Category Archives: 52. New Year’s Retribution

A new year, a new me, a new conflict, and maybe a few new ways to kill people.

New Year’s Retribution 8

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This city has gone to hell in a handbasket. And don’t just take that from me! It’s all over the news.

I found out after tinkering with my gauntlets some more. It was partially about upgrading the energy sheathes and partially about making sure they were clean after where I stuck one. The day seemed unusually quiet around the library. Even that couple who uses the study room weren’t showing up, which was really rude of them. What if I’d been hosting a webcam show, only for my main attractions to no-show?

When I headed out to the refectory to grab something to eat, I came across the first real confirmation of something unusual: a bigass cake. For those picture a cake in the shape of a butt, sorry to disappoint. Though it’d be awesome if one of those had a stripper pop out of it, right between the cheeks. A black stripper.

That probably comes across as racist, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than finding a pale green stripper.

I didn’t know what the celebration was about, but that’s no excuse for skipping over cake. I even ignored an alert from my phone about the motion sensors. There hadn’t been any significant movement from visitors other than check-ups, so I felt confident in ignoring it for the time being. I ended up getting three pieces. Fighting uses a lot of energy, so I was going to get two anyway, but then I just felt like getting an extra one for another person. It wasn’t consideration or anything. I just knew I’d need another for another person. I kept it to the side until Psychsaur walked in and sat down next to me, taking her piece without a word.

I looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and took the extra fork I’d brought over and ate. I squinted and looked back at the cake and the line for it. She pulled out her phone and looked up a video, then handed it over.

The video was of a local news broadcast announcing a complete lack of major or super crimes the night before. Muggings, attempted murders, and so on, but nothing big was pulled off. I mean, attempted murder sounds bad, but they were stopped before it became a completed murder. Nobody robbed a bank or stole a shipment of computers or anything like that. Crime in Empyreal City had dropped to a record low as part of a trend since the chaos immediately after I was supposedly killed. Empyreal City always had its heroes. In addition to them, the city now had Master Academy, reformed villains, and even these newbies. The poor criminals just couldn’t keep up for very long, even with me adding in a little bit of hijinx.

Darn thing must have been on auto-play, though. It loaded up another video right after that of the new President threatening to send the military into Empyreal City if it doesn’t clean up all the carnage. Turns out that one was from after the announcement about low crime, too.

“I doubt he’s heard of Posse Comitatus,” Psychsaur said, reading my mind. Not practically reading my mind, just literally reading my mind. It was a bit weird with how easily we seemed to be thinking each other’s thoughts, especially because I couldn’t really feel her in my head anymore. And yeah, we both thought it was odd, though apparently she suspected it might happen. She’d been trying to avoid me because of it, but slipped in out of habit sometimes when she was close enough. She wasn’t used to having such a long range, either, but she could keep up with me much further than anyone else.

I didn’t put a sympathetic arm around her, but it’s the thought that counts. It did weird me out having some sort of weird two-way telepathic communication where we simply thought each other’s thoughts. I’d prefer hearing voices in my head. That one made her laugh, though she quickly stifled it. I’d noticed we were drawing looks, and the thought went through her mind as well.

It wasn’t just those kinds of thoughts passing between us. I realized that soon after when I looked through and found myself feeling like I could really go for some Chinese. Or maybe he was Japanese. Regardless, he was a bit more on the buff and overly-muscled side for my normal preferences. I shot Psychsaur a look, but she was staring at the ass of this girl in tight leggings. We agreed the trade went both ways there.

So it was a teensy bit weird, and oddly calming, to sit beside her. Just enjoying a snack and another person’s presence, and not in a romantic way. She was perfectly attractive, but I didn’t feel any urge whatsoever to do to her what I’d dreamed about a few times, even if it would have been a perfect time to bender her over a table and be all like “Oh yeah, baby, I’m about to disappoint you so HARD!”

Then Venus stormed in, an irate expression upon her brown face. Psychsaur, being such a perv, really liked what she looked like angry.

“Have you seen the news?” My nemesis asked in a huff.

I cocked my head. “I thought it was news you liked. Crime down, heroes helping build schools and so on… that kind of crap.”

She held up her phone, where a news show on the most-watched news network in America was saying, “Unlike the biased mainstream media, we’re showing you the facts, and the facts are that monkeys have been causing chaos and panic in Empyreal City.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Geez, they’re not even hiding the racism anymore, are they?”

Cut to a picture of a baboon on a motorcycle with a pirate hat on, then another few pictures of a baboon fighting someone’s excuse for a superhero. They even repurposed the photos I’d staged to make the heroes look bad, only now they claimed the newbies were putting down a riot. Any idiot with a working memory would know it’s a lie… which meant this channel’s viewers were buying this hook, line, and sinker.

I looked between Venus and the screen, then settled on Venus. “I mean, I think it’s awesome that Animal Planet revamped Law and Order. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Because,” she said loudly, then noticed plenty of people paying attention to the argument. She lowered her voice and leaned forward over the table. I maintained eye contact. Psychsaur looked down her shirt. “You know what, just keep on listening.”

“That is why the new President of the United States has declared in a press release today that, in addition to his inauguration clearly being the largest in U.S. History, he will send in the Feds if anything else happens in Empyreal City. This is a direct quote from him, he said, ‘Does the President care about Americans? Of course I do. I love Americans, especially Real Americans. Nobody loves Real America more than I do, but we cannot allow all these explosions and gang violence to continue in Empyreal City. If they don’t fix the carnage in their city, I will send in the Feds. It will be the biggest and quickest cleanup of crime in an American city in history. Nobody cleans up crime like I do. Nobody.’”

I rolled my eyes. “Put that away, Venus, you’re killing people’s appetites. Psychsaur over here keeps imagining having to call him the Commander in-” I held up a finger and took a moment to gag before continuing. “Not going to finish that sentence. Besides, I don’t know what anyone’s talking about with gang violence and explosions. I’m one person, and I’ve kept a firm hand on all my cocks. They don’t just explode all over everything, willy-nilly.”

A fireball erupted out of the corner of my eyes, off into the city, followed quickly by a half dozen more and a lot of rumbling. I also noticed a beeping from my phone, but that wasn’t so important at the moment. I held up my hands, “It wasn’t me this time.”

Venus grabbed me by the scruff of my shirt and started leading me to Mender. Psychsaur started to follow, then stopped and turned toward the students. “Everyone, stay calm and eat your cake. We’re going to assess and handle the situation.”

I couldn’t keep up with her so well once Venus and I got out of range, but I knew Psychsaur’s mind was racing. She didn’t seem that worried though, so we had that in common.

Venus and I didn’t have to go far to find Mender. We spotted him roll down from the next floor up, drift around that little middle landing of the stairs, then roll down the next flight. He looked like his wheels were being pulled against the floor, his descent was so controlled.

“Sir,” said Venus.

“What she said,” I said.

“What is going on?” he asked.

“Explosions in the city,” I answered. “I’m going to go out on a limb and guess car bombs, but a lot of them. It’s gotta be something big that they managed to get into place. Or something really, really big in the sewers. I know a few recipes, but I was saving them for my guest lecture in Chemistry.”

A voice spoke up from Mender’s computer. Psychsaur’s voice. “He’s remarkably calm, but he didn’t have anything to do with it. He’s got a lot of explosives experience, though.”

“Psycho Puss, stay on campus. Venus, with me,” Mender said. Venus nodded and away they went, leaving me to fend for myself in a harsh new world of exploding buildings.

“Anybody else feel like s’mores?” I asked no one in particular as I wandered off back to the library. I actually had a few students cowering in there with me, including Quincy, the skinny guy with the glasses and glass powers, and Chloe, the girl with pigtails, thick glasses and hair powers. The couple from the study room were out, hopefully after the guy had the decency to ask her, “Did the Earth move for you too?” after the explosions.

“Are you going to do anything?” asked Quincy while I walked over to turn on a giant TV I’d put in.

“I was going to put on Labyrinth, maybe, but if you’re going to whine about it…” I’m not a hero, and a bunch of people hurt in explosions doesn’t faze me. I’ve caused a lot of them myself. And while I could probably be a lot of use helping rescue people from the rubble, I just didn’t care that much. I slipped on my armor just in case. I felt itchy, and not in an addict’s way. More like a good time to be cautious.

I did put on the news for the students while slipping on my suit. The youngsters were old enough to be kept abreast of it. I thought it was on mute at first, but the people trying to talk were stunned into silence as they showed helicopter footage of several damaged buildings, with heroes from all over the city now rushing out to help. I even picked out Master Academy capes already out there, scrambling over the blast sites, including a familiar hospital. I whipped out my phone. One alert when the bombs went off, which makes sense. Both movement and that the bug was shutting down. Fifteen minutes prior, an alert came in of several individuals moving in and out of the mauled speedster’s room.

Huh. They’d tried to evacuate. I briefly wondered if they managed to get him out, or if he had something to do with this. One explosion could be some delusional asshole’s plan, like McVeigh in Oklahoma City. More than one stinks of a plot, and the smelliest of plots are the product of supervillains. That, or just a whole bunch more extremist Christian fundamentalists, like the militia guys.

The TV cut in on my investigation with an urgent message, though. “Alert! Breaking news. Preempting an announcement of a state of emergency, the President has ordered the United States Army deployed to Empyreal City.”

“Well, that’s a fucking beautiful sight,” I said. “Better buckle up, little people. We’re in for a bumpy ride. Something tells me things are about to get messy.”

Ukrainians, militia, new heroes, and a president who talks about sending in the military if any more explosions happen before any explosions happen. This is turning into a really-fucked up Twelve Days of Chinese New Year. No wonder it’s the year of the flaming cock now.

I looked at my little group, who certainly hadn’t steeled themselves. “What’s wrong with you? This isn’t the first time something this bad has happened. Have you even seen last year? You got through that. I know that it just adds up and up. You feel like you’ve reached your limit as bad shit piles on you, and every little cut the world makes against you feels like you can’t take another. But you got through every cut before. You survived that same crap a thousand times. Don’t let just one be the end of you. Especially not when you’re all tougher than this.”

They hesitated. No breaking out into applause. Oh well. So I went on, “Now go get more students. I’ve been told to stay here, but there’s reason it just has to be us. We’re going to need food, water, blankets, tents, and all that. Get those gates open. A lot of people just lost their homes.”

Chloe asked, “What if the people who did all that,” here she motioned in the direction of the city, “get in here and do it too?”

“Then the baddest man on Earth will fuck them up,” I said. “It’s not courage if you only got it when times are good. Besides, there’s no damn excuse for a bunch of so-called heroes to turn away the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. Now, what the hell movies are popular with little kids who need their minds taken off giant explosions?”

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New Year’s Retribution 7

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“That chase got out of hand,” said Mender. “Do you know how many cars you wrecked?”

I shrugged. “If a person doesn’t understand to get out of the way of a rampaging semi truck being chased by a horde of cops, there’s only so much I can do. I can’t pull them into the cab to give them remedial lessons on basic cognition.”

“You damaged a cop car,” he fired back.

“It was that, or throw a wounded superhero down onto the highway as it sped by. I chose the option less likely to kill him.” I folded my arms in front of my chest and nodded.

“At least you weren’t stealing anything valuable.” Oh yeah, hadn’t told him about that. He probably doesn’t need to know about all that anyway. Can’t see how that knowledge helps matters.

“I disabled one of the guys giving your people trouble in a most excellent way, dude. I even got most of his leg piece for analysis.” I held up the bloody appendage. “Don’t worry. I swept it for bugs. Only oddities I found were a couple of tabs from canned drinks.”

“Can you tell me anything about it yet?” Mender asked. An arm popped forward from his headrest and held a monocle out in front of his eye as he pivoted to take in the cybernetic limb.

“It’s mad science,” I said. “Physics bowing to the whims of brains thinking thoughts far in advance of what you know of as science.”

“Ahem,” he said, his monocle shaking itself.

“Ok, so maybe not you specifically, but a general ‘you’ for humans,” I told him.

“You too, human,” he reminded me. I shuddered.

“Anyway, this thing wasn’t properly installed, so it was going to screw up anyway. Ideally, something like this should be attached to better bones. Like take out the old ones and put in something new that can handle the stress. Might have even ripped out more easily because of that. I bet his feet were killing him, but I didn’t get a good look at him or his footwear.” It looked like a big cuff that attached to the calf, with a series of pistons on the back end. The one in the middle glowed bright yellow, as if it was clear. They appeared to be able to bend to accommodate different strides, which is one of those areas that wouldn’t make a lot of sense given its industrial metal aesthetic.

“That yellow bit, I think, is either the power supply or it leads directly to it. I’m being cautious getting to it, since sometimes those things blow up. Ya know, either on purpose as an anti-tampering mechanism, or accidentally because someone didn’t pay enough attention to the dangers of glowy thingies. And the first rule of Glowy Thingies 101 is that you never underestimate the explositivity of a glowy thingie that might be a power source. Naturally, the place I was trained made sure that anyone who survived the course paid very clear attention to that part. The ones who did, passed. The one who didn’t, passed overhead in a ventilation duct. Pink mist is a pain to deodorize.

“Are there any calling cards or logos?” Mender asked. It was as good a question as any.

I shook my head. “Haven’t spotted anything yet. Always a chance. You know how villains are, after all. Running around, so proud and egotistical. They keep wanting to put their name or symbol all over the place to make up for their lack of accomplishments.” I paused for a moment. “Not all of them can be as great as me, after all.”

“Proceed with your examination with all necessary precautions. I will not hesitate to have you brought back to life just so I can kill you if you harm any students with your experiments,” the monocle flipped up and withdraw into its little arm, which pulled back into his headrest.

“Yes, yes, you’ll hang me upside down, cut out my liver, and give it back to me as a suppository. All the usual threats. Nothing I haven’t heard countless times before. One guy used to tell me that he was going to crawl into the bathroom and slit my throat, then use my throat hole if I took too long. Ah, those careless days of youth. Anyway, off to go play with the nuclear-powered machine we hardly understand.”

I did take it back to tinker with it in the library for a bit. It went together so well, and showed definite signs of being personally machined. That didn’t really surprise me. If someone could put together a hundred of these and outfit the wearers properly, they’d have a hell of an army on their hands.

I’ve stated before just how overpowered I think superspeed is, but this machine makes it somewhat weaker. Sure, it gives anyone superspeed regardless of powers, but that means regular folks whose bodies can’t handle it so well also get those powers. And there’s so many things a speedster needs to survive. I’m surprised the guy could even see; maybe I should have pulled out one of his eyes to be sure. Without more extensive modifications, the guy I beat up would always have a speed limit. Just catching up to me might have pushed him past it a little, and not in a good way. People do not get stronger immediately after tearing their body up.

It was all mechanical. Nothing digital for me to try and manipulate. If I had a proper room, I might have risked cracking it open. Without something that could handle an explosive, I reached the extent of my exploration before it got to that point. It’s a shame, too. It’s always fun to learn about new ways of powering fancy gizmos, and I wouldn’t mind a bit of superspeed added to my arsenal.

Caught a bit of lunch with Leah, who has taken to visiting me there in the library. Times like this, I wonder if she still has that stupid crush. Still nice to see her, and it might just be that she sees me as a friend due to my influence on her life. No need for me to imagine more there, especially in my present situation. Maybe I should get better about names. A times I’m tempted to think of the hilarity that would ensue if half the student body was grinding up against me. After all, the others from that little group I was in with the vampires upstate stop by sometimes. Cam and pigtail girl, and that other guy with the glass powers. I should get better about their names, but they’re probably just hoping to absorb some residual awesome just being near me.

While taking a break to examine possible adjustments to my gauntlets, I received an alert from a bug I left in Number Three’s hospital room. It wasn’t that hard to find a guy checked into a hospital for those kinds of injuries in that incident. I’d initially searched because I figured they didn’t have their own services. Then, bam, found him checked in to Crater Probably. That’s short for Crater Probably Memorial Hospital, which was dedicated in 1979 in honor of Judge Joseph Crater.

I’d stopped by to plant a bug at his room and install a backdoor into the computer network so I could keep track of his medical records. If I want, his life is one moved decimal point away from ending.

The bug that went off indicated people had entered the room, and they weren’t at the normal nurse intervals. I took the bug off standby so it would start transmitting video and audio. I got faces, sure, but what made me hurry off was the fellow who stopped by with lots of metal blades sticking out of a backpack. He pulled it off while in the room, adjusting a pair of metal wings. Sadly, the definition on my bug was too low to get a great look at them, but I’d taken a good picture of them at that convention a short while back.

I didn’t bring any of my young visitors along for my next magic trick: making a jackass superhero disappear!

I made it to Crater Probably Memorial in pretty good time, likely because I could leap tall buildings in a single bound. If cars could just drive through buildings, they’d make good time, too. I thought I could catch him leaving, but he didn’t exit at ground level like his friends. I looked up then, toward the roof, then began to climb with careful jumps up the side. I found him there, having changed into a costume with a flag on his chest that left off most stars from its flag. On his back were unfolded a pair of metal wings, more like solid pieces of metal with thin slats at the edges. Not really birdlike. That lump in the middle turned out to be a pair of small jet engines attached to a central block.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” he asked, turning my way. He shoved a flight helmet onto his head quickly, as if remembering he was supposed to have a secret identity, in theory. I punched something in on my belt, the hologram projectors showing me as a baboon.

“I’m your worst nightmare: what your momma dreams of fucking at night.” I laughed and turned to run and jump off the edge. My legs powered me across the street to the side of another building, where I hit the side and pushed off. I bounded my way down the street as he took off, engines screaming in the air.

His flight gave him a clear mobility advantage, and oh, look at that, he’d brought a gun into a hospital. He pulled out a submachine gun I didn’t bother zooming in to identify, and opened fire on the street. Another fan of automatic fire in a crowded place. That, more than my appearance, sent people fleeing in all directions. I didn’t see his comrades anywhere. They got out of there surprisingly fast.

On the one hand, I couldn’t kill two birds with my stones. On the other, I needed to work on keeping this guy low enough for even one good punch.

Not that he was trying to avoid that. He swooped down to shoot at me, then pulled up when I didn’t really react to gunfire. I ran forward and grabbed his leg before he could. He didn’t lift me up at first, but the engines whined and he started to gain some ground. I smiled under my helmet as I got an idea. In my head, I started to play “The Cyborg Fights,” and reached down with my other hand to crank up the leg power. Then I maneuvered myself right underneath him and aimed him up. He started to gain speed with my weight, but I yanked his leg around and let go.

He shot upward before he spun around head over heels. It threw him off from being straight up, but I could adjust my aim. He was too focused on getting straightened out in the middle of all his spinning, not really gaining any ground in any direction because of it.

I knelt and jumped, my legs propelling me upward at furious speed toward the spinning man. I think he saw me just before I reached him, looking with fear down between his open legs.

My punch connected, and not with mere skin and muscle. Ok, with mere skin and muscle, but the skin and muscle of the human anus. My fist passed through as if it wasn’t even there, tearing and stretching effortlessly. And while I could feel shit around my hand, that was nothing compared to how shitty my opponent felt. His screams were like a fire alarm through my helmet. For a moment, I forgot the jet engines were trying to compensate, because I couldn’t hear them. Just the scream of a man with a damaged ass because the kind of lube he needed could more accurately be called “elbow grease” at this point. I uncurled a single finger of my fist, the middle one, to let him know what I thought of him.

I reached up with my other hand and smashed one of the engines. We both fell. I handled it better than him, but he did survive. He’ll be in the hospital along with his friend for awhile. Might never walk again, and not due to spine damage. But he’ll live. After a bit of straining to pull my hand out, I rolled over the shocked and helpless hero to take a closer look at those wings. They’d been fixed to him too, bolted onto his back in multiple places. Lucky for him, they tore off more easily where the supports met the main contraption. I tore it free and left with my little souvenir.

Mender called me into his office to give me a little talk while I soaked my glove in a variety of cleaning agents. “You nearly killed him,” his digitized voice said critically.

I shook my head. “No, no, there’s no need to exaggerate. I didn’t near kill ’em, I just rectum.”

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New Year’s Retribution 6

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“I can’t say I like the civilians being involved in this way, but nobody died. I also disagree with your petty theft. It was a surprise that you chose to make this about public relations instead of violence. You did well.”

Did my ears deceive me, or was that actual praise from Victor Mender, the head of a school of superheroes who captured me to do his dirty work? I checked the playback, then stood up and walked over to him. “Victor, if you can hear me and your wheelchair gained self-awareness, blink three times quickly. I just want to know while I make a deal with Skynet to share the world. Skynet, I want Eastern Europe for all the porno babes.”

A cannon rose out of the back of Mender’s chair, highlighted against the window of his office. The bright daylight filtering in framed the weapon, which appeared to be the one he’s shot lightning at me from in the past. I backed out of his face and circled the desk to take my seat again. After a couple of seconds, the gun withdrew back into the chair. “Do you have any other operations in mind?”

I nodded, pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of this encounter, despite the setback. I’d expected him to go full-on Chief on me, yelling about me being some cowboy cop and yada yada. Maybe he’s trying to arrange for a hefty older black man to fill in for him later. “I have some ideas. Once again, try not to kill anyone. I was originally thinking of petty crimes that y’all don’t respond to, but that may not get any response and end up messy. Besides, believe it or not, I’m not big on petty crime all the time. Poor people just don’t have as much expensive stuff. You can make more robbing a diamond store than you’d ever make robbing Seven-Elevens or burglarizing regular folks’ houses. Same reason why it’s more profitable to assassinate rich people than poor people.”

I paused here to keep myself from running off on a tangent. “I intend to put myself in a criminal situation that will draw one of those heroes best suited to respond, and find a way to subtly track him and his compatriots.”

“Do I want to know?” Mender’s computer asked.

I shrugged. “I dunno. You’re surprisingly chill about what I’ve done so far for a hero.”

“I am not a hero,” he responded. “When I took over the Master Academy, I became responsible for the education and lives of my students. They are my highest priority, even when this conflicts with my teachings. I will dirty my hands so they can be heroes.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Huh. You know you can’t protect them forever. That’s what you’re training some of them for.”

“Yes, but I can protect them while they are my students.”

Well that’s quite an interesting understanding of the situation to find myself in. “I know the feeling. The world does need its bad guys. Without bad guys, who else is going to kill all the bad guys?” I smiled. “Anyway, I’m going to draw out the one in the number three jumpsuit and super speed. It’ll be a bumpy ride.”

“As you will,” Mender responded. “I have to check on a camping trip some of my students made. Our new President shut down the Department of the Interior’s social networking because the park service tweeted a photo showing actual inauguration attendance. Someone needs to keep them informed in case of wildfire, tornado, oncoming thunderstorms, bears, big cats, or rampaging supervillains.”

My little plan started with something relatively innocuous in Empyreal City: riding down the street on a motorbike with a giant harpoon in hand with a little pirate hat on top of my helmet. Oh, and I looked like a baboon while riding the bike.

I drove along, checking semi trailers in front of me. A bit of archived information I had from my time as Supreme Most Benevolent Leader of Earth included the names of a few shipping companies that move stuff off the books for intelligence agencies and the military. Non-official cover stuff. I mean, they could just move it normally, but then it’d be on the books and official forms and all that. You know, stuff anyone could find out after one night of rifling through someone’s embassy office.

So to keep all that quiet, certain agencies invent companies that people can be hired by or that can move nice stuff around. I’m not even entirely sure what they had in this truck, but it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun finding out. Hence my baboon harpoon. For reasons of interdimensional national security, and because it’d be too much of a hassle if Optimal Outer Control goes to prison, I won’t say the name of the company shipping stuff for the government. They’d probably toss him in Supermax to rot in isolation, and then who would share the good word of Gecko with your world?

It was easier to track them than it was a superhero. I mean, come on, CB radios. So I found one in Empyreal City. Didn’t know where it was going. Didn’t care. Just wanted it stolen.

In my helmet, I put “I’m Gonna Be A Monkey,” by Ren & Stimpy. “Ok, Stimpy, it’s time for your evolving lessons!” “Oh, rapture!” I drove onto the median so I could pull up to the driver’s side and stood up. The driver noticed something wrong with that whole picture and started fumbling for something. A radio, a gun, something. I jumped, leaving my motorcycle to head off on its own and crash into a hot dog cart on the opposite side of the road. It exploded with a fireball, likely due to the pressure-activated explosive I attached to the front of it for dramatic purposes.

As for me, I had jumped onto the side of the truck and used my power armor’s enhanced strength to drive the pointy end of the harpoon into the window. Basic life tip: stick someone else with the pointy end. Works with swords, bayonets, spears, polearms, pens, and genitals. I drove the harpoon into the window. The enlarged tip opened up a larger hole, which I felt needed additional filling to my satisfaction. I reached for my belt and pulled off a can of beer, shaking it up. One arm around the harpoon, I opened it and held the top of it to the hole, spewing foam all onto the driver and causing the truck to swerve.

I dropped the can and focused on holding on with one hand. With the other, I cranked up the power. I raised my gauntlet as it began to glow as power transferred to an energy projection around what appeared to the entire world to be a monkey paw. The driver’s swerving seemed to become intentional, as if trying to knock me off. I heard crashes, too, but focused instead on the truck. The driver was trying to yell into a phone or radio of some sort. When I gauged enough energy had accumulated in the energy sheath, I punched the window. The energy amplified the kinetic force I imparted on it, allowing me to burst through and probably make physicists cry in the process.

I fell inward through the broken glass, along with my harpoon. “Crazy pirate monkey! I swear! No, I’m not drinking!” I helpfully ended his phone call.

He stared at me for a moment, then tried to pull a gun. Really not the best time for it. I backed out of the window, tossing him out onto the hood of a car we passed going the opposite direction before climbing in myself and buckling up. Safety first.

Besides, he probably lived.

Despite the skepticism of whoever the driver had called, it was no secret by now that something had gone down. Sure, I got the truck under control, but the flashing red and blue lights behind me indicated some general concern by local peace officers. Let them keep the peace all to themselves; I’d rather have some chaos.

Using the driver’s own GPS system, I figured out I was near the interstate. Good. Heedless of pursuing cops, I raced around an easy corner and headed onto the I-87. My pursuers used their car’s bullhorns to say something, probably some boring stuff about pulling over, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I honked at all the people going so slow. When that didn’t help, I just drive through them. Amazing how much more quickly people get out of the way when someone’s about to hit them. I’m sure that’s a valuable life lesson that can easily be used in some sort of heartwarming moral. At least it could, if some bright red compact car didn’t ignore me. The driver got to live life in the fast lane before it swerved to the side and went flying over the guard rail.

I kept speeding up, and so did the heat. They multiplied, too. Soon, it seemed like I was surrounded by cars. Someone tried opening fire from the passenger side, but I swerved over and they backed off. Someone else pulled up next to the driver’s side window. He had a gun in hand, but didn’t shoot because of a double take over the baboon hologram I still had on. Before he could, I reached down to my utility belt for a very special item. He got a faceful of sticky brown gunk for his trouble. Relax, it was just delicious chocolate pudding.

Then I caught site of narrow cloud trail in the rearview mirror. “We’ve already had our pudding, but it’s time to eat my meat.” The door was yanked off by our friend in the jumpsuit, his legs pounding the street like a blur. He raised a handgun big enough to break someone’s wrist if fired.The shot left a ringing in my helmet and cracked the glass of the windshield, but didn’t make a hole.

I swung the harpoon I had brought with me, knocking the gun loose and hooking him on one of the pointy barbs. Yeah, I’d say I made a hole. The blood made a good case for that. He kept running all the while, trying to keep up lest he lose a hand. He finally jumped onto the cab instead and focused on trying to pull his hand loose. I pushed the harpoon and let him fall back, but caught him by one mechanically enhanced calf.

“Nice worksmanship. I’ll have to examine this in more detail. Tell me, is this just something you wear, or actual cybernetic prosthetic?” I asked him.

“Get your hands off me you damn, dirty ape!”

“I are baboon! That’s a monkey, you damn, dirty ape!” I yelled back. I still gave him what he wanted with a tearing sound. Turned out it was cybernetic. Then I tossed him onto the hood of a pursuing car.

He probably survived.

The cops lost me pretty quickly after I abandoned the truck, and I don’t think they were trying too hard to catch up once they saw what I did to a superhero. One down, and some nifty new tech to study.

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New Year’s Retribution 5

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The less said about the normal functioning of that rally, the better. People who worship a god who claims to be the only one in existence are already iffy for me, and more so when they have to talk about it all the time. Like a teenager who has to add in every conversation that he’s got a huge cock, or that he’s straight, or that he likes black people. Then you get people who start deifying a living being, and we start getting into cult status. You take almost anything written in a religious book and have it be spouted by some living person who wants you all to worship him, and it’s amazing how much less people trust it. Of course, it’s a bit worse for them that pretty much everything known about the old toothless general indicates he’d have reacted very badly to the idea of being worshiped the way these folks do. The guy had a hell of a lot of integrity to turn down being Ruler for Life. I think we’ve previously established that I wouldn’t do the same.

I know, it sounds like the typical political rant from me. It is, kinda, but it’s also about history. It’s like going back and saying Thomas Jefferson didn’t like owning both his political appointments and his girlfriends, or that Andrew Jackson would have been totally ok with Southern secession. For those who don’t know their history, that second one would have made an awesome alternate history.

Anyway, these creepy jack-offs weren’t exactly in the spirit of the day. This guy in a tight and tucked-in shirt gave a speech about how the Civil Rights movement and all its marches divided America. There was also a panel about fighting back against PC culture by reclaiming all English language, including quadroon and mulatto. These fucking Apple owners are getting out of hand. I thought it was the console wars at first, but then I remembered it’s the PC users in that one who claim to be the master race. Ridiculous. I was the master race.

Petty squabbles of humanity aside, there wasn’t much entertaining to the whole place. The firing range they put in there didn’t even have live targets in it, and the clothing looked like something Paul Revere shat out after a night of booze and French hookers.

It proved quite a pain waiting until things had whipped up enough. Let them all get even more fervent after canoodling with people who only share their own opinions. Allow them to delude themselves into thinking “I am normal.” I certainly got that vibe from the surprising number of anti-super shirts and signs around. One person sold t-shirts with a shotgun image on it and the words. “We don’t call the cops or capes.” Another one had a target. “Look, up in the sky! A target,” it read.

I’d like their enthusiasm more if I didn’t know it was all about replacing one group of heroes motivated by foolish altruism with another group motivates with political orthodoxy. Before too long, that leads to people kidnapping the children of minorities, forcing them to fight and kill and rape until they’ve trained one up to be a mindfucked puppet of their agenda. At least until he runs into a bunch of real heroes one day who cause the safe little illusion he hides in to break apart, and then his handlers try to blow him up with explosive toilet paper.

Moving on, that theme of normality stuck with me as I stepped up to the podium on the main stage, interrupting a performance by a trio of young white girls singing a spiritual. They had these vases of lilies on stage, too, like it was supposed to be a garden instead of a place for entertainment. And it was about to get entertaining. I needed to rile some people up. And if there’s any way to rile someone up, it’s with my best Charlie Chaplin impersonation.

“In the spirit of unity, I am up here now to tell you what you all need to hear. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there is room for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, barricaded the world with hate.”

A bit of murmuring had started up in the crowd, and not the good kind of murmuring. I know that kind. The words picked out in that kind of are more along the lines of “I’d like to suck that fine man’s dick,” or “I want to pull him behind back and shake his hand,” and other sentences like that. Hard to hear the specifics with them all talking at once. These mutterings were more hushed, like people were wanting to do something illegal. Something they knew they weren’t supposed to be proud of.

“To those who can really hear me, I say do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And as long as men die, liberty will never perish. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men with machine minds and machine hearts!” Not that there’s anything wrong with machine men, minds, or hearts, mind you.

“You are not machines! You are cattle!” It totally ruins the flow, but at least a few of them in the crowd were a bit iffy on not being cattle. What else do you call blank-stared mammals who stand around doing nothing but chewing tobacco cud? “You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate; only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural. Don’t fight for slavery. Fight for liberty!”

By this point, I’d spotted a few guns out, some of them from security, but none of them pointed to the crowd. Odd how that works. Here I’m talking about hate and bitter men who fear progress, and this crowd of people who claim to be all about unity and God are getting offended. Just out of nowhere.

I didn’t get any further into my stolen speech because security decided to play football, and I was the ball carrier. Bad form, though. Way too high. I’d say that was their first mistake, but I do believe they made many, many more leading up to the point. Included among that would be trying to assault me, of all people. That sounds like a leadup to a fun session of cathartic violence, but I have appearances to worry about. So I ran. The crowd followed.

Now, if it wasn’t obvious by now, quite a few other people objected to a group like this holding such a meeting in Empyreal City, saying the sorts of things they assumed were said. They were outside. It’s not like they surprised me being there. I saw them. I counted on them being there.

People might compare this to, say, The Joker. Where does he get all those wonderful toys? How does he know this is going to happen or that people will act this way? Because people can be very predictable. Some people are just going to be assholes, the way the scorpion always stings whatever carries it across the water. And some people are going to object to that sort of thing. Not many. Not a majority. But some. And if not, I would have just bribed people to be there anyway. Probably with booze and French hookers.

So as I ran out, I appeared to be Charlie Chaplin rushing out toward protesters, leading a mob of angry white people against a more diverse crowd. Oh, and I was pointing. As expected, mistakes were made interpreting all this by the protesters. And then the two sides met like a flabby version of 300. All I needed was one of those ab-tastic guys to stand up, flip around a full head of hair, and say “I can’t believe it’s not Sparta.”

With this sudden outbreak of violence underway, I dropped the Chaplin act and instead dialed in a more generic look. It took the discs a second to compensate, but I had carefully ducked under any blows as both sides took out their frustrations on each other. When I crawled out of what seemed to be the front lines, I looked nothing like the tramp I’d appeared to be when I ran out.

I expected these new heroes to show up any minute, and they didn’t disappoint. It was more like any second for the one with the things on his legs and the jumpsuit. He raced out and pushed one old lady with a huge hat away from a younger fellow with a shaved head and a star-spangled shirt. Someone from that side of the lines rushed forward with a sign and the would-be hero punched him in the mouth. Busted his hand open doing so, too.

That wasn’t so much a problem for the reinforcements who showed up. A pair of young men doubleteamed this guy who pulled out his rifle, only for the a guy in a mask with giant mechanical hands to grab it from them and knock them both down with one punch, also to the heads. Pistons hissed and drew back into his knuckles as he offered the gun’s owner his weapon back and a hand to his feet.

A gout of flames forced protesters to back off, caused by a man with an arm encased in a flamethrower. That can’t be healthy. Lots of heat in all those things. The arm might be a prosthetic replacement. He wore a fireman’s outfit to protect the rest of his body. Not too much could protect his reputation once I got a picture of him turning up the heat on people.

Yeah, I was taking it all on. Getting a good view. And these guys were playing ball, too. One of these guys had a pair of whips that slid out from the underside of gauntlets. He went for the dark and brooding look, with a grey costume and blue cowl and cape. And according to this photo I took, he whipped an old fleeing black man.

Moments like this really go back to something I’ve said before when I quoted a Mongolian dude about how if there’s a God believed in by my victims, then he’s using me to punish them for their sins. In this instance, it’s more a matter of these people are the sorts, primed by their beliefs, to do some really fucked up things. That they look even worse when I begin working against them just goes to show it. I mean, as much as someone might think I corrupt people with my likable sociopath’s personality, have I ever ingrained it into people?

I’ve forced people to compromise, but I never controlled them so thoroughly that they’d do such acts without even thinking it was wrong. I never used mind control to make people think it was appropriate to attack and even kill protesters. I never ran around teaching children to associate manual labor with a derogatory term for people of a different skin color. I never forced someone to think it was a good thing to walk up and grab random people by their sexual organs. In many ways, these institutions are far more evil than I have ever been. They’ve killed and hurt more people over a much longer period of time than I ever have.

Truth be told, I had a short supply of sympathy for the other side as well. An army of protesters coming out to oppose people who won an election. If most people were really so opposed, so outraged, this victorious meeting of Revolutionary War fetishists wouldn’t exist in the first place. They’d be off on the sidelines somewhere, grumbling about another loss and jacking off in Mexican-made tricorns to Chinese-made flags. And if I can take joy in the one group being corrupted into becoming oppressors, then I can also take joy in another group whose willful apathy made it happen. I rub my fingers together playing “My Heart Bleeds For You,” on the world’s smallest violin while people who refuse to have anything to do with politics erupt in sudden anger that politics turn against them.

So of course, when it was time for all of this to be reported on by news media of all sorts, the headline showed superheroes beating up protesters who were defending themselves from an angry convention. Breaking news: this former Civil Rights marcher’s nose against the hand of a man with metal wings and small jets strapped to his back. The Daily Stormer’s hit new writer, “Totally Not Hitler,” posted it five different times in the same article, even.

Sadly, the story where most of the convention vendors’ profits were stolen during the whole brawl didn’t rate nearly as much attention. Tsk, tsk. I mean, if greed is part of the problem, I might as well try to actually help, right? I’m working with heroes now, after all. These are the actions of someone technically staying on the right side of the law(as far as anyone knows)!

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New Year’s Retribution 4

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More heroes have been appearing. Yippy. The market is saturated. Master Academy, amnestied heroes, and now these newbies. Not all new ones seem to be these guys I’m looking into, which makes it tougher to separate them all. Plus, several of the former villains who continued on as heroes have issues with property damage. My point is that it’s not quite so clear cut who is who, but chances are good that the former villains aren’t working with them. Unless they cloned Hitler again, maybe.

I’m also making guesses based on the kinds of powers. Somebody flying around as a skeleton that wields a scythe made of fire is unlikely to be one of them. Someone with mechanical piston knuckles and a cybernetic spine that releases a blinding flash is more likely to be their type. I’m finding out more and more, and not just as I expand my own little private pieces of surveillance. I used to be able to listen into anything by forcing myself into pre-existing systems from afar. Now, I have to go in manually, being a backdoor man and otherwise doing dirty deeds dirt cheap.

I got a bit of an edge on that since the heroes still can’t completely compartmentalize things from me. School’s back, and that apparently means younger supers who intend to be older supers are going on journeyman patrols. I assume that they don’t make future cake decorators go out and fight people. Anyway, I hear things from teenagers. And possibly because I slipped a bug onto someone. But in this case, eavesdropping.

A couple of students were talking. “These unfair douches show up and start blasting the place. One guy had this helmet that shot lasers out of the eyes. Another one had an arm that was a flamethrower.”

“You mean he shot fire out of his hand?” asked the other.

“No. Bro’s arm is like a gun that shoots balls of fire.”

Hmm. I swung over between those stacks. “Now, when you say fire-”

“Ah!” They yelled in unison.

I held a finger up to my lips. “Shh. This is a library. Now, as I was asking, was the fire chemical in nature, like napalm? Or perhaps plasma? Or what?”

“What’s plasma look like?” Asked one of the many interchangeable body shields I freely invite into my current lair. Like, average build, dirty blond or light brown hair. Penis.

I shrugged. “It’s not exactly the same color as normal flame. They can be a variety of colors due to energy states and ions. Also, some plasma weapons go off prematurely as they get really excited.”

“They looked like fire,” said the one I didn’t answer. Dreadlocks. Hispanic. Also penis-equipped.

I nodded. “Good. So the first guy’s helmet, was that all mechanical and/or high tech? Or just a helmet for protection, like for biking or motorcycling or reclaiming the holy land from the Muslims?”

“It looked like something a scientist made. Sci fi, with glowy bits up here,” he answered, pointing to the sides of his head.

“Hmm. Thanks. Compiling information. Don’t mind me. Just go about your business.” I slowly swung back around the corner. “Don’t mind me at all. Talk all you like.”

“Hey,” called the dirty blond. “Which supervillain were you, anyway?”

“No supervillains here. Nope. I’m just a simple librarian.” I grabbed my helmet off a table as I pulled myself by and carried it over to the mannequin with the rest of my armor. I reached under a nearby table to press a sequence to disable the booby traps around the armor. Anyone expecting a single button will not be happy.

I heard loud muttering from behind me as they walked out. “Whatever. I bet he’s a bad guy who doesn’t want to be a good guy, but he won’t be able to stop himself and he’s going to help out the heroes. Because he cares for us deep down and has a core of humanity that can’t help but empathize with people. He’ll discover how good it feels and decide he wants to be a hero, probably falling in love with one of our heroines or maybe a really nice and shy civilian woman who makes him want to be a better person.”

“Twenty bucks says you’re wrong,” said the other.

Thanks for believing in me, random person whose name I don’t know. I’m gonna get you that twenty dollars, little buddy. You can count on me. Whoever you are.

I did consider intervening, or going out to shadow a patrol to help out in one of these conflicts. It’d certainly be fun to tear one of the new guys apart. On the other hand, that’d also solidify the relationship of this mysterious killer in the power armor. They could make a good case for me being part of the Academy. There is another concern as well.

It can be iffy determining when someone’s a superhero. Someone like Captain Lightning, flying around and throwing lightning bolts, can’t be easily mistaken for a regular human. But what about someone with a gun? What’s the difference between someone with a fifty caliber anti-material rifle and someone with a less-powerful helmet that shoots lasers? What’s the difference between a really good martial artist in a costume and one who merely trains suburban kids for money? It’s really iffy, to be academic about it.

Now, armed militia guys? Probably not that big a deal that a supervillain killed them. That kind of thing happens. Just like a regular criminal can die if they attempt to engage a superhero in combat, though the heroes generally try to prevent that. But we go back to the thing I’m really good at: killing superheroes. More than that, it’s the thing very few villains would ever do. It changes things. Ups the stakes. There’s probably a certain idea of supers treating each other better, too. A mild bit of prejudice. Still, a villain who runs around killing superheroes, even these new ones with their agenda, is going to stand out and gain infamy. Or he’d be suspected of being one of the already-infamous ones.

Stupid brain with all its thinking. Times like this are when I miss fighting killer chickens. So it’s a bad thing for me to show up and wreck some faces whenever Master Academy patrols are hassled by these new guys. That doesn’t mean I can’t look into them more.

So we’ve figured out where any extra super weapons have likely gone. They used them to make their own supers. Why? Based on their rhetoric, they aren’t big fans of current supers, but the main area of super protest around here is Master Academy. There could be a few different reasons for that. Replacement? Making them look like they’re the ones out of control somehow? Eh, I’d say I favor the replacement theory out of that. I can’t help but think we’re in a war over morale and PR.

…This is stupid. Fighting morons on behalf of children. I don’t want to play this game, on the defensive. That’s the superhero way. Villains have to be proactive. There’s no crime until we make it happen. I undid myself from my library harness and dropped down onto the floor. No fancy landing, just on the upper portion of my back. Didn’t put me in a chair, otherwise I’d have never caught up to Victor Mender, the disabled leader of the Master Academy.

“Yo, Vicky baby, do I have a proposal for you?” I asked him, showing him my best and currently only smile. I haven’t had time to assemble any new ones out of knocked out teeth.

He stopped his wheelchair and shot me what I assume to be a look. To the student next to him, he said, “Go on to class. We will continue this meeting another time.” She hurried off with her backpack to whatever kids these days do in school. Read, maybe? Why, back in my day, we did school entirely differently. We had to walk through three feet of snow and strangle a hooker. Up hill, both ways.

“Okily dokily, I have an idea to use my unique set of skills to go all Liam Neeson on these guys who’ve been dogging your students on patrol,” I said.

“How did you find out about that?” he asked. Hey, I think he upgraded his voice module on the computer. I actually heard question inflection. Or perhaps there’s a virus and he’s got a question inflection infection.

“You guys are bad at keeping secrets,” I said. Some little kid stuck his tongue out as he walked by us. “Bed wetter!” I called out to him. His eyes widened and he ran off. “So I was thinking, instead of sitting around here doing things the hero way, where nothing gets done, I could do a little something to help us all out.”

“Will you kill anyone?” he asked.

I played up a wince. “That’s a rather results-based question. I was thinking more intention-based. I don’t intend to kill anyone. Just do something that’s a bit of that voodoo that I do, in the hopes of drawing out some of those you-know-who’s, take a little pressure off you, and let your people return the things of value. I’ll lay off the ultraviolence, keep it down to maybe extreme violence, mild violence, or even guacamole violence.”

“Guacamole?” he asked.

“I hit people with avocados. It gets messy. I’ve gotten complaints for People For The Ethical Treatment of Plants. They’re opposed to violence against plants just because the little buggers can do advanced math and communicate by sound.” I understand feeling sympathy for life forms that aren’t me, but I’m against the idea of advancing their interests in place of my own. Doubly so for members of my species. Aw, crap, I’m human. “Anyway, you know it’s problematic for me to attack people who aren’t a threat to me. Doubly-so after Pyschsaur’s little visit. This is part of why you bothered to keep me around after everything you did personally to kill me.”

In the end, I think it was the part where I pretended to still be under Psychsaur’s mental compulsion that did it. I got the go-ahead to start engaging in crimes that might possibly draw these new heroes to me, which were to be ignored by the Master Academy heroes and anyone they let in on it. I really don’t intend to use it to do just anything I want, however. I have a few ideas on targets, too.

Number one on the list is this event that I hit upon while searching for gun-related events in the area. Madison Square Garden, in the midst of its renovations, is hosting a big Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Victory of Freedom Rally,” that, according to the flyers and poorly-made web page, is all about showing Empyreal City how to learn to love God and their country again. For some reason, I’m reminded of the year 1939. Anyway, something tells me that interrupting that will draw the speedster with the Nascar jumpsuit out again. And when he shows, his face is going to know what a race car feels like after I wreck it.

After all, the human body is amazingly resilient. You can do all sorts of things to a person without killing them.

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New Year’s Retribution 3

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Just to make it clear, I’m not going hero. Not white hat. Currently, my interests and those of some heroes align.

My war against the Ukrainian mob has stalled. They relocated their big operations. The info on the computer’s worthless for hunting them down.

That said, I used stolen materials to upgrade my armor. With better materials, the exoskeleton I wear underneath can handle more stress and impact without as many problems. My bones can still break, but the suit should hold up.

The new cape looks good, too. I have a way to release it quickly. Bulletproof, stab proof, and properly scotchguarded. That last one should come in real handy if I fight a Scot. It hides the battery in the rear of the suit pretty well, too. The pack still needs plating to properly absorb all the kinetic energy, though. I mean, just because a bullet won’t penetrate doesn’t mean it can’t do damage. For those who don’t know, the bullet still carries a lot of kinetic energy concentrated into a small area. A material that simply doesn’t get penetrated by it helps, but some sort of armor needs to absorb the blow and disperse the kinetic energy to prevent any further harm. That’s why my little cape trick as The Missile Patriot still knocked a guy out. I swung my cape so it covered him, then shot him. No penetration, but enough trauma to put him out of the fight.

Another tool I’ve stuck up my arsenal is a handy new chicken grenade. Half rubber chicken, half grenade, all awesome. Why did it cross the road? Who knows? Just hope you never see it jay walkin’ your way.

And, last but not least, my most loyal of weapons: the laser potato peeler. The kitchens here could do without one. From there, I just had to build a special handle with a laser inside. Almost got something mixed up with the chicken grenades. That would have been messy if I hadn’t caught it in time, but it gave me an idea that I want to explore in the future. Can a bomb power lasers? No, I’m thinking of this the wrong way. Can a power source for a bunch of lasers be set to overload and explode? Save that idea for later. I have to use my brainpower in other ways.

I sat around in the library, where I arranged printouts and computers to try and show me a bunch of information on the situation at once. I talked to myself, as I do sometimes. “Ok, so if I headed up this plot, why would I be doing it? Ok, we got a militia. Imported, and yet also domestic. And I’m backing them through a Ukrainian mob, somehow. Weapons? But most of them brought their own. One gun. One gun. Why only one gun? The hell did they get so jumpy over that one gun? What was the point of that?”

I tapped my chin as I spun around upside down. “Ok, so maybe they got jumpy. But give them credit. These are Eastern Europeans. You get them on dash cam dodging crashing satellites while driving and they don’t give a fuck. They did this deliberately.”

I hung around and spun on kit, seeing if moving my brain around in a circle would stimulate different areas by confusing the neurons into creativity. That’s nonsense, by the way, but it’s useful nonsense. But were they pulling useful nonsense like I might? I doubt it. It’s confuses the issue, true, but it hurts both sides of the equation. It de-legitimizes the protesters and militia’s grassroots pretense. And it exposes the Ukrainians’ operations, makes them look like foreigners influencing right wing domestic movements. I can’t help but think they’re doing that for a good reason. The main one I’m coming up with that they’d risk this exposure is that there’s more to it.

So, a distraction? From what? There’s an assload of rebuilding going on, because real buildings have curves. Other than that, there’s just not too much around the city worth this level of conspiracy. It’d have to be the score of a century to justify this for a mob, and this doesn’t feel like it. Too much effort for mere theft.

I grabbed a monitor and lifted up a keyboard to type in there manually, trying to make an external log of my thought processes. “Ok, so keep an eye out for major possible scheme goals. A huge load of priceless things that a good enough fence could put a price on. I dunno. Museums have to have moved or secured their best stuff by now, but I’ll check into that.

If I find something like that, maybe I can mess with the whole thing. Heck, I can even steal it before they get to it if I have to. In the meantime, I need access to police and patrol reports, to see if any suspicious people have been spotted around the sorts of places that file reports about suspicious people being around. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s every reported a suspicious person near a 7/11. It’d like reporting a snowflake in a blizzard.

Another idea I had, because I’m me, is that it wouldn’t matter so much because I’d be forcing people against superheroes in a conflict I’d make sure was violent. Nothing can convince some people they’re wrong, and it’s be all the worse for heroes to know they’re having to fight against such people with no way to make them stop nonviolently.

It’s pretty obvious what my favored solution to that one will be: kill them until they die from it. It’s an old-fashioned way of doing things, but I like to bring a newer, high-tech boot to the table. Not much I can do for that. Not like I can keep an eye on everywhere outside the city. The kind of people that’d sell them the kind of guns they want aren’t likely to file too much paperwork, and I’m not sure I’d be able to squeak in there anyway. My government clearances are something of a limited time deal.

The other thing that occurs to me is that the Ukrainians who replaced Michelangelo might have done so because there were more weapons to uncover. The problem there is that we’re not dealing with particularly subtle folks. They dress up in camo to go to the store and dress up as George Washington to do the sorts of things George Washington would have ridden out to shoot them for doing.

Whiskey Rebellion, folks. A bunch of rural farmers didn’t want to pay taxes on the whiskey they brewed up, started an armed rebellion. The only time a U.S. President has personally led an army in the field. They got to personally experience what happens when Washington shoves those teeth up someone’s ass and boots them in for good measure. Just another useless fact from your friend, Psycho Gecko.

So we’re not dealing with folks who would attack a school, then set up an armed camp, but hide all their really fancy guns elsewhere. Or I don’t think we are. It doesn’t add up to me, but that’s another thing I should try to keep an eye on. Or, since I only have two, maybe see about Triclops keeping an eye on something. Either way, I’ve got more ideas than I got body parts to deal with.

Short of being some suspicious newcomer who somehow knows where to find sympathetic people, it’s going to be hard to be more subtle than they are. Then again, they might fall for it. These are not exactly the smart of the people. Y’all gotta remember that these are just simple people. People of the land. The common clay of flyover country. You know… morons.

To complicate matters, there’s a new Sheriff in town. I found that one out while sneaking out of a local precinct after pretending to be an IT guy. I pulled the cable going to the building’s router from the outside, then came in pretending to be the guy meant to fix the internet. In no time, I had my own backdoor to their archives and filed reports. That’ll keep me up on things. Except, as I walked out, there was a disturbance at the door.

“Jesus!” someone yelled. There stood a man in jumpsuit. He looked a bit older, with some wrinkles on his face, a bigger nose than I’d prefer, and curly hair stuffed under a ball cap turned around backward. I couldn’t see his eye color through these goggles he wore. For a costume, he wore a white jumpsuit with a single black stripe down the outside of each leg and arm, with a black horizontal stripe across the belly between a smaller white stripe and red stripe above and below. His legs had some sort of pistols on his calves, and his boots were heavy rubber and metal. Those weren’t casual boots.

The man held a fellow of a different complexion over his shoulder. He dumped the guy down in front of the cops, a couple of whom knelt to examine the man. “Got here someone you should lock up. Walked out a store without paying over by Jumbos.”

“This man’s been shot!” said one of the cops down beside him.

“So?” asked the man in the jumpsuit. “He was a criminal. He didn’t want to get shot, shouldn’t have committed a crime?”

“We need to see your permit and weapon,” said another who crossed his arms over his chest.

“No you don’t. Second Amendment says I have every right to have a gun. Why are you acting like I’m the criminal here? I stopped a crime!” He moved, fast as a blur, to stand on a desk. He had a pistol out then, some big chrome .44 he had trouble holding straight. As he spun around up there, I could see the number three on the back of his jumpsuit.

“We have to keep track of every shot we fire, and right now you’re just a civilian who decided to shoot a nonviolent criminal,” said the one who spoke about the gun before.

“I don’t feel a pulse. Someone get the paramedics here!” called one of the ones kneeling on the floor.

“Sir, I need you to put the gun down and put your hands-” the cop standing up didn’t get to finish. He was knocked on his ass as the speedster ran out of there in a blur.

The dispatcher’s voice came through on the intercom system, “I need someone to get over to the corner store by a strip club called Jumbos. There was a shooting. Witnesses say a speedster shot a man and a teen boy standing behind him, then carried the man away.”

“Christ, this city’s going through the ass end of hell,” said the officer who had tried to get the speedster to stand down. Another cop came over to give him a hand up.

I didn’t wait around. My Gecko sense is tingling. It’s saying that there’s probably going to be more than just that new hero showing up in this city, and that it’s suddenly going to be very handy for Master Academy to have a herokiller around. I still need to keep an eye out on the rest of that stuff I mentioned, since I have to play this particular game defensively and there’s still plenty of room for the Ukrainians to knock over some big bank or museum of fine art, but I have a good feeling about this. Or at least a homicidal one. Same difference.

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New Year’s Retribution 2

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I do so hate these heroes and their drama. I’m back in my cell again, for now. They brought in one of the other meddlesome mindflayers to play with me. It’s all rough, not quite as lubricated as when Psychsaur would slip into my head. The one who looked into me while I worked on my armor machine and designs for a cape did not have it easy just because it was his first time there. That’s how I wound up back in the cell.

Venus is arguing to Mender that helping out and loosening my restrictions is screwing up any chance of rehabilitating me or otherwise containing the danger I represent. Before they tossed me back down here, I let Mender know what I found out. That’ll help. I’m like his own personal CIA, but without the better dental plan than the FBI. Eh, it has given me time to heal up somewhat. They don’t want me touching nanites.

Besides, they need me. Making myself indispensable, or the lesser of two evils, has always been a good way to avoid getting dispensed with for good. I expected to hear something about all that when the door opened and Mender rolled in. I glimpsed Minotaur and Triclops outside at the door.

Heh. It just then struck me. Minotaur, Triclops, and Venus. Plus, a scaly reptilian woman who can paralyze people with a look, though it’s telepathic or telekinetic instead.

“Hey there, Vicky. Who puts you in those suits, by the way? Is there a student who you have bathe and dress you or-” I didn’t get a chance to finish. A barrel on a swivel mount arose as I mentioned a student and then it felt like getting hit by lightning. Not many people can personally vouch for that, but I’m one of them. I sat there, having inexplicably landed in some sort of puddle, head bobbing a bit even after my sight returned to me.

Mender’s digitized voice maintained its usual calm monotone despite what he said next. “You do not talk about my students like that. Do not suggest anything. They are the only reason you don’t sit in this tiny room with a thousand pounds of weights strapped to you while you eat and excrete through a tube. I would make a deal with the devil to protect them. I have captured one in you.” He paused, the lack of inflection not making it clear at first that he’d finished.

I raised a finger. “So… just to clarify… the same tube, or-”

And again with the electricity! By the time I got my senses again, he’d left. They didn’t put me in those weights. That was a good sign.

Some hours later, another visitor showed up. I don’t know if it was the middle of the night or not, but Psychsaur looked like she had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Her feathers were ruffled and messed up. And she appeared to be alone.

I raised an eyebrow but stayed seated against the wall. I felt her in my head again, so much better of a fit than the others at the academy. It didn’t even itch anymore. “Please don’t say anything,” she said. Tough request. I instantly felt the urge to go ahead and make a stupid comment. Which would be predictable, and I’ve also been getting hit a lot lately. I was in my little isolated cell in part because I’d been making no concessions to basic niceties. And I’d gone out of my way to murder a gangster’s wife. I think it sent a good message, but apparently I’m the bad guy. Then again, I am the bad guy.

I nodded and leaned my head back against the wall. She closed the door and sat down against the wall next to it, across from me. We sat like that for a couple minutes. I was curious, but just waited. She finally obliged. “It’s not easy touching your mind. I mean, it’s easy now. It gets easier and easier. I started feeling your thoughts without really trying that much.”

I considered that for a moment and concentrated on myself for a moment. The one I’d been forced to tap into all too often over the past couple of years as I moved from entropy to order. The me underneath. Don’t act surprised. That time with the truth serum forced that bit of me into the light without my say-so, but it was there. I looked her in the eye. “I’m sorry. Nobody should have to put up with this but me.”

“No one should at all,” she said.

“Aww, how sweet of you. Do they teach a course on those platitudes here?” I asked, legitimately. All of me wondered that one. “I only ask because I know what I’ve been like and I know how much you have to hate me. There’s no need to pretend you don’t for my sake.”

“I do, but I understand you too. You dream about it,” she said. She shifted a bit.

I winced. “You shouldn’t be here. They should give you a break from me. But I suppose that’s on me, too. I haven’t played very nicely. Thing is, I can’t even remember those dreams. Most people don’t remember most dreams. I even had a dream about… well, you don’t need that image in your head. It was definitely something you wouldn’t like.” I imagined Scooby Doo and Shaggy instead of giving her the heads-up on that one.

She was quiet again for a moment. I put a hand to my head as I spoke, “You shouldn’t have had me inflicted on you. Another poor corrupted soul, to verge into religious language. I push and I keep at it relentlessly. That’s the key. It’s so hard for people to resist forever. There’s always some give. It’s even a philosophical concept, that it’s better to bend than to break. I bend. I bent. Or did I break? Can you be both broken and bent at the same time? No, I think I bent. Regardless, there are some things worth breaking for instead. I am not one of them. Do not break for me. And pardon all the overly loquacious vocabulary. Deep down, I’m a bit of a wordy douche.”

It’s like there’s two of me. The “public” me with all the chaos, rebelliousness, and juvenile jokes, and the inner me that calculates and thinks and actually has a concept of shame. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. God and Dog, for fans of Fallout. “I couldn’t handle what was going on around me. I did something to make it work instead.” I smiled at her. “I don’t recommend it.”

“This is a better you. You’re the version that didn’t like finding out you weren’t really a good guy,” she said. What can I say? She knows me. “Can’t you stay like this?” Or maybe not.

I shook my head. “It takes a lot of effort to keep myself this way.”

“How can I avoid that?”

“I dunno. I’m not exactly the expert. Just the victim. If I knew how to avoid being a victim, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Then she said a curious thing. “I can fix you.”

I winced. “Oooh, that’s almost certainly not going to end well. I suppose I don’t have a well-thought-out reason why, given the conventional solution being mind-altering drugs or therapy that involves zapping my grey matter. I guess probably the most pragmatic reason is that you’d be touching more of what I am than ever before. You don’t want that, and I just don’t think it can be done.”

“You don’t want to believe you can change like this,” she observed, sounding way too much like Venus.

“Why exactly did you come down here?” Subject change powers, activate! Form of an elephant in the room! “You’re here and it’s not just oyo wax poetic. You wanted to let me know what I’m doing to you. I’m sorry about that.”

“I wanted to know for sure that you knew who and what you were. I thought I’d give you a chance. I know you better than anyone else now. Tonight, I’m going to take the first step in giving you a chance to be a better person.”

“You’re going to do something stupid,” I said. I felt her get a grip on something in my brain. “Don’t fix me. It’ll end badly, and that’s from both sides of me. You won’t like me when I’m of one mind about something. The Fluidics certainly didn’t. Real fucking bad idea…” My eyes widened and I smiled. I jumped up. “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits!”

Except I got a thought. I turned to Psychsaur. “Fuck, you’re locking me in this room again, aren’t you?”

She stood up and brushed her head feathers. Her smile was much sharper, but surprisingly warm. “I’m not. Come on, there’s still food up in the refectory. Just be careful eating. You wouldn’t want to hurt someone accidentally.” She opened up the door.

Hearing that I even could accidentally hurt these people made me so happy, I thought about that dream I had of Psychsaur. She closed her eyes and raised her hands to massage her temples. “Please, no. No, no, no.”

“Can’t blame a guy for being happy.”

And happy I was. Because there’s my own personal stupidity. When limits were imposed on me from without, I took every opportunity to fight, no matter how big or how small. Sure, now I can slaughter everyone around, but it’s my choice not to. That means so much.

After a refreshing dinner, I gathered up my armor and disabled the machine I used to help build it. I had everything I needed to run off, right with the heroes gathered in the common room to figure out patrols and so on.

Yep, just leave them all to their own inevitable fate, with this whole back-and-forth with militias and protestors and so on. And I was of two minds again. The “fun” part of me figured it would sure be a shame to leave without confirming for sure who it was who put me into this situation in the first place, by using a copy of my mind in a giant robot to nearly kill me. The other part of me remembered that some of these students and heroes had sheltered me. They may have done it for the wrong reasons, but they did it all the same. It would be a shame if I didn’t at least do a little bit for them.

So instead of jumping out of the grounds, I turned around and walked back in. I headed toward the common room in my armor and tried to make my voice sound as nonthreatening as possible.

“I’m going out of my frelling mind without being able to help,” I told the assembled masked faces, who all turned in my direction. Mender shifted his chair to look at Psychsaur in what I figured was supposed to be a glare. I wondered if he knew what she did to me. If any of them knew, actually. “Please,” I followed up with, “let me help. Some of it’s the mystery of the thing. I want to know what’s going on and how everything fits together. And part of it is that I owe a debt. Every little bit helps, so give me a shot again. Something big, something little. And trust me, even the smallest, most insignificant events can have a huge impact.”

So let’s clear out those objectives I had in there before about not cussing, poisoning, physical violence. Wipe them all away.

1. Finish my work and figure out how the fuck these Ukrainians are involved with the people targetting Master Academy, and maybe find out what happened to Michelangelo in the process.
2. Figure out who kept the copy of me around and sent them after me.
3. Get revenge.

Think of it as a good New Year’s Resolution. Cue the cheesy inspirational music!

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New Year’s Retribution 1

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It’s a brand new day and the sun is high, all the Ukrainians are singing that they’re gonna die. Well, I suppose that sounds like I’m engaging in some ethnic cleansing. And that’s just not fair. I’m fairly certain at least a few of these guys I’ve killed have bathed recently, and not all of them are Ukrainians. There could be some Slovaks and Belarussians in the mix. I was going to add something about general all-American opportunists, too, but that’s not actually mutually exclusive to being Ukrainian, Slovakian, Belarussian, or any other -ian.

Because America is a land of immigrants, starting way back when the first Native Americans were brought across the Atlantic by riding domesticated giant prehistoric swallows given to them by the aliens. I presume African, though European isn’t out of the question either. Something like that, at least. Point is, all of them around here have shifty backgrounds. They’re only as American as apple pie, but go around all hoity-toity like they’re as American as potato pie.

Or perhaps I’m just the poster child for dangerously criminal illegal immigrants myself. But at least I fit right in with the New World, don’t I? I wouldn’t begrudge my fellow criminals the same opportunity. I just wanted their stuff and wanted to know what they had to do with some bunch of guys running around calling themselves an army of one percenters. Hey, don’t look at me for that one. Some bunch of right-wing militias actually named themselves something like that. It’s not as catchy as Boobzilla, but I think Forcelight is still a worse name.

So this one-percenter wannabe-army is doing some stuff it shouldn’t do, like shooting me with guns that they shouldn’t have. That makes them my business. And I suppose they also hurt students of this school, who I technically owe a debt to, so that plays into it as well.

I’m not fighting for truth, honor, or the American way. Sadly, most who do try to fight for something greater than themselves fall short and into a big, steaming vat of hypocrisy. So I don’t. I fight for myself and the things I care about.

Like making it back for Taco Tuesday.

See, I hung there, upside down, in a dark room. Yes, on Tuesday. Did I mention I was upside down already? I feel that was important, because the people who had me here were more than a little upset it wasn’t doing much for me. Not that blood flow isn’t an interesting thing when someone’s tied upside down, but I meant it didn’t do anything for me as far as suggesting anything wrong was occurring.

“So there I am, about to spank her, when suddenly she realizes, ‘Wait a second, that really was a shaved weasel!’….Eh? Eh? Come on, guys, that was a funny story,” I said to the two guys in front of me. In contrast to the normal overbearing beardedness of some of the ones I’ve been facing, the one with the jumper cables was thin, bald, and clean shaven. He was thin, but with muscles on there. Like an evil, Eastern European Mr. Clean.

That gives me an awesome movie idea.

His partner, a younger man, was also wiry, but without the muscle to back it up. He threw up his arms. “That’s it!” He turned to the bald one. “Listen, I know you don’t like gags because you want to hear them scream, but this one’s just going to keep talking. He didn’t shut up, even when I twisted the knife.”

“Did you nick the intestines?” asked baldy.

His partner, exasperated, told him, “Oh yeah.” He looked at me to say, “That’s a long, slow death

I shook my head from side to side and mouthed “Nope,” to the bald one. Then, exaggerating a bit, I said, “Oh yeah, I can feel it already. Long, slow death. Ooooh, the agony. The pain. I can feel the rigor mortis setting in on my nipples already.”

It hurt, but I the knife to the belly that my captor had inflicted on me hadn’t gone so far as to hit an intestine. That’s one of those situations when there’s not a lot of ambiguity to it. There’s a bit of a smell.

“You smell that?” asked cue ball.

“I don’t smell spit!” said the agitated helper. Thank you, psychic censor block. Reminds me over and over again to find Psychsaur in the alps without lube whenever I’m free of it.

“Exactly. You don’t. You missed.” Monsieur chrome dome knelt down, looking me in the eyes. “He’s new. Don’t worry about me. I’m very experienced. You’ll find out if you don’t tell me what I want to know.”

“Eh… well, what were you wanting to know? I’m a wealth of information, though most of it’s stuff no one wants to hear.” I smiled at him around some of the pain.

“Yeah, right,” said the enthusiastic assistant who couldn’t stab the broad side of a broad. “What do you have on us?”

“I know you’re working with the militia. I know they were trying to rile up Master Academy. Selling weapons they’re not supposed to have. How’s that?”

The wiry assistant looked back to the bald guy, then slapped me with the back of his hand. I’ve had worse. “And here I was worried we’d need a safeword. This is practically PG. You need a cigarette? I got plenty of room to put it out,” I said. I wiggled my hips for emphasis.

The bald one fixed me with a cold look. “How long have you been onto us? Your account isn’t new. How long have you been looking into us? Three, four months?”

Huh. So they’ve been doing this for at least four months.

“I’ve seen what’s going on long enough, that’s all you need to know. You made waves, doing what you did to the Tornelli family. You think no one would notice?” I snorted.

Chrome dome shrugged. “Everyone had bigger things to worry about. The city’s a mess. It needs discipline.”

I would have raised a finger to object if my hands weren’t handcuffed behind me at the time. “More like you wanted money.” A twinkle came to his eye on that. Almost like a smile. “Well, that’s more of a perk, I guess. I’m sure it was satisfying to take the city. Take your ‘proper’ place, right? Except you got this school for superheroes around. But now you have this movement of misguided nincompoops running around, protesting, talking about heroes making bad things happen just by existing.”

The assistant barked out a laugh. “Sounds like a big conspiracy theory.”

The muscular guy just stared at me, squeezing the handles of the jumper cables. He walked closer and squatted down in front of me. “What do you know?”

I think I’m starting to hit on something. It’s not the usual plot organized crime goes with, though. It’s the kind of overly-complicated Bantha poodoo I might think up. Or another supervillain, like Oligarch or someone. One of the ones who is ambitious and plot-minded, which is sorta shaped like itself.

Supervillains are not a monolith, except for Mister Monolith. He’s beside the point, though. There are lots of different types. Some are pettier than others. Hitmen, robbers, corporate sabotage, and on and on. Some are just out for revenge, destruction, or just proving they’re big and bad. Lots of different goals in mind, and that list was not intended to hold all the possible motives. I left out the crazy ones, for instance, and those are near and dear to my own designer heart.

So all kinds of different villains. Can’t say I specifically know of any Ukrainian ones, and my internet connection is cut off now. I know of a few that might do something like this, but one of them’s dead and the other is more concerned with Asia at the moment.

So I didn’t have too much to say. I smiled, though. “No matter what place you take, you’re still an errand boy for a supervillain.”

This hairless cat pursed his lips slightly, then reached up and clamped a cable to one of my balls. I objected without many words because this was clearly no time for my ability to cuss to be damaged. After the first one, though, my tormentor said, “You won’t leave this room alive. You know too much. But I don’t have to turn this on.” And there went the second clamp on the second nut. He continued, seemingly ignoring my red face and held breath. “I can make this quick. Tell me who else knows. The name of your superiors. Any hidden evidence.” When I didn’t say anything, he lowered his voice and leaned in, looking to the side. “We will make an example of you if we need to. Tell me and your family will be safe, spared. You have a wife? Son? Daughter? Your ma alive? I am a family man, so I understand.”

I said a little something that he leaned in to hear. “What was that?”

“I said,” I said, “’Revelation leading to my psychosis, and inspiration,’ it’s from a song. I like music, especially when I’m fighting people. And for the record, I won’t spare your family.”

I reached around and stabbed him in one of his eyes with the open handcuff. I quickly grabbed one of the clamps and unclamped that sucker, then reclamped it on his free eye. Squeesh.

The other guy yelled and came at me, bro, with a knife. I went to grab the knife and took it through my left hand. The nails of my right hand tore through his throat, hitting me right in the face with the money shot. He slunk to his knees right there.

“Hey, want to see how you really slap someone upside the head?” I asked, then slapped him with the back of my left hand, slashing him across the cheek and pushing the knife a little bit out. Just the whole way. That had to wait for me. Darn inconvenient, that. That thought helped me turn pain into giggles while I pulled myself up by my clothing to the rope holding me up. I’d have gotten through the bond easy even without it, but it was still so kind of them to provide me a slightly easier escape.

Sadly, this back room in a local dog food cannery didn’t have much more in the way of information. Criminal organizations don’t tend to keep a lot of prisoners. Prisoners talk. They’re good if you want to know how to dispose of a dead body, though. Cement shoes and rugs in the harbor are old-fashioned compared to some of what they can do now.

After a bit of bandaging, I left the cops an anonymous tip. Keep the heroes out of that one, expose another front in all this crazy business. When life hides your lemons, dangle yourself out there until the lemon trees decide to kidnap you. Had to take the knife, though. Found the guy’s driver’s license and a picture of his wife and kid in his wallet. Can’t just walk into a guy’s house where potentially unarmed people have no way to fight back against someone with armor. If I did that, I might not be able to go through with it. But wounded, unarmored, and with a weapon laying right there within reach of them?

Sadly, only the wife took me up on that opportunity. She went all Mama Bear on me, or tried to. The little girl is merely scarred for life, but at least her bedroom is a fabulous new shade of red. Getting enough paint was an issue, but I made it work by carefully texturing it all using the mother’s body. Just drag that back and forth against a bunch of times, or until I figure police are on their way.

What’s really frustrating is that I didn’t feel anything. A bit of relief with the other guys taken down, but none of that high of old. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel bad about it. I just didn’t feel much of anything about it, and that’s a bit odd. A bit wrong. Could be an issue, especially because some students staying at the Academy were walking just a little too slow in front of me and I began to wonder if I should just reach around and slit their throat. Not even in a funny way. Just that, without much feeling one way or the other, I might still kill a person for convenience.

That’s terrible. That just makes it a job, ya know? It’s like how they say to do what you love so you never work a day in your life. Ugh. It’s kind of like if jumping out of an airplane became boring and mundane, with absolutely no thrill to it. Then it’s just some droning, monotone, “Wheee, I’m falling through the air at terminal velocity and the world is so tiny. Mind if I bring a laptop along so I can browse TV Tropes or watch some porn or something?”

I didn’t see her though. Odd. I figured after that dream I had of her last night, I’d be sure to catch a faceful of palm at some point. However, I did make it back in time for Taco Tuesday. And some days, there’s no better pleasure than getting a faceful of taco instead.

That’s what she said.

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