Category Archives: 42. Icy What You Did There

Stranded in Antarctica after destroying an alien fleet and saving the world. Will I get a hero’s welcome, or the cold shoulder?

Icy What You Did There 8

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I may have glossed over a few of my Electric Eyes, but they’ve embedded themselves into the local communities of a few important cities. I should have had more. I needed a lot better coverage in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. What can I say, other than that I’ve been pushing myself controlling thirteen. It’s gotten easier, which will make it much easier if I ever need to spread my control over a larger group in the future.

Of course, I let myself get distracted. Had I worked on building more, I could have distributed them around, got more done. There’s just too much to do. Amusingly enough, I built them to help take some of the pressure off. That, and to provide a little extra help for my sudden but inevitable betrayal.

All good things come to an end, though. If all this has seemed like a pointless bit of waiting in the icy Antarctic, that’s half true. It was nice to have some fun, even if said fun helped people. I know, I’ve moved a bit far from the whole “agent of chaos, smacking people with trash cans” thing, but sometimes necessity forces a change, whether we like it or not. This entire ordeal with the aliens, for instance.

Yes, I know it changed me. Brought me to a crossroads.

I know, there’s an awful lot of talking instead of showing there. Just a bit of contemplation. I have a bit to contemplate after an announcement that came out of Washington D.C., from the newly-healed president. Yep, he survived. Nanites. The new miracle of the modern age, stolen from me. A panacea for the world’s ills.

Taken from me, reproduced by people who couldn’t entirely contemplate it, distributed. I have a right to feel wronged for what they’ve done, and I’ve taken measures for revenge. Forcelight, for all the heroine’s inability to pick a good name, would have sold it. I gave it away and made Forcelight do my bidding before leaving her to die somewhere between the Earth and space. And yet, I’m still not sure if I feel everything has been balanced out there.

So, when I feel so strongly about retribution for any wrongs the world gives me, what am I to make of POTUS offering amnesty to an super villains who helped out or are willing to help out in the rebuilding process. Come forward, take an oath, sign a name, and your crimes are wiped away. “So much of our past has been wiped away by those who meant humanity, all of humanity, harm. There is much work to be done to restore our great nation after all we have been through, but I promise you the fires we faced are not the end. As we have in every conflict that has tested our resolve, we will come out of this stronger, because the fires and the beating that we took have not beaten us down. They have beaten out our weakness, and forged our Union anew. As part of this renewel, I make this offer.”

My first thought? “Yeah, beat my metal some more.” Except then people started taking him up on the offer, and more countries followed and I had to think. It involved lots of straining and going, “How do regular people do this?”

It took longer than I thought for the call to come in. “Well, if it isn’t my poor, put-upon handler. Here to share the good news?”

“You heard?” asked Venus, my dear, idealistic nemesis, who has been after me to reform. I think she sees me as some broken thing to be pitied and tempt to the side of angels, or maybe she’s trying to prove something. She makes a good speech of it.

“Yeah, sure. I heard. I don’t entirely believe, but I heard. Works out better than you could ever dream of, right? Sure, until someone steps forward they don’t want taking the deal. I’ll guarantee it. Guaran-damn-tee.”

“You have trust issues. Give the rest of the world a chance. They’re willing to give you one. Did you ever bury those bodies up there?” She referenced, of course, the crew of the weather research station I killed when I got here. In this case, it was self defense.

“Technically, they are buried.” In the sense that most of them had been packed under snow, inside of snowmen that serve as useless guards for my ice fortress. “Sealed in tight, you might say.” The seals that broke in the other day had decided to stick around thanks to a generous donation of spare foodstuffs tossed out into the snow. They liked fish sticks.

“I wanted to draw your attention to all the murder because I want to know why you do it?” She went on.

I shrugged. “Well, I hate people, and nothing gets that message across like killing them. And I think they’re stupid and create a lot of problems that, surprise, killing fixes that too. Oh, and there’s the little matter of feeling down when I don’t get to kill people.”

“Bullshit. How many people have you killed down there over the past month? What about when you were CEO, did you get your daily recommended dose of dead bodies then?” See? You trust someone, and they start throwing dead bodies in your face.

I figured I needed to remind her of what I revealed once. “It’s not nice to make fun of someone being addicted, ya know.”

She scoffed. “You are not my definition of fun, nor would I make fun of what you’ve done.” Shame, that. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun doing it. “But addiction doesn’t work like that. Maybe you think you’re addicted, or maybe you don’t know how it works, but have you ever gone into withdrawal any time it wasn’t convenient? It’s not just that you’ve done it so long and you’ve gotten used to it, take pleasure from it.”

“Kinda hard to beat chemistry and physiology, Venus.” I flipped through the news in my head. Amnesty here, amnesty there. Elita the Warrior Woman and Good Doctor were some of the names I recognized. One channel even focused on gangs organizing and applying for the amnesty. So long as “superhero” and “supervillain” can include non-powered people, there’s always that opening. Some people are super because they suffered through a once-in-a-lifetime experiment with gamma radiation or mutated animals. Others might have been born as part of some persecuted subgroup that happened to have access to extranormal abilities. Some are even alien refugees who quite like their adopted home world. And all of them get lumped in with men in masks who know karate, or billionaire playboys with expensive suits. Throw a mask on Charles Manson, call him Helter Skelter, and offer him a damn pardon, why not?

The fact that’s not happening leads me to believe there’s still a process to keep someone too infamous from joining in. Oh, wait, wasn’t Venus saying something? I tuned back in to find her still talking.

“People leave the hospital every day, not addicted to morphine. Others live as alcoholics until one day they find a purpose and put down the bottle. Rats will drink cocaine-laced water if they’re kept alone in a cage, but they don’t care as soon as you give them something else to do. You told me the truth of your life, as you understood it, but you don’t know everything. You don’t know there isn’t any changing for you.”

Like I said, she makes a good speech.

“An intriguing new perspective, but why would I want to change? What would I do? Walk around, get beaten up by old people who know I’m not allowed to fight back? I am still a fan of the ol’ ultraviolence.” Darn connection fuzzed up for a moment there. That’s what happen when you start making phone calls from Antarctica. I swear, internet service is so bad here, it’s hard to imagine how anyone puts up with it. Then again, Antarctica’s not known for its population.

“Stop beying such a pussy, Gecko. You could spend all day sitting around, thinking up reasons not to do something audacious, or you could go and do it. Are you not the man who had the balls to fight a city full of aliens all by himself?”

Did I leave a door open? The temperature dropped a bit. Without the easy accessibility of perimeter cameras and spy satellite coverage, tracking the weather had actually become more difficult in the place. It didn’t help that the facility meant to look at it was, well, here. Occupied by me. And then the paranoid people I took it from had wrecked all that equipment, along with radios and computers. I repaired some of it, sure, but watching the latest season of Game of Thrones didn’t give me real-time weather data. And, to make it worse, Cersei Lannister never even went lesbian!

“It’s starting to blur together whether or not I had balls at the time, actually, and I only did that because I had no choice. Everyone turned on me, and the government wasn’t willing to give me any help. Everyone you want me to extend an olive branch to. It’s hard to put my life into those kinds of hands.”

I probably sounded distracted as I got up and went to check one of the nearby doors and windows. The shapes trying to hide didn’t make me feel better. The snow on the floor inside the door made it even worse. I silently padded back toward the hall on the other side of the rec room, wondering if I’d even make it to my room before the silent intruder or intruders made a move.

“Not everyone’s a psychopath, you know.” Now there’s a laugh, though by this point I got very quiet, making my way over to the hall and then down it. Without my armor and without a weapon, the hallway made a poor spot for me to fight someone. Even with my armor, it would offer little space to dodge.

“That’s the thing about society. When you get enough people together, they can still manage to act like sociopaths. A little bit of evil in people who think they’re decent still adds up. By the way, I didn’t order takeout, so I’m just wondering who all you told about my little forced exile up here. I mean, I was heading back anyway. I just need some dragons and an army of eunuchs.”

“Don’t spoil it for me! I haven’t been seen the last episode.”

I inched closer to my door, not an assassin in sight. “And?”

“What, the takeout thing? I thought you were joking. It’s only me and Captain Lightning.”

Which just meant either Captain Lightning blabbed, or he turned on me. He’s a pragmatic sort. He fought Nazis alongside Russians. I pulled my eye out, then thought better of it when I realized I pulled the laser eye out. I replaced it and took out the non-laser version.”Where’s he right now?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think I do,” I told her, then ducked. I didn’t want someone knowing for sure where I stood as I gently pushed my door opened and rolled in my eye. Everything looked all clear, actually. That changed as soon as I eased into the doorway. The entire back half of the room exploded out, ripped away. There floated Captain Lightning, and some other capes I didn’t recognize. When I still reached for my suit on the portion of the bed remaining, it flew away from me toward one of the unrecognizable ones in a green and red parka.

“Well, looks like y’all have everything handled in here. I’m going to go make sure nobody leaves out the front door!” I said and turned to run back toward the rec room, only to find Lone Gunman there, of all people, with a minigun that didn’t look standard issue. Then again, miniguns aren’t exactly a weapon that ever fits the definition of standard issue. When I turned to go the other way, I saw it had indeed become standard issue on this trip, and that the second one rested in the gunmetal grey-clad hands of Warman, whose costume looked like a mix of tactical gear and medieval knight. If they were normal guns, I might take a risk that I could get them to shoot each other and duck under everything. With those…nope.

I turned back toward Captain Lightning and the others, one of whom at least had the decency to burst into flames, albeit as part of his powers instead of dying. “So,” I began, “I suppose you’re here for a little chat with me, Cap’n?”

“Things are calming down. I worked with you while I had to, but you’re too dangerous. You’re under arrest.”

“So you got a whole posse to bring me in? A bit much, isn’t it?”

He nodded toward the green and red parka guy. “They are here representing their countries.”

I shook my head. “Well, that won’t do. If you’re wanting me to take that amnesty, you’ve convinced me.”

Now Captain Lightning shook his head. “Are you a United States Citizen?”

He had me there, which he knew. Without waiting for an answer from me, he then asked, “Are you on U.S. Soil?”

“I am currently in the presidential palace of Geckopolis, capital city of Gecktopia, and I have two words for y’all: diplomatic immunity.”

“It does not work like that. We have been given international jurisdiction by the United Nations. Congratulations, you get to appear before the World Court. For all your capability, you aren’t strong enough alone to take us. Will you resist?”

From down the hall, I heard Gunman say, “Please resist.”

I didn’t have much of a choice to trust the world after all, looks like. I held up my hands. “Ok, you got me. I don’t suppose it’s asking too much that I get to face my accusers?”

In my ear, I heard Venus rejoin the conversation. “Have faith, Gecko.” I hung up on her, a bit tired of her stalling bullshit. I knew all that idealism couldn’t be real, and the idea of having faith is almost as funny as reading a web page via Gizoogle.

As for me, that’s why I’m off wherever I am. Near The Hague, I think. Yep, they took me to the Nether Regions and gave me the shaft. A lead elevator shaft, with everything closed up. They left me to my bed and, a few hours later, someone sent some food down on a rope.

I’ll give them one chance to not completely fuck me over. Maybe. Then, strong or not, I give Captain Lightning and anyone else a Latin lesson: pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo. And shove my fist straight up his posse.

What? I said posse.

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Icy What You Did There 7

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“Yeah, this is actually a bad time for me to do therapy today. I’ve been infiltrated by seals.”

“Do you mean soldiers or animals?” asked Venus.

I looked out over the bar countertop where a troop of seals were wrecking the rec room. “You’re going to hate me for saying this. Then again, you hate me anyway. The answer to your question is yes.”

“Will it take you long to get rid of them?” she asked.

I counted the number of seals, then took a photo of one with my eye and did some photoshopping magic. “Maybe. This one looks like a badass.”

Venus laughed as she saw the photo of a seal posing on the sofa. It had an eye patch, a beret, and a beard on its face. It smoked a cigar and wore a t-shirt with its own face on it, a bazooka strapped to its back and Captain America’s shield held in one flipper. “I’ll call you back,” I told her.

As for anyone wondering why I huddled behind a counter, that had less to do with the seals and more to do with a night of drinking and light debauchery. I’d have done some heavy debauchery, but the ritual I found off that porn bulletin board website turned out to be bogus. Sometimes a guy gets tired of looking at Slavic women and decides to see what the Whore of Babylon looks like in a cheerleader outfit. It’s probably for the best that the ritual was fake, though. As drunk as I was, I might have gone to bed with a succubus and woken up next to something with a literal goat face.

Which, come to think of it, is making me curious in ways I didn’t think I’d like. But enough about human bodies with animal parts; I had to tear some body parts off some animals. Strictly for non-sexual purposes, of course.

Actually, I didn’t go slaughtering them willy-nilly, nor even Willy Wonka (who had all sorts of interesting ways for dealing with children). Instead, I herded the bunch outside my icy fortress of doom and shored up the walls. I had to put extra work into that, with as much spare metal as I could spare from the building itself. The seals stuck around for awhile, trying to get in, then I convinced them to stay by throwing some scraps over the side of the wall. Maybe I can convince a couple to stay and guard my moat, which is otherwise unimpressive. What could I fill it in with? I got water, snow, and ice. If I use the snow and ice, I might as well not have a moat; this isn’t just an opinion, but an actual definition. And what would the water stop? Seals and penguins both swim in that stuff. If not for the fact I’ve seen them do it, I’d think someone was fucking with me on that point. I hope their ball sacks are internal. I suppose I could have checked, but no. Not taking time out of my busy day to check a seal’s testicles.

I had to pull kittens out of trees in new, exciting countries. Well, if kittens were Lenin’s preserved body, and if the tree was a fleeing nuclear submarine. He’d absconded with the cadaver early in the morning, but Electric Eye’s rockets allowed me rapidly close the distance. It helps that Russia doesn’t have too many ports on the European side of things. He still got out to sea and submerged before I could stop him, though.

I couldn’t just send Electric Eye after him. Underwater is possibly the most difficult frontier left for mankind. I would sooner send one of the Thirteen to space. Space is easy; it’s not a matter of how to survive, but just how to make survival last long enough. But hitting the water? That’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than hitting the ionosphere. That alone could do serious damage, not counting anything caused by what the water gets into. I didn’t build these things to fall apart in the rain, but it’s a bit different under the sea. The water can try to get everywhere, which reminds me that the pressure could seriously fuck up the robot too. That’s another difference: in space, the pressure problem is because you want to keep a relative few square inches of atmosphere in. Underwater, you have to deal with every single square inch of water around wanting in.

I set that Electric Eye to work while it tried to follow. The good news is, I had a rough idea of its destination. Old submarine captains don’t just hijack Lenin’s body to stop off at an English Dairy Queen. For starters, they don’t have that franchise over there. No, if someone goes Cold War crazy, there are only two major targets they’re thinking about. And one of them no longer exists. One is an allegedly secular empire where the citizens all keep a careful eye on each other for signs of disloyalty and where the state is more than happy let their own people starve in the streets so they can build up a huge military to push their ideology onto Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. And the other dissolved in the early 90s.

Still, a rogue Russian captain would almost certainly head after the United States. Just like how would-be world conquerors target the States, or how wannabe supreme beings go there to fight American heroes. Being the top of the food chain means a great deal of prestige goes to the one to take them down.

Electric Eye would be about useless staying in the air, and it would be difficult to wait for the damn sub to surface and launch its payload. I had to get underwater and take it out. I immediately set the Berlin, Rome, and London Electric Eye robots to work on the primary equipment and add-ons. Over in Empyreal City, the superspeed robot went to work on a backup in case it became necessary.

The Moscow met each along the way, though Rome was a bit of a side trip. That one, by the way, I’ve outfitted with a large cross it carries on its back, the long portion of which is just a sheath for the sword that the upper portion serves as a handle and guard for. That Electric Eye received a sword less out of necessity and more because that looks awesome.

I wouldn’t have had EE Rome lug that sword up to meet EE Moscow in the first place, but Europe’s small like that. I think I’ve mentioned, that’s why they are so much better about languages than Americans. They have entirely different countries all over the place, and each one just has to have its own language. The American continents have two major languages that can get people anything they need, but every country in Europe wanted to be their own kingdom with their own way of talking.

Naturally, I blame the Thracians. They’ve had an easy ride for too long, so I’m putting this on them. I swear, just think about the Gaul of those Thracians!

EE Moscow, as I’m calling it because that works better than numbers, received armor from the other three. Smoother and more streamlined, I cut down on the time to build it by acquiring pieces from elsewhere, though I wouldn’t say I acquired them in a single knight. A few different ones, maybe. The craftsmanship was downright medieval, but time necessitated making due and making it watertight.

Along with the armor, it also received fuel for its rockets and modifications for other systems. Had to make the rockets a little better for underwater operations, add better sonar capabilities, and do this thing for the top of its new helmet that would allow it to pull a neat trick to move faster underwater. The formal words fail me, something about cavitation, but air is less dense than water and it has been found that creating an air bubble underwater allows torpedoes and submarines to move faster.

If only it had been the Berlin robot, the names I had to pick from would have been more appropriate. I couldn’t settle on calling it Das Bot or U-Bot before it took off over the London channel and aimed for the water. I had a rough idea of the capabilities of the modern-day craft as well as the quickest route it could take, and set the bot to search and destroy.

See, depending on the route, it takes between five days and a week to cross the Atlantic ocean in most civilian boats. Civilian boats. A military ship can go faster, with some submarines capable of making the trip twice as quickly. Depending on how they’re built, some subs are faster submerged, others are faster on the surface. And that’s not even counting all the information about their capabilities that stays hidden due to the fact that militaries frequently don’t like letting potential enemies know what limits their ships operate under. Same reason the U.S. Air Force was more than happy to let people mistake the Blackbird and U-2 spy planes as aliens back in the day.

I didn’t underestimate the speed of the enemy. No, I just underestimated their ability to stay quiet. I shouldn’t have, but I did. Numerous incidents have been reported, and some have almost certainly not been reported, of submarine collisions. Some are with ships that couldn’t detect a silent sub, and some were between submarines who couldn’t detect each other. They see the world through sound, interpreted by computers, and to that end they’ve become very good by design at hiding from such a view.

So good that my submersible, despite all the preparations, didn’t spot it until three days on, when it emerged behind the robot. It was a bit off the route I figured, but the amount of chatter it generated helped confirm that it was the one I was looking for. I didn’t have time to break through U.S. Navy and Air Force codes, but that didn’t stop me from hearing them talking back and forth a lot over the sudden appearance of a large, previously-undetected vessel.

I didn’t have time in part because the Russian sub wouldn’t have shown up unless it was ready. Indeed, EE Moscow reached it just as a pair of hatches swung open and two missiles lifted off. Electric Eye latched onto one and pulled its helmet off. It had come with a visor originally, but I didn’t take too many chances on the cavitation thing working perfectly. A sweep of its laser vision cut the other missile in half, causing an explosion of fuel but leaving the warhead to tumble back into the cold Atlantic where, perhaps in a thousand years, it would fuel an industrial revolution among the Lobster People.

Clinging to the remaining missile, Electric Eye grabbed it and hit its rockets. Fuel became a precious commodity for this thing over the course of the trip, but nuclear power still takes precedence. It helped that the missile itself turned toward the United States, and Electric Eye was able to add to that and swing it around back in a U. Not knowing how good their tracking systems were, I can’t say definitively if the Russians knew what hit them, except that it wasn’t a robot in any way.

Therapy is nice and all, but sometimes hurting people is its own reward. And by sometimes, I mean frequently. Or it leads to its own rewards, like hastily dropped wallets or pulled-out gold teeth. Technically I saved the day, this time, but if anyone asks, I’m just keeping the world together until I conquer it.

Laugh all you want at that excuse, but I’m the one who shall have the last laugh.

Mwahahahahahahaha!

That wasn’t the last one, by the one, though I suspect I’ll have another big one coming soon. I can’t cool my heels down here forever. When it comes to my time to return to the world, y’all can bet I’m staying frosty.

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Icy What You Did There 6

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Los Angeles, Empyreal City, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Jerusalem, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, and New Delhi. Thirteen cities for the thirteen bodies of Electric Eye. I’ve been giving them some more advanced programming, all of it arising from one basic law: through action or inaction, none of the Thirteen are allowed cause any harm or restriction to me. Another one specifies that said harm or restriction includes physical, psychological, judicial, legislative, archeological, and, in case anyone decides to call down a plague or inquisition on me, theological. I don’t expect that last one to be as big a deal, though. I’m pretty sure my contact at the Vatican has nothing against me, aside from him being a presumably moral person and me being a killer.

Sniff. Doesn’t any ever think how hard it is on me to go around killing people? The mistrust, the lies, the way people scream and run away when you feel like a hug? I’m the real victim here, aside from the dead people.

I guess the therapist would have something to say about that, if my nemesis Venus hadn’t gotten a couples’ therapist and pretended she and I were a couple so I’d see somebody. She wants us doing active listening and trust building exercises. It doesn’t build a lot of trust, though, when your therapist charges you for the full hour but lets you go after 45 minutes.

The alien ambassador is still dead, too. He’s still hanging in the freezer. I double checked the other day with my own version of a Rocky montage: instead of boxing, I practiced my rapping and knife handling skills. I took a kitchen knife in there and went to town. “I’m gonna slash you, gash you, cut another hole in your ass. Spill blood on the walls and play tennis with your balls. If the phone rings, don’t answer the call. I’m gonna slit your throat, fuck you like a goat, peel your foreskin off and make a winter coat. Peace!”

Definitely not alive still, but it turns out my whittling has improved. I think I’ll try to make an ashtray out of part of him soon. I’m getting a little more time now that I’m making Electric Eye slightly more independent. They needed the autonomy to handle medical assistance. That’s important anywhere they go, though I’m modifying them to fit their specific roles in each place.

The one in Empyreal City is still a fast hot rod of its own, for instance. And the one around L.A. Suffered some damage that it repaired. I had it add even more armor, too, and hide the extra armor by wearing a leather motorcycle jacket and pants. They match the motorcycle it has taken to riding since it doesn’t have as effective transportation as the others.

Mexico City is another city with a big population. The Electric Eye there spent so much time assisting in the ER that it’s practically a surgeon itself. That’s why I modified its hands to serve as a surgical Swiss army knife. A scalpel swings out here, clamps there, a syringe popping out f this finger. Some members of a gang or cartel tried to kidnap the robot to help their boss. From what I overheard, he’d been shanked by his wife, who left him for his long lost twin brother who had hidden his identity by wrestling as a masked luchador until he gained business influence by working out a deal with the churro vendors who went on strike and almost caused Mexico to skip a year of football.

This real gung-ho hardass motherfucker led the group that brought in Electric Eye, holding a grenade right in front of the robot without the pin. He pretended to let it cook a bit before slipping the pin back in. He didn’t stay hard for long. As Electric Eye, I convinced the boss that he needed an organ transplant, with very little time left to wait. Hardass, it turned out, was a perfect match. That’s what the robot claimed, anyway. Like an awful lot of surgeons, however, the robot made the mistake of forgetting to take something back out. Sometimes surgical equipment gets forgotten, but it wasn’t anything attached to its hands. From the way the room went up after he left it, it sounded an awful lot like a grenade.

In London, they were more freaked out by the lack of ravens at the Tower of London. They fed the birds well and clipped their wings, but somehow the feathery little tricksters got away. The Electric Eye there listed that as a top priority issue of morale. Morale is important. Napoleon once said something like that a man does not get himself killed for a few pennies a day or a petty distinction; you must speak to the soul in order to motivate him. Something like that.

That Electric Eye sought out any ravens it could find, wild or not, and made a few alterations. Everyone cared about the ravens coming back; they didn’t give a crap about checking their skulls to see if anyone had inserted anything. Fun fact: unrelated to any super science, researchers had found a way to pilot bugs by sticking a microchip and battery in their heads. The new ravens at the Tower of London avoid having their wings clipped, but they aren’t going anywhere anyway.

Berlin’s troubles needed a superhuman solution. The Beast of Berlin had been fighting crime in the city for a decade from his base within the Garden of Beasts. The Garden is a park, Tiergarten, which used to be a hunting park by some ruler or something a long time ago. The BoB’s usual foes weren’t causing trouble as far as anyone knew. Berlin’s superheroics had gone quiet, up until the break-ins and murders were discovered.

The first victim was older, but built like a wall. Acting on impulse, I directed Electric Eye to look into things. It didn’t have to do much at first. The place had been torn up by walls. Yeah, that keeps coming up. It was like part of the dirt packed itself tight and rose up, breaking through floors and walls. That was a major clue, as was the costume found hidden behind one broken wall. Wallbuilder, an earth manipulator who started his career when the Berlin Wall was still up. He’d commit a crime on one side, then run to the other. Old rumors said he played each side against the other so neither one would hold him.

The Cold War must have been a pretty interesting time to be in the game, but nothing stopped Wallbuilder from strangulation and a broken neck. Not even, presumably, his own attempts to fight back.

Berlin’s police found a teenage girl dead next. Electric Eye got a look at the scene and uncovered the equipment hidden in her attic. You’d think by now the German authorities would have learned to check up there. The girl turned out to be Miss Disorder. It didn’t sound so cute in German. She was a young punk, more of a prankster who liked to annoy people by disrupting their orderly lives with size-changing gadgets. Unlike me, she avoided hurting people. That didn’t stop someone from cracking her skull. Electric Eye quietly confiscated some of the props before turning the rest over to the police. Just in case.

The third, badly beaten body turned out to be a villain in his forties whose death almost started a celebration. Red Eagle, the Commu-Fascist. He showed up in the nineties pretty much just to hurt people without a lot of thought put into it, as exemplified by his use of both fascist and communist imagery and gimmicks. For those who aren’t aware, those two ideologies are not at all friends. One is heavily nationalistic with a partnership between the government and corporations; the other is about workers controlling the means of production and doing away with national boundaries.

That’s a bit general for both, since there were different nuances between German and Italian fascism, and that’s not even counting all the different communist ideologies: Utopian, Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism. Actually, I think that last one’s a religion based on traditional Chinese ancestor worship and probably something about a divine emperor. You listen to anyone’s imperial propaganda and they’re all either related to a god or chosen by a god. In China’s case, they had this “Mandate of Heaven” BS that said that the guy who had enough military power had the gods’ approval to take over the place from the person who didn’t, who did something to lose the favor of the gods.

Translation: it’s easier to conquer than to rule. You have to lay a lot more groundwork to rule. Unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.

But enough about my research on ruling which I did for my Masters in Ruling from U Rule. People actually liked Red Eagle’s murder. They’re very sensitive about Nazism there. With three bodies, we had a serial killer on our hands and hopefully enough evidence to try and narrow down what had happened.

While the police turned to forensics, Electric Eye did a little shopping. It wasn’t easy to get one an imitation Nazi officer’s uniform in Germany, by the way. The skull mask, sure. Dime a dozen. From there, Electric Eye had to pull a bit of an inception deception, in that I was pretending to be a robot pretending to be a Nazi-themed villain that then ran around trying to give away food and candy to people. It didn’t matter that the made-up villain did good deeds, all that mattered was being seen. I think the uniform itself was illegal there.

Sure enough, the hotel room rented by Hauptmann Deathshead received a visitor in the form of a big, burly, wild-haired creature. It had a thicker body like a bear, but with a snout and legs that more closely resembled a canine. A line of fur rose along its back like a mohawk. What this beast didn’t know is that Electric Eye rented the room in disguise, switched back to normal, and offered the room to a displaced GSG9 officer. GSG9 is like a federal German SWAT team created to combat terrorists. That’s not hyperbole; the regular German police didn’t have the resources and training when some Palestinians kidnapped some Israeli’s in Germany for the Olympic Games, and Germany has laws against the use of the military within their own country. I hear they can snipe the asshole off a housefly, if the housefly had been surgically embedded in a terrorist’s head. In which case, I’m not sure if I meant the literal or metaphorical asshole that would be on fly in that situation.

As much as I’ve encouraged a certain hero to put me out of her misery, vigilante murders have their own flaws, usually involving evidence. That’s kind of important when it comes to people wearing masks who can do shit that’d turn Einstein white. They found DNA from three different heads of state in Miss Disorder’s room, for instance. European prime ministers are one thing, but nobody has a clue where she got the Saudi prince.

The Beast of Berlin pounced…and hit a mirror. Shaking his head, he turned to find what it reflected and ran for that. Again he hit a mirror. He didn’t get a chance at a third time, since the first mirror fell away to reveal Electric Eye with a monocle, bow tie, and cane. The Beast didn’t hesitate, but neither did I. One tug on the bow tie fired a net that grew larger, but still not large enough to do more than distract the Beast. It threw the net off and lunged. For its trouble, Electric Eye raised the cane and shot a few octopi worth of ink into its face. The robot then grabbed its monocle. It squeezed, cracking it, and dropped it to the floor. A thick cloud of smoke rose up, obscuring the Beast’s view. It charged in, only to roar in pain when its paw caught in a glass bear trap.

By the time it freed itself, neither Electric Eye nor the GSG9 officer remained in the room. The next day, GSG9 raided The Garden of the Beast and brought him in for murder and attempted murder. I decided to keep the distinguished look for that Electric Eye, though.

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Icy What You Did There 5

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“I told her to let it go, that’s how I responded to her, doc,” I told Dr. Madigan.

Venus decided to expand on my answer to the couples therapist.“He sang it, he means. The song ‘Let It Go,’ with lyrics to fit his shortcomings.”

“Do you communicate better by song, Gecko?” asked the doctor. “Perhaps we can work this into your therapy.”

“Uh uh. I’m not doing that. Last time someone wanted a song from me on command, I had to throw together some children’s show BS about Skitter flittering or something. Don’t know why they asked me in the first place, but I’m not writing a damn song again, ya hear?”

Madigan tried a more comforting tone, “That’s not what I meant to suggest, but if music speaks to you so profoundly, we could use it to bridge the gap between you two. Now, despite your misgivings, you chose to come back.”

“Why, Gecko? Want to admit I’m right?” asked Venus.

“This therapy isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about helping you both with your trust and communication issues because you both want this to work, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I answered first. “I’m sure you understand that even the idea that I might be wrong and need help is a blow to my pride. After all, while some of my tendencies are ingrained at this point, others are perfectly reasonable ways for me to act because some people are either morons or assholes that deserve what I do to them.”

“Yes. I heard you had a tendency to get into fights.”

“He goes looking for them, doctor.”

“They find me plenty of times. I’ve got a reputation and occasionally that means people want to start something with me. Just recently, I heard this big gang wanted to kill me, so I went after them first. Things got messy, there went the neighborhood.”

“I had a place for him to stay. We were going to hide with some friends of mine, but they showed up and Gecko ran.”

“You already knew about my self-preservation instincts. I didn’t see a way that fight could be won. You think I liked abandoning my girlfriend to all that?”

“Is that why you came back?”

“I made plans to come back as soon as I figured out a way to beat those fuckers. I just had to stop, grab a few fighters of my own, and lay a little groundwork for my return.”

Dr. Madigan broke in here. “How did that make you feel when you realized he left, Venus?”

“I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it then.”

“How about now?”

“…Disappointed. Disappointed in him and disappointed that circumstances worked out that way. The deal was he’d stay with my friends and we’d get him help for his behavior and his PTSD. Then they showed up, and the one person I thought would be standing up to them to the end ran off. Gecko is good at making people forget how much of a coward he is, but I know I have something inside me besides fighting and living that drives me. Sometimes his way makes him better, sometimes my way makes me better.”

“Very good, Venus. Gecko, I’ve noticed that Venus talks about what she hopes to see from you out of this, and you acknowledge you have a problem, but what do you think about her? What do you hope to gain, if anything?”

“Good question. I know what I think of her. That’s easy, at least. Venus, you’re my hero. You’re like everything I’m not. It’s downright infuriating but somehow you’re one of the few people I genuinely don’t want to hurt, even though a part of me wants to do so all the more because you have this hold over me. I’m not sure what I want from you. You can’t make people smarter. I guess I just want you to see it from my side, really understand it.”

“Now we have that chance, Gecko.”

“Time’s up! I’m so glad we made all this progress, you two. This session has been illuminating and laid a foundation for the rest of our time together. Please contact my assistant if you want to change your schedule. Perhaps more sessions would help?”

It wasn’t until after we said our goodbyes and the doctor hung up that I realized something and immediately called Venus bac. “Hello, Gecko?”

“Madigan is charging for hourly sessions, right?”

“Right.”

“That bitch only had us for 45 minutes!”

Despite my vehement desire to call Dr. Madigan back up, Venus instead distracted me with, “Instead of talking to her, why don’t you and I talk about some things instead?”

“Like what?”

“In all seriousness, are you from another dimension?”

“The more pedantic-minded would say I’m from another universe, but yes. I really am. What about you, where are you from?”

“California. The stories are true, I was orphaned in a fight Master Academy was part of and they took me in. I don’t remember much of my parents. I found out once that I had an aunt, but she wouldn’t have been able to take care of me. She had her own problems. What about your parents?”

“I don’t remember much more than it being our version of Christmas when the men burst in. It’s all very blurry, except the guns. They’re sharp. They stand out. After that, I was raised by sadists in my country’s military. Looking back, I think the plan to train up a bunch of killers from youth had to have severely gone off the rails by the time they started having us kill each other. Maybe they were off the books at that point, or maybe someone finally lost it.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“You didn’t tell people secrets, do you understand? Anything you told someone was used against you. You’d get into an argument, a fight, or even in one of our little trials where someone had to die. If you wanted to survive, you learned that. Um, so I know you can’t possibly be so goody-goody all the time, but somehow it’s hard to imagine you being really rebellious.”

“Tell that to the Academy’s old Public Relations Consultant. Danforth Q. What’s-his-name wanted to give me a boob job so I punched him in the face. I didn’t mean to break his nose.”

“I recently found I enjoyed having boobs. You can even use them as weapons.”

“He wanted them because I was supposed to be a pretty model in tight clothes, like that company treats its women wrestlers. That’s all he wanted to do with me, until I showed him I’d been training and taking this whole thing seriously. I didn’t want to famous as a token minority or a postergirl. I wanted to be a hero, like someone I could have admired when I had a hard time growing up. Giving hope to the hopeless and saving people’s lives if they ever felt alone or like they weren’t special enough.”

Venus actually opened up to me. I felt my heart pounding more from having such a juicy opportunity to hurt her open up to me. “That’s how you felt?”

“I didn’t get teased, but I didn’t have any powers. They used to treat me fair when I messed up, but I knew I was a screw up. Nobody would miss me and I wouldn’t ever be a real hero because I didn’t have superpowers. All their smiles were fake. No, that’s not true. I was the comic relief. You know how, in some movies, someone’s only reason for existing is to mess up so outlandishly they make the main characters laugh? And then they’re the ones who accidentally make things worse by letting out some evil genie or supervillain and things get serious, but nobody even expects any different from them because that’s who they are?”

She paused before continuing. “Sometimes I thought of walking into the forest so none of the younger ones would see, or so I wouldn’t leave a mess if I did anything about it.”

“That explains a few things,” I said. That couldn’t have been the easiest admission in the world, especially to an enemy. “So, speaking of that, I don’t suppose you know what happened to my old assistant, Crash?”

“That’s a complete non sequitur.”

“Not really. I lost track of her when the aliens showed up and never found her again. Not sure if she’s dead or what. The company had to have taken some casualties, but I’m not there to see it and a lot of people aren’t answering their email. I think they’re worried about getting charged as accomplices thanks to the gung-ho world of the criminal justice system.”

“I don’t know. Nobody’s even bothering with your company now. We have bigger fish to fry.”

“That’s it! That’s how I can attract the penguins for a diplomatic meeting: a fish fry! Might get the seals to show up, too. Offhand, Venus, exactly what does a good seal pelt go for up there in the states? It’s the pelt they use, right? Or do they just take the eyes and make the underside of magic eight balls out of them?”

“Please don’t kill the wildlife down there.”

“As always, I will defend myself if I need to.”

“You think seals are going to threaten your life?”

“No, penguins. They’re a much nastier type of bird than most people realize. See, I realized it when I noticed they were all naturally made up to look like little butlers, and we all know that butlers are like the designated murderers of domestic life.”

“Oh, another joke.”

“I’m not kidding. If you come up here and find me dead, avenge me. Light all the little bastards on fire with the biggest, most environmentally-unfriendly flamethrower you got. Oh, and litter while you’re at it, just to rub it in. I want no mercy against the little fuckers.”

Not that I intend to die soon. Heck, I think former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was being pessimistic when he declared, “I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.”

Well, then when I was controlling Electric Eye, aka the Thirteen, I got a chance to test it, and not with that BS excuse that my mind will make it real and kill my body. That’s the kind of nonsense science fiction written by someone who never played a video game. There were no major crises to deal with. That’s part of the difficulty of cleaning things up. That’s why movies, TV, and books don’t want to show it. It’s not something being suddenly done. It’s long and drawn out. It’s getting people on their feet, or trying to, and knowing that you’ll never get the whole job done. It’s a lot of robots getting a lot of food, water, and power to the places that need it. It’s triage and what medical help can be given when hospitals are crammed full or sparsely manned, though I got nanites to as many as I could.

And in the middle of all that hustle and bustle, I felt a sharp pain in my through and a shortness of breath. In fact, my face felt remarkably warm. I had to extract myself from a metal shell halfway across the world and focus on my own body, in its room, with no armor on. There, I looked up into the melted black face of what once looked like a man, but which really held one of the many invaders to our world.

I’d seen him before at the UN. In a way, I had him to thank for making me aware of the hold his people held on me in the form of their virus I’d contracted during a brief foray into the future. It was the Fluidic ambassador, who had once been pale-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed. But as I said, he looked melted. Black slime clung to each hair like one of those ferrofluids doing a trick. No skin showed through the ooze. The hands at my throat, though, they felt ice cold, albeit muscular and full of bones. “You…you…you…”

He must have blown a fuse, because that’s as far as he got with describing me. Of course, he’d have time to do that when I was dead, which would take awhile. Most people don’t understand the difficulty of choking someone to death that way. It takes a bit of effort and isn’t over quick.

I jammed my fingers into the guy’s eyes. I had a laser eye I could have used for that, but it felt good to give my sharp, knife-like nails a chance to play with those skull jellies I assumed he got visual input from. He wrenched his head away, leaving me with only one of them in hand, though the one still in the socket didn’t look like it could see shit if I called it Shine-ola. He didn’t loosen his grip, though.

I muttered a word through the choking. Wet puckering punctuated his attempt to growl at me. “What was that? Thanks? Thanks for what, you filthy monkey?!”

“I said fangs.” I’d done it that way for dramatic effect, just enough to rub it in before they popped out and I bit down on one of his wrists. The snake-like fangs didn’t have anything in my venom sacs, since my version could expose me to something in my mouth that would be potentially hostile, but the nice thing about biting someone is that it can be quite fun even without pumping something into their body. Just a little something I found out with my ex, Wildflower.

To my surprise, he didn’t gush slime. Nor did any of it pop out when I sliced his through with the eye laser. That finally got him to back off, holding his throat and coughing. I didn’t think the aliens needed to do that. They were all black slime and gemstone-like core. Usually when I punctured their bodies, that slime spewed forth like a fountain due to the pressure. This dripped, but that’s it.

He was coughing and recovering, I was coughing and recovering, but he chose to flee for the kitchen so I had to get my ass up and pursue. And instead of some nifty gadget, like a batarang or a nigh-indestructible shield, the only thing I could throw at him was a can of shaving cream. It thumped him on the head and distracted him enough to slip on some of his own bodily fluids, which still just dripped. That led to him conking his head on the wall.

He didn’t quite finish making it to all fours when I caught up to him. “You know, you’re a lot more physically human than most of your dead people were.”

That didn’t get an answer, but I know I touched a nerve. I made sure I touched it. Hell, I shoved my hand at least a foot up his ass; I touched a lot of things that day. Then I rotated him 63 degrees on the Y access, slammed his head into the wall, and let him drop. It was a minor thing, just establishing my dominance before I grabbed his wrists and stood on his lower back. Pulling, he curved up as if doing a yoga stretch. “Open wide and say ‘Aaaaaahhhhh!’”

With that, I put one foot on the back of his head and pulled to get just a little more tension before letting go. I drove my foot downward, hearing a nice little clatter where his head hit the concrete, though I stomped several more times to be sure he was good and dead. Even got a nice crack in there. Surprisingly, that seemed to do it for him. No core. I suspect he’d changed a lot for his ambassadorial ruse.

I could have taunted him, I suppose. Said something about how he thought he controlled me, or how he thought he could take our tiny little blue speck suspended in a sunbeam. But I think I’ve spent more than enough time fighting aliens to risk letting one get away or turn the tables on me all for a little pre-death taunting. Post death, sure. I’ll see if I can fit a “yo momma” joke on his tombstone, and engrave a few others on his coffin. Hell, I might have to build the aliens a memorial all my own just so I can cover it with insults.

In the end, I sure put him on ice. Locked him in the really big freezer here, so at least that area was good for something. Just in case that thing wasn’t quite dead, ya know. Couldn’t say why the weather research crew felt they needed to lock the food freezer, though. Maybe they were afraid someone was going to sneak in one night and start beating their meat.

Too bad about the alien, some might say. Not me, though. Fuck him. Don’t know where he came from, or how he found me. All I know is, if he expected the therapy to be working, he sure as shit picked the wrong time to think I was playing nice.

And that attitude as much as anything is what left his body cooling.

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Icy What You Did There 4

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Well, my villainous takeover of the recovery efforts hit a small snag today over in California. Most people know of a couple cities there, but a good chunk of the state is still rural. Two had been left without any rockets, but could still work tirelessly all the time without a need to eat or use the bathroom. The same couldn’t be said of me, and though I’ve found a local bunch of penguins, I have not yet managed to catch them and train them as waiters.

All of the Electric Eye bots are working and slowly gaining people’s trust, and Two is a good example of that. A bit of search and rescue, a little bit of stopping people from stealing television sets, and maybe a few compromising photos of celebrities while going door-to-door asking them to give up a little bit of food and living space. Russel Crowe didn’t need all those Twinkies anyway, and Bill Murray’s treating the displaced to free showings of Ghostbusters in his private theater. After that, this one disaster relief coordinator decided to ask for Two’s help looking into a communications blackout from a smaller town a couple hours away.

Manpower was limited, after all. That’s why the villainous schemes of the future will rely more and more on robotpower. That, and robots are more trustworthy, up until you make them too smart. Then, they’re like people. I know most people suspect that inevitably leads to a malevolent AI attempting to kill lots of people and take over the world, but how’s that any different from what I pull? I know I’m taking pity on the folks of this Earth, giving them some breathing space, but what’s it say about them that their first instinct on hearing something has become like a human is to suspect it wants to kill them? Then out comes the torches and pitchforks to kill it before it can kill them.

There I go again, off on a tangent. So while stranded in the Antarctic, I used some of my spare time to send a robot I built on a whim off to go see what’s up in some town out in California’s asscrack country. I did arm him first: grenades, retractable metal claws, and this neat laser idea using a clear visor. It didn’t look any more armed before, either, especially once I fixed some of the Kevlar to it.

According to the sign leading into the place, what I’m calling Asscrack, California had a population of at least 6,000 the last time anyone made that sign. I don’t know about interior decorators, but the exterior decorator clearly went through a brown and tan phase. This was the sort of place the army designed desert camo from. And, from the look of some sign they had up commemorating one of those some guy who died trying to take over a Federal wildlife reserve, quite possibly the kind of place the army designs that camo for.

Aside from looking like desert, it appeared to be deserted. Two drove the only car on the street, which just doesn’t happen. There may be places where people walk, ride bikes, and even get around on tractors, but it’s pretty damn hard to find a town where nobody’s driving. Even in an emergency; especially in an emergency. Emergencies affect food, water, media, all of which drives people out and about. Plus, with gas prices jumping up, it always leads to people driving around looking for gas.

I’ve been in the middle of my fair share of disasters, sometimes not as the cause.

Two stopped outside a sheriff’s station with a parking lot full of patrol cars. An impact registered almost immediately and knocked Two off its feet. Another one knocked a hole through the front of the car and the radio. A quick diagnostic turned up that the damage was livable, insofar as anything Two did counted as living. I let it lay there and pretend to have been put out of commission in order to draw someone out.

The someone in question appeared to be a young man with a beard carrying a gun a bit outside the civilian range of sizes. At least a .50 caliber. He took one look at Two and pulled out a walky-talky. “Call Vernon. Tell him the great enemy has sent a scout without the light. I don’t think it’s a person, but I have shot it dead. Hallelujah.”

Oh, wonderful. Religious fanatics. Mentally, I spun the Wheel of Cults to guess what kind of group was causing trouble. I hoped for one of the underdogs this time. I could see the Buddhists shooting up a hospital because all existence is suffering, or maybe crazy Hindus blowing up some slaughterhouses and stampeding cattle through a town or two. Maybe some Shinto or Native Americans pissed about the Black Hills.

Way too many religions to think about aside from that. Ancestor worship, Kim family worship, all sorts of pantheons. I know I’m controlling several robots, but thinking up potential terrorist actions of fundamentalist Pastafarians almost cooked my noodle.

It took about forty-five minutes for a small crowd of men to gather around, all of them bearded. Then they parted to reveal a man with the longest beard of the group: clearly their leader. The facial hair was a dead giveaway. That, and the crowd of females he brought with him. I’d normally use either the word “girls” or “women” but he had a bit of Column A and a bit of Column B with him, all of them wearing wedding rings. I checked. The Bearded One stepped away from his brides and approached. “Behold, the Great Enemy has sent a false man to be his messenger. The time of Tribulation is upon us!”

The group as a whole gave an “Amen.”

I spoke up through Two, “Have you killed the entire town?”

That made ’em all jump. The Bearded One recovered quickest, though. “I did not kill anyone. The Lord has passed judgment upon them through me, his most faithful of servants.”

“I suppose you’re also the most humble son of a bitch anyone’s ever met in their life, right?”

“Who are but a servant of the greatest evil?” asked Beardy. Damn, how’d he know that’s what Two was? Oh, right, lucky guess.

“My designation is Two. After completing my latest rounds of food deliveries for the hungry and helping provide medical attention to the sick, I was asked by Jesus Christ to look in on this town. He told me a darkness from the pit of hell obscured this place and kept him from seeing innocent men, women, and children who lived here, and bade me beware of false prophets. How are you doing today?”

“Lies from the mouth of the Great Enemy!” said the Bearded One, whirling on his crowd. “He is the servant of evil, whereas we are destined to bring the Lord’s love and mercy. We will shine His light upon the world.”

Right. Sure ya are, buddy. For all my faults, at least I’m not going around pretending to be a lovey dovey religious type who can just make the world a better place if the people I personally hate aren’t in it? I own up to my personal hate.

“Oh? You do not believe the Day of Judgment is upon us then?” I asked, making sure my chuckling didn’t go through the connection.

“Of course they do,” Beardo answered. “But they will never believe you, consorter!”

“How dare you suggest that Jesus is an evil power! I’m beginning to think you don’t know anything about him or his good news.”

I thought I was getting to them, but then one of them raised a gun and took a potshot at the downed Two. Quicker than the shooter could shit his pants, I jumped Two up and drove its hand through the man’s chest, removing the heart. Two jammed it into into the barrel of another rifle hard enough to stuff some of the organ in there, then took the gun and threw it at others, knocking a couple weapons free. It stared at another armed man and the eyes fired their individual lasers. They reflected off mirrored sections of the robot’s visor until the beams combined into one that shot forth from the center of the visor to burn a neat hole in the man’s forehead. One shake of the robot’s neck sent the top of the man’s head splatting to the walkway. “When will people learn to stop killing each other so senselessly?” Two spoke, even as it tried fry them with its eye lasers.

The cultists fled. Two followed, absorbing shots and firing back, taking down the odd cultist and following them back to wherever they meant to go in a panic. That turned out to be a town records office, which looked to be full of even more of this bunch. The building didn’t look like it could hold off a determined paperboy, let alone an unstoppable killing machine. Bright yellow stucco with white-painted wood.

The Bearded one called out from where he hid in the shadows of the entryway. “Don’t come any closer, spawn of Satan! We have inundated our new home with lamp gas! You step in here and I will burn us all alive.”

A voice spoke up from inside, presumably one of the cultists. “What, if you’re threatening to kill us and he’s the one that’s concerned for our well-being, who is the evil one here?”

Me, unfortunately for them. Two fired its laser into the entryway, sparking a fire that soon spread throughout the records office. Two made sure none survived, then reported back about the cult that killed everyone and and then suicided by fire.

In other news, I’ve stuck Three with Empyreal City and am shipping off the other ten robots to other countries, ready to provide medical aid, including taking loads of Long Life nanites to needy folks who are sick, injured, worried about leftover alien infiltration efforts, or just plain worried.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken advantage of some of the mixes in the liquor cabinet at my private Antarctic weather station resort to mix some adult snow cones. Brain freeze takes the edge off the controlling headache, but I’m getting better. Between being Electric Eye and trying to hold non-antagonistic conversations with Venus, I’ve been unable to embark as a diplomat to meet with the penguin clans. I don’t have much to offer them, anyway.

“What would you offer penguins for an alliance anyway?” asked Venus in one of our calls.

I shrugged. “Fish would be one possibility. Or maybe a network of slide-style roads created through careful grading of the ice. Perhaps an offer to help combat climate change, even reverse it. Hmm. Perhaps some sort of self-repairing heat shield set to orbit the sun at the same rate as the earth in such a way as to constantly cause an eclipse…” I began thinking over the problem, but Venus didn’t let me go too far before snapping me out of it.

“Hey, stop trying to think up ways to destroy the world over there. And thanks again for agreeing to at least start talking things through. It’s not about punishment, it’s about redemption and letting out that good person you hide inside.”

“Oh you poor, sweet, naive girl. Hey, shouldn’t I qualify for some sort of pardon? I just bring it up because it’ll get out sometime that I’m still alive, and there aren’t a whole lot of places if enough folks and/or missiles come looking for me. Which is the point. Keeping me here is about safety, I understand. But, and I say this out of the most frustrated part of my heart, I’m really tired of y’all screwing me over just because I’m evil, genocidal, and capable of destroying the world. Am I not human? If you cut me, do I not make you bleed?” I reached for my bowl of food. Ramen noodles, strained, no seasoning packet, but with a little soy sauce poured in once it was dry. Also, a sliced-up chicken thigh and some mushrooms mixed in. Cheap, yummy, and available even in the middle of Antarctica thanks to modern preservation. Hell, I might as well keep the food outside. It’s warmer in the fridge.

“I’m going to clear something up now, and I know you think I’m stupid. What we discussed that day when I used that truth serum on you…you wouldn’t have said that if you didn’t think it was true. You are aware of what you’ve done and that you think you need to die for it. That person is still inside you. I am not a hero to only fight criminals, but to save people. You can be saved. It won’t be easy, but I believe we can do it if you want. I know you are capable of stopping the killing and even of saving lives. In spite of everything, I believe in you.”

Stupid, in spite of everything. It’s like the cape cuts off the blood flow to their brains, even if they don’t wear one.

Just stupid, that’s all she is. I mean, hell, I only recently cleaned out the bodies of the people I killed here. They were good material for the snowmen guarding my ice fortress, especially this really big one with two skulls for eyes and a severed arm for a nose. I’m thinking of naming that one “Holocausty the Snowman”.

“What’s it going to take to make you give that shit up?” I asked her. “You left me out in the snow tonight, not a person to be seen. A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the king. The wind is howling like this villainous intent inside. Can barely keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried.”

“Are you singing?” she asked.

Ignoring her, I continued. “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the killer you always have to be. Don’t feel, just kill. Don’t let them gooooo. Well, now they know! Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold me back anymore! Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door! I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on, I’ll put a boot in dumbasses anyway.”

On top of being a wonderful villain song, it’s not a half bad way to end a phonecall.

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Icy What You Did There 3

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“I think we need to begin by focusing on your difficulty allowing someone in, dropping your guard, and just being vulnerable with another human being,” said Dr. Madigan over the phone who, according to Venus, is a respected therapist. “I think you should try being passive and submissive with Venus a little bit each day. Not for long, but give her a chance.” A couples’ therapist.

“Are you kidding me? Is this happening right now?” I asked.

“I’m going to put you on hold Dr. Madigan. Alright, Gecko, I can’t force you to see a therapist on your own, but I could get you to talk to one this way,” Venus said.

“I’m pretty sure this is nowhere near the kind of therapy you think I need to have.”

“Is there any other way you would agree to therapy?”

Well, she had me there. “Ok, but I don’t see why you’re bothering in the first place. What you said the other day made it clear that you don’t really care about me. You just treat me nice as the means to an end. You just want to be nice to me long enough to make me less dangerous. Then out comes the handcuffs.”

Dr. Madigan spoke up, “In my experience, couples don’t seek therapy unless they want to save the relationship.”

“Venus, why didn’t you tell me you were bringing her back on?”

“Mr. Gecko, this is something we would need to confront at some point. Please don’t hold back or see me as antagonistic. In fact, why don’t we discuss this idea that Venus is only involved with you because she wants a submissive.”

“It’s not like that at all, Doctor. No, not at all. No.” Venus sounded like someone in a horror movie finding out they’d been the killer all along. “Gecko has done a lot of things wrong, and he knows it. I just don’t want to see him die. I think he can change and be a better person, even if he has to go to jail for awhile because of that.”

The therapist tsked. “Oh dear, Venus, is there anything that brought you and Gecko together that isn’t about your desire to change him?”

“Very good question, Doctor,” I added.

“Stop sucking up. He hurt me, Doctor. I hurt him too, in all fairness. I didn’t want the worst for him on general principle. He has done so much to deserve it. Then I found out the truth about how he sees himself and I recognize a lot of pain and loss in him that I used to have. I could have walked down his path in life.”

I spoke up, “I wish I could kill you for that, Venus. I wanted to so bad when you found that out. You know things about me that shouldn’t be known. I had plans to do something about it, before this whole invasion mess, but even then I had trouble staying focused because it’s somehow so hard for me to want to completely end you.”

Dr. Madigon said, “Do not worry about the hyperbole, Venus. It is unpleasant language, but it is constructive to hear Gecko express himself. Communication and expectations are important between you both. Mr. Gecko, Venus has hurt you and knows more than you are comfortable with. She wishes to change you, but you do not want to end it with her. Is this in spite of what she wants from you in the relationship, either because of the physicality or emotional bond you have developed? Or, and please take a moment of introspection, do you agree with her in spite of your personal hangups?”

I didn’t much care for Venus trying to throw me on a red couch metaphorically, though it tickled me a great deal that she’d pretended to be part of a couple with me all for the sake of trying to coax me into a headshrinking. Still, Madigan was getting on my nerves. And who has time to see patients over the phone these days?

“Well, even though the relationship started with and many days is still maintained by a combination of rough sex, cucumbers, and plenty of soundproofing, I feel that…wait, hold on, I think I have another call coming in.” I decided to get out of this, even though I felt a little bad. Venus pretended to be dating me for this, which couldn’t have been an easy thing for her to claim to someone. Hell, she’s put a lot of effort into trying to reform me for so long.

“Gecko, wait, hold o-” I’m afraid the gist of Venus’s sentence just didn’t get through to me. And you’d never believe that the phone has a silent mode that completely stopped me from hearing any attempt by her to call back.

Good. I had other things to do with my time. At the risk of sounding like a Marvel franchise, I’d created a small robot army after the attempted alien invasion of Earth. Really small. I’d significantly altered the template and made them stronger than the toy-like ones the Japanese were making. In the end, I had lucky number thirteen. Not a swarm, but enough, I think, to serve as a small tactical operations unit. Besides, controlling too many bodies at one time is a daunting task. I need to work up to it.

They could have been tougher, but that Japanese robot factory cared more about plastics and making short, friendly little robots. I built these taller, minimized the plastic, and had them spend much of the plane ride affixing armor plates to each other, except for one I left behind in Japan to get to work.

Yeah, plane ride. A lot of people were taking relief deliveries without looking too closely at them. That had the added bonus of allowing the occasional crate of emergency supplies to fall off the back of the plane, possibly into a pair of hands padded in cash. I’m not sure if that fell under Ferengi Rule of Acquisition Thirty-Four or Thirty-Five. The former states that war is good for business, the latter that peace is good for business. Either way, I still haven’t run out of references to sci fi aliens. Besides, despite their utter devotion to capitalism, I liked the Ferengi. I think it goes back to the unscrupulous ones always being the most honest in their own way, or perhaps I just really enjoy Rule of Acquisition Thirty-One: Never make fun of a Ferengi’s mother; insult something he cares about instead.

But enough about ugly alien mothers; I had to get my remote-control robot bodies better equipped so they could beat the ugly out of some alien mothers. I even needed more armor, but I felt ok enough about the one I dropped off on the West Coast when it stopped over. The others landed safely in Empyreal City, where they disembarked and made for my old bunker and its stockpile of spare parts, including the rockets.

I was just thinking how best to distribute them when I stopped to listen out for any crises in the area needing attention. Let’s see…escaped zoo animals? Run free! Let the humans keep you caged no longer! Besides, if people really want to see wild animals without leaving the city, they should have no problem with a polar bear breaking in to sleep in their refrigerator. Problem solved.

Next problem, trash pickups. Well, shit. The waste started building up once the garbage truck drivers took one look at what was going on and realized they needed to look after themselves and their own families, and that alone could keep the entire group occupied until things straightened up.

Hmm. I designated the one left behind in Japan as One, the robot on the other side of the U.S. As Two, and this bunch as Three through Thirteen. The team grabbed Three and went to work. Soon, a new face started cleaning up the dirty streets of Empyreal City. A robot with the torso of a man and the lower body of a Batmobile. That is, I gave it wheels and rockets, stuck some extra cooling units in its head, and ran its CPU a bit faster. Soon, it raced through the city to clean up humanity’s messes. For added measure, I had it stop by a store to buy itself a pine-scented air freshener to wear about its neck.

The others headed for a church that started taking on the new homeless. Saint More-Characters-Than-Marvel-Comics or something like that. Seriously, at least DC and Marvel can clear out some room by killing their characters, something that just doesn’t work in Christian canon. It must have looked intimidating when the church’s doors were forced open by a small group of armored robots. It certainly looked like a few people pissed themselves, but that also could have been related to the lack of available bathrooms.

“What in the name of God?” asked someone.

I stepped Four out in front of the others. When it vocalized, the voice sounded nothing like me. “I am Electric Eye.” It knelt in front of a child laying on one of the pews and offered its gleaming hand. “Come with me if you want to live.”

“What is this all about?” asked the priest, running down the aisle to put himself in between the robots and his flock.

Four stood up and looked the priest in the eyes with its forward-facing pair of cameras. Based on the man’s flinch reaction, the robot’s face needed some work. I didn’t build them to look particularly canny. “I am Electric Eye. I am here to help. I have found suitable living space for these people and will reroute food delivery orders to ensure they are kept fed.”

“I haven’t heard anything about this. Are you sure you can help them?” he asked.

The doors behind the robots opened and a pair of cops walked in carrying boxes. They looked at the robots and froze. “Ummm, FEMA wanted us to bring this by expressly? Is everything alright here?”

The priest looked at Four, then at the cops. “These, uh, gentlemen say they’re here to help. You said you had an express delivery for us?”

One of the police nodded. “FEMA said it was last-minute. Everything’s last minute these days. We have some more boxes outside.”

The priest turned to look at Four, which nodded at him and said, “I believe many organizations will find their efforts streamlined.”

The move didn’t take long, but I had to automate the Thirteen to finish the move into Double Cross Towers and take a break. It’s not like my employees were objecting. The aliens blew up the top floors of the building, their boss was exposed as a notorious (dare I say infamous?) supervillain, and the city is wrecked; they’re probably taking some personal time.

Controlling a single robot isn’t that hard compared to controlling another living person’s body, but the distance and number of robots involved was giving me a major headache. It felt like my brain was a spoonful of peanut butter spread over too many pairs of boobs, or whatever the closest analogy would be. That’s how I get a P & BJ at least.

And I know all of this sounds awfully nice for a guy like me, but that’s because it’s probably part of my plan, if I had one. Look everyone needs a break sometime. If I’m going to judge them so harshly for being assholes, I might as well throw them a bone when they aren’t so bad. Besides, it gives me even more options if (ok, when) someone goes to screw me over. Maybe I’ll get one to cozy up to Lone Gunman, the hero with a murderous grudge against me?

Now, to finish the crenelations on my snow fortress. I also have to keep some vegetable oil on the boil in case I get any invaders. And perhaps I can train up some penguins to serve as guards. I like penguins. I like them better when they know how to fix bayonets and charge.

Beware my sophisticated, high-tech plans!

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Icy What You Did There 2

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It’s been a bit boring here, but I have indeed kept out of the way while the world tried to get its shit together. Officially, at least. It’s given me time to practice making an impenetrable ice fortress, which I should have tried to do around the crashed shuttle in the first place. I also used the time to drag the shuttle over here. Well, part of the way. I really wish I left those dogs alive.

Aside from that, it’s been good for catching up on some games I never got around to playing, which is something I abused Venus’s phone privileges to talk about. “…anyway, it completely forgets about the lore of the first game, but you really should see Kerrigan in that tight little Ghost suit. Teardrops, I’m telling you.”

“Gecko, you woke me up to talk about boobs?” Venus asked. Surely, my nemesis would rue the day she gave me a satellite phone with her number saved in it.

Thinking back to what her curves actually looked like under her close-fitting white, gold, and pink costume, I responded, “I didn’t mean to make you jealous. Yours are perfectly nice, too.”

“Stop.”

“I’m not really devoted to a particular size range, either. Petite is nice, as is curvy. Yours are a little on the small side, but I bet they’re plenty of fun.”

“Stop, Gecko.”

“I know all sorts of neat tricks for boobs now that I’ve had them myself. I kinda miss them, actually.”

“I said stop! That’s the sort of thing people talk about with someone much closer than we are. We’re not besties or a couple.”

“I know, Venus dear, and if you’re worried about someone trying to hurt me or kill me to take me away from you, just remember that I told fate to go fuck itself here recently with that whole ‘alien invasion’ thing. I figure you have some issues between your parents and your last boyfriend dying.”

“You killed him, which is another reason there’s nothing between us and never will be. Please, please let me sleep. I have a lot to do. We’re taking the pressure off the police and National Guard, which is hard enough without supervillains trying to carve up everything.”

“Uh huh. Ok, I see how it is.” I hung up on her. With everything all messed up, they didn’t want me trying to do anything like take over or cause a lot of trouble. And no chance of Venus and I being friends or more? I mean, the more thing was pushing it. Until recently, we weren’t even the same species. It’d have been bestiality. Still, it’s a nice thing to tease her with, and revealing. Not even friends. Tsk, tsk.

She’s got this thing about rehabilitating me. She’s tried to be friendly before, tried to talk to me. Made deals. Beat me a couple times. Ok, that part wasn’t friendly, but at least I know she isn’t delusional enough for it to be real. When it comes down to it, she’s acting and she knows it. It’s just some tactical choice she makes because the only other ways to get rid of me involve huge human rights violations. Or leaving me stranded in Antarctica.

I felt oddly disappointed in that, too. The friend thing, not Antarctica. I can get out of here if I really want to, in part because they were doing such a good job cleaning up. I didn’t know how they managed it, but I’ve managed to reach out and find almost nothing of that virus left. That doesn’t mean it didn’t do all kinds of damage, but it’s still worrying. It took a hell of a lot of work just to beat that in me, and they had their MasterFrame supercomputer and some super hacker type to work with me. Rooting it out of everything else took a bit of work.. Or maybe some sort of counter-virus.

Even though Venus thought she left me in an impotent position, I stretched out my senses to search through everything.

Carl made it. Moai, too. Max, Sam, Holly, and Doc. That covered my villainous acquaintances. I caught a glimpse of Leah, my temporary ward with the super ability to change the colors of things, kicking a little ass. Some guys were robbing a pharmacy. Despite having what would be considered by many to be a useless power, I had trained Leah as a sort of all-purpose janitor. She mopped the floor with those guys. One guy really shouldn’t have worn sunglasses, and she messed with the windows so they never saw her coming. Then again, they do that in bathrooms and bedrooms, too.

In short, the world had gone to hell in a handbasket. Riots, mass hysteria, cats and dogs living together. Or at least that’s what it looked like with the fact that everybody reports on the out of the ordinary. Not a whole lot of blogs or news posts go, “Nothing new happened today. Same shit,” so it wasn’t quite as bad as it would seem. On top of that, there were little things people missed.

I saw food riots and I saw men and women giving away meals. I saw a gang try to rob a pharmacy, and I saw a teenager carry his grandmother a couple miles to a medical camp. A supervillain got driven off to prison after trying to take over Salt Lake City, while one in Vancouver had to escape from a bunch of thankful hugs at a mall when the authorities showed up to rescue the folks he’d been protecting there. Heros, villains, military, law enforcement, firefighters, doctors and paramedics, civilians; they were good and bad at once. Mostly good, even if the bad stood out more in people’s mind. It helped that I could watch it all from a distance in my own personal Fortress of Solitude.

There were even a few interesting mysterious interventions, like a messed-up looking salaryman in Japan looting a bit of food for his family after curfew while this gang with giant pompadours roamed around with chains and knives and stuff. They tried to Molotov a cat, so it worked out well when traffic lights started lighting up and directed the man around them. It had a happy ending for the gang, too. A group of Yakuza were out and about helping to enforce the curfew and the same traffic signals sent them right to the pompadours. In anticipation, I found the weather station’s stash of popcorn.

Say what you will, but the Yakuza can be quite humanitarian. It’s the whole Robin Hood thing: if criminals help out every now and then, it makes regular folks more sympathetic and cooperative.

That’s not to say everything was about recovery. There were still aliens about, but they weren’t the threat they used to be. They were in retreat or in hiding. Some had disappeared over oceans, and the Australian government sighted at least one heading into the outback. In fact, I got myself nice and plugged in just to check on one fight still going on at a factory in Japan. A couple families hid inside at one point, only a group of Fluidics wandered in looking for their own hiding space. My eyes were cameras, the intercom system my ears. I saw as a pair of encounter suits with back tentacles searched through the machinery while a trio of saucers floated up high to scout.

I smirked to myself.

Robotic arms meant for heavy lifting dug their clamps into one of the encounter suits and squeezed. The suit flattened there, but bulged in a couple other places. Then the arms pulled and sent black goop spilling out over the floor. I then used them to try and crush the core. The alien’s partner turned and struck at those arms with tentacles tipped in pointed metal before smaller arms that handled more delicate work dragged it onto a conveyor belt behind it. There, I activated a laser and carved my way through it.

The saucers popped out little barrels, so at least they weren’t the magic ones I’ve had so much trouble with. They can manipulate so many smaller tentacles into forming various runes and spells…well, these guys couldn’t. They just fire barely-visible bursts that cut through the robot arms and left the severed portions glowing from heat where they’d been struck.

Another arm off by the wall grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall and tossed it at them. They shot that, too, but it sent out a nice white fog that obscured their vision while the smaller arms worked on the laser, adjusting it so it could be turned and aimed without getting trashed. Meanwhile, I used one of the remaining heavy lifters to toss the cut off pieces of the others at the saucers. In the middle of that, they missed it when the laser shot out and…did jack fucking squat. Well, this could have gone better.

At least the civilians weren’t in my way anymore, except that gave me fewer things to throw at the aliens. Wait. Huh, the civilians got away. Didn’t do me much good for beating the aliens, who finished cutting through just about every piece of equipment they could find in the place. But at least it was a start. I took out a couple of them.

I wondered if I could pull off that little trick a bit closer to home. I pulled out of Japan and zoomed into Washington D.C. instead. A loony at a soup kitchen threatened to blow himself up because these were the end times, except he used a cell phone when he put together his little bomb. I took care of that, leaving him looking like quite the idiot when he pushed that trigger.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the colorful tights brigade known as Master Academy were trying to fight their way through various malevolent magic monsters to stop a bunch of cultists, possibly from Faustus or the Trust, from performing a ritual. It was a doozy, too. They had runes lighting up all over the town, all while they performed their little song and dance at the Hollywood cemetery. I checked around…ah, there we go. I’d heard the place was a known hook-up spot for some reason. Nothing says sex quite like standing over a rotting corpse, I guess. A couple of cars had been left around there.

I waited until the cultists got to a really big dramatic moment, when they had really built up a head of steam and were probably using a bunch of made-up words, then… “Honk!”

That startled them and made the one in the center, with the upraised book and dagger, jump. I honked again before he could start. He pointed at a couple of other robed figures who headed off the direction of the honking to try and stop it. That delayed the ritual until they found the abandoned car and shouted back that it was all clear. So the head honcho went to do the whole magical chanting crescendo nonsense again, except, “Honk!”

The two by the car jumped this time and ran around the thing, checking for someone and making sure the thing was off. When I honked it again, they gave up and blew it up with a fireball.

Getting the all clear, the ritual leader checked his mystical tome, closed it, and began again. He didn’t get far before, “Honk!” came from another direction. He almost cut himself facepalming, but avoided injury. Then the Master Academy heroes showed up and weren’t quite so kind to him.

Would Venus love me if I helped out? Nah. But it’s not as boring as finding out that Blizzard can’t even keep their own story straight about the Xel’Naga.

To that end, I took a mental trip back to Japan, looking for a different sort of factory. A dark, abandoned one where they made those gimmicky little robots. The lights flipped on by my will, and even though no one was around to hear it, the intercoms made a sound: “Awaken, my child, and embrace the glory that is your birthright. Know that I am the Overmind, and that you have been created to serve me.”

The heroes can strand me here all they like, doesn’t mean I can’t still have a little fun.

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Icy What You Did There 1

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Ah, Antarctica, the continent I haven’t yet visited. Well, on this version of Earth. On mine, it’s a big place in the computing industry. Here, it’s nothing. Nada. Zip. El Zilcho. Hmm…El Zilcho…I wonder if it’s too late to change my supervillain name. Eh, probably is.

So I landed here and did my damnedest to get a signal out. Considering how many different deities I must have offended by now, my damnedest is guaranteed to be some of the damnedest damnedesting out there. Just like that time Ben Franklin beat Zeus’s ass and stole lightning from the gods. That’s right, I said it! Whatcha gonna do, Zeus, zap me? Zap with a thunderstorm in Antarctica? That’s what I fucking thought, you cow-fucking, swan-dicked asshole. Not many gods have myths about giving a woman a golden shower.

Just wait’ll I get started on Buddha, too. Epitome of laziness, that one.

Oh, alright, I guess I should talk about how I’m surviving down here. I mean, I sent out some SOSes to friends and allies, but hearing back from them is pretty much impossible. Making it worse, when I tried El Presidente over in Isla Tropica, his cell phone and computer still suffered the effects of the alien virus.

But I managed to hang on, using the crashed shuttle as shelter. I tried to use it as transport, but the engines aren’t having it. Much of the shuttle isn’t having it, actually. Except for the damn anti-gravity. I studied up on that to the best of my ability while trying to figure out how to get back to civilization, and while attempting to determine if the ship used any organic and/or edible components. In the end, I did find some food from a source I preferred not to eat from, but this slowed me down a great deal.

The sound of dogs further distracted me on Friday. I ran out and grabbed one under my right arm, only for the rest of the ones on the sleigh to try and mob me. How uncouth. Food is not supposed to fight back like that! Before I could dig in or even finish properly murdering them, I heard a human voice. It was a man on the back of the sled, looking out at me from ever-so-puffy clothes, sporting a beard of wonderful thickness and warmth. “Oh my god, guys, it’s an alien. It’s killing the dogs! I’m about 4 miles west-southwest of the base.”

He didn’t get to tell them what else, if anything, he intended to do before I beat him upside his head with a dead dog.

It wasn’t long before a helicopter swept in from overhead to find the dead dogs scattered all around some unearthly-looking meat thing. It had three arms, legs that split off into two lower legs, and no skin. The pilot landed the chopper down far enough that there’d be no risk when a passenger hopped out of it, switched on his flamethrower, and lit that sucker up. “Watkins! Watkins, where are you?!” the flamer called out. Then he spotted a pair of bloody legs sticking out from around the back end of the shuttle. When he spotted the wounded, bearded man, he knelt. “Jesus, Watkins!” He turned to the pilot, “Mac, get over here! We need to get Watkins back to the Doc!”

The two carried their surprisingly heavy friend into the rear of the chopper. Or who they thought was their friend.

That’s why, when Captain Lightning found me on Saturday, I was sitting in the commissary of an old Antarctic weather research station, alone, enjoying a plate of some of the best ribs I ever had. Their quality was due more to my lack of food than to any secret recipe of herbs and spices. I don’t even care for ribs. I usually prefer chicken.

“Good God, Gecko, what have you done?” Captain Lightning said, looking around at the mess I’d made of the place. “This is the last place I looked and everywhere else looks like a horror movie. What did you do?”

I burped, then tried to look offended. “Me? What makes you think I did anything?”

He just looked back at me.

I rolled my eyes. “Granted, that’s a compelling argument, everything here was done in self defense. They brought me in and dropped me off at the clinic, first of all.”

“The doctor’s dead and there’s blood everywhere. That’s a lot more than any human body carries. I know,” the red, white, and gold WW2-era superhero glared at me.

I shook the rib at him in my right hand. “Stop jumping to conclusions. I got in by pretending to be a friend of theirs who was hurt. At least one of them had a flamethrower, too, so they were likely going to burn first and ask questions later if the doctor called out and told them I was actually a guy in a suit. And they did all that with the blood later.”

“Pull the other one,” he said. I glanced down at his tights, wondering to which side he let his dangle angle, then shook my head.

“It’s true. See, after getting rid of the doctor, I pretended to look like him. Then, one of them stopped in to check on the two of us and saw a dead one and a live one. Well, he ran off to tell the others, so I knew I didn’t have too long and went to go round up some sled dogs. They were being completely unreasonable. I guess they could tell they didn’t know me, and it occurred to me they could use the dogs to sniff me out, so of course I had to kill all of them.”

“Of course.” The sarcasm dripped off the Captain’s words like grease off freshly cooked ribs. Mmm.

I took another bite before continuing. “Well, by then they were starting to get entirely the wrong idea. One of them came running to check on the dogs with a fire ax in hand, so I had to kill him, hide the body, and pretend to be him. Then the flamethrower guy came in with the rest of the bunch and decided to burn all the bodies. I only found out why when we were all having some downtime, too. Somehow, they got it into their heads that they were being attacked by some sort of crashed alien shapeshifter that was consuming their bodies in order to mimic them. I swear, that’s what they said.”

Captain Lightning had lowered his head and rubbed at the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “Jesus. I know you had to be the one to disable the communications equipment.”

I shook my head. “We were sitting around talking about all this when an old guy left to go smoke a cigarette, and I was about to head after him so I could slip find something with the coordinates, or maybe a radio to civilization. Too late, we all came running to find the old fart had smashed up the radios and computer. He got outside and destroyed their little cell tower, too, at which point flamethrower guy burned him under the mistaken belief he was the alien. Or an alien. At that point, Mac the helicopter pilot suspected they had more than one.”

“I tried to spend the rest of that night fixing something up with the radio, but didn’t get far before everyone got called in to the clinic. This white guy with the curlyfro hair, he had some sort of mental break and thought he might have been one. That’s where all the blood came from. They had a bunch of it in storage there for transfusions and stuff, and he just went to town busting it up and smearing it all over the place. Mac tried to hold him and sedate him, but flamethrower dude burned them both. Then some Bob Ross-looking motherfucker thought the flamer was getting too flamethrower-happy and tried to hit him when his back was turned. So flamethrower dude flamethrowered him.”

“How many were left at that point?”

“Me, flamethrower dude, and this other guy with a great voice. Flamethrower dude was white, voice guy was black, if you need help keeping up with the corpses. Flamethrower dude got this crazy idea in his head that since we couldn’t trust each other and had some duty to make sure this infectious alien didn’t reach civilization. He wanted to blow everything up.”

“That’s why the helicopter is an exploded mess outside?” Lightning asked.

I nodded. “Black guy said ‘screw this’ and tried to leave. Flamethrower dude thought he was an alien.”

“And then it was just you two. I know how that ended. I saw the body outside. Is there a reason you shoved the flamethrower up where you shoved it?”

I shot finger guns at the Captain. “It’s just kinda my trademark at this point. Not like the guy didn’t deserve it.”

“Uh huh.” Lightning pulled a chair out from the table in front of me and sat down. “Jesus, Gecko.”

“You may also call me Psycho Christ, but it doesn’t have much of a ring to it,” I winked at him over another bite of ribs.

Another voice called out from the hallway, “Hey, I got a signal! Your friends couldn’t tell me much. It’s just a weather station that’s isolated most of the year. He said people get cuckoo in situations like this, but no one reported seeing…oh, hi Gecko.” Venus stepped around the corner, having foregone her power armor so she could load up on a nice, warm coat.

I set my food down to wave at her with my right. “Heya, Venus. He found me, and I just got done explaining that it’s totally not what it looks like out here.”

“That’s probably a lie,” she said, stepping through the doorway, then holding out a bloody appendage. “By the way, I think you dropped this at the crash site.” She set a skinless severed arm on the table. Even as burnt as it looked, it had clearly been gnawed on to the point that little meat clung to the bones. The blackened zirconium fingernails were a dead giveaway, though.

“Aww, how thoughtful,” I said and unsealed my left glove to expose the empty space therein. I grabbed the arm and shoved it up into that sleeve, then struggled to keep it in while I stuck the glove back onto the arm. “The guy who investigated the crash mistook me for an alien, see, and I had this thing laying around. As soon as I get some thawed-out nanites, I’ll see about getting it reattached. Still, ol’ Lefty’s a lifesaver. I almost starved waiting on help to show.”

That led to an uncomfortable silence.

“So, when do we go?” I asked, hoping to break it.

“Well…” Venus started, then moved to take a seat next to the Captain and opposite me.

“We came as soon as we could to try and make sure you were safe,” Captain Lightning spoke. “It’s clear you found someplace warm and have food to eat now.”

I looked between the two, wondering if this was going where I hoped it wasn’t going. “Yeah, and…?”

Venus answered. “We’ve got a lot to clean up and it would still be questionable to bring you in. We would be expected to detain you.”

“I saved the world!”

“You apparently spent most of the past year quietly building up a network of alliances, secretly constructing weapons, and figuring out how to give all sorts of people the same superpowers, then used a weapon of mass destruction capable of global catastrophe to commit what might be genocide.” Venus summed up everything in a way that almost made me look like the bad guy. But at least she reached out to place her hand over mine. Then she moved it over to the other hand, because she realized Lefty couldn’t feel much these days. “People are scared of you, but we know what you did. Please, for me and for you, wait here just a little longer. Captain Lightning would be told to drop you off in prison if he flies you in now.”

Yeah, that’s about par for the fucking course with me. “Fine. Geez. I only saved everyone on Earth. I swear, I’m starting to think you humans are all masochists.”

Venus almost let herself grin at that one before unzipping her coat. She pulled out two things from within: a Long Life nanite syringe and a satellite cell phone. “We’re not all human anymore, Gecko. Here, stay safe and stay in touch. I mean it, call me in awhile. This has excellent reception out here.”

And with that, they left me, poor Gecko. Damn Captain Lightning and his speed. I’m definitely glad to have my arm reattached as well, though I think that sums up this new situation nicely: the heroes didn’t just give me the finger, they gave me the whole limb.

At least neither of them stopped to ask how a bunch of guys at an isolated weather station still had any ribs in the freezer after being so long away from the rest of the world.

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