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.