wrong. I kept an ear out for it, but didn’t bother to sit still and listen to all of it, what with having armed the bomb. Mobian can have peace, sure. He can have all the peace he wants. He can sit down, pull himself out a big plate full of peace, carve off the peaciest, most pacifistic part of it, and down a big glass of harmony cola while he’s at it. I settled for carrying it out to one of the wholes in the hull and dumping it into space, where simply blowing this ship up wouldn’t do them any good.

Then I made for the shuttle, using the dead liquid bodies of my enemies as an express slip n’ slide to escape. I think it’d make an excellent evacuation tool in more situations, actually. It’s fun, it’s quick, and you can just toss unconscious people onto it. Only problem is, some folks might go back into the disaster just to do it again. I may or may not be one of them. I climbed into a shuttle, a newer one than I’d used to get there, and started hightailing it toward Earth.

“You still there? Everything alright?” Mobian’s voice came from the shuttle’s communications system as well. I think he broadcasted to all of them in the area, actually.

“Yeah, just taking a shuttle here. Just being prepared to get a little distance. You think they’ll agree to a peace now?” I double checked the bomb in my head. Rather than putting it on a timer, I gave it a receiver. The power went straight to me head, y’all could say. This way, I could tell it to go off, or it’ll go off if I die. “Hey, just how bad is it that I changed the future?”

“Changed it? How?”

I quieted down some as the shuttle gave me a clear view of the Earth again. It really is something being out there. “I was supposed to die. I think this all would have gone very differently if I’d never known that.” A signal came to me showing I was now out of range of the blast radius. “Hey, out of curiosity, just how quickly can your ship get far, far away from those others?”

“Why do you ask?” Mobian asked before his voice dropped in dread, “…what have you done?”

First there was a sound, like wind blowing hard through a crack. Pulling up that view on the sensors was like looking back at the birth of a black hole, except a black hole is still a hole in space. This was like if you took a picture of space and then photoshopped it so that a part was removed and everything scrunched up to try and connect everything. It wasn’t very big, which was part of how I arranged things for reasons that will become apparent. The actual matter transmitted to another universe would be relatively small compared to the other effects. For instance, the way everything in the immediate vicinity, which included a lot of alien ships, were suddenly pulled inward to crash against one another while tearing away from any parts at the edge of the radius. Then things started to get really jumbled and explodey in there.

I couldn’t devote myself to observing it, though. The shuttle shuddered and bounced around, even as gravity pulled parts of me in different directions at the same time. Or I assumed it was gravity. Being in close proximity of that detonation didn’t do a lot of good for physics.

Slowly, space began to expand again to fill its proper dimensions without anything that had been inside the Dimension Bomb’s center remaining. Everything else that had snapped inward like a space demolition derby (note to self: trademark the shit out of that!) rocketed away in bits and pieces, none of which looked all that functional.

I lost sight of it because I suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the planet, as if snapped there like a rubber band. Out of nowhere, I tasted something purple, but I had no time to concentrate on that because I had to fight the shuttle for control. It died on me, and y’all could say I was dead set on not joining it in such a grave situation.

Between the aliens and the bomb, some folks on Earth probably expected Jesus to show up riding a Utahraptor to fight Lord Voldemort. I passed over a desert at one point and saw the sand forming a tidal wave, so it wasn’t just me getting fucked up. The sunlight briefly shined blue, then green, then red, then yellow again over the water. Descending, my shuttle even hit some local wildlife in the form of a flying pack of dogs. Odd. I wouldn’t have thought they’d had enough time to get so high up. Then again, I’ve never technically seen the aftermath of a D-Bomb explosion. I just knew it could get pretty bad for areas not inside the point of detonation. It was made to kill a planet, after all.

I’m not sure now if what saved me was the ship’s power kicking back in or if the ground became bouncy the way things are going, but physics returned to normal by the time I stopped throwing up all over the place.

Yep, Earth. It was good to be back home. What, ya’ll thought this would end the big theatrical way, where everything cuts out in the middle of me plummeting back to Earth? Like I’d pull that kind of cliffhanger situation. Ha!

Now, seeing as I landed in Antarctica, I just had to keep from freezing to death. On the plus side, at least I found some water. A bit on the cold side, but it is water. Now I just need someone to deliver a pizza. Yep. I’m sure there’s lots of food to find around this place. Like a nice tall plate of fuck!







“I wouldn’t get too close. He’s a little…” Max warned someone off approaching me. He didn’t mean to offend me, I’m sure, especially because he was down in the bunker and I hunkered down in the top floor of my building. It didn’t used to be the top floor until the aliens carved it up. And with power back on in the city, I could listen in down in the bunker from up there. Good thing I was up there. Max was right.

It started with a few bad dreams. In this one, I had an eye looking right at me from the middle of a massive nest of tentacles and mouths that stretched for miles in all directions, more of which I saw as my viewpoint zoomed out. The ground around it swarmed with millions of things moving around, roaring, swinging claws around. I pulled out far enough to see larger tentacles waving out into space, a star in the background. Instead of a moon, a bloody skeleton in the fetal position orbited. Before I went any further, it reached out to grab me.

I awoke lunging and swinging my fist, knocking a gun out of Lone Gunman’s grasp. It took way more people to pull me off him than should have been trying, and apparently I’m the bad guy for pulling out the shiv and holding someone hostage until they turned over Lone Gunman to me. Then the electricity-powered supers interrupted the whole shebang and I didn’t even get to kill anyone.

I’d have done so anyway, but Beetrice got all independent being on her own with her own friends and acquaintances. But no, apparently I’m the one being unreasonable for wanting to execute all of them. When someone walked by, when someone said hello, when someone looked at me too long. They’re all really lucky I wasn’t having flashbacks, though.

Just when I thought it was safe to sleep outside my armor. Took a bit of Febreze, but I pulled it on again and went up high to evaluate the situation. The aliens have suffered defeat after defeat in the field. They lost their barrier, their ability to easily brainwash us, and any semblance of being peaceful. In the meantime, they’ve started open warfare across the face of the planet, with other cities now being cut off by alien ships. Yep, it looks like they have little reason to come back to Empyreal City. So far, so good. I might actually survive this.

No way. No how. It’s not going to be that easy. There’s always someone, somewhere, who is trying to murder me, and these guys are fated to do so. It’s all just a ruse, it has to be. They decided to lose here to lull me into a false sense of security, then started fighting other countries. So while they tried to live and let die, I tried to think up ways to get the D-Bomb to their fleet.

Just like with taking out the satellites, it’s important to understand the distances involved. Space is big. Like really, really big. I’d say you could take my word on there being large distances involved, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that it’s fucking big. My dick, my ego, your momma; all pale in comparison to the size of outer space.

No matter my thoughts, I had plenty of time to think them. Whatever happened to Lone Gunman, he didn’t try again that day. Probably went out to whet his murderous appetite with more of the alien hunting squads. There were still stragglers and raiders, but the number of armed ETs in the streets had diminished rapidly. The game of cat and mouse had reversed itself. The aliens had the technological advantage, but they had wanted Earth’s numbers for a reason.

I didn’t join them, though, because something about the entire situation still wasn’t right. I couldn’t figure it out, but I did know that the answer to all of it was the bomb I’d been putting together, calibrating, maintaining, but which I hadn’t armed or even made capable of remote arming. I mean, having a bomb ready that some tech-savvy enemy could turn on right beside me? Yeah, sure, right after I shove a pistol into the waistband of my sweatpants with the safety off and try to scratch my balls with a hatchet.

There was no getting around it. I needed an alien ship. A shuttle would probably do, as long as the Fluidics didn’t bother to question what one lone ship of theirs was doing flying back to the main fleet. And I really didn’t want to be the lone idiot on that shuttle trying to do that one. Uh uh.

I looked up at the ship over Empyreal City, pondering this problem, when I sensed something amiss. Like millions of lives crying out in terror and suddenly ending. I reached out with my personal wifi to figure out what happened and realized I couldn’t see or hear or feel anything. Everything had gone dead. Thirty seconds later, it all came on again, but everything I touched with my mind felt painful. Like my brain scraped against rough wood. It reminded me of that time I tried the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, but with less lemon and gold.

I recognized massive viral infection when I saw it. I’ve caused enough of it before, that’s for sure. You sweet talk a computer or two, just trying to find out which superhero has a thing for mouth-fucking fresh carp, and you sell that information off to a rival hero or villain to throw them off their game. Bada bing, bada boom, carpe diem. Perhaps that’s a poor choice of words.

At least I was fine. Whatever they had going on, my anti-virus systems had already adapted and kicked out any attempts. I could still communicate with Earth’s cute little proto-Skynet, but not as well as before, so I took the express elevator down to find chaos breaking out in the bunker.

“Dammit, what did you heroes do now?” I asked, stepping out of the elevator to find people crowded around televisions, radios, and my giant screen.

“Breaking News!” the monitor promised, except that the head of the anchor immediately went all fuzzy and snowy. Words appeared over anything on screen, a sentence at a time in multiple languages.

“We wanted a peaceful transition. You have made this impossible. We will rule you. You have twenty-four hours to formalize your submission. Until then, lights out.”

Then everything that received a signal or that connected to something with a signal shut down. TV, radio, the internet, computers, printers, fax machines, phones, cars with GPS. Anything that could have been infected by this virus just stopped, the power included.

“Again?! Can’t a guy enjoy a cold one in peace?” I asked, throwing my hands up.

Wildflower turned to look at me from next to the computer. “Gecko? Are you ok?”

I nodded. “Yeah, Apparently I’ve dealt with this before, though I don’t know…” I trailed off, thinking back. Way back. I thought back so far, I thought back to the future. In Transylvania, when I first stumbled into the future because a man’s attempt to freeze the world in time created localized spacetime ripples into the past and future, I had been severely debilitated by a virus I contracted in the same ripple set during this invasion.

Huh. Well, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than if I was doing ok and realized it was because I later on I time traveled to the past to give myself the cure I’d received from my time traveling self at this point. Suck it, Bill and Ted.

I shook my head. “Ok, so I’m fine. For me, software anti-virus is a little bit like the immune system at times.”

“Great! All we need to do is let the government dissect Gecko’s brain and we’ll be home free!” yelled Lone Gunman from behind me. I instinctively created a hologram of myself, turned my real body invisible, and stepped to the side.

Venus whirled from the monitor, gritting her teeth and pulling off the last bits of her power armor. Underneath that, she wore a minimalist version of her normal white, gold, and pink costume. “Nobody’s dissecting his brain, but perhaps he can hook into everything and undo this? Master Academy has a hacker who can help fight this virus, but there’s a chance others can get into your head while this is happening.”

My hologram shook its head.

“I know it’s a lot to ask for, but without computers, it’s only a matter of time before Earth surrenders…”

I let her keep talking while I snuck through the crowd until my armor could no longer maintain the projection. That riled people up. Ha! Another crowd of people angry at me. It gets old. No, they made it clear enough by now that I wasn’t their friend or even ally. Just another tool to get the job done even when they preferred in-fighting. Just another machine. A weapon.

What doesn’t get old? Strapping a mostly-built weapon of mass destruction to my back and sneaking out back to find the shot up old piece of junk shuttle that we’d stolen, then used to infiltrate the alien ship, then got shot up even more on its way back.

Because I knew what I needed to do, and it didn’t involve letting people into my brain either way. That would only fight a symptom, and I’m done trusting anyone to handle that. Everyone decided they didn’t want my help, need my help, or didn’t need to give me help, and everyone from Good Doctor to Lone Gunman is aiming for my death in a time when there are clearly bigger fish to fry.

It wasn’t that hard to fly the shuttle up, and docking was as easy as the big ship taking control of the shuttle’s systems to guide it into a docking bay full of enough stuff to kick my ass. Clearly, they’d learned a thing or two about boarding parties, and made sure to stand clear when they forced open the door, then went in with a hell of a lot of force. They had clearly learned a lesson some stormtroopers could have used in Star Wars.

Too bad I clinged to the top of the shuttle for the last part of the journey. Even with the extra weight of the Dimension Bomb on my back, it was child’s play to slide down to the floor and make my way past unobserved and through a door. Oh yeah, they’d learned from Star Wars. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t paid as much attention to movies like Alien, Predator, or even Alien Versus Predator.

Because when it comes to Psycho Gecko, karma’s not just a bitch. It’s also one ugly motherfucker.






Another exciting day in the city. At first, the aliens made some big announcement about surrendering all the superhumans to them for processing, then they started sweeping through neighborhood after neighborhood. It went well for them, briefly. What they lack in raw numbers, they make up for with mechanization, what appear to be drones, and some squads of Technolutionary’s robozombies. Upgraded ones.

Where before Technolutionary fitted human bodies with cybernetic enhancements and shoved a computer into the brain to control them, the process looks much more refined. It undoubtedly has to do with better integration of the biological and artificial components. He’s giving my species’ abilities to his robozombies now, and they’ve become a sturdier and more graceful as a result. I got a good look at them, too, thanks to hopping onto a patrol of them and tearing off an arm.

Like I said, it worked the for the aliens until we started putting up organized resistance. Or as organized as any resistance becomes when I’m part of it. Wanting to keep hurting the fuckers, I headed out on my own after some squads of the robozombies seen terrorizing the eastern side of the city.

The first sign they had that things weren’t going as planned was when one of their transports blew up in midair. The things still have something to throw off sensors and any eyeballing of their exact features from afar, but the good thing about cannons is that sight is a perfectly viable option. And I do have cannons. The confrontation with Venus was just over before I ever needed to use any of them, but I didn’t just build some of those things on buildings around the city for no reason. Case in point, one transport went down before it could land and offload anybody or pick anyone back up. Shortly thereafter, I landed and on the bunch sent to investigate it and took them apart to examine their quality.

Ah, Technolutionary used to think I was so great, a true evolutionary leap forward for mankind. Now he’s making people like me just to use them as mindless foot soldiers. Good response times, though. Less than five minutes after I tore them to pieces, I looked up to find three more shuttles coming in. I pointed my fingers at them like guns and gave a little “Pew pew!” One took a hit and slammed into a building. A second tried to dodge before I caught it from another direction with another cannon. The third tried to stomp on me like an Italian plumber who hates mushrooms.

It missed, thanks to my cunning strategy of getting the hell out of the way, but then it just sat there. I expected doors to slide open, shots fired, all that. It took a couple seconds, but when they did finally open, it was at the hands of a pair of wounded robozombies surrounded by dead ones.

“This is why they invented seatbelts, ya know,” I told them. Before they could raise their gun arms, two shots rang out and did some decidedly permanent damage to their computers.

I turned to focus on where the shots came from and saw Lone Gunman on the side of a building. He hung there from a hook embedded in the side and aimed a gun at me. He stopped and gave a little salute, allowing me to see a huge revolver with extended barrel and a stock. “Just a weapons test, for now.” Then he rappelled down the side of the building and went his own way.

Wish I could have seen his face when a fiery stream lanced out of the ship overhead and burned through the top of Double Cross Tower, taking my favorite cannon along with it. Shit, and probably my penthouse, the bastards! And my closet, too. Damn. I got the dong back, but I really like some of those dresses on me.

But at least that was the only one of the cannons they disabled. They probably needed a couple shots to track them back. And it’d no doubt do a lot to convince people they need to sit down and be ruled if they could do that. Which made me realize that if they weren’t using whatever thing they did to turn buildings into tiny pieces like before I was on the run from them, then that meant they probably couldn’t do so here. That’s a handy bit of information to have.

Another thing that’s handy to have? One slightly used alien shuttlecraft. Needs a small patch where someone shot through its armor, and needs a few bodies cleaned out of it, but ultimately good to go. It’ll be no different than buying someone’s used car.

Of course, first I had to send someone to go fetch it. That’s what minions are for. In this case, a bunch of Buzzkills and Moonbats. The Moonbats like to help like that. Apparently, it’s really cathartic for them to actually shoot at some aliens, and I find their revenge fantasies about anal probing the aliens to be particularly interesting. Plus, it gave them something to do besides whine about the food situation.

Good thing for those MREs, I guess. I grabbed one left behind by a Moonie too disgusted with the food to take it with him or finish it before leaving. Ooh, Charms.

I also needed to be there at the bunker for a pow wow. With power being what it is and the possibility of attack, the bunker has become a prominent spot in resisting alien invasion. There wasn’t a lot of organization, but we had some folks who could get people to follow them by force of personality. Man-Opener, for instance.

“Though what Man-Opener lacks in an actual preassembled retinue to take with him, I feel he makes up for with being royally pissed off. So I think he needs to be part of the strikeforce.” I argued to a few folding tables worth of assembled supers.

“I second the motion!” Man-Opener said, raising one of his suit’s limbs.

“You don’t want him on the ground with you?” Venus asked, not quite so mindful of proper phrasing.

I shook my head. “They hate me enough that I need to stay, but I think it’d need to be more of a mixed effort on both fronts. Besides, you might need someone who can make a hard choice.” Like that time in Transylvania, for instance. A guy wanted to freeze the world in time because of the death of his son. The Mobian wanted to talk him down. Didn’t work. I killed him. Problem solved.

The plan is simple, though. Venus will take a force into the enemy ship, consisting of a few people of her choosing, but definitely Man-Opener and Lone Gunman. Instead of shooting blindly into the ship, hoping to hit something important, he could go in there content in the knowledge that he can shoot through their stuff anyway.

Meanwhile, I’d stay down and be a prominent target for the aliens, drawing forces down from the ship to make things easier for them. The shuttle could make a good way in. If it doesn’t work as well, there’s also the remaining cannons. I think I could open a hole. Especially now that I have a penis again. The assignment to help me out was completely voluntary, though. People still hate me. I should have Moai and Mix N’Max on my side, at least.

So when we were ready, I took a more prominent stand. Instead of hitting and running, I’d have to be there to take the heat. It’d be downright suicidal. Odd how few people tried to talk me out of this course of action.

We got our opportunity before too much longer. A sizable force, more than I could take on myself, were taking over a neighborhood. The strike team went up in the shuttle and joined the ones returning from offloading that bunch.

Down on the ground, I scouted out the victims. Where the road was bigger, an armored vehicle sat in the road, turned sideways. Another one blocked it off at the opposite end, where the street had narrowed. Scouting it out, I saw they had other resources patrolling alleys. Small, cube-shaped drones, or these machines with an upside-down pyramid base with a single wheel on the bottom and a single rotating limb. Significantly less elegant than their other designs. The aliens seemed to prefer round shapes. Even their armored vehicles.

Whatever the case, I needed to see how sturdy they were. So I dropped down on one of the cube drones from above, bringing my rocket sax down onto it. The instrument dented a little as the blow sent the hovering cube bouncing off the ground. When it came back up, I swiped it with one hand and sent it into the brick wall next to us. It bounced off that, rebounding into the air and spinning around to gain its bearings.

“Eat hot, sexy passion, alien scumdroid!” I yelled out, then brought the sax to my lips and pressed a key. A line of flame shot out, engulfing the alien artifice. I kept bringing the heat until it finally dropped, glowing red hot, sides starting to crack and warp.

One down, a small army to go. Man-made thunder erupted over the city, all aimed at the same point. A ragged hole opened up in the ship overhead, whether the strike team needed it or not. Thanks to them running silent, they couldn’t complain about it to me. The ship responded with that fiery beam of its own, cutting through another of the cannons just before the remaining ones began shelling it. It took hit after hit, and returned them until I could no longer feel any remaining cannons. But maybe it did something after all. At least it heavily smoked where the flaming lance had issued from.

I couldn’t spend all day contemplating that, though. One of the unicycle bots rolled around the corner and swiveled that single limb around. It was a bit far for the sax, so I slung that onto my back. I nodded toward the unidrone and started charging the energy sheath around my right hand while going for a rubber chicken on my belt with my left. “Sup?” I asked it. It shot first, trying to put a hole in my chest. I was a bit worried it might overpower the sheath, especially since it tracked me when I tried to dodge.

I dropped the chicken, stepped on its neck, and kicked the body closer to the unidrone. After it stopped skidding, it stood up and began walking in the direction of the nearest street, which was behind the drone. Why did the chicken try to cross the road? I don’t know, but the rubber chicken grenade didn’t make it that far before exploding and wrecking the robot.

When I stepped out of the alley, I swung another rubber chicken around by its neck gently enough to keep it from pulling off. I haven’t been a guy in awhile, so it’s important I be careful how hard I swing my cock around, after all.

“Do you ever wanna catch me? Right now I’m feeling ignored! So can you try a little harder? I’m really getting bored!” I called out. Rounded saucers swiveled towards me on black fluid-filled tentacles. The sideways hover armor rotated a trio of barrels in my direction. The whole group stopped and paid attention. That’s probably how the hover armor got taken by surprise. Rockets crashed into it, bullets bounced off it, and an energy beam sheared through the turret portion.

I jumped on top of it long enough to pantomime blowing the rest of them a kiss. “Come on, shoot faster, just a little bit of energy! I wanna try something fun right now, I guess some people call it anarchy!” I hopped off the back of the armor and waited for any takers.

A pair of them followed. One was in a big, black, humanoid suit with a device attached to its hand that emitted a barely-visible length of…something. The other was one of those saucers turned on its side with nine tentacles carrying it over. That one tried to jump on me immediately. I backflipped out of the way before it landed for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t feel like a hug. Second, I wanted to get out of the way of my car. Black Sunshine, my lovely, pimped-out car. It charged forward, firing rockets and a minigun like it had against the hover armor. What did the most damage was actually hitting the thing and smacking it into the disabled armor it had just passed over.

The humanoid raised that thing on its hand toward me. Instinctively, I threw myself to the side. A shimmery wave, like heat rising off the blacktop, flew from the alien suit to cut into the road. Suddenly, some little glass flask crashed against the armor it stood upon. It looked down at it, where a green gas cloud spread briefly, before lighting up and then collapsing in on itself, where it exploded. It gutted the Fluidic encounter suit and tore its legs open, spilling the alien’s liquid body out. The rounded crystal core that seemed to make up the alien’s brain rolled out onto the street. A motorcycle pulled up next to it, and Herne the Hunter’s spear impaled the thing. Mix N’ Max got off the back of the bike and patted Herne’s leather-clad shoulder. The helmeted and horned biker super nodded and drove off down an alley, barely escaping the swarm of cube drones that descended on the area to surround us. The buildings became host to more of the Fluidics, who took higher positions.

Max looked up at them as he stepped over to me, then pulled out another flask. This one looked like he bottled it in an airport smoker’s lounge. “Need some cover?” I nodded, then noticed a twitch of movement out the back of my view. The laser limb of one of the unicycles snapped back, a large scalpel embedded in the firing optics.

“Much as I hate to be here, gentlemen, I don’t want to leave early because we let you die. Not yet, anyway,” said The Good Doctor like a true gentleman, stepping out of another alley and kicking a carved-up cube drone with him. “Please, Max.”

Max nodded and unbottled the flask, instantly throwing us into the middle of a fog so dense, it has to figure out if it’s going to work at an AT&T store or just buy something from one and call in to complain about it later. With the sky covered in either alien starship or glowing blue forcefield, it gave the field a really cool rave vibe. We all walked a few feet back before taking a different angle, dividing up the area around us into three zones. Back to back, Doc raised a set of thick scalpels, Max pulled out his syringe gun, and I punched one of my palms.

“Come on if you think you’re hard enough!” I shouted into the fog. Then, to the others, I asked, “They aren’t going to be hard enough, right?”

“We brought help,” Max answered.

“Huh, maybe I should have been singing ‘Lean On Me’ instead.” A black tentacle swiped out of the fog. I caught it and activated the Nasty Surprise, the blade cutting into it and beginning to spew black fluid. I pulled at it and brought in another encounter suit that had the tentacle and three others coming out of its back. I jumped on its face and shoved my blade right where its mouth would be. Opening up its head, I crawled my way down inside and burst from its chest, core in hand.

Back to back, the reunited Dark Triad fought swarming, blinded aliens. Around us, the sounds of battled rose up, indicating others had joined the fight. We moved as we fought, keeping each other at our backs as the fighting moved us. An encounter suit, a cube, a unidrone, some weird saucer. We maintained this formation pretty well until one of the saucer mages appeared, with the its multitude of wire-thin tentacles drawing numerous runes into the air and hurling subzero cold and volcanic heat at us at once, carried by winds that pressed down. Doc grabbed Max and got him out of the way, but a force like a tornado overpowered the pseudomuscles in my armor’s legs. They broke as I attempted to stay on my feet. Ice covered my armor before hissing away thanks to heat that felt like my organs were frying. Then freezing. I didn’t know if the cracking was my armor or me.

Just before my helmet completely iced over and left me blinded, I saw Terrorjaw the shark man leap up and chomp through several of the tentacles with his toothy maw.

I kept trying to punch at my helmet to see if I could knock something loose. Aside from feeling the vibrations, it was hard to feel I’d even been hitting it. That really didn’t say anything good about how cold I was, and my nanites weren’t likely to help. Nanotechnology is infamously sensitive to temperature, especially temperatures that can harm the human body.

I tried the view from my car. Can’t remotely drive it without some way of seeing where I’m going after all. It showed a battlefield shifting as more and more on both sides joined in. I saw Girl Robot clawing at a cube, then getting caught by a garrote from e cube behind her. She opened her mouth and spewed some glowing breath attack that shot her back at the cube and smashing it against the building behind her before her tail angled up and speared through it.

I saw Leah there, too. The teen girl I had to take in after getting powers and running away has come far. Three unidrones aimed at her as she waved her hand. When they fired, nothing happened except the lenses of their lasers caught fire, followed by the entire laser array. Who said color changing isn’t handy?

I even saw this one guy I recognized from the insane asylum when we captured all the heroes. He had some goblin mask on and sliced through a normal-sized encounter suit that had a pair of those almost-invisible blades for hands. When it tried to retaliate, the goblin guy disappeared and reappeared behind it, finishing cutting it in half. Flying about rooftop level, Honky Tonk Hero smashed through a descending shuttle, magical guitar first. When a saucer tried to reach out for him, the saucer found its arms seared off courtesy Gorilla Awesome, the talking gorilla, who hovered nearby with his own jetpack. Nearby, I noticed Elita the Warrior Woman raise a damaged alien tank above her head and bring it down on her Amazonian knee, breaking it in half.

Ethan Basford even got in on things. He knelt there, holding open that metal chest he’d brought with him from Los Angeles, hand bleeding as he held it over the open coffin. From within flew a massive colony of bats that. Nice magic trick. An even better one came when they began to take human shape. Well, vampire shape from the way their eyes glowed and their fangs glistened, protected from the sun by Max’s chemical fog. I saw one of them in particular fly into a saucer and carve through it with claws.

Unable to do much myself, it made for a fun watch. Still wish I could have felt my balls. Oooh, they’re going to hurt so much when they thaw out, if they don’t break off first.

I backed my car up and brought it over so I could get a better view of myself and get a hand up. Maybe I could hit the flamethrower? No, that’s crazy talk. Wait, where’d my saxophone go?

I pulled it up beside myself and popped the door open enough to drag myself in across the front seats. It almost made me wish the car could transform into even bigger armor, but it wasn’t happening. I did have a very good A/C and heating system, though.

Blocking the way out, I saw another floating mass of armor and laser barrels coming my way. I may not know why the chicken crossed the road, but I know a thing or two about playing chicken. Let’s get squawking, bitch. I revved the engine and gunned it right for the alien armor, unleashing the miniguns, the rockets, even the flamethrower, energy beam, and a trebuchet out of the trunk. What? When I say I’m going medieval on someone’s ass, I mean it.

It shot back, turning my car into a convertible without an engine. On the plus side, the Fluidic armored vehicle’s front side dipped down and scraped against the road as at least that portion lost the ability to stay in the air. In the end, my half-melted, slowing car ramped up the damaged alien tank. I swear, I got like three feet of air that time. If the horn still worked, and if I’d hat it set to play Dixie, it could have been even better.

I landed past it, just in time for The Saurus, the intelligent T-Rex, to bob his head down and give the tank a chomping. His clone, looking like a younger version of himself, roared and helped himself to an encounter suit. I wondered, briefly, if the clone was now The Saurus Jr., Kid The Saurus, or maybe even Children’s The Saurus. Alas, they moved on before I could even ask, probably for the best. Like most of the combatants, they didn’t like me.

Laying there in my destroyed car, I popped my helmet as best as I could with my numb arms and find one of the nanite syringes I’d stashed in there. Ah, the sweet sting of health flowing through my veins. Or wherever I stabbed them in. Doesn’t much matter. At that point, I just needed to be able to feel my skin again.

When I finally felt less like a popsicle, I slid out of the wreck to put some more extraterrestrials on ice.

I found Max and Doc cornered a street over, backs to a station wagon while what looked like a roiling mass of cables tore through the air. Tentacles here, tentacles there, tentacles everywhere; what horrors hath Japanese porn wrought?! Well, if someone wanted to shove those tentacles in a box, I’d be happy to oblige. I jumped on top of the station wagon and tossed a four yard dumpster at the whizzing and whirling mass of barely-visible tentacles. The open end caught the center mass of the being and pinned it to the van.

“Hey guys!” I called out, leaping over to the other side, popping the head off a chicken grenade. “Listen, alien fellow, we’re going to go on a magical adventure. And here’s the magic candy, like I promised you at school.” I tossed the grenade in the window and got a step or two backs before it went off.

Easy as blowing up fish in a barrel.

“Did ya miss me, ya wankers?” I asked the rest of the Dark Triad as I rounded the van.

“You came through it alright?” asked Doc, perhaps hoping I wouldn’t have.

I shrugged. “Don’t sound too disappointed, Doc. Friends don’t hold those kinds of grudges.”

His hand tightened around his scalpel again. “When I became a monster, no company could abide me but the company of monsters.”

I held my hands up. “Hey, easy there. The past is set, and we can’t change who we are. You have to accept what you are or you’ll never be able to live with yourself. Now remember: I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me. That’s why I shouldn’t have even let it get to me that they pinned saving everyone on someone else. Too many people through my life have made it clear what I am. Change? Not while some asshole king’s hired a knight to come after me because I hoped for a princess. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

Doc twirled the scalpel in his hands, looking at me. “It’ll never happen if you don’t even try.”

Inside my helmet, I rolled my eyes. “Bad guy ’til death, I guess. Which shouldn’t be long, since I’m fated to die in this damn invasion, and I came back and fought in it any-fucking-way!”

Suddenly, the sky lightened up. It lost its blue. “Get your suntan lotion ready, people. The barrier is down. Repeat, the barrier is down,” Venus said over the comms. Cue a LOT of cheering on the comms and in real life. It’d be a pants dampening sound if I was an alien right about then.

Doc stepped over and gave me a little punch to the chest, no blade included. “If the future can change, who says we can’t?” He turned back to the rest of the fight and began walking in there to help finish up.

“Ugh, you keep this up, I’m going to wish for someone to kill me,” I said as I joined him.

Max, done giving us our little conversation, joined in and put his hands around both our shoulders. “They’re certainly lining up. By the way, why don’t you ask Lone Gunman how much he enjoys my little fog?”

“Ha! See? I laugh at paltry change, whether it be this ridiculous ‘redemption’ nonsense, or an attempt to cease my biological functions. Now drink hearty, my fellows of the Dark Triad, and let loose the dongs of war!” I raised my hand, holographically making a hand and a half sword appear in my grip. When I brought it down, I charged, leading the other two villains back into the fray.

The invasion’s not over yet, so I don’t have my hopes up. But I think a lot of these Fluidics are going to pay for what they haven’t done yet.






And so Psycho Gecko is almost like a hero to many people. Hurrah. Not all of them, though. Some folks evaded the cloud, or had their own protections in place. Technolutionary still hasn’t turned up, except in the memories of a lot of folks. First there was Psycho Gecko, then Priscilla Powers, and now at least two hundred other folks from Empyreal City are like me, including Venus. I am no longer a species by myself here, and that’s odd in its own way, too.

A lot of folks were real apologetic about their treatment of me, their lack of trust in me. Good Doctor seems like he could be one of them, though maybe we’ll call it even given what I did to Forcelight. Still, he and I are at least tolerating each others’ presences, but it gives me hope in a sort of way. The ability to hold onto that grudge despite all the good I did…it’s comforting to see Doc hasn’t lost that part of his own humanity.

Hasn’t stopped some of the philosophical questions popping up now with some of these other survivors. “What does it mean to be human?” and all that mess. The same kind of stuff people should have realized to ask when the aliens, robots, superhumans, and two World Wars showed up, but that’s just my opinion. At the end of the day, “human” is a species, not some mystical quality that makes one thing better than another.

It’s that focus I could begin to understand, like when Venus kept touching a cellphone to see what would happen while everyone else enjoyed a celebratory party. It wasn’t the only one. With the food situation being what it is in Empyreal City, there’d been a major effort to get relief supplies to the city. Not everyone cared for FEMA’s MREs, but a hell of a lot of other folks ordered or donated food and beer. Especially where my group is concerned. Though I know it’s premature, I let them all enjoy it anyway. Even Girl Robot and Wildflower, since I was ignoring them for the time being.

Instead, Venus. I walked over as she swapped the phone from one hand to another. “Congratulations. You went from an unpowered member of one species to an unpowered member of another species. I think by now it’s a bit redundant for the villain to tell the hero that we’re so much alike, eh?”

Venus looked at me, then closed her eyes and held the phone up. She flipped it front ways and back, taking advantage of the cameras on both sides. “This is so weird. I’m never going to get used to this.”

“You’ll get used to it. Or you’ll go crazy, but that sounds like a bit of a stretch, right?” I smiled. “By the way, you’ll want to-”

She opened bulging eyes as she glanced down. I noticed her eyes flick from side to side, up and down, like looking at something only she could see.

“Yep, there it is. Welcome to the world wide web, Venus. Try not to think of porn.” I chuckled, knowing exactly what happens when you tell someone not to think about something. The look on her face really sold it. I reached over and pressed my hand to the phone. The intrusion of my thoughts on hers interrupted her, as did me switching off the phone’s data feature.

“How do handle all of that at once?” she asked.

I held up a hand, “Just so we’re clear, that’s what she said, eh?”

She rolled her eyes at me. “Constant internet access straight to your head. Anyone would be eccentric with that.” She flashed me a smile that soon disappeared when our wires got crossed on the phone. It made her jump just a little. “Whoa, that’s weird. That must be what happens when two people like us touch something that way?”

I nodded and flashed a smiley face on the screen facing her. She glanced at it, then back up at me. “Hey, no hard feelings about me trying to kill you, right?”

I waved it off. “Normally, it wouldn’t much matter and I’d want to kill you anyway, but I like you, for an enemy. A nemesis, if you will. We’re not so different, you and I. Wait, I just brought that up. Anyway, it’s the aliens who were pushing the buttons, right?”

She nodded. “I have vague memories sometimes. I see our confrontation like it was a dream. I wasn’t there in the fight.” She sighed.

“Could have fooled me. Finally, we go at it to the death and you’re the one who penetrates my body. But if you weren’t there, where were you? You said it was like a dream, so were you sleeping?” I had wondered about this. There had been a certain amount of trauma and drama caused by people after they’d awoken from their controlled state, but no one I’d run across seemed particularly mindfucked from the experience itself. It’s not like they’d perceived themselves to be trapped forever in a lake of fire, the heat so hot it cracked the bones beneath their rapidly numbing and peeling skin. Some people look at that description and go “Jesus H. Christ!” And that’s about accurate.

Venus flinched. “Paradise.”

“Do I need to check your neck now? I thought we got that all cleared up.” I used the phone’s camera to capture a picture of her expression.

She pulled her hand back away from it. “It was paradise, like they said. My body did whatever it did without me noticing, but my mind was locked in some fantasy world where everything was right. I look back on it and think ‘How did I believe this was real?’ but it was controlling my perceptions. It kept me from noticing, and I keep wondering what my body did with them in control.”

“If it’s any consolation, Venus, while I didn’t like how our fight went, at least the pre-battle screw was very satisfactory.” She punched me in the head. Lightly in the head. “They must have read up on some nice positions.” That got me another punch. I continued anyway, “I think that last one was called ‘One Man Bucket,’ but that’s just the short name. The longer name is-” She gave me another punch that was interrupted by someone calling out.

“Hey, boss, why you let her hit you like that?” I turned to find Carl approaching, chewing on an ice cream cone that he must have been working on for a bit. A former thug for hire that I kept after he amused me on a bank job, Carl had served me well, if a bit redundantly. I’m not good with teams, or with close leadership positions, and I also figured he deserved to stay out of harm’s way. As a result, I set him up with a cushy job here in Empyreal City as my puppet Vice President of my fake front company while I traveled the world. It sorta defeated the purpose when I came back and actually built the damn thing up to help fight against some alien invasion I’d heard would happen.

Considering all the things I’d tried to put into place that turned against me, perhaps I should be grateful that I hadn’t yet had to use all of them. Like my new rocket sax, or all the other rockets I’d prepared. Or the Dimension Bomb I’d been working on. Though I will definitely have to use that one. These alien bastards aren’t done yet.

“Gotta let her get some good licks in,” I said, dodging another teasing punch to the head from Venus at the innuendo. “How are you doing? Recovering well enough? Hugged a TV recently?”

He cocked his head, puzzled. “I’m alright. Haven’t hugged no TV yet. Is that a new joke that’s been going around? I heard someone calling someone else ‘dank’ recently, and I think it was a good thing.”

I reached over and patted him on the shoulder. “Word, dawg. I was just checking, trying to keep it fo rizzle up in the hizzy. I didn’t know if you’d been upgraded to be like me. You aren’t noticing anything weird when you try phones, are you?”

He stared at me for a silent couple of seconds, then answered, “No.”

It’s been hard to keep up with people like him. Everything is a mess, the way it often is after big crises like this. A worse problem is that this one isn’t over, something others seem to keep forgetting. I doubt the government really believes it’s over, but it’s also the victory they needed for the President to make a big speech. Kinda like how the Battle of Antietam was a turning point that allowed Lincoln to make the Emancipation Proclamation. In that case, both sides had pretty much fought to a stalemate, but the South retreated, so it was seen as a Northern victory. In this case, we liberated millions of people and gave other folks the idea to start dumping Long Life regenerative nanites all over people, even though the alien fleet’s still around and a ship is still parked right over Empyreal City.

But before that speech, I had a very special thing to do for myself. It involved my armor pod I left behind, which I had repairing and restoring my armor. Knocking a few dents back out of it. Restoring all the microcameras and projectors, the nanite quilt layer, all of that. And while it was busy with that, I dipped my hand into a spare vat of nanites and gave them some special orders.

I still have curves, and a pretty face, because why not check a few more marks on some arbitrary Mary Sue box while I work my ass off to kill the unkillable? But I did drop the boobs after all. Alas, it won’t be the same trying to use knockers to knock someone’s block off, but oh well. And I brought back Richard, “Tricky Dick” Penis as well. Before anyone asks, that’s just a joke. I didn’t actually name it that. Some people may give them names, stuff like Genghis Long, Atilla the Hunk, or John Hungcock, but not me.

In the end, I went from bitch to bishonen. I still greatly resembled my Norma Mortenson identity, enough to be recognized. This only added to the surprise that ran through the room when I stopped by Master Academy East to watch the big speech that’d been announced for that day. First, people who hadn’t been around before probably wondered why I’d hang out there for this. My legal status had been considered somewhat hazy since the nanite rain, with some particularly wrong folks thinking I’ll get a pardon, but I’m still legally arrestable. Another bit of confusion came about because I’d changed sexes again. Even more confusion hit some of the guys because of how pretty I looked.

I sat down on the couch next to Wildflower. The person I sat on wisely decided to squeeze out from under me and let me keep the seat. “You’re early.” She said, crossing her arms.

I glanced down at her claws as they tapped along her arm. “Maybe I wanted to have a talk with an angry superheroine? Also, where did everyone go all of a sudden?” The room had emptied all at once without me noticing. Odd.

“Because we’re having some couple talk and nobody wants to be around that.” She sighed. “I wanted to be with you because you’re strong and you would protect me. You left me behind.”

“To be fair, that’s a pretty messed-up reason to want to date a messed-up person.” I added, not helping my case.

“I know you’re dangerous, but what attracted me to you is the way you could be dangerous to anyone but me.”

“That’s the only reason you liked me?”

“That and the way you looked after me in the asylum.” She’s referencing, of course, the time I beat her up and imprisoned her in an abandoned insane asylum. It made more sense in context.

“As soon as I got back and saw you were still seemingly yourself, I came and got you.”

“You left me in the first place. I’ve talked to your friends and you had Moai with you. You took him, and probably other things, then you deliberately wasted time coming back. I didn’t mean much to you.”

“And I was the big monster you hid behind so no one could ever hurt you, and all it cost was some sex. And a bit of my money, come to think of it.” I smiled. “Though I don’t care about the money that much.”

“I don’t know about us getting back together,” she said.

I nodded. “Yeah. I guess when it comes down to it, this wasn’t a very healthy relationship. I’ll give you awhile before I tie you up and toss you back into my bed again, how about that?”

She snorted. “You better become top monster again, ‘dear,’ or I might have to hitch my wagon to the aliens.”

“This isn’t a good time to joke about that. Also, shh,” said someone nearby. Looking up, I found the room populated once more. Uncanny. This time, they had popcorn. It helped transition Wildflower and I from the awkward possibly-broken up stage to just sitting there watching as the President of the United States appeared behind his podium.

“My fellow Americans, I have come to you today with an momentous announcement. Our planet, the home of humanity, has played host to alien lifeforms in the past. Now, we find ourselves preyed upon by a new set. Yes, there have been attempts by the aliens to negotiate with us, but they have not bargained in good faith. The rumors that the aliens are taking over people are true. They seek the end to human free will. They underestimated human ingenuity, however. The superheroine known as Forcelight answered the call and took charge. Thanks to this young hero, the alien satellite that allows them free rain to warp our minds has been destroyed. Her creations, the Long Life regenerative nanotechnology, are being deployed worldwide to combat the threat. You have seen their effectiveness in liberating Empyreal City. We owe a debt of gratitude to Forcelight and all the heroes who answered the call. Even those who have otherwise shown themselves to be enemies to our way of life, such as The Claw, have stepped up to help us fight. We are grateful for their efforts, but I assure you, they are not the only ones helping us in this fight for our very existence…”

Yada, yada, yada. Some big, long-winded speech making it clear that the aliens are the enemies, the good guys will do something about it, and the person who saved the day totally wasn’t that supervillain guy who has been putting all the work in. They gave The Claw recognition over me! Then again, he has biological weapons and nuclear missiles. I bet if I had nuclear missiles, I’d get more respect. No, wait, that’s the same line of thinking that keeps making North Korea look so stupid. Either way, I did notice a few glances toward me while the speech went on. A couple people noticed the lack of acknowledgement. Politics. Petty politics.

Well, at least until one of the secret service agents pulled his firearm and shot the President. I thought the feed just immediately cut away, until I noticed how weird the lighting got again. Looking back out the window, I saw we had the barrier back.

Oh joy. It occurs to me now that is another way to divide enemy forces in order to conquer them.

I stood up in my seat and shook my fist upward in the general direction of the alien ship. “Of course you realize dis means war.”






This town really livened up. Empyreal City has seen its share of new arrivals since my group trickled in. Wildflower’s been somewhat resentful, since she’d been here fighting the good fight. A quick check ruled out the possibility of her being a double agent. She let me do it again, though she did ask me to refrain from snapping her neck this time around.

She gave Girl Robot some particularly hostile looks when the cyborg approached me and ran her hand over my shoulder. The whole jealousy thing would have been over in a hurry if I bothered to crack the armor. Sure, Wildflower and I got a nice shower in the hotel, but I had to spray down the interior to keep it tolerable. With the environmental seals, it’s not really a threat to my stealth, but it’s not very romantic either.

When Wildflower saw the way Girl Robot was touching on me, she asked, “Who’s that?”

Girl Robot narrowed her eyes and asked, “Who is that?”

“Wildflower, this is Girl Robot. She’s one of the Claw’s people. We met on the way up here, talked a bit about cybernetics.” Girl Robot looked at me, surprised by my answer. I then continued to her, “Girl Robot, this is Wildflower. She’s my girlfriend. Unfortunately, she was left behind. I’m glad to have her back, though.”

“You didn’t mention a girlfriend,” Girl Robot said before walking off quickly.

Wildflower looked at me. “Cybernetics?”

“I came back for you, didn’t I?”

“Yeah.” She walked off, too.

I’ll have to give that situation time to cool off, which may be difficult. There’s not a lot of room for it.

It was a spacious bunker, wide open, but it’d already been crammed full of Buzzkills before I brought in the Moonies, Satan’s Poolboys, the Claw’s people, the runaways, and so on. I’d gotten trickles, and little groups, but it sucked to not get more with me. I hoped for more. Like the Rejects, or more from the Master Academy. At the end of the day, people didn’t like me, didn’t trust me. Nope, so I get the dregs and crazies, maybe the odd villain who wanted to kick some ass. Well, and folks like the Claw’s group, who hoped to show up the United States government.

So it was very nice to hook up with the other group I had Forcelight call up. I expected them sooner. I thought we’d meet up outside Empyreal City. I didn’t panic when it didn’t happen. I figured that maybe I’d get someone there. Y’all know how the cavalry is. They show up at the last second to save the day. Might as well rely on them to do what they always do.

So with me getting villains and crazies, it didn’t entirely surprise me to have Beetrice report back on the approach of a group that included a man in a black leather costume and another who almost took a Buzzkill’s head off with a revolver before the man in black could stop the gunslinger.

I grabbed Moai, Max, and a semi-fresh fruit basket. Empyreal City doesn’t have a lot of space for agriculture, so the quality of fruit within it diminished rapidly when the aliens separated the entire place from the rest of the world. Still, everything in the basket remained technically edible, except for the grapes.

I heard footsteps approaching in the darkened hive tunnel and hefted the basket. A glow rounded a corner, which turned out to be Good Doctor’s helmet light. I held the basket out and said, “Heya Doc! Great to see you again!” just before his boot hit the room’s light. He twirled a scalpel in his fingers the way some men knuckle-shuffle a coin, then gripped it in his fist with the blade pointed to the side in time to punch me in the throat.

Bulletproof doesn’t mean padded, by the way. An area like the throat, you can’t exactly fit armor plating on it. And even though a nanomaterial capable of preventing penetration by ballistic projectiles will stop a fist, it doesn’t do jack frickin’ squat about how much kinetic energy transfers through. At least Doc didn’t try it with the blade of the scalpel. It might have hurt more, and his power is very good at finding weak spots to slip a knife.

He made sure I remembered that part while I tried to keep breathing with the help of my suit’s life support. He grabbed one of the jester horns molded onto my helmet and held it, then dragged the scalpel along my visor where I could clearly see it. He moved it down, under the lip of my helmet, making sure I knew that he knew how to unseal the thing and get at my vulnerable face.

Naturally, this didn’t diminish the tension in the room. Gunman had pulled a gun, and more powers lit up the tunnel behind him. The Buzzkills raised their stingers, someone broke a glass bottle, and Festus slipped his shoe off into his hands. Shit was about to go down, yo. I just leaned down, trying to recover through the coughing fit invoked by the blow to my throat.

When I quit coughing enough to speak, I asked, “What’s up, Doc?” After a beat, someone cracked up and a lot of that tension eased up. Gunman holstered his revolver and soon the only ones not relaxed were Doc and myself.

Doc just stared at me. “My daughter!”

“I want to kill him anyway, but this scumbag didn’t have anything to do with Forcelight,” Lone Gunman helpfully provided. “This isn’t the time for this.”

Good Doctor twitched his head to the side and almost turned to look at Gunman. He stopped himself, and returned his gaze fully to me. When he spoke this time, it was with a more wicked, deeper tone to his voice. “She told me what you did.”

Oh really?

When I didn’t say anything, Doc continued, “In a few minutes of freedom, when your thoughts no longer touched hers, she told me the truth. You put those things, those nanomachines, inside her. You trapped her in her own body. Moved her like a puppet. Made her do things, made her say things. Watched through her eyes. Felt with her hands. Lied with her mouth.”

Oh, really. Well, good thing he didn’t know everything I did with her hands.

Doc leaned down and spoke in something of a loud, harsh whisper that carried to those immediately surrounding us. “Do you deny this?”

So, it occured to me my old friend might have been a bit angry at me. It happens sometimes. Still, these setbacks in planning are the cracks through which inspiration shines. Which is probably a quote from somebody, hell if I know. I stood up, looked him right in the glowing visor of his mask, and said, “No. I did it. It was the only way to get even this many here.”

Doc’s hand jerked. It didn’t come all the way to me, but I saw it all the same. He had to restrain himself, and he must have known I saw.

“Surprised?” I went on. “You know me to be shameless, but also a coward. And yet, I’m the one who came to fight. I did that to your daughter, but the Fluidic aliens have done it to eight million other daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, yada yada, in this city alone. And in other cities around the country. Did you hear that the anti-ET rallies in Russia mysteriously dispersed all on their own? The Chinese publicly laud Beijing as a new model for efficiency, but they sent me a contract to fly over and consult with them. Everything your daughter experienced, every one of those people is going through. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the army to save them?” I held out my arms.

I then pointed to Wildflower, who had her claws ready in one hand and a grenade in the other as she contemplated the violence we were close to. “What about her friends?” I switched to Festus then, who stood frozen in mid-shoe replacement by my attention. “What about his family?”

I leaned in close to Doc. My whisper didn’t carry like his did. “You want to be a good man? Sometimes good people have to sacrifice. And sometimes, someone like me has to make people get up off their asses and go save the world.”

Hopefully not often. That’s all kind of wrong.

I noticed Doc’s hand squeeze on his scalpel at the word “sacrifice” and he didn’t let up until the end of my little statement. His gaze drifted down, then back up. “Speaking of sacrifice, Psycho Gecko, I’m curious how you escaped Empyreal City the first time around. You were here, weren’t you?”

I nodded, as did Beetrice and Festus.

“What did you sacrifice to get out?” Doc looked around. “What could you sacrifice? How did you get out on your own, and why did you leave everyone else behind, except your dutiful Moai. No offense meant, Moai.” Moai shrugged. “Or did you strike a deal? You were at their mercy, and it’s obvious you don’t like them. What did you give them?”

You know that feeling, where an entire room turns against you? Yeah, that happened. Like suddenly all the attention turns to you and you know it isn’t good. “That’s not what happened. Technolutionary tried to bargain. He has this weird fantasy about me and him. And I think the Fluidics still feared I had a trick up my sleeve. And I do. I have two of them.”

“Then they could have killed you, or capture you. Do to you what you did to my daughter, all for Technolutionary. They didn’t. They had millions of people. Ordinary people, but they didn’t have what you have here: resistance. Superhuman resistance.” Doc held out his hands.

“I thought of that, but I-” I was cut off.

“You led us into a trap!” Someone threw a tomato. I didn’t even know we had tomatoes. Why is there always someone with a tomato?

I raised my hands and the volume on my speakers. “I disarmed it! I can keep them from doing anything to you! Listen!”

Well, they didn’t listen. I had it all in hand. But, well, then came the tarring and feathering. Or the honeying and spray painting. Then they tossed me outside the bunker, right onto the street. And I had to let them, because their lives were still valuable. Standing up afterward, I shook my hand at the retreating crowd as they started to close up the hive trapdoor and shouted, “Yes, I brought you into a trap! I can deal with it! I’ll show you. I’ll show the entire world! You haven’t seen the last of Psycho Gecko!”

Which was true. One of the things caused by my public messages and the time it took to get here was a larger media presence from the outside, hopefully ones not taken over already. One such chopper even got good footage of me looking like the world’s worst dessert. I let it follow me, publicly broadcasting my whereabouts, as I made a few calls to get even more people in the air.

Of course, I couldn’t let myself be taken out publicly by whatever the aliens have done to take out entire buildings, so I had to stay mobile until I had too many things overhead. I had to improvise. I originally meant to goad them into a big battle, make sure they had to commit a large crowd, show that resistance was futile, all that mess. I wanted as many of them out and about as possible.

I didn’t get that. Instead, I jumped around and ran along the sides of buildings before jumping off again, making my way around the city. Because this isn’t just about whether I look right or wrong. It’s about if the extraterrestrials want to demonstrate the complete failure of resistance by simply wiping me off the map. I figured, hey, maybe getting some cover overhead would work. Like in Central Park. I’ve done so many things there before, too. Killed some campers, stole some penguins. It’s got range.

And I always wanted to stop by and see Thoth. He’s this performer and super, possibly magical. Has a thing about prayer and worship in these musical street performances. Always wanted to see him after he got laughed off some show full of people who dismissed him because he looked unusual and spoke a language he himself invented. But he wasn’t there.

It wasn’t a complete waste. All things considered, the Bethesda Terrace Arcade, where he used to perform, is pretty nice. The camera angles from the news folks allowed me to keep an eye on things, even as I paced around under this terrace. That’s how I saw when they arrived. Venus and several more of the tights brigade who I assumed were known as heroes. I didn’t recognize any particular villains, and I doubt Technolutionary would avoid me.

They brought enough to form a wide perimeter, something I saw well enough myself out in the fountain courtyard. And I heard when Venus descended the steps behind me in her power armor, a hum accompanying each step and sway. It looked less blocky than last time, but like fitted armor plates. Like you could remove one and put another molded piece in its spot. It bulked up around her lower legs and forearms. The legs were wider at the bottom, providing more stability. The forearms built into bigger fists with a surprise or two likely built in. Her helmet didn’t show anything, but I noticed the gold visor formed a rough heart shape.

It always comes back to Venus, doesn’t it?

“It’s time you did the right thing, Gecko,” said whoever controlled her.

I looked out at the fountain of the angel blessing the waters of Bethesda, trusting my heads-up display to keep her in sight. “Facing the music? Facing my fate? Let everyone throw me to the wolves because I’m a bad person. Ah, hell, I’m sure Venus would know I deserve it.”

She cocked her head to the side. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”

I shrugged. “Venus isn’t here. Just you. You’re a puppet, sent to kill me. Venus wouldn’t.”

“I’m not here to kill you, just to stop you. They want to make this place better. I know you hate humanity. We’re flawed. We’re so flawed. But they can change that. They can make us of one mind, wipe away all our petty bickering.”

I supposed so, but then, look what they’d use them for? I leaned against one of the pillars of the arcade while Venus approached. “Yeah, as mindless and uniform as a gun. You’ll just be a weapon, Venus. Nothing more. So are you? Especially now, knowing they can’t swoop in and convert me and all the rest?” I turned toward her and held my hands out, wrists turned upward. “It’d be easy. I’m Psychopomp Gecko. It tends to end in death when I’m around. Your masters will get what they want. You know nobody else will mind, since that’s why I’m here alone. Unless you are Venus.”

She screamed, which I could probably depict here as “Raaaagh!” or something like that, but it’d take away from the drama. Then again, so did this. Whoops. Either way, she screamed, then punched me. I flew back, my flight path altered with a bounce off the column nearby and landed on the edge of the fountain where I rolled into it.

I stood up, slowly. Not for drama’s sake. It really hurt. “Venus…you leave me so wet sometimes.” And disoriented. That armor got quite a bit stronger than I remember. I needed to fight this one as the physical inferior, looked like.

“If you want to do the right thing for once, close your eyes. I’ll make it quick,” Venus called out, walking into the courtyard.

“Quick? You want to make me dead, but I’m not going to just lie back and think of England.” I responded, then charged.

She broke out into a run as well. Just before we reached each other, two things happened. I dived into a roll so I could kick up. She jumped into the air, a metal spike punching out from her armor’s right gauntlet. In the resulting clash, she didn’t get any on me, but I didn’t get as much of a good kick under her ribs as I meant to. It stopped her, left her dazed, but it also left me on the ground.

By the time I stood up again, we were back on equal footing. Cue the simultaneous appearance of the health bars and appearance of dramatic music, ala Metal Gear Solid IV. I laughed as we squared off. “Memes, Snake! Doge and trollface! Plank me, baby, plank me hard.”

Venus threw her spiked right again, but dodged back, shifted my weight, and rolled to the side. The enhanced pseudomuscles of my armor lifted me into the air to land on short wall nearby.

“You got into a fight just to run again?” Venus asked. “You’re good at stalling, dodging around it all. Why don’t you ever fight? Stop boring people.”

Under my helmet, I grinned. “Well, no one had to die today, dear. But, if you insist…” I knew the Fluidics were playing me. I knew it meant I still had the upper hand. Including the ability to hide my hand perfectly. Sure, all the gunk on my armor disabled the systems that allowed me to project complete holograms or hide myself, but even a partial disappearance, such as my left arm and right leg, helped.

I jumped. She caught my waist, where my invisible leg used hers as a nice step for leverage while I rained fists down on her helmet. She tried to let go and drive that spike into my belly, but I grabbed her wrist with my left to keep it from digging in and gave her a hard haymaker that stumbled her and dropped me to the ground.

“Where the head goes, the body must follow,” I commented, then dropkicked her. It didn’t send her flying, but it knocked her on her ass, and I bounced back up a lot quicker than her. I knelt by her and went for her helmet, scrabbling for an opening or seal, punching it to try and loosen it.

Venus grabbed me by the neck and threw me over her. She maintained her grip as she rolled over to straddle my chest and keep me pinned. Her punch, spike and all, barely missed its mark. And by barely, I mean it put a gash in my cheek. It’s not because of anything fancy, like Venus pulling her punch. I had cocked my head to the side. A couple inches over, and that’s all she wrote.

Her next attempt would have been on the mark until I caught it in my hand, losing my left palm to divert it. My other hand gripped her throat. Having a good grip with both hands, I at least managed to get her off me. I swear, so hard to keep the ladies off me lately.

I charged up the energy sheath in my right fist, ignoring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or at least Venus’s headbutts and other punches. My fist drove her head back against the courtyard and cracked her helmet. “One to one,” I taunted, chuckling. Then she stuck my side with a spike. Not the one in my hand, either.

“Laugh too much and you’ll split your sides,” she replied.

“Nice one,” I told her, and dug my glove into the crack of her helmet. She loosened her other hand from my other hand even as I did so, sliding the metal spike between a pair of my ribs. This gave me the opportunity to bring my other hand to bear and finally pull it off, exposing Venus’s face, surprisingly bloody. Then I noticed the way the neck of her armor merged right into her skin. “You’ve been upgraded, haven’t you? You’re like me now?”

I couldn’t take advantage of the exposure because she drove the sides of those spikes against my armpits and threw me off. My newly-ventilated body didn’t feel like standing up as quick as I meant it to, and the addition of Venus’s boot on my chest didn’t help matters. “You’ve lost. You just don’t know it yet.” The thing controlling her made her smirk down at me.

“I got that helmet off, didn’t I?”

“Look around. Punch my face in and you still would’ve faced the others united in our cause.” She didn’t bother to look up. “Just look.”

I did. There weren’t just a few heroes there anymore. Heroes, villains, civilians. Obviously, the entire city couldn’t have been there with me, but a hell of a lot showed up just to really grind in the futility of what I did. I picked Carl out of the crowd, looking down at me. Leah, who I’d briefly mentored, also appeared there, ready to be thrown against me in a wave of human fodder. And above them, various flying supers, news helicopters, and small planes saw it all. Heh, chemtrails over Empyreal City. None of the aliens had stopped by, though, nor Technolutionary. Ah well.

And then the riot broke out. Buzzkills flitted in. Moai stormed through a crowd. I even saw Ethan Basford carried by a glowing red lattice of magical energy that flipped bodies away. One of the converted began to crackle with electricity stopped dead when a scalpel appeared in her throat. The Good Doctor pulled it out before she could fall and looked down on the fountain courtyard as the sky darkened. A haze in the air blocked direct sunlight.

The bater had become the bate. Which could have described my sex change too, but that ship already sailed awhile back and took my penis along with it.

“This is your plan?” Venus asked, “You still don’t have enough to win.”

I laughed, spitting up a bit of blood in the process. “Nah, can’t say it is. But funny thing is, soon you won’t have enough either.”

She cut off my laughter by stomping on my chest, then plunging her spike through my throat. Then a green, tailed, barely clothed mess of a woman landed on her and got tossed against the angel on top of Bethesda fountain. Venus glared down at me with contempt, but at least I knew it wasn’t all hers. “You finally die, and there’s no deus ex machina to save you. No nanites for me to heal you with.” She knelt on my body, giving me a feel for more of that lovely weight before withdrawing her right-hand spike with a “shunk!” sound and reached into my chest wound. I felt her fingers wiggle around in my lung and then tear something off.

Ow. Lungs. I need those. I’d have told her, but she was doing things with one of my lungs. I looked into her triumphant eyes and coughed. She joined in as a mist drifted down from the air. I managed to smile through the coughing and tried my best to breathe deep. Just a few calls is all it took. Just a few messages back and forth. Long Life Corporation’s nanite reserves. Cropdusters. A few calls I had to make because my plan to goad them into one big battle didn’t work out. It wouldn’t be as effective this way, but it’d still do most of the work for us. Now I’ll get to see just how much those Fluidic aliens will piss their pants at someone combining my nanites with their rain idea.

Venus tried to cover her mouth. “What’s going on? What did you do?”

The fights around us ended with almost everyone coughing, even the lightning lady with the scalpel hole in her throat. The converted certainly lost their urge to fight, that’s for sure. For Venus, whose helmet I only needed to remove, I decided to clear something up. “Tends to…end in…death,” I repeated. “Except today. Everybody lives…Venus. Just…this once…everybody lives!”

Still not a hero, by the way. And if y’all tell anyone I did something good, I swear I’ll cut ya.

And that’d be a shame, because we aren’t nearly finished yet.






I made my move into the city on Wednesday, and in considerably less dramatic a fashion as anyone expected, but then I want the anticipation to build up. I want people antsy to see me there. An enemy that doesn’t see you coming may be vulnerable, but so is one that knows you’re out there with no way of knowing when and where you’ll appear. Guards can only remain tense and on guard for so long before it gets to them. It isn’t merely psychological, something that can be overridden by having an alien controlling a person by joystick. It’s physiological.

The human body is capable of amazing things even without superpowers, but it does so with the aid of drugs like adrenaline and dopamine while tearing the body apart. Doesn’t sound much better than a druggy killing himself for a fix, right? A very accurate analogy in a way. That same fix that lets a mom lift a car off her child or slow time for a soldier to react can eat away at a person, tearing them apart. In the former case, quite quickly; the latter takes a toll over time, though.

And if anyone thinks I’ll have any sympathy for them, I’ll point out now that I went and waded through the sewers. Yeah, the city has quite a few of them, and anyone in disbelief that they’d allow a person in power armor to maneuver around freely should remember that they maintain routes for maintenance workers. It’s more than enough for one person to go alone, with or without a sword given to them by an old man.

I’d have brought more, but it occurred to me after a moments’ thought that alien mind control would probably make such workers more dutiful and watchful. So I just kinda snuck through all invisible, like Shinobi la Pew. When I reached the end, I took out a stick of deodorant and ran it along the undersides of my armor before pushing open a manhole and making for the rear elevator on the rear of Double Cross Tower. It had always been a good way for me to sneak up to the penthouse or to the hidden bunker I had put together under the place. This time, I went down.

The elevator got a very negative reaction. As soon as the door opened, giant stingers shot through the air and stuck into the metal rear of the elevator. I thought they’d stop at an even dozen, but they went with seventeen of the things before stopping. Then someone tossed in a single brown loafer as an afterthought. After a tense moment, I heard someone say, “Sorry, it’s all I had.”

I, on the other hand, lowered myself down through the top access hatch of the elevator so that anyone down there could recognize my upside-down head. “Hiya, folks! Miss me?” I made a show of turning to look over my shoulder where some of the stingers still quivered from being shot. “I guess so.”

“Is that Psycho Gecko, the notorious supervillain?” asked Festus, standing with one shoe in the middle of a horde of Buzzkills. The Buzzkills were bee people. They looked humanoid, but had black and yellow exoskeletons with fuzz sticking out in tufts and in place of human hair. They tended to keep their wings folded up on their backs unless needed, and looked out at the world with bulbous, segmented eyes. They also liked to use swords made out of giant stingers, much like the ones they carried then.

“Hi Festus,” I said to my former head of Human Resources. It kinda surprised me to see the young, shaky college grad still around. “Any of the other department heads make it?”

“Um…actually, good question. I don’t know.” He hunched up and gave a cautious shrug. In the distance, it sounded like someone had finished boiling up some tea. The sound gradually came to my attention, but now I couldn’t keep from hearing it.

“That’s ok. More surprised you did, though it’s a pleasant surprise in general to see the Buzzkills here. You guys ok?”

They stood down and waved at me, giving mumbling answers that showed they didn’t think I really cared, except for one overly enthusiastic one that jumped up and down. “I’m great! It’s wonderful to see you again. Just wait until we tell the queen!”

I motioned with my hand in a downward-shooing motion. “Maybe get her some downers first before you do that. Sleeping pills, heroin, something to level her out a bit. She’s always been a bit excitable.”

Before the overly-cheerful Buzzkill could answer, a larger Buzzkill flung her aside. The giant one ran over and wrapped her arms around me, lifting me in a great bearhug and shaking me about so much that I almost got whiplash from the experience. After about five seconds of this, I realized that the sound I’d mistaken for a tea kettle was the elongated squee of the Buzzkill queen who held me captive in her embrace. Beetrice was large and in charge of the Buzzkills, but she also had a very odd mind about me. Almost childlike, one might say, except for the bit about wanting my sperm so she could use it to create a huge army of Buzzkills.

Thing is, I’m not really ready for kids. It’d be nothing but running around, crapping on things, flinging food all over people, stomping around after not getting something, breaking toys, followed by staying up late, sneaking out, drinking, and trying to get laid. And I can’t have kids interrupting that schedule of mine.

As quickly as Beetrice had swept me up into a massive hug, she set me back down quickly enough that I stumbled back and lost my balance. “You stink, Male Drone Gecko!” the queen declared.

I held out my arms imploringly. “It’s not what it smells like, honey bee. I was just delivering that package to Mrs. Creature From The Black Lagoon and she invited me in for some hot coffee. That’s all, I swear.”

Beetrice cocked her head to the side, trying to figure the statement out, rubbing her mandibles together. She’s got kind of a weird mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I’d try it before I knocked it. I mean, couldn’t be any weirder than kissing a mouth, once you think about it. Readers, just take a look in a mirror someday, really take a look, and think about what a strange animal you are physically.

While I might consider kissing a bee woman, I wasn’t doing it at the time. Instead, I stood up. “I had to come through the sewers to get here without risking being spotted.”

“Why didn’t you come through the hive?” asked Beetrice.

“I…didn’t know there was a hive that I could come through?” I answered, indeed framing it like a question.

Beetrice responded by grabbing me and carrying me under her arm over to a side wall well away from the elevator. There, they’d opened several large holes into what was supposed to have been layers of concrete and lead. I shook my head. “After I went through all the trouble of putting this together, you go and mess up the wall. I thought y’all are bees, anyway? You get a bit antsy waiting for my return?”

Beetrice’s reflexes were too slow to catch the pun as it went over her head. “We needed a way out nobody would watch, so I pulled up the pornography you left on the ginormous screen television and got to work! There are holes that lead out all over the city, but mostly to parks. Some go to the edge of the barrier, even.”

“Hmm…I might be able to use those to get my people back in. But you say you learned all this from porn? I didn’t think such an education in drilling would prove so useful…”

“Let me show you!” Beetrice exclaimed, trying her best to snap my head as she turned and bounded for the giant computer setup I left down there. When she got close, she yelled at it, “Computer, play file Beetrice Favorite Number Six.”

Did I leave that thing with a voice command system? I couldn’t remember, especially as little as I ever used voice commands. Horrible idea for power armor, I know that. One stumble and you go form launching a rocket to lunching a cock, if the computer can even understand what’s being said.

But enough about cocks. I had porn to watch. Which, incidentally, opened with “Flight of the Bumblebees,” before showing a title card that introduced it as a nature documentary about insects of North America. If I had to guess, Beetrice liked the discussion of bee mating. I didn’t get to watch that far along because, barely two minutes after she decided we would watch it, some sort of alert came up in one corner of the screen.

“Just ignore that, it happens sometimes,” Beetrice told me, segmented eyes locked on the screen. I squirmed out of her grip, landing on my belly and face, then picked myself up to punch a button on the keyboard. Instantly, the screen split in half between the documentary and a scene elsewhere in the city. There, caught on traffic camera, a cat woman fought off a crowd of civilians who crowded around her like a zombie movie.

Wildflower. I kinda left her here. I don’t know exactly who she is, but neither is she. She was a victim of this one laboratory I bought up after a city takeover by a horror villain ruined their experiments. Somehow, she lost her memory and gained powers that involve being a weird hybrid of various animals and plants. The tail looked like something that’d be perched above any feline’s behind, except for the thorns that grew out of it. Being a hero, I first knew her to be a nuisance. Then, in the process of imprisoning her and manipulating her psychologically, we developed some feelings toward each other. It’d make a good romance novel someday. And since she and I were both physical females at the time, they could even call it “Fifty Shades of Gay”.

She didn’t look so good. She fought like a crazy person, an unusual description for her. Claws rent faces and superhuman strength sent bodies flying. In the end, she fled, looking incredibly tattered and torn. It surprised me that she’d made it this far. If she really had. “Has that been happening often?” I asked Beetrice, pointing to those events.

“Hm? Oh, yeah!” The thought of Wildflower getting mauled either excited her, or Beetrice really needed those sleeping pills. “Every now and then, when nothing good is on, it shows her fighting people. She just keeps fighting and fighting them, ever since the day you told us to hide.”

The view where Wildflower fought before disappeared. “Because I set up a recognition program to spy on certain people. I don’t see Venus, though…” Indeed, nothing popped up for a few seconds until another camera alerted me to Wildflower stopping and resting in a neglected patch of green on a street corner. Bushes and trees had been left wild, perhaps less important to the running of the city than the sewers were to the new alien overlords in town.

“You never went and brought her?” I asked Beetrice.

She just shrugged.

A part of me felt mad. Huh. I turned and looked as Wildflower held her arms close to her body. I knew she couldn’t be that cold, given her increased body temperature. It’s why she wears skimpy outfits. She was hurt in many ways.

And, most importantly, I knew she was mine. I’m not sure if I knew that before I left the city, because I’d forgotten it in the meantime. Caught up in my sha-, er, my personal contemplations when I left, and then the rush of an ingeniously insane plan soon afterward. Absence made the heart forgetful. But I wanted her back.

“Beetrice, I need you to send out some very fast scouts to meet up with a crowd of supers and other riffraff. I’ll let them know you’re coming. I want you to prepare an isolated hive hole to collapse. Preferably one you don’t use much that’s on the far side of the city from this.” I followed the order up by bringing up a map of the city that showed a ping centered around the location of the camera currently showing my Wildflower.

Beetrice stepped close to the screen, rubbing at her chin, then pointed to the north. I shook my head when she turned to say something. “Sorry,” I stopped her query before it began, “I need it somewhere to the south. That’s where they’ll be. They need to draw enough attention getting to the hole that fewer people will be around her. And then we collapse the hole so they can’t follow. They won’t be able to figure out where it goes, right?”

Beetrice nodded. “Oh yes, we filled in holes before. Lots of times. They don’t like us.”

I reached up to pat her on the head, until the distance necessitated jumping to do so. “There, there. I like you, and this is important to me, ok?”

She nearly gave herself whiplash nodding this time. “Can I ask why?”

I brought up the camera footage of Wildflower huddled in a small pseudo-park. “Because I need to get her back.”

Sunset threatened the city with darkness by the time I set out into it again. The Buzzkills and Mix N’Max were both ready to play their roles, linking up and distracting the city. I wanted to bring them all in quietly, up until I saw Wildflower.

I put her out of my head so easily while away from this place, it surprised me to realize I still felt she was important. I knew it was contradictory and stupid and no way to plan a personal vendetta against a race of alien goo monsters, but I also knew that I wanted her back and I wanted to make them suffer for what they did to my Wildflower.

I wanted to snap the necks of so many of these meat puppets as I passed invisible among them from the location of the nearest hive hole to a good jumping-off point, but restrained myself in case a sudden death alerted their controllers to a disturbance in an unusual place. Instead, I lept into the air and bounded along rooftops until I found the small area of green. It was really more like a pizza slice of green where two streets met and formed a V shape.The overgrown bushes and trio of small trees formed a decent barrier unless anyone decided they needed to look there, something which most passerby no longer had the initiative for.

I waited until all had passed the area by. Wildflower’s face peeked out, checking to see if the coast was clear. I reappeared right in front of her, making her jump back for a moment, then pounce on me. Unlike any number of animals she got that instinct from, she didn’t try to shred me with tooth and claw. Not immediately, at least. She kept the claws ready, though, sizing me up even while her legs wrapped around my waist to hold her against me.

I reached up, released the seals on my helmet, and pulled it off. “Hey there, Tigerlily.” I figured my face and use of my pet name for her would disarm the situation.

She grabbed my cheeks hard enough to cut lines into the skin and looked me in the eyes. “They taunted me about you. They said you left me to die.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “I’ve done alright without you.”

Here, I had two options. Option A, I lie to her, claim the aliens are lying bastards, and shove my tongue down her throat. Option B, I tell her the truth, get calling a lying bastard, and she tries to shove her foot up my ass.

“They would say something like all that,” I answered. “I got back as soon as I could get here again. And maybe you don’t need my rescuing, but nobody hurts my Wildflower.” Commence the tongue shoving!

I mean, come on, folks, every good relationship is built on some tiny white lies, whether it’s a person claiming they’re looking for stability without drama, or wanting a little more excitement in their life, not wanting kids, or having abandoned the other person to save their own life from an alien invasion. That’s just how relationships work, and anyone unprepared to deal with that is really too naive for one.

Reunited, I cloaked her in a hologram disguise as best I could for us to make our way back to the safety of the bunker.

We made it as far as the nearest hotel’s uppermost rooms, where we broke in quietly…then broke in loudly.