Tag Archives: Black Raptor

Arete in Destruction 7

It looks like I have a new minion and this one fits in a lot better than Moai. Admittedly, Moai gets a lot fewer looks than you’d think for a giant bouncing Moai, but he has weight and size problems.

So I have Carl now. You may remember him as the robber who called me “Psycho” and threatened the tellers. Moai seemed cool to hear about it. He’s finally feeling better, I think. The cracks are all closed up on him. A little thick, I’ll admit, but I’ve got the brains and Moai has the stones. All we’d need is some beauty and we might have a full-fledged team.

Speaking of beauty, next time I see Dame, I’m going to show her a nice recording of Venus giving up her name to me, the marvelously maligned Psycho Gecko.

Eh…that’s kinda iffy. Maybe I can get away with calling myself great and devious, but marvelously maligned is a bit of a stretch unless I start carrying around a staff. On the plus side, I could rock a bitchin’ visor…hmmm. Nah, not worth it. Those types always wind up surrounded by incompetent subordinates who do nothing but screw up their otherwise-great plans to conquer the world.

Ah yes, speaking of plans, I put some in action to deal with my own rogue’s gallery of heroes. Or would you call that a Robin’s gallery?

Nonetheless, I set out to do some damage to the heroes assembled against me. Or should I say, disassembled. With the jet down, travel time has greatly increased for the heroes. Sure, Forcelight and Honky Tonk Hero can zip anywhere they want, but even the more mobile Gorilla Awesome, Black Raptor, and Troubleshooter can’t make other states in any sort of timely matter.

That was the point, after all. It reminds me of a story, though it’ll probably make about as much sense to you as any of the others. See, these Mongols were facing a numerically superior force, so they fled. And fled. And fled. The enemy went after them, exhausting themselves and separating their force as some lagged behind others. So the Mongols turned around and killed them piece by piece.

From my reconnaissance, I can also tell they’re not all in the same spot. With Long Life no longer so friendly to the team, they can’t just go around commandeering labs and office buildings. Maybe they could scrounge up enough money to rent such a space, but who knows what bills are piling up. At the very least, they need some cool cars for transportation until they get a new jet, if they’re going to get a new jet.

This is a big city, too. With my base gone and my new headquarters unknown, I was betting on them splitting up some to handle patrols and any Gecko-related incidents. My petty crimes helped confirm that one.

Now, at the end of the day, finding out where a hero lays his head is as simple as following them home. That’s made incredibly easy if you can turn invisible and zoom in with your helmet. So I have a few boltholes down.

First one up to bat: the lovely Miss Tycism. I love picking on her. It’s not even about tearing her loincloth off yet again. It’s the magic. Magic sucks. There are some theories out there by psychiatrists who believe that there are four different conceptions of the universe for each of the various power classifications. They’re trying to find out if it all has to do with viewpoints so fundamentally different in thinking that it provokes an instinctive opposition to it. Mystical, like Miss Tycism or Captain Flamebeard, opposes technological, like Troubleshooter or Miss Communication. Biological, like Venus or Breakdown, in opposition to scientific, like Forcelight or Ouroboros. As a bit of an odd quirk, Scientific was originally going to be just Chemical instead, but then there was all the radiation that started causing stuff.

They like to do it up like a + or an X so that each opposing source of power is across from its nemesis. Magic and technology are well known for opposition between each side, but neither of them seem to oppose natural or scientific. Biological and scientific also dislike each other like a jock on a beach kicking sand in a 1950s nerd’s face, but once again, there’s crossover with the perpendicular axes. There is, after all, a strong link between science and technology, but there was also stuff like alchemy for a long time. As for the biological types, who are naturally so good, there’s nothing stopping them from using a magic sword or power armor that they didn’t create and don’t understand.

And then, what muddies the whole thing up is that you just don’t always know. How can Good Doctor see inside people or through things? I don’t know. Could be a strange genetic mutation that would give evolutionary scientists a hard-on, or it could be exposure to strange environmental factors like a chemical spill. What exactly is Max’s power from? Hell if I know. His concoctions seem like magic to me, but he seems to think he’s being scientific about it in his own way.

That’s why I prefer to suggest that any psychiatrists who spend too long theorizing about all this instead go get a nice set of happy pills from the psychiatrists who actually see patients. Especially when they start trying to figure out where psychic powers fit in all this. Nothing gives a psychiatrist a headache like a psychic.

Now that long explanation that was quite out of the way of this little tale is why I snuck into Miss Tycism’s friend’s house with some dogs from that dog-fighting ring I set up and let them go to town. It’s been awhile since those mutts have had something as soft as a pillow between their legs. What? I’m letting them roam free, aren’t I?

It’s not like I did this to get caught anyway. I had this little doohickey attached to the living room TV that blocked the frequencies that Venus’s communicator used. I guess they didn’t change them since the bank job. Miss Tycism’s friend was nice and quiet for me thanks to the gag in her mouth and Tycism, as I like to call her when I get tired of saying the whole thing, was scheduled to be returning from her normal patrol hours. Right on time, she stepped over that threshold and onto the offwhite carpet to find me there, sitting on the red leather couch with a pack of scarred dogs surrounding me.

“Sup, dawg?” I said. Then I pointed at her and activated the pre-programmed whistle because I never learned, ok? There, are you happy?! There’s at least one more thing I, the great and devious Psycho Gecko, am not an expert at.

So the dogs charged her. There was Zeus and Thor and Butch and Mack. Her hands pulsed briefly with purple energy and knocked the dogs back. No harm was done to them, but they kept coming. They were dodging some of the blasts too. I had to roll off the couch as a stray one knocked it through the door into the kitchen. Tsk tsk. You’re not supposed to bake a sofa in the oven like that, but she gets points for trying to make it fit.

She was keeping the jaws from clamping on her when she finally realized she could back up. She threw two blasts at once, flinging Zeus and Mack into Butch and Thor, then moved out of view from the door. They bunched up at the door and she pulled together some sort of purple sphere she’d created in that span of time, trapping them all and lifting them off the ground. She touched the sphere and pulled forth a purple line of the same energy and tied it to the railing outside. The dogs floated outside like some sort of vicious purple balloon.

I figured she’d take her time knowing I was in the house. Even with her friend inside, she’d probably do some chanting and whip up a big spell that would cause my testicles to suddenly be pulled out of a hat in Las Vegas. I don’t wanna have to throw those things over my shoulder like a continental soldier because they hang so low!

I threw myself out a side window and circled around. Another thing I wasn’t doing, I wasn’t running out that front door into some sort of magic missile even with invisibility on. Except she thought to run inside. Huh. Maybe I should have gone with my other idea to wait inside for her. At least I knew where she was headed.

I leapt up and grabbed on to the window sill and siding outside the bedroom I stuffed her friend in. Took her a few seconds to run in with some scroll thing in her hands. She must have paid a visit to her bedroom. I was losing containment big time on this one. I slammed my head and shoulders into the window, rolled through, and got to my feet with a fist headed right for her head.

And then I was dead. Somehow, the certainty of my death was just there, in my thoughts.

It was all just nothingness. No sights, no sounds, no feeling of a body. Not even numbness to let me know I had a body there. Time dragged on in utter oblivion with only my own thoughts to keep me company.

Luckily I didn’t have a bladder or bowels to empty at the time. Or a body to shake. And if any of y’all spread around that I said that, I’ll fucking cut you! I’ll do it! I’ll cut you with a damn squirrel.

So I was left alone with just my thoughts, and that’s how I figured out something was wrong.

I sent off commands to a part of me I couldn’t even feel. I told the computerized portion of my brain to look for nearby video sources. It’s possible to hijack a phone’s camera, but the real dirty secret involves all the webcams left unsecured. If you’ve got one, you’d better make damn sure it’s off and secured from wireless intrusion. Suddenly, audio and visual broke through from the friend’s laptop. With it came the sudden realization that I could feel my cybernetic parts and the suit.

The friend was freed and waving her hand back and forth in front of my helmet while I stood stock still. “Wow, that spell froze him?”

“Not unless his worst fear was being frozen. I would try and read his mind, but he’s got some sort of psychic interference. Come on, get out of here. I’ve got to alert the rest of the team, and even that won’t slow him down,” explained Miss Tycism to her friend. She rolled the scroll she held back up even as it darkened and smoked. She tossed it out the door of the room and away from my view.

“Hey take my picture!” she said and stood right in front of my left fist. She brought hers up like it would uppercut me in the chin.

“Don’t disturb him. That spell is very sensitive to outside forces. You don’t want to set him loose.” She checked her belt. “It might be quicker for me to use your phone…aha!”

I tested those receivers I had installed in my spine. They were designed to allow me to circumvent having my neck or back broken, so I hoped they’d be of use this time. No such luck. They still had to send signals along nerves that were technically organic.

There was still one part of my suit I could activate, though. I sent a command and a Nasty Surprise turned the posing pal’s throat into a blood fountain.

I was forced out of my mystical imprisonment by a distraught Miss Tycism trying to throw me out the window with one of those purple repulsion blasts while she knelt by her friend. I ducked into an illusion of invisibility and slid to the side. I ran at her at an angle. As I got close, I set one foot on her knee and brought the other up into her face. She fell back with a broken and bloody nose. I didn’t let her go down, though. I grabbed her by the hair and leaned out of the way of various blasts she sent into the ceiling. Dust from smashed drywall drifted down over us as I took her chin in my other hand and… “Oh snap! You just got served.”

I checked the downed communicator. It had an error message… “Lost connection.”
I grabbed the jammer before I left. Someone was bound to find the place before long and report it. I could still deal with another good guy before they called in a warning.

Next was Black Raptor. The guy was only able to commute to work with the team thanks to the jet. Sure, he’s got wings on that exoskeleton, but he’s from Florida and here we are in Empyreal City, New York. That’s a long migration.

And it’ll be even longer now.

Raptor was busy chatting away on his cell phone with his kids when I arrived. He was in civilian garb. The exoskeleton hung in his bedroom closet and the molded protective armor and tights were strewn over the bed.

“Don’t worry, babies. Daddy has lots of days to save. I’ll be back soon.”

That’s when I jumped through the window, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him against the wall. The phone dropped from his hands in his struggles to get loose. “I don’t think so, bird boy.”

I couldn’t help myself. A malevolent cackle escaped me. I was taking my time with him. Oh yeah, I put him through the wringer. I tossed him onto the nightstand, breaking a wall light on his backside. I threw the motel TV at him and embedded it in the yellow drywall. I chased him, slammed the door on him when he tried to open it and escape, then followed him into the bathroom where I broke his boxer shorts off with a wedgie. When they broke, he went down face first into the toilet for a swirly. Good thing he flushed last time. When I yanked him out of the water, I spun him around and threw him into the wall by the shower. He broke through and landed in the closet. I stepped through after him as he tried to crawl out and dropped the little safe on his back.

I picked it up again and held it over my head. Raptor turned over on his back to look up at me, begging me through the defeat cocktail of water, tears, snot, and blood that drenched his face.

I don’t know why I stopped. I just know that I saw a face from really long ago. The oldest memory I have of a different father begging. Probably just some leftover mind whammy from Miss Tycism’s headgame. I tossed the safe aside and reached down. His shirt tore as I pulled him up a little. “You love those kids so much, maybe you ought to be there for them instead of off playing hero. One of us will leave town here in the next day, you hear? If I go, you’ll find me in Paradise City, playing villain.” To add emphasis to this threat, I turned and brought out the Nasty Surprise to cut through the joints of his exoskeleton. When I’d left him with nothing but pieces of it, I went over and cut his tights in half.

That’s not to say I lost my will to kill someone. With my mind fucked over like that, though, the person I most desired to kill was unfortunately beyond my reach thanks to me snapping her neck.




Arete in Destruction 3

I am the master of your fucking universe, baby! No, I have not had crack!

I caught a thief. She’s far too good at finding me. She made it past a number of defenses. The reverse punji pit above the side door. The Spamocles Sword. She even made her way through the flashlight area. Took me awhile to set that one up. Setting up enough boxes and heavy metal crates to form rooms. That’s the problem, I guess. All that trouble to build something up, only to have someone come along and wreck all your hard work. Reminds me of a story…well, best to save that for another time.

Dame was back, my beautiful, black-suited thieving acquaintance with the shiny mask and armband. We don’t have a good track record as far as our encounters go. This time, Moai and I saw her sneak up to the Heatflasher. It looked like this was another of those bad encounters.

“Not so fast, you thieving, conniving, deceptive, traitorous, glamorous, agile, lithe woman in a skin-tight suit!” I said, then caught my breath. It was a mouthful.

Dame turned to face us. Her response didn’t indicate surprise. Then she saw that both Moai and I were in police uniforms. I was armed with a banana and a mustache, though Moai had on a fake mustache of his own that was large enough to fit his face. “Well, well, well, looks like it’s the rabbit here to try and steal all our Trix. Book em’, Moe,” I told my stony servant. I kept the banana trained on her.

“What’s in that?” Dame asked, “Another laser? Acid?”

“Not at all, Dame. Arms behind your back,” I said as Moai made his way behind her. She complied and he cuffed her out of my sight. “This sucker’s loaded with potassium. As you know, potassium has a hostile reaction in water.”

“You’re going to blow up the water supply?”

“No, my dear, I have something much more delicious in mind…” I grabbed the end of the banana…and peeled it. Then I was eating a banana.

Dame relaxed at that. She even laughed as the tension left her body. Bad move. While the simple banana is merely a delicious source of nutrition and dong jokes to everybody else, it’s also incredibly deadly in the wrong hands or orifice.

Moai hopped over to my side again. “Good job, partner. Now, then, little lady, just what were you doing sneaking in here. I don’t have any pictures for you to steal any more. The fire ate my birdy.”
She shook her head. “Actually, I already stole that from you just before you did all that. It’s safe and sound, just like we’ll all be when I disable this thing,” she revealed.

I turned to Moai, “I get in one colossal fight and Dame gets scared. She should move in with her aunty and uncle in Bel Air.”

She groaned.

I turned back to her, “See, that’s the problem with the non-violent ones. Weak stomachs. Too willing to join the side of the angels when you start destroying national monuments. Get the fuck out of here and don’t come back or I’ll be forced to do something I enjoy.”

Dame bent her legs just a bit and backflipped over the Heatflasher. Without any sign of the handcuffs anywhere, she knelt and opened a panel. Before she could grab any potentially valuable piece, she found herself incorporeal once again. She flailed, panicking, and looked around for anything she could latch on to. She dove for the light switch. Her mass suddenly increased when she became solid again and she dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes with a fine ass. Mmmm, dat spud.

“Ah, the dangers of ourtsourcing your IT and then ever getting into a conflict with that person,” I gloated. I walked over and knelt beside her. “I recognize that you’re very skilled at what you do, but conflict with other superhumans is what I do. So what you’re going to do now is get your ass out of here and don’t come back.” I jumped up and ran to the fridge, then pulled out a frozen bass. I rushed back and shoved it in her face. “Do you see this? Do you know what this is?”

Dame tried to get away from the slimy little stink critter, but I grabbed her head and held it close. “I will find a fun place to shove this fish if you come back here. Understand?”

She nodded through some nasty coughs.

Moai and I gently escorted her out, each of us grabbing a side and tossing her out the door. Then I pressed a button on the fish and tossed it out. It exploded just above her into a pink mist of disgusting fish smell. She wasn’t hurt, except in the smellular way.

I went back inside and set an electrified cage up around the Heatflasher. I needed to get out and deal with something. A certain target among the heroes that has been exceedingly helpful to them. The Heatflasher would be great to drag along for this, but drag would be the operative term. The fight and landing didn’t do it any favors, so I have some parts to replace. I plugged the cage right into it, though. That way, if Dame comes back then she won’t be snipping the power.

That doesn’t mean the Heatflasher had no influence on my next course of action. I called in a Psycho Gecko threat at Wall Street. “You better hurry. He’s talking about bolsheviking Mensheviks in the Kolyma.”

Time to get the armor on. And some more fish out of the fridge. And that air cannon.
Minutes later I soared through the air on a rocket, a heavy pack on my back. Replacements. I saw the Shieldwall jet ahead as the heroes deployed. They were searching, with the jet lagging behind to help coordinate things. And, of course, to help provide transport for those left on the ground.

When I saw it, I activated my payload. Five rockets activated and flew off my back. It was going to be iffy controlling them like this, all through the helmet, but worse comes to worse and they’ll just crash. No big deal. It’s not my city.

I overtook the jet easily and took my rocket upward. Black Raptor broke off from circling over a block to ascend after me. I armed my fish stink grenade and turned, firing it into Raptor’s chest. It slapped him right in the chest and caught him by surprise. The subsequent pink mist got him full on. Hacking and vomiting, he dropped. I directed a rocket into his chest on the way down and bopped him on the top of the jet before circling around.

Another smacked into a rudder. The rest were closer. All at once, my rocket and the other four nearby began a flip, cut engines, aimed downward, and hit the engines, with me jumping off my rocket. I loaded another fish into the air cannon as best as I could given all the wind while coordinating the attack on the jet. One by one the rockets smacked into the canopy glass. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. I saw it as I fell past. It was cracking.

The jet opened fire on them with lasers and scored a hit on one. The rest of its fuel went up at once and it exploded.

The same rocket that assaulted Raptor flew down and maneuvered underneath me. I landed with it between my legs, remembering very quickly how bad of an idea that was around the same time I gained a lovely high-pitched singing voice.

The other rockets cut their engines and dropped to join me. I leaned on another to the side of me as I got a better seat and pulled my sack out from under my taint.

Ok, one rocket down, one hero down, one jet not down. Of course I hadn’t thought this through. You’ve seen how my plans go. They bore people. I saw the side door open on the jet. Somebody’s about to join the party. Somebody also created a way in. I sent a rocket towards the door to try and catch whoever tried to rain on my parade. It poured gorilla instead.

Gorilla Awesome, the intelligent, talking, jet pack-wearing, laser using, grappling hooking gorilla himself jumped out, caught the rocket, and fired his own jetpack, directing it away.

I sent more after him, including my own. His moved horizontally in a circle as he messed with it between dodging my attacks. The others I directed into a vertical circle each time one missed. I even tried to slap fight him as I passed, but he drove one foot into my chest and nearly knocked me off the rocket. I grabbed onto it instead and dropped the air cannon in the process. There goes leaving my own special scent on the inside of the thing. I circled back around to slam my boots into Awesome’s midsection. He grabbed my calf with one foot and pulled me free. Content with me rather than a lowly rocket, he let go and began to fly us back to the jet with his own pack.

Raptor joined us. He looked a little worse for the wear, but he grabbed hold of my other leg. “If it’s not too much to ask, can we not do the wishbone thing?” I pleaded.

I could tell Raptor thought it was a good idea. He didn’t have too much time to enjoy the idea as a rocket got him in the flat of his back, and then another skimmed between his legs and probably did some quality manscaping close to the skin. The third one to hit him in this little barrage was playing holey war. Propelled by a rocket in his ass, Raptor bothered me no more.

Gorilla Awesome still had me in one foot and I got into a weak little kick fight against him, my boot to his prehensile foot. “Monkey see, monkey don’t!” I called out as I hit the jump enhancer for my leg. The subsequent blow would have been below the belt if apes wore belts. Or even tophats, I suppose. I don’t know where the line is drawn at including other primates into fair fights.

I got to see what a gorilla with bulging eyes looked like at least, but he still didn’t let go and I was getting closer and closer to the jet.

“Arrest moi? Not if I can make an ape escape!” I bantered again and called up my rockets. One of them didn’t respond. Probably the one Monsieur Mallah here was messing with.

That left me with three. I guess I should have done this at the start, when I had more, but that’s the way the bowling ball bounces. I aimed for the VTOL jets on the aircraft itself. The first rocket exploded as it flew within, but it wasn’t going down. Just wobbling. Damn their craftsmanship!

So rocket number dos had to go in and dosey-do. This time, there was a hoedown. No word on if any non-hos went down with the plane. It lost that jet and was falling in a spiral. That’s when Wannabe-Grodd let go and tried to stabilize the fall. I caught myself on my last free rocket before letting go. It slammed into Awesome’s jetpack and blew it. The burning gorilla fell, but I saw him fire off the grappling hook before too long. He lived. Damn.

That left only one way to save myself from a rather nasty-looking fall. I landed on a screaming Black Raptor as he flew beneath me and grabbed onto the rear half of the rocket. We went into a spin as I tried to shake Raptor loose a little, then went for the jump enhancers again as we sank closer to the ground. I planted my boots on Raptor’s buns and kicked off.

He went down in a tangle on a nearby rooftop, leaving me to fly back. Looks like poor little Shieldwall’s taking the bus from here on out.

No, don’t save Black Raptor a seat. I think he’d rather stand.

Suck it, Shieldwall, right in your jet engine.




Arete in Destruction 2

The confrontation started innocently enough. I set fire to the shithole I’d been staying in for a long time. I’ve been sleeping and eating over at the warehouse I rented to work on the Heatflasher anyway, so this place was now more of a convenient way to draw one hell of a fly into my web. It’s an awesome web. A web…of DOOM!

“Doomy doomy doomy, doomy doomy doomy, doom,” I sang to myself as I opened up the side door to the semi and readied the ‘Flasher. I had already sent off Moai to get me a hot dog. Nothing like a tube of unidentifiable animal meat byproduct covered in sugar and tomato to brighten your mood and fill your stomach. I slid into a seat that sat further back from the machine, with cushions full of coolant. I had managed enough of a swivel that I turned it toward the low rent apartment complex from across the parking lot and aimed via helmet. Then I lit that motherfucker up. The heat tore through that old crappy drywall like a hot knife through old crappy drywall, only bigger. It caught and the blaze spread like wildfire, which seemed only natural to me. The whole place was going up and I barely got to use my heat ray. That’s when I spotted a familiar car from some guy with a little gang that tried to harass me. He was smart enough to leave me alone after I shot his dick and his friends, but he was too dumb to move. Tsk tsk.

The car started to glow after I hit it with the heat beam. That didn’t last long as it exploded pretty quickly as well. “Hey, that’s my car!” screamed someone with a high-pitched voice from the building in front of the car. I looked up and found that same asshole who tried to give me a hard time amongst all the people at their windows watching everything happen. I saw recognition strike him and he turned to run with an “Oh shit!”

“Sounding a little high-pitched there, I must have nailed a ball too. Better even that out. Hold still, let me see if I can get the other one!” I called out. No way he’d hear that, but I swept the beam along that floor, likewise sending it up in flames as rooms collapsed in on themselves. I think I got the other one this time. I don’t expect any complaints if I missed.

It took me back. Pulling my head back from spotting oculars and grabbing a light miner. The heft of the weapon, the feel of activating a continuous green beam that cuts through everything in front of it. Tearing through superheated metal that crumples, bends, smashes the target. Not caring about the target even, whoever he is, and just shooting, shooting, shooting, more buildings falling, cackling, supposed friends at my shoulder, trying to pull me away. Not caring as I destroy a world I can never fit into.

Except the thing at my shoulder was Moai hitting me over and over to get my attention. I looked around at a significantly clearer landscape. In my remembrance of the past, I’d annihilated every building around in the present. They just stood there, more in flames than in cheap brick veneer. I saw incandescent remains of fire trucks and police cruisers from misguided attempts to reign me in that I still have no recollection of. I was in the middle of a blaze.

“Damn, and I missed all that. Well, the helmet cam probably caught it. We did get everything important out of the apartment first, didn’t we?” I turned to Moai. As usual, he didn’t feel like answering verbally. Then I remembered. “Oh shit, the Cthulhu birdy! The Great Yith Avian! Well, I shall cherish what little time together we had, my chirpy little fluffy huggy snugga wuggawy-“

I was cut off as a tiny tremor I’d felt in the ground grew more powerful. Something was getting close. So close that a giant green foot stomped on the cab of the truck. That’s pretty damn close, actually.

By the way, thanks for ruining my truck, jackass! True, I didn’t pay for it, but I had the roof opening and the side doors and I had plans to install armor. Hell, the way things were going today, I had plans to include spiked wheels even. You know, for good skull traction. Don’t you hate it when your evil vehicle of doom and death slips on one too many skulls while cutting a swath through the innocent? For just one easy payment, you can be the proud owner of the Skull Shoes! Engineered to gain traction over even the slipperiest of head bones, Skull Shoes can save you the hassle and embarrassment of leaving home and having no way to run people down. Order now, only on the Home Slaughter Network!

Paveman, inhabiting the Statue of Liberty once again, dug his fingers in around the trailer, denting it inward. I held on tight as I was lifted up. Then started to lower again before something, then jostled side to side a bunch of times. You know, it’s possible this hero doesn’t like me very much. The Heatflasher skidded slightly, but the damage was negligible compared to when it dropped last time.

Suddenly, I was tipped up and the rear door was slid open. The giant face of Paveman, with power over materials he steps on, was frowning down at me. “What do you have to be upset about, I’m the one fighting a giant!” I yelled. Then I followed it up with, “Let’s put a smile on that face.”

I fired, moving it from right to left and back again. It melted out a smile, with orangish-yellowish liquid glowing as it splashed out onto the interior of the trailer. More dribbled over its own chin. The metal around the smile where it had been touched also glowed, though it was a darker reddish-orange.

You know how you sometimes can’t help but smile when you see someone else smile? That was me. That goofy grin made my day and soon had me laughing.

I heard something drop and crash, then the Statue’s other hand came up to block the rear door. I aimed for where the proximal phalanges met the metacarpals if this were a human body. I cut through the lowest of the fingers, in my sight, the index, and it dropped. I almost completely severed the middle finger, but before I could make the bird fly off, I was the one that needed wings. He dropped me, and not out of necessity either.

I mentioned last time that I needed a better way to lift this thing. Something involving fewer ropes and broken arms on my part. I reached down to a newly-installed secondary joystick made possible by being able to sit further away from the body of the weapon, which was made possible by the machine having its own power supply and not needing to tap into mine. I flipped two switches simultaneously next to the joystick and gave the upper trigger on the stick a good squeeze.

The switches initiated the launch. Eight of my riding rockets, four of them on the corners of the machine and the other four larger and under the machine, came online and lifted the Heatflasher and me barrel first out through the open rear of the machine.

Paveman recoiled in surprise as I floated before him in my flying heat ray. Of doom! Can’t forget the 20% more doom. “That’s right. Who’s saying ‘Up, up, and away’ now, motherfucker?”

With all that extra mass, the punch he tried to throw was telegraphed like the assassination of William McKinley. The four larger rockets were devoted to keeping me airborne and adjusting altitude, but the other four at the corners turned to match the direction I took the stick. I made a big show of laughing as I easily dodged the punch.

“Alright, we got ourselves an epic battle on our hands. Let’s get some epic battle music going!”

I activated the playlist in my helmet’s speaker system. It started with a drumroll. Then birds chirping. Then “Hiya Barbie!”

“Hi Ken!”

“Wanna go for a ride?”

“Sure Ken!”

“Jump in.”

There’s little more demeaning than getting your butt whooped to the tune of Barbie Girl.

The second punch he threw, I fired along that sucker and dropped half of the Statue’s left hand. I flitted, at least compared to him, down and around to his rear, where I sculpted out a pair of big, round butt cheeks. When he managed to turn around, I was waiting at the chest, trying to add breasts onto a Statue that was considerably more male-looking with Paveman in charge. He swiped at me with both hands, but I shot up to face level with him. It was there I discovered that he was no longer smiling. Not even a trace lingered. It puzzled me for a moment before I remembered how he restored the statue from my initial adjustments to it with a rocket launcher.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his right arm shoulder shifting the arm upward and shot past Paveman’s huge face just in time to avoid the slap. I floated over by his ear. “What did the…hold on,” I stopped to count the fingers. Five, with a smaller index finger, “What did the five fingers say to the face?” I swooped in and gave him some new eyebrows. “Zap!”

A huge copper blade speared out of his chest at an angle to slice through me, but I took it up higher, then around his body. I had to avoid more such thrusting blades, but I got an idea what I needed to do.

The limbs were smaller as they regrew, to the extent that a copper statue can regrow. He likely had to draw from elsewhere in his body to restore them, so enough damage, like a limb cut off, would put a big dent in him.

My next point of attack was the armpit. Standing up there all those years, salty ocean air all over the place, and no deodorant? I’m surprised the smell wasn’t so bad. It took longer than expected, dodging the blows of Paveman as he danced around and minded the buildings and cars below us. I saw the spikes on his crown bend to try and track me and then fire. They were almost a problem, but my wild aiming nicked a couple and threw them off course enough. I took the party behind Paveman after that and finished from there, with him just having to reach behind him as he turned to face me.

I took a moment to look over how my machine was doing. It was venting heat as much as it could with all my improvements, and it could stand plenty on its own. There were redundancies in place if some parts failed. Even so, I couldn’t keep up this game of flying evil cat and colossal mouse forever. If the ‘Flasher didn’t fail on me, the rockets would go before long. Those babies can only hold so much in the gas tank. Even my music could run out. I was on “A Little Respect” by Erasure now. If I reach “Hey Mickey” then I know I’m in trouble. I can’t fight Mickey. He’s too fine. He’s so fine he blows my mind.

Fighting Mickey wasn’t a problem, though. The arm fell off! Paveman had to catch himself and stepped on a bus to do so. It fell on a street and settled there, elbow pointed upward. I fired into the backs of the still-recovering Paveman’s knees and calves. He didn’t catch himself so easily this time. He stumbled back and I adjusted my aim to light up that jolly green buttocks. I hauled my own ass out of the way as he fell on his. Except his ass was rather soft and melty, with his fallen arm under it.

Lady Liberty is too big to 63, but why should that stop me from a creative use of a hand up an ass?

I took the Heatflasher in close while Paveman was busy standing and went for the most obvious point of weakness. The neck. I saw Paveman growl at me with features crossed with the Statue. He tried one last time to grab me, punch me, swipe me, anything, but it was the only arm he had to grab anything with and he fell back, missing me. I didn’t miss him, though, and the Statue went still once more as the head finally came off.

The head rolled off, then reformed into Paveman. He was larger than average, but down for the count. I fired an invisible burst or two at him and he fled.

I needed to get out of there myself, but first thing’s first. I drew “Psycho Gecko wuz X” along the Stomach of Liberty. The mighty Stomach of Liberty, below the Boobs of Liberty that were still shaped like the Manboobs of Liberty. That is where Psycho Gecko wuz, for all the world to see. Eat it, America. Eat it like candy.

“It was self defense! You all saw it!” I called out to whatever people were within earshot of the massive wreckage of a fallen Statue of Liberty on crumbling buildings near several others that were on fire that was still burning strong. Water shot fountained into the streets from destroyed hydrants. The image didn’t fit well with “Venus” by Bananarama. One song to go until “Hey Mickey”.

Ah hell. I sang along with it. It was my victory, after all. “Venus on the mountain top. Shining like a silver flame. A vision of beauty and love. And Venus was her na-.”

Three guesses who was behind me when I rotated around in the middle of all that. Well, Venus and the rest of Shieldwall, courtesy of the jet and their ability to fly. They floated there behind me. We just stared at each other. I was on one side. Forcelight and Black Raptor kept their altitude outside the jet, which had Gorilla Awesome and Venus in the cockpit. Then the fuel light came on.

Forcelight and Raptor dove after me as I took it down to the streets to evade and escape. The jet just wasn’t agile enough. I lost Forcelight when I blasted the water from a hydrant, throwing steam into the air. As a light manipulator, she can get rid of my holograms easily enough. Still can’t see through steam for shit. Raptor was more persistent, so I took us over the burning buildings. Nearly grilled my ass off again, but he blinked first and pulled away.

And so the day was mine. All mine! That day, I just couldn’t lose.

Except Moai dropped my hotdog on the way back to the warehouse. There was that. But otherwise, there’s no stopping me!

…and it was really good timing on Moai’s part. I needed a hand putting in the new door after the first one was destroyed by a skidding rocket heat ray.

You hear that, heroes? Not even door installation can slow me down!



Two Tickets to Paradise 11

I’m going to try and relay what happened after my capture to you and it’s going to take awhile. Asses were kicked and feelings were hurt, but keep calm and read on. And for now, we’ll put Polonius and his art behind a tapestry. I swear I use no art at all.

I spent a great deal of that night unwell. That I am mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity; and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. I am a foolish figure. Mad let us grant me then. The cell reminded me too much of my childhood. It was not a good childhood. There were whips and chains, but not the good kind. It had too many rooms like the one I was in, full of too many men like the ones keeping me in that cell. I was mad, and when I say mad, do not mistake me for being angry. Indeed, I was happy. Why wouldn’t I be? I knew the cause of this effect, or rather say, the cause of this defect, for this effect defective comes by cause. I had been worried when my enemies were the shadows of everyone around me. Knowing that the world was against me made things easier. I could deal with that. Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.

I knew who my enemies were and I knew a lot about what they could do. I realized in that moment that to break the Shieldwall, I would need to know not what they could do but who they were. Seeing as I was bound, that revelation would have to go on the backburner.

First is first, to put it my accustomed way. Escape. I was never a good hacker. Give me the physical touch of a computer and I can make it bend and stretch in ways its designer never meant, but programming language does not come so easily to me. That’s not how I handle things. If Ouroboros left everything as unsecured as your average criminal then that wouldn’t be an issue, but he’s smart and he’s been dealing with Yakuza and their otaku. End result, I couldn’t get out ahead of time.

I wanted to. I felt like a tiger in a cage, except with more imbeciles walking by to taunt me. At least tigers have a chance to get back at whatever drunk guy jumps into the enclosure.

Shokushu and Suishou stopped by when the Yakuza showed up. They looked tipsy. Shokushu had his tie around his head and pressed his ass against the door/window. I was able to figure that out from the files I could access.

No one bothered to pay a visit from the Columbians except for Terribilis, who chatted with a young man in tactical gear that I realized was the man Ouroboros had been talking to. I made the job easy on him. He didn’t have to hunt me down at all. I couldn’t match the guy up in the database. I checked for villains or mercenaries with the sort of wide-brimmed hat he tipped my way, but I had no luck. He had a bandana pulled up over the bottom half of his face.

All that and he didn’t realize the man next to him in the bright yellow power armor wasn’t the real Terribilis. I saw the heroes take him down. That armor put up a decent fight before Troubleshooter got the power drain net on him and Forcelight cracked it open at the entry seam.

When they were done whispering between themselves, the shooter knocked on the door and said, “You behave in that cage now or I’ll have to put you down,” he made a motion with his hand and suddenly his rifle appeared, like a prestidigitator’s trick, “I’d put you down for free, but I’d rather get paid for you.” He backed up a step, then pointed it through the glass at me.

He wouldn’t, unless he wanted to die. If the heroes walk in and see me dead, they know automatically they’ve been set up. That’s why they have all tolerated me to the degree that they have so far, save for the Cartel’s attempt to take me out when I was thought to be a turncoat. Or maybe that was part of a plan of theirs.

Either way, the shooter stowed his gun nowhere and they left me alone, leaving me with nothing to do but stare at the exceptional rear of the man who shot me as he walked away. In all seriousness, dat ass.

That was my night, being gawked at people who should have felt nothing but gratitude at surviving my presence. It took a long time to bring us to night. A long time that I spent worming my way through whatever I could find. Casino security was right out. Ouroboros had actually invested in decent network security. Damn Yakuza otakus. Or is it otaku for plural as well? It may be one of those words that doesn’t change between the singular and plural form, like The Last Samurai, that movie where that white guy rode into battle with the last of the samurai.

At 8 o’clock, a crowd of O-sec gathered outside my window which retracted into the ceiling. Two of them trained flamethrowers on me while more stepped forward to latch chains onto my restraints. Someone pulled ahead too far as we stepped onto the floor, causing me to fall. Real original, guys.

As soon as I saw the heroes assembled, I gave Venus a call and muted my exterior speakers. I saw her turn away before answering with a whisper that only the heroes and I could hear. “Not now, Gecko, we’re in the middle of capturing you.”

“Where are you, by the Burger King?”

“We’re at the casino.”

“This is no time for slot machines, hero. Wait a sec, the casino? There’s not some version of me in a crappy knockoff costume around, is there?”

“Yesss,” she drew the word out, glancing first at a wall where wind blew the leaves of a rubber plant as passed, then back to me.

“You know that’s a trap, right? They found out about our deal and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat. I-…hold up. Ok, cops are here, got to go, bye.”

I hung up, having been led to the middle of the casino’s floor. Table games and ropes had been cleared all around me.

“If it isn’t too much trouble, we’re taking your new fountain ornamentation as well,” said Forcelight as she stepped forward. “How do we know this,” she pointed at me, “is the real deal.”

Venus in particular looked expectant of the answer. Torrent stepped up behind me and kicked me in the back of the knee. I didn’t go down the first time. “Say something, Gecko.” The second time, I fell to my knees.

I turned around partially to look at him, then back to the heroes, then to the Cartel’s members specifically, then to Forcelight, and spoke, “Lo siento, pero no soy el hombre que busca. ¿Dónde estoy?”

“What is this, Ouroboros?”

“It’s a lie, that’s what it is!” said that pockmarked face man from the Columbians. “That’s Psycho Gecko, I know it.” He stuck one finger out and it began to glow purple. He thrust it toward me and the purple glow flew threw the air toward me to be stopped by Forcelight, who had taken to floating. The others in the Cartel didn’t take kindly to this. They drew their guns, prompting everybody else with guns or powers to get them ready to go.

“Shieldwall together!” Venus called as they began to move toward me. My heroes.

Forcelight and Ouroboros approached me ahead of everyone for an emergency negotiation. “¿Quiénes son estas personas?” I cut them off. I’m no expert in Spanish, but it was one of the languages I considered adopting when I landed in this universe. Learning new languages is somewhat like learning a new way to think. My trip to the South may be somewhat less stereotypical than I expected, but most people draw the line at speaking common language of the country.

What gave me away was a ringing noise coming out over the comms, the source of which was a cluster of Troubleshooter, Gorilla Awesome, and Venus, with the trio focusing on Venus’s earpiece.

You ever get that feeling like you created all your own demons and they’re about to tear you to pieces? Me neither. At the time, I hoped I wouldn’t die there because of what I’ve mentioned before, about awesome tombstones. I didn’t want mine to read “Psycho Gecko, in hell he’ll dine, thanks to *69”. Or to exist, really. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t want to die.

Forcelight put her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll take him. And the rest of you. Lay down your weapons and put your hands on your heads.”

Ouroboros was back in the midst of his men one enhanced strength backflip later. “I think not, Forcelight.” He began to speak into an earpiece when that gunman in tactical gear held a gun to his head.

“I think so,” he pulled off the mask, revealing the former Holdout, now the Lone Gunman. Ah ha! The ass never lies. Pockmark of the Columbians began to laugh and even that nameless guy from the Yakuza cracked a smile, at least until Terribilis trained his rifle and minigun on them, respectively. Those smiles died a quick death. One of them had to go: the smiles or their owners.

I had a chance to smile as the effects of Ouroboros’s few commands were followed by men in the security office. I broke the little standoff going on with my words, “By the way, whoever sets me free gets to survive.” I think everybody laughed at that.

The casino floor itself had little in the way of static defenses by its very design. Customers don’t want to see sentry turrets and mines and such defenses shouldn’t be within the range of stumbling drunks. Funny thing is, those networks stayed off most of the time. I felt them come online below me and found out they weren’t as well protected because of their rare use. It was that surprise Ouroboros mentioned if the fight came into the casino proper. Let this be a lesson to those who cross a man improper.

The floor shook beneath me, both indicating incoming firepower and sending pleasant vibrations through my crotch. The floor opened. Shieldwall was scattered around the room as the strongroom emerged. I fell right on top of it. The vault, complete with automated guns. They were set to recognize the security badges of casino staff and higher ups like Torrent and Ouroboros. I didn’t want to play favorites.

In control of their IFF, I closed my eyes and targeted anyone not me. When I fired, the fighting started. Heroes versus villains. Gangs versus gangs. Like a police raid on a NAMBLA meeting, this was where you separate the men from the boys.

They were leaving me alone in all the chaos, too. Everyone had better things to do than worry about me. I was all chained up and on my knees. I wasn’t eager to remain that way, though. Machine guns and lasers turned inward and took aim. While I don’t have a motif or a theme, which would be awesome you know, I felt this epic battle deserved some epic tunes. Trust me, you ever have a huge fight with four large groups of people who hate your guts, you’re going to want to have an awesome soundtrack too. Forget the imprisonment, it was more agonizing to pick out the song. I went with “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night.

Not as hard hitting as what I normally go for in battle, but a song I felt very fitting for my emergence into the fray. It sounded from the sound system and over the Shieldwall frequency, leaving my enemies barely able to hear their teammates or potential dangers in combat.

I threw off the blasted shackles and chains, then stood up, proclaiming, “Now it’s time to tear off your own asses and BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM!” Yep, it sounded much better with that emphasis on it. Right after that, a strong explosion hit the door of the vault, causing the forcefield over it to blink out for a moment before it was restored. I nearly fell on my ass but recovered my balance and figured I’d watch some of the festivities until somebody stepped up to get stepped on.

Shokushu’s tentacles whipped at the Honky Tonk Hero while Suishou threw his body in chunks at Paveman, knocking off pieces of the craggy bastard. The villainous pair fought well together. One would occasionally lend a tentacle or a few shards to keep their respective opponent off-balance. The Street Artist left swipes of paint in the air that he used to deflect bullets and knock enemies away. He spotted Troubleshooter and built up a large cloud, but she realized she was in danger and fired that kinetic weapon she introduced me to the other day. It dispersed the paint and left the Artist skidding along the floor on his back. With lights destroyed, Raggedy Man appeared in the shadows near the roof with an Ouroboros security officer in his hands. He disappeared again, leaving the guard to fall with a scream from on high. Torrent threw rival gang members at the giant Shieldwall robot, his body absorbing kinetic energy and increasing his strength. Forcelight flew into him and the pair stumbled into the empty all-you-can-eat buffet, trading blows beyond the ability of mortal men. Scythe-Skater and Gorilla Awesome traded blows. Her weapon of choice was her scythe. His was a slot machine. Pockmark dueled with Lone Gunman. He took his own men as human shields, but they were shot out from in front of him. Raggedy Man disappeared and reappeared throughout the scene. He drove steel-toed boots into the nameless Yakuza guy. The man with no name deflected the kick and drove his open palm into where Raggedy Man’s face was before he disappeared. Bright Star was bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the eye. Miss Tycism’s green shield deflected Cartel gunshots as she knelt beside him. Venus hurried over and jabbed Bright Star with something. A syringe full of familiar fluid. Seconds later, his bleeding had stopped and his eye was regrown.

My nanites. I was about to jump down and engage Venus for her supply of nanites, but checking my rear revealed the reappearance of the armor thief. He looked down at his hands. Must be power issues. I left an illusion behind that I was still watching the battle over the side. He approached, thinking he had the element of surprise. I circled around behind him. I jumped, locked my legs around his neck, and flipped backward to introduce him to the elements iron and carbon. The helmet rang as it hit the steel on top of the vault. I took advantage of his stunned state and unlocked the helmet. I pulled it off to reveal that the faker was… Old Man Wilkins?!

That’s right, and he’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this meddling supervillain and his Moai.

Actually, it was a teenager with lightning flashing in his eyes. Red White Blue Kid. I hit him in the head with the helmet. After a smack, he raised his hands, slowly charged the gloves and creating a sheathe of energy around them. I tossed the helmet into a melee below that was set ablaze by an O-Sec flamethrower guard. I charged my gloves all the way. I caught the Kid’s laughable attempts to strike back, overpowering his sheathe and causing to backfire. The bones of his hands and wrist snapped and burned, though much of the energy was dissipated into the steel around the vault as I pinned his wrists to it in the same move.

Before I could take advantage of that state, Ouroboros joined us on the vault. Bloodstained ivory daggers whirled through the air. I kicked at him, but he drove one into my leg. Normally a knife wouldn’t penetrate. Normally, I’m not being stabbed by a guy with twice human strength. I backed away and put pressure on my leg while hoping the last guy he stabbed with that didn’t have herpes. Come on, baby, I got it fighting a supervillain, I swear!

He approached over the Kid, who moaned and shifted. Ouroboros looked down and seemed shocked by the teen in my armor. It gave me an opening and time to start charging my gloves again. I grabbed for his wrist but he spun smoothly out of the way with his blades gliding over the metal of my torso armor impotently. So much for my opening. I raised an illusion of myself still standing there as I dropped to my knees. He learned it was fake when his blade found the illusion’s throat but I had opened up my hand like I was going for a karate chop. Except I drove it fingers first into his belly with all the strength of myself and my armor. His armor and skin gave way. I stood, reaching up inside his body until I found that traitorous heart and tore it out. Ouroboros gawked at me and his little knives fell from his hands. I wrapped my fingers around it and punched him in the mouth with that hand. I left his heart in among the broken teeth, grabbed the top of his head and under his chin, and mashed his mouth open and shut a few times. Finally, I activated the jump enhancers, bent my legs, and gave him a tremendous uppercut to the jaw knocked him over the crowd.

Undying dragon my ass.

I looked over to see the Kid crawling over the side of the vault to escape. Uh uh uh. I dragged him back by the foot and flipped him over. He leaned up. I popped him in the nose. “Now then, let’s have none of that nanite bullshit from you too. The lesson needs to be learned that I kill heroes dead. D-E-Eye of Horus-Squiggly line-Norse Rune-D. Dead!” I grabbed his tongue and his leg and tossed him high into the air. At least a Wookie in height. I jumped after him and, thanks to my closer proximity, got a good view of a rogue RPG blowing a hole in the roof. I caught the Kid with my feet on his armpits and rode his inverted body down on top of the vault. When he landed, it was on his head with all of his and my weight.

But hey, they can always put his brain back together once they’re finished scouring his colon for all the pieces.

I felt it was about time to get this baby opened and get myself some sweet immortality now that I had proven myself King of the Hill. I dropped my flat, propane-selling ass to the ground in front of the door to the thing. A computer panel nearby was active. Ahah! It only took a few minutes of contact to get at this thing. Hacking? No no no. This thing was part of my nervous system. The door’s forcefield deactivated, internal alarms turned off, and the door swung open, revealing the contents to me. Gold bars. Bricks of cash. Gadgets. It was all brightly lit by the fluorescent lighting making up the entirety of the ceiling.

I ran in and found my way to a glass case with what appeared to be an ordinary stick. I busted the case and snatched it up eagerly. “Ok, I wish that gold was chocolate milk. I wish the White House was pained pink. I wish to be…immortal!”

I expected something dramatic to happen, but I had nothing. “I wish this thing would give me a sign it is working.”

No such sign. I hit it. I tried looking for an On switch. I was holding it in the same hand I ungloved to get in the vault, so it wasn’t the skin contact. I tried magic words after that. Hocus Pocus. Aveda Kedavra. Magical source, mystic force! Klaatu barada nikto. Magic missile. Shazam! The door slamming shut interrupted my attempts. I couldn’t maintain the connection to anything outside the vault after that, not even whatever system controlled the vault itself.

And a half hour later, I still hadn’t gotten it open. I couldn’t wish it open. There was no interior panel to bond with. Even the weapons laying around were useless. They were broken or had no power cells. There was a missile launcher that could have done the job, but it was missing vital parts of ordinance and firing mechanisms. Also, I was in an enclosed space with it. I even tried throwing gold bars at it because why not? They broke apart. Fakes. At least I had time to dress the stab wound to my thigh from the fight where I’d killed Ouroboros.

“Well, well, it looks like you got in my vault after all, Gecko,” said Ouroboros over an intercom.

“Great, now I’m hearing voices again.”

“Not at all. I enjoyed watching your fights from my panic room. My double provided a lot of insight into how I should fight you. It shouldn’t come to that, Gecko. Not with the heroes having just wiped the floor with the Yakuza and Columbians. My men withdrew and it seems my contingency plan worked after all. I still have something the heroes want thanks to your blatant interest in my vault. Here, let me get them on the line. Heroes! Over here! I need you to find the intercom on the vault to speak to me. Actually, I don’t, Gecko, I just want you to hear us talk.”

“When I’m through with you, there won’t be a Paradise City to rule,” I yelled. I admit, it sounded ineffectual to say.

“What’s your angle, Ouroboros? How did you survive?” said Forcelight.

“I survived in the luxury of my panic room. Inside this particular room is someone else you are looking for. You’ve done me a good turn by putting my rivals down, but I still need an agreement. If you agree to leave tonight, you’ll get Psycho Gecko, who is conveniently trapped beyond this door.”

“Deal. We’ll get him to Marscow Prison in Kingscrow as soon as we get him out of here.”

“Hey! You can’t do that! I’m too important to myself to be sent to prison!”

“They can’t hear you, Gecko. Try your intercom.”

“Thank you, motherfucker,” I said, feeling all Samuel L. Jackson up in this beast. I pressed the button, “You can’t send me to jail! I’m too homicidal. There’ll be no survivors! Besides, don’t I get a trial?”

“The prison is better suited to hold you until we get to that trial.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Just drop me in jail with Max and Doc. By the way, do you visit your dad in prison any?”

“My dad is dead. It’s- stop. Just stop.”

“What? I hit a touchy subject.”

“Just shut up. There are no mind games left to play. We’re taking you in as soon as Ouroboros opens up.”

The O-man cut in himself now, “The system has been corrupted. I can’t control he door remotely anymore. I’m afraid you will have to find a way in on your own, heroes. Pardon me if I do not wish to come down there in person and provide assistance.”

“The panel has an axe embedded in it. We’ll find a way to get in. You just sit tight in your hidey hole and play nice,” Forcelight spoke with a note of irritation in her voice.

My plan was to get some of these weapons laying around to work right. Mix and match them to shoot my way out if needed. I started gathering up piles of the junk.

“You alright, Gecko? You’re not running out of air in there, are you?” said Venus over the intercom.

I considered not even answering her. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams, but it’s nice to hear you still care, Boopsie. What do you think, are you going to stop by and visit me in jail? Maybe we could arrange a conjugal visit.”

She responded with laughter that went on so long that she stopped holding down the button. When she next spoke to me, she had taken time to get herself under control, “Gecko, you are as appealing to me sexually as your name, and twice as slimy. I don’t care about being kind. Not to you and not after all you’ve done. I just want to see you locked up with nowhere to go for the rest of your natural life. I would actually prefer to see you bound in a nutshell, you nut, but you can find a way to be annoying while folding the prison laundry for all I care.”

These damn intercoms won’t let me interrupt, but eventually I get to have my say to play with her brain matter, “Then our monarchs and outstretched heroes are the beggars’ shadows. In court, I don’t expect you’ll look good having hunted me so maliciously. Your team either, but especially you, though. Is it justice when you hunt me just because of your boyfriend? How many greater threats have gone unattended to because of this obsession?”

It was Forcelight who spoke, “Venus has no conflict of interest. It’s not like you killed her boyfriend. Thanks to wonderful new life support and body repair technology that is soon to be patented by Long Life, he’s still alive and can’t wait till he’s put together completely and we can make him look less like a robot.”

“I held his shattered skull.”

A distorted electronic voice answered me next, “You had a few pieces. There was enough left of me to save. Thank you for the nanomachine technology, by the way. We adapted it to work on everyone if need be. Stealing from you is going to make the world a much better place when we begin mass production.” The giant robot, aka The Human Sloth. No. He’s Mecha Human Sloth now. He’s half the half-man he used to be.

“That’s not…well oh yeah? I thought your ass already had enough mass,” I wasn’t going to finish that sentence saying it wasn’t right.

Next up was Troubleshooter, “And your armor will provide great protection and strength enhancement for us and law enforcement as soon as I reverse engineer it.”

“Don’t come in here! I have a magical wishing stick! I’ll zap you to pieces if you try and get me!”

Raggedy Man responded, “I may have neglected to mention that only certain types of people can use that. I neglected it because it’s obvious you are a bad penny and no way would it allow you to wish for so much as a good penny. Thanks for getting it back for us, though.”

“I’m afraid he’s right on that one, Gecko. That thing was useless to me. That’s why I left it in the vault when I moved the rest of my valuables out. Thank you for making it obvious you wanted in there and then taking so long to come back,” said Ouroboros.

Next up was Black Raptor, “You’ve brought all your enemies together against you. You didn’t break us. You just made us even more committed to fighting people like you as a team. Even your plans here backfired on you. You can’t beat us. You can’t escape us. Your capekiller allies are in prison and your pet statue is on his way to Kingscrow now. We have your equipment. We ruined your reputation. You deserve everything you’re about to get. No, you deserve more. But you’ll settle for facing justice. When we swing this thing open, though, I hope you try to fight. We’ll try not to kill you, Psycho Gecko, but no matter what, you don’t walk away today.”

I really needed to get to work anyway so I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how long they’d be pounding away at the door and my full concentration was required on the broken pieces of scraps I’d been left with, that’s all. I could have had a brilliant response if I’d wanted to. Honestly.

It took them quite a long time, in fact. Despite all the pounding and tearing, I was able to accomplish about what I needed. I had to get this monstrosity into firing shape and scour the remains of broken gear for a power source, but I got it. I was not giving up the one I use for my suit. I need that one.

“Yo, anybody out there. Y’all almost in?” I questioned the intercom.

“Very nearly in, Gecko,” Forcelight said, “Are you going to make us this difficult on yourself?”

“I just had a few words to say,” spoke softly. It was at this point that I began to plagiarize a song called “If I Burn” because “I don’t care. Maybe I’m afraid, but still I swear. You could take my life with conscience clear, but you should still hear that if I burn, you will see the fire in your mind when you sleep and if I rise up in smoke around your eyes, you’ll know it’s mean. And the rain won’t wash away the ashes underneath your nails today. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, because if I burn, so will you.”

If I failed, I figured they’d be a badass note to go out on. If I succeeded, they’d be an integral part of the plan.

I took my position as they picked up the pace outside. I had a plan to go out in a blaze of glory, they’d think. After ten minutes, I heard the door give one last groan. Then it was yanked loose and tossed to the side by Forcelight and the robot that I realized was Mecha Human Sloth. The pair barely knew what almost hit them. It was, specifically, an old missile from the old missile launcher.

My rideable rocket lived again, just without any sorts of controls. I got up to speed quickly, zipping past heroes prepared for a fight or an escape on foot. Even Forcelight couldn’t keep up and losing track of me at that point meant escape. They would also find that their tricky little Wishing Stick was nothing but a pair of broken Wishing Twigs tossed in a corner at this point.

It was all a close call, but I was finally free.

I was so ecstatic that I shook a little on my scooter ride out of the city. I had to find where they towed my SUV to and raid it, but I got the blogging device back and my Minstrel Cycle. Let them search Paradise City a few more days. I have a new destination in mind.

Kingscrow, home of Marscow Prison, currently occupied by the Good Doctor, Mix N’ Max, and soon to have Moai in it as well. I think I’ll stop by, break out my acquaintances, and work on a more solid plan for tearing Shieldwall apart.

Don’t think that this is the last I’ve seen of Ouroboros, either. On my drive out, I noticed him calling in to the villain pirate radio station, Outlaw X. They played a request from him to me. Care to take a guess what he wanted in my honor? “The Show Must Go On,” by Three Dog Night.




Two Tickets to Paradise 6

Let me just say that these past few days hit me like a ton of bricks. Just wham!

By now you’ve already read about the seeds of this whole mess that were planted. I left Moai to guard Raggedy Man in his new room and figured I’d water them a bit. Or plant more. I was never into gardening, so the plant metaphor stretches kind of thin for me, like a rubber band that has to fit around the entire scope of an event. Metaphorical simile aside, I escalated things.

Say what you will, but I think the car bomb was perfectly justified. The target left the restaurant nice and sauced. I just turned desert into a flambé. I don’t know who the Yakuza guy was, what he did in the organization, or if he was any higher than some sort of middle manager. I don’t know much…but I know his car blew. And that may be all I need to know. Great tipper though, even if his guys were a bit paranoid and kept a close eye on me.

Obviously it’s the Cartel they have to watch out for. That’s who is meant when people mention the Columbians around here. They’re really not all Columbian once you get to the states. Still, they’re known for their car bombs.

Don’t think they got off easy though. Why, on the same night as their cowardly attack on some random Yakuza guy, several of their men who supplied drugs at the street level were gunned down by someone with a lot of those spare dinky Mini Uzis the extraction team tried to use. They’re like toys, I swear. It’s hard to take these little things seriously. I felt like the trigger was going to break off in my hand while it farted bullets into the guys.

I made it real easy for everyone to put the pieces together, too. I left all the clues out really obvious so anyone examining things would be like “Wow, this was pretty clearly a Yakuza hit and this was clearly a Cartel hit. It might as well be written all over the place.” Then they’ll laugh and laugh.

The next day, I visited our old friend Torrent. He was annoyed to say the least. I bet it’s because somebody painted the windows and windshield black and was sitting on the hood in full armor. I didn’t get a chance to deny the paint job, though. He was more concerned about the bomb I had in my hands that was spot on for what the Cartel straps to a car. “What are you doing here with that?” he spat at me.

“Oh, nothing. Had some time while I was blindfolding your car, figured I’d chain it to your toilet. Nice house by the way,” It was too. It was by the bay on Scenic Highway, very good land, even if the slopes make driving awkward. There aren’t beaches there, but it’s a fantastic spot if you have a boat. “Anyway, before I could send your pooper on parade, I found this sucker hanging on. Don’t worry, it’s disarmed. I wouldn’t want to hurt you. Here, catch!” I chucked it underhanded at Torrent. He caught it quickly and I saw his hand and forearm slightly bulge at the impact before it dissipated through his body.

“Did you stop by just to vandalize my humvee?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m here on official unofficial business. I know I’m not here officially, meaning you don’t have to act like you give a damn, but I’m here unofficially, meaning the other guys act like they give a damn. Just figured I’d point out that if I’m attacked by these guys again, with no allies of my own officially around, then I may be force to do some very violent things. There could be collateral damage. Have you ever seen a man ripped apart by an exploding port-a-potty rocket? Unofficially, between you and me, that may happen.”

Torrent was stoic in the face of extortion. “They attacked you? Do they know what you’re after?” he queried.

“They knew what room I was in on what floor I was on of what building I was keeping someone in. He’s a very important someone for this project. If you guys are antagonizing both sides, that’s fine, but a crossfire is a dangerous place for me to be for everyone concerned. All alone, lost in a strange city, looking for water to put my back against. Can you dig it?”

He dug it.

Thanks to another anonymous tip from the same source that had good information on where the out-of-towner was keeping someone hidden, one or two people with an eye out also caught a glimpse of said out-of-towner tossing a Cartel-style car bomb to Ouroboros’s #2 man. The #2 is about to hit the fan, man.

From there, I headed back to the hotel. The same one they raided. They obviously wouldn’t expect me to stay in the exact same hotel. I went right back to the first floor. Yes, the same floor too. Even if they thought I had the audacity to stay in the same hotel, they’d assume I would change floors. They’d be wrong. And I went to the same room door…and passed it up, heading two doors down. If anyone thought to check the same hotel and floor, they’re savvy enough to check the same room. Uh uh. Not gonna find me that easy.

Time for the video. I let myself into the room and handed a phone to Moai. Just something I picked up real quick. It and the axe. Some people looked at me funny when I was carrying that around, but I yelled something about Second Amendment Rights and that got them to back off.

I took the axe with me into the circle of floodlights. Raggedy wasn’t looking good. He was scraped up, with dried blood on his arms and legs where he’d tried to wriggle free. He had a cut on his head as well, probably from the lamp.

Making sure not to bridge the gap with a shadow, I stood close to him and tapped him on the head with the axe. “Wake up, sleeping beauty. I really don’t feel like true love’s kiss needs to be brought into this.”

He stirred, slowly getting his bearings. Then he saw the axe, his eyes going wide. He trembled a tiny bit. To his credit, he restored his composure after a few seconds. I patted him on the head. “Fear not, Raggedy Man. You and I are just going to make a video…something tasteful. Ok, Moai, roll it!”

I waved at the camera, axe in hand. “Hi there Raptor! Say hi, Raggedy Man.”

I waited. And waited. No response from Raggedy. I grabbed his hand with mine and began yanking it. “Now come on Raggedy, at least wave to the man.” With a crack, I was able to raise Raggedy’s hand up for a wave. His forearm remained firmly secured to his chair with a cuff having been forced high up along his arm. He screamed. I waited until he was finished before I spoke out the side of my mouth in a higher pitch than normal, “Hullo there Raptor, it’s me, Raggedy, practicing my ventriloquism.”

“Neat skill there, Raggedy Man. Anyway, Raptor, nice to finally talk to you. I’m Psycho Gecko and I’ve been spying on you. You’ve come out to your wife about your secret identity. The late nights, the costume with muscles molded into it, looking for strange men in dark alleyways. You’re a superhero. You probably think now you’re out that things get better. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they won’t. It gets worse.”

I set down my hostage’s hand and continued, “I have him at that crappy hotel by the civic center. First floor. You’ll want to get here and rescue him while you can. I know it’s the middle of the day, but you can drop the girls off at an aunt’s house or something and throw on the costume. Your wife won’t have to know because she’s working. Actually working at the bank this time. No stakeout. Raaaaptor, come out to plaaaaaay.”

I brought the axe more prominently into frame and gave it a couple partial spins. “Just you, me, and a new axehole. Ok, cut it there and let’s send it to him. Good job Raggedy, you’ll make it in showbiz yet. You should really show me how you do the trick with the broken arm sometime, I’d love to know how you fake that.”

“What are you going to do if he doesn’t show up?” wondered my prisoner.

“I’m going to leave you in the chair, that’s all. He’ll come.”

Moai sent Raptor the video to his phone and I left the disposable plugged in to charge and provide a handy bug for when Raptor came crashing in. The axe I left in the plastic ashtray outside the door of the hotel. Meanwhile, I headed to the bank. I had an important withdrawal to make.

When I walked into the bank, I appeared to be a civilian in a business suit, briefcase in hand. I’m glad I don’t have to wear an actual suit. Too morbid. Think about it. What do they dress dead bodies in for a funeral? Suits. And then there’s the noose people men tie around their own throats when they put them on. Not only are they dressing like they’re going to die, they’re wearing a means to kill them.

I bluffed my way through to the offices with various nonsense about loan originators and debt reconsolidation and so on. A badge and nametag appeared to match what I saw worn around me in the office, the title shifting as I weaved in and out of lies and higher up the corporate ladder. You can get more places with nonsense, a prop, and confidence than you can with just nonsense. Acting like you don’t belong somewhere is a sure sign that you don’t. Social engineering, I’ve heard it called. The weakest links in any security measure are the people themselves.

I found our Mrs. Robinson looking much more professional in the women’s version of a suit on her slender frame and hair done up. There were dark circles around her eyes. Knowing what hubby’s up to wasn’t helping her peace of mind. I just had to idle for a bit, so I stopped by the water cooler. Mmm, refreshing water. I don’t think anyone caught that it just ran off what seemed like my face and suit.

I made my move when I heard doors crashing in back at the hotel via my phone. The missus was chatting with a balding coworker when I stopped by her desk casually, apologized that I needed to pause and get something from my case, and pulled out my coffee blaster and a small board. Some people call their coffee makers a name like Mr. Coffee. I think I’ll call mine Mr. 2nd Degree Burns. Excellent.

I scalded the man with the thinning hair right on his exposed head. Mrs. Robinson had an inkling of my purpose and stumbled upright, knocking over her chair. I wrapped my arm around her as she turned to run, catching her around the midsection. I set Mr. 2nd Degree Burns aside then hit her at waist-height with the board. It let out a snap as it hit her and on my signal it curled around her waist. I got the idea from a wristband I saw once.

She struggled and threw her elbows against me. She tried to stomp on my foot with her heel. She stopped that once I whispered to her, “Mrs. Robinson, you can try and seduce me later. Right now, that’s a bomb I put on you. I have the detonator in my helmet and can set it off at any moment, so you might want to stop. Just saying.”

She did as I gently suggested and stood there, huffing, trying to catch her breath. Taking Mr. 2nd Degree Burns back in hand, the two of us made our way to the elevator. She got a confused look on her face as the door closed and turned to me. “Helmet?” she inquired. She got a good look at my armor as I dropped the businessman illusion and let out a piercing scream.

I tried muting her, but I was forced to do so without the aid of a remote by holding my hand over her mouth while I listened in on Raptor’s progress. He broke down the correct door this time. “Help is here, man. We got you. I don’t care what they said, I knew you’d turn up alive. You’re too tough a bastard to die.”

She screamed her pretty little face off up on the roof. I held her by the updo she had her long black hair in, holding her at arms length so that she leaned off the side of the building. I dialed up the phone I left back in the hotel room and interrupted the reunion of mentor and hero with a call carrying the shrill sound of Raptor’s wife in danger.

“Hey, pick up the phone already! I don’t have all day. My arm’s getting tired.”

“What do you want?” came a voice over the phone. There was rage, desperation, and hurt in his voice.

“It’s funny that nobody knows the answer to that, because I’m sure it would make a lot of things in the immediate future much clearer. I digress. Now, I wasn’t lying when I said your wife was at work. I’m with her now! Let me tell you, she knows how to work a business skirt, know what I mean? You’ve got two kids, so I guess you do. So here’s the deal, I’m going to drop her here in a few minutes. I don’t know, maybe five? I suppose I could try and make this a sadistic choice, but we both know you’ll grab her instead of trying to grab me. All you have to do is flap your little wings over here and keep your wife from falling to her doom.” I hung up.

I actually waited 7 minutes, but nothing beats having a loved one die in a hero’s arms. When it looked like he was close enough, I dropped Mrs. Robinson off the side of the building and adjusted my visor for binocular vision.

Black Raptor dove like a peregrine for the woman he loved. He came in dangerously close to the ground to catch her and the extra weight threw him down low enough that his wings struck something and the pair began to roll. When I caught up to them and got it focused enough I was disappointed by the sight that everyone lived. Raptor laid there on the ground, mechanical wings ruined, wife on top of him, the bomb strap in its board shape again nearby. The wife was going to make it, it seems. It put enough into it that it’ll blow through bones and organs where it’s wrapped, but with no real chance of collateral damage. It’s designed to do enough to kill just the one it’s wrapped around. Remember, if I kill Raptor, he won’t learn nuthin’.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t give the guy a hand for all his luck and determination. I sent the signal telling the strap to curl up. It wrapped around Raptor’s right arm at the bicep. From where I stood, it sounded more like a loud pop as it took his arm off.

I cut back to the visor’s normal vision mode as I turned and found myself face-to-face with a giant hammer that hit me out of nowhere. I fell to my right, more than a little dazed. “Hey Gecko!” Venus shouted as she got control of the beefed up sledgehammer she just bitchslapped me with.

“You did it out of order,” I said haltingly. I had to relearn how to speak as my teeth felt like they’d just been rearranged.

“Stay down, Psycho Gecko. The team has this building surrounded and our people inside. There’s only one way you get off this building and that’s in our custody. Don’t make us have to hurt you.”

I held up a finger, “Hold on a minute. I don’t know where you came from or how you and your identical triplet sisters learned to spin around in circles that way, but I think we’ve established by now that there are two ways off this building.”

With that, I threw myself off the side, hoping I was still facing good people.

I was. It was Forcelight who first tried to catch me, but she was too powerful for what I was trying to do. If she caught me, that would be it. I directed a blank white holographic image into her face as she got close. She pulled it away with her powers but had missed me. She couldn’t stop on a dime.

The next hero to interrupt my fall was Gorilla Awesome who swung through the air to catch me in one meaty paw. Too bad he can’t fly. I swung my fists into one of his eyes and kicked off his body.

I continued my descent until Troubleshooter floated by. She piloted a car-sized vehicle that looked like she got out of control while adding stuff to her backpack. Two large waldoes, shaped like squared-off “U”s, grabbed me from either side, pinning my arms to my waist as the ends of each side met at my front and back. A mechanical scorpion tail rose out of the back of her flying machine and aimed right at my head. “Go ahead, make a move. I dare you.”

I hooked my right foot against a sort of cuff that was part of the right waldo and pushed, activating the jump enhancer. A system designed to throw me into the air exerted pressure against it. The right waldo yielded, leaving me in only the left, which tried to close more and hold me. It tried, but I slipped out the bottom. Hey, at least it got me closer to the ground and slowed me down some.

I was beginning to think I should have stayed with her when the heroes made one last attempt at saving my life. Or they almost did. Miss Tycism stopped before she got close enough to grab me and just let me fall.

I bounced off an SUV when I landed, denting it before landing hard on the ground. I was in bad shape. Bones broken, head concussed, warm fluids in my helmet and crotch area. I couldn’t feel much below the neck. I heard the door of the SUV open. The armor and I were both a little messed up but I wrangled enough projectors working together to throw up the illusion that I wasn’t there. Nanites flooded my body, emptying the suit’s stores as they worked to mend me. That was the plan. Disappear, get well enough to walk, and find Moai if he was still close enough in the escape vehicle.

Except the driver that walked over to look at me happened to be a statue from Easter Island. He loaded me in the back of the crushed former Yabloo City Sheriff’s K9 unit SUV and took off with me before the heroes could track us.

Like I said, good to have someone dependable around.



Two Tickets to Paradise 4

Alright, who’s ready for an update?

First off, our buddy Black Raptor is not sleeping in the dog house. I went back to see how things were going. There was some tension there. Raptor’s wife kept staring at him. She dropped hints too, mentioning that song “Jenny (867-5309)” so she didn’t fall for it being another woman’s number. Naturally, he didn’t respond.

He didn’t hold up well under his wife’s gaze. Ole Willy-boy looked apologetic, but he forced that off his face. “Hon, I told you. I couldn’t sleep and I took a walk.”

Wife woman raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t feel like using the door?”

I wanted to hear his response to this one, but the kids bounded in, bundles of loud energy. Very loud energy. The terror of the previous night was forgotten, apparently. They were a little let down that mom got called in to work, but dad going to take them to see a movie and have ice cream. Yay! And while they were causing a ruckus, I slipped daddy’s cellphone away for a few minutes to slip my glove off and merge with it. When I replaced it, it was all set up to stay on and transmit everything the receiver picked up to my armor.

My spying outsourced to a phone, I let the family head off to have their fun.

Bah, kids these days. Back when I was that age, I was too busy to have fun childhood experiences. I was having my fun the old-fashioned way, out of a pill. Experience, they called it. Ex or X for short, and no relation to your Ecstasy. The different colors let you experience different emotions, but it overwhelms that whole section of your brain and you lose your natural ability to feel emotions before too long. They wanted us to learn control over our emotions and harness them or we’d get more fried in the brain and until we didn’t have any. The Ex was also presented as a good way to fake emotions if you needed them.

Those were good times. It wasn’t even lethal if you failed and they only had to give me the Fear Experience twice.

Enough waxing nostalgic. Huh. Our hero is a stay-at-home dad. You’d think they’d put that in the info they gave me…yep, they did. Paying a visit to his place of work is out then.

Once they were out of the house, I checked the fridge to see what they’d bought since my last visit. Nothing good. Ah well. I slipped the salmon out of my belt and pulled the detonator out of its mouth. I began to check for a good spot on the wall that is covered by something. Then I was like “Maybe there’s a good spot like that on the wall behind that mirror,” so I checked. I was right. I lifted the mirror with my left hand and punched into the drywall with my right, then released the fish into the wall. Then I realized I had something to work with after all and drained the family’s milk into the hole in the wall as well.

I left the house to ripen and there was nothing interesting from Raptor’s phone, so I began to scope out the city. I didn’t pay much attention to the noises from the phone, only occasionally bringing the conversations to the fore when someone said something that seemed important. Taking the kids around, dropping them off somewhere, heading somewhere else for awhile, leaving the phone somewhere. A boring day in the life of a dad.

I had better things to do, like work on the rest of his humiliation. I wanted to waltz into Raptor’s place of employment and trash it, but that’s not an option it turns out. I found a few good buildings, including a hotel right by the local civic center. There was a Bank of America a pretty good size, too. Most of the buildings in the city aren’t built very tall though. ParadiseCity has had far too many hurricanes to want to scrape the skies.

My scheming was interrupted by a call Raptor was receiving from his wife. “Hi hon.”

“Don’t you ‘hi hon’ me. Where are the girls?”

“Hon, what’s wrong?”

“I just saw you leave that house. What were you doing there and where are the girls?”

“I dropped them off at my aunt’s. It’s not what it looks like, hon.”

“I don’t know if the note was some sort of half-assed clue, Bill, but I need to know where you keep going? You’re lying about it and I just want the truth.”

“Ok, but not over the phone. There you are. Let me tell you face to face.”

Just when I thought the seeds of doubt wood grow into a weeping willow, everything turned out oakay. He revealed his identity as Black Raptor. There was crying and hugging and the wife asking why and him answering that it gave him more purpose to help people that way than anything else he’d ever done in his life. He felt like the world his daughters grew up in needed more people like him.

“What does all that have to do with that house?” asked the wife. She had a point. As far as she knew, he could be making up being a hero to get away with an affair. That’s happened before on that TV show Cheaters. Good show. It had to go off the air when one of the guys turned out to be a villain named Lungtaker. He had a thing about ripping out body parts. With the Cheaters crew dead, they pitched Lungtaker his own show. There were no survivors.

I love ending stories that way. It adds an air of finality to the situation. How was your day at work? “There were no survivors.” I heard you went and sang karaoke last night. “There were no survivors.” Sorry I missed the cookout last night. How did it go? “There were no survivors.” Whoa, dude, I told you. You shouldn’t serve deep fried hotdogs.

That house, by the way, was paydirt. “That’s where this old hero lives. Raggedy Man. I owed money to a Yakuza loanshark and they were coming to collect. I’m lucky the old man got nostalgic and went out that night. He’s been training me ever since.”

Perfect! This was just the guy to kill in a big flashy way to show the hero I meant business. Most people think it’s a mark of shame to be the expendable person, but the point of killing off someone to get to a hero is that their presence is so important, it throws the hero off his game.

It’s a shame I’m not going to be killing this guy. There would be no survivors.

I pinged the phone’s GPS via my remote link and ran for Moai and the deconverted Sheriff’s SUV he was waiting in.

By the time I got there, the couple was gone. They were too busy discussing how Raptor’s extracurricular activities would affect things with the family. For starters, it was agreed that the Raptor’s mother-in-law wasn’t coming to visit next month after all.

The house wasn’t particularly big. It had white vinyl siding, red shutters, and a red door. It was neat, the grass was trim, and the suburb was probably a little on the old and poor side, but nothing illegal would go on here during the day either.

“Ok, I have a plan,” I told Moai. He nodded. “I’ll get out and knock on the door. When he answers it, I punch him in the balls and kidnap him. I’ll need you in the car here because if he punches me in the balls instead, you should gun it and aim for his balls. If he gets the better of me, I expect them to be too large and heavy for him to run for it, but they might wreck the car. In that case, we’ll call in a domestic disturbance over here, something about a man slapping his wife’s balls, then kill the cops and throw grandpa in the trunk. You clear on all this?”

Moai gave me another nod. Good man. Well, good statue. It’s good to have someone dependable backing me up. Someone with balls.

I got out, my armor presenting me as just a regular guy in a tank top. I approached the door and knocked a couple of times. There was no answer after a couple of seconds so I rang the doorbell. Still nothing. Crafty bastard was playing hard to get. I banged on the door with my fist.

“He’s not home!” said a neighbor as I turned to her swiftly. I’d spotted her opening her screened-in porch door. She was old and hunched over, like the wrinkles were weighing her down.

“Oh?” I asked, “I was just looking for him to say thanks on behalf of a friend. He helped pull his butt out of the fire once and I wanted to thank him.”

The old woman regarded me with a stare that almost had me believing she could see through my hologram, but she finally spoke up, “Yeah, he does that. He’s off gambling in Biloxi for a few days though. Don’t you think of taking nothing. Mr. Ray has a man come by to check on the place while he’s away and if I see you do anything, I’ll find my switch and bust your bottom myself.”

“Will he be back soon?” I asked.

“Mhm. A day or two. I’ll tell him you came by if you give me your name.”

“He won’t know my name, because it was my friend he helped, but it’s a little unusual.”

“That’s ok, people name their kids all kinds of things these days.”

“I guess they do. I’m Tokay,” I told her, putting a smile across my face.

“Oooh, that’s not bad at all,” she said with a grin, showing teeth missing.

I was temporarily thwarted. Biloxi’s going on my shit list. I had to revisit the place a few days later, long after I had to shut off the link to Raptor’s phone due to family angst and drama over his heroism. This is a no drama zone. There shall be no angst in my villainy if I can help it. None. There’s no reason hurting people should be anything other than fun here.

So I went back earlier today to beat up this old man.

This time, Moai parked and snuck around the back while I knocked on the door in disguise again. This time he answered. He was old, but held himself well. Still had more meat than fat on his bones. The remaining puffs of white hair stood out from his dark brown skin and reminded me a little bit of a clown. I told him about how a friend of mine said he saved him and that I just wanted to show my appreciation. “You’re Tokay?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Come on in, lady next door told me about you,” he said as he waved me in and turned away. I stepped in and shut the door. When I turned back around, he was gone. Quiet old fart.

“Hey, where’d you go?”

“Vietnam,” I heard from nowhere. “I learned a lot there. I learned how to spot when someone’s hiding shadows behind a lighter exterior.”

I dropped the disguise. He was on to me. You don’t get to be a retired hero by being an idiot. “Nam, eh? Was that something to do with why you started? It’s been a long time since you started having fun in the 70s. Care to learn a few new tricks, old dog?”

He appeared from the shadows suddenly to my rear, flowing out of them like an illusion of his own. A fist gloved in iron and rags slammed into the back of my neck. I turned to chop at where his hooded face would be, but he faded back into the shadows. I don’t mean sneaking either. He actually disappeared physically into the shadows. That’s pretty cool.

“Care to catch an old school beating, young bitch?” he said, his wizened voice becoming harsher and grating as he got back into his old act. I created an illusion of myself still facing that way and glancing to the sides a bit as I took a few steps back to cover my rear. Raggedy Man appeared from above the real me again, slamming his boots into my head. I went down, grabbing for him, but he disappeared. He keeps too many lights off in this house. The entry hallway limited my movements but his power let him come from any angle pretty much.

I headed down the hall and found the living room, which had more space for me to move in.

“I don’t know who you are, but I have a guess thanks to your name. Another thing I learned in Vietnam is another name for a Tokay gecko,” he said, his voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. I closed my eyes, letting myself focus on the overwhelming 360 degree visuals from my helmet. “We called it the ‘fuck-you lizard’,” he said just before appearing again, appearing at my right rear.

I caught his chin with my right hand, put my weight on my left foot, and threw my right foot into his balls. He wrenched my grip loose from his face with both hands face and grabbed at his crotch, doubling over as he fled into the shadows. “Hey old man, I ain’t fucking you. Speaking of fucking, how’s your old girlfriend Raggedy Mandy doing?” I looked around for where he’d come from next.

The mention of his one-time partner got his attention in a hurry, but his leg was in mid swing as he appeared before me. The metal shin guard hidden under the sewed up rags slammed into my throat and sent me stumbling against the back door on one wall of the living room and next to the kitchen. He stayed there this time, moving to stand against the wall in front of me. “What do you want here?” he asked in a voice that bit down rage.

“I want some mo,” I said.

He tilted his head, “Some more what?”

The door burst into splinters and light flooded in to cut off Raggedy Man’s escape, revealing his costume. It was a patchwork of rags with hidden steel reinforcing his favorite limbs to swing at people and an old, human-sized Raggedy Andy head for a mask. Moai flew through it, head first, and knocked him against the wall. With a grunt, he left an imprint of his body in the drywall and slid down to the floor.

I stood up, brushing myself off, and patted our captured hero on his red yarn hair, then I gave Moai a thumbs up. “Some Moai. Good timing, dude.”



Two Tickets to Paradise 3

They did all the boring stuff for me already. I realized that when I finally looked at the folder, though I didn’t get it right away. I was too busy being thrown out by security. They tried to carry out Moai too, but that’s easier said than done. I was thrown out the door, and over the next few seconds I was joined by four of casino security. They weren’t in any condition to object, so I went through their pockets for change and wallets.

When Moai did come out, he did so by throwing himself through the glass door, which made me feel a little bit proud. Why were windows invented if not for flying through? Seriously, it’s fun, but you have to avoid being cut up and stabbed by broken shards of glass, the jagged edges cutting into you and shredding your skin and muscles, spilling your vital life’s blood all over the place…but yeah, once you find away around that, it’s a total blast.

Then Torrent drove around the corner in his Hummer, helped us up, and took us back to the motel. Whatever. We already dress up in costumes. If they want to have a multiple personality disorder love-hate relationship with me, then who am I to object?

The police hadn’t touched anything and I was able to convince them that my friend in the Moai suit was preparing for a gig dressed as the Kool-Aid man and got a bit carried away.

They weren’t the type to remain skeptics when their health was on the line, so they skedaddled fairly soon afterward, allowing me to march up to the front desk and request another room. They gave it to me cheap, on account of I smacked the guy’s head into the water cooler over and over again going “Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!”

I figured I’d tie up those loose ends from that whole encounter with Torrent and Ouroboros and wrecking my room, because I realized I left that out last time. Obviously some aspects of my life don’t make it onto here with my limited ability to communicate it all to you.

On to the good stuff. I got myself some information on this Black Raptor guy. Wears a black and red costume with a pair of mechanical wings on the back of it that allow him to fly somehow. That’s just one of the many things about superheroes that you don’t ask about unless you want to make a physicist cry and contemplate suicide. I considered doing something like that once, but the guy didn’t come through with the money up front. I don’t take kindly to not being paid, but I didn’t want to let Stephen Hawking off that easily. Thus began the dance-off.

If you’re reading this, other-dimensional versions of Stephen Hawking, know this…my loss will be avenged! I swear it! You can’t bust phat moves in that chair thingy forever!

They really gave me everything I needed for this guy, though. Lots of zeroes in a bank account and an address. Real name is Will Robinson, if you can believe that. I checked in on him during the day.

You can get away with almost anything during the day. Ouroboros wears black. Torrent wears black. Black Raptor wears black. For being in one of the hottest parts of the country during summer, they wear a lot of black around here. I have some darker colors on my armor, but I also have air conditioning. I bet they feel like tough sons of bitches now, having to hose down their armor and get treated for heat stroke every time they get into a fight during daylight hours.

As you’d expect, they don’t bother doing a lot in the day. Those robbers and that teeny-villain-bopper that one day were exceptions. Checked up on him over the internet. You’ll want an empty mouth for this part. His name is Red White and Blue Boy. They can’t all start out as winners.

Aside from Black and Blue Boy, I can spend my days how I want. First step, recon. I went in my armor because na na na na, I can keep it cool in this thing. Turns out bird boy’s house is in the suburbs outside of ParadiseCity in some unincorporated area called Pace. When I got there, it was six o’clock and the family was sitting down to dinner. Husband, wife, and two little girls. I thought I was going to have a problem telling which one was Will, but Ouroboros included a photo. Turns out it was the dad. Important note to remember: Will is a male name.

Another note I took down, courtesy of a text file in my augmented reality, was that I already lost a few options for making his life a living hell. He had a wife. Poor son of a bitch. And look at that, kids. Not one kid, two kids! Seeing as I don’t have time to arrange a third kid for him, I can’t take this in the extreme direction. Gives me an idea, though.

He’s got it pretty hard already, but a deal’s a deal. We’ll start with his home and give him something else to think about that messes with his head. Freaks him out. Something that distracts him while he’s busy chasing down the superpowered criminal underworld. After that, I should shitcan his civilian identity or his crime-fighting career. I’ll figure out the rest as I go along. It’s a really laid back plan.

I didn’t do anything then and there. Instead, I waited. I was there when he got ready to go on patrol and went into his study. Moving around the bookcases revealed the existence of the hidden costume and equipment. Turns out his chest is fake. Yep. It’s amazing what you find out by watching a man dress.

The suit is sculpted to look more buff than he really is. It serves the purpose of hiding the exoskeleton he uses. It’s pretty bare-bones, useful for increasing his strength, but carrying no protection or weaponry. The wings were connected to it, so it must do a really good job on the wings. It fit into the grooves of his outer costume, except for the wings of course, and the mask fit on it. The metal claws fit into the back of his hand and on top of the feet of the suit to serve as his talons.

His air of professionalism was thwarted, however, as he opened up a large window in the study and snuck out that way so he could go fly off. There you go, big guy. Go sneak out of the house to fight supervillains, because if your wife finds out you’re sneaking out, she’ll give you a real beatdown.

Good for her. Maybe I can send Venus her way to deliver a few pointers. They’re hunting dogs, so they can help find her husband without making a lot of noise. Oh, and I suppose if anyone knows how to teach the fine art of man-manhandling, Venus can. That sounded dirty. I meant that Venus really knows how to nail a guy. With a punch. Ok, let me try and put this delicately. Venus is good at laying men out on the ground and making them not want to get up.

She’s going to hurt me for that. She’s going to know somehow and she’ll show up out of nowhere and hit me. She’ll be all like “Hey Gecko!” Bitchslap!

Moving on.

While superhero daddy was away, I was left, a poor lone supervillain in alone at night in a house with his sleeping wife and daughters.

First thing’s first. Chair stacking. It has something to do with poltergeists, which appear to be a type of ghost that only haunts homes where people obsessed with ghosts live. I’m not saying ghosts and undead beings don’t exist. I’m just saying that the ones I know have better things to do than swing doors shut late at night. I know that one because I had to pee about 2 am this one time and walked in on one of them in the bathroom.

The sight wasn’t as bad as the smell. Seriously, it smelled like something died in there.

Thinking about that at the time reminded me that I needed to use the toilet, so I headed to the hall bathroom and left them an upper decker.

I don’t remember eating corn.

After washing my hands, because I’m not a filthy animal, I figured I’d check out what was in the fridge. Looks like they’re trying to eat healthy in here. Ah, fuck it, this part of the job I’m going to the kids’ school to steal cakes meant for a fundraiser. I tossed them all in the garbage.

That’s right. Screw your eyesight, kiddos, because I left your carrots to rot. The squash? I squished it! I broke the eggplant to make a few omelets. Yeah. The spinach is speaking Spanish now! I don’t even know what that was supposed to imply, but you try coming up with something evil to do with spinach besides feed it to people. I didn’t expect to have to answer a lot of questions about spinach. I guess nobody expects the spinach inquisition. I threw a cucumber away too. I’m done being cute over vegetables.

Not much else to do after that on this trip, since it was all kind of improvised. I turned the living TV on and left it on static. Then it was off to the girls’ rooms. I picked the one with the night light on in it. Maybe she was scared of the dark? I suppose the appearance of a clown standing in the corner of the room by the window wouldn’t help matters like that. It was boring waiting on her to wake up, so I hunted down a thunderclap sound and played a little bit of it.

I saw her peek her little head up off the pillow and spot me. Her eyes went wide and she hid under the covers. When she peeked again, she was relieved to see the clown was no longer in the corner, staring at her bed.

Now it was laying on the floor next to her bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Is it mean that I kind of enjoyed scaring the crap out of her like that?

Well, you didn’t come here to read about me volunteering at a hospital.

I disappeared about as soon as she screamed. I snuck out when her mom ran in to the side of her daughter’s bed, cradling her and asking what the matter was. “And who left the TV on?”

A flash of inspiration struck me when I saw the open door to the parents’ bedroom across the house. I went and found that cucumber. I quickly rifled through the kitchen looking for oil, leaving all the cabinets open in the process. When I found the vegetable oil, I poured a bunch of it on the cucumber and hurried to the master bedroom where I stuck it halfway underneath the bed on the side of the bed where the covers hadn’t been thrown off suddenly in the last few minutes. Also, that Fifty Shades of Grey book being on the other side was a giveaway.

It gave me an idea. I’m sure I’d get a ton of readers if I tied up that woman, beat her, and raped her, right? No? Ok, then stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I can understand BDSM, but even people running around in gimp outfits recognize that “She enjoyed it” doesn’t make it any less rapey. It’s true. I asked this one sub, right after I whipped him on the ass with one of those horse switch thingies, of course, and then gave him permission to speak. He said they ought to call that abominable crap 1950s Shades of Grey.

Now if you’ll excuse me, back to my morally superior scaring of little girls in their bed at night.

I grabbed a page out of it, looked around, and found a pen. That was lucky. All these pockets and not one pen. At one time I had a pencil, but I used it in a magic trick.

I summoned the mother to her room by playing the sound of a grandfather clock striking the hour. That probably freaked her out when she realized they didn’t have a grandfather clock. And it wasn’t on the hour. And all the kitchen cabinets were open. And there was a mysterious slick substance on the floor.

Then she got to see a large cucumber oiled up and sticking halfway under her husband’s side of the bed, with a note nearby that read “Jenni 867-5309”. I think then she realized her husband wasn’t anywhere in the house.

Like a cherry on top of what I did, Raptor’s going to get a marital arts beatdown when he gets home.

Dammit, that reminds me of something I missed in that trip. Next time I go I have to remember to stomp all their fruit too.