After my enlightening visit with Venus and her two younger pals, I had a new accomplice on my side for when I marched on Emilio Basford. Sure, Venus distrusted me. She hated me. Some might even say she didn’t like me. But as much as Venus hated having anything to do with me, she needed to keep an eye on me while we rushed to get everything into place for saving the world.
That led to an interesting situation in the meanwhile. See, I didn’t trust her enough to stay at that fancy Master Academy with her and all her super-powered buddies. She needed me to lead her to Emilio Basford, but she might have decided to arrest me and hunt for him on her own. She didn’t find the alternative, staying at my place, to be any better. We had quite the conundrum on our hands.
In the end, the young’un Ball Boy presented us with a solution. He wouldn’t let go of the possibility of Venus and I being more than just mortal enemies. Still, his proposal that Venus and I “get a room” proved useful. We could keep an eye on each other while both being at risk.
We sprung for a hotel stay. Moai and the Rejects were in some of the rooms on one floor. Master Academy capes slept in other rooms on the floor.
For his quick thinking, Venus assigned Ball Boy to watch the outside from a car parked on the street. All night long.
I left my suit with Moai as part of the deal. I also submitted to a full search before entering the room. I requested a cavity search, but they felt that was unnecessary. They wouldn’t budge on that one, no matter how much I insisted I might have something hidden up there.
I didn’t know what to expect in that room with its two beds. A stern talking to. A search for what feelings might have led me to be a villain. Excessive flatulence. Instead, I barely got in there when Venus jabbed me in the neck with a needle. I reached for a needle of my own in my pants pocket, but she plucked the nanite syringe out of my hand as soon as I got it out.
“Dirty pool, old chap…” I said, stumbling toward a bed.
“I’ll be sleeping across the hall, I think. Goodnight Gecko,” she told me before I collapsed into sweet oblivion
I awoke to a civilian-dressed Venus yanking back the window blinds, bombarding me with bright sunlight. I tried to cover my eyes and found my left arm handcuffed to the bedpost. She turned to say, “Better get ready. We should start the day bright and early.”
“Do you say that to all men you handcuff to the bed?” I asked. My mouth was dry, like it had been subject to an orgy of cotton swabs.
Venus plucked a few strands of brown hair out of her face and tossed one of my own shoes at my crotch. “A shoe? Who throws a…wait a second. Did you undress m- awww.” I threw back the covers as I asked the question, only to find myself still dressed but for my shoes. Damn, that could have made for some interesting daydreams.
“You’d better get out of those soon or you’ll miss breakfast,” she told me before sauntering out of the room. Like that would happen. Not in any room with a pen in it.
I caught up with Venus, Tupsy-Turvy, that patriotic hero, Steve, and Larry in the elevator. Only between the room and the elevator, something happened to my clothes. The zipper on my pants was torn and my shirt looked like someone tried to tear it off me from the front. I’d even clawed at my chest for authenticity. So when I came rushing into that elevator, humming a jaunty tune to myself, and smiling at Venus, the others got an idea about what went on.
“Good morning, isn’t it, everyone?” I turned, smiled, and waved at the other occupants. The guy in the blue tights, a blue cape, red gloves, and white stars on his chest and head was Bright Star. He scowled beneath his beak-shaped visor. Larry gave me a thumbs-up. I think Steve smiled, but his lips are invisible. Topsy-Turvy’s reaction was best. I could have driven a truck into her mouth as far as it was open. Her eyes had a sort of amazed and amused gleam to them, too.
“Bastard,” Venus said out of the corner of her mouth, looking straight ahead.
“Amateur anesthesiologist,” I answered back. Hey, she could have killed me with that much sedative. Fostering the assumption that we were more than just enemies was the least I could do as far as revenge.
I included all that for you readers because it served a vital strategic purpose. It was funny. And it explained why Venus felt confident she wouldn’t be walking into a trap.
Around noon that same day, I couldn’t say I felt the same way. See, I had known the address of the man who hired me. After all, he couldn’t expect me to visit him at the site of the same fundraiser where we met. I just didn’t expect to see some old Victorian mansion with overgrown shrubs. The gate was some old iron affair with gargoyles on the pillars to either side. More gargoyles lined the walkway after, leading to a heavy door and a demonic door knocker.
Normally, I wouldn’t put much stock in a place looking haunted, but normally I don’t deal with a family meant to cause some form of apocalypse.
“A hundred bucks says there are suits of armor in one of the hallways,” I said to the group with me. The Rejects, Moai, and Ethan Basford joined me in this visit. A luchador outfit disguised Ethan. He filled out the bright green and blue of the singlet pretty well, and I couldn’t see any part of his face except his mouth. The mask featured little fake horns down the back of it and googly eyes above the one-way see-through patches that let him look out.
“Don’t take that bet,” said Ethan.
“What’s your sense of the place, Gecko?” asked Venus in my ear. I had given her a channel to talk to me on while I checked on this place. Unlike Venus and the hotel room, I knew I’d be fucked if I went in this place without protection.
“I smell offal,” I told her.
“That’s probably because you rushed out without showering this morning,” she responded. Then I heard the faint snickering of the rest of her team from that end.
“You know, Venus, I thought you preferred a bit of discretion. I mean, normally I know what you want, but…”
“Go to hell!”
I tried to ignore the yelling in my ear and scanned the door on our approach. To my regular sight, it was just a big, heavy door. Check an alternate vision mode, and it had unseen arcane designs in bodily fluids. “I’ll get back to you on that. Might wind up there before the day’s over.”
A butler answered my “shave and a haircut” knock. He looked as old and musty as the house itself, and silently led us to a trophy room of sorts. He left us there to admire the many dead animals gracing the walls and floor. There were so many stuffed heads on the wall, it looked like a crossover between The Lion King and the French Revolution.
“Mr. Gecko! You’ve worked out incredibly. How do you feel about world domination?” Emilio Basford’s voice boomed out as he stepped into the room, all smiles. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them, looking over my group. Virginia, the wife, followed after. I wondered if she knew she was banging her brother-in-law or not.
The Basford bastard proffered his hand and I shook it.
“Easy there, big fella. It’s just a little murder in your family. And, in retrospect, world domination’s not so bad. Just be careful picking a safe word.”
“This guy, huh?” Emilio laughed. He looked between his wife and I.
“Who is she?” asked Ethan, lowering his voice and speaking gruffly. Odd question, though. You’d think he’d recognize his own wife.
“This is my wife, Virginia, Mr…?”
I answered for Ethan. “This fine fellow is Luchazilla, master of the Kaiju crusher.” My explanation deflected Emilio’s questions, but Virginia narrowed her eyes as she looked at him.
“He brought one over. You bastard, you killed her and brought one over!” Ethan jumped on Emilio and throttled his brother.
Virginia laughed, but did nothing to help her husband, whichever man that was. “Hold up!” I called. I pulled Ethan off Emilio. “You can’t just kill this guy…that’s what I’m here for.”
“What?” asked Ethan. I brushed him off, then pushed him back into the Rejects.
As I stepped toward Emilio, who scrabbled back along a bearskin rug, I looked to Virginia. She just stood there, doing nothing to hinder me. I pulled Emilio to his feet. “Hey there, Emilio.”
“H-hey Gecko. Thanks for saving me. You know I have your money in the other room, right?”
I tilted my head to the side, keeping an eye on Virginia. I didn’t trust her. “Money? No, why would I be interested in money? I hear you have something bigger on the table. I hear there’s something about demons and destroying civilization. You know, you and yours ruling afterward. I got it about right?”
He nodded rapidly. “Yes! You want in? I’ll deal honestly with you this time. No small stuff. Power. You and I, we can rule this world.”
I nodded. “If I did, what then?”
Venus spoke up over her channel. “We’re moving in. You better not turn on us, Gecko.”
Emilio pointed to Ethan. “Just kill him like the others in the family. I found a way to bring over the things we made a deal with. They just need a human body.”
“Why are you doing this, Emilio? Don’t you care about your own family? What makes you think that everything will be better when it’s ashes and blood?!” Ethan lectured his twin from behind Moai.
Emilio gulped. I lifted him up high enough so he could respond over me. “If I had to choose between taking over myself or letting someone like this maniac rule, I’d rather be the one in control. You act like we have a choice, but the world is going to hell no matter what we do. The seas rise and boil, the plants die, mankind consumes itself.”
“Emilio, we were born better than that! We don’t have to give in to that temptation.”
“No we weren’t, Ethan. You didn’t make things worse, but you never made anything better.”
Virginia finally lost her patience and snapped her fingers. Emilio disappeared from my grip and appeared with his throat in her hand. She glared at him, eyes glowing with pale light. “You are being tricked. We must act, not talk.” She laughed and it echoed throughout the room. More quietly, she said, “Bring me their hearts.”
Around us, animal heads came to life. Wolves and hyenas growled. A lion roared over the mantle. The rug growled as well and snapped at Ethan’s feet. I heard clanking out in the hallway as suits of armor became mobile. Then I heard yelling, banging, and other sounds of fighting.
I left a hologram in my place and rushed toward them both. When I reappeared, I swept Emilio off to the side with a mighty blow that knocked him onto the grand horns of a snorting deer head on the wall. I followed it up by planting my laser potato peeler’s blade in the carotid artery of Virginia. She pulled it out like nothing and backhanded me, knocking me against a wall. A plaque with a taxidermied crab fell onto my lap. The reanimated crab pinched at me.
Virginia looked to Emilio, but there wasn’t much she could do. Not with an antler speared right through the man from back to front. The buxom blonde cried out in rage. She whirled around toward the rejects and swept her hand to the side, tossing Moai to the side by me. A miniature Venus De Milo sculpture fell onto his head and began writhing on him.
Writhing, I say to you. Writhing!
Virginia approached Ethan, her body changing. She grew taller, thicker. Amazonian, you might say. Her face and body looked every bit as carved as the little statue giving Moai a lap dance, with the effect enhanced somewhat by her hair going white and her skin going grey. What looked like a horn burst from her forehead and swept back over her head, then down low to form in to a split-ended tail. “You must serve me. Bring more of my family into yours. Then I will be yours as I was your brother’s.”
Showing great resolve, especially in light of the woman’s charm utterly disappearing, Ethan thrust his chin up and told her, “Never, you harridan. You corrupted my brother, but there’s nothing I want from you.”
I liked the little term of endearment he called her. Harridan.
Harridan continued to change as she approached Ethan. Headgame pulled him back to safety in arms that became thinner as they stretched. A hiss issued from Rattler’s head. Ray X lit up like a plasma globe. Before any of them got the chance to do anything, Moai and I leapt into action.
He charged at Harridan. I jumped in front of him, then hopped up and pushed off him with the aid of my jump enhancers. They hurtled me into Harridan, where I extended the Nasty Surprise mini chainsaw under my left forearm. Her head, severed from the rest of her, flopped to the ground. I rolled onto my feet next to it, then ducked as Moai collided with her and sent her body over my head. She crashed through the wall, into the hallway, and through another wall.
“It won’t be that easy,” Ethan said. From the sound of it, he was right. Someone let out a shriek so loud and intense that, even through my helmet, I thought the sound was in my head.
As it ended, I called up Venus, “Yo, Venus, you guys see her? The headless woman thingy, she’s one of those big Cthulhu people who wants to destroy stuff.”
“She’s not headless anymore. Whoa, she’s really ugly. And she’s growing. If you still want to walk out of town without interference from me, you’d better come give us a hand.”
I shut her off and purged the connection between us. Turning to Ethan, I asked, “Can she bring any more of her folks into this dimension?”
He shook his head. “That’s what we’re for. Even if she could, the ritual requires a dead body to inhabit temporarily.”
I pointed at Meltman. “Melty, go cremate Emilio.” He nodded and stepped toward the corpse, sucking in air to expel as flames.
Turning back to Ethan, I said, “You might want to lay low for a bit. The heroes can stop her, I’m sure, but they’re going to be really pissed and I think this is going to get destructive. They said she was getting bigger.”
As if to punctuate the statement, we heard an explosion from elsewhere in the manor. Everyone but Moai and I ducked. Looking up at me, Ethan asked, “You’re not going to stick around for your money?”
“Hell no. There’s plenty of ways you can pay me without me being here. Besides, you really think I’m going to give Venus a chance to turn on me again as soon as the threat’s over and the place is surrounded by cops?”
I pulled out a rubber chicken, swung it around like a nunchuk, then popped the head off it. I tossed it into the mouth of a fox head on the wall, which tried to chew on it. It blew the head and wall wide open.
Roberta scrambled over to the hole, reconning. “It looks like the billiard room.”
“Gods, man, that way’s closer to the exterior.” Ethan pointed to the side of the room where Meltman stood over Emilio’s ashes and a rapidly-growing fire.
I patted Ethan on the shoulder, “Fear not, then. We’ll be out of your hair in a minute. Well, you get the expression.”
With that, we extricated ourselves from the situation. I was right, the heroes could handle it. Granted, they wound up fighting a fifty foot woman with a head that resembled a horse’s head with tentacles, but I knew they were up to the task. As for me, I was up to evading the task force. No way would I allow Venus to take advantage of me after a fight wore me down.
Plus, there was another reason…
“We’re not heroes.” I told the Rejects again as we sped out of California in my car. We divided up between the car, trailer, and van, but I spoke to them all at the same time. “Heroes protect society. I saved the world the moment I killed Emilio Basford, so what are the heroes fighting for? Harridan’s already lost and they’re just rubbing it in some more. I mean, maybe I’d go to those lengths to humiliate someone, too, but I don’t set a very high standard for heroic behavior, now do I? By the way, kudos to whoever got this bobble head.”
Zane turned to me from the passenger seat. “Um, Gecko, that’s the little statue from the house.”
The Venus De Milo bobble head on the dash was indeed the same undulating artwork from Basford Manor. “Dammit, Moai, we don’t need anymore pets!”
From the back seat, the puppy Spike Smooshyface barked his enthusiastic agreement.
Ok, maybe I could have let Harridan destroy a little bit of the world. Just enough to get rid of long car trips with puppies that lack bladder control. Urine? I didn’t know you were out!