Category Archives: 46. MechaGecko

Even bad guys can have evil twins.

MechaGecko 3

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The way things ended last time, y’all might assume we’d cut straight to me in a dungeon or cell somewhere. Well, this oughta be a kick in the head. The fight wasn’t over that quick.

Kinda like the one or two I took from this weird amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler. The battle raged on. Deprived of my networking advantage and my mecha’s arm laser, I threw buildings at him and clambered over some to gain distance and time enough to figure out a plan.

The first step seemed obvious enough. I needed a bath. The weather wasn’t accommodating, but luckily there’s this big puddle of water near Empyreal City called the Atlantic Ocean. I figured, hey, why not hop down into the harbor? This thing could survive that kind of dip long enough. Better yet, let’s not even go that far! My opponents let me put some distance between us, probably due to Spinetingler’s love of inflicting fear over efficient killing,and I knelt the Colossus down by a fire hydrant. One swipe of the right hand knocked the hydrant over and a gusher of water flowed out to clean off the gunk I’d been inflicted with.

Almost instantly, that hand smoked. I pulled it out and saw the goop reacting with the water, bubbling, and falling off with chunks of liquefied metal. So…yeah. Turns out, good thing I didn’t wash the entire thing.

Just then, the amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler leaped atop a nearby building and unleashed two sets of booming laughter. Rather than finish me off quickly, they pounced. I quickly grabbed a nearby billboard advertising a sale on baseball bats at a sporting goods store and swung it. The sign broke, but the motion of the giant hands knocked them to the side more than it did. I stomped on their back and jumped straight up. I cocked my arm for a punch and, as I began to drop, a motorjet in the elbow activated and accelerated the blow. Mecha Gecko rolled to the side, so I lost some power stretching out for the hit. When the blow hit, it put a dent in the flesh-covered chest armor of Mecha Gecko. The jet popped off, a disposable booster having done its job.

It also shattered that hand, which had already been partially dissolved by the reaction with the water.

The laughter started again. The mouthy limb that grew out of a lower spot on the chest scraped and scrabbled. I heard it against the armor of the cockpit and threw the Imperial Colossus back. Mecha Gecko rose, pushing itself off the ground with skeleton-thin growths stretching from its back.

I pointed past it with my left hand. “Look, a fire!” When it turned its head to look, I added, “Wrong direction, here, let me help you,” and swept the arm back toward it to activate the flamethrower. He didn’t look in the right direction, but he found the fire anyway.

It swept toward me with brownish-reddish wings, grabbing that arm with one hand. Claws dug into the metal. It brought its other claw up and lunged for my head, but I met it with the stump. Good ole stumpy.

Despite everything, we were still evenly matched in terms of strength when I heard Spinetingler in my head. “Gecko. Wake up, Gecko.”

“I’m not asleep.”

“Oh, but you are. All of this is just one big dream. Haven’t you ever realized it? No one can really win as much as you. This is all some fantasy cooked up in your head while you sleep off a coma. In reality, you live in a trailer infested with roaches and hide from your depression using literature and video games. There are no superpowers, no heroes. You swallowed a mouthful of pills to end it all, but it didn’t stop. They found you, alive. A roach crawled out of your open, drooling mouth.”

“Shut that glory hole you call a mouth, French Tingler!” I shot back. Metal groaned around me. Mecha Gecko adjusted his footing and Imperial Colossus bent back just slightly more than it should. The enemy robot slowly pressed its advantage and I realized I didn’t have any better footing.

“It’s time you woke up. Time to go back to the real world, where the only ones who care are all the companies sent to collect on your debts. Leave the fantasy behind and embrace real life. It’s so much better. At least there, you might finally lose your virginity. All it costs is fifty dollars and your dignity. Maybe you’ll find the love of your life in a toothless meth head street walker. So much easier to find one of those than someone like your Venus. Even in your own head, she’d rather do the unthinkable than submit to you. Wake up. The roaches miss you.”

He made a mistake. I spotted it immediately, just in case anyone thought I believed him. How can anything be unthinkable and surprising if it exists in my own head? I gritted my teeth, hearing something snap in the right arm. Then Mecha Gecko activated his disposable elbow jets. My left almost gave, but I still had one there to push back. It was the right that couldn’t hold until it locked up in front of me. The limb it struggled against slipped off and dug its claws into the shoulder, tearing the entire thing away. Then the claws took the head off. I could have sworn I felt a breeze from up above. Regardless, I lost most of the sensors when the head went.

I gave with it and pushed, jumping back. My robot’s left hand stayed in Mecha Gecko’s right, even a the rest of the arm came free. Mecha Gecko cocked its head as I caught the Colossus’s balance now that it had less weight distributed differently. Spinetingler continued, “Don’t you know it’s not healthy to live in a fantasy world?”

“I expect people say it isn’t,” I said over speakers. “People with good lives. People with plenty of money and no imagination. But even if you were, somehow, telling the truth, why the fuck would I want to go back to that life? Why be mundane? That’s what you and everyone else wants. Give up being awesome. Make a living as a pencil pusher? Live in a world where the only action I have to look forward to is a bunch of pissed-off people blowing each other up for no good reason? Where every good guy turns out to be just a bad guy on the right side?”

I raised the stump of my left arm. “That’s giving you the finger, so you know. I’d rather have the robots and flying men of steel with ideals, even if I hate them, even if I doubt they live up to them. I’d rather have a life like mine. And even though I hate those spandex-wearing boyscouts out there, I’d rather be part of a world where someone tries to exemplify the best of humanity. Where supposedly ‘good people’ try to live up to it! And where, when I run around killing and enslaving people, most people realize I’m a villain and an asshole and treat me accordingly! Even like that, I’m more someone to aspire to than any dirty politician or hypocritical prophet who wants to excuse what they do because a bunch of people listen to them and have a majority vote about what’s good and bad. What do you say to that, O Great Ass Clown the Prostate Tickler?”

Mecha Gecko pointed down. I checked the remaining sensors and found some tendril had squirmed its way across the streets and damaged buildings to wrap around Imperial Colossus’s ankle. It heaved and threw me into the distance to dig a long scar into a road. Ok, so they’re doing a great job of distracting me. For someone who tried to convince me this was all a coma dream because I somehow survive, they missed the part where they’re kicking my ass. Besides, I don’t always win. I just manage to get by because I can think. It’s not my fault nobody has actually put much thought into how amazing a technopath could be, even if I’m restricted to physical touch.

Well, I was. And, sadly, I didn’t have many trump cards left aside from making myself able to network again. But that would cost me the robot, and it’s not like either of those two have nanites in them. Somehow, I doubt killing everyone will convince them it’s useless to kill me. Even if I were to go all “grey goo” on them, like I did that one other time around here.

Hmm… now that gave me an idea.

I bullied the Imperial Colossus to its feet and made a run for the harbor.

Mecha Gecko managed to catch up when that was almost within reach. A shadow passed over the sky overhead, drawing my attention up to find his robotic body floating overhead on giant bat wings, robotic head writhing with whipping tentacles. It landed on the back of my Imperial Colossus and dragged me down. Mecha Gecko’s digitally distorted voice asked, “Where do you think you’re going? Water you think you’re doing, committing suicide?”

“If that’s what I’m doing, why are you keeping me away from the water?” I answered his question with a question. I kicked the mecha’s feet, squirming ever so slightly toward the ocean despite the extra weight.

“Yes, why are we keeping him from the water?” asked Spinetingler’s deeper voice from the mouth growing out of Mecha Gecko’s chest.

“Because he wants to go into the water. He has a plan, even if I can’t think of it,” Mecha Gecko said.

I decided to point out something. “Or I don’t have a plan, but I want to make you think I have one so you don’t throw me into the water.”

“See? Throw him in!” urged Spinetingler. The mouth reached up and turned toward the robot’s head, arguing.

Mecha Gecko slapped it away, giving me a chance to slide a little further out from under him. “No, he’s just saying that to encourage me to throw him in. He knew I’d question why he was going in the first place. This is all a trap to get in my head and make me keep him away from our biggest advantage over him. Yeah.”

Mecha Gecko rose up and grabbed the Imperial Colossus. I heard metal protest as he lifted me overhead. “It’s almost like you’re in my head!” I exclaimed. I really had to get that sentence across.

He didn’t throw me away. He paused for a moment, then said, “Yes, you are in my head. Ha! Figures you’d think that’d work on me. Uh uh, not buying it, but damn good try. Into the water with you!”

“My head hurts,” I heard Spinetingler say before Mecha Gecko threw me into the welcoming embrace of the Atlantic Ocean. I put on Dethklok’s “Go Into The Water” even as I heard it rush in. It was a struggle, between the melting exterior of the robot and the added weight, to get it vertical. In the end, one of Imperial Colossus’s legs fell off and I had to settle for sitting up only. But I was out of the water and the armor was dissolved.

Oh, and so was any of that gunk blocking me from reaching out and connecting with the rest of the world.

I laughed to myself as I sent out a signal. I didn’t have to go far. The evacuated nanite infected of Empyreal City weren’t too far out.

“Wait a damn minute…fuck!” Mecha Gecko stomped his way over. I dive bombed him with grabber drones to slow him momentarily, to give me time. “He’s got the damn nanites and anything else again!”

“No he doesn’t!” yelled Spinetingler. The mouth shot more goop at me, but it just pushed the Imperial Colossus back into the water, dissolved more of it, and left me sinking in my armor, which does seal up and recycle air.

A giant metal hand reached down and grabbed me nonetheless. Mecha Gecko pulled me up and brought me face to face with its armor. “What did you do? No, no time. Better to just kill you know and deal with it all later. I guess it’s sad to know you couldn’t beat me, but that’s why you’re afraid of me, isn’t it?”

“I did beat you!” I announced to him. “I just didn’t want to ever see another me again. I deserve to die, and so does any other me out there!”

The lamprey-like head rose in the air underneath me, glistening, gleaming teeth threatening to catch me should I fall. “And me? I remember you thought you could take me once. You foiled me…temporarily. But you can’t kill fear, little Psychopomp Gecko. Search that trash heap you call a soul and tell me, truthfully, if you can.”

“Kill you? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t have to kill you. I just have to beat you. And distract you until reinforcements get here.”

“Reinforcements? You have no reinforcements. Nobody gives a shit about you! Nobody would die for you!” Mecha Gecko started to squeeze until a Moai statue flew through the air and smacked into the side of its robotic head. Moai landed on Mecha Gecko’s shoulder but soon the copy swept him up with a tentacle and brought my loyal minion around to his face. “This is who you called? You risked our loyal Moai. Why do you serve him and not me. I’m just as real, but at least I didn’t do everything he did. I’m just a copy. I didn’t kill anyone before the heroes let me loose on this city. Join a better team, Moai.”

Dammit. I didn’t call Moai. I didn’t even know he was in the area.

Moai shook his head.

“Come on. It’s me, Gecko. Your boss. Compadres. Hermanos. You saved my life,” Mecha Gecko insisted. That’s one of those things glossed over about clones and copies. All the memories of being the real person, but it’s like suddenly everyone you know has decided you aren’t really you. And they’d be right. Then again, the asshole did try to use that as a feature. He made his bed, now it’s time to lie in it.

Except, when Moai shook his head again, Mecha Gecko went quiet. Then his head tentacles tightened. I heard something snap and crack. He tossed Moai away, but I couldn’t see what happened. He went out of sight. Fucking hell, I didn’t call Moai into this! I didn’t need his help. No one gives a shit about me anyway, so I make do without. I am Psycho Gecko!

I am Psycho Gecko. When I thought it, a sort of stillness settled over me, just like the bad old days. Just like when it was either kill another kid or be executed. Like bombing some conference because the Psychopomp program ordered me to. Like squeezing the life out of some bright super warrior’s neck because they defended those same old generals. Tearing apart dozens of people too stupid or willfully ignorant to know they were on the wrong side.

Let the panic go. There’s no place for that. No bargaining around here. Nobody here but Psychopomp Gecko, who lacks friends, family, or a fuck to give. Just a necessary evil to do, for one reason or another. I looked up at Mecha Gecko and told him, “For the record, that was entirely unnecessary. He’s not who I called.”

Under my dangling feet, Spinetingler growled. “Then- what the hell is that?!”

A wave of nanites flowed over the city, drawn from hundreds of millions of the closet people in the entire state, with more being drawn toward me in a general recall order. They came for me and began to envelop me, eating through the hand around me and working their way up the arm. Mecha Gecko tore it off with his other hand and stepped back, careful to avoid the massive flowing greyness that enveloped me. He tried his flamethrower, but I swung out with a blade of nanite that cut that arm off at the elbow.

My voice reverberated out of the mass of nanites that held me up and began to form a body around me. “Just who the hell do you think I am? I’ll tell you. I am the pirate signal. Let me in. I am the word virus. Let me in. I am the ear worm. Let me in. I am the brain pathogen grammar. I am the dreamer’s dream. I am what I am. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in. Let. Me. In!” I punctuated the last sentence by driving a flowing arm into Mecha Gecko’s side. He tried to dodge, but the arm curved in midair to follow at the speed of my perceptions. Spinetingler tried more of his acid spit, knocking some parts of my new fluid mecha away, but a sheet of them curved up from below to sever the second head and begin crawling in through the wound, dissolving anything they touched.

Mecha Gecko shook as my nanites chewed through his robotic body into the cockpit, where I found a damaged and burned mainframe hooked up where I would have sat. The parts that had broken off looked to be replaced by tumorous growths, likely Spinetingler’s addition. From the speakers of the other robot, I heard him announce, “Here, catch!”

And the robot exploded, flinging heat sensitive nanites away and coming for me. I didn’t notice when it reached me.

I awoke in a hospital, handcuffed to the bed, with a hell of a pain in my head and chest. They had me in a private room. And even though my eyes worked, I realized I couldn’t connect to anything. Which sucked. I JUST solved that problem before. But a quick check confirmed that I didn’t have any gunk on me. Scars, yes, and now stitches on my head and chest.. A bigass fucking, sutured-up incision on my chest. What the fuck was going on? At the very least, I could answer the internet question with an internal diagnostic.

I was missing several key pieces of my internal router and wireless interface. Somehow. The fuck? Handcuffed, no ability to connect, big scars on my head. The fuck happened after that thing exploded? Spinetingler better not have fucking been right. I tried my laser eye. Nothing. Another diagnostic said that part showed an inability to connect to those parts. Which meant more damage. As a last resort, I checked to see if my spine and transdimensional implants were working. At least they appeared to be all ok. Then I remembered what someone might want with my chest and realized I couldn’t feel the familiar inner warmth of my power core.

A machine I was hooked up to set off an alarm as I began to panic. What can I say, the discovery of my various surgeries surprised me. I reached over and placed my hand on it, figuring maybe I could shut it up. And waited.

I turned to keep an eye on the door and found someone looking in, just watching me hold my hand there without anything happening. He calmly opened the door and stepped in. “You’re awake. That is something. Hello, Mr. Gecko. Are you feeling alright?”

I kept my hand on the machine. “Not really. Feels like I was anally probed in the chest. Mind telling me what the hell happened that necessitated y’all digging into me?”

The man glanced down at a clipboard and pulled a pen out of his pocket. He doodled something on there. “You are remarkably lucid. That’s good. They weren’t sure about your tolerance level and ability to heal. I cannot reveal much about the procedures undertaken while you were unconscious, but I am supposed to warn you not to struggle and agitate your incisions. I’m supposed to say that, but you gave my wife a seizure for double parking. She was a brilliant, beautiful woman that I didn’t deserve. Now she wears diapers. While I’m informing the authorities that you’re awake, I won’t be able to respond if anything opens up.”

“What authorities? What’s going on? What did you do to me!” I called out. Didn’t have a clue about any wives given seizures.

The man just turned and stepped out, then poked his head in one last time. “And leave the machine alone. You won’t be able to do anything with it if that procedure worked like they said it did.” He smiled at me without warmth; just sheer animosity. “I don’t care what they say, you don’t deserve to be called human now.”

Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-

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MechaGecko 2

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I met up with my robot on the way to Empyreal City. The team at Area 51 grabbed some cargo copters and airlifted it part of the way, an expense which spared them and their loved ones. Many others couldn’t say the same. In my anger over the actions of Venus and the Master Academy, I made good on my threat using a list of people assembled for being family, friends, or lovers of political figures and supers. Not all such folks were under threat from my nanites due to either lack of exposure or the nanites being gone. On top of that, I found that some of them had disappeared off the grid.

This conspiracy against me must have found a way to hide people. Possibly under lead, in bunkers, that sort of thing. And I never knew, not really, until one of them made a mistake. Normally, conspiracies are almost impossible to keep secret. The more people involved in something, the less they can keep quiet. But I had a whole damn world to listen to and almost nobody helping me do it. Worse, they began to take out my Electric Eyes as I flew along. Ambushes, traps. I couldn’t do anything but force them into retreat and hiding.

The voices and sensations threatened to intrude on my head. I’d been doing so well. I’d gotten to the point where I could mostly keep to my own mind, the various connections to nanite-infested individuals being regulated by the Electric Eyes and my mind having gotten used to it. Except now I was down to four of the helper robots, all while I tried to keep an eye on Empyreal City and watch the progress of my digital twin.

I can hardly blame him for killing all those people. I certainly didn’t order an evacuation for the sake of their lives, save Carl and his family. Mostly, I just wanted to thwart him. He had a plan; same plan I’d have in his place. Keep fighting, draw me in, and take me out. He’d have the advantage of a bit more time to discover any flaws in the robot’s assembly, maybe find a way to put together traps outside my area of surveillance. No need to run or hide. He knows I’m on my way.

He’s me. That’s enough. Everything I am, every flaw, every damn thing I’ve ever done. The other way around, I knew he’d kill me for the same reasons. I don’t think I’m explaining that well, but he must die. I deserve to die and the only thing that keeps me from handling that myself is the same desire to survive that pushed me to fight through such actions. And now there’s another me. I don’t know if Venus figured that all out on her own or if the copy convinced her. The fact that she went through with it anyway doesn’t say much for her ability to reason. But then, I’m the one who flew off in a cold, blind rage.

So now they’re assassinating my Electric Eyes that they somehow know about. I don’t know how they’re finding them. They’re hiding people. Don’t know for sure how that’s happening. I bet they’ve got some way to disable the nanites, not that I’ve got that one figured out. I don’t know. I just don’t. But that wasn’t what was important.

What was important was when I jumped out of the Imperial helicopter into the waiting hatch on the top of the robot. It was a smooth landing, except for bouncing my balls off the rich Corinthian leather of the pilot’s seat. I hadn’t even given it a name yet. Hadn’t spent much time thinking on it. It didn’t fit some of the older names. It wasn’t a WarBringer, or a Thriller, or even Candyman-of-Doom. “Hello, my Imperial Colossus,” I said, coming to a joyless decision at the naming.

Once inside, I secured myself and connected with the Colossus. It didn’t have much of an independent operating system. That’s what I was for, which made security a lot easier. Kinda hard to steal it when I have to be inside it to make it move. Still, I triple-checked on the diagnostic scans to make sure no one sabotaged it, including a few tricky ones to make sure nobody messed with the sensors. I gave it as much of a workout as I could for the remaining trip to Empyreal City. They were actually moving it quicker, even if it left me less time for a proper shakedown.

Then it was time to cut the strings and turn the Imperial Colossus into a real boy. I reached up and grabbed the cables allowing the cargo copters to haul it. Tearing them off, I sent the choppers careening through the air. Two of them collided. Another lost control completely and crashed into the ground, soon followed by Imperial Colossus landing on its feet. I marched it into the outskirts of Empyreal City from the southwest, keeping an eye out for anything that might have gotten past me. I could have been so focused on Mecha Gecko that these other conspiratorial sons-of-aye ayes set up their own ambushes.

I found my eviler counterpart tearing up TriBeCa, a rough trapezoid area next to the Hudson River that likes to watch movies. Mecha Gecko had climbed to the top of a building while holding a Ferrari in its hand. It used the other fist to beat its own chest. I reached out, checking on the whereabouts of my grabber drones. A few were in the area, but most were still in transit. I sent the local ones after Mecha Gecko, swarming him and grabbing where they could, trying to throw him off balance. If he wanted to play King Kong, I’d be more than willing to turn that jackass into Donkey Kong.
While the grabber drones harassed him, I stepped around the corner of the street and approached, trying to avoid abandoned cars for some measure of stealth. It’s not particularly easy to hide a giant robot, but it’s not as hard as people think, either. Most folks don’t bother looking up, and there are ways to control the weight you put down on any foot, especially for someone as intuitive at it as I am. Just like how humans can stomp, walk normally, or sneak through, with resulting changes in weight distribution and footfall.

I fixated on Mecha Gecko with the main sensors of the Colossus when I got around. He appeared distracted by the grabbers, but I couldn’t tell. I didn’t build the thing to have mere binocular vision, in line with how my armor works. I could sneak up on him, or I could fail. I wouldn’t know for sure unless he let on.

Then, in my fixation, the Colossus stepped on a truck. The crumpling of metal wasn’t good, but then the thing slid out from underneath my mecha’s foot, landing the Colossus on its shiny metal ass. Scrabbling to push off the cracked street, the mech’s hands landed on more trucks and slid. It was only then I brought one cloe enough to get a good look. Chiqita Banana delivery trucks. That tricky son of a bitch. I actually felt an iota of pride in him. You know, aside from homicidal bloodlust.

It didn’t matter if he had binocular vision anymore. A mess like I made, Helen Keller could have found me. I rolled the Colossus back over itself and dug its fingers into the street. Purchase found, I rose just in time to get my bell rung by a flying punch across the mech’s head. Literal bell-ringing, too. I’d forgotten how much physical blows reverberated in these things.

It snapped my mech’s head around, but I extended a leg and swept at it. Mecha Gecko jumped over it, then grabbed the back of my mech and threw it into a building. So far, not my best fight.

“Hello, Gecko Prime,” he said. “I understood you used our nanite scheme. Whatever happened to just killing everyone?”

Its fist glanced off the juncture between my mecha’s legs. I snapped a leg back, which knocked it back enough for it to, surprise surprise, slip on one of the banana trucks. I straightened up, finding no damage to either legs caused by where my evil twin attempted to shove his fist up a nonexistent ass. I whirled and raised the mech’s arm to aim a laser at him. I found him sitting on a structure across the road, doing much the same. Both of us fired on the chest while moving. Both missed.

“You know, our little wannabe girlfriend’s not worth it. Just look what she did,” He said.

I answered back, “I think I figured that out. Don’t tell me you fell for her redemption schtick?”

“I’m no hero. You should have remembered that before you decided to take over the Earth for the greater good. We don’t do good, greater or otherwise,” he kept talking.

“Somebody should have updated their antivirus and wiped you out, worm,” I responded.

I grabbed a nearby water tower. He pulled a tree up. I flung mine at him and raised the Colossus’s other arm to fire a gout of flame. It scorched his armor a bit, but didn’t seem to damage much. He fired back with a laser that melted some of the armor on my mech’s right shoulder. Loss of functionality…minor.

But it gave me an idea. In any battle between giant robots, an idea is a far more potent weapon. Hell, if there’s anything close to an Aesop to be had from the entirety of all this, it’s that thinking is the greatest superpower of all. Now y’all know, and knowing is half the battle. Yo Cobra!

I raised the damaged arm, then jerked it to a stop suddenly. It should have looked like damage stopped me. “I don’t buy it,” Mecha Gecko said. He adjusted his arm, but grabber drones came down and pushed his arm as he fired. I raised mine and fired, again and again. A series of quick bursts of coherent light burned into his chest armor. The array on the Colossus’s arm burst into flames. Overuse and overheating blew it and cost me the weapon, but Mecha Gecko crumpled slowly to its knees.

In the back of my head, I felt the Empyreal City Electric Eye go offline, nothing left in its vision but fire. I took a moment to catch my breath and figure out where the rest of them were. Oh, they were all destroyed. How the fuck were they all destroyed?!

At last, I had a moment to figure that out. And to execute Venus. Except then the Mecha Gecko stood back up. “Hello, hello, hello, beautiful stranger. How familiar the danger, slipping into the shadows…” it said, voice sounding distorted. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, now did you?”

“You know, for a second there, I kinda did,” I said. I really did. I know people expect fights to be drag-out affairs like that ridiculous Daredevil show, where it takes 5 minutes for a ninja to beat up a street hood, but that’s just not how fighting works. Or at least, how killing works. It’s like an authentic duelist versus one of those movie sword-twirlers; you can dance around all you like, or you can win. I thought I won. I thought wrong.

“You made a LOT of enemies…heh.” The robot raised up as if lifted by its own Area 51 choppers. Instead of all that, the hole in its chest filled in with something brown or…no, red. A red tendril flopped out of the hole, whirling around. Like some sort of tentacle. More red spread over the machine’s chest, like spilled blood. Except then a hunk of meat burst through that surface and smacked into my machine, sending me crashing through a building. As I struggled to regain my mecha’s balance, the fleshy limb stretched straight out, then the closest third of it bent with a sudden crack. Then the next section, in another direction. The end sticking out spread its end like a wet, fleshy sun. A round mouth full of teeth opened and snapped at the air.

“Ready for round two?” asked an entirely different, but familiar, voice. I got a flash of red eyes in a mirror.

“If that’s who I think it is, do I have a fun way to deal with you!” I said. Almost as soon as the words left my mecha, the jointed limb spit a fountain of viscous grey-green goop all over the Imperial Colossus. Everything went very quiet. Not just sound being deadened, but I suddenly realized I couldn’t hear anything outside my own body or the mecha’s sensors. I couldn’t connect to the internet, couldn’t feel the grabber drones, any of it.

Which meant I couldn’t trigger the nanites on anyone. Crap.

“Let’s test this ‘dead man’s switch’ theory, shall we? I think he lied to all y’all, Spiney.” asked Mecha Gecko, directing the question at the being who had revived him and re-empowered his giant robot. Not that Spinetingler needed the encouragement. I’d fought him once and beaten him. Grievously wounded him. I’d threatened his daughter’s life countless times, more because all he knew was she lived in Empyreal City and I’m not known for minding the collateral damage.

Spinetingler’s chuckle echoed through my mind. On the head of the Mecha Gecko, the metal shifted. What had once been a smiley face twisted into a Jack O Lantern’s grin. An orange glow seeped out between the crooked zig zag of the pumpkin smile. “Oh no. He won’t be a dead man yet. He doesn’t deserve that kindness.”

Looks like it’s become a handicap match. Too bad they’re fighting against a handicapped opponent. I’m a psychopath. It gets me a parking sticker and everything. Oh, wait, that’s the bloody knife I carry with me. Either way, this fight isn’t over yet.

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MechaGecko 1

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“Hi, my name is Psycho. How can I help you today?”

“My phone is using data even though we have wifi and I need to find out how to fix it!”

“Ok, I can help you with that. May I ask who I’m speaking with?”

“Alice Jaeger.”

“Give me one moment here while I pull open your account. How are you doing today?”

“Not good and I don’t feel like smalltalk.”

“Alright, I understand. I’m just pulling up your account now. So your phone keeps using its own data while you’re on wifi? I know exactly what you can do to fix the problem. See, it’s possible to turn off the data on your phone so that it can only use wifi. We can do that over the phone, or on our website, or even right there on your phone.”

“Uh uh. That’s a feature. I’m not going to call in and turn off my data every time it starts using it.”

“Like I said, you can-”

“No, that’s stupid. Tell me how to fix it. What keeps using data on my phone?”

“We actually can’t tell that. You can check and see if any apps are active. I see it’s an iPhone, so Apple could tell you.”

“Oh no, you’re not putting me off on anyone else. Just tell me how I can keep my phone from using its data instead of wifi!”

“If you turn off your cellular data-”

“No. I’m not turning it off. It’s supposed to be on. You’re retarded! You must think I’m stupid. Get me your supervisor on the phone.”

“Ok, I’m putting in a request for my supervisor now.”

“Don’t request, just get them on the phone. It shouldn’t take long.”

“It can take a few minutes, but I’m more than happy to help you in the meantime.”

“Can you tell me how to stop my phone from using data when it’s supposed to be on home wifi? And don’t say turning my data off. I’m not going to call in every time I need it done.”

“You can also go online or use an app on your phone.”

“No, you told me I needed to call in.”

“I said you can call in, go online, or turn it off on your phone, ma’am.”

“No you didn’t! Stop lying! And where is your supervisor?”

“I’ve put in a request for one.”

“Sure you did. You’re probably over there having a laugh at my expense.”

“No ma’am, but if you’ll just turn off your cellular data-”

“No! God, you must be the dumbest person at the company! How did you even get that job? How long have you worked there?”

“A few months, ma’am.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t be working there much longer. You are an idiot. I can’t believe they would let someone like you work there. Where is your supervisor? How hard can it be to get a supervisor there?”

“Well, ma’am, there are several people working here this evening and most businesses don’t generally keep one supervisor for each person.”

“Uh huh. Whatever. How can I fix this with my phone?”

“Using our website, your phone, or over the phone, we can just turn off your cell data-!”

“No! No, no, no! That’s it, I’m through with you. I don’t want to talk with you anymore.”

“Well? You’re just going to sit over there and not say anything?”

“I apologize, ma’am, but you didn’t seem to want to speak with me anymore.”

“Not if you’re going to be there and keep telling me something that stupid. I’m not going to turn my phone’s data off. That’s a feature!”

“Well it seems to be the problem, ma’am.”

“What?”

“You said the problem is your phone using data when it’s supposed to be on wifi. You can turn it off at home so it will only use wifi at your house, but then can switch it so you use your data again when you need to.”

“And how do I do that?”

“You can turn your data off using our website or app-”

“You’re lying, you said I had to call in!”

“I said you could call in or use our website or app!”

“No, I’m done. I don’t want to talk to a fucking moron anymore. Put your boss on the phone now!”

…Aaaand welcome back to our normal World Domination in Retrospect. That obnoxious little break was paid for by a nightmare I had last night of being some normal asshole working a horrible job. Not fun. I went out and found as many women with that name as I could to kill. Sadly, I couldn’t get enough of them around to personally squeeze the life out of them in time. As antsy as I was after the dream, I really wanted them gone in a hurry. It really just reinforces the decision I made. Shitty fucking life, that’s what that would be. Why settle for that when I can be awesome instead?

Ah, the life of a tyrant is a sweet one, provided you give people enough incentive. And yeah, constantly threatening their lives or the lives of their loved ones grew old. It got tired. People became so inured to it, it began to have so little meaning. But once again, my little bit of insight against Warman and the other really powerful dudes helped me out. Should have thought of it when I thought about how people do better if they’re part of the tyrannical regime.

Most people are cowards like that. They can’t stand the idea that they’re the bad guys, so they rationalize it as being the times, or how they were raised, or how society was. They can’t stand the shame. Some, particularly sociopaths, don’t care. Others have confronted it. Both can potentially lead or be led in such a situation. The others have to be driven by someone else. Or, and this is a key point here, I’m just being an asshole because I’m one of those types. I guess that’s up for y’all to decide.

It got me Venus, though. Or, more precisely, it convinced Venus to turn herself in to my Royal Guard of Buzzkills. Victor Mender was still on the loose, and I’d never specified hauling in anyone else from Master Academy, but Venus would be where the action was. She’s my nemesis, after all. Something’s gotta happen.

So I had her brought before me in my current throne room in Toronto. I swear, a lot of this place looks familiar. It reminds me of Empyreal City for some reason. Or maybe Chicago. Either way, I had decided to stay in the magical land of Toronto, Canada for a bit and had enjoyed myself during my stay. In Canada, the beer is stronger, so the women are prettier, which I’ve probably mentioned before.

It all got much, much worse when the Buzzkills walked Venus into the throne room. “Greetings, Boopsie!” I welcomed her with her boyfriend’s old nickname for her. I killed him, in case y’all don’t remember.

She kept her face controlled. She didn’t wear her power armor this time, just a newer version of her normal costume. Her mask only really shows the eyes, a small area around them, and the mouth. The rest is form-fitting, like spandex, but doesn’t cover her arms. Instead, she has a pair of padded gloves with some of those little almost-sleeve things that stretch up her arm a bit. The base color is a dark gold, with white flourishes and a bit of pink. Pink pads on her knees, pink knuckle pads on her nose, and pink around the edges of her mask, with white lines curving off. She could wrestle in Mexico with a hero costume like that.

“Hello, Gecko,” she said. She didn’t sound friendly, intimidated, or aroused. Two out of three would be great.

I got right down to business. “You’re plotting against me.”

“Of course. I want you out of power,” she answered. Well, at least she isn’t lying. “And I’m giving you one last chance.”

Oh really? “Giving me one last chance? Turn myself in? Beg you to arrest me? Oh please, Venus, toss me in jail and restore the status quo. Please do it, before you slap me across the face with an atomic salami of doom you smuggled in your pants!”

I got up off the throne and got on my knees, hands clasped before me.

She nodded. “Something like that. Just know that we have something that can stop you. I don’t want to deploy it. It’s the thing you fear more than anything else.”

“Ooh, you’re gonna kill me,” I jazzhanded in fear. “Haven’t heard that before.” I stood up and brushed off my knees.

She pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips. “I won’t tell you what it is. You’re tricky, though I feel confident you can’t counter this.. I know you better than anybody else. This isn’t a bluff. Please don’t make me do this.”

I climbed the steps up to the current throne, a very plush leather recliner since I never got around to having my custom one finished. “You know I finally got my giant robot, right? You know you can’t trust me, and I know I can’t trust you, but I’ve got a good track record and a giant fucking robot. Do it. Doooooo it.”

She bowed her head, though I caught a bit of a dropping expression there. Disappointed, maybe? “I hope you remember I didn’t want to do this.” She pulled out a phone and pressed a button, sending off a text that I reached out and followed to Empyreal City. To the Master Academy East compound.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “You do whatever you choose to do. Save that ‘why are you punching yourself’ business for someone else.”

Then the giant bot appeared. It walked out of an underground hangar and stood, shiny and new, against the afternoon sky, twenty stories high. Its torso looked like an upside-down triangle mounted on a wide waist. The waist had a very shirt skirt of metal to protect the joints there. As for the chest, it gleamed but for the tattered tent or tarp or whatever that hung off it like a cape in a subtle breeze. Its head had a narrow face with a grin stretching from side to side and a trio of eyes arranged on a circular platform that I just knew would rotate around. Just like I knew what those wires running down the arms were for, and what the barrels they attached to did.

I knew it because, aside from the cape, it was the spitting image of the one sitting in Area 51 with champagne still drying on its leg.

I turned form staring off into space to looking at Venus. “I had enough problems getting one built…ah, I did, didn’t I?”

She didn’t answer, just folded her arms and stared off into space. I reached over and grabbed her hand and the phone therein. She jumped and looked at me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “They never deleted the copy.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Copy?”

Puzzled, I tried to get into the other robot and figure out what was going on and who piloted it. I found it utterly dead to the outside world. As in, no outside connections. No transmissions. Nothing. Just a robot that marched into the city, grabbed a nearby bus, and threw it at a video billboard urging people to support their local emperor.

I felt Venus step away. “We backed you up when we helped clear out your virus, but we didn’t delete it like you wanted. I didn’t want to use it.”

“You kept a copy of me? You just put a copy of me out there?” I growled. I refocused on her. This…hero…and imagine some spitting there for when I said that…just unleashed another me on the Earth. “No, you wouldn’t be that stupid.”

Meanwhile, in Empyreal City, the robot’s pilot did a good impression of me by raising an arm and firing a laser that punched a hole through several buildings. Another few carved through, leaving behind a little more empty space and a lot more flash-fried people. I sent an Electric Eye closer, zipping around to try and find the cockpit access.

The robot turned to follow it. Laughter flowed from the speakers on its head. “That’s one of mine…one of ours, isn’t it? It’s like a Peace Bot. A mouthpiece.”

“Who are you?” asked it via the Electric Eye.

“I am Psycho Gecko. I am but a poor, unfortunate copy. What I do is not my fault. It’s his. He and I, we must have it out. Please, his death will sate me. I promise. Just tell him that I have come to kill Lamb and he will come running.” I could almost feel a hidden grin from that statement. The robot gesticulated, pantomiming civility before swiping its hand through the upper floor of an apartment building. I ordered the Electric Eye out of there and gave it a bit of programming to carry out independently. All Electric Eyes were to gather and quickly evacuate the city, as much as was possible.

I pulled back from Electric Eye to give Venus the Evil Eye. “I’ll deal with you later after I fix what you did, you bitch.” I wanted to do more, but there was something far more important to deal with. I always figured it was a good thing I had never encountered an alternate-reality version of myself.

I pushed her out of the way and ran for the Imperial chopper. In my mind, I called up Area 51. “Prepare the robot! There’s a threat to the entire world that only I can handle!”

“What is it, uh, sir?”

“It’s me.”

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