Tag Archives: Breakdown

I Got Clubbed 6

They got the whole city. It’s one big howdy neighbor lovefest around here! I don’t mean orgies in the streets, that I could handle. Everyone’s just so fucking…nice. People are holding doors, saying please and thank you. Hugging me. Groping me. Now I know what it’s like to be nothing but a piece of meat to everyone I pass by. It gets old fast when grannies on walkers are asking you to make an old woman happy one last time before they die.

One of them that tried it, I pointed off to the side and said, “Look, Elvis is back!” She got all happy and then I threw her under a bus passing by.

The driver stopped, shocked that the old lady has fallen under there, but I reassured him. “It’s the way she wanted to go,” I said while patting him on the shoulder. Then I felt something touching my ankle. It was the old lady’s hand.

“I don’t know. Ever since Breakdown enlightened the city, it’s been hard to imagine anyone committing suicide.”

I kicked the hand away, then slammed my boot at something soft under the bus. The arm went limp.

“Maybe it was something she thought of doing but couldn’t bring herself to try,” I suggested.

“I better call 911.”

“Good idea, but please, don’t look. It’s such a gruesome sight,” I told him.

The driver turned away as he pulled out his cellphone. “You’re right. Hello, 911…”

While he was on the phone with them, I turned and dropped down to look under the bus. The old lady was regaining consciousness again. I punched her a few more times to put her back out again. “Die you old bat! Things as old as you ought to blow away in the wind.”

“You say something?” asked the driver.

I turned toward him and brushed myself off. “Oh, just seeing to her. She’s definitely a goner. Hey, why don’t you make it easy on the cops and paramedics and back up the bus a little.”

“You think I should? Isn’t this a crime scene?”

“Has anyone been committing any crimes in the city lately? Go ahead. Back it up.”

“Oh, alright.” He jogged over to the door, got in, put the bus in gear, and backed it on up.

The old lady let out a moan as the front tires rolled over here. Damn, this old bitty was tough. What, did Hulk Hogan get a sex change here?

“What was that?” called the driver out the window.

“I said you can’t park back there after all. Something about a fire hydrant. Wouldn’t want to break the law now, would we?”

“No, I’ll pull up.”

He drove forward, bouncing over the old lady twice. That shut her up.

“Great job, that was perfect!” I called to the driver.

I got out of there before the cops arrived though, out of habit. I made it back to the Secret Lair without a problem though.

I closed the club for the duration of this little crisis. I’ve wondered if I should barricade it. It’s like living in a reverse zombie movie. Instead of wanting to eat my brains, people want to hug me or sex me up. That’s a different sort of way for people to spread the virus, I suppose. I’d just rather not catch anything they’d spread that way. Besides, the stuff making them do this isn’t a virus.

Empyreal City belonged to Breakdown now. The announcement had gone out like a press conference. He had all sorts of celebrities, heroes, diplomats, and other VIPs. They all loved him now. He even showed off this old retired superhero, Dr. Unity. He had been a super scientist best known for his research into how to create world peace. It had caused him all sorts of personal drama back in the day to deal with world conqueror’s who wanted to stop people from killing each other, but only because they would all be unified under a dictator’s rule.

The old man expressed his admiration of Breakdown doing what he couldn’t. Big PR victory for Breakdown.

The government had been forced to recognize that the city was temporarily controlled by a supervillain, one who ruled through love instead of fear. Machiavelli, eat your heart out. They kept recon drones flying overhead as best as they could in the weather, but it’s hard to send people in when the guy they’re after would have the entire population of a city on his side as hostages and supporters.

Some other powered people probably survived because of they had a filter or a mask or didn’t need to breathe, but they probably didn’t stick around too long after all this happened. He had also taken recently to airing a local commercial with my face, warning people to try to get me to drink up, but otherwise stay well away from me.

Thing is, Sexahol makes me a cuddly, sexy beast to those same people. I could probably brag about killing that old lady and someone doped on the love juice would want to give me a big snuggle.

I survived, though. Of course. As I once said long ago, even after the heroes have been beaten by some supervillain, there’s always another villain who doesn’t want to live under the other guy’s rule.

Moai stood guard just inside the club wearing one of those bronze Spartan helmets with the Mohawk-looking thing on it. “They’re still all sickeningly sweet out there.”

There wasn’t a lot to guard, really. It was a place for people to dance and work. Fuck ‘em. Not even that gas thing that Moai and I brought back from the warehouse was of much use, at least to them. I had hauled it back in case I needed to do something similar to what Breakdown did.

I’ll admit, even though it paints me in a good light, I worked on altering enough of my nanites to half-fill that gizmo of Breakdown’s. Adapting their programming to general medical use, as well as basic testing, has kept the remnants of Shieldwall from selling nanites for medical use all over the place. I didn’t have either problem. Even got a batch of general purpose nanites in there now set to react to living human and near-human organisms and clear them of this crap.

If I don’t set them to something nonspecific like that, then they do very bad things when encountering organisms that aren’t me or that don’t belong in my body.

I got what I had loaded into that mist mechanism to test it, counting on the extraneous fluid around the nanites to be dissolved into a cloud capable of counteracting what the pink clouds had done. I didn’t get a chance to test it, however.

Just then, there was a call on the giant screen. I climbed up on Moai and he hopped, allowing me to grab the upper floor and pull myself up. Moai went for the stairs while I rushed over to take my seat on the throne and bring the giant screen down.

Breakdown’s visage greeted me, covered with a gray domino mask that hid his eyes and had a large, stylized blue teardrop at the corner of his right eye. “Hello, my dear Psycho Gecko, hello. You’re looking well. Quite trim. Quite fit.”

“Hey Breakdown. You look like you could use a throat lozenge and an anal rapin’.”

“That’s no way to talk to the city’s regent,” he said in reference to an announcement he’d made to the world. Holding onto the United Nations after they’ve been all kinds of lovegassed gives you a lot of bargaining power, it turns out. “You should willingly bow before me and join my cause. You’re all alone in the city now. No friends left outside your toy soldier. No family that you ever speak of. Nobody who cares about you. You don’t have to live such an isolated life.”

“Blah blah blah. You sound just as bad as the people on your little Sexahol, you know that? Love this and care that. Oh no, Mr. Psychology wants to mess with me psychologically. Geez, you’d think a guy like me is used to being alone and friendless by now. Like I haven’t taken on a city before. Or have you forgotten that little stunt where I bitchslapped Lady Liberty and caught the city around the Empyre State Building in my own personal flame war. Don’t even bother, Achy Breaky Heart. You lost from the moment I knew you were trying to screw with my head.”

“I had hoped we could remain civil with one another and share a pleasant meal. Care to dine with me and discuss your place in my society.”

Now, about this time, my inner monologue decided to give me some advice about this. “Trap trap trap trap trap trap trap trap trap trap trap trap, see if he’ll pay.”

“Where did you have in mind? Hopefully somewhere fancy since you’re paying.”

He nodded. “I’ve heard Da Silvano is good. Celebrities eat there often. They will appreciate having the most famous person in the city around.”

“Thanks for the compliment, Breakdown. Also, thanks for paying for the entire meal. You know, I always knew that if I refused to work hard, lacked determination, and never did an honest day’s work in my life, my amateur porn career would make me famous. I do all my own butt bleaching, you know. It’s how I stand out. People get snow blindness staring at my ass long enough.”

“No, Gecko, I meant me, obviously. From what a little bird has told me, you don’t even have an amateur porn career. You’re not that famous, either. You have your exploits, but most people don’t treat terrorists like celebrities.”
I think I was getting to him through that friendly facade.

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey! That’s not true at all. Everybody knows that terrorism gets you the cover of Rolling Stone. You know, provided you’re an attractive terrorist with fangirls.”

“Do try to keep the fangirls at bay when we meet for dinner, Gecko. I’ll have them reserve us a table at seven o’clock.”

“Seven’s a good time. Can I bring my own wine?”

“As long as it’s real wine. Don’t bring anything that the hobos drink. I will see you at seven.”

He cut the transmission. The screen raised up to reveal Moai standing behind where it had been. “Good, Moai, did you hear that bit about us having a dinner reservation?”

He nodded.

“Alright, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to fill a wine bottle with something that goes ‘boom’. You should go with me as backup. Go lock the door and do a quick sweep to make sure the traps are ready. I’m going to go see if we have any absinthe and nitroglycerin. Oh, yeah, and let’s see if we can lift this gas thingy way up out of reach of anyone who manages to get past the traps. I don’t need someone else trying to use these nanites to save the world instead of saving me.”

I won’t go into specifics about what I put in there, at least as much for the sake of the bar selling the drink as a secret recipe in the future, but it was at least stable enough for me to gun it and smash my car through the back rolling garage. With one remote, I armed the traps. With another, the replacement garage door began to close. Then we got our rears in gear and headed for the restaurant.

Moai stayed outside with the car until I knew what the situation was like. I was in full armor, too, so the last thing I needed was an actual meal. I’d have to take the helmet off for that, and then I’d have to wash the outside really well if ketchup got on it. At least it didn’t do as much to metal as it would to something tight.

Irrelevant though. As soon as I walked in, I could tell something was off about Breakdown. Same costume and same mask, but differences in body shape and face structure. They’d tried to get a lookalike in there. I pulled on the cork of the wine bottle and armed it. The man in the Breakdown costume figured out something was up as well. The chair he had sat in fell to the floor behind him as he rose to his feet and pulled a detonator of his own.

As I threw the bottle, I could make out something about, “For the one I love!”

Then the whole place went up and I took a small break while my mind tried to figure out how I got across the street and between a tree that had been broken in half.

Moai found me and helped me up and to the car in my dazed state. It was blurry at the time, but my recordings show that the restaurant itself was just gone. It looked like it had always been some sort of firepit surrounded by two buildings that had been mostly blown apart. I was too stunned physiologically to make much sense of the kind of firepower that meant at the time. I didn’t even get pissed at the dings and scratches on my car caused by shrapnel.

Unfortunately, as the shock wore off, it was replaced with pain and an awareness of more fluid in my pants than I remembered having down there. What must have happened, see, is I must have kept some water and some chocolate pudding mix down there, and the explosion broke open the water bottle, tossed it into the mix, and then heated it up enough to form what could only be pudding in that armor down there.

Yep, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation.

I didn’t think too much on it at the time, though, because of the pain. I hadn’t been flash-fried, but blunt force has this nasty habit of doing a number on me despite wearing armor.

I had Moai lay across the front to drive us out of there before the cops closed down the area. They were already in place on the road he took us down, so he had to ram the car through a barricade while I groaned from where I laid in the backseat. The pain was still there, even if the damage was quickly going bye-bye courtesy of nanite packet quilting under some portions of the armor. See? That innovation in this new armor proved to be quite useful after all.

Instead of taking us right in, Moai stopped in the street. Curious, I sat up to find that The Secret Lair was open for business. People were lined up, and my bouncer, Terrance, was at the door, looking over everyone with his glowing blue eyes.

“Huh…well, Moai, let’s not sit out here all night groaning in pain. Looks like I have a bloodbath to tend to.”

I tried to throw up a hologram that I wasn’t in armor, but that was a major systems failure. Too many of the cameras and projectors had suffered damage. I was exposed. I had nothing to protect me but armor, extensive murder training, systems enabling super strength, localized energy projection around my hands and forearms, a massive bodyguard, and chocolate pudding that could be used to blind people.

I had Moai help me in to foster a false sense of “my ass done got blown the fuck up”.

Terrance looked me over and didn’t step out of the way. I thought my own guy was going to start something, but then he moved to the side and let me pass, like I’d met somebody else’s standards.

That somebody else was Breakdown, sitting in MY throne in MY hideout and perusing MY videos of anthropological studies of human mating on MY giant screen, with MY henchman standing by his side.

He stood up and clipped a microphone to his lapel. It carried his voice through the sound system as he spoke. “Well! I see dinner was well done, but not as well done as we’d have liked. You aren’t in any shape to fight. Tsk, tsk. Have a seat, Gecko. Just enjoy yourself. Find yourself a good woman to share the night with. You will find I am more competent at dealing with dissent, but I am more forgiving as well.”

“Not just yet, you tailorless dick!” I projected via my helmet’s speakers. “Get down here and die like a man!” It’s never been confirmed that Breakdown has powers, but he’s always been more of a psychological threat to people than a physical threat. Plus, I only looked injured. Twas merely a flesh wound. I was actually fit as a fluffy carnivorous bunny.

“Why do you insist on this lonely path, Gecko? Is it that abhorrent to find someone who will accept you for who you are and make you a better man? You can not honestly believe in your anarchy as a way to live. Even you want to be accepted. You want fame. Friends. Loved-ones. You want people to think of you as a hero. You want to be a part of the world with everyone else. You can be adored. You can have the irresponsible fling. The high school sweetheart. The dance of your life while staring into a beautiful pair of eyes. You are not too damaged for my society to reject. You are not unworthy of this.” I saw Carl nodding along to all this. I was tempted to kill him too at that, but he wasn’t exactly in full possession of his own mind there.

“I am fixing the world here, Gecko. Every lonely soul will find its other half. There is a thief here. She knows you. She has shown herself capable of keeping up with you. She could help you deal with your personal demons. There is another, a young woman coming into her powers who has been pushed away from her family and friends. You could use your past experiences to guide her and keep her from following the dark path your life has taken. Protect and cherish.”

Under my armor, I was stewing. I’ll confirm nothing, but it’s possible that there was a sliver of a chance that some of what he was saying was annoying a part of me that was sensitive towards these kinds of arguments. I stood there contemplating how badly I was going to kill that son of a bitch as Dame stepped forward, as did the girl from the news the other day.

“Perhaps you need a strong woman who can keep you in line, one you have shown compassion toward.” That was Elite the Warrior Woman, apparently. Super strong, super durable, super definitely not one I want to let get a hold of me with those Kegels. What, this jerk went shopping through all the women around, trying to find me just the right woman to go with my shoes? Or like picking up a compatible dog at a dog shelter? These weren’t people to him. They were tools to convince me.

I focused on that. He was trying to get me on his side. Somehow, that had meaning to me.

“No, that’s right. Carl said you had a thing for men. I shouldn’t have been so judgemental. Surely you can take your pick. Hydroplane would love to show you there are no hard feelings for trying to kill him. Or Nos. Perhaps Paveman, if you like them older.”

What the fuck? Paveman was human enough to be affected by Sexahol? That was useful information.

Wow…he had all those guys there too. That was about when I noticed that there were a lot of superhumans present. I didn’t know how many…but I knew how many of them it would take to kick my ass. Like I said once long ago, that’s a handy piece of information to have.

That was his problem. It was just so pathetic. He made it sound so high and noble, but at the end of the day he was treating them all as pieces of meat. Just throw enough booty at the problem and it would go away. THAT was getting to me?

“Heh…hehehe…hahahahahahaha!” I bent over, caught up in the laughter.

“What’s going on here?” inquired Breakdown. The overhead camera gave me a view of Carl grabbing Breakdown’s arm and telling him something.

As quickly as merriment had set in, I stood straight up.

“Not as hurt as you-“ Breakdown started.

I cut him off. “Can it, you lintlicking hairchewer. You bulldog spittle in human form.”

I glared at him, daring him to speak up. He didn’t, so I continued. “What, you just want to throw someone at me? Some sacrificial lamb you think needs to fuck my brains back to proper working order? You think it’s as simple as saying ‘all you need is love’ or ‘that guy needs to get laid’ and someone like me becomes part of a regular family with a regular job and regular bowel movements? Seems like half the time I can’t express myself without having to use some story about transgender this or suicide that. That shit doesn’t get fixed with a kiss you know!”

I started pacing back and forth, not paying any attention to the crowd. Breakdown’s mist machine was still where I left it, hanging from the ceiling by a heavy duty cable wrapped around supports. I still had a case to make, though. “I’m a little old to have prom night with a sweetheart, too. A guy like me has to accept when they’ll never be the sort to know what that’s like. I’ve been rejected and dejected and even injected, but that’s alright. I can handle that I’m not the type who gets someone to love. Kids. A house with a big family movie sunset just before the credits roll. Society has its reasons to reject me, and they are the same reasons I reject it. So all you have is the hope that I’ll give in willingly to your mass enslavement. You failed to take me by force like all the others. You’re afraid, so you’re trying to throw sex and relationships at me to get what you couldn’t by brainwashing. I don’t want disgusting, weak-willed little humans that can’t solve their own problems but think they can solve mine. And I sure as shit don’t need anyone in my life to make me a full person.”

I stopped and hopped up on top of Moai’s head.

“And I know that you’d only be this desperate if you were afraid. Pay attention to that feeling now. It’s the one that said you should have run as soon as you tried to kill me.”

I pointed up at the gadget hanging from the ceiling, trying the remote access I had installed earlier. Nothing. That’s not good.

It was Breakdown’s turn to laugh. “I wasn’t stupid enough to let you use that old thing against me. Remember, I had that built. My new friend Carl kept me from getting your little robots over me and getting turned to slime, but I knew how to get rid of your trigger. Heroes, villains, assembled citizens. Tear Psycho Gecko apart.”

“Moai, do what you can,” I quickly blurted, then jumped. The enhancers in the legs of the armor were in better working condition than the holographic projectors. They carried me past superhumans that rose into the air and up to the device. Below me, Moai did his best to headbutt anyone trying to gain altitude or take aim, but it wasn’t enough. Most blasts, zaps, and whatever went wide. They didn’t want to risk the nanites out of a belief that they would try to disassemble them.

I had to grab on to this thing with my legs and hang upside down to unseal and discard my right hand glove, but then I pressed my palm to the device. A human can mess with my wireless connection, but there’s little to be done when I can actually molest machinery like it was a part of myself. Kinnari winged her way closer, energy disk ready to circumcise me at the neck when she got a clean shot.

She didn’t get a clean shot. The system spewed nanites out of it like a sprinkler rather than a fog machine. Everyone tried to shield themselves. Breakdown dropped from the catwalk and ran for the back. I swung over so I’d land on the catwalk, rolled with the impact, and then hurdled over side to follow him, completely ignoring Carl’s attempt to grab me in the process.

I found him back there crawling through the shower on all fours, puking. Hey, give the guy credit for sticking to his manners. I kicked him over onto his back, ignoring the pink crap he left on the tiles. I charged up my left glove.

“Wait, stop! I can’t die yet. Not until I kill the son of a bitch who did this to me!” he pleaded, the orange light of the energy sheathe splashing over his face.

“Whassat now?”

“It wasn’t me. It was the Sexahol. I was just the face he used. It was always his plan all along.”

“Sounds like something you’d say.”

“Wait! I never had a gas mask. Back in the warehouse, then around the city, I was exposed to all of it. Do you think if I thought this all out beforehand, I would have kept acting on it like that? For god’s sake man, look what your nanites did to me!”

He…had a point.

Much as I hated to admit it. Switching off the olfactory filters, I could even smell the intense cherry and strawberry flavoring of the Sexahol in his puke. It cleaned a lot of it out of his system to.

I sat down next to him and punched the wall of the shower, blowing tiles off and knocking a hole through the wall.

“Only way I’m letting you live is if you get out of this city, you understand?”

He nodded, wiping at strands of spittle stuck to his mouth and the top of his tights.

“Good. You get out of dodge, and I’ll check out whoever’s supposedly doing this. If you’re wrong, I’ll hunt you down. You know I can. If you’re right, I’m cleaning up this mess. You feel me?”

“Yes I…feel you,” he hesitated. Probably the unusual word choice.

“So, who is the unlucky bastard if you aren’t?” I asked.

“Unity. Dr. Unity. Congratulations. You get to end a superhero trying to end conflict across the world.”

“I hope you’re wrong so I can kill you. Now get the hell out of my club.”

Breakdown skittered to his feet and rushed off.

Just for good measure, I shouted “And stay out!” after him.

Lucky bastard. He wasn’t the one who had to stay behind and clean up the mess Empyreal City had become. Even I have my stupid moments.

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I Got Clubbed 5

“You got that number you can reach me with, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sandra rolled her eyes as she responded.

“And remember, no more Sexahol,” I ordered the bartender.

“Sure thing, hon. You’ve said that every day now since you got that call with your statue,” she responded. Then she asked, “Saving it up for a hot Valentine’s night?”

She winked at me. She must have gotten into the Sexahol too.

“Nope, that stuff’s dangerous. It’s got roofie shit in it. As bad as Rohypnol is, its shit is even worse. You know, with peanuts and shit in it.”

“Ewwww, not a yummy image, bossman. I’ll remember though. No Sexahol.”

Satisfied that the lie had nailed that lesson into her head and the temporary number to call me on my armor’s helmet, I turned toward the boys. Moai and Carl were coming with me and we were all suited up. I had on my armor, Carl was bundled up with a balaclava over his face and his weapons on him, and Moai was wearing a sombrero with a whip tied around his waist. It was a good look on him. Not everyone can pull that off.

“Boys, we ready?” I asked them before we left.

Moai nodded. “Yup,” answered Carl.

My ears picked up a familiar tune to the music. “Sure, right when I’m leaving and facing some evil mastermind, that’s when I finally hear something I know.”

“You didn’t know any of the songs they’ve been playing?” Carl asked.

“Much of the music I prefer isn’t danced to. I won’t say it can’t be danced to, since that just means all those people aren’t trying hard enough, but it’s just not the stuff they play in clubs.”

“Ah, you’re a fan of rock.”

“Among other musical genres. Ah well. As this song says, ‘We’re out all night to get lucky.’”

“I don’t think they meant anything like this, boss.”

“Would you rather we go out all night and get unlucky?”

“Good point. Wish I could get lucky in my armor.”

Carl still didn’t get a chance to have his first real time out in his keg walker, since that scrape with the drunk transvestite lizard man didn’t count. We had left the makeshift power armor in the back of the club.

He was eager to try it out, too. He didn’t get to use it while we were out getting information because of the need for more subtlety than firepower. In this case, it involved bribing liquor store employees for their shipment schedule. Didn’t hurt that they were somewhat friendlier lately. Sampling the wares, it seemed.

The driver was a different story altogether. For some reason, he didn’t want me to know where all this Sexahol crap was stored at. Maybe it was the armor. People don’t often like cooperating with villains. He wasn’t a regular truck driver either. The overalls said “working stiff” but the tattoos said “I like to wear women’s hose and be a bad boy.”

I handled the situation with my usual tact. I had him bound, gagged, and tied to a chair in the office of the liquor store. Moai kept watch and made sure we weren’t interrupted unless necessary. Carl fetched me a puppy from a pet store. I sat across a table from the driver, examining a bottle of tequila and a lighter I’d taken from the front of the store.

“While I wait for you to talk, I could use a snack,” I said. The puppy Carl brought yipped excitedly as I took it in one hand. Carl exited to watch over the place with Moai. “Hey there, little guy. You’re the snack!”

The driver was agitated, but when he spouted off, I got the sense it was more due to his being restrained than any actual fear for the dog. “The hell are you doin’ man? The hell are you doin’? You’re not gonna eat a puppy.”

“I’ve never flambéed a puppy with tequila before. I wonder how it works. You think it’s like veal, or will I have to tenderize it first? You know what, I was planning on tenderizing it anyway. Just light this tequila on fire, smack the puppy with the bottle, and voila!”

“Jesus, man.”

I tossed away the top to the tequila and flicked the lighter to life.

“You want me to talk or you’ll do it, that’s it?”

“Not at all, my dear fellow. I’m going to do this anyway, because you’re probably thinking you can give me some BS that sends me on a wild goose chase while you get out and warn your buddies.”

“What are you going to do then?”

“That’s a good question. I could have my guys bring in a couple of glasses. We could sit here and have ourselves a few drinks of this tequila while they check it out. Can’t trust just anyone to bash a cute widdle puppy skull in, now can you?” I scratched behind the pup’s ears while I talked in the baby voice to him. “I already have a couple jokes ready, too. Like ‘I wouldn’t say it was a Great Dane. It would have been better with some steak sauce.’ What do you think? Maybe ‘Lady and the Tramp make better meatballs than the ones they were pushing around,’?”

He flinched at the jokes, but then he gave that proposition a minute’s thought.

“Alright. I can live with that,” he said.

I got up and knocked on the door. Moai opened it. “Hey, you guys bring a couple shot glasses and come in here.”

I took a seat while they did so, then had Carl free the prisoner’s arms so he and I could share a drink.

“It’s over by the waterfront. A warehouse.” He downed his drink and grimaced. After shaking his head clear, he gave them the actual address. “There isn’t any security, either.”

“You heard the man. Go find the place and make sure it is what it is. You still have that key?”

Carl patted his pockets looking for it, but then it fell out from under the whip Moai wore as a belt. Carl picked it up and checked to make sure nothing was out of place. It was a key fixed to a grenade, after all. It wouldn’t just suck if that thing went off. It’d blow.

After they were gone, my prisoner and I just sat there in the back of a liquor store, drinking tequila and snuggling a puppy. See how civilized I can be? It was practically a scene out of a kid’s movie. Specifically, The Lorax, where the guy sings the song “How ba-a-a-ad can I be? Just look at me pettin’ this puppy.”

The problem came when almost an hour had passed with no word from Carl and Moai. Ok, scratch that, no word from Carl.

Then I got a call. “Bossman? You got a call here, and I think it’s important. It’s on your big TV right in front of that chair of yours.”

“It’s called a throne and a giant screen.”

“Right, your throne in front of your giant screen.”

“Reverse that. And who is calling?”

“It’s some guy with these teardrops on his costume.”

Breakdown. When Mix N’Max was targeted by a team of superheroes after me, they put him in Marscow Prison. I broke him and a lot of other prisoners out. Breakdown was one of them and he tried to take advantage of a perceived weakness at the time. He liked hurting people psychologically as opposed to physically, and he was supposed to be great at quick escapes. I think he had some magician training.

Now, he’d gotten his costume back and was calling me in the middle of some important business.

“Thanks, Sandra. I’ll patch on through directly to the big giant screen.”

An image of Breakdown popped up in one of my eyes thanks to the connection through my helmet and my brain CPU. He was a thin man, though he supposedly possessed a wiry strength. Too bad for him I got wire cutters. His costume was light grey and dark blue. It wasn’t a good color combination, but there’s a limit to how intimidating you can be when your costume looks like a gentle spring shower.

“Breakdown.”

He looked a little confused. “Oh, is that Psycho Gecko? Why are you a giant eyeball now?”

“I recently discovered I’m a Sauron-American and I wanted to embrace my heritage. What’s this call about? Kidnapped Westboro Baptist Church and threatening to kill them unless someone pays the ransom? You must have known you’d work your way down to the very last name on the list…”

“Ha ha. No. That’s not what this is about. It took forever to get rid of those kids in a safe way. Do you know I’m now wanted for both kidnapping and reverse kidnapping of a child? I didn’t even know that second one was a crime.”

I chuckled. “Heh, that’s right, I remember when I did that the first time. I pulled this little trick with the kids of the Israeli and Saudi Arabian ambassadors. That’s not important now. Why did you call then?”

“Oh, I just figured I would make a little deal. See, I have your friends from when they were trying to get into my warehouse.” He held up Carl’s mini-pistol. “I think it’s time for an exchange.”

“Hold up one moment,” I told him.

I turned toward the driver, who had been sitting quietly, trying to understand why I was talking to myself. I grabbed my shot glass and shoved it into his mouth. It broke, causing blood to squirt out, but it was forced down into his throat nonetheless. He clawed at his throat, trying to throw it back up but unable to as it dug in with sharp, broken angles. He collapsed on the table in a gurgling heap.

“Ok, I’m back. And if you were trying to get your guy back, he’s dead now. No exchanging him after all. Looks like you’re going to need to come up with some other deal instead.”

“How did you do it?”

“I shot him.”

“That doesn’t sound like you. Nevertheless, my deal was never about exchanging him for your people. My deal was about having you come and give yourself up. Yes, after your daring rescue of Mix N’Max, I should have realized the best way to get to you would be to get your friends and hold them over your head. A fitting punishment, that you’ll lose the few people you care about on Valentine’s Day all because you tried to stop the spread of love.”

“Breakdown, there’s not a single thing about this plan of yours that doesn’t reek of stupidity and a chance to do untold amounts of damage to a location you are making use of. Should I knock before I enter, or just come in?”

“Knock, please, and leave that gaudy armor of yours behind. We wouldn’t want the men on the jackhammers to get shocked and accidentally carve your Moai into, oh I don’t know…a goatse?”

“I would find you holey responsible for that if it occurred, Breakdown.”

He slapped his forehead with his palm. “Ugh, I always get a headache talking to you for precisely that reason. Be here before midnight, before Valentine’s Day, or else.”

He ended the transmission.

Just because he was being such an ass to me, I called him back. “Or else what?”

“What?”

“Or else what?”

He blinked for a moment, then cut the transmission again.

I called back again. “Ahem, hi there. I’m calling with an important message about your credit report.”

“I know it’s you, Gecko.”

“Your credit is…fine! Now, you should really sign up for our credit card at http://www.orelsewhat.com/fuckaturtleintheear.com.”

He wound up having to disable his screen number by the time it was said and done with.

He didn’t want me in armor, and he didn’t get me in armor. Not my armor, at least. I got to the warehouse in question well before his stupid little Valentine’s Day deadline and got the keg armor up to speed. It wasn’t a match for what I wore, but the upgrades gave it enough strength for this. So did the stop sign I grabbed out of the ground, and the flamethrower that I borrowed from Sandra. Oh, and a lump hammer I brought for backup in the cockpit of the walker.

I crashed through a wall into the place and found another jumpsuited worker standing around, lighting a cigarette with his gun between his legs. I swung the stop sign and the edge of the octagonal sign caught him in the head, leaving behind a nasty gash as it knocked him to the ground.

Another approached, but this one had armor covering the entirety of his arms that was linked by wires to a few plates on his legs. I swung for him and he blocked it. Strength enhancements, that’s what they were. I stepped back to avoid his punches, ungainly in this walker. It was more mechanical than digital.

I brought the stop sign down in an overhead swing that he blocked with both forearms in an X-shape and then grabbed.

“Stop!” I yelled. “Hammer time!” I threw the lump hammer in his face. It was a throw that would have made Thor proud, and it cracked his nose open for blood to flow freely. He stumbled back at that and I let go of the stop sign with that arm and punched him hard. He left a trail of blood behind as he skidded along the concrete floor.

Given Breakdown’s style, I expected some slow death trap to end my guys, so I had a little time, but not enough to keep wasting on these idiots.

I had the walker kick down a series of shelves, which knocked over the next in line, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on. It cleared me a path to the center of the warehouse, which was mostly empty, save for Carl and Moai chained up together and suspended from the ceiling. Above them, attached to the ceiling, was a device with cylinders of pink fluid.

Yep, a setup. I was glad I killed the driver when I found that out.

A voice called out to me as I clambered unsteadily over the shelving in that armor. A couple jumpsuited minions hopped out from behind a stack of crates and opened up with pistols, but I swept the left arm of the walker toward them and activated the flamethrower I’d hastily rigged to it. The were too busy watching their eyelids burn off to worry about shooting me. I left them there, rolling around on the ground next to the crates that had gone up.

The crate burst open and I smelled a little bit of cherry or strawberry. Sexahol. I got to destroy some of it at least. The rest of the crates in that stack blew as well, the fire igniting the sealed Sexahol and causing it to destroy the bottles it was in as it was consumed.

“Hey boss! I wanted to be the first to try that out,” Carl called as I got close.

“Breakdown said he’d let you go if I showed without my armor on. I just needed to technically hold to his exact words.”

“You have, and for that you will get your friends back!” said Breakdown. I looked and found him standing at the door to an office raised to a higher story and accessible by ramp. He pulled out a remote and pressed a button. With a click, the chain holding Moai and Carl was released and they fell to the floor.

I moved to help them get out of the mess. “What was the point of this? You’re actually here. You’re letting them go without any trouble. You know you’re not going to keep me locked up here. I thought you were smarter than this, Breakdown.”

“Love makes you do funny things, my friend,” he said as he tossed away the remote. “Haven’t you ever been in love?”

“If your Sexahol is any indication, I love to kill people.”

“Oh no, we’ll fix that. All you need, all anyone needs, is someone else to love. That will fix you. It will fix your friends. We’ll just have to drug everyone and get you set up with someone. Can you see it? We can solve the world’s problems.”

I helped up my comrades and turned fully to face Breakdown. “That’s how it always goes. The world would be a better place with a little bit of brainwashing. That’ll make it nice and neat and orderly. I don’t care about an orderly world caused by faked feelings that you forced on someone. I wouldn’t like a world without problems anyway, let alone one built on a foundation of raping someone’s mind and body. Now get down here, because I’m about to kick your ass so hard, you’ll feel like a shaved Filipino boy who just got passed around a NAMBLA meeting.”

Breakdown looked at his watch, “That won’t do, Psycho Gecko. It’s midnight, and we have a very special present this Valentine’s Day. I didn’t think it would be you to investigate and grab one of my assistants, but nonetheless, this was all a distraction for any heroes who stumbled onto the plan.”

I heard a hissing sound from above.

“Boss, it’s gas!”

Sure enough, I saw pink gas drifting down from the device on the ceiling. I took the precaution of jabbing myself with a syringe of nanites. They’d counteract whatever it was.

When I looked back over toward the office, Breakdown was gone.

“Come on, boys. Let’s skedaddle. I need my armor and you need a hazmat suit, Carl.”

Together, we ran for a nearby door. I let Moai and Carl take the door while I jumped through the wall. We barely made it. That stuff spread rapidly. Outside, we saw we weren’t the only ones dealing with it. Pink mist settled over the entire city, drifting down from the sky. There wasn’t anyway to escape it, not really.

Even as it inevitably fell over us, I couldn’t help but think the sounds were one thing that set this apart. People screamed as it approached. Then, silence. Then, a happy mess of babbling and laughter. I felt it settle over us.

The mist made my eyes go all fuzzy, and I felt like I was drunk on Sexahol again, but it was being cleared by the nanites. The feeling never got very intense and I could mostly keep my head about me.

It got Carl though. He had a goofy grin on his face and gave me a big hug.

Breakdown’s voice came from the thicker fog inside the warehouse. “It’s not too late to join me. The age of hate is over with. Now, we can all find ourselves someone to care about who feels the same way. We can fix the world, gentlemen.” He moved forward so I could see a silhouette of him in the thick pink mist.

Carl stepped forward at the same time I raised the flamethrower. “No, boss. You’re great, but I’m going with him.” He backed into the fog toward Breakdown. I didn’t have a shot unless I burnt him too.

“Carl, come back with us. We’ll get you sorted out and clear that crap out of your system. None of what you’re feeling is real.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m happy, boss. I feel like it’s my wedding all over again.”

“Fuck this shit,” I said and charged past Carl, shoving him out of the way to throw a punch at the silhouette. There was nothing there, however. It vanished suddenly and there was nothing there but thick Sexahol fog that was starting to overcome my nanites. I gave myself another shot of the little regenerative bots and turned the walker around. I didn’t see Carl around anywhere as I stepped out of the hole I’d broken earlier. Moai was looking around, searching.

“Carl, you around here?”

Moai shook his head.

“Moai, you see where either of them went? Or if they went together?”

The second shake seemed more forlorn than the first.

“Carl! Caaaaaaaarl! Where are you, man?!”

There was no answer.

“This guy’s better than I’ve been giving him credit for, Moai. You still with me?”

Moai nodded rapidly.

“Good. Let’s go get my armor. Then we can get Carl back to his right mind and give Breakdown a biiiiig hug. Love is a four letter word.”

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Breakout 4

It’s true, it’s true. Oh, it’s damn true. My leg is cured! Also, I can see again and I think my arthritis is gone. I can walk again, no longer have halitosis, and my athlete’s foot is gone. My hair’s not receding, my dick’s not impotent, and my legs aren’t restless. I’m no longer short on vitamin B12, I’ve regrown my kidney, and wisdom teeth are coming back in. Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay. Now please stand up and donate a few thousand dollars to the Church of Mix N’Max of Latter Day Witnesses. They’re called Latter Day Witnesses because I made sure they didn’t make it to the trial, capisce?

As you may have gathered by now, Max fixed up my leg and the rest of me. Then we went out and got a drink at the Low Earthy Bar, where I found that I didn’t need money. True, a lot of the guys from Marscow had only been out a short amount of time, but it had been a busy few days for them.

I sat drinking my fair share of the bar’s vodka, laughing with Max, Holly, and Sam. “The pillows were pretty good!” said Max, having mixed some rum with his horse ecstasy or whatever he took. Holly nodded along with him.

“Well it’s a good thing I didn’t hit a women’s prison too, otherwise a fight would have broken out at that point,” I said. With enough people drunk and feeling good, I actually got some laughs from the rest of the bar on that one.

“Look at that. Rupt is in a good mood,” said Sam, looking off into the packed crowd of patrons. I looked around and couldn’t see the guy.

“I don’t see him. Why’s he having such a good time?” I asked.

Holly snorted at that. “Because you took out Rawhide.”

“Who?”

She explained, “That giant you fought off when you found us. He and Rupt have been feuding because they wear the exact same costume and neither one would change. You solved that problem for him.”

“Well that’s awkward. Show up to rob a bank and they’re wearing the same thing? Scratch that, showing up to rob the same bank at the same time, and then in the same outfit? I guess it could be worse. They could have been robbing a wedding.”

“Who robs a wedding?” asked Sam.

Max and I both raised our hands to that one.

“Seriously you guys?”

Max shrugged, “They had good wine.”

“They had good cake,” I added.

“Did you guys actually take anything of worth?” Holly queried.

Max answered a question with a question. “You remember that awesome coffeemaker we used to have, right?”

“Hey, we’re on the news again!” someone shouted. A large portion of the bar shut up and turned to the TV.

They did a quick rehash of who I was and the breakout itself, noting that I was not working with superheroes. “He is to be considered armed and dangerous at all times. Even if he’s holding something you wouldn’t normally consider lethal. Even if he’s got nothing in his hands at all.” That’s a heartwarming disclaimer.

I turned to the guy at the next table and shoved his head into a bowl of peanuts. He struggled against me and the table with his four arms, but his friends had to force me to let go, revealing the four eyed guy to be puffing up and turning a funny color. Yellow and green plaid, I think. “Carl, speak to me!” said one of his buddies. The man turned to me, “He’s allergic to peanuts you asshole!”

I was too busy paying attention to the TV again.

“But one of the inmates is not happy with his rescuer,” spoke the announcer to the boos and thrown trash of the bar patrons. One guy even toss his salad at the screen. It left a glop of French dressing running down the screen.

“Hey, if I wanted to watch the French run on TV, I’d put on the History Channel!” I said. It’s a dumb joke on many levels, starting with the fact that the History Channel is only good if you want to watch how bigfoot and sasquatch worked with ancient aliens to fulfill the end times prophecies by creating the earth for the Illuminati to rule. Or something like that.

“We have here a video sent to the station by notorious mastermind ‘Breakdown’,” she said before cutting to the video itself.

It shows Breakdown in his modest costume. Dark green tights and cane with domino mask on of the same color but for a blue teardrop under one eye of the mask. On his chest was a design of a similarly colored drama mask from the theater. You know, the crying mask associated with Greek tragedy. He smiled and twirled his cane, then caught it on the bottom and pointed it at the camera. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I have a message for the one called Psycho Gecko. He runs and he fights and the heroes have not stopped him yet. Nothing physical has shown itself his complete superior, but I wager our poor mental gekkonidae, shallow as he is, can’t stand up to the challenge I pose. I do this not out of valor or righteousness. No, I will show them all which one of is truly the giant of the grey matter. Seek me out, Gecko.” The video panned to the side as he tapped his cane against the floor. A spotlight shown on ten children in patient gowns, huddled up with a crowd of gun toting henchmen around. “Or I’ll exploit the one weakness I know you have. Your first clue shall be present in this riddle: How is a raven like a writing desk?”

Can you believe that asshole? Stealing my thunder and wanting to challenge me. Like I don’t have enough to deal with. “Yo, anybody got a number I can call the guy up?” I asked of the stunned crowd. “Anybody at all?”

A guy at the bar stood up. Looked like just a regular guy. Henchman maybe? Plenty of those got let out too. “One of his men was a buddy of mine. I got the number of his sister, might be able to get to him through her.”

“Number por favor. While I’m speaking Spanish, Sister Rockefeller! Get this man a bottle of your best tequila! In exchange for helping me, I will erase this man’s memory and make him wake up wondering who peed in his pants!”

The answer, of course, was me. He was just too drunk to notice it at the time.

I called the number later that night when we were back at the base under La Cosa Pasta. Luckily, Max had one of the big TVs in there. Giant-sized thing, wider than I am tall. And when I say big TV I mean it was one of the Big TVs. The capitalized letter is important. Nobody calls up the UN or the President or their rival hero on a simple phone. That won’t do. Big TVs are a product all their own. A secure phone line with the ability to take and make calls that include video. A must for any supervillain with an axe to grind against the world.

So I called up this henchman’s sister. She got her brother on the phone. He, in turn, got me the number for Breakdown’s Big TV. I adjusted my helmet comm’s distortion to “Deep and Threatening” for this one.

The screen suddenly showed Breakdown on his computer.

“Impertinent fool!” I said, raising a fist toward the screen, “To think you dare presume on my time with this wasteful idiocy! I ought to smack you with a rusty ladle for this!”

Exclamation marks are a vital part of threats that go out over a Big TV, hence their reinforced speakers.

Breakdown opened his mouth. I let him get the beginnings of a syllable out before I interrupted, “Did I say you could speak? I’d pull down my pants and stretch my head between my legs if I wanted to hear you talk. Now why did you pull this shit?”

He went to answer me but I interrupted again, “I didn’t say you could talk yet! Assholesayswhat?”

“What?” he asked.

“Somebody isn’t paying attention over there. I’m tempted to end this call. First, however, tell me, yes, tell me with your words, why did you issue this challenge?”

He opened his mouth as if to talk. Realizing I wasn’t cutting in again, Breakdown cleared his throat and attempted to regain his attitude. “Ahem…I saw your weakness. Asking prisoners to help fight for kids? I thought that was such a strange request for you to make. Then I looked up. You gassed all of Memphis but St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital went mysteriously untouched? ‘Somebody has a weakness,’ I said to myself. I can’t fight you physically, we both know that, but I can prove myself to be the better of the man with an entire super group of heroes after him. You’re not completely over the edge. You still have one rule. To beat me, Psycho Gecko, you’ll have to break it.”

He was trying to play up his modus operandi. Psychological challenges that caused mental breakdowns in his victims. He chose the wrong person to try it on. “Yes, I do have one rule, Breakdown. It goes ‘Never deny a Rabbi a pepperoni pizza on an Autumn Friday afternoon when you’re there to assassinate him.’ It’s never been invoked, but it’s there. I don’t see what it has to do with anything. The kids are yours. Keep them. Everyone knows you have them. Everyone knows who to blame if they die, including that huge group of heroes who have their base in this very city. They’re going to be pissed at this when they’re done cleaning up the robots. Oh, and Breakdown? I’d really try and keep them alive if I were you. I don’t like to see kids die. I don’t have to save them, but it would be very bad to let them die. How is a raven like a writing desk? I’ll shove both of them up your ass if anything happens to them. If you think I won’t, I suggest checking out what I did with a reality TV producer and a kayak. It should still be on Youtube in the playlist called ‘Don’t Fuck With Psycho Gecko’. Because the only thing worse than me killing you? Me NOT killing you.”

I cut the feed.

I told you, I’m too busy to play mind games. Parents or heroes, they might have to rush out there in case the kids are killed. I like my way better. Now Breakdown and his guys have to protect a bunch of sick kids.

“Now that that’s done, you heading out soon?’ Max asked, putting a hand on my shoulder. I turned around toward him.

“Naw, I still have business in town. Things I need you to help me with.”

“Like what?” said Sam from the stool she was propped up on. She and Holly were passing a bowl of popcorn between them. It seems I’m entertaining when I threaten people.

“Ladies and high men. Not hymen, you can keep your legs closed. I have a minion to break out.”

Max cocked his head to the side. “He wasn’t in Marscow?”

“It seems not. Checked the manifest while I was in the system. Makes sense, I guess. He’s a Moai. You know, big statue from Easter Island. I figure he’s in the Long Life Tower somewhere, or at least we can find out where they dumped him there. So here’s the breaks: I’m not down and we get Moai out.”

 

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