My nefarious plans to steal information from Aurum using heroes have hit a couple of snags. The first phone I dropped into Master Academy was intercepted by some sort of urchin running along the refugee camp they currently have on campus. Heh. They must really hate that I left them in that situation. And that the notorious killer they patched up escaped their custody, but immediate annoyances first. My second phone drop was much better aimed, using a zeppelin drone. Dr. Creeper would be proud. I actually stopped by his place to leave him the schematics for it in his mailbox.
The second disappointment in this hands-off crusade of evil justice was the answer I got when I spoke to their representative. They decided to have Minotaur handle me on this call, which was odd enough. “Venus and Psychsaur not around, eh?” I asked.
He snorted. “They’re busy. You’re not that important to them.” He did so like to hurt me.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. They’re frantically scrambling to hunt me down based on where this call is coming from. By the way, you wouldn’t believe how hot Miami is this time of year. The local heat index is ‘Ball Sweat Kiddie Pool.’ The smells here, man. Poop don’t freeze in Florida.” Just because it’s not part of my biology doesn’t mean I lost all my old tricks. According to any trace, I’m calling them from the women’s locker room in a gym down there.
“Anyway,” I went on, getting down to business, “How’d it go? Someone probe his mind yet? Come on, you can tell me. I’m helping.”
That elicited another snort from the son of a bull. “We don’t need your help.”
“Good job hunting down Aurum all on your own,” I said. “I chased him down. He had to something to do with the bombings. He’s had something to do with protests, and armed people kidnapping teens.”
“I’m not going to be fooled like the others into thinking you’re the lesser of two evils. Besides, for some reason our mind-readers can’t read his mind.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said. “You’ll just have to guess, won’t you?” Then he hung up.
He had a point about me doing so much by being the lesser of two evils a lot of the time, but he still missed the part where I’m currently the lesser of the evils. So that didn’t turn up any good answers. I’ll have to pay them a visit. Before I do, I’m grabbing myself some gold foil and making something to go on my head under my helmet. I don’t know if it’s the gold blocking psychics somehow. Worst case scenario, I just sell the thing to that conspiracy theorist guy who thinks black people are a plot to turn men into gay “cucks” or whatever he’s crying about now. For a guy convinced a shadowy cabal is out to get him, he sure is awfully loud.
Enough social commentary. I was talking about how the heroes weren’t letting me know about their plans to mindrape a guy into giving me knowledge about his terrorist plot involving contemporary political figures.
However, this episode of 24 had to wait for the third thing standing in my way: March twenty. I missed it last year, but Mr. Rogers’ Day will not pass me by this year!
For those who don’t remember, the birthday of Mr. Rogers is one of the few days I take as a holiday that isn’t some widespread super-recognized holiday. It’s not a bank holiday, government holiday, or even one of those fake holidays like Columbus Day. Fuck you, Columbus. He should consider himself lucky the Vikings had hung up their longboats before he started stealing credit.
So I took a day off. It happens. No plotting, no scheming, no scrounging, nothing. It felt weird. I mess around with games and other entertainment in between everything, but to actually take a break from anything and everything related to supervillainy really is weird to me. I’m out of place like that. Plus, it made me think deep thoughts. The ones I don’t like to bring up here, because this is fun, right?
Maybe it’s good I get reminded of the “real world” out there. All its mundane trivial drama. People worried over grades, job reviews, whether the dog crapped on the correct lawn. Let them worry about it, because this isn’t about them. This is about me and the crazy things I do. It’s all about me, even the stuff people don’t know. The stuff they think has absolutely nothing to do with me! This world is my oyster; an aphrodisiac oyster that’ll get me all randy and make me fuck everything I could ever want out of it.
Because I’m not egotistic. I’m ego-tastic!
My brief break from being bad suitably pumped me up for continuing on in my merrily audacious way. Because I, Jack, the Pumpkin King… that’s right, I AM the Pumpkin King! And I just can’t wait until next Halloween!
In the end, I didn’t bring in my armor. At first I snuck in as yet another humble person looking for help. I didn’t stay in those dirty old clothes and baseball cap for long, though. Generally speaking, refugees are pretty quick to point out when someone they don’t know has shown up with suspicious intentions. Something about not liking when someone attacks the people helping them out. That bunch on the front lawn are some of the most loyal folks to Master Academy right now. As soon as I got inside and slipped into a coat room, I swapped out those dirty clothes for the next layer.
When I stepped out, I appeared to be nothing more than a humble pizza delivery worker carrying a small stack of boxes. I even had the cap to prove it.
When I reached the cells, I now appeared to be a doctor in lab coat with one of those little paper hats on they wear during surgery. I went around knocking on the doors.
I got a few answers, but they tended to have a little opening on the door for me to check in on who was there. I finally found him. He was the guy with the mild acid burns stuck in a room with a lot less interior space than mine had. I think they included lead plating on the insides for stronger folks. It was equipped to keep out casual observers as well, a situation I resolved with a careful application of device that mimicked the frequency of the security fobs used to gain access.
I didn’t spend all my time in the school playing nice.
It took a bit of strength to move the door. More lead. I had some help at the end, but soon went from pushing it to being pushed against the wall opposite his room, held by the lapel by Aurum. He’d seen better days. Splotchy skin, thinning hair. Possibly some erectile disfunction, but maybe that has more to do with my response to grabbing another man and slamming him against things.
I did what anyone would do if they were supposedly a member of a vast criminal conspiracy. I looked him in the eye and said, “I have been sent to get you. He was… insistent.”
I didn’t know who the hell “he” was, but it wasn’t a situation to talk about “they.” Let’s be honest, given the track record of most people in positions of criminal, legislative, executive, financial, and military power, I had a greater-than-average chance of it being a “he” at the top of all this.
This man with his pockmarked eyeball looked me in my eyes, searching them out for truth. Instead, he found a soulless killer who didn’t care about him. It must be a common look in his organization, because he nodded and set me down. “Do you have anything for me to wear?” He motioned to the white scrubs he had been left in. I held out a pizza guy uniform. He wasn’t impressed. I didn’t care.
They got us up to the main level, where I swapped into a set of dirty clothes again. He waited for me, looking outside as superpowered teens showed off their powers to entertain some little displaced kids. “They do not know true purpose,” he said.
“They will be enlightened in time, whether they ask for it or not,” I responded. The secret is keeping things vague, like a psychic or a medium. I was pretty close to going, “I’ve been contacted by a crime lord. I’m sensing that the letter T is important to this. It’s like a name, a title, some sort of descriptor that this person goes by regularly. Maybe it sounds similar. B, V, C, D, maybe?”
Instead, all I added was, “His will is our purpose.”
He turned to me and smirked, which looked all the more humorous with how he continued to balance the pizza boxes on one hand. “Soon, all the world will be held within the grasp of The Claw.”
“The Claw?” I asked.
He squinted at me. “Yes?”
I rolled my eyes. “Ooooh. Ok, communication error here. I’m here to break out Mickey. They nailed him with a prostitute the other day.”
I didn’t give him a chance to make good on his transformation, nor did I do anything fance. No knocking a cane against the ground to summon a mystical hammer and the power of Thor. No having a satellite shoot power armor at me. I didn’t even have to get mad and tear up my stretchy pants. I just pressed a button on a keyring next to a fob and a small explosive went off in the bottom pizza box. Things got a bit unclear in all that, but I didn’t make it big enough to take out a whole person. I think he definitely lost his wrist. Gonna be awful hard on him alone in that cell now. Without Righty, real hard, and none too easy to make it limp again.
But as I said, I didn’t get a good look. Instead, I got the hell out of there. It wasn’t that hard in all the confusion. The good thing about explosions is that they often send people running away from them. Anyone else running away tends to blend in as long as they don’t do something stupid like stop to admire their handiwork.
I got well clear of the place to my new lair, a spare room in Funsize’s apartment. A bit cramped, but she needed a renter. I’d taken the liberty of moving my stuff beforehand in anticipation of shit getting real, yo. And then, just for good measure, I called my little drop-off zeppelin phone back.
“The hell did you do?” asked the gruff voice of the Minotaur.
“I used my phenomenal psychic powers to find out that the one we’re looking for is The Claw. You’re welcome for me doing your job better than you. Also, bite me. Bite me hard. Bite me long.”
In the middle of the craziness that is my life, it’s important to stop and enjoy the little things. In this case, that involved a petite nineteen year old stripper calling herself “Funsize” who catered to the guys who didn’t like to shove money between a lot of mammary.
So I was enjoying Funsize, wondering how much I’d have to pay her to get a tattooist to add my John Hancock to the list of crossed-off names on her back under the phrase, “This ass belongs to,” when I became aware I’d missed a doctor’s appointment. I know, a sentence runs like that, it’s hard to believe I could be late. But I knew I had missed a doctor’s visit because he decided to make a housecall. One moment, I’m staring at areola. The next, a man in a black leather costume stood there with a tight grip on his weapon. Not the most unusual sight in a strip club, to tell the truth.
My friend. My ex-teammate. The guy whose daughter I murdered. Also, he wants to kill me.
“Darling,” he said in that smooth British accent. “You’ll want to get dressed and leave.”
“Fuck you!” she said from atop the table. “I’m fucking working here.” She bent over and turned, sticking her ass and g-string in my face. “Get out of here with your fetish ass. This is my goldmine.”
“She’s very enthusiastic about putting herself through college,” I said from behind Funsize’s ass.
“Bitch, you’re going to make me a doctor,” she said.
“Marry me,” I said.
The Good Doctor cleared his throat. “As touching as this is, whatever it is, I’m here to kill this man and I would avoid extraneous bloodshed if at all possible.”
“You won’t kill her, no matter what. You’re a good guy now. A good guy who is cool with murder, but a good guy nonetheless, right?” I asked. I reluctantly pushed Funsize away. “Sorry, darling. This really might get messy. See ya later.”
She left, all pouty, giving Good Doctor the finger as she passed him by. “Bullshit!”
Good Doctor watcher her leave, then jumped on the table and threw a scalpel for my throat. My chair’s bottom caught it. I rammed him with it, knocking him down off the table with my weight. “Can’t we talk about this?”
“You mean lie to me? I know the tone of voice you were using before!” he said. I had my feet on the chair, but jumped up to set them on the table as one of his scalpels penetrated the seat bottom to almost stab it.
“Yeah. I don’t really think you’re a good guy. All the proof I need is that you’re here now to kill me. And if you were really serious about leaving my kind of life behind, you wouldn’t jump to trying to carve people up for spare parts, no matter how bad they were!”
He struggled a bit before getting a knee under the chair to help him leverage it off. I had to push off just before so I wouldn’t fall of either, but it left me with the high ground as he stood up. Yup, the high ground, where it’s even easier to cut my Achilles tendons and then jab a scalpel down my breathing tube until I die from it. Good Doctor stood, scalpel in clenched hand, then slid it into his belt.
I sat down on the edge of the table. “I’m sorry I hurt you, but I really hated her.”
His punch made my jaw pop. I had to make sure everything was more or less in place as I sat back up. “If not for the annoying fact you are right, I would gut you for saying that. You know entirely too much about the morality you ardently reject.”
“You know well enough that I can’t do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. If I’m doing good, it’s got to be the kind of good people are ashamed to admit, or it’s just a means to an end. Usually someone else’s end.,” I said, running a finger across my throat.
He shook his head just slightly. “If only your persistence and single-mindedness had been put to good use. It never shall be. Come along peacefully for the sake of everyone else. If you care about me, do not make me kill you.”
“Ohh, now who’s using who?” I asked, before shaking my head. “I can’t, I’m afraid. I’ve tracked down the guy responsible for bombing the city and setting up everything with that militia who kidnapped the super kid. He’s got political friends, too, so it’s kind of a big thing. It’s helpful for you guys, too.”
“I am not, precisely, a part of Master Academy. I disagreed with them over searching you out alone, but they were too busy to accompany me.”
“I get how that is. They should treat you better, though. They only put up with me because they think they need me and my childish antics often distract from my homicidal tendencies. You’re actually trying to change and you have a really, really, really, really good reason to want to kill me. On the plus side, they’ll like that the encounter with me didn’t really hurt anything besides a chair. You’ll probably want to wash that scalpel, by the way. I don’t trust what some people do on those things,” I looked down at it, then slid off the table.
“Are you serious about what you’ve found?” asked Good Doctor in a calm and measured tone that hinted at his continued malice toward me. “Where is this person you say you found?”
I pulled out a phone and tapped a few buttons. “Still in Chinatown. I’ll send y’all a message on when you can show up to pick him up.”
“Why aren’t you there?” he asked.
“I got something cooking to take him out. He’s a bit tougher than I expected initially and I don’t have your eye for detail. But, hey, you guys can have him after I’m done,” I offered.
Doc cocked his head. “What would we need with a dead body?”
I shook my head. “Dead men tell no tales. I need him to sing like a parrot. As a sign of good faith and an excuse to not bring me back in, you can keep him and take him to your Master Academy buddies. They should be able to hold him. Hell, that might even be a good Plan B if this doesn’t work out.”
He took that in, keeping his arms by his side, before nodding to himself. “Then I will go with you, but this is not like old times. I will be watching you.”
I shrugged. “Fine with me. And since you’ve ruined this evening, I’ve got to do a little shopping. Funsize will just have to buy herself new textbooks on somebody else’s dime.”
One day and an audio-only presentation of my findings later, the pair of us stalked along the rooftops of Chinatown. Doc still had his costume, along with a gun capable of shooting a spike with rappelling line into concrete. I just had my armor, which was more than enough to get me from building to building, even as I protectively carried a very large water gun.
“The smells here,” he stopped and said to me.
I unsealed the mouth hole and opened it briefly. “Smells good. Yummy. You know, they have a fruit somewhere around here that tastes like pussy. Can’t remember the name of it, though.”
Doc took a moment to stop with me and catch his breath. “Which one is that?”
“I can’t remember. Depending on the person, you can just stop by the fish stall instead.”
“Where is this person already?” he asked.
I pulled out my newest mangled gadget, this one intended to let me see and hear their exact location. “They’re close. Looks like they’re at that herbalist store over there. But first, our recent conversation gave me an idea.”
“Good lord, why did I ever agree to spare your life?” he asked as I hopped down to street level.
Less than five minutes later, I approached the outside of the herbalist with my props. Staff in my left hand, big pointy hat on my head. “Goldilocks, where are you?! Here Goldy!”
“This one again? I will make sure to finish him off this time,” I heard Aurum say through the person next to him. His minion really has a problem with constipation.
“Come on out, you gaudy bastard! I had to leave a hooker early to be here, and I really need someone to finish me off!” I called out. I heard snickering through the bug before I saw a golden glow from inside. The front of the shop blew outward, and from inside floated Aurum. The golden man himself with the glowing white eye. Instead of a suit, he wore a Chinese-style shirt and some jeans, which were the same gold as his body. The man’s powers would be an awesome way to increase the value of a Hawaiian shirt. Or screwing over the gold market, if done enough.
“You barely survived our last fight. Luck will not avail you this time,” he said, fixing me with a million-dollar glare.
“That was before I rerolled as a level ten Fishromancer. It’s a mage that specializes in seducing fish,” I added that last part in a stage whisper, then threw down a smoke grenade. Under the cover of thick, black smoke, I reached to the rear of my belt. Fish after fish flew out of the cloud of smoke at Aurum, who shot them all down easily with his eye. He charged right into the smoke cloud, blowing it away with a blast from his eye a moment before he would have reached my position. There, he found nothing.
Well, until a five foot cod fell on him, ridden by yours truly. That threw off his balance for a moment, and my jumping back flip off it and him messed with it even more. Both distracted him quite well from the breaking of the glass container within the fish, and the way the hot fluid inside seeped down onto his body, particularly covering his right arm.
“Aha! You forgot, metal man, that there’s always a bigger fish!” I announced.
He coughed as he threw the fish off, then noticed all the liquid on him. “What the hell is this? What’s going on?” He had begun to bubble just slightly where the liquid touched, then coughed some more.
“You’re killing him?” asked Good Doctor in my ear.
“Oh, I’m not gonna kill ya,” I said. “I’m just gonna hurt ya, really, really bad. Sad to say, my little trick here is at least a little predictable. Aqua Regia, originally figured out in the middle ages by alchemists, the predecessors to chemistry. So-called because it can dissolve even that most noble of medals, gold. Produces some pretty nasty fumes as a byproduct, too. Don’t worry, I can’t smell a thing. You, on the other hand, are caught between gold and a hard place. I wouldn’t change back if I were you, or that stuff would do plenty to wreck your system. On the other hand, you’ve got nitrogen dioxide, nitrosyl chloride, and chlorine gas all coming off you at the moment. Aurum? Darn near rectum, am I right?”
He growled and tried another white blast that fried somebody’s poor food stall. Missed me by a mile even as I rolled and chucked another bottle of Aqua Regia, hitting Aurum in the crotch. “I can do this all night, you know. Or you can tell me what I need to know and I’ll use my ancient mystical powers to stop you from turning into a puddle of orange piss.”
“I would die for a righteous cause,” he said.
“Even slowly, over a few agonizing hours of dissolution?” I asked.
He raised a palm toward me, and I whipped out a squirt gun. His palm started to glow, so I squirted more all over it, and into his eyes.
“This is going too far. He is not talking. Plan B,” I heard from the Good Doctor.
“Sounds good. Just try not to get too enthusiastic,” I whispered into my helmet comms. Then I charged and began beating the carats out of Aurum, alternating between fisticuffs and using more of this lovely liquid I brought to inflict pain on him. I didn’t anticipate the acid doing as much to my armor. Besides, unlike Aurum, my armor is no longer a part of my body. Not much to feel there.
As I’d given Good Doctor plenty of heads-up and my own approval, it took mere moments for the heroes of the Master Academy to descend upon us. For his part, Aurum had stopped doing too much fighting. He’d tried his palm blast, but it fizzled out last time he tried. So when the heroes came down, with their various flyers and glowing body parts, they found myself and a seemingly-defenseless golden man who tried to cover up his eyes without directly touching them with his bubbling skin.
I pointed at him. “He did it! Glad y’all are here. Book ’em.”
Then Minotaur threw me over his shoulder. “Come along peacefully or I’ll hit you until you shut up.”
“Now remember,” I said over the comms. “Plan B means I’m not really a prisoner.”
Minotaur threw a punch that would have hit me in my side, if it didn’t pass through the hologram from a holodisc I’d left behind.
“Call me paranoid, but I somehow don’t trust y’all to keep me in platonic custody. If it helps, you can just pretend you caught me. He’s on so much of an acid trip over there, Goldy won’t know the difference. Just remember to let me know what y’all tug out of that brain of his, ok?”
I know, leaving him with heroes who don’t like me and don’t really want to cooperate with me is a risky plan. But it is a plan. Plan B. Possibly Plan C, depending on how successful they are. After that, the plans get a bit messy. I know there’s one plan where I get a scar from the temple through my eye, and Venus dies in Plan M.
An antique import business makes a boring thing to watch. This is one of those areas where I’m not a good judge of all the loot. And antiques are oftentimes loot. You think the British bought all those Egyptian artifacts from the mummies themselves? Oh, where’d you get all those fancy Chinese vases, British people? Maybe deal a bit of opium, walk out of the country with their shit?
I doubt these guys are bringing in that caliber of product. Probably something a bit more accessible to people who aren’t insanely wealthy. I bet they have plenty of fakes in there, too. That’s not even my assumption about this guy being dirty.
I staked this little antique business out, making sure the guy would be around. I didn’t sit entirely idle. I sat in the back of my panel van, putting together bugs to sneak into the place. It wasn’t that tough to get them in. I hid one in a slice of pizza and let a rat drag it in. Another was carried in on the back of a cockroach. Hell, I painted “Free Candy” on the side of the van and passed out a few as lollipops and candy bars. I had a few issues when some kids stopped by. The greedy little bastards were so eager, they wanted to climb into the darn thing. I had to flag down a passing cop and insist he get the children away from my windowless van full of candy. They were ruining my cover.
I was there pretending to be an unsuccessful child predator. I can’t have kids crawling all over my van. The criminals would get suspicious if I didn’t grab one and drive off, so I have to keep them away. It’s that, or train them as my underage death squad. I’m not doing that.
So I snuck in my bugs, devices meant to record audio and video. Some included the ability to map out the area using sonar. I got a good idea of what the place was like, all from the safety and comfort of my van.
It took a few days of surveillance before someone packing a box stopped to greet Mr. Urum during his unexpected arrival. I maneuvered a rat with its little thinking cap around so the bug could get a good view of him. Nice suit, green vest, gold eye. That’s my guy.
With the revelation that my info was good and my target was on-site, that van started a-knockin’. It was just me getting my armor on. That was another good reason to keep kids out of the van. The last thing a guy with a free candy van wants is for kids to run around yapping about what they saw inside there.
I crashed the van into the front of the building by way of introduction. The impact threw me out of the tinted windshield, where a stack of small Egyptian statues broke my fall.
“Ushabti!” someone called.
I stood up and responded with, “Hey, that’s OUR word. It’s racist when you say it, you fuckin’ shabti!” I threw one of the little things at the person, a man in a tweed suit standing in a doorway to the back. He didn’t so much dodge as get pushed out of the way. Gold eye took his place in the doorway. Just a white guy with short black hair, a suit, and a gilded right eye.
“Who dares to attack this place?” he yelled, full of arrogance and indignation. I like pissing off arrogant, indignant people.
“It is I, the Spanish Inquisitor! I had an appointment. Weren’t you expecting me?” I reached over and finished cracking a glass case on the wall. I tugged a sword out and charged for my target.
“Enough!” he shouted. He held his arms out to the side, levitating in the midst of a golden glow. When it faded, the blade embedded in the golden man’s hand. Dude was pretty fast. He pulled the blade away from his face and smiled a shiny grin. The man’s body was gold, but now his right eye glowed white.
He grabbed my helmet in one hand, my neck in the other, and pulled. It hurt a bit, but nothing came apart or even began tearing. He tried yanking my neck around at various angles, but I went with it so nothing would break before kicking off grabbing his arms. I twisted them around to loosen his grip and slip free. “Looks like we’re both a little tougher than we anticipated.”
“I don’t know who you are,” he responded. His chest deformed out into a fist that punched me back through the windshield of my van. “But I am Aurum, and you will fail.”
“I’m here to see about meeting your boss,” I told him as I opened the door and stepped out again. I spotted a nearby matryoshka doll, a nesting doll, and pulled the top off of it to throw at Aurum.
“Stop that!” he yelled, catching it and the next twenty-four pieces I threw at him, setting them all down on top of each other. I pushed a button on my belt to adjust the holodiscs and a hologram of myself rushed forward to stand right in front of him. A white blast from his eye shot through it and melted a hole into my van behind me. I’d ducked to sort-of crawl below any potential punches, so it missed me. Instead, I came up with a beautiful uppercut that knocked him up and into the door frame he stood under. Hurt like hell, and he didn’t even move too far.
“You ever think about losing weight?” I asked.
He tried to wrap up my head and arm with his legs, but I pushed them away and rolled under him so I could come up behind. He spun, preventing my hand from penetrating his golden sphincter. Gold being a soft metal, though, it didn’t work out too well for where my fist did impact. He’s going to want to smelt those back into orbs before he turns back to human.
He fell suddenly, bringing his hands down in chops on my neck. Another shot forward to jab into my throat. I fell back, pretending to choke despite my armor preventing my airway from closing. As far as Aurum knew, I was just a choking guy pulling out a rubber chicken. If he knew what the chicken was, he didn’t give any indication, not even when I tore its head off and dropped it.
He stepped forward as I sat back against a wall. He raised his open hand toward me. “An idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he said as his hand began to glow white. Shakespeare. Well, two can play at that.
The chicken had by now taken a few steps toward the front of the store. Unwatched by Aurum, it hadn’t been stopped. Now it halted on its own and exploded. Aurum may be heavy, but I still had to duck to avoid getting his goldenrod jammed into my face when he was knocked toward me. Good thing I had him to catch so much of the force for me.
I stood up behind him and cranked up the charge to my gauntlets. “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not expess’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man.” I meant to take advantage of his disadvantage with a good, strong body blow. He flew straight up instead, and through the ceiling. I tore into the wall and had to dig myself out of it a bit, only to look up and find him unleashing a blast straight down. I threw myself back to avoid it, then had to continue as he razed the building with me inside of it.
Things flew at me. The ceiling fell on me. He even managed to zap my van into exploding. It got pretty confusing at that point. I wound up buried under a lot of stuff and in a poor position to extricate myself while everything was going on.
Impatient as I was, I gave it five minutes after the end of all the blasting and shaking to try and worm my way out. Lucky for me, the gauntlets can clear some nice holes. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t use one of my arms that well. Come to find out later, I dislocated ol’ Lefty. On the plus side, it wouldn’t affect my masturbation.
So I managed to punch, leverage, and crawl out, which took a few more minutes. When I got free, I didn’t see Aurum anywhere. He had wrecked the entire place, and sirens were descending on the area. They didn’t bother me so much, but I needed to get Aurum at some point. That wasn’t so easy with the building reduced to a flaming pile of antiquities. I didn’t see any of the employees around and I could only carry a single computer tower I dug out of what I think was a rear office. I had to flee the scene after that, as the wheels rolling up were military as well as peace officer.
Maybe sometime when I have two arms.
I retired to my apartment to go through the arduous task of seeing to my own health and well-being, including getting that arm situated. Then it was time to see to my armor. It held together well, but it’s still annoying to repair and maintain it manually. It doesn’t get any more fun when one of your arms isn’t having the best day.
As for the computer I dragged with me, I spent a short amount of time breaking into it an discovered… a completely mundane work computer. No programs for stock and ordering. No networking or email accounts to check in on. Only a little bit of porn. They mostly used it for accounting, which in my eyes makes the relative lack of porn even stranger.
That was frustrating as hell until I remembered the bugs. The rats fled with the ship, sure, but you think sneaking bugs into candy involved fiddling with the sticks? Fiddlesticks! Once I was good to walk, I set to work having my mashed-together monstrosity of a computer tap into the same signal as the one on the laptop in my van. After what I did to get free, I doubted it made it. The explosions added to my skepticism.
And that’s where I finally had a bit of luck in this unfortunate encounter. I don’t have to take Aurum down to Chinatown; he and his friends are already there. I mean, it’s just a guess given the conversation, but I think it’s a good one based on the question, “Why are we laying low in Chinatown, Mr. Aurum, sir?”
Now to come up with an incredibly-unlikely counter to Aurum. Chocolate probably won’t do the trick. No, for this, I’ve already got something in mind. It involves alchemy, and not the sort that involves putting lead into gold.
So I’m slightly closer to figuring things out. Out on my own, I’ve gone through the Ukrainian connection and don’t have to worry about fighting them unless I want to avenge Michelangelo. I’ll pencil that in for later. I also found Dr. Creeper and his old-fashioned laboratory of mad science. Nice guy. The soup wasn’t much, but I can hardly criticize him for not preparing a grand feast when he didn’t even know I’d be sneaking in. And that covers who the equipment went to and how it got onto the militia assholes.
That leaves me looking for a man with a golden eyeball. That’s a bit tougher, especially without the benefit of something like a gold detector. He’s got to be around here somewhere.
As far as here goes, the city’s not dead yet. Maybe I’m worrying more than I needed to, but construction is just pounding away. There are still tensions. The police don’t like the military being around or the militant heroes. Master Academy, older heroes, and the reformed villains don’t much care for the militant heroes or military. Then again, the reformed villains don’t necessarily get along with all the older heroes, Master Academy, or the police, either. Either way, folks are learning to live and work together, Little by little, they’re blending and merging, until one day they’re all going to be one united people; living and working and dancing together like the news, or Ally McBeal, or the people that work at Saturn! I should stop it before it’s too late.
That’s not a major goal. Really, I just want to interrogate me some militant heroes. Those three who beat me when my battery was less armored should do it. If I can’t get them, then it’ll be time to track down their friends, who I already injured. Like that guy who was moved from the hospital just before the city was bombed!
Hmm. I never found that out. I wonder if that was the Ukrainians? It doesn’t strike me as Creeper’s style. I don’t know. The fact that the President talked as if there were explosions already before they happened makes it seem like it could have been related to the military. I mean, looking back, I don’t know if the Ukrainians just have that good of coordination with the White House, or if it’s exceptionally poor. Chances are good I can stab the answer to that out of the man with the golden eyeball.
Besides, the President has other things to deal with. Investigations, unpopular policies, and his former National Security Advisor turned out to be a foreign agent for Turkey. Out of the frying pan and into the fryer for that guy.
He’s not the only source of instability. While villain attacks are down in Empyreal City, they’re starting to pop up in other places. There’s a lot more social upheaval across the nation than I’d been seeing day to day, and that makes it easier. Agitates people with powers. Making someone with laser eyes feel powerless can be very good in the short term, but it tends to backfire.
Over in Australia, they’ve started fielding soldiers with alien-derived weapons and armor, courtesy of the downed ship there. Here in the United States, they’re still taking bids on which corporation gets to study the pieces and come up with its own private products instead. Meanwhile, the United States has declared it isn’t getting involved with its foreign defense obligations, meaning Europe and Japan are rearming like crazy. Russia’s circumvented most of the Ukraine to launch annexations of Eastern European countries, while Japan has The Claw to worry about in Korea and the Pacific. Poor Estonia’s getting fucked over now. Have some sympathy for all the Estoners out there.
Yep, there’s a lot going on in the world. That’s just what the news has to say on the wider political perspective. That’s not counting specific legislation in the U.S., or scandals, or in-depth economics. Nothing in there about state-level politics. I have enough to keep up with in my own life without focusing on everybody else’s ins-and-outs.
That stuff doesn’t necessarily affect me. I mean, sure, it’s good to know that the President’s businesses keep getting robbed, but that doesn’t do much to help me figure out the things I’m focusing on.
At the moment, that’s these militant heroes. I got bored calling them militia heroes, especially because I haven’t seen the actual militia guys around so much. Which makes me curious. I didn’t kill them all when I hit their camp, nor did the cops round them all up. Hell, the cops probably didn’t hold any of them.
I needed to draw out the militant heroes. And so I did. I just took a few days to work on a special project to welcome them, first.
I made my move by crashing a dump truck into the side of a building on Wall Street. I knew it’d attract attention. The place didn’t look all that impressive on the ground floor, though. A bunch of people in businesswear who had been sitting around at computers began diving and running around. I stepped out in my armor, walked over to one such computer, and stuck a USB drive in it. Behind me, I saw someone huddled under his desk pull out a phone and start recording me.
“There once was a dog with a bone,” I said to the man, without turning around. The computer hadn’t been left quite so open, but basic passwords could be broken into. Then I just had to get into the trading program. “He trotted along, so proud of it. So big and delicious. The best bone in the world. Then, one day, he’s walking along the river and looks down. There he sees another dog with another big, beautiful bone.” And in.
I began scrolling through. Very basic access to only a few accounts. Most stock trading is automated anyway. I didn’t need to do a thing to them. I just needed to access them, and then send an email to everyone in the company with a worm on it. “The dog got jealous and wanted this new bone for itself, too. So it attacked the dog in the water. In the process, it dropped the bone into the water and lost it forever.”
I turned to look right at the cowering person with their forthcoming viral video. “Or perhaps we should discuss the Wendigo. A spirit of greed and hunger that drives man to consume other men, making a man a monster in the process. I know, I sound like a bit of a hippie right now, but have you ever stopped to consider that this is a warning about very practical weaknesses? If a person is obsessed with money, you know they value it and don’t have enough to satisfy themselves, so they’re weaker at obtaining it than they’d like. If a person is obsessed with image, they value it but are bad at maintaining one. That’s why those most secure in something don’t have to worry about it.”
“What do you want?” asked the person.
I smiled. “Overall? To be free, I guess.”
“Does that mean you aren’t?” he asked.
“You’re catching on.” I smiled. “But I’m not here to worry myself over questions of philosophy overly much. Worry y’all, perhaps, but not myself. And free both of us. Also, there may be something about a giant chicken and a hidden agenda, but that’s just to be expected at this point.”
“Giant chickens are to be expected?” he asked.
“Of course. It’s unexpected chocolate that’s embarrassing. You don’t want that to happen to you.”
“Unexpected chocolate?” he asked.
I said nothing more as I went around, calmly pretending to do stuff on the computers. I’d already done all I actually needed to do, so instead I waited for a certain sort of attention to come my way.
The police showing up wasn’t an issue until they made a move for my dump truck. I sent those packing with bruises so bad, they were going to move in with their mothers and file for a restraining order against me.
I didn’t do much as hostage rescue teams cleared out other floors and otherwise got people to safety. Hell, I doubt very many of the higher-ups in the place wanted to leave me with their precious undefended computers. I wasn’t interested in the usual preachiness toward stockbrokers today, though. I just knew this was a target that would be defended.
Thirty minutes after I first careened down the road, cars onto the sidewalk, and then smashed through the wall, I heard the red, white, and blue chrome monstrosity they call a truck roar up to the place and come to a screeching stop. I’d been worried someone else would show up and attempt to stop me beforehand, actually. Maybe Master Academy peeked in somehow. All I know is, I got the number one thing on my Christmas list delivered. Now, it was time to get naughty.
I stepped out through the hole. “Greetings and salutations, jerkwads!”
They flashy-thingied me again. My eyes were compensating, but it was all part of the plan. While I pretended to be unable to see, I knew they’d advance. I grabbed a remote off my belt and pushed a button. The dump truck’s rear opened its door and lifted up, dropping the largest chicken grenade I’ve ever made into the street.
I heard the fire shoot out and scrambled around to hide in front of the truck. I overheard someone yell ,”Is that thing glowing?” “Hit it again!”
I made it just before the explosion. Not the biggest explosion, and it sounded rather wet. My vision cleared by the time I looked out and saw hot liquid chocolate covering the three heroes and a portion of the street out there.
Flamethrower was trying to pick himself up from the scorching hot chocolate that gunked up the arm that prompted me to give him that name. The one with a helmet and a pair of eyes that shot lasers wasn’t doing so hot either, also knocked down. The gooey gunk covered the eye lenses. As he stood up, a device rose from his spine, covered in more deliciously evil sweetness and unable to flash me again. Hit-Man stood, still. His giant piston fists had protected his face, and something rose from the ground behind his ankles as he started walking forward.
“You’re gonna pay for that, boy!”
I gently punched my own fist as I walked toward him. “Geez, asshole, loosen up. It’ll make this next part go easier.”
I think someone got a picture as we approached all Rocky 3 style, about to lay a beatdown on each other. Except this ending wasn’t going to be ambiguous. I telegraphed a punch, then spun my upper body and ducked, throwing my cape onto him. I detached it as I continued spinning. I jumped at the end of it, launching a kick against his head that sent him against the side of the dump truck. I slid a little trying to get my balance, but so did he. And he had to do it with a cape on his head after smacking against a truck.
Flamethrower stood there, trying to clear his arm. I smirked under my helmet as I approached. He took a few steps back, but I was on him in an instant, lifting him up and throwing him back against Hit-Man.
These guys weren’t so tough with their teamwork negated, let alone something to screw up their abilities. While Hit-Man turned and punched Flamethrower, I tore the flashbanger off Laser Eye’s spine and batted him in the head with it a few times. The first blows broke his lenses; the third knocked him down.
“Geez, and to think, you call yourselves superheroes. Then again, I suppose y’all are the only ones to do so, right?”
“Shut up, criminal!” Flamethrower yelled at me.
“Actually, talking is why I called this little meeting today. I’d been hoping to have a little chat with you. But first, let’s have some privacy.” I threw Laser Eye at them both and took off running. They caught their friend, but were unprepared for my jumping drop kick that took all of us into the building. I kipped up even as they had to stand back up. Dusting myself off, I put a little distance between myself and them.
“Okily dokily. Now that we’re in here, let’s fill in some blanks in the story. Ukrainian mob, Russian military, man with golden eyeball, a militia, and Dr. Creeper.”
“Fuck,” said Laser Eye. He stood up, trying to look around with his damaged and dirty cybernetic eyes.
“Language, language.” I sat down on one of the cushy office chairs. I rolled close to Hit-Man, who had removed my cape from his head. “I’ll take that.” When he raised a fist, I rolled back over to Laser Eye, who tripped into my lap. I held him like a baby, except with more neck support that could easily turn into neck damage if my hands twisted the wrong way.
“Let him go,” said Hit Man. He glared at me through a mask that was mainly white and red this time. His fists clenched, pistons shooting out and then easing back in along each knuckle.
“First, I want to know about your friend with the golden eyeball. Who he is, who he works for, and his goals are.”
“We can’t tell you that,” Hit-Man said. I noticed his eyes checking around to see if any cops or news crews had followed us in. He actually wasn’t paying attention to the correct direction. He missed the staffer with the phone hiding under his desk. The guy had stuck around to get more footage of everything and was busy recording again.
I shrugged. “Ok, you could refuse to tell me. But then I go out there and let everyone know all about the stuff I do know and how to check it. Some fellow with a golden eye hires y’all to come up here and pays the Ukrainian mob to give y’all special weapons to fight supers. Y’all managed to get a teen boy super hostage at some point, too. Then, when that base gets broken up, Goldy buys parts from the Ukrainians and hires Dr. Creeper to turn some of you into a little boy band of wannabe supers who are conveniently placed for when the city is bombed and the President sends in the military to force supers to register. Here y’all are, just ready to be his shining example of good, loyal heroes. So, ya see, there’s not much left I need to know, but I can always kill or cripple y’all to find out, which will likely raise some questions from your employer as to why he ever should have invested money into you in the first place.”
“Ha! We’re all prepared to die as patriots to this great nation,” Flamethrower said defiantly.
“Can I get a say in that?” asked Laser Eye with a trembling voice.
I leaned close to himand whispered in his year. “Shh. Let’s just both pretend that’s chocolate down there, ok?”
Hit-Man looked at Laser Eye, then turned to Flamethrower. He hit the other militant on the arm. “Keep a look out. We don’t want cameras following us in.”
Flamethrower huffed, but went to stand a bit closer to the hole in the wall, keeping an eye on the exterior.
Hit-Man looked to me and Laser Eye. “You’re not a real good hero, are you?”
I shook my head. “I’m not a hero. That’s why I don’t have to go to the police. I can drop off severed heads as easily as I can evidence. It also means I don’t care one bit about sending y’all to prison. I’m just quite curious, because I’ve gotten caught in the middle of all this. I want to understand it, determine if it’s a threat to me and my interests, and deal with it accordingly.”
“So this isn’t some anti-hero bullshit?” Hit-Man asked.
I shook my head in the negative again. “If you think the real superheroes would be here threatening to snap your friend’s neck after wrecking this place, you haven’t been paying attention. Just tell me, and I leave. Peacefully. No one’s here to say you didn’t fight me off only for me to escape through trickery. People will believe it. You’re stupid.”
“Hey!” called Flamethrower from the wall.
Hit-Man waved off his buddy’s complaint. “Fine. The man’s name is Arthur Union. He said he was part of a group trying to restore America to its rightful place in the world. I mean, at first the guys didn’t trust him, but he had so much money. Plus, he got us a meeting with someone important. He knew big people in politics. Someone would actually pay attention to what we wanted for once.”
Ah yes, for once the rich white men would in control. I let him go on. “Nobody said anything about Russians and Ukrainians. We just had to take some money and work with the President. We were going to be a big help. We’d be patriots. We didn’t know anything about the bombings.”
“Now here’s where I correct your memory, because it’s changing slightly to make you feel better. I know for a fact that one of your colleagues I’d hospitalized was removed from the building shortly before one of the bombs blew that place up.” I started stroking Laser Eye’s hair. He jerked at first, then tried to settle down.
“We didn’t know there would be a bomb. Union called up and said we needed to get our friend out of there. He would be in danger. We were supposed to get him and get out of the city, because something big was going to happen.”
I nodded. It could fit. He could still be lying to me, but it could fit, too. “So, Arthur Union. You know if that’s his real name?”
“Not for sure. He used a different one around us once. Arthur Urum. The guy’s connected. He knows people all over the world. Ukraine and Russia, true, but I once heard the guy speaking Japanese into his phone. That help any?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. How do I find him?”
He sighed. “You trying to get a guy killed?”
“I don’t care necessarily, but I also don’t care to tell him how I heard of him. Sound nice?” I crossed my arms.
He took a second to chew that over in his head before looking around. He grabbed a pen and a stack of sticky notes and jotted down an address. He held out it out for me. I took it and dropped Laser Eye, telling them, “If this is wrong, I’ll be back. There’s always further to fall, you know. I’m sure your friends know that personally.”
“Just get out of here,” he said.
I looked over the address and saved it to my hard drive before stuffing it into a pouch on my belt. As the ’90s proved, you can never have enough pouches. I stood up and gave them a mock bow. “Y’all head out the hole. I’ll disappear my way.”
“What’s your way?” he asked. I ignored it and cranked up my gauntlets. After a second of charging, I had bright blue glowing around my fists. I took a good look around the room, then stepped over to the spot I’d looked up. One good punch collapsed the floor and sent me into the sewer. Good thing I couldn’t smell it.
No, in my helmet, I smelled the sweet smell of victory. Victory, and unexpected chocolate in an explosive chicken package.
It’s surprising how easy it is to find a person by the name Dr. Creeper in Empyreal City. Mostly because I never thought anyone would use that as their legal name. That sucks. Someone needs to punch their mother. Which, if this guy’s documents are accurate, would involve digging her up from a grave. The dude’s old. Anyway, my expectations about his name weren’t reflected in reality. There were a few creepers in Empyreal City, don’t I know it, but only one Darron Creeper who was an old man.
I broke into his home, as anyone would on such a fact-finding mission. Fact-finding… wait a minute, am I working toward peace? That doesn’t sound right. I’m just heading to war through different means, obviously. Like diplomacy. Diplomacy is such a fun way to tell someone to go fuck themselves.
Anyway, I broke into old man Creeper’s place, a small house on the edge of Empyreal City. It would have cost a bit of money, which was circumstantial evidence in favor of the guy indeed being a mad scientist. The sane ones don’t get enough cash. Drives them bonkers. Next thing you know, they’re holding a Bunsen burner to someone’s face, demanding tenure and a sexy lab assistant. After a little time spent in prison, they realize the real money’s in laser miniguns and ice capade launchers.
So he had a nice little peeling green wood siding house with pale pink shutters. The yard was mowed, but with the strands close to the bare picket fence grown up. I circled the place and spotted a door down to a basement. I’m starting to think I need some sort of eye drone or some way of obtaining a visual without using my own eyes or my suit.
Well, I wasn’t likely to find his secret lair in the attic. Too small. Maybe in a mansion. Nah, I had to get into the basement.
The door was locked, a problem I solved through careful use of a fist-sized lock pick. As soon as I did so, a water sprinkler popped up behind me. Except, instead of water, it spurted flames at me. I pulled open the door and closed it shut against the flames. I’d landed on a stairwell that flattened itself, causing me to fall on my ass and slide down into the darkness.
At that point, I figured a stealthy entrance was no longer on the menu. The slide lasted several seconds longer than it would have in a normal house, and then a pair of saw blades emerged, spinning, ready to take a few pounds off me. I pushed myself forward to get my weight over the front of myself and jumped over them. I fell quite a distance, missing the bubbling pit of liquid at the bottom of the slide.
I hit the stealth, my holodiscs cloaking me in their current weak invisibility illusion.
“Who is poking around my lab?” asked a creaky old voice. I soon saw an old man puttering along at a good pace, special braces on his thin legs propelling him along with all the speed of a young man. He held a cane with a silver skull head in one hand. The other held a finned ray gun. Real retro. He had a head of evenly-trimmed, dark grey hair, just a bit curly in front. Longer than buzzcut, but not long enough for gravity to be an issue. His lab coat was a bright white Howie style that buttoned on the left side. A very meticulous mad scientist. They exist. Show me a mad scientist with his hair blown out, and I’ll show you a person who ran with a beaker they shouldn’t have. But then, they probably had more fun, too.
The man checked the bubbling pit, then turned suddenly, pointing the ray gun all over the place. “Come out now! I know what my acid pit looks like when someone falls in it!”
I adjusted the volume on my helmet so my voice could boom a bit and keep him from figuring out my location. “I am the Emperor of Earth, Psycho Gecko!”
The man listened carefully, then perked up and smiled. “Really? I thought you were dead. The explosion and the giant machine men…”
“I know, right? Eat your heart out, Jesus. He only had a crucifixion, a spear, and a boulder to deal with.”
The man squawked out a laugh. “What ever are you doing here, wherever you are? Would you perhaps like a glass of tea? I might have some cake leftover from the neighbor lady’s visit the other day.”
I dropped the illusion right in front of him. His hand came up with surprising dexterity. Even as I stepped to the side, I saw him twist his wrist to the other side so as to avoid aiming at me. He gave me a sheepish expression of apology. “Sorry, reflexes.”
I shrugged it off. “It happens. Truth is, I’m surprised you’re not hostile to me. Very few people are so friendly to me these days.”
Dr. Creeper slipped his ray gun into a special holster on his belt and waved me along. “Great men often make enemies. I am ecstatic to meet such a famous villain. You aren’t here to hurt me, are you?”
“Eh, I’m just here for information. Looking into something that concerns me.”
“You must excuse my accommodations, I operate on a much smaller scale than you do.” He passed me by and led my into his lab and, presumably, toward something other than tea to drink.
He showed me to a stark white lab where robotic arms moved along a criss-crossing network of pillars to assembled an old-fashioned giant robot. He noticed me looking. “Do you like it? It’s based on the old Donnermaschines from Germany. With modern advances in robotics and computers, these old designs are much more effective.” He smiled, proud of his creation even in its incomplete condition. It only had one arm, for instance; a gleaming gunmetal and black limb ending in a pincer.
“You have something of a retro thing going on,” I mused.
He nodded. “I have always wanted to be a supervillain, but I never found the time until after retiring. These old aesthetics remind me so much of my mother. Both of them, I suppose.”
I raised an eyebrow, not that he’d notice. “That must have been difficult to grow up with, given the way people thought about homosexuality.”
He snorted. “Goodness! No, I was adopted. My adoptive mother fought crime as Miss Fury. I am a little old to chase after muggers in a panther-skin costume, though. On the other hand, my mother was none other than Baroness von Kampf.”
That rung a bell. “German aristocrat and Nazi saboteur in the United States during World War II. Some misadventure ended with her getting branded with a swastika on her forehead. Operated out of Brazil for awhile there, which is the last place she was publicly spotted.”
“You have heard of her!” He clapped his hands together. “Having been abandoned in Brazil, I did not know her myself. There were problems, you see. It was in Brazil where someone branded her. She left me while fleeing her enemies. I was rescued by Marla Drake, who the public knew as Miss Fury.” He turned to indicate a room we had been headed toward. “Would you mind joining me for a meal? I was about to eat.”
“Sure, sounds good.” I nodded and began to follow after as we walked into a room that could have been mistaken for an office break room. “Dr. Drake would have a nice ring to it. So would Doctor von Kampf, though you’re a Baron, so Doctor Baron von Kampf? That’s a mouthful. Why be a Creeper?”
He set about getting everything set for us. “I have a granddaughter going into the supervillainy who wants to be the next Baroness von Kampf. I didn’t want to confuse anyone with our names. I named myself after one of my biological mother’s friends who I learned about her from. He was also a Nazi saboteur. Now I am the scientist Dr. Creeper and my granddaughter, Baroness von Kampf, uses his costume and daggers.”
“So there was a different Creeper?” I asked.
He shook his head as he poured out a bowl of some sort of chicken soup. “He was a very private man, so I keep his real full name to myself, and he did not have a codename like so many of the others. Names like Hyena, The Red Death, Captain Swastika, Hun. There were so many active in America. Now I am not a Nazi, and neither is my daughter, but it brings attention and makes us distinct.”
I shrugged. “True. Plus, you aren’t going around being called Baron Darron. That name doesn’t work at all. Anything to drink?”
“Beer, bourbon, whiskey, a little rum, and I think I still have vodka left upstairs.”
“Eh, I meant more like coke.”
He shook his head. “Oh no. I tried it once in college, but I preferred LSD.”
“Soft drinks,” I clarified, “Or perhaps sweet iced tea. Just something to drink, not something to get drunk off. Just something for the meal. Before we get distracted any further, though, I also want to ask if you know anything about any good ol’ boys getting turned into jet cyborgs, or being given superspeed legs.”
The doctor pulled some of the glass bottle Cokes out of the refrigerator and turned to reveal his face lit up. “You have seen my work?”
“I have. Not bad, though there are some weaknesses, if you don’t mind me saying.”
He shrugged and handed over a bottle. “The bones? I don’t care. I told them it would cost more to do it properly, but they accused me of trying to jack up the price of surgery. They weren’t even paying for what they were getting, but they still complained. I don’t care what it does to them.”
“Who was paying?” I asked. I tried the soup. Pretty good, if a bit less salt than I’d prefer.
“That is a good question,” he said between spoonfuls of soup. “The man who arranged for their outfitting provided money in place of affiliation or ID. He did not wear a uniform or costume. He did have a golden eye, though.”
“Like, just something gold-plated, or was it an actual golden false eye?” I asked to clarify.
“The latter. A man with a golden eye hired me to turn a small team of men into cyborg superheroes. I normally wouldn’t do this, but it was a lot of money.” He shrugged. “I heard a couple of them were beaten and the parts removed. They have not come back to me for re-installation.”
“Superhumans are only as strong as the person beneath it all. When your metal parts are bolted to bone, that’s doubly true,” I said. “I beat the one with the legs and the jet guy. If I don’t find this gold eye first, I might have to reap the rest. He was responsible for getting the parts to you?”
“Darn. I was going to ask you about Michelangelo, because the other guys would have lied to me on that, but I’m guessing you don’t know anymore on that.”
“I really don’t. I think they killed him and took over.”
“Probably. I liked Michelangelo, too. I might have to come back and finish them off when I get the chance.”
So I enjoyed my brief lunch with him and prepared to leave. Just like that. No fuss, no fight.
“Is there anything else you wanted?” he asked when he’d shown me to the front door. The early afternoon sun reflected off a shiny metal robot, its boxy frame looking like something out of the Jetsons mixed with a lawnmower. It rolled lazily across the lawn, moving at sharp angles to cut the grass.
“Nah, I think that’s it. Besides, if I need any more information on these guys, I can just call you, right?”
“Oh, of course! It was great to meet you. I would love to hear from you again. We could exchange methods and techniques, perhaps?”
“That’d be fun. Hey, thanks for having me. I owe you one, how about that? It’s not as easy to get ahold of me these days, but if you need a favor, know you can call one in on me, got it?” I shot him finger guns.
The old man practically bounced. “Thank you! I hope I’m never in that dire a situation, no offense, but I’m honored. Please, drop in again any time you’re in the neighborhood.”
See? Nice and smooth infiltration of a villain’s underground lair. I’d like to see a hero pull that off. No, really, I’m curious to see the ray gun in action. Some of that retro stuff’s coming back.
Ok, so some Ukrainians have died. A lot of Ukrainians. I missed a lot of people in my initial sweep. Suspiciously large amounts of pre-corpses, enough that I could be mistaken for having been sent to handle some business for Johnny Butterfly that he didn’t want to dirty his own hands with.
Or so I would have thought before I found myself raiding a moving company. I didn’t expect a lot of resistance after heralding my arrival with explosives. Kabooms have a way of lubricating the murder process. That stayed true for about a second before some big blue blast of something hit me and knocked me through a wall next to the loading bay I’d just walked in through. I didn’t exactly have time to pull out a tricorder and do a full scan. And, no, my armor isn’t set up for that kind of analysis. My eyes do a decent job, but even they have their limits.
When I dusted myself off and kipped up to my feet, I man holding a large, vaguely-gunlike object with a blue glow coming from a smoking barrel. A woman stepped forward in an eight foot tall mass of hydraulic pistons with an operator cage in the middle. A half-seat, areas for arms and legs to be strapped in to work the thing. It had three-fingered hands meant for basic grabbing and lifting. The woman in it raised one hand toward me, the middle finger closing between the other two to improvise a middle finger.
“Avon calling!” I yelled. I dove behind the wall again, then jumped onto the metal roof. Another jump took me away just in time for another blue blast to knock a new entrance into the roof where I’d initially landed. I tugged the head off a chicken grenade and tossed it to a different spot on the roof. It banged around and began to walk, until another blast hit it and blew the place up.
I didn’t want to get hit too many times. It didn’t bust through initially, and seems to be mainly imparting kinetic energy, but temperatures were rising.
Between the angle of those two shots and my own memory, the shooter hadn’t moved. One more jump straight up and I came down through the roof. It crumpled under a combination of my weight and the speed of the fall, taking me through down onto the shooter. He crumpled too, but survived long enough for me to punch into his throat, pull out a chunk of his spine, and then force it back into his throat via his mouth.
I’m sure it’s all very poetic. Just think about the direction from yonder which wind breaks, and all that crap.
All this took very little time, time during which the other participant in this little rendezvous hadn’t managed to join in the fun. She solved that problem with a backhand that sent me rolling over the floor. First thing I did when I managed to stop is check the batteries. They were holding steady in their reinforced pack. I think the cape helps that as well.
The armor was impressive… for moving shit. Based on that hit, it didn’t have the joints to allow it to impart enough force to fight me with blows. Under my helmet, I smiled. Then I began laughing at it all.
“What’s so funny?” asked the woman, moving toward me in the walker.
I reached up to unhook my cape and spun around, ending it by throwing the cape against the operator cage so she couldn’t see. It hung there despite her wiggling. She turned in circles, sweeping the air in the hopes of hitting little ol’ me. She finally got one arm loose from controlling one of the walker’s limbs to pull the cape off, unveiling a headless rubber chicken walking toward her.
Hard to control robotic arms and legs when your own are no longer attached to you. Then again, there wasn’t much left for them to be attached to after that. I stood up from where I crouched in the corner, chuckling in my own amusement over the situation, before snatching my falling cape out of the air and reattaching it.
The building turned out to be a small treasure trove. Drugs, sure, but also lab equipment, weaponry, gadgets, and so on. They used the movers as a cover for a delivery service. I should have passed right over it and gone straight to the manager’s office. By the time I made it there, I had to bust my way through a small barricade. I found a desk with an empty gallon-sized plastic bag on it coated with pink powder on the inside. Some of that powder remained on the desk itself, underneath the face of a man who appeared unconscious and possibly even dead. I didn’t stop to examine his breathing because a trashcan nearby threatened to burn the whole place down, and behind that was an empty floor safe that I suspected held important paper documents now in the trashcan.
I grabbed the trash can and dashed its contents over the desk, knocking the man’s head hard enough to send his body to the floor with a bong noise. I heard him groan as I patted down the ashes, looking for a solid fragment. When nothing looked usable, I turned to the guy on the floor and picked him up. “Ok, crotch sweat. Time to talk to Uncle Gecko about where you ship the money to, or who keeps ordering jets and super legs to put on the Justice Bumpkins of America.”
He opened red eyes to look at me. No, actually glowing red. Then he reached up with hands that seemed a little large for a human to grab my wrists. He swung me and tossed me through a wall. Brick, in this instance. Felt like part of my spine got smashed through my pelvis, a sensation I normally associate with cheap Mexican food working its way out into the toilet. I skidded a bit, as metal does, and looked up to find the man bursting out of his clothing, his skin growing pale pink. Muscles bulged everywhere on him, and made it seem as though they squeezed the hair off his head as they rippled and grew.
This left me with the unfortunate realization that he likely wouldn’t talk to me. I’m also ill-equipped to hold someone prisoner right now in my secret lair over a strip club. That only left me with killing the guy, and… well, I could. But why? I don’t mean that as some philosophical thought experiment. Just why should I be bothered to kill a rampaging giant naked guy who won’t give me the information I want when I could leave and let the people I hate have to deal with him?
That’s just what I did. I passed over an APC followed by a truck holding a trio of militia heroes with a pair of red, white, and blue truck nuts. Let those asshats deal with the big guy. I can’t call him a colossus, and I never liked the thought of calling someone a living obelisk. On the other hand some sort of building terminology would be appropriate. Plus, he’s distinctly angry. I got it! The military and militia versus… The Raging Erection!
So… super drugs. Well, apparently it takes a bit of an overdose, if that plastic bag was any indication. But I don’t need coked-up managers. I need, eventually, to find myself the higher up who can negotiate. Sure, I could have tried that with the bear woman I killed the other day, but I brutally maimed her son. And I didn’t think about it at the time. What? It’s fun killing like this again.
But I still have good reasons for figuring out what the Ukrainian mafia’s doing. Unfortunately, the lines of communication just aren’t so great. Which gave me an idea. I circled back around to the ruins of the moving company, which marked the beginning of a swath of destruction leading elsewhere. It involved a wrecked APC, though, so good call on my part.
After a bit of searching, I found the manager’s cell phone. I wasn’t sure it would be intact at this point, but the only casualty was the screen. A bit of fixing up back at my evil lair, Mt. Doomboobs, and it would work perfectly, but it looked like a normal phone. That would not do. No, a little more rifling through his possessions and I found a crappy old phone, one of the ones that could still be used to give someone a concussion. THAT was the phone I was looking for. Any organized criminals know you don’t just go around making phone calls about criminal activity on your own normal phone. It could be hacked or wiretapped.
The messages were all in Ukrainian, but in the Latin alphabet as opposed to Cyrillic. The last one said, “The enemy is here. I will destroy the information.”
He received a message in the meantime. “Who is he?”
My answer was simple. “The Deathless. The Basilisk of Peklenc. Psycho Gecko. If you are willing to negotiate, we can meet for milkshakes. Send sharp woman from Michelangelo’s.”
I set up a meeting for a local place, The Yard. A large sign of their mascot, a curvy cowgirl holding a milking bucket in one hand and a stool in the other, stood guard over me and was rigged to fall down on my picnic table if I gave the signal. Yeah, I drank mine outside. Between my armor and the cape, I’m doing ok for heat out here. I even kept the helmet on thanks to a small opening I built in that allowed me to drink through a straw. Naturally, I brought my own crazy straw.
The stiletto woman, with her crisp coat and pulled-back hair, approached me from behind. I made it easy by sitting with my back to the street. “Are you here in the hopes for peace?”
“I give out peace all the time. The final peace, often enough. But you and yours have my attention only because of your connection to another group. I would like information. Once I have it, I have no reason to mess with you. Simple, right?” I turned and held up my chocolate shake with chopped up Nutter Butter pieces in it. “You want a milkshake? Their milkshakes are what bring all the boys to The Yard.”
I waited, sipping on my own drink, while she got herself a hot fudge shake. “How about this weather?” I asked at first, making small talk with all the patience of the winning side.
“This weather is shit. It is too warm. I remember you came to me asking how someone obtained a gun.”
I nodded and kept working on my shake.
“I have been advised to tell you that an interested party outside the United States paid us a lot of money to supply weapons and equipment to a group of people who would disrupt superhero activity in the country.”
I nodded. “A win-win.”
“Yes,” she said, adjusting the shades covering her eyes. “They also threatened that if we did not help, our homeland would be annexed by the Russian Federation.”
“So they’re Russian?”
She shook her head. “We do not know who, but they provided the location of a ship the Russians were sending to intercept one of our smugglers. I am told they were shown this person calling the ship and in five minutes it changed course. They assured me this person had no affiliation with the Russians.”
I found it a bit interesting that the only thing they’d tell me is the person wasn’t Russian. “So you provided weapons and equipment. Did your people create these new cyborgs?”
She shook her head. “I can tell you that we sent a lot of the parts to a scientist. His name is Darron Creeper. I think he changed these men. Is there anything else?”
I took a moment to think it over. Ok, so these Ukrainians are the middle men, threatened by stick and tempted by carrot. I can buy that. And whoever this is has somebody in with the Russian military. That’s interesting. I might get a chance to steal Lenin’s body if I have to head over there.
I shrugged. “I don’t think so. But if I find this Dr. Creeper’s lab and this is wrong, I’m coming for your ass. Like, seriously. You’re going to spread, and nine months later, you’ll pop out a fucking switchblade with googly eyes that look like mine. And you’ll do it because everybody else you know in this world is going to die so quickly, the obituaries won’t even need to bother adding a part about them being survived by any friends, family, or pets. That’s right, I’ll strangle your bunny and punish your pussy, all in one night. So you better pray y’all don’t need all that extra money to pay the ferryman a wholesale rate, ya dig?”
I moved along rooftops in the dark and rainy night, the tortured landscape of Empyreal City before me. I didn’t look up, though. I stared down, watching the scum of the city going about their business. But who am I to judge? Not Andriy, who I followed from above as he stepped down a short alley behind a front business. Ukrainian-owned bowling alley. Hive of scum and villainy. They don’t even clean the shoes, people!
I sound all “aggrieved nighttime avenger” doing all this. I was taking it out for a spin. I know, it’s hard to keep a straight face with it. Good thing I’m wearing a helmet.
So I stalked this Andriy fellow from rooftop to catch him outside while he conducted business. Yeah, one of the Ukrainians, but merely a stepping stone. He was in his thirties, with a well-trimmed beard and a widow’s peak, all a deep brown. He had left his jacket and tie inside and now walked out in slacks and a dress shirt, heedless of any nasty weather.
Andriy walked out to where a pair of guys stood in mismatched tracksuits, their hands on a woman and young boy. These thugs weren’t all big and imposing for looks. Andriy leaned down to the kid, who had a gag in his mouth. “Don’t make fun of a tracksuit. It is very good clothing. Cheap.” He ran his hand along the boys cheek and chin. “If you get too much blood on it from cut child, you can dispose of it easily. They can dispose of the child easily, too.”
He stood up and smirked. The mother struggled and got her hand free for a moment, but her captor grabbed her arm before she could slap Andriy. Good reflexes on that one. Andriy laughed and slapped her across the face hard enough that she would have fallen. Her guard kept her on her feet whether she liked it or not. I doubt she wanted to stay up. Andriy had rings on that hand.
“Calm down. Your husband probably loves you, unless he used my money for hookers. Ah, here he is,” Andriy turned to another door opening and a different pair of men dragging out a man with a torn t-shirt and a bloody scrape on the side of his head. Andriy shook his head and walked over to the man. He turned the fellow’s head and clucked. “Danny, Danny, Danny, you had a fall. This is why you should not run from me. Besides,” he turned to take in the woman and child with a gesture, “You do not want to leave your family behind, do you?”
Andriy held his hand out to one of the men restraining the other scraped man. That one passed him a baseball bat. Danny sputtered at the sight, “Please, I’ll get you the money. I had an accident is all. I- my priorities weren’t- I’ll get you-!” It’s a good thing Andriy hit him when he did. I don’t think that sentence was going to end otherwise. A bit all over the place, though Andriy’s aim was spot on. Right in the stomach. The two guards holding Danny didn’t have to worry so much about him getting free after that. Just fighting gravity to keep him in easy hitting range. If Danny fell too low, one of them would have to fetch Andriy a putter instead.
Andriy ignored his please. He gave him a few more good shots and waved downward with the bat. The two thugs let go of Danny. He fell onto his knees and wrapped his arms around his belly, gasping in pain and breathlessness. Then Andriy settled the end of the bat on the back of Danny’s head. “No, no, no,” Danny pleased. “I’ll get the money. I know how. Don’t do this.”
“Listen to me, Danny. I won’t kill you. How can I get money back from a dead man?” Andriy leaned forward, but made sure to speak loud enough everyone, especially Danny’s family, could hear. “This was to soften you up. You do not just say, first thing, you will get the money. I know you mean that out of fear in this moment. It does not mean anything deeper to you. You could run. That is why I had my men track down your loved ones.” He grabbed Danny’s head and lifted it so he could see the woman and son again.
“Mary, I’m sorry,” Danny said.
“Whatever they want, just do it, babe, please,” his wife said.
“You will, won’t you, Danny?” Andriy stepped over to the wife. Danny tried to stand up but, fell back down even before the guards could push him. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt her… if you do what you need to do. I won’t kill you or you can’t pay me, but they don’t owe me money. One second late, and I will have her throat cut and her body dumped off a pier to be fed to the sharks!”
She started to cry out until he socked her in the stomach just enough to quiet her down to pained whimpers. Then he stepped over the boy and ruffled his hair. “You have a nice looking son. He is a very pretty boy. If I chop off his balls, he could make me a lot of money in a brothel. You think he would be popular?”
Danny didn’t even have words at that point. Just a defeated animal squeal.
Andriy let them all go together. A guard walked them out through another building. I could have jumped down there in the middle of all that, but think of the message that sends to that kid? It’s really important that people know they just can’t let their debts slide. Ok, so that’s obviously not why I waited, nor do I care if Andriy’s books are balanced. I did it, primarily, because it was entertaining to watch. Secondarily, it was also good for this Danny guy. I’ll elaborate on that more in a few minutes.
Once they were gone, Andriy started back toward the bowling alley with one of his guys. That’s when I made my entrance. I landed as gracefully and stealthily as anyone could who drops from a few stories up onto a human being. The snapping and squelching alone alerted Andriy something was up. He turned to find me standing in a pile of what used to be one of his men. The one next to me didn’t look to be in too good of shape either, not with that potato peeler sticking out of the eye socket of the other guard he’d left back there. I wiggled it around before aborting the lobotomy and yanking it out. The man cried out and fell to the ground, holding his eye.
Andriy’s guard pulled a pistol. I flipped the peeler around and pointed the end of its handle at his hand. He couldn’t very well aim once the laser severed the fingers of his hand. He yelled in pain and reached down to grab the gun with his other hand, but by then I stepped over. When he stood up, he got a fist through his face. “Hello Andriy!” I said, all friendly-like as I waved at Andriy through his guard’s skull. I tossed the man’s corpse on top of his screaming friend and chased after Andriy. He didn’t get too far before I nabbed him. My armor’s jump enhancers carried us to the rooftop of the bowling alley.
As I said before, not the kind of situation Danny would want to be associated with. If no one knew for a fact Danny had nothing to do with all this, they’d likely come after him. They still might, but I doubt it.
“Who the hell are you?” Andriy asked, frantic. I held him out over the rooftop. “You’re looking for a cut of the action?”
“I’m not opposed to making deals, but this isn’t that kind of situation. I don’t care about the fellow you just did a number on. Kudos, by the way. Well-handled. Very professional,” I told him. “It’s just important that you know I am a person with whom one does not fuck, even if one does not necessarily understand the structure of my sentences.”
“I think I know what you mean,” Andriy said, trying to calm down. He looked down. “So you do not want to kill me?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have anything against it, so I probably will.”
“Won’t do the trick. I know.” I shook my head. “It’s not supposed to. Just remember that your world’s lord works in mysterious ways.” I lowered him really quickly, as if dropping him, then pulled him back up, chuckling. “Gotcha, didn’t I?” I pulled him up onto the edge of the roof.
He smiled and let out a laugh of relief. “Yeah. Sure, sure.”
I nodded, then grabbed his tongue and pushed him. He rocked back on his heels but didn’t fall, instead being held up by his tongue. He didn’t much care for the situation. “And for dinner,” I said, pulling out the laser potato peeler again. “skinless ape tongue, served au jus.”
Now, I won’t go into too many specifics to save the stomachs of those reading this, but I will specificy that I did not cut the tongue out with either the blade or laser of the potto peeler. Not did I just rip the whole thing out. Technically, it did rip, but only after I shaved enough off that it had no choice but to snap off. It wasn’t a “whole tongue yanked out,” kind of deal, just the parts that were left.
Venus would almost be proud, too. Andriy didn’t die. I made sure of that. Got him to a hospital lickity-split and everything. And there he stayed, with me playing the silent, hidden guardian. Guardian’s a strong word, actually. It implies protection, and I certainly wasn’t there for that. Is there a name for some sort of predatory giant spider that dangles prey to attract to attract those who show up to help? I got it, anglerfish! And like the mighty anglerfish, I let the light shine on Andriy while I waited in the shadows for some other ugly deep-dwelling fish to stick its ugly head a little close.
In this case, the fishy who swam along was an older Ukrainian woman who looked like her father was a T-84 main battle tank and her mother was a very unhappy German POW. Or perhaps a medieval battleaxe. She could have been a Terminator. I have to wonder what unfortunate dancing circus bear she wrestled to the ground to conceive Andriy. Her name was Kseniya, and she walked in with a tall old man beside her. She wasn’t the boss of the Ukrainians, but she was damn high up. Like an underboss or caporegime? Or do Cosa Nostra terms even work with Ukrainians? According to Butterfly’s files, that fellow with her was something of a problem solver for her. And an older one, so probably at least a little decent.
They both stepped over a power cord that trailed out of the room then back into it on the other side of the doorway. The fixer looked confused as he followed it back to the window in both cases. “What are they doing here?”
“Quiet,” Kseniya said to him, then stepped to the bed. Sorrow crossed her face as she reached out and put a hand on Andriy’s shoulder. He woke up and jumped a little, then tried held his hand out and kept closing his fingers to his palm. She took his hand. “There, there, mama is here.”
He pushed her hand away and gestured with his left as if he was writing on his right hand.
“Do you have a pen and pad?” she asked, turning to look at her companion.
It was at that point that, resting outside the window, I rose up and tugged on the cord. I managed to knock it up before pulling back and kicking off the hospital. I landed in the parking garage nearby, quite safely. The same couldn’t be said of Kseniya’s fixer, who had been caught around the hips by the cord and pulled out the window. He might have been good, but he wasn’t gravity-defying good. Still, it was something of a surprise, and even calculated risk, that Kseniya didn’t go with him. Between Andriy grabbing for her as I pulled her over his bed and her loyal minion pushing her away, she got free. At least until my next jump carried me through the window.
She’d regained her footing and was fleeing through the door by then. I landed with a running start and took off again, leaping over the bed to skim the top of the doorway and grab her by her meaty shoulders. I hit the ground with a roll this time and used it to launch her in the direction I’d been headed. She crashed into a snack vending machine. One of the ones with a clear covering where you press letters like “A3” to get gum or chips or cookies. She wasn’t moving, and looked to be stuck on stiff metal springs in a couple of spots, including her head and chest.
I stepped over, rifled through her pockets for change, and fed the machine a few dollar bills before making my selection. The gears ground loud, and her body shook a little, as the machine complied. The spring finished turning and something hit the bottom bin with a wet thud. I bent down and pulled a heart out of the machine.
“Dammit!” I said. “I picked Pop Tarts, not popped… aw, nevermind.”
I sat in the office of Johnny Butterfly in my power armor, stirring a cup of this heathen brew they call tea up here. The warm kind that you have to put sugar into. But I was being polite, so I didn’t inform the crime boss that his tea was wrong and he should be ashamed. “The business opportunities in this city are, as I’m sure you know, contingent upon the city still being here. Considering the extensive damage to its infrastructure, that seems increasingly unlikely. Sure, Empyreal City’s had its problems, but they generally don’t happen quite so soon in succession.”
Sitting on the other side of his desk, Johnny Butterfly tried to look calm as he repeatedly pressed the panic button hidden on his desk. He didn’t go so far as to pull a weapon. I hadn’t told him who I was, but most people would be worried in his position. “If you’re trying to summon your men, I’m afraid I’ve found a high tech way to jam the signal from your little panic button there, and your men are otherwise preoccupied. It shouldn’t matter anyway, as I mean you no harm.”
Butterfly’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do to them?”
“As I said, they are otherwise detained, but unharmed.” I hired several aspiring models of either gender to stand outside in the skimpiest clothing the weather permitted giving away awesome burgers and hot dogs. I may have encouraged some of the models to do their best impression of a deep throat on the hot dogs. It didn’t take very long for the building to empty of gangsters of all sexual preferences. I mean, even the asexuals get a free burger out of the deal. That’s a tough one to resist. Taking advantage of that deal’s as American as potato pie.
I calmly stirred my tea. “As you’ve probably determined by now, I’m more than capable of dealing with you if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I also apologize for appearing in such a threatening manner, but you wouldn’t meet with me if I gave you notice, either. I understand this is an uncomfortable position for you, and will seem even stranger.”
Johnny Butterfly took his hand off his desk and leaned back, folding his hands in front of him. “Forgive my skepticism. Most supervillains are preoccupied with other things in other cities, so this is most unusual. I certainly hope this isn’t a case of entrapment, mister…?”
“Gecko,” I said. “Psychopomp Gecko. Emperor Gecko, if you want to bring titles into this. Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
“I am not sure I believe you,” said Butterfly. His eyebrows furrowed as he looked at my armor, examining it for any resemblance to my old type. For someone in the same room as the former emperor of the world and a notorious killer of superheroes, he didn’t react too terribly. He crossed his arms, and I noticed a tiny bit of movement against his jacket as he attempted to call out.
I nodded and set my cup of tea down. “That may be, but I really don’t advise you to bring the police into this. If you think about it, I can kill you and get away well before they or the military show up. Same for any reinforcements of your gang. This is a frequent problem with me, the lack of trust. Who knew there was such a downside to trying to kill everyone all the time. I have a couple of ideas for you.”
Butterfly leaned forward and set both hands on top of his desk, “Understand that you have my attention insofar as I hear your proposal.”
I nodded. “Glad to hear the power of fear compels you. It’s quite simple really.”
My first plan was all “crime lord proposal”-worthy. Help him with money or the occasional useful crime as far as funding the city. Essentially, have Empyreal City’s mob connections prop it up and help rebuild it. Focus on the lower level stuff at first so that most of the population won’t flee in search of jobs. While that’s going on, grease plenty of union palms to make sure everything gets built as fast as they can manage.
“That is all well and good, but what about a contribution from the one percent?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I have ways of making them want to donate money.” And so many fun ways they could be. Digging up dirty laundry, planting dirty laundry, even just a threat to kill; there are a lot of ways this could go and they all sound pretty fun to me. “Leave that part up to me so you can’t be implicated. Conspiracy to extort and all that. You’re really better off not knowing too many specifics of what I’m doing, other than that I’m pretty good at breaking and entering. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vault or a person, I break and enter both.”
I leaned forward to grab the saucer of tea again and pretended to sip it through my helmet. “But first, I need to know more about your colleagues, the Ukrainians. I have a personal grudge against them, and I’m sure you could use the growing room.”
I helped myself out of the office with some key criminal information. I passed a fellow on the way who ran in and yelled out, “Hey boss, you have to come see what this girl can do with a foot long!”
I started my one man anti-crime spree later that night. I knocked on a specific door down a specific alley in a specific way. A slot in the top part opened to reveal the eyes of the lookout, who took a cold cup of tea, two cubes of sugar, no milk. “Ah, wait, it’s not hot,” he yelled.
I kicked the door in, knocking him on his ass. I stepped in with my armor, a fedora on my head and an umbrella in my hand. “I’m singing in the rain! Just singing in the rain!” I kicked the man in the face, leaving him sprawled chest down on the floor. I lined up a nice thrust with my umbrella and got brown hole in one. “What a glorious feelin, I’m happy again.” One press of the release and a little help from my power armor and the umbrella expanded inside him. It didn’t look fun for him. Was great for me.
I sung and danced my way down a short, dirty hallway where the din of a crowd grew in volume and intensity. They had music playing over it all, but I couldn’t catch much of it over the cheering crowd. There was a big room with people crowded all around a cage holding two barely-clothed men with their guards up, dancing around each other.
As soon as I exited the door, a large man stepped out from my right with a pistol in hand. I grabbed his hand and easily overpowered him, giving him a better target. “You’ve got balls,” I said to him. I squeezes his hand. The gunshot didn’t panic anyone due to the noise of the crowd and music. “Ball,” I said.
I gave it another squeeze. “Dick.” Another squeeze. “Asshole.” He fell to his knees, squeaking in high-pitched pain. I ejected the magazine and round in the chamber, then tossed the gun off to the side.
“Coming through!” I yelled, kicking people out of my way. I cleared a short opening that left me facing a young waitress with dark hair and two blonde braids on either side of her face. She looked at me, eyes wide, then smacked her tit. A small holdout pistol popped out into the air, like on a spring, and she caught it out of the air. Before she could take aim, I grabbed her wrist with one hand, her waist in the other, and spun. The gun went flying, hitting some guy standing up in the corner with askew glasses and an empty pistol in his hand. He went down. I dipped the waitress and pulled my helmet up to steal a kiss. “Je t’aime ma puce,” I told her. It’s more romantic in French.
“I’m not into men,” she whispered back.
She broke my heart, so I broke her arm, picked her up over my shoulder, and began spinning her around like my own personal nunchaku. I knocked the shit out of other people, clearing even more room. With a mighty heave, I threw my flooze-chaku and cleared the way to the cage. She bounced off it with a shrill cry. Surprised the hell out of me. I thought I killed her by then, or at least knocked her out. It would have been a bad time to be conscious. The fighters in the cage had by now stopped their petty squabble to look at me.
“You call that a fight? This is a fight!” I jumped on the side of the cage with no small amount of force or weight. The side came down and landed on both of them, squashing both of them underneath the chain links. Not, sadly, with enough force to cause them to spurt through the empty spaces as blood and flesh. I had to resort to stomping my way through them both, screwing the betting pool way the fuck up. Did they bet on who would lose, or who would win?
By then, people were naturally ready to run, except for security. They were also ready to run, but they were headed for an office with a window that looked out over the whole place. Someone sat there, one of the Ukrainian higher ups with a closely-shaved head and a soul patch.
I freed myself from the cage and ran right for it. A fat, bald security guy tried to stop me. I grabbed him by the throat and didn’t stop. He went right through the glass in one heave. One of the other guards opened the door to rush to their aid and splattered all over the place from a massive burst of shotgun pellets. I jumped through the window instead, catching a quad-barreled shotgun before the boss of the fight club could swing it around toward me.
“Don’t do it, you crazy bastard! You have so much to live for!” I yelled. Instead of even questioning the statements, he just screamed. I pulled the shotgun free of his hands and stuck it up against his throat. I joined in on the screaming.
Boom. Poor bastard committed suicide by being in my way. I looked up to find a couple more disposable mooks standing at the door, and one smart one running his ass toward the door. He knocked over some guy standing up with a pair of guns in his hand, but abandoned him to his colleagues’ fate.
Walking out of there later with my new quad-barrel as a souvenir, I spoke to myself. “I thought being that depressed was for Russians only. Poor suicidal bastards.”