Tag Archives: Amplitude

Killing Time 11, One Last Time



After days of work, my latest project was completed. Amplitude had a body. A boring one, but a body nonetheless.

“Are you absolutely sure you don’t want any cool additions?” I held a mirror for Amplitude as he looked over his new body.

“No,” he said quickly.



“I can give you cat eyes.”


“Gold teeth? Literally gold teeth.”

“Gold teeth are stupid. Nobody looks cool wiping ketchup off their gold teeth.”

“You’re right…unless you do it with extendable claws, eh?”

“No!” Amplitude had gotten increasingly flustered over our conversation, but he took a few moments to calm down. “Thank you for honoring your end of the agreement. Nice job, but I am fine with this. Just this.” He then offered his hand.

Despite rumors, innuendo, and vast heaps of evidence to the contrary, I’ve always been a man of taste, so I gave his open hand a fist bump. Except for when I was a boy of taste. Of course.

I was never a baby of taste because those don’t exist. Babies were invented as an experiment by the scientific community to determine the amount of misery and poop people will put up with so long as they’re convinced it’s their misery and poop. Even though they tried to hide this fact, having a baby still calls for a shower.

With our business concluded, I at last kicked Amplitude out of our temporary hideaway. When I called up the car, Moai and the Rejects directed me to an abandoned movie rental store in South Central L.A. I missed the part where some gang tried to kick the Rejects out, but I saw the burn marks they left behind on the pavement.

I didn’t have any trouble on my way, though. Having a talking disembodied head in my possession convinced people not to mess with me. By extension, this rep extended to Amplitude, which was good for him. Otherwise, he didn’t have a leg to stand on. Carl also looked pretty badass to the normal person.

So yes, there was a big happy reunion in which I got hugged so many times that people probably thought we were filming a sci fi porno movie in the dusty old place.

Somehow, I had assembled quite the group of people around me during this whole mess. Live people, too. Not that I have anything against dead people. They made lovely conversation partners. So few of the dead ever talk back, and the ones who do always ramble on about your brains or your blood. That’s dead people for you. If you can get their interest at all, it’s only for your body parts.

Try complaining about it and they turn up the political heat through their lobby. Well, ok, it’s more of a parlor than a lobby.

The other thing I worked on during my time with Amplitude was freeing Carl. He lost weight during his captivity, muscle included. Still, he couldn’t squirm out of that suit on his own. Especially not with the neural spikes. Those nail-like protrusions into the spine were a crude measure, but they served their purpose.

Back home people either preferred ones the size of needles, or they plugged their brains into computers using synthetic nerves. Except for the ones like me.

A lot of people were confused about what happened as far as the news told. Even Outlaw X wasn’t too sure. They knew the Annihilation Eight had been successful, but that Hephaestus hadn’t been. The company had captured me, but it was a Pyrrhic victory.

There was little enough to hear between the Ebola outbreak, problems in Israel, and police brutality. Then it was pushed out of the way by news about Robin Williams, and deservedly so.

But then, who am I to comment on that?

I had my hands full trying to deal with the immediate aftermath of everything, particularly with one visit I felt was necessary.

I stopped by the Master Academy again. Repaying Amplitude and freeing Carl took priority. That’s a fancy way of saying I forgot to do it because I was too busy.

I found an adequate substitute for protective armor. This time, the students and adults were more surprised to find a troupe of people in animal costumes. It looked like a small furry flashmob had assembled in front of the place, led by a purple bunny. They didn’t hesitate to call out Venus.

They also armed their defenses. The base of the Oscar Romero statue opened up and it dropped down. A cannon replaced it, some howitzer that they aimed almost directly at the gate. The various adult faculty member must have felt like a higher caliber of fool when the furries panicked and ran for it.

Venus caught the purple bunny who revealed himself to be…some guy who had been paid to organize a furry flashmob and distract them all.

Of course.

I saw the man hand Venus a note under the watchful gazes and glowing powers of her various teammates. I didn’t even need a pair of binoculars to read the words “Look behind you” on it.

Venus turned, as did the rest of the crowd. She let purple bunny man go. He obviously wasn’t me. I was me, and I was seated on their howitzer, twirling a carrot in one hand. “Eeeeeeh, what’s up, dicks?”

Venus took point on talking to me because of her experience and survival rate in such encounters. She held her arms out and lowered them, beckoning the others around her to calm down. She stepped forward, alone, until she got to about ten feet from the howitzer’s barrel. “You didn’t ask for any neutral ground this time. Is that a bad sign? What do you want?”

I unscrewed the top of the carrot and took a swig from the flask within. “I just wanna talk. Is that really such a big deal?”

She folded her arms, taking in my simple jean shorts and white t-shirt that said “puddles pity party” underneath the image of a pale crowned clown. I hardly looked threatening, but it’s not like I was a homicidal maniac who took advantage of my innocent looks to leave a trail of ass-ravaged dead bodies in my wake.

Oh wait, that’s exactly who I was.

“Sounds like you’ve done enough talking.”

In that case, they should have brought more howitzers. I grabbed the basket I brought along and dropped down from the howitzer to better address Venus and because my balls were hurting. “Oh, that. A little too much screaming during sex, that’s all. You know, we really have to stop meeting like this. Makes y’all look like idiots.”

Venus shifted her weight onto her back leg, arms still crossed. “Can you blame us? Things have a tendency to get weird and messy when you show up.”

“Those are called wet dreams, Venus, and they-“ I stopped right there as she raised an eyebrow and cracked her knuckles. After a moment of looking her in those brown eyes, I started anew. “All the same, you’re the guys who panicked over a purple bunny costume.”

Venus’s eyebrow lowered and she shook her head. A smile almost forced its way onto those lips but she snuffed it with the brutal efficiency of Edgar Allen Poe.

The crowd from the gate had been approaching slowly and they took their cues from Venus’s body language. They gave us curious glances and a wide berth as they stepped around us. Most of the students and a few of the staff dispersed, but there were plenty of people around to back Venus up if I turned violent.

I reached into my basket and pulled out a bottle. “Bit o’ the bubbly?” I offered it to Venus.

“No. I can think of many reasons not to drink that,” she said, then reached up to brush her bangs out of her face. “What brings you by so soon after terrorizing the city as a giant nudist?”

I unscrewed the lid of my sparkling red grape juice and poured some into my carrot flask. “Ah, glad to see that even in a city like L.A., I can still make a scene. Nah, I just came to find out a couple things.”

And then I sat down. In the history of warfare, few soldiers have ever infiltrated an enemy stronghold just to sit out in the open and drink, making it a situation that conventional tactics cannot counter. The outnumbered Chinese general Zhuge Liang got close when he opened the gates to a city and played a zither in the face of a huge enemy army.

He won that encounter.

As if to match my casual demeanor, Venus sat as well. I held out the bottle for her again, but she refused. “Alright, Venus. First I need to know if you’ve heard from Leah. I went to Hephaestus and they taunted me with someone, but it wasn’t Leah. And they were trying to torture me. They beat me, pulled my teeth, showed me old episodes of the Brady Bunch.” I stopped to take a swig of the sparkling grape, then faked tears and slurred my words. “Please, the horror…the memories…”

Venus, unmoved, replied in snarky monotone. “I’m so sorry to hear that you were overwhelmed with a campy TV show. It’s amazing what it took to get you to show your true feelings.”

“Oh the pain, the horror, oh how will I go on?!” I threw my hands in the air, but instead of waving them like I just didn’t care, I waved them like I cared too much.

Then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I bent a little further back and looked into an upside down face I hadn’t seen in way too long.

“Hi Gecko,” said Leah.

“Leah?! How’d you know it was me?” I put my arms around her and gave her an awkward upside down hug from a sitting position. My spine wanted to have a word with me about that.

She tried to find a way hug me back and settled on patting me on the chin. “First, because everyone panicked and said Psycho Gecko was here…”

I stood up, then spun around and hugged her normally. “That’s how it usually happens.”

“Wow, that actually looks real,” said Venus.

I glanced back at her. “What does?”

“You’re smiling,” she told me.

“No I’m not. And I would know. It’s my mouth.” I checked by popping out my eye and my face was indeed smiling. I put a stop to that in a hurry. As a certified badass, I’m not allowed to smile and squee like a little girl.

Venus wouldn’t let it go. “Your mouth has betrayed you. You practically squeed just now.”

“Belgium!” I exclaimed, using the most vile curse in the multiverse. I let go of Leah, but kept my back to Venus. “What happened? Where have you been?”

“Well,” she started. “I’m not supposed to tell you where I’ve been hiding out, but somehow these soldiers found out. They said someone called Pivot wanted me as insurance. I got away and hid for awhile. About a week ago, Venus got in contact with me and invited me here until things cool down.”

“That’s it? Hephaestus came, you ran, they never got you?”


“Damn…wish Max did that more often. But you’re ok?”

“Bruises heal, as this gym teacher here says, but I’m fine.” She jumped up and hugged me this time, whispering in my ear. “They’re going to try and catch you if you leave.”

“Do you know how?”

“Nuh uh.”

“I have a way out, but do me this one little favor when you have the chance…”

I quickly explained what I wanted from Leah, then Venus cleared her throat. “This is getting awkward, you two. She’s still jailbait, Gecko.”

Leah stepped away, face flushing. She shot Venus a glare. “I’d better go then.” She turned to smile at me again. “It was great seeing you again. I’m doing good here. Just between the two of us. Or the three of us.”

I frowned. “Doing good? A do-gooder? I thought I taught you better than that.”

She rolled her eyes. “You taught me a lot and I’m glad. You were there for me, but I don’t think petty revenge is a good basis for leading a life of crime.”

I turned back to Venus, who just started to open the basket I brought along with me. I startled her and she let the lid fall on it. I narrowed my eyes at her. “This is your fault. I’d recognize your idealism anywhere. You work at a school, dammit! How dare you not grind this girl’s soul and dreams to dust?!”

Leah snorted at that, and even Venus smiled. To Leah, she said “Didn’t you have that thing you wanted to do in a little while?”

“Oh, right!” Leah stepped away and waved goodbye to me. “I’m sorry, Gecko, but I have to go do something very important.” She winked, which I took to mean that they were going to try and nab me before too much longer. “I hope I see you again sometime.”

Venus’s annoyed “Ahem” indicated that she didn’t share that sentiment.

Leah ran off. I waved after her until she was well away, then spun around and pointed at Venus. “Alright you. Fun time is over! It’s time for the million dollar question. Where is Lone Gunman? Has he been in contact with you? Stayed the night? Borrowed a toothbrush?”

She blinked and ducked her chin. “No…I haven’t heard anything from him since last year when we all fought you that last time.”

I risked taking her at face value. “Well then, I have a useful tidbit of information for you. The guy who tried to kill me, the guy who shrunk you, the same fellow who kidnapped all those people? Yep, it was him. Killed his way to the top of Hephaestus and pursued a murderous personal vendetta against me.”

“Bullshit!” Venus replied. She seemed a little skeptical of the claim.

Reaching down to my basket, I pulled out photos, a flash drive, Carl’s notarized deposition, and a banana.

I passed them all to her in turn. She looked over the banana and held it back out to me. “Let me guess, this one is actually your lunch.”

I reached over and yanked down one part of the peel. Smoke poured out, hiding the pair of us from view. I heard shouting from around us. They were probably scrambling. I grabbed the banana and tried to get my arm around Venus’s neck, but she pushed back with her hips and threw me over. I landed on my back outside the cloud of smoke.

Before anyone could jump me, I held the banana out in front of me as I got my feet under me. “Nobody move, nobody shoot, nobody even think! I got more than smoke in this thing! Keep your distance, or I set this bad boy off and Venus is gonna banana split thanks to those nanites in that cloud! You feel me, dawgs? Huh? You feel me?!”

They seemed to feel me. The escape would have gone better if I’d kept the basket near me, but I had to step close to the dispersing smoke cloud to get it. I grabbed it just before Venus rolled out and got her bearings. “Situation?!” she called out.

“Psycho Gecko’s got something. We don’t know. He said it would hurt you if we did anything!” answered a square-jawed ginger guy.

She looked me right in the eye. I got the feeling she was skeptical again. Then she said, “I’m fairly sure he’s lying.” My feeling got much stronger.

With that, I stuffed the banana in my mouth and pulled my one last trick out of the basket. I twirled the saxophone around so that the extendable bits brought it out to a full alto sax, then gripped it two handed and wielded it like a sword. “Alright, you heroic bastards…let’s kick some brass.”

That caused even Venus to pause. It gave me time to hit a key with a rocket on it and set it between my legs. Flames roared out of the bell as it shot forward, carrying me with it into the air. Laughing, I shot heroes the bird to either side.

Ah, it just wouldn’t be a visit to Venus without her trying to catch me. Some day, I may even let her catch me.

It was nice to see Leah, though. I found out she made it out ok, instead of sticking around there as some sort of hostage/student.

She let me know. She left me a message, like I asked. A big message, written all over a giant skyscraper in Los Angeles that was busy having several holes repaired.

Just in case anyone had a doubt about the final score in my little war with Hephaestus, Leah cleared that up with, “Psycho Gecko was here. Now Hephaestus isn’t.”




Killing Time 10



“You know, I have to say I admire your style in all this, Lonereeno. Knocking out one tooth or a few teeth, that’s fairly standard. Working over some of the others with pliers, that’s not going to impress anybody. Now, making sure the entire mouthful is ripped out, that part started to get me horny. That bit with the salt and the Sriracha hot sauce, now that was kinky. But what really set this whole thing apart, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, is that you then brought in some dentists to drill in there and attach some new teeth. Bravo, man, that was a nice touch. You’re making a good villain.”

Rather than having one of his goons do it, Lone Gunman himself stepped up to where I was chained and pistol whipped my jaw. After days spent full of beatings, a little jaw knocked out of place was only annoying in as much as I had to ease it back into place without my arms. They were chained taut to two opposite walls in this bright white octagonal room Gunman had me locked in. I was held there in the middle of the room, chains winding over my chest and holding me firmly in place.

At least they stopped the bleeding of my knee. Didn’t want me dying early, for some reason.

My little room had all the amenities. A nice bed for me to sleep if I wasn’t chained up. Fine dining laid before me very day to eat if I wasn’t chained up. Even a radio playing nothing but the latest kiddie pop hits. The guards even said I could change, but then we’re back to the chained up part of our little program here. At least they gave me a hole to squat in.

If it was me designing the room, I’d have set it up so the squat hole looped around and exited on top of the prisoner.

Plus, there was all the chatter I could stand to listen to. Whatever they had going on in that room, I could only use my dimsnensional tracker or listen in on Hephaestus chatter thanks to my stolen communications encryption.

After I was done setting my jaw back in place, I wiggled it around a bit. Felt some popping that hurt a little bit. In the process, some of my teeth felt a bit loose already. I smiled my new teeth up at Lone Gunman. “For someone who hates me a whole lot, you sure are keeping me alive longer than you need to. I thought you were smarter than that.”

Gunman pulled out his revolver and spun it around. It was black and drank in the light, no shine to it whatsoever. He held the barrel just in front of my face by a couple of feet. “Are you so eager to die?”

I shrugged as much as I was able. “Not particularly. But you have to have some reason for it. Even for being an asshole, this is getting excessive. Look at you, you even made a special visit to see me today.” After imprisoning me that first day, Lone Gunman had been absent from my cell. He just showed up, knocked out my teeth, and then watched as a bunch of scientists probed me.

Yeah, I got probed. They went in dermally. They went in orally. They went in urethrally.

They went in anally.

I’ve had better. The real pain in my ass was this big needle they stuck in the back of my neck. All that and no kiss. No visits. He didn’t even write me. I was beginning to feel neglected until Gunman showed up that day.

Gunman holstered his scoped revolver and snapped his fingers. The guards left the room, leaving us alone. That seemed dumb. To his credit, he stood way back from me. Ah well, it let me hang my head and wiggle my loose chompers with my tongue.

“Don’t fall pass out yet,” Gunman said. “You’re about to get your answer. All thoses tests I had performed on you served an important purpose. Man-Opener has been begging me to get his hands on you. Does he send you hate mail or something? For some reason, he acts like you have been insulting him.”

I shook my head. “Never met the guy.”

“Huh. I found out how much Man-Opener despises you during this whole operation, and I learned how he interfaces with his armor. He has cables that attach to small conductive spikes. He sticks them in the spine and they allow him full range of motion. Well I got to thinking. Brainstorming. I had the science team join in. Next thing you know, we’ve done it. A suit of armor that works the other way around.”

I glanced up. “You’re going to have to clarify that for me. In what way do you have armor that works the other way around. You surgically implant it inside of a person?”

Gunman chuckled. “No, the armor has similar harness, but allows a foreign signal to control the movements of the person and armor. I don’t like you, but I liked the idea of using you as even more of a tool than you already are.”

“Capturing me, torturing me, and then using me to kill people for you. Remind me about how you’re supposed to be one of the good guys again?” I asked, baiting him. I wanted another good hit in the head. Something to knock a tooth out. I was getting tired of all the waiting and a tooth would solve that.

He sighed. “Sadly, it won’t happen. I could have marched you through death, hell, and the grave, but your abilities interfere with that.”

“You sure you don’t want to try it anyway?” I shot him a big, wide grin.

“Not with you.” Gunman held up a finger as if in warning. Then he lifted his hand to his collar and plucked an earbud from where he kept it. He put it back in and ordered, “Repeat that.”

I eavesdropped on the Hephaestus channel. “I said we’re bringing up the slave armor.”

Lone Gunman nodded and removed the earbud again. “I still had the armor made in the likeness of your old style, but ours doesn’t require your friend to fit it exactly.”

With that, the door opened and they wheeled in a dolly with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time clad in a knockoff suit of my armor, carrying a hat box.

“Carl?” I asked.

“Boss?” Carl asked.

“Wow. Carl…I was expecting someone else. No offense. Hey, nice to see you alive and un-liquidated.”

“It’s great to see you, but I wish I didn’t have to see you here.”

“Ditto, man. Nice to have you alive. I guess it should have occurred to me they kept you around once I found out how much of this was set up in advance. How have you been?”

“My ass hurts, boss.”

“I feel your pain, Carl. I feel your pain. We’ll go out later and have some mudslides to celebrate.”

Gunman cut in then. “Carl, hand me the box.” Carl obeyed, his movements stiff. “Carl, jump on one foot.” Carl raised a leg and began to hop, but became unbalanced and fell over. “Carl, pick yourself up and slap Gecko.”

My loose tooth was on the top, so I dragged it against the bottom row. Carl got to his feet, walked over, and gave me a smack that didn’t help as much as I wanted. “Sorry Boss,” he said.

“It’s ok, Carl. Apparently this is all part of some overly-complicated plan to kill me and then frame me for some reason.”

“Not exactly,” said Gunman. “We built the suit, then we found out you wouldn’t fit, so everything about that plan is scrapped. I’m just going to have your henchman kill you. In fact, he’s going to squash you like a bug, thanks to this guy.” He opened the hat box and pulled out a head stuck in a harness.

“And this is…?” I asked, trying to get a good view of the person under all the life-sustaining equipment.

Gunman shook the head. “This is Amplitude. He’ll be shrinking you today. Again.”

“Motherfucker, does anybody stay dead around here?!” It was hard to show outrage while chained up. “I killed Dr. Typhoon, Quick Sand, Amplitude, they’re all alive. Carl was dead, he’s alive. Do you have JFK and Tupac in the back somewhere competing in a contest to see who can get laid the most? What next, is Honky Tonk Hero really Elvis? Seriously man, how have you lasted this long? You didn’t even finish high school yet! You brought all these people back to life, provoked me into blowing up half your company, even wasted time on elaborate plans with copies of my armor…why? What good is all this doing Hephaestus?”

That caused my captor to smile. He leaned down close, but not within lunging and biting distance. He also pressed something on the earbud at his collar. “It makes a lot more sense if you realize you’re not the target. You’re a target. A secondary target, in fact.” He paused, probably for dramatic effect.

I made a big show out of gasping in surprise. “Now THAT was hurtful. A secondary target? Me? How dare you?”

He rolled his eyes. “I liked hurting you, but that wasn’t my main goal. I infiltrated this group. My reputation from our last encounter helped with that, and I did good work as an enforcer. I got further than I ever thought I would, but how could I topple the organization? I wasn’t prepared to lead any sort of business. I had reason to believe they would find some way to remove me or work around me if it seemed like I was too incompetent. I needed an external threat.”

“That’s where the boss came in?” asked Carl as twisted his head.

“Exactly,” Gunman answered. “Psycho Gecko attacked Hephaestus from the east coast to the west, not Lone Gunman. As far as others will know, I’m a hero who became a villain. I’m no villain. I am the greatest single hero on this planet. But now you and I know that I crippled Hephaestus and got rid of a few supervillains permanently. Now I’m about to kill you.”

“You must be pretty confident about that part to admit that,” I said to him with a grin. I recorded all of it, of course.

He stood back up and kicked me in the mouth, finally knocking a tooth out. I kept it from falling out of my mouth. “You’ll be squashed like a bug in a few seconds. I can say whatever I want.”

I took aim and spat my tooth into his mouth. Gunman backed away and started coughing, trying to get rid of it. While he was bothered with that, I turned to my master plan for getting out: magic.

Specifically, a spell to make any restraints fall off a person. One of those things I paged over in my time with the same magic book that gave me the Boogeyman summoning ritual. I had recorded the words separately, piecemeal, over the past few days. Now I replayed them all, feeling slivers of power wind through me and the chains. Except when they touched me, something went wrong. It felt like I was burning where I was touched, and the slivers that I felt with some vague sense instead became frayed. It felt like some of the nerves in my body were on fire.

As the spell reached its climax, everything in the room was thrown back away from me, including me. I flew back only a short distance. The chains stopped me, but they didn’t stop me when they should have.

It was a bust. A bust that dislocated my arms. On the plus side, it knocked Lone Gunman off his feet, sent Amplitude rolling, and caused Carl to fall against the wall behind him.

Gunman motioned to Carl, but he couldn’t say anything. He was too busy vomiting up my tooth. A shame it didn’t get caught in his throat when he did that, but people swallow teeth all the time. He put in his earbud and turned it on. “I need men in Psycho Gecko’s cell. He just tried to kill me and he did something that blew up the room kinda. I don’t know what it was.” He slipped his gun out and trained it on me in case I tried that again.

Good luck. Felt like my vocal chords were made of magma, and not just the cybernetic parts.

The reponse over the Hephaestus channels wasn’t what he was looking for. “This is Security Chief Rollins. Take the former Hephaestus Prime into custody, if at all convenient. If he makes it difficult for you, shoot to kill.”

“Oooh, bad luck for you, lil guy,” I said, my voice gravely like I’d been yelling for an hour straight. I chuckled at Gunman’s surprised expression. He looked like that painting “The Scream” when he realized I said that because I was listening in.

He would have shot me then, but the door slid open to reveal his security team. He whirled and fired at them instead, shooting through one to hit another. They retreated in short order and the door slid shut again.

Cussing to himself, the vigilante reloaded his revolver. He swept the gun past me and to the back wall, then fired. Whatever he loaded in there must have had a hell of a lot of kick, because it slammed him into the wall. I heard wind blowing past.

Gunman turned and scrambled around, looking for Amplitude’s head. It was rolled over with him facing the floor. Gunman grabbed him by the headgear and turned him over. “Amplitude, I need you to make me grow. I need to get out of this place.”

“No deal,” said the head.

Gunman stuck his gun in Amplitude’s face, which was easy. There wasn’t really anywhere else to stick a gun on him.

Amplitude showed a lot of balls for only having a head. “Kill me or give me a body. It sounds like you can’t give me a body anymore. You want to shoot, shoot. At least I know you’ll die soon.”

“Fuck!” growled Gunman. Instead of finishing off the head, he swapped out his ammo and stuck something on the end of his barrel. Then he ran for the hole out of my sight, fired at something, and then I heard the sound of a line or a cable or something.

I figured it was time for me to make my grand escape. “Yo, Amplitude. I need a hand.”

“Ha ha. Go to hell,” was his reply. After that, security swarmed into the room and past me.

According to the chatter, Gunman was somehow repelling down the side of the building using some weird gun modification. They glanced at Amplitude, Carl, and me, but filed out of the room. We weren’t going anywhere, as far as they knew.

It was time to reopen negotiations. “I’m serious, Amplitude. You want a body? I’m the guy who can give it to you. I have the stuff to fix up any wound. I’ll just need to rewrite some parameters on the nanites and you’ll be fine. All you have to do is shrink me out of these chains and regrow me once I’m free.”

“I’m probably going to regret this…it wasn’t that long ago we tried to kill each other…but what the heck. Ummmmm, one problem. I can’t see you.”

“Leave that to Carl.” I loaded up the audio from my conversation with Gunman and tweaked my voice a little. Bet y’all didn’t see that coming back when I served as a telephone for Venus, did you? When I spoke again, it was with Lone Gunman’s voice. “Carl, get up, grab the head, and point his face toward me. I swear, the things I do to get a head.”

“Yeah, go boss! Show this armor who’s boss, boss.” He stood up and walked over to Amplitude, obeying my orders. When Amplitude was held at chest height, the decapitated villain’s eyes glowed.

Then I was shrinking amidst falling chains, like a bondage version of Alice falling down the rabbit’s hole. Good thing he shrunk me to about the same size as last time, four inches. Four inches of pure Gecko pleasure, ladies. Heh.

I clambered out and waved both arms up at Amplitude. “After 10,000 years I’m free! It’s time to conquer earth!” I turned and pointed to the hole in the wall and noticed everything changing perspective again. I was back to my regular size again.

I stepped away from the chains and checked out the armor on Carl. “They had to have put in some sort of quick release or something…”

Carl shook his head. “No good, Boss. They welded it on me.”

“Well, then, this is going to make escape more difficult and extraction more painful…but I have an idea.” I ran over to the hole in the wall and glanced down.

I couldn’t see Lone Gunman. I noticed that his lines ended about where there was a new hole in the outside of the building.

We were pants-wettingly far in the air. Too bad for anyone rooting against me, I wasn’t wearing pants. I turned to Amplitude and Carl with a wide grin. I ran over, grabbed Amplitude’s head, and brought him back to the edge to look out. “Magic Amplitude, make my monster grow!”

“Alright, set me down on the ground.”

After setting him down, he zapped me with his eye beams and I felt my body growing. Then my head crashed into the ceiling. “Jump out there, you idiot!” Amplitude yelled at me.

I did so, going for a full frontal leap of faith. Along the way, I noticed everything getting way too close, way too quick. When I brought my hand down to brace my fall, I crushed a convenience store, and was still growing.

Hephaestus had me imprisoned about halfway up a 725 foot tall building. I finished growing as I stood up. “Wow, been awhile since I saw a city like that. Mwahaha, if only the Justice Rangers could see me now.”

I heard a whistle from my left. Turning my head, there was Amplitude and Carl in my old prison. Right. I reached in and gently grabbed both of them. Amplitude was trying to say something, so I lowered my ear to my cupped hands. “Hold on! I’m going to do a controlled shrinking!”

I didn’t know what that meant, but apparently it meant zapping me to a shorter size in fits and starts so I didn’t drop anything.

Fuck that shit, I wasn’t shrinking down by that fucking building. I took a step away, smashing up a shoe store. Huge strides took me far away in no time, even as I left a few destroyed buildings in my wake.

And thus my freedom was secured once again. Naked, with a shot knee, and in debt to a head, but the rest of our escape was as easy as stealing clothes, including a hat for Amplitude, and a car.

As we drove off to find my car and allies, I watched Amplitude bobbing back and forth on the dashboard. He glared at me. “Relax,” I said. “I’ll have you a new body in no time. You know what would loosen you up? A joke. You ever hear the one about Ed the Head?”



Not The Size That Counts 8

The next few days went by quickly. Too quickly. No, don’t worry. I doubt there was any time alteration going on. Sometimes things just seem to happen too fast.

First and most unfortunate, the public nudity is over. We managed to get clothes that fit, though I once again need to get a new coat and shades. That was something that Holly insisted on. Between her and Sam, she generally hasn’t been the assertive one. Either she was particularly upset over this whole ordeal, or she just didn’t care to see jiggly bits longer than necessary.

We all wound up in cheap t-shirts, pants, and sneakers as a result. Max rocked a kind of fancy floofy shirt burgundy jacket goth look. Sam preferred black clothing. I like shades and a long coat. Holly was more for polo shirts and capris. It was a quick fix only. Sam in particular was miffed that she couldn’t find a black t-shirt. She got stuck in periwinkle. At least I got an old wrestling shirt. Give it up for the Blue World Order.

That occupied us with the first night. The next day, we needed to figure out what we had to fight with. That meant checking the trunk to see if the heroes robbed me blind again. Which brings me to one of the great philosophical questions of life: if robbing is said to leave a person blind, and so is rubbing one out, then does that mean that shooting a load of manfluid is the equivalent of someone stealing from you? I mean, considering all the people who tried to get athletes and students to avoid masturbation or sex for fear it would take some of the manliness out of them, I have to wonder if the two ideas are really linked. Also, why has this world worried so much about penises causing eye damage?

The gear I had Leah load up originally was still in the trunk of my car. Troubleshooter may have gone through and messed with parts of my lovely Black Sunshine, but she didn’t get to that stuff. There was a funny moment though when we checked my costume and found more than one packed in there. That’s right, Leah grabbed the Missile Patriot costume too.

I saw it and started laughing. And didn’t stop. That worried Sam, who came over to check. Then she started laughing. Max followed, and then Holly. We had this long giggle fit there in the parking lot of the motel we were at, staring at that costume in there and remembering my brief stint as a hero. It was cathartic, I think. Things were back to normal. We weren’t trapped and the world no longer loomed over us menacingly.

We were free and clear. For the moment. I finished laughing ahead of the others though, as the costume reminded me of Leah. I missed Leah. What’s that, Robot Devil? People can’t just say how they feel? That makes you angry? Is it any wonder that people not being clear like that has been both a tool to create drama and the opposite of what marriage counselors advise?

“Well, who wants to go make the bastards pay?” I asked after we were all chuckled out.

Max raised his hand and hopped up and down like an excited schoolboy. Sam looked over at Holly, who nodded enthusiastically, before giving a nod and a grin of her own in approval.

“Good. From time to time, a person should reinforce for their enemies why they are not to be fucked with, especially when the enemy proceeds to fuck preemptively. My counter fucking shall serve two purposes. We need to get my minions back. I don’t know where either of them are, not really. Carl was shipped off to a distribution center, so he could be anywhere in the States, and possibly a few places in Canada and Mexico. In other words, this fight could go international. Similarly, I’m almost certain they’d have handed Moai over to Faustus. I’ll need to hunt them down too, but that should be a piece of cake. My goal is to inflict grievous harm on Hephaestus until they submit like a little bitch. We shall go on to the end. We shall fuck them in France, we shall fuck on the seas and oceans, we shall fuck them with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, whatever the cost may be. We shall fuck them on the beaches, we shall fuck them on the landing grounds, we shall fuck in the fields and in the streets, we shall fuck in the hills; we shall never fucking surrender. Now, are you with me?”

“Question: you’re using fuck metaphorically, right?” asked Sam.

“Fucking A,” I answered.

“Yeah!” said my pumped-up friend-ish people.

“Alright, now first I need to get to Amplitude. He was going to tell me Moai was with Faustus before we were interrupted. Or at least I think I know that. I’ll talk to him, confirm that, and see if he feels like telling me where they are. Considering I’ll be in the same room with him while he’s on life support, I feel like he’ll want to cooperate with me.”

“Actually, I have a better idea,” Sam spoke up. She leaned against the shiny black body of the car.


“Not that. I think Amplitude will be more comfortable if you aren’t in the room. You can send a go-between with a phone. That way anybody watching the hospital won’t clue in on you right away.”

“Not bad. Careful, now you’re getting involved in my schemes, Sam.”

“Pfft, yeah right. This isn’t all about you, you hear? I want this bastard hurt too. I just want a front row seat to whatever you dish out.”

“Sometimes I destroy the first few rows.”

“A metaphorical front row.”

“Gotcha. I’m getting a perfect idea. My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”

“Gecko,” said Max, “You use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.”

“That may be, but this twenty dollar whore is going to need a dump truck, lots of sugar, a singing greeting card, and a crane. Hmmm…no, a crane and a pair of giant rubber bands, like the surplus that gets sold to North Korea for its rocket program. Get me all that, people, and I think we’ve got ourselves a plan.”

They got me all that. The details would be mostly boring, as the trio were quite happy to see this whole thing happen. It just took a couple days.

I worried about finding the target in the meantime. Luckily, I still had my guy in the know. Harlon. The pudgy news executive was doing well for himself, especially when I dropped some juicy tidbits of information. I even gave him a tip about coming attractions, though it was contingent upon getting the scoop about Amplitude. Good fellow, Harlon. He had been part of a trio of guys trying to produce this series that would have involved delving into the pasts of supervillains. It was inevitable they’d run into someone who wasn’t happy about that kind of attention. I killed the other two and gave Harlon a run down of why I am the way I am. I also killed some other high-falootin’ asshole over there. I kept Harlon alive, though. Good guy to have owe me his life. It worked out for him too. He’s been on the fast track to success ever since those obstacles were removed from his path and he grew a backbone.

My past wasn’t fun, but then neither are a lot of people’s. It’s not uncommon for someone who wants to be all-powerful to have come from a life where they had no power and only ate when others had mercy. If they bothered to look around in the cracks of their society, with its millions of debtors, its hungry, its disenfranchised masses yearning to have a say in the world, then they’d have seen the problem. Any one of them would be rightly resentful of the kind of life Forcelight has had.

That got me the “where” and I gave him the “when”. “The Who” was a British band from the 1960s. The “who” was Sam Hain, loyal henchwoman to Mix N’Max. She went in pretending to belong there, carrying a card and flowers. Once she got into a bathroom, she changed into some store bought scrubs. She still had to get through the police guard detail and the silent, judging stare of Mechamoto Musashi. She said she snuck in by stealing a bag of IV fluid and claiming Amplitude’s needed to be switched out.

Once she was in, she pulled the card out of the scrubs and set it in on this tray table that she moved so Amplitude would have to look right at it. According to the camera inside the card, he was in bad shape. They had him all hooked up to machines for everything from breathing to crapping. They may have been a lot of hypocrisy in my dislike of him, but there was a fair bit of it at his own depression over being left in such a powerless position.

At least the card was encouraging. It featured yours truly on the front in a lab coat, holding a bloody bonesaw and a grin that I suppose some people might have interpreted as “malicious”. It said, “Sorry to hear about your spine.” The inside featured me again, nude, miniature in comparison to my surroundings in a lab, with blood all around and a laser gun in one hand. The camera lens was in the gun barrel. “But you fucked up when you went after me and mine. Get well soon.”

Amplitude’s heart rate increased at that.

“Hey, calm down, calm down. I’m not in the room, nor do I have any intention of stepping foot in that building. My associates have talked me out of that, figuring it would be beneficial. After all, you don’t have to worry I’ll kill you if you say the wrong thing. So speak to me, man. Where’s Moai? Do you have any more information about where the other people were taken?”

His voice was gravelly when he spoke. He hadn’t put it to much use. “Why should I talk?”

“That’s a very good question for you to ask a guy with regenerative nanotechnology. Sam, do you have the package with you?”

She didn’t know what I was talking about, but Amplitude couldn’t turn his head anyway. She glanced down at the IV bag and answered, “Yeah. I have it.”

“Good. See, Ass Man, you can answer and get yourself healed all without me being present? Isn’t that the best deal ever?”

“You hate me. Why would you heal me?”

“I’m eccentric. I’m allowed to randomly forgive people.”

“I don’t trust you. That could be poison.”

“I don’t trust you either. You might lie to me and escape.”

He looked at me. I looked back at him.

“Sam, put the bag full of a mysterious substance in there so that Amplitude’s hungry hungry veins drink it allllll up.”

“Wait, whoever you are, that’s not poison is it?”

Sam smirked where Amplitude couldn’t see. “I don’t know. He’s the one who made it. I was just supposed to come here and hook it up to you know matter what you said.”

“I won’t let you get played for a fool. Let me see it. I’m a doctor. I know what I’m talking about.”

Sam pulled out a marker and wrote on the bag. Then she held it out in front of Amplitude’s face, blocking my view. When she pulled it away, there was triumph in his eyes. Sam showed me the writing on it as well. It read “Good stuff. I promise,” with a smiley face underneath it.

“Aha! I knew it was too good to be true. That’s what separates the- Wait, don’t put it in.”

“Put it in, Sam.”

“Do not put that in. I-..alright, I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

“You heard him, Sam. Let’s hold off on giving him our little bag of Super Secret Tofu-Rectal Thermoganglia Arrestus after all.” It wasn’t the bluff I was originally going for, but it worked out.

“Your rock man is with Faustus. They found him fascinating. They’re separate from Hephaestus, but I was a company man and I did some crossover acquisitions work with them. Your best bet is New Orleans. They have another major set up in California, but they do not like to keep all their eggs in one basket. Magical artifacts can interfere with each other and do some horrid things.”

“So, New Orleans. N’awlins. Okily dokily, looks like Faustus is in hot jambalaya now. What about the distribution center for the other people? Anything at all you can tell me? Guards, security procedures, obvious holes?”

“They rely on appearing to be a normal distributor. You need the right identity badge to get in, but their guards are from in house. They keep backup in the area, out of sight. They are as lax as anyone about their trucks as long as drivers have their credentials.”

Naturally, I didn’t trust him to have told me the whole story, and I couldn’t confirm a thing he said, but he backed up my hypothesis that Faustus had Moai. The rest of this info I could hold on to and see how it worked later.

“I think you can go now, Sam. Don’t forget to take your bag of perfectly harmless fluid with. Might as well leave this card here. I’m sure nothing will convince Ass Master there to get well enough to go to jail quite like this encouraging card. Isn’t that right, Ass Master?”

“I thought I was Ass Man?”

“Silence, Ass Hole! See you later, Sam.”

Sam waved and got out of there.

Meanwhile, back where I was, I was getting honked at by some frustrated behind me who wished I’d go already. I was in a ground floor parking lot near the hospital, driving a dump truck. It was time for me to do my thing, so the driver behind me got their wish. I stopped holding up navigation as I put the truck into gear and accelerated. I didn’t stop. I gained speed as parked cars blurred on either side of me as I aimed for the edge of the lot. I hit the side of the lot and hopped it, tires bouncing over the divider. It was then that my truck caught the rubber bands hanging down from the crane.

They strained against the cab of the truck as I kept going, speeding into an intersection past my car Black Sunshine. Holly gave me a thumbs up as cars honked angrily at her where she’d stopped the car to bring traffic to a halt. I stopped getting anywhere as Max moved the crane’s arm back toward the hospital. The front of the truck and the cab’s windshield both made unfriendly noises from where the bands strained against them.

I took a moment to crawl my ass out the window and just over one of the bands, then held on to the cab and the edge of the rear dumpy holdy place. Not sure what the technical name is for where all the sugar was. Or all the ants. There were a lot of them in there an they were pissed, probably because I grabbed so many different hives of them.

Then the truck, the ants, and I were all yanked back as the bands snapped back and the crane lifted us into the air. The truck’s rear dipped lower than the rest of it so that when it crashed into the side of the hospital, it spilled a massive pile of sugar covered in warring ants into the hospital room where it crashed. Completely by coincidence, wink wink, that happened to be Amplitude’s room. Funny how that worked out.

The flaw in my plan was that I had gotten used to not being hurt by running into things and wasn’t wearing my armor, so things weren’t quite so coincidentally advantageous where I splatted into the wall. I didn’t completely fall down as I did manage to slow myself down through wild scrabblings at the wall and windows. When my concussion cleared up, I was actually really impressed with how I did there. Still didn’t stop me from landing hard on the sidewalk.

I wasn’t much looking forward to standing up and walking, but I had a hand from Sam. She helped me up and let me lean on her as we went to meet Holly at the car.

“You’re probably going to ruin your seats, you know?” Sam said.

“That’s just from the rain. I didn’t bring a jacket,” I told her.

“It’s not raining and it’s only your pants that are wet.”

“Right, I didn’t bring my leg jacket. It’s a thing in Australia.”

“Sure it is. What about the back of your pants? That’s definitely not-“

“It’s delicious chocolate pudding. I brought it along as a snack and then landed on it.”

“Uh huh. Then let me be the first to thank you for your sacrifice. As long as it got rid of that bastard, I don’t care if you lost your pudding or your pants jacket.”

“Why thank you, Sam. Please inject me with tiny robots and wake me when I’m dry.”

And with that I was out.




Not The Size That Counts 6

You know, I could have gone to any ole dimension. I could have even visited you readers out there. Instead, I wound up in this one. Let me tell you, they don’t treat me well. No parades in my honor, no people falling at my feet willing to serve. It’s enough to make a guy feel unwelcome.

Locking me up behind bars was a bad way for them to start. I arrived in this dimension originally at the epicenter of an explosion that destroyed some buildings and killed some people. Next thing I knew, they yanked my armor off me and had me all locked up. Can you believe that? Horrible way to treat some disoriented person who didn’t even know the language. Unlike most illegal aliens, though, they couldn’t exactly deport me. Instead, they were going to settle on leaving me in jail while they tried to bring in a linguist, a lawyer, and a psychiatrist to evaluate me.

I wish I could have thought up a bar joke about that back when it was happening, but I didn’t even know what a bar joke was.

I mention all this because this dimension has never let up on treating me bad, even regularly failing to comprehend my thought processes.

First off, they didn’t let me keep the robots. Not Venus, not Leah, not Forcelight or Troubleshooter or Mechamoto Musashi. I thought Mechamoto would at least have the stomach for the dead bodies, but no. When they caught up to me in the basement of a chemical plant, wrecking Hephaestus experiments, they wanted me to freeze as much as they wanted the Hephaestus scientists to. Ingrates.

That goes back to that whole “other people as a weakness” thing I’ve been recognizing. If I’d treated them like they deserved to be treated, as enemies, I wouldn’t have had this problem. This problem that started with Troubleshooter holding me up by the back of my kilt.

“Aww, who’s a cute evil little Mel Gibson?”

“Nae Mel Gibson! I’m Nac Mac Gecko! I willnae be handled by ye, boggin bigjob!”

“He’s like a real live Smurf…with a bodycount!” She poked me with a waldo. I tried to grab on and pull, but it backed out of my grasp.

“What were you doing here dressed like that, Gecko?” asked Forcelight as she stepped up. I glanced over my shoulder to see she’d covered her eyes to avoid looking down up my kilt. Fun fact: It’s called a kilt because that’s the fate of anyone who makes fun of the guy wearing one.

I answered her question by pointing to animal cages in the corner. “Ta’ coo beasties!”

She looked over at the cows, some of which had an unusual number of limbs and tiger-striped fur, but didn’t get the significance. “Crivens! Ta’ Hephaestus bigjobs cannae ha’ a lab for bogling ta’ coo beasties wi’ yon science, ye daftie.”

“And the blue body paint and kilt help because…?” she asked.

“Ach, ahm a wee free man. Nac Mac Gecko! Gimme back mah antigravity doohickey!” I worked hard on that antigravity doohickey. I had to pull the schematics from when Max and I stole it for Hephaestus.

It wasn’t easy building it in miniature, which was why I didn’t take it with me to the robot lab. As usual, killing people helped me figure out how to handle the problem of making such a small version, so I went back to the hotel room and grabbed it while they were out trying to track me down at the robot lab. Once I got it the hang of what I was doing and completed it, I found it was great for removing the effects of gravity from an object. Little as I was, I’d been able to throw mutated cows around at this place.

“Can I dress him up in something else? A little tux, maybe?” Troubleshooter asked Forcelight with a grin. At first I thought she knew where I was coming from, but something about her eyes when she smiled and the camera on her goggles made me think she wanted to embarrass me more than join in on the fun.

“No, but we’ll probably get better answers out of him if you clean him up,” suggested Venus from Leah’s shoulder. They were in costume alongside the heroes.

“Agreed. Now, into the box,” said Forcelight with a nod. It was returned by Troubleshooter, Mechamoto Musashi, and probably my other two companions if I wanted to be honest about their opinions of me.

I don’t want to be honest about that, though. They wept like babies as Troubleshooter’s waldo dropped me. It quickly reformed into a funnel that sucked me up like a vacuum and deposited me into a metal containers with air holes that decreased in frequency the lower down they went. I could still access networks outside the box. There wasn’t much I could do inside it. I had enough room to lie down and stand up, but I wouldn’t be pulling off any gymnastics routines in there.

While in there, I felt my robots getting destroyed. I pieced them together from the Hephaestus robotics lab I’d raided. I still had some of the little Roomba-looking disc bots, and I even got some of the torsos on wheels to work, but I couldn’t bring the big robot with me. I disconnected its line from the wall, figuring I could take it on battery power or on the power from my internal core. In no time flat, the battery screwed up and blew up, taking out half the robot.

That’s why the place I got them from was a lab and not a factory.

Anyway, after that, I was alone in my box for a good long time, listening in as they chatted away. None of it was about me, and it wasn’t much like a lot of conversations I have. Where were the insults, the lack of comprehension, the implied threats? Where were the fun and games with survivors of my little attack?

It’s stuff like that that fills me with the confusing combination of hatred and longing. Then that causes hatred of longing and longing for hatred, and before too long I’m humping the skull of a dead giraffe because necrophiliac bestiality is easier to deal with than thinking too much about those people and their friendships. Back me up, I can’t be the only one who is like that.

It was Venus who slid down and spoke to me from outside one of the air holes. “Hey, Gecko. We’ve come up with a plan and for some reason they think you’ll be more receptive to hearing it from me.”

As if I hadn’t overheard. They were all crowded into my car, after all. Heroes were driving around in my car while I was stuck in a box. Longing stopped being a contender for my emotional focus at that point.

I threw my kilt at the air hole.

I was supposed to be a building-jumping, dog-humping, donkey-punching, Cheetoes-munching, wheeling, dealing, plane-flying, supercar-riding son of a gun. Whooo! I beat on the box I wasn’t supposed to be locked in.

“Hey, hey, calm down! You’ll hurt yourself,” Venus said. Then she muttered something to herself. She probably wanted me to hurt myself.

Fuming, I sat down.

“You good?” she asked.

“I’m listening. Ready to tell me about how you’re going to Amplitude to give him me in exchange for making you big again.” That was as far as they got. Give me to Amplitude and let him re-biggerize Venus.

“How are you psychic now?”

I put the brakes on for the car. “This is my car. Even now. Even reduced to this. You should have made this plan with me, not made this plan about me.”

I heard Leah through cell phones. “It stopped on its own. The gas isn’t doing anything. I can’t move the wheel. The windows won’t even go down. What’s going on?”

The Alice in Chains song “Man In The Box” began to play to provide a hint and because I thought it was clever at the time. That’s how you’ll know if I ever become a god somehow, by the way. Any world I rule will come with its own soundtrack.

Somewhat chastened, Venus spoke to me through the holes. “Even if you wanted to trap us in here, Forcelight could tear her way out. Mechamoto’s can cut his way out. Troubleshooter could force the doors to unlock. I understand you want to be included in the process, but you need people like us if you want to be big again. We don’t need you. Besides, I think you might like this one?”

“Oh yeah?”

“You don’t think we’re going to just leave you in there and expect you to play nice for Amplitude, do you?”

That made a difference. It still didn’t excuse the hose. They took me to a house, possibly even a safehouse, and started prepping for the deal. Troubleshooter got me clean while Forcelight used a number from the Hephaestus paperwork to call Amplitude. They still didn’t bother letting me out of the box.

In between sprayings, I shouted out to them, “Whew, I’ve never spend so much time in a box as when I’m hanging out with Venus and Forcelight, eh?”

Troubleshooter sprayed me with the bubbles.

“Did I offend you, Troubleshooter? I’m really having fun in your wet box, you know.”

She hosed me again. “Pig.”

“Ok, I get it, I get it. It cleans the blue gunk off its skin or else it gets the hose again. Anyone ever tell you you have all the fuzzy sweetness of John Wayne Gacy?”

I got the hose again. She didn’t have to take that one as an insult, though. The guy was known for dressing up as a clown and entertaining children. You might say he put the fun in “functioning sociopath.” Or not, whatever floats your boat.

When my time playing a ship’s anchor was at an end and I was all prettied up according to the standards of four women and a cyber samurai, they took me to Amplitude. According to their plan, Troubleshooter broke off to set up something nasty to keep Amplitude honest in his dealings.

I was carried in a box, but I could still listen in on the phones and computer mics of the place.

“You are the superheroes who called? I’ve seen you bunch. You were Shieldwall.” That was Amplitude.

“That’s right.” That was Forcelight. The ever stoic asskicker. Strong. Flight capable. Durable. Never liked me much. I killed her adopted dad. She had me and my box in her hands. She continued, “I hope we won’t have a problem dealing with you. Psycho Gecko is erratic. He’d stab you as soon as look at you. I hope you’re more reasonable.”

“I am. It was the unreasonable threats of your little nemesis that forced my employers to send me after him. It’s a shame that those like him expect to be treated like kings. Me, I just hope to get by.”

“By stealing.”

“I do what I must. There is no chaos in what I do. No needless death.”

Venus spoke up and she sounded even angrier than most of the times we talked, “Medicine like what you stole in Seattle that time was meant for sick people. Those deaths were needless. That was chaotic enough for their families. ”

“You heroes are nitpicky, aren’t you? No, I think you are just mad because you’ve been shrunk. I am sorry for that. I was aiming for Psycho Gecko, not you. You have my gratitude for bringing him to me. I am at your service.”

“You took more people, too. Are you at their service?”

“They were bad people too. I have his friend, Mix N’Max. He is even worse than Psycho Gecko in some ways. He creates addicts and enslaves people to his drugs. They both have killed heroes, remember? We don’t owe this scum anything. I owe you, though.”

I have to assume that he kept his word. No fighting broke out. Troubleshooter didn’t blow up the building with a flaming ass-cannon. Instead, Venus sounded louder and happier when she asked, “How do I look?”

“About right. Maybe even taller than you were before,” said a digitally-altered voice. Mechamoto Musashi. I doubt he liked me, but he had always been so quiet. I wondered, and still wonder, if anyone ever told him he didn’t have to live up to the stereotype of being a silent samurai.

The box shifted and I lost my footing. The bottom was still slick. “Here you go, one boxed Gecko,” said Forcelight. The box changed hands. That part wasn’t according to plan. The top of my container opened and a masked face peeked in at me.

“Hello Psycho Gecko. You are mine now.”

I gave him the finger. He laughed and closed the top again.

According to the plan they told me, they would take down Amplitude after finding out if he had Max. That he bragged about it was even better, but they were changing things up.

“Don’t forget this,” Leah said. She never did pick out a name. A pretty teen who had gained confidence and learned to fight back against bullies under my tutelage. I had taken a non-romantic liking to her, though I suspected her of taking a more romantic liking to me.

I was wrong on that point.

“What’s this?” Amplitude wondered.

“It’s a power dampener,” answered Forcelight sternly. “It’s hard to shut him down, but that will make him compliant if you feel the need to take him out of the box. Trust me, we’ve put a lot of work into that.”

The top of my cell opened again. There was mirth in the eye of Amplitude as he looked in, but he didn’t address me. “I think it will be awhile before I need to take him out, but thank you, heroes. I don’t believe he is going to trouble you for a long time. He will be interesting to study before I turn him over.”

Like I said, this dimension has treated me badly. Now the heroes and the ungrateful Leah have delivered me to Amplitude like the world’s most foul-mouthed fucking collectable. At least he’s close enough that I bounced a signal to my laptop and got it to send up an update.

There’s no one else to call in to help me out of here. As the heroes have been so kind enough to remind me, all I have is myself.

Too bad for Amplitude and too bad for the heroes. Other people would ask me to be merciful when I get out of here. On my own? I don’t feel like it.




Girl With No Name 8

Sometimes, I wonder if allies…or, to be more honest, friends are a weakness. Somehow they’ve accumulated around me. Moai was meant to be a temporary ally. Carl got on my good side that time. Max has been one of the best at understanding me, but it’s been at a distance. Even while he’s been here, we haven’t gone and done a whole lot together. No two-man crime sprees aside from that job with Hephaestus. Sam and Holly like me in a sort of vitriolic way. I let them get away with a lot in how they treat me. A little too much, perhaps. Good Doctor was good to hang with, too, though he didn’t like me much. That probably made it easier for him to go to jail. It was better that he supposedly redeem himself by sitting in jail and giving up info to his hero daughter than be out there killing bad people.

I haven’t been able to understand them all that well, but there was a connection. A connection I haven’t liked. Like that whole business with the Sexahol. Holding friends of mine hostage, using them against me. Hesitating to take on Forcelight now, for some reason, because I was thinking of my friends. Venus, the unpowered vigilante whose boyfriend I killed, handicapped me more by taking Leah under her wing than she ever did when I lost that arm fighting her.

It’s because friends expect something of me. They expect, despite everything they should know, that I have some sort of redeemable qualities in me. Contrary to my nature, I sometimes try to humor them. As you may have noticed, dear readers, it doesn’t work very well.

So let me tell you what got me all contemplative about my friends here, at the end of Leah’s little month.

There I was in my office, outside of my armor, checking on a few things. It turns out Hephaestus didn’t follow through. I hadn’t bothered following up because they sent over the pizzas that one day, but that was all they sent. I was following up on the whole thing and found that my contact numbers for them didn’t work anymore. Good thing I had Max around. He could get them for me, I figured.

I actually called him in, but there was something else I wanted to discuss first.

“Max, I want to run something by you here. I think I’ve figured out who is the culprit at the heart of all these snack crimes recently.”

“Snack crimes?” he asked as he sat down.

I readied my pointer and pulled down a chart showing drawings of a cookie, a Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo wearing a Punisher shirt, Kermit the Frog, a flag with a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear, and a pair of handcuffs.

“Yes. Cookies, cream, crumpets, kipper, and just yesterday somebody stole an entire truck of caramel. The actor who plays the Cookie Monster has come back clean…a little too clean. I think he knows something, and I think Big Bird and Kermit the Frog are in on it. It all has to do with Black Beard, of course, whose treasure the Muppets once found, I think. I didn’t finish that movie. But they probably did, and I suspect they used that money to set up various snack companies as investments, because the American fat market is expanding. As we all know, it has expanded rapidly, with stocks in ass fat futures growing out of control. Sesame Street pushes for good diets and exercise, but they keep a Cookie Monster on payroll, so we wind up with a Cold War situation that’s actually to the mutual benefit of Muppets and the Sesame Street gang. Sesame Street gets paid money to fight against fatty stuff, while the Muppet liaison Cookie Monster helps to coordinate with the Muppets so that the Muppets snack food ventures can benefit from seemingly being targeted by “the man,” which here refers to actual men as opposed to puppets. No word yet whose pulling those puppets’ strings, but I believe this recent escalation can be traced back to one man and one man only…Elmo.”

“Why Elmo?”

“Recently, he was replaced for suspicion of molesting children. A suspicion he beat in court like an overly-talkative child. You can tell by his ever so slight change in voice. That’s not the real Elmo, and he’s not in on the game like the old Elmo was. This Elmo is a one-man army, an anti-snack vigilante. This time, he’s out to kick the Muppets right in the cream puffs.”

“Actually, I think I did it.”

I looked up from where I pointed at the Punisher Elmo. “Huh?”

“Yeah, since I’ve been in town, I’ve been selling this strain of mutant super marijuana. I think this is all just a case of the super munchies.”

I looked from him to the chart.

“It could make sense…how much is Elmo paying you to protect him?”

“Nothing, man. I’ve made good enough money selling off what I call ‘Booster Gold’.”

So even though I forgot all about calling in Hephaestus at that time, I did solve the mystery of the snack crimes.

It may not have gotten me anywhere to talk to them, as the night’s events would show. I got called away talking about Max’s Super Pot by Carl, who also congratulated me on the car lift from the back of the club to the underground lair. He liked having a proper garage down there.

That wasn’t why he called me away, though. He called me away because Leah wanted to talk to me. Not in her room, not in the club, nothing like that. She wanted me to talk to her across the street.

It smelled to me like her new friend was rubbing off on her. That sounded hot. Ow! Stop that, Leah!

I didn’t pull my armor on before I left to meet her, placing some measure of faith in the inherent goodness of humanity and my own ability to kill just about anything I get my hands on. One of those factored in more than the other. I was partially correct in my paranoid suspicion. I found Leah there in her costume, still colored purple and blue, but a familiar woman in a tight white, gold, and pink costume stepped out of the shadows behind her.

“Aha! So, Venus, using mere airheaded teenage girls to set up your ambushes, are you?”


“Shush, Leah, I didn’t mean you.”

“Cute, Gecko. Once again, your tongue proves to be more trouble than its worth.”


“Not like that, Leah. He and I are NOT like that.”

I waved my hands, “Ok, we’ve gotten sidetracked already. Why have I been called out here? Is this about your decision, Leah?”

I looked to her. She had her chin lowered somewhat and held her arms more by her sides. She hadn’t looked so nervous since the beginning of this month. Finally, she spoke. “You said you would give me a month. You were great. You gave me a place to stay when I didn’t have anything. Money. You taught me a lot about how to hurt people, and you made a good case for why it’s necessary sometimes.” She motioned to Venus, beginning to speak louder over some helicopter flew closer over the area, “And you let me learn about being a hero, too. That took guts. Especially with your…um…friend here. You two have a history. She taught me a lot about what it means to help people. It’s kind of like you taught me how to fight against something and she taught me how to fight for something. There was something you both suggested that I think I’ll do. I don’t have to decide right now. I’ve got a little money now, and she’s got friends who can fix things with the law. Things have died down since Captain Thunder killed that guy. I-“

She didn’t finish her obvious attempt to embrace neutrality because a guy in a red and purple costume with a big letter “A” on the chest jumped from a helicopter, grew 100 feet tall in midair, and landed on the building behind my club. It resisted gravity for a couple of seconds before giving up the futile battle. In that time, Venus pulled Leah back toward the alley and stepped up beside me.

“Friend of yours?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No. I’ve seen him before, though. He’s been stealing things in Silicon Valley.”

“Do you guys need help?” asked Leah from behind us.

I turned and shooed her away. “Get out of here. You don’t want any part of this. Besides, guy this big, it should be easy to get my hand up his ass.” I turned back around, ignoring Venus’s angry glare directed at me, then added, “Rotating him sixty-three degrees, now that’ll be a bitch to pull off.” My next words were directed toward the big man. “Hey, asshole, we’re trying to have a dramatic moment here! Come back next week.”

“Are you nuts? Think for one second!” yelled Venus.

“This is the wrong time entirely for this sort of shit. I have readers to think about. You really think it’s realistic for some new big thing to come in and interrupt another important thing like this?”

Venus didn’t answer before the man addressed me, though he was looking at the club.

“Psycho Gecko!” shouted the man, his voice causing a rumble through the area. “Hephaestus would like you to know that no one is afraid of your threats anymore.”

A beam of light shot from his eyes, rolling over the club. The club disappeared beneath his gaze.

“We’ve got to go!” Venus said. She grabbed my wrist and pulled. I stood my ground.

“Uh uh, bitch isn’t gonna get away with killing my club. I just got that thing put together.”

“He hasn’t killed anyone yet. Fine, why do I bother?”

She let go, but Venus’s costume must have drawn this big fellow’s attention, because the next thing I knew, both of us were engulfed in the multi-colored eye beams I’d seen hit the club.

To my surprise, I didn’t wake up dead. I didn’t wake up. I was still awake, that’s why. Also to my surprise, I found that I was in what looked like a whole new world. A world where Venus had stopped trying to pull me and was instead cussing up a storm. We were now the same height for some reason.

It was when Leah’s giant face leaned in close that I figured out what happened.

“We’ve been shrunk,” I said.

“Woah, you two, are you alright?” Leah asked, making things a little windier.

Venus gave her a thumbs up. “If we’re not dead after taking a breath, then we’ll be fine like this for now.”

“He fucking shrunk us?”

“He shrinks things, Gecko. That’s ‘A’ on his chest stands for his name. Amplitude. It’s related to size.”

“I thought it was for ‘asshole’ as in ‘Giant Asshole.’”

“Worry about nomenclature later, Gecko. This is all your fault. Every bit of niceness towards you makes things worse. Leah, be a dear? I need to get out of here, so I have to drag you back into this a little longer.”

Leah nodded her assent and lowered her hands down. We each fit in a hand. “You guys are like little toys.” She set us on her shoulders. I checked out the scene to see if Amplitude had spotted us. So did Venus and Leah. We all got a good look at Amplitude picking up the shrunken club and handing it to someone in the helicopter, which then lowered. A squad of armed men filed out and began checking the area with magnifying glasses.

Venus and I both clambered over to get inside her hood. “I have friends who can restore me to normal. You didn’t have to bring Gecko, by the way. I think we can find gerbil cage to hold him once we get out of here.”

“No. I am not getting handed over to a bunch of heroes while I’m a damn G.I. Gecko action figure. Leah, see that manhole down there?” I grabbed the edge of the hood and hung out a ways to point at one in the sidewalk.

“What about it?” she asked in a whisper.

“It’s not as heavy as it looks. Take it down and then back toward the club. It leads into the lair. We need to grab a few things before going. Destroy some files.”

“You got it,” she said. She went to lift the manhole and found it weighed much less than a normal one. She shimmied down the ladder and coughed as she got used to the smell.

“We shouldn’t do this. We should leave before Gecko gets us all caught. That’s probably his plan. He’s arrogant enough to think he can break out of captivity and kill everyone.”

“Shut up, Super Barbie.”

“Ken doll.”

“Why you tiny son of a-!”

“Shut up both of you. Whatever we do, I’m not turning Gecko over easily. He helped me out in a bad time.”

After a short, bouncy jog through a tunnel, she pushed up against a door that was hidden behind a picture frame holding a painting of a door.

“Ok, the car should be in the back, either on the car lift or right by it. Get me close and I can pop the trunk.”

It was hectic. We were all nervous, especially as large footsteps pounded overhead. First we had to get to the car. I unlocked it and got the trunk open, then directed Leah to grab my costume, my nanite thing, and the laptop I currently have the extradimensional blogger tech in. While she was busy grabbing all that, I had her drop me off at the computer.

My abilities present some interesting problems when dealing with computerized systems larger than myself. A member of my race can get absorbed into something like that if they aren’t careful. I was pissed off, but I couldn’t kick ass if my feet were stuck in a computer tower. I merged with it just enough to purge the data, just in case these Hephaestus fuckers felt like searching through it for schematics.

While I was doing that, I found I had a new email waiting for me.

“Dear Psycho Gecko,

Due to lack of cooperation, we at Hephaestus are forced to terminate our account with you. Due to your hostility and threats of retaliation, we hope this message finds you in a much reduced capacity. We at Hephaestus will not tolerate being bullied by the reputation of a self-important supervillain who spends half his time pretending to be dead. Now you can spend your days at a size which we think best matches your importance to our organization.”

It ended with their symbol, an anvil, hammer, and tongs.

“That’s everything. Ready to go?”

I blinked and looked up at Leah, then finished the last of the deletions while arming the local self destruct. “Sure thing, biggy.”

Gunshots rang out as Leah ran for the car, deflecting off the car’s armor. She punched the button that started the lift and slid into the seat, slamming the door closed. I wasn’t in a position to worry about the car door.

“How do you turn this thing on?” she asked, losing her cool.

“Calm down, I got this,” I said and tapped myself on the head. At that instant, thanks to a signal, the car started.

When we reached the top, it was between the legs of Amplitude. He was ready to grab us, but what he didn’t count on was Leah having the nerves of a caffeinated rabbit. He didn’t get us, even if I was thrown back against the back of Leah’s hood.

As I crawled back out and onto Leah’s shoulder, Venus called out to me. “Woops, you should have worn your seatbelt!” she taunted from where she sat in the passenger seat, mostly covered up by the seat belt she’d managed snap in. I gave her the finger, then turned my attention back to the escape.

“How are we doing?”

Leah’s response was a little too loud, “They have that chopper following us. Amplitude gave up after shrinking half the neighborhood.”

“Right. Hey, you’re going to have to drive like no one can see you, ok?”


I hit the active camouflage. The view on the windshield went from that of a window to that of a live camera view as the car disappeared similar to my suit’s invisibility.

“Ta da! I have made the car disappear!”

The night wouldn’t be complete without another rumble. This one was accompanied by an explosion from the direction of the lair.

“What was that?” Leah and Venus asked at once.

“Just one of my parting gifts,” I told them. I grinned as murderous thoughts of revenge passed through my head.

The other parting gift was a little email I sent back to Hephaestus. Not too much to it.

“Dear Hephaestus,

Missed me. See you soon.

Hugs and kisses,
The Great and Devious Psycho Gecko”