Tag Archives: Captain Lightning

Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 11

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Finally, the last fight. I had it all planned out, regardless of how Cercopagis wanted to do things. That’s the important thing. Can’t let him have act like he had too much power or he might start believing it. Plus, I got back to thinking about how poorly I marketed the entire thing. Sure, I pitched as an epic struggle between us versus them, but the follow-up’s been horrendous! If I had PR people, they’d have been all over this. Anyone wanna guess why I put off getting them?

So, anyway, I rented out the big Olympic stadium in Rio this time. And by rented, I stole. Admittedly, that’s a lot less badass of a thing to do as dictator of the world. On the plus side, it’s somewhat made up for due to residual badassity of having taken over the world.

See, my problem was the spectacle. This could have been so much better if we’d publicized it more. Actually put our team memberships out there, done some opposition research, run out some dossiers, come up with customized theme songs. Then again, that would have been a lot of build up with little results to show with a few of those. It’s like those MMA fights where they make a big deal about it, then it’s over in a few seconds. At least I wouldn’t have forced people to pay to see them.

But that would have required for us to collaborate instead of compete. And that’s kinda tough when it could go either way. But it’s time I stopped caring. Not caring works out much better for me. After all, I rule Earth. If Cercopagis wants this planet, he can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Or, at least make it clear he could kill me and give me an option to give it up while still living. I’m open to negotiation, particularly when it comes to certain death versus a chance of life.

I know I gave up the ability to pick the site of our final conflict to Cercopagis Lysis, but cheating has worked out well for me so far. With Mix N’Max still not taking my calls and Max Muscles too busy doing oiled-up superhero things, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And since I, the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, am not supposed to fight…I chose to bring back The Missile Patriot! Clad in Kevlar, with tactical straps on my chest, I once more masqueraded as the red, white, and blue defender of Truth, Explosives, and solving problems the American Way: mindlessly beating people up. It’s a shame that of all the extra stuff laying around, most of it’s related to not being me. Still, the eagle-beak helmet hides my face very well beind the visor. Just a shame how much the rockets on the forearms resemble those on almost all of my Electric Eyes.

Oh, yeah. Them. Kinda got a status update there. So it turns out that someone might be working against me there. I know who I suspect, but the actual list of people who might want to destroy them is about the same as the number of folks on Earth.

Near as I can tell, Electric Eye Berlin was just walking along, patrolling, trying to keep the streets quiet when BAM! Piano landed on it. I might have put it down as a simple accident, except the camera phone of an onlooker showed the piano had a safe strapped to it with an anvil welded on top of the safe. And when I got Electric Eye to turn its head, one of those baby pianos for kids fell on it, with sandbags tied to its legs.

I suppose somewhere out there could be a world where weighted pianos fall on people all the time, but this is sadly not one of them. And it’s an extremely unusual way to assassinate someone. It’s the kind of method I’d use, which also shows why it worked. I mean, important people have counter snipes and guards with submachine guns, but I’ve yet to see the Secret Service work out how to stop a mad piano bomber, and I’ve seen the plans. They had a contingency for nuclear bombs hidden in vaginas, a contingency for an android sent back from the past, and even a contingency for aliens that turn into giant monkeys. Granted, that last one involved lots of screaming, but they still planned for it. I can respect that, actually.

What I can’t respect is someone dropping pianos on EE Berlin, sniping EE Los Angeles, and EE Tokyo getting eaten by what I assume was a squid. Except I’m pretty sure squids don’t often come above water, even if he was inspecting one of the damaged nuclear plants around there. Rio is showy, but there’s something to be said for a battlefield that makes Geiger counters tick. So either that one got eaten by a mutant squid when I wasn’t looking, or Cthulhu got up for a midnight snack.

At least the sniped one made it obvious who was to blame. I should have just killed Lone Gunman back at the United Nations or the last time he was after me. That’s what I was taught. Don’t taunt too much, don’t explain an evil plan, just shove the grenade up their colon and pull out faster than the Flash if he was Catholic. Next time I see him, I’m going to hit him so hard, it’ll knock his ass off his genome. We’re talking slapping the rectum off his DNA.

So that turned out to be more to deal with after everything else. The most important thing, before all of that, would be the fight.

I didn’t make attendance mandatory or anything like that. I just set up food vendors and cameras and drew attention to myself with a small parade in my armor. I left the armor sitting up there on the throne, attended to as if it was me by three hanger-ons and Moai, who I kept around and ordered to keep a close eye on the few people I’d attached to my government. I needed to delegate and I knew I could trust Moai.

So this was the state of the Imperial Gecko Regime as of the final fight. I lost three Electric Eyes, had Moai as my Prime Minister, disguised myself to fight, and otherwise had cheated my way to victory. Overall, I’d say things were looking up and I decided to have the history books write that I had won with style instead of using a word like “cheat.”

When my final challenge went out to Cercopagis, it came in the form of a Missile Patriot dancing in an empty Olympic stadium to the song “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. I meant it as a taunt and because I felt like dancing. As the old saying goes, “Dance like you’re threatening the entire world with death if anyone laughs.” I kept satellites overhead to make sure nobody flew overhead with any pianos, too. Or at all. They might go after the armor, but I’m not a fan of being collateral damage, especially where flying machines are concerned. Just my luck, somebody’d build a lead zeppelin just to land on my head.

This time, the gold and purple flying saucer arrived and hovered over one of the VIP boxes. Luckily, I doubt he had any pianos on board. Heh. I remember wondering if he’d send out a piano monster. And thinking how weird it is I didn’t catch any sight of the squid from other sources nearby. And thinking how tired I’d become trying to be everywhere at once. It was nice to be just one person, one body, about to punch some serious dick.

Then the saucer blared a noise like a zombie bear’s fart and their champion entered the arena. It came as something of a pleasant surprise when the man entered, wearing all black, duster and wide-brimmed hat included. He twirled his revolvers and I caught sight of a rifle barrel over his shoulder.

Lone Gunman, who used to be the sidekick known as Holdout to the hero called Sixgun. He’d been a rather nubile teen at the time and known for wearing short shorts. He’d vowed vengeance upon me when I permanently disarmed and deheaded his boss. Kidnapping him and torturing didn’t help matters. Though Holdout proved surprisingly resistant to assassination at that time, his attempted vengeance hasn’t amounted to much. There was this time he took over a criminal organization to kill me, but that worked itself out in the end. That is, I killed enough people to make it right. That’s generally how the world works.

And here I was, all hyped up to kill the lad for everything he’d attempted to do to me.

He didn’t make a good first impression on the fight by ending the twirling of his guns with a pair of shots at the armor on my throne. One went right through the head, the other where my heart would be. Then he looked to me and smirked. “The fight’s over.”

“You’re not worried about the killswitch?” I asked. Cercopagis already attempted to hijack everything to claim victory. Every time he tried, it suddenly swapped away from his gilded mug back myself and Gunman on opposite sides of a large arena.

“It’s worh killing billions to get rid of him. He’s a monster. You can’t compromise with something like him. You kill them, even if good people sometimes die in the crossfire.”

“That may be, but the agreement he made hasn’t been fulfilled. The alien scum who seeks to control this great nation has not won three fights. Until this is so,” I posed here, legs spread and arms flexing, “Then he cannot control the planet. And as a red-blooded American hero, I do not cede control of the Earth so easily! As George Washinton once said ‘My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, alien domination, banished from the Earth!’”

It’s more realistic than the real quote, where he wanted to get rid of war.

“You can’t be serious,” Lone Gunman said. He casually fired a shot at me. The moment I saw the gun barrel pointed at me, I activated my rockets. And the fight soundtrack for the television broadcast started up. I made sure to focus in really well on my leaping into action, t-shirts, lunchboxes, and the still on the back of the DVD case. The only question remaining is…bed sheets?

He only tried another shot from his revolvers before dropping them. He ignored his rifle in favor of a gun pulled seemingly from nowhere. Holdout’s power had been his ability to store weapons, and probably other objects, so that he was almost never disarmed. It didn’t necessarily matter if he was tied up properly. But as a slug whizzed past my ear, I smiled at the thought of not tying him up at all.

I’ve been dodging bullets my whole life, figuratively and literally. So many people have pointed guns at me, I have a pretty good idea of where they’re putting the bullet (excluding a whole host of other factors). And I could move. There’s not usually much else you use rockets for, after all. I jerked all over the place, heading for him. I led shots only to stop suddenly and dive in another direction. I even reached inside one of the many pouches on my armor and whipped out a flashbang. Though I’ve thought up an alternate version involving a projector showing extremely bright porn while high-pitched moans and grunts play, this was the conventional one. I caught more of the bang, but Lone Gunman took the flash.

Blinded, he pulled out everything he had and just unloaded on the air. The firestorm of lead grew from just in front of him to spread around both sides and his rear as he took potshots in all those directions. Unfortunately for him, like most humans, he neglected a very important one. One that, ironically, a hunter would have been more likely to catch. I dove at him from above.

I landed on his shoulders. He collapsed under the weight and dropped the submachine guns he had at the time, a pair of those crappy little Russian types unrelated to the AK family that everyone hates. I fired my rockets to keep my balance with my feet now sitting on his arms. I then raised my right foot and brought it down, swinging my arms down to get a little extra oomph from the rockets. Crack! Went the bone of Lone Gunman’s right arm. I almost laughed and gave myself away, too. I can’t help it. It was humerus.

A second stomp broke the left one. For added measure, I ground on his fingers with my heels while he screamed and tried to crawl away. “Yeah, writhe little man. Still feel like supporting the death sentence before anyone gets a trial?”

His answer consisted of several syllables of vowels but nothing substantive in a philosophical or legal sense, which was just fine with me.

I looked up toward Cercopagis’s saucer and announced. “Psycho Gecko wins! You have no claim to Earth.” Remembering who I was supposed to be, I put my left hand on my hip and pointed with my right. “Now get off America’s planet, alien scum!”

The bottom of the saucer slid open and a dish descended. It swiveled to aim at me as electricity danced along the dish to gather in the middle. I grabbed Lone Gunman and held him up, figuring on throwing him one direction and bolting in another as a way to confuse any targeting systems.

Before I could, I heard metal tear, which is completely different from the sound of most weapons firing. Dropping, Gunman and kicking a bit of dirt in his eyes, I looked up to find Warman standing in the stadium, a torn-off dish in his hands. Eschaton and Captain Lightning were there as well, blasting at the saucer.

It rocked back and forth before Lightning flew right up to it, pulled his fist back, and punched the saucer hard enough to send it flying into escape velocity with a hole in its side. Eschaton and Captain Lightning flew up after it.

“Good going, kid,” Warman said. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder with one hand. “That would have been harder if you hadn’t kept him here.”

“What’s going on? You all were working for him,” I asked. I got the feeling I’d mised a few trees for the forest.

“We worked with him. The whole fight was our idea. If he won, they knew they could kick him off Earth like they’re doing now. They did it before. If he lost, it bought us time for the Master Academy to finish their project to take the Psycho out.”

I cocked my head to the side. “You put an awful lot of trust in Psycho Gecko adhering to his agreement. Do you even care about all the people dying now to his nanites?”

“I’m not responsible for what bad people do to each other,” he gestured to Lone Gunman and the dish in his own hands. “And for what it’s worth, Gecko has been known to stick to an agreement in the past. Doesn’t matter now…but let’s go make sure.”

He dropped the dish then, pinning Lone Gunman under it. I don’t think he agreed much with the younger hero. “We’ll settle up with you for what you’ve done after we go check his vital signs.”

Warman and I jumped up to the throne where the Koreans and Saki cried over my still armor.

I could almost hear Venus in the back of my head. She told me I didn’t have to pull off the helmet. I could find a way to bury empty armor and an entire identity. I could leave that darkness behind and start over fresh, like I always claimed nobody gave me the chance. Like I always said I couldn’t. I could even be a hero instead of some killer. I felt oddly sure that she’d help me.

“Why are you waving?” asked Warman.

“Just saying goodbye to a passing thought.” I stepped up to the armor. I unsealed the helmet and pulled it off.

“What the hell? Oh no, where did he go?” Warman put his finger to his ear. “Priority One is not dead. Repeat, Priority One Target is still alive and unaccounted for.”

“He’s not unaccounted for,” I said. I pulled off my eagle helmet and smiled at the hero. “It was me, Warman! It was me the whole time!”

He glared at me and raised a fist. I spat in his face. “Five people for each of you. You, Eschaton, Captain Lightning. For what you’ve done, five others will die. Other heroes’ family members. Sons and daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Maybe I’ll even pick some related to former world leaders.”

“Why? Isn’t that like shooting the person who didn’t fail you?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I just had the idea that you hero types are just the type to not care about sacrificing yourselves or your friends. Even your good names, for a time. But are you willing to sacrifice each other’s families? Are you willing to let another person oppose me if it means your child might die as a result? Or, in your case, your old friends and their families? Maybe that woman you wanted to marry that time but didn’t because she was a spy and you were a soldier? Did I mention I did my reading on you?”

Warman lowered his fist. “You bastard.”

“Count on it,” I said and pulled my own helmet over my head. Right there, I changed out of Missile Patriot’s armor and into my own. I clapped Warman on the shoulder as I passed him by. “And good going, kid. I probably would have been blindsided if you hadn’t told me so much. By the way, I want Victor Mender and Venus of Master Academy brought before me. Don’t worry, I’ll let your little trio of superstrong mofos know, too. Be a shame if Capain Lightning let them go and your childhood friend had to pay for it, eh?”

I lept down to where Gunman struggled to tip the dish off.

Hide who I am? Pretend to be people like this who sometimes look so barely different from me except that they’re on the “right” side. Maybe I just don’t want to let them all win. Maybe I want revenge. Hell, it could be as simple as knowing there’s still no way I’d ever be able to truly integrate into society. Or even want to. I’d just end up as some hero who kills, and heroes don’t kill.

“You hear that?” I asked Gunman, who hadn’t been privy to the conversation in my head.

“Please, you won, let me up,” he groaned. I stepped around in front of him and dialed up the strength on my leg’s muscle enhancers.

“Heroes don’t kill.” I brought my foot down on his head, hard. Then I stepped out of what used to be a human head and wiped my boot off on his sleeve.

I won’t be the hero the Earth wants. No. I’m the villain the Earth deserves. I am Emperor Gecko. All hail the man-emperor of mankind.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 6

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“Come ooooon!” I pleaded.

“No,” said Captain Lightning, arms crossed. He floated above me, higher up in the woods so as to keep an eye out for anyone needing immediate rescue, or anything else more important than talking to me.

I met him back in the U.S., because who doesn’t like a shitload of jet lag? As a hero, albeit one with what appears to be less crime to fight, he used his considerable powers to help the victims of natural disasters in his beloved America. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to butter him up a little, I came to him instead of calling him away from Louisiana. Seriously, if I’d known he’d be there, I’d have kept the tsunamis rolling so we could meet up somewhere else.

I mean, at least India had people useful to the U.S. Of A. I suppose I should have some sympathy for their plight, if I cared. Don’t know why I’d start with Louisiana of all places. If nobody made them stop, they’d still be forcing everyone to learn about Creationism and geocentrism in schools. Everyone except for the slaves, of course. They’d be back at the farm, plowing their white stepmothers. Then they all get up on Sunday and sit in church together, learning from a white-knuckled preacher about how Jews killed their savior and how God taught racial purity with the Tower of Babel.

As opposed to now, when the slavery part is illegal. Oh, I wish I wasn’t in Dixie.

But I am, and I decided to play honest with folks rather than be the usual politician. I made no secret of my disdain for the state, though I think I got them all excited when I stepped off the plane and started throwing beads at people. This hanger-on who just kinda started traveling with me suggested that if I were to do that, I should at least toss out Moon Pies, except they were all gone by the time we landed. Because I love Moon Pies.

I once killed for a Moon Pie. This guy had an inheritance coming his way of about half a million dollars, but the will said his older sister would get two million. He offered me $100,000 for the kill, but I played hard to get until, exasperated, he asked me what it would take to murder his sibling in cold blood. “A box of Moon Pies,” I told him.

“That’s all? Don’t you want money?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Two boxes of Moon Pies then.”

“What kind of man murders someone over a Moon Pie?”

“Asks the guy who wants a family member’s life taken for money.”

Long story short, he paid me the Moon Pies, then tried to back out on the deal. I grabbed the sister, told her about the deal without telling her he’d decided not to go through with it, and made an honest man of him. I guess I was something of a prick in that whole affair, but no more than the nature of the incident allowed me to be.

Irrelevant past story aside, I made this trip before announcing the big contest between myself and Cercopagis Lysis specifically to recruit someone.

“You’d be on the side against me! You wouldn’t even have to fight, just walk out and surrender. Boom, automatic victory for Earth, which continues to be ruled by its own people.”

Captain Lightning turned his head to the side. I listened in to transmissions and found a truck carrying FEMA MREs had been beset by armed men in camouflage. I could feel my nanites inside just one of them. Before Captain Lightning could set off to stop the ambush, that one turned his gun on the others of his party, then himself.

“See? I’m not such a bad guy,” I grinned up at him. He didn’t return the expression.

Cap shook his head. “I don’t care about helping you at all. You’re as much an invading outsider as Cercopagis. The difference is, he’s never been human.” He took off, leaving me there in the middle of his campsite in the woods.

To think, people subject themselves to camping voluntarily. Somebody slaved over a hot air conditioner so that you could be cold! At least have the decency to freeze inside like a grateful little bitch!

So I left there and caught up with this bus full of an entourage I seem to have acquired, the sight of which made me miss Moai and Carl. But Carl is safer not being associated with me, so perhaps it’s for the best that I now have a bunch of red shirts around to buffer me against bullets. There’s the North Korean twins, the Japanese girl, this guy who only goes by Daniels who insisted he work on my image, and some people in black suits that seem to be my bodyguards. I don’t remember getting them.

It’s not enough to run a country, except a really small one like Molossia. Yet another reason I agreed to this contest with Cercopagis is a chance to focus on important things like building a ruling government.

I had a few other names on my list, too. I stopped by to see Warman. Another American superhero, this one preferred to live at Fort Rogers in Utah. That’s Fort Rogers, not Camp Rogers. One made Warman, the other trains Army Rangers. I’m sure they both like to claim they make super soldiers.

Once again, access to the deepest, darkest secrets of all countries has its benefits. Fort Rogers hosted the post-World War II super soldier experiments, though their resources were sometimes loaned out to MKNAOMI, an old biological warfare research program. They named this new project WSCLARK. It’s a cryptonym, a code name. All the projects have them. People think they give projects names reminiscent of their goals in some way, and that’s true, but they don’t make it obvious. Some of the letters mean something and others don’t. The CIA isn’t the boogeyman, but they aren’t Encyclopedia fuckin’ Brown either.

At first, it wasn’t any better than some of the crazy mind control stuff, except they eventually figured out how to temporarily grant their own agents superpowers, which is where closer collaboration began to occur with some of the MK series of projects, which were about giving the CIA all kinds of tools to use against Russia. Some of those incidents showed up in other ways. A mixture that didn’t work well leading to an incident at a place called Shag Harbor in Canada. Then one of their guys defected and tried to flee the States. They caught up to him over the Berwyn Mountains in Wales, causing a battle and an earthquake. Another time, the Russians pulled something of their own and scared the crap out of Wurtsmith Air Force Base, in Michigan.

The WSCLARK people preferred to work more quietly until they knew they had something. The CIA created an entire phenomena called Earthquake Lights to keep that part hidden. It wasn’t until the 90s, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, that they went public with Warman. Warman, the Man of War, destined to defeat the Soviet Union. He was so good at his job, the CCCP collapsed about a year later thanks to social justice issues. Or so the public version goes.

When I walked into the Fort Rogers gym, I found him working a punching bag with my face printed on the outside case. I decided to set my expectations low for this meeting.

He turned to look at me, panting. Sweat glistened from the top of his blonde head as he looked at me with that piercing, blue-eyed gaze. No, this is not turning into a gay romance novel. Even though he did invite me to get pounded by him.

“Here to help me work out?” he held a hand out toward the punching bag.

I waved it off. “Nope, though I have someone who needs hitting you might want to work up to.”

He narrowed his eyes at me, an expression that, if he wore it all the time, would have had women stopping him in the street to tell him how he’s such a special young man and isn’t it delightful he can dress himself?

“Look,” I said. “I’m not all bad. You know you can’t always trust the public record to fully reflect what’s gone on. You spend twenty-five years fighting the good fight behind the scenes, but then nobody takes you seriously after you go public until you start playing baseball Iraqi tanks instead of bats and balls. Been there, done that. Well, not exactly that, but I could have easily done worse if that had been my intention.”

“What are you rambling about?” he asked, stepping over to a bench to put a stop to the flood of sweat coming off his head with a towel, like some sort of Dolph Lundgren Hitchhiker of the Galaxy.

I stepped over, mindful of my lack of armor and gave the bag a hard punch. I didn’t need my helmet’s 360 degree display to realize his amusement when I discovered he’d added a bit of lead to the inside of that bag. I don’t know how much, but my knuckles found out it was there and made sure to tell my brain. My bones and skin might be tougher than normal, my muscles surprisingly strong for my size due to nanites, but this is a guy whose idea of a gun involves mashing two miniguns together. I hate to think what his condoms are like.

Sounds like a nice brand, actually. “Folks, come on down to Richard Richard’s Rubber Room for our brand new Double Dick Special!We’re all pumped up and ready to give you all the deals. It’s a long, hard, dirty job, but we help you get it done!”

I took a few more punches now that I knew what I was hitting, then stopped. “You’ve been fighting for your country for a long time. Now I need your help to defend our planet.”

He snorted. “You can’t kill your way out of it?”

I gave the bag a few kicks, then a headbutt. After that, I leaned on it due to the pain and a need to determine if I’d concussed myself. I shook my head. “You’re a soldier. Your entire job is to kill people. It’s a necessity sometimes, you know that. Sometimes war is unavoidable. Sometimes, necessary change must be baptized in blood, like the promise of liberty after the American Civil War. Where would we be if old bigots didn’t die, eh? I think I know where Germany would be.”

I stepped back and gave the bag a hard pump kick that swung it back. Dropping to my belly, the bag passed right over me as it swung back, and I rose to give it a good elbow where a person’s kidney would be if the bag was a person. But then, a hanging person rarely needs a kidney shot to finish the job. It left me leaning on my elbow against the back as I looked over at the unimpressed supersoldier. “I worked out a deal to end this latest damn threat to the planet. A contest between myself and Cercopagis. Each of us picks representatives for a one-on-one, best three out of five fighting tournament, but neither he nor I can be one of them. I mean, hey, when he’s gone, I can work on making things better instead of being such an asshole to people. I can take time. Talk folks around. I’ve taken some wartime measures here, but the point of that is it only lasts while at war. Like Lincoln’s and habeus corpus, or that time FDR concentrated people of a certain race into camps.”

He glared at me for that one. For particularly patriotic folks like him, the Japanese internment camps are a shameful part of the nation’s history. For me, it’s a sore to pick at. Make people emotional, override their reason, control them. Sometimes I push the buttons. But sometimes…

“I’ll have a list of demands. You do what I want, I’ll fight for you,” he said.

I held my hands out and stepped away from the punching bag. “As long as my death isn’t on the list, I’ll take a look and do what I can do. I can be a reasonable man when people want me to be, Warman.” I grinned.

I hoped to get more on my side, preferably once Captain Lightning had joined up, but I didn’t. Instead, it was time to make the announcement. I did so with my usual tact.

All across the world, television and internet-connected computer screens lit up with an explosion. The radio folks just had to use their imagination of the visual. “There’s a bear in the woods. Some people like to pretend the bear isn’t there. They don’t think the bear is a threat. They don’t realize that the bear came from another planet to steal hard-working Earthicans’ jobs. To fuck hard-sleeping Earthicans’ spouses. To talk some completely alien language around you where you can’t understand it. Preferably right during the good part of a movie. It doesn’t matter how many different words for snow the aliens have, Emperor Gecko of Earth knows a thousand different ways to tell them ‘Fuck You.’ And that’s what he’s going to do at the upcoming Dic-Off. That’s right, he knows he’s a dictator with the world firmly held in his small but powerful hands. But he’s done diccing around with that extraterrestrial arthropod called Cercopagis Lysis. At the Dic-Off, Earth’s five greatest warriors will go one on one with whatever sad sacks of shit the enemy convinced to hate you for your freedom. Earth is going to win, and then, by golly, everyone’s gonna get laid. Support your local Emperor, help build the greatest team this side of the Milky Way to kick those aliens off Earth… or else!”

It was really quite tasteful.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 1

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Now that I’ve got my swagger back, this whole “ruling the Earth” thing has finally become fun. I still have the nightmares and the odd flashback, but it’s easier to deal with again. That’s the difference between me and all those hero types content to make the world by playing cops and robbers: one bad day…followed by a lot of good ones. What the hell was I worried about, that the same dimwits I’ve accused of misruling the world would hate me for how I do it? Worst case scenario, I kill a lot of people. I don’t know how I’d ever live with myself.

Now one thing I couldn’t very well live with is losing the planet to every alien shrimp. Cercopagis Lysis. His ship drifted in, the egg-shaped oval core easily identified from its numerous incursions since the 1970s augmented with various extra modules added over time. He had painted the exterior, but the newest segments obscured it, and exposure to stars and dust had altered it away from the bright yellow and green paintjob. He brought his ship to the moon, where the elongated portion split open to provide a foundation for the rest of the vessel.

In that time, I tried to build a giant robot. It wasn’t hard someone like myself who has thrown a few together in the past. Such a project would hardly stand out on my original Earth, not so much for the frequency of giant robots as the heavy and varied activity of the industrial areas. On this world, I never managed the same giant robot activity. Harder to cover up.

And why, given all the impracticalities, would I or anyone from my planet use giant robots? I believe it originated in the use of some sort of energy field surrounding the planet. Maybe magic, maybe just something standard science doesn’t understand. A few beings of various backgrounds managed to tap into this energy field and use it to construct weaponry that, at first, surpassed those of the time. Technology quickly caught up and emulated the earlier designs, which proved amazingly resilient to tripping, bombing, and artillery.

I didn’t need some mystical energy field. I knew what alloys to use in the proper places. The problem was getting everything on this Earth prepared. I hadn’t given them a lot of lead time on the project, so the factories I’d confiscated were scrambling to alter their production lines to accommodate the new design. It took me a day to free up the proper materials, too. Under the right circumstances, I’m more than capable of building a giant robot out of wood. That doesn’t mean it’ll last very long, even if I used mahogany. Though, without wood, I’ll be unable to charge the “Mah Agony” beam, so that one’s out. A bit of a last ditch weapon anyway.

The plants I communicated with decided to solve the time-sensitive nature of the request by bringing on more people to work day and night. I solved the issue of incentive by telling them successful completion would lead to less necessary time working. I wish I could take credit for that one, but I discovered post-flashback that I’d forgotten a concept to ease people into post-scarcity by easing up on the work hours for less desirable jobs while allowing them to be paid the same as if they worked a normal shift. Not that we’re post-scarcity yet, but at least they listened to me this time. Though if they’re all going to keep using a money system, I should go ahead and throw my face on the bills.

Really, the economic incentive merely provided the carrot. A brilliant man like myself doesn’t believe in ruling by the stick. No, no, no. I believe in shoving the carrot up someone’s ass if they don’t do what I say and quietly informed the managers involved that failure meant termination, usually within the presence of a grabber drone demonstrating its ability to squeeze a cinder block to dust.

That was the military position I found myself in when Cercopagis Lysis paid me a visit. The physical position itself looked different, as I’d expected his visit and redecorated my throne room with a nice rug, more lights, and a trio of North Korean dancing girls. The throne didn’t look very regal either; I forced the producers of the TV show Game of Thrones to lend me the Iron Throne. I added a nice pillow to make it more comfortable, then sent off a request for a new formal throne.

The last one built for me didn’t quite suit my style with the whole “hero torn apart” motif, but this one made to resemble a bunch of swords gave me an idea. Soon, I shall rest my world-dominating buttocks upon a work of art. It shall depict me in my armor fighting and defeating a number of the world’s most well-known superheroes, arranged into a comfy chair. I’ve already ordered the people at Dr. Scholls to study the effects of their gel cushions on the human ass. If they fail, I’ll examine the effects of their gel cushions on the interior of their asses. That’s what we in the tyrant business call motivation.

I counted on Cercopagis wishing to address me conqueror to conqueror, or otherwise being so arrogant as to gloat. I knew he he’d do this because I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, have such an astounding ability to predict my opponents’ actions! Which reminds me, better make sure the contest for control of Earth has nothing to do with chess.

Also, note to self: make sure the statue throne gives me the absolutely correct huge bulge in the crotch region. Unless they decide to have me sit on my own lap.

Indeed, my humble palace at The Hague soon shuddered under the arrival by Cercopagis, who I saw descend in a smooth, golden sphere. Six pieces of the outer sphere peeled away and bent down to serve as legs for the ship to land on. Then one portion of the exterior rippled and reformed into an escalator that carried the conqueror in his warsuit.

It looked like segmented armor made of platinum with a gold tinge most noticeable at the sides where the plates weren’t looked at straight on. It had two larger toes with a third facing backward. The hands copied this three-digit look, all three of them. The third stretched out of the being’s back and stuck out through a solid dark red shell that hun down to resemble a rigid cape. Portions of the shell crossed over the front to resemble thick X-shaped straps. The shell continued and formed the back portion of a helmet. The face appeared the same platinum color as the rest of the armor, in the shape of a scowling visage that looked quite normal for humans save the single tusk and single and single horn that, from the side, made the helmet resemble a weird crescent moon.

Yes, a helmet. Unlike the Fluidics, Cercopagis couldn’t originally breath on Earth. He used to wear a helmet all the time, though the records also say it’s extraneous at this point as he’s incorporated a cybernetic filter into his circulatory system. If only I could crack that little system, this whole situation would be much easier. I checked him over on approach and found nothing giving off any signals except something in an alien system that bounced between him and the moon. I’m not the only one who likes to have a trick lined up just in case.

He stepped into my small, rather plain room and looked around. Whether befuddled by the lack of pomp and ceremony or the dearth of defenses, he took longer than I expected to take on little ol’ me on the throne in my armor, the Koreans sitting next to me on floor cushions.

“Greetings, Cercopagis Lysis!” I held my hand up high like a toast. “Are you perhaps here to play the world’s largest game of pinball?”

The armored alien bastard regarded me silently for a long second, then said, “Who are you?”

Ouch. That hurts. Gonna need some aloe for that burn. “I am the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, Supreme Benevolent Dictator of Earth. If you’ve come to see a parade thrown in my honor, you’re just in time. I’ve been waiting for a reason to throw one.”

He paused again, I guess taking in the turn of events. When he finally spoke this time, he said, “I expected someone else.”

“That made it easier for me to sneak around and pull it off, true. Though, who exactly did you expect to be in control of Earth right now?” I turned to the side so my upper body rested on one armrest and legs on another.

Cercopagis raised his chin, then brought it back down. I didn’t understand the gesture in this context. “I am here to liberate Earth from its evil conquerors and install myself as the better choice of ruler. Where are the Liquoids who installed you?”

“Liquoids? Are you talking about those aliens with slimy black fluid bodies and a nasty habit of using mind control? Ridiculous name for them.” I suddenly decided to televise this meeting with a five minute delay. Fuck censorship, the delay’s there to make me look better. Fill in gaps for comebacks, maybe autotune my voice.

“I made sure they received knowledge of Earth, particularly the one known as Adolf Hitler. They were quite taken with his philosophy and example. He makes a fine ambassador for Earth and convinced them you humans would be a ruthless tool in their desire for revenge. So where are they?!” He raised a foot and slammed it into the floor, cracking tiles that didn’t do anything wrong to him.

I shrugged. “I killed ’em.”

“You and what army?” he asked.

“Not the Nazi army, that’s for sure. I didn’t like the idea of being invaded. Neither did the rest of the planet. Their hearts, my mind, your ruined plans. I got Earth prepared, Earth fought, the Fluidics lost. It sounds like you had quite an idea there: you directed them here, figured we’d bloody each other, then you’d show up at the last minute and take over the place, maybe look like a better option than the Fluidics. Mind control and world domination; I find you despicable.”

I am the kind of guy that gives speechwriters a job, talking all haphazard like that. Though, I told the truth about finding him and the Fluidics despicable. It’s a general principle that anybody trying to control the world who isn’t me is wrong. Tell me if you’ve heard this one: so a crazy guy with a Southern accent and subpar language skills meets with an alien that doesn’t understand English fluently…

“You did the same as I would have. Your many enemies have an option now. Perhaps I shall let them toy with you before your execution.” He raised a hand and pointed at me, then brought it to his chest to pound on the plates there. I think he expected me to be intimidated. He sure didn’t make a very compelling case for handing over the reins of power.

I sat upright in my chair. “I’m sure that speech sounded better when you made it up to deal with other extraterrestrials having taken over. Now, it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as, say, calling for Eschaton, Warman, and Captain Lightning.”

In a flash, literally in Captain Lightning’s case, the three appeared through a new hole in my roof. Eschaton and his white hot flaming body, very much insists he isn’t gay no matter how many times I ask if he is. Warman, the super soldier dressed like a soldier trapped under a pile of Kevlar, whose idea of concealed carry involves a double minigun. Captain Lightning, the aging red, white, and gold hero of World War II and onwards. My nanites flowed through none of the heroes’ veins, but in enough others to convince them to stand by to take on a wannabe alien conqueror. He didn’t seem to have much of a plan, beyond standing there and getting caught. The heroes took one of his legs off before securing him firmly in their arms, but otherwise made no move to kill the guy for me.

I stood up and began charging my armor’s forearm energy sheaths. They grew brighter as power directed into the array wound around my forearms and projected into a field floating just over the surface of my gauntlets. I punched into Cercopagis’s chest with one hand, the energy carrying my first in to puncture it. Circuitry and fluids came out with that fist. The next punch smashed the helmet open, to reveal the dead body of the alien wannabe-lord…wasn’t in there.

I pulled the helmet wrecked apart, but it appeared mostly hollow except for a voice module and sonar. “I apologize for not meeting you in person, Psychopomp Gecko, but I assure you our business is not yet finished. You give me a lot to think about.”

He chittered something like a laugh. Captain Lightning must have recognized it, because he took the initiative to toss the armor into the sky where it detonated in a green mushroom cloud that lacked any electromagnetic pulse.

“Thank you, heroes,” I complimented the group before dismissing them with a wave of my hand. “I suspect you’ll be less helpful when one of us next makes a move, but I’m sure folks appreciate your willingness to serve for the good of others.”

They all glared at me as I sent them off like servants. I fumed underneath my helmet. My incredible luck at having the enemy walk right up to me turned out to be anything but, and now he’s planning something on the moon while I’m down here waiting.

Sure would be nice to have space-capable giant robot right about now.

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The Trial 4

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It surprised the hell out of me to be dragged out for more court proceedings after only a couple days. Regular trials can drag on for a hell of a long time, and it’s surprising enough that I even had a hearing already. To be pulled back in so soon smelled fishier than Denmark. That country needs some serious deodorant, I tell y’all. Something’s rotten there.

I’d been a little less well-informed of worldly going-ons lately, and that’s without any of the back channels to determine diplomatic pressure by various countries. All I knew is that the United Nations is a pretty useless organization. Coupled with how long trials tend to take, I naturally expected to be waiting here awhile, trying to think up things to send to y’all’s dimension. Like about this time I walked into a brothel with a donkey and a honeycomb. Ah well, I’m sure I’ll get to tell that story another time.

So let me break it down why I didn’t expect things to move so quickly, aside from the simple “trials move slow” kind of thing. Attorneys have to get some witnesses and figure out what they’re going to say. They have to access evidence and experts that can help their sides, sometimes then making time to share those with the other side. There’s jury selection, too, though I didn’t know how much that mattered to the World Court. To be fair, the last thing I’d want is to be judged by a group of regular folks off the street. They tend to be inherently evil.

Like a town full of ignorant folks who never met a gay guy but make jokes all the time until, when someone comes out, they ostracize them and bully them. The town grew up with that kid and loved him, but let their inherited prejudice mess with their judgment. So the churches keep on preaching that homosexuals are wicked, sinful things that should not be permitted to live. Next thing you know, the boy’s beaten to death or something and some of the town are all like “How could this tragedy have happened?”

Aside from my Polonius-inspired long-windedness, regular folks have a tendency to fail epicly at realizing the full consequences of their beliefs and actions. I just admit what I do, and yet I am not the single worst killer in this or any Earth’s history. Same analogy as above, just different adjective. I’ve met folks who said “I don’t hate black people, I think everyone should own at least one.” I’ve seen atheists decry Catholic child molestation, then turn around and threaten women who accused a prominent skeptic of rape. Police mock domestic abuse victims, PETA executes animals, . And that’s just in a “civilized” country.

You know, I’m starting to think it’s incredibly accurate when I tell people it isn’t hypocrisy when I do it. Or maybe I just seem like a self-righteous dick.

Moving past all that talking, I had to prepare for more talking. To that end, I let my face slacken and composed myself goofily, not so much in my usual sense, but to pass as if they had sedated me. Mrs. Pretorious, the esteemed counselor who acted as both my defense and the prescriber of my sedation, entered and assumed her accomplices had already worked their magic on me. Subsequently, the image of her leading my docile ass in convinced the others that I must have been needled already. That, or they all decided I was calm enough to let it slide.

Everything came to order. And then it didn’t.

“Before my attorney says a word, I would like to speak on my own behalf.”

“This is highly irregular,” said the UK representative.

“I am unfamiliar with the practices and regulations of this court. Perhaps as an opening statement? My attorney may object, but she is here to do my bidding,” I suggested, not having a clue.

“I would hear what he says,” said the Chinese judge. Apparently my inadvertent flirting the previous time paid dividends.

The judges began a whispered argument that I didn’t quite hear, mostly because I didn’t care that much. In the end, they addressed me with their most wise judgment of “You may not address this court at this time. Allow your counsel to advise you on our etiquette here, Psycho Gecko.”

I stayed standing. “With all due respect, this was not a request.”

A lot of things happened at once. Their civilian, i.e. Nonpowered, bailiffs took a step toward me, but stopped. The superpowered ones, or other heroes in attendance, also reacted. Captain Lightning hovered, but stayed right there. Lone Gunman went so far as to draw his gun, which I doubt he was supposed to have, but didn’t do anything else with it either.

“Right now, many of you are wondering what’s going on. You’re frozen in place. Good for you. Is there a camera in the house?” I looked around. “Camera man? Nothing? I know someone’s got to have a phone or a webcam or something.”

Captain Lightning, the most powerful being in the room who didn’t obey, nonetheless floated there to assess the situation.

Everyone in the room with a phone pulled it out and pointed them at me, turning on their cameras and allowing me to start streaming and recording. “Thank you. I want this recorded for posterity, now that I have made sure there will be posterity on this planet. If you’re watching this, you probably know me and hate me as Psychopomp Gecko, the guy who saved Earth. The guy who conspired and made deals, who suppressed his own instincts in order to gain the cooperation of governments, heroes, and villains alike. The person left absolutely hanging by all of them because of my actions in the past.”

I smiled, then thought of a nice little lyric. I swept my hands around to encompass everyone, “You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just…nice.” I motioned to myself, “I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right. I’m the witch. You’re the world.” Going back to speaking normally, I said, “So how about I stop lying for a bit. I am indeed a bad person. I kill people. Killing’s wrong, right? Unless someone attacked you. Or they’re the wrong religion, or country. Or if they might attack you. Potentially. Or if you just thought they might attack you. Or if you think they harmed you. If you’re a soldier, if you’re a peace officer, if you’re a jury. Someone murdered, so kill them. Someone’s been drafted, kill them. Someone’s politically inconvenient, kill them. Someone preaches the wrong thing. Someone loves the wrong person. Someone hates the wrong one. Kill, kill, kill. Just remember that you’re not like those heartless folks who kill in cold blood. Those dispassionate sociopaths. When you think of the people you killed, or had killed on your behalf, you do so with moral contemplation and an understanding of the value of human life. Right?”

Satellites around the world responded to my commands. It wasn’t as difficult as it might have once been to control so many at once. The world’s attention focused on me. To quote those of y’all reading this and rolling your eyes, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“But not me. I lie. I steal and scheme, poorly as to that second point. I kill people. Regular people. Innocent people. That is, people who haven’t been arrested or caught committing crimes. People that other folks want dead, but not you yourself, who ever you are. As far as those other people are concerned, I was right that one time. Right to work for your governments and pontiffs. A man hired me to end his life rather than wither away in pain. Really pissed off his son, who cared more about the inheritance paid to me than his father’s life. Funny how that works out. Killing’s wrong, and I’ve done so much of it. Then I committed what may have been genocide on a bunch of alien invaders who were doing a pretty good job of taking over your world because you all let them. They talked pretty and had everyone so scared of what they would do that you let them do it.”

Billions of people watched. Some of them did so of their own free will. Some found themselves in the same grip as the ones around me at the World Court, except they began to repeat my words in their own native languages.

I waxed lyrical once again, “Nothing we can do…not exactly true. No, of course what really matters is the blame. Somebody to blame. Fine, if that’s the thing you enjoy, placing the blame, if that’s the aim, give me the blame.”

I looked down and shook my head. “After all, I’m a killer, and a narcissist, and I probably think I’m a hell of a lot smarter than I really am. I am a bad person, and someone dear to me has attempted to make me see that I could be a good person. Oh, how I have debated it. In the past, I never would have even thought about turning over a new leaf, and I’ve gone through so many changes recently. Perhaps I might have changed enough to make it possible? Changed enough that my only inevitable end is no longer so inevitable. If anyone was to check David Hume’s grave, they might find him having an epic boner right now.”

Oblivious to the announcement, the thirteen Electric Eyes made sure to drop off their latest shipments of food and medical equipment. Going further than before, they began administering shots of nanites into folks themselves. They have so many uses. They heal diseases, restore damaged limbs, close wounds, and destroy those nasty alien mind control organs, among other things.

“I considered abandoning all such progress and devoting myself to that person in our own personal eternal struggle. I could be the villain that gives her the opportunity to be that grand hero she yearns to be. For mine own good, all causes shall give way. I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er. Or at least that’s what the Scottish might say on it. But, alas, doing the right thing still nagged at me. And I have decided that I can no longer distract myself from my responsibilities. To claim to hate the world so much, yet do nothing but let people deliver themselves into my hatred.”

I turned toward the judges, who sat under my sway. The cameras focused on them as well. As one, they shook and fell over, their bodies already being seemingly eaten apart from the inside. “To be fair,” I said, jumping up there next to the dead body of one of the inferiors who would have passed judgment up on me, “I originally meant to do nothing with this ability but kill a lot of people at once. It seems I truly have changed over this past year.”

Captain Lightning’s eyes glowed before several of the bystanders stood up and got into his way. He’s a smart man. He began to understand the depth of what I’d done.

Ah, those regenerative nanites; they do so many things. It’s been quite some time since Long Life took some and began to build their own copies, complete with the old programming. When I found out, I made it a point to infiltrate one of their facilities and mess with the programming. Just a nice little backdoor to make sure I had access. As I’ve mentioned before, the nanites communicate with each other and reinforce their programming so as to better coordinate, further allowing them to pass on updates and orders to each other.

“Believe it or not, I do care about people and I have a strong sense of justice. Stronger than many people’s, I think. I like certain things about this world. I have friends here. I have stuff. There are some really hot Eastern European women I like staring at online, that kinda thing. I have decided that I will protect this world and look after it. Nurture it, help it to grow into a better place. But to do so, it’s only natural that I not leave it under the supervision of people who have so little vision that they’d treat their savior to a trial and so little competence that they couldn’t even unify against an incredibly well-organized threat to the entire planet. Which, I suppose, also helps to justify my ascension here today.”

In such an interesting coincidence, such nanites turned out to be effective in destroying growths that our recent alien invaders induced in people that allowed said extraterrestrials to use to control their minds, though they ran into some troubles when a superhero controlled by me messed with their ability to convert entire cities at once. Though, to be fair, that wasn’t the first clue an observant person might have picked up on. Especially not world leaders and other important figures who rushed to be first in line to avoid alien control.

I wish I had a bitchin’ chair to recline in at this point, but I had to settle for sitting on the corpse of some judge from the United States. “This will be a big change, but I will make this world better. Don’t try to stop progress and the transcendence of your species because you cling to the past like a monkey refusing to leave his safe tree and learn to walk on two legs. After all, Thomas Jefferson once said that, while he doesn’t advocate frequent changes in laws and constitutions, they must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. ‘As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.’”

I shrugged and patted the gooey body next to me. “Resistance is also ill-advised due to the billions of people I have under my control, whether direct or potential. Or under the control of certain infiltrators around the world who will direct people away from doing anything to stand in the way of progrss. Plus,” I waved a hand at the dead judges, not bothering to state the threat. Aside from being able to see through anyone’s eyes and bring their hands to my task, anybody recently exposed to the nanites could now be killed by the tiny machines. “I’d hate for my death to trigger some sort of killswitch.”

I eyed Captain Lightning as I said that, just in case his patience ran out. A man like him could afford lots of patience, being downright invincible as he is. Unfortunately, people tend to think that invincibility means a person can’t be hurt or can’t lose. They are so very wrong.

I folded my hands up neatly in front of me, knowing already that I wouldn’t even need to ask. My trial was over. They would open those doors for me and let me leave unmolested. More than that, this world is mine. “And for those who simply don’t like me…remember that I am the Psychopomp. I am the flail of god. If you had not committed great sins, god would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

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The Trial 2

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I hope everyone had a good 4th of July out there, including the British. I just figured by now they could appreciate the idea of a geographically separate part of a greater political union deciding to rebel and go its own way over financial issues. And I always liked that joke of theirs, “Happy treason day, colonials!”

You know one of the strangest things I’ve had to put up with here? A lack of torture. Don’t get me wrong, it makes my stay more pleasant. Surprisingly so. Representing the forces of law and order doesn’t generally stop people from beating up on a special prisoner like myself. Cameras catch bruises on a face, but they don’t get a good view of body shots and kidney punches. There’s a big difference in perception between spitting up blood and peeing it.

Of course, I once knew a guy who enjoyed it for its own sake. Then again, sometimes I do too, but usually I try to make it amusing. Eh, maybe that’s what he was doing that time. He just played music and danced around before using a straight razor. And thought lighting a guy on fire was a slow death. I suppose it’s slower than some ways, but quick enough that it’s like he didn’t even care. So impersonal, and I say that as someone who has been lit on fire before.

I make the scars fade; in the end, wounding me won’t do the job. I guess I’ve been introspective again lately, though I miss the days when I just ran around doing crazy stuff for fun. Fighting time-traveling space marines. Instead of sitting on a bench in the Netherlands.

Captain Lightning floated down behind me. “You’re out. “

I shrugged.

“How did you get out of your cell?” he asked.

“They let me out, of course. I’ve gone five minutes without killing anyone, you know.”

He levitated around the bench, looking down on me. “Prevailing wisdom is that’s a record for a punk like you.”

I looked over at him with an expression like “Are you serious?” but I really said, “I thought you knew me a little better than being just some punk. I saved your life that time, albeit by trying to end it. Spinetingler tried to drag Empyreal City to hell and you were his lackey. I stopped you, stopped him, saved a city, and leave to give y’all a break. Aliens invaded, I saved the city, saved the world, even chilled away from most people to let things recover.”

Hit him where it hurts. When I met him in person, Captain Lightning had been beaten and fucked in the head by Spinetingler, a super who turned regular people into horror-themed supers. The kind of guy who could give a regular clown sharp teeth and a bleeding smile. Which always confused me, because I don’t get the clown fear. Drunk uncle Bob’s in the next room talking about shooting gay people, but let’s be scared of the guy with the balloon animals.

I shook my head. “Maybe I don’t understand this world any more than my own. You’re all nuts.”

That got a laugh out of Captain Lightning. After a moment, he sobered up some, and not in the drinking sense. “I knew guys like you from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They fought, then they came home and the regular world bamboozled them. Peace is harder than war for some people. In war, you just kill the enemy.”

“In peace time, I wait for them to think up exactly how they’re going to fuck me, for some reason. I don’t understand. You ever had a woman talk you into something that, when she isn’t around, makes no sense to you?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’ve been married before,” Lightning said. That got a laugh out of me.

“Don’t repeat this verbatim back to Venus or she’ll find a way to kick your ass,” I suggested to him.

The next thing out of his mouth surprised the hell out of me, though. “Do you love her?”

That one left me scratching my head. “I don’t think so. I understand all that love business, how to use it to twist the knife, but nothing I’ve run across in my own feelings fits with that whole ‘love’ thing well enough. Last woman I dated, only reason I could let my guard down any is because she wanted to cling to a crazy guy so no one would mess with her. I think what I love is the idea of her: bright, shining, incorruptible hero. But now that I found her, there’s no way she’ll do the one thing I need without changing, and I can’t bring myself to end her. Just a Sisyphean Catch-22 now. “

I frowned, feeling on the edge of some epiphany, like there was something about that I could almost grasp. Some tiny mote of enlightenment just out of sight.

“I think you two are a lot alike,” spoke the hero.

I rolled my eye. “I’ve told her as much, and I think she gets it too.”

Captain Lightning let himself settle onto the ground, then stepped over and sat down beside me. “She doesn’t care about you, either. She’s got a romanticized fixation on beating and stopping you her way. She has to be the hero you like, even when she shouldn’t. You sang that note perfect, she loves the idea of you.”

I turned to look at him, appraising him curiously. “I wonder how it’ll end. Which of us will win?”

“I’ve seen a lot of history pass by and I don’t think things end the way you think they do, dig? The Cold War’s gone, but what we did in South America, the Middle East, and Africa is still there. One war leads to the next. I hope you find peace, but this planet will always need someone like you, someone like me, someone like her.” He put his hand on my shoulder with all the self-assurance of a man who knows that I can’t really hurt him. I mean, I could, but it’d involve ripping my own chest open just to knock him unconscious, and I’m an ocean away from anyone who would want to shove everything back into that body cavity and save my life.

“You must do some interesting Make-A-Wish appearances, Cap’n. You even give the cancer a pep talk!” He laughed, I laughed, we both laughed. All the way down the shaft, though from him dropping me off instead of tossing me down it. He seemed satisfied that I hadn’t damaged it in my escape, but that’s because he didn’t believe me.

In truth, I did just ask the person at the hatch but that’s because I really concentrated when they went to feed me. Post-invasion like this, of course they’d make sure the guards had their nanite shots. Nobody wants to risk alien mind control, but it left him vulnerable to a quick burst of orders to open the hatch. They’ll be lucky if they ever find the guy, too. They don’t have any evidence of foul play, though that hardly matters where I’m concerned. As it is in sports and business, so too is it with Psycho Gecko: if you don’t see anything wrong going on, it’s because you aren’t looking in the right spot. Except if they look into that guard’s bank account, they’ll see his account grew quite suddenly and will infer the worst. They’d be wrong, but that sort of logic has the guard fleeing for his life. Honest men have plenty to fear in a world of dishonest ones.

Speaking of dishonesty, my lawyer stopped by for another visit. This time, her harness looked a bit more comfortable and she had a nice leather briefcase to accommodate all the folders and files she needed to go over. I folded my pillow up to help prop my head up as the guards lowered Mrs. Pretorious down the hole. “Mr. Gecko. I heard you broke out.”

“Well, it’s awful boring sitting alone in a hole all day with nothing to keep me company but whatever entertainment I’ve trapped in this head of mine.”

The entirety of the show “Married with Children,” to name just one such thing I can watch on the inside of my own eyelids. Al Bundy’s a good man, with a good family. Quite the athlete, too. Has he ever told y’all about the time he scored four touchdowns in a single game?

Hell, the Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! Episode on the Vatican can’t be found anywhere else. I stole my version from Father Poffo, my handler at the Vatican. Sometimes the Inquisition needs someone to “accidentally” get hurt or killed in a supervillain accident. I should see if the Pope can put in a good word for me to the United Nations. He owes me for this incident involving his predecessor trying to swap minds. Besides, where would someone like him be without someone like me? Priests, preachers, ministers, all of them need the sinner if they want to keep their jobs. Otherwise, they’d just be preaching to the choir.

Which, come to think of it, gave me a thought. I realized my attorney had been updating me on her ideas, but my mind was aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.

It’s pretty absurd, to think of it. Venus is a lot like the Pope in that she’s devoted to saving my soul. Of all the purposes to pick in life, she chose that one. I wanted her to kill me, but more because I hate myself and it’s easy to justify that kind of thing. Just like all that bull about chaos and order. As big as the universe is, it all shakes out no matter what.

Order, chaos, balance, redemption, salvation. Doomed to constantly roll a ball of wax up a hill. But as we get too close to the sun, the ball melts. We’re all like Sisyphus and it’s all a bad joke; thinking about it, something clicked. Venus wants to save me because she loves that idea that she can save me far more then truly stopping me. I love the hero she is, no matter how irritating, and it’d just wreck things between us if I forced her to be otherwise. But I have a hell of a time opposing her. And, when faced with oblivion, even Sisyphus can take pride in the boulder.

It’s just so rare, when two people like us meet. She’s so rigidly bound by rules, and I recently ate a guy. Hero and villain, and now we’re even the same species. Two sides to the same coin. If I believed in such a thing, I’d almost think we were soul mates.

“Should I come back later, Mr. Gecko? We don’t have much time left before your hearing.” asked my legal counsel from above. She tugged on the harness cable nonchalantly, clearly ready to go.

“Aww, going so soon?” I asked. When did I start smiling?

“I don’t like that grin. Please calm down and don’t hurt anybody between now and the 7th.”

Huh. Something must have spooked her, but that’s ok. I didn’t care a lot about the trial anyway; I had a way out as surely as my escape plan from Antarctica. Now, though, I have a nice purpose. A method to my madness, which matches and complements Venus’s craziness.

A present to dear Venus.

I laid back on the cot, pulling up one song in particular to listen to as I pictured the events to come.

“Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha. We’re one and the same…deranged!”

I can’t wait for my day in court.

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The Trial 1

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I don’t make it a habit to go on trial. For one thing, it tends to mess with my schedule. Awful hard to schedule a pedicure around court when you’re being held for…come to think of it, I’m not sure of the exact charges. There have certainly been enough murders and all sorts of criminal mischief. Plus, I got drunk and led that Mongol horde across Russia that time. It just seems like a strange thing to try my in the International Court of Justice as opposed to any single country. Just let me sit on my ass for a month, then pick me up and give me the shaft.

For a group with a number of resolutions asserting more rights than a lot of individual countries, they had no problem with lead poisoning. Just give me a lead elevator shaft to hold in my powers. I didn’t like to think about what the Electric Eyes were up to without me. It was really basic programming and they might try to jailbreak me, which isn’t entirely what I want. All I need is a good connection out, one way or another.

I actually thought the lawyer would handle that for me. She poked her head in after a couple of days to announce herself, then let them lower her partway down the shaft in a harness. “Hello, Mr. Gecko. I am Mrs. Pretorious, your legal counsel.” She spoke with an accent somewhere between Australian and British, which suggested South African to me. Mixed race, it looked like, and in her 40s. That had to be an interesting combination when she was a kid. South Africa had itself some pretty nasty racial discrimination at one time, which then naturally led to some retaliation later.

I looked up from my cot, not that there was anywhere else to look, and waved up at her. “Hiya. Any news from the outside? Tell me, have we kicked the damn Nazis out of France yet?” Truth is, she did interrupt me in the middle of Hotline Miami. I’m still trying to figure out how to get that last mask, looks like a walrus. I will find it even if I have to drill through every Russian mobster’s head I can find!

Oblivious to my obsession with pixelated Russians, the lawyer took a moment to process my attitude and faux-Shakespearean talk. Truly, there can be a bit of an adjustment period for someone encountering the man, the myth, the legend in the flesh for the first time. “…Yes. Are you aware of the charges leveled against you?”

“I did once pee in a public park.” After a brief opportunity for a signal when the top of the shaft opened up, I got nothing at all worth calling a connection while she hung out with me. Whoever guarded me had lowered the hatch back most of the way. But I had something else in mind for a brief ride on the information superhighway.

“I’m afraid this is more serious than that.” Yeah, right. I could find ways to pee in the park that threaten the fabric of reality. Probably. If I tried.

“Is this about me not returning that movie to Blockbuster? I figured that all went away when Blockbuster did.”

“I want to inform you that attorney-client privilege means we can discuss anything between us with the utmost earnestness and I am not allowed to share that information. It won’t count as a confession to be used against you. However, it is limited should you tell me of any plans to commit further crimes. Now, you have been accused of, frankly…” She shuffled a few folders in her hands. “Arms dealing, smuggling, racketeering, international wire fraud, a lot of murders and attempted murders, violation of agricultural quarantines, aiding and abetting an alien invasion, grand theft UFO, and a rare international charge of public indecency. I didn’t think that existed.”

I pointed up at her. “Woah, woah, woah, woah! I’ll have you know that I restrain my indecency until I’m out of public!” She and I looked down at each other for a long couple of seconds before I let my hand drift down to my pants. “Wanna see my penis?”

“You can’t treat this like a joke in court and expect to get off, Mr. Gecko.”

“Au contraire, ma puce. If that public indecency charge is to be believed, in court is exactly where I’m best at getting off.”

She hung her head, not looking too hopeful. “At least I gave it a try. They told me it was a death sentence being appointed as your lawyer.”

“Aww, there, there. Think of it this way: at least you’re not representing yourself! I hear then you’d have a fool for a client.”

She groaned, no doubt thinking she already had a fool for a client, but I decided she needed more encouragement. “Besides, you’re not the one likely to face the chair or guillotine or whatever the UN does for people like me. Wait, don’t they hang people?”

“You could be sentenced to hang, yes. We need to work on your defense, as much as we can put together.”

“How about pointing out that their miserable asses are alive and free from alien mind control thanks to me.”

“You complained about their intentions, but the attempted assassination of their diplomat is one of the charges. Some assert that the extraterrestrials felt they had no choice but to attack, particularly due to your actions.”

That gave me an amused snort. “Only the attempted assassination? Geez, good thing they don’t know I followed through on that guy here recently.”

“…You will not want to bring that up in court, Mr. Gecko.”

“Still, I think I deserve some credit for a few things. Freeing people from mind control and destroying the alien fleet should be enough to make them drop all the charges.”

“Destroying the alien fleet? Everyone is reporting The Mobian did that.”

I rolled my eye. They confiscated my laser eye. It really gets old having law enforcement seize my body parts. Then again, considering the body parts a canine unit might have seized…“Nah. I built the bomb, got it up there, and then he helped me get into the middle of their fleet, but only so he could negotiate from a position of strength. While he was busy talking, I armed it and got out of there.”

“We could bring that up in court, but then there are the charges of possession of a Weapon of Mass Destruction.”

“Preposterous. It’s matter they have to worry about, not mass, and it just gets moved around, not destroyed or created. Besides, I’m not going to leave out the fact that I did bad things to defend everyone from worse things. That’d just leave me with stuff like the nanites.”

“You smuggled the Long Life regenerative nanites into various sites around the world are in the charges as well.We need to be careful how we present all this in court, you understand.” She nodded, as if naturally my efforts to give people back their free will were somehow suspicious or evil in nature. Somewhere, Davos Seaworth is laughing at me and saying he got the better deal.

“No good deed gets left off the docket, I guess. Well I think the nanites thing speaks for itself, and it sounds to me like I had a great justification for doing all that. So, with you being all scared, I just have to wonder how big of a screwjob we’re looking at here?”

The lawyer opened her mouth to speak, but I kept on going. “No, don’t tell me. I saved the world, but in the process I revealed all sorts of scheming and tricks. They aren’t a bunch of aliens’ bitches, but now they know they’re sharing the planet not just with someone capable of fighting off an invasion force near-singlehandedly, no thanks to their cowardly asses. And that said person has no qualms about killing people. They’re scared more than ever, once again stuck in thinking that just because I have power, I will use it.”

“Your record,” and here, looking through her folders, she nearly dropped one. When she had it firmly in hand, she continued,”…speaks for itself on that.”

“If you look at all the years I’ve been around with, say, taking over the world, then I believe my record does speak for itself. There are world leaders who have done worse things than me without the redeeming quality of saving the world.”

“I intend to use that at your trial. There is also an American hero attempting to get you declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, but the irregular nature of your case means she could do more harm than good.”

“FINALLY! Do you know how long I’ve waited to hear someone else come to the same conclusion about her?”

“I want to lay out that this was an extraordinary series of events where you attempted to work with the authorities to the best of your knowledge. This is a show trial, but I want to make you a darkhorse character and suggest that you should not be punished for doing the right thing for once in your life. It sets a bad precedent for superhumans to be imprisoned or executed for saving the world.”

“Yeah, and I don’t need to be hung anyway. I already am.” More silence passed between myself and my attorney. “You’d know that, too, if you just let me…”

“No thank you!”

“Geez, fine. Getting yelled at by my own counsel. Check your attorney-client privilege, miss priss. Now, how about some communication, here? Phone calls, emails, internet access, anything?”

“A large portion of your charges stem from defeating an alien conspiracy with your own conspiracy.”

“Damn right.” I pumped my fist in the air.

“And that means the United Nations is exercising extreme caution in your detainment and communications, to keep you in custody while protecting your rights to the letter.”

“Funny how that works. If I was outside of jail, this would be a violation of my rights. In jail, while still presumed innocent…wait, am I presumed innocent under the UN? Eh, I didn’t vote for them. Help, I’m being repressed!” I chuckled to myself before adding, “Anyway, it kinda says something funny about the listing of rights and the letter of the law if they can be upheld with so many other prohibitions in place. It’s times like these I remember the debate between Federalists and Antifederalists, specifically the part that led to the creation of the Ninth Amendment. The Federalists maintained that any enumeration of rights to be protected would be incomplete because there are so many, and then they pointed out that some idiots might come along and assume that the only rights guaranteed to the people are the ones listed. Or they might willfully choose that argument, using a guarantee of rights against the people to restrict other rights. I understand we’re not exactly talking United States law, which nowadays ignores all that, but the U.S. And the same legal tradition was a major influence on the UN. Perhaps we can bring up a similar argument that they are punishing someone contrary to the spirit of the law for my bad image and prior crimes that have no relation to this alien business, all while using the letter of the law instead.”

That bit of coherence threw my lawyer for a moment, probably more because it showed I knew anything at all about the law rather than it being some amazing argument. It was a bit disjointed, after all. So then I added. “You’re right, they’ll never buy it. So then, to really hammer the point in home, I whip out my penis.”

She got out of there fairly quickly after that, promising to work very hard on her end to think up a legal defense. I couldn’t help but take that as an insult to my own abilities.

Lest y’all think it’s been nothing but yapping from me, I did try a daring escape. Can’t let these guys stay complacent, thinking they found a way to contain me. See, my little shaft also contained a toilet and a nice roll of toilet paper. One clogging of bed sheets later, and my cell contained a water leak. My watertight cell contained a leak, that is. As it filled it, my buoyant ass floated up to freedom.

Or I would have, if not for the door at the top opening when I was only halfway up the shaft to reveal Captain Lightning. He glared down at me. I looked up at him. I said, “I seem to have wet the bed a bit.”

Turns out they had more than one shaft, and the next one, I was warned, the water had been turned off. Due to my misadventure with the other cell, I am now provided with the state-of-the-art in bucket technology to handle the ass-end of my dietary needs.

Yep, I’m moving up in the world. When I first came to this world, I had nothing but the armor on my back. Now, I’ve got my very own pot to piss in.

On the plus side, I used my brief free time in the sunlight to send on some orders to make sure the Electric Eyes didn’t blow their covers by breaking me out. I have an entirely other plan to escape.

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Icy What You Did There 8

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I may have glossed over a few of my Electric Eyes, but they’ve embedded themselves into the local communities of a few important cities. I should have had more. I needed a lot better coverage in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. What can I say, other than that I’ve been pushing myself controlling thirteen. It’s gotten easier, which will make it much easier if I ever need to spread my control over a larger group in the future.

Of course, I let myself get distracted. Had I worked on building more, I could have distributed them around, got more done. There’s just too much to do. Amusingly enough, I built them to help take some of the pressure off. That, and to provide a little extra help for my sudden but inevitable betrayal.

All good things come to an end, though. If all this has seemed like a pointless bit of waiting in the icy Antarctic, that’s half true. It was nice to have some fun, even if said fun helped people. I know, I’ve moved a bit far from the whole “agent of chaos, smacking people with trash cans” thing, but sometimes necessity forces a change, whether we like it or not. This entire ordeal with the aliens, for instance.

Yes, I know it changed me. Brought me to a crossroads.

I know, there’s an awful lot of talking instead of showing there. Just a bit of contemplation. I have a bit to contemplate after an announcement that came out of Washington D.C., from the newly-healed president. Yep, he survived. Nanites. The new miracle of the modern age, stolen from me. A panacea for the world’s ills.

Taken from me, reproduced by people who couldn’t entirely contemplate it, distributed. I have a right to feel wronged for what they’ve done, and I’ve taken measures for revenge. Forcelight, for all the heroine’s inability to pick a good name, would have sold it. I gave it away and made Forcelight do my bidding before leaving her to die somewhere between the Earth and space. And yet, I’m still not sure if I feel everything has been balanced out there.

So, when I feel so strongly about retribution for any wrongs the world gives me, what am I to make of POTUS offering amnesty to an super villains who helped out or are willing to help out in the rebuilding process. Come forward, take an oath, sign a name, and your crimes are wiped away. “So much of our past has been wiped away by those who meant humanity, all of humanity, harm. There is much work to be done to restore our great nation after all we have been through, but I promise you the fires we faced are not the end. As we have in every conflict that has tested our resolve, we will come out of this stronger, because the fires and the beating that we took have not beaten us down. They have beaten out our weakness, and forged our Union anew. As part of this renewel, I make this offer.”

My first thought? “Yeah, beat my metal some more.” Except then people started taking him up on the offer, and more countries followed and I had to think. It involved lots of straining and going, “How do regular people do this?”

It took longer than I thought for the call to come in. “Well, if it isn’t my poor, put-upon handler. Here to share the good news?”

“You heard?” asked Venus, my dear, idealistic nemesis, who has been after me to reform. I think she sees me as some broken thing to be pitied and tempt to the side of angels, or maybe she’s trying to prove something. She makes a good speech of it.

“Yeah, sure. I heard. I don’t entirely believe, but I heard. Works out better than you could ever dream of, right? Sure, until someone steps forward they don’t want taking the deal. I’ll guarantee it. Guaran-damn-tee.”

“You have trust issues. Give the rest of the world a chance. They’re willing to give you one. Did you ever bury those bodies up there?” She referenced, of course, the crew of the weather research station I killed when I got here. In this case, it was self defense.

“Technically, they are buried.” In the sense that most of them had been packed under snow, inside of snowmen that serve as useless guards for my ice fortress. “Sealed in tight, you might say.” The seals that broke in the other day had decided to stick around thanks to a generous donation of spare foodstuffs tossed out into the snow. They liked fish sticks.

“I wanted to draw your attention to all the murder because I want to know why you do it?” She went on.

I shrugged. “Well, I hate people, and nothing gets that message across like killing them. And I think they’re stupid and create a lot of problems that, surprise, killing fixes that too. Oh, and there’s the little matter of feeling down when I don’t get to kill people.”

“Bullshit. How many people have you killed down there over the past month? What about when you were CEO, did you get your daily recommended dose of dead bodies then?” See? You trust someone, and they start throwing dead bodies in your face.

I figured I needed to remind her of what I revealed once. “It’s not nice to make fun of someone being addicted, ya know.”

She scoffed. “You are not my definition of fun, nor would I make fun of what you’ve done.” Shame, that. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun doing it. “But addiction doesn’t work like that. Maybe you think you’re addicted, or maybe you don’t know how it works, but have you ever gone into withdrawal any time it wasn’t convenient? It’s not just that you’ve done it so long and you’ve gotten used to it, take pleasure from it.”

“Kinda hard to beat chemistry and physiology, Venus.” I flipped through the news in my head. Amnesty here, amnesty there. Elita the Warrior Woman and Good Doctor were some of the names I recognized. One channel even focused on gangs organizing and applying for the amnesty. So long as “superhero” and “supervillain” can include non-powered people, there’s always that opening. Some people are super because they suffered through a once-in-a-lifetime experiment with gamma radiation or mutated animals. Others might have been born as part of some persecuted subgroup that happened to have access to extranormal abilities. Some are even alien refugees who quite like their adopted home world. And all of them get lumped in with men in masks who know karate, or billionaire playboys with expensive suits. Throw a mask on Charles Manson, call him Helter Skelter, and offer him a damn pardon, why not?

The fact that’s not happening leads me to believe there’s still a process to keep someone too infamous from joining in. Oh, wait, wasn’t Venus saying something? I tuned back in to find her still talking.

“People leave the hospital every day, not addicted to morphine. Others live as alcoholics until one day they find a purpose and put down the bottle. Rats will drink cocaine-laced water if they’re kept alone in a cage, but they don’t care as soon as you give them something else to do. You told me the truth of your life, as you understood it, but you don’t know everything. You don’t know there isn’t any changing for you.”

Like I said, she makes a good speech.

“An intriguing new perspective, but why would I want to change? What would I do? Walk around, get beaten up by old people who know I’m not allowed to fight back? I am still a fan of the ol’ ultraviolence.” Darn connection fuzzed up for a moment there. That’s what happen when you start making phone calls from Antarctica. I swear, internet service is so bad here, it’s hard to imagine how anyone puts up with it. Then again, Antarctica’s not known for its population.

“Stop beying such a pussy, Gecko. You could spend all day sitting around, thinking up reasons not to do something audacious, or you could go and do it. Are you not the man who had the balls to fight a city full of aliens all by himself?”

Did I leave a door open? The temperature dropped a bit. Without the easy accessibility of perimeter cameras and spy satellite coverage, tracking the weather had actually become more difficult in the place. It didn’t help that the facility meant to look at it was, well, here. Occupied by me. And then the paranoid people I took it from had wrecked all that equipment, along with radios and computers. I repaired some of it, sure, but watching the latest season of Game of Thrones didn’t give me real-time weather data. And, to make it worse, Cersei Lannister never even went lesbian!

“It’s starting to blur together whether or not I had balls at the time, actually, and I only did that because I had no choice. Everyone turned on me, and the government wasn’t willing to give me any help. Everyone you want me to extend an olive branch to. It’s hard to put my life into those kinds of hands.”

I probably sounded distracted as I got up and went to check one of the nearby doors and windows. The shapes trying to hide didn’t make me feel better. The snow on the floor inside the door made it even worse. I silently padded back toward the hall on the other side of the rec room, wondering if I’d even make it to my room before the silent intruder or intruders made a move.

“Not everyone’s a psychopath, you know.” Now there’s a laugh, though by this point I got very quiet, making my way over to the hall and then down it. Without my armor and without a weapon, the hallway made a poor spot for me to fight someone. Even with my armor, it would offer little space to dodge.

“That’s the thing about society. When you get enough people together, they can still manage to act like sociopaths. A little bit of evil in people who think they’re decent still adds up. By the way, I didn’t order takeout, so I’m just wondering who all you told about my little forced exile up here. I mean, I was heading back anyway. I just need some dragons and an army of eunuchs.”

“Don’t spoil it for me! I haven’t been seen the last episode.”

I inched closer to my door, not an assassin in sight. “And?”

“What, the takeout thing? I thought you were joking. It’s only me and Captain Lightning.”

Which just meant either Captain Lightning blabbed, or he turned on me. He’s a pragmatic sort. He fought Nazis alongside Russians. I pulled my eye out, then thought better of it when I realized I pulled the laser eye out. I replaced it and took out the non-laser version.”Where’s he right now?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think I do,” I told her, then ducked. I didn’t want someone knowing for sure where I stood as I gently pushed my door opened and rolled in my eye. Everything looked all clear, actually. That changed as soon as I eased into the doorway. The entire back half of the room exploded out, ripped away. There floated Captain Lightning, and some other capes I didn’t recognize. When I still reached for my suit on the portion of the bed remaining, it flew away from me toward one of the unrecognizable ones in a green and red parka.

“Well, looks like y’all have everything handled in here. I’m going to go make sure nobody leaves out the front door!” I said and turned to run back toward the rec room, only to find Lone Gunman there, of all people, with a minigun that didn’t look standard issue. Then again, miniguns aren’t exactly a weapon that ever fits the definition of standard issue. When I turned to go the other way, I saw it had indeed become standard issue on this trip, and that the second one rested in the gunmetal grey-clad hands of Warman, whose costume looked like a mix of tactical gear and medieval knight. If they were normal guns, I might take a risk that I could get them to shoot each other and duck under everything. With those…nope.

I turned back toward Captain Lightning and the others, one of whom at least had the decency to burst into flames, albeit as part of his powers instead of dying. “So,” I began, “I suppose you’re here for a little chat with me, Cap’n?”

“Things are calming down. I worked with you while I had to, but you’re too dangerous. You’re under arrest.”

“So you got a whole posse to bring me in? A bit much, isn’t it?”

He nodded toward the green and red parka guy. “They are here representing their countries.”

I shook my head. “Well, that won’t do. If you’re wanting me to take that amnesty, you’ve convinced me.”

Now Captain Lightning shook his head. “Are you a United States Citizen?”

He had me there, which he knew. Without waiting for an answer from me, he then asked, “Are you on U.S. Soil?”

“I am currently in the presidential palace of Geckopolis, capital city of Gecktopia, and I have two words for y’all: diplomatic immunity.”

“It does not work like that. We have been given international jurisdiction by the United Nations. Congratulations, you get to appear before the World Court. For all your capability, you aren’t strong enough alone to take us. Will you resist?”

From down the hall, I heard Gunman say, “Please resist.”

I didn’t have much of a choice to trust the world after all, looks like. I held up my hands. “Ok, you got me. I don’t suppose it’s asking too much that I get to face my accusers?”

In my ear, I heard Venus rejoin the conversation. “Have faith, Gecko.” I hung up on her, a bit tired of her stalling bullshit. I knew all that idealism couldn’t be real, and the idea of having faith is almost as funny as reading a web page via Gizoogle.

As for me, that’s why I’m off wherever I am. Near The Hague, I think. Yep, they took me to the Nether Regions and gave me the shaft. A lead elevator shaft, with everything closed up. They left me to my bed and, a few hours later, someone sent some food down on a rope.

I’ll give them one chance to not completely fuck me over. Maybe. Then, strong or not, I give Captain Lightning and anyone else a Latin lesson: pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo. And shove my fist straight up his posse.

What? I said posse.

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Icy What You Did There 1

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Ah, Antarctica, the continent I haven’t yet visited. Well, on this version of Earth. On mine, it’s a big place in the computing industry. Here, it’s nothing. Nada. Zip. El Zilcho. Hmm…El Zilcho…I wonder if it’s too late to change my supervillain name. Eh, probably is.

So I landed here and did my damnedest to get a signal out. Considering how many different deities I must have offended by now, my damnedest is guaranteed to be some of the damnedest damnedesting out there. Just like that time Ben Franklin beat Zeus’s ass and stole lightning from the gods. That’s right, I said it! Whatcha gonna do, Zeus, zap me? Zap with a thunderstorm in Antarctica? That’s what I fucking thought, you cow-fucking, swan-dicked asshole. Not many gods have myths about giving a woman a golden shower.

Just wait’ll I get started on Buddha, too. Epitome of laziness, that one.

Oh, alright, I guess I should talk about how I’m surviving down here. I mean, I sent out some SOSes to friends and allies, but hearing back from them is pretty much impossible. Making it worse, when I tried El Presidente over in Isla Tropica, his cell phone and computer still suffered the effects of the alien virus.

But I managed to hang on, using the crashed shuttle as shelter. I tried to use it as transport, but the engines aren’t having it. Much of the shuttle isn’t having it, actually. Except for the damn anti-gravity. I studied up on that to the best of my ability while trying to figure out how to get back to civilization, and while attempting to determine if the ship used any organic and/or edible components. In the end, I did find some food from a source I preferred not to eat from, but this slowed me down a great deal.

The sound of dogs further distracted me on Friday. I ran out and grabbed one under my right arm, only for the rest of the ones on the sleigh to try and mob me. How uncouth. Food is not supposed to fight back like that! Before I could dig in or even finish properly murdering them, I heard a human voice. It was a man on the back of the sled, looking out at me from ever-so-puffy clothes, sporting a beard of wonderful thickness and warmth. “Oh my god, guys, it’s an alien. It’s killing the dogs! I’m about 4 miles west-southwest of the base.”

He didn’t get to tell them what else, if anything, he intended to do before I beat him upside his head with a dead dog.

It wasn’t long before a helicopter swept in from overhead to find the dead dogs scattered all around some unearthly-looking meat thing. It had three arms, legs that split off into two lower legs, and no skin. The pilot landed the chopper down far enough that there’d be no risk when a passenger hopped out of it, switched on his flamethrower, and lit that sucker up. “Watkins! Watkins, where are you?!” the flamer called out. Then he spotted a pair of bloody legs sticking out from around the back end of the shuttle. When he spotted the wounded, bearded man, he knelt. “Jesus, Watkins!” He turned to the pilot, “Mac, get over here! We need to get Watkins back to the Doc!”

The two carried their surprisingly heavy friend into the rear of the chopper. Or who they thought was their friend.

That’s why, when Captain Lightning found me on Saturday, I was sitting in the commissary of an old Antarctic weather research station, alone, enjoying a plate of some of the best ribs I ever had. Their quality was due more to my lack of food than to any secret recipe of herbs and spices. I don’t even care for ribs. I usually prefer chicken.

“Good God, Gecko, what have you done?” Captain Lightning said, looking around at the mess I’d made of the place. “This is the last place I looked and everywhere else looks like a horror movie. What did you do?”

I burped, then tried to look offended. “Me? What makes you think I did anything?”

He just looked back at me.

I rolled my eyes. “Granted, that’s a compelling argument, everything here was done in self defense. They brought me in and dropped me off at the clinic, first of all.”

“The doctor’s dead and there’s blood everywhere. That’s a lot more than any human body carries. I know,” the red, white, and gold WW2-era superhero glared at me.

I shook the rib at him in my right hand. “Stop jumping to conclusions. I got in by pretending to be a friend of theirs who was hurt. At least one of them had a flamethrower, too, so they were likely going to burn first and ask questions later if the doctor called out and told them I was actually a guy in a suit. And they did all that with the blood later.”

“Pull the other one,” he said. I glanced down at his tights, wondering to which side he let his dangle angle, then shook my head.

“It’s true. See, after getting rid of the doctor, I pretended to look like him. Then, one of them stopped in to check on the two of us and saw a dead one and a live one. Well, he ran off to tell the others, so I knew I didn’t have too long and went to go round up some sled dogs. They were being completely unreasonable. I guess they could tell they didn’t know me, and it occurred to me they could use the dogs to sniff me out, so of course I had to kill all of them.”

“Of course.” The sarcasm dripped off the Captain’s words like grease off freshly cooked ribs. Mmm.

I took another bite before continuing. “Well, by then they were starting to get entirely the wrong idea. One of them came running to check on the dogs with a fire ax in hand, so I had to kill him, hide the body, and pretend to be him. Then the flamethrower guy came in with the rest of the bunch and decided to burn all the bodies. I only found out why when we were all having some downtime, too. Somehow, they got it into their heads that they were being attacked by some sort of crashed alien shapeshifter that was consuming their bodies in order to mimic them. I swear, that’s what they said.”

Captain Lightning had lowered his head and rubbed at the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “Jesus. I know you had to be the one to disable the communications equipment.”

I shook my head. “We were sitting around talking about all this when an old guy left to go smoke a cigarette, and I was about to head after him so I could slip find something with the coordinates, or maybe a radio to civilization. Too late, we all came running to find the old fart had smashed up the radios and computer. He got outside and destroyed their little cell tower, too, at which point flamethrower guy burned him under the mistaken belief he was the alien. Or an alien. At that point, Mac the helicopter pilot suspected they had more than one.”

“I tried to spend the rest of that night fixing something up with the radio, but didn’t get far before everyone got called in to the clinic. This white guy with the curlyfro hair, he had some sort of mental break and thought he might have been one. That’s where all the blood came from. They had a bunch of it in storage there for transfusions and stuff, and he just went to town busting it up and smearing it all over the place. Mac tried to hold him and sedate him, but flamethrower dude burned them both. Then some Bob Ross-looking motherfucker thought the flamer was getting too flamethrower-happy and tried to hit him when his back was turned. So flamethrower dude flamethrowered him.”

“How many were left at that point?”

“Me, flamethrower dude, and this other guy with a great voice. Flamethrower dude was white, voice guy was black, if you need help keeping up with the corpses. Flamethrower dude got this crazy idea in his head that since we couldn’t trust each other and had some duty to make sure this infectious alien didn’t reach civilization. He wanted to blow everything up.”

“That’s why the helicopter is an exploded mess outside?” Lightning asked.

I nodded. “Black guy said ‘screw this’ and tried to leave. Flamethrower dude thought he was an alien.”

“And then it was just you two. I know how that ended. I saw the body outside. Is there a reason you shoved the flamethrower up where you shoved it?”

I shot finger guns at the Captain. “It’s just kinda my trademark at this point. Not like the guy didn’t deserve it.”

“Uh huh.” Lightning pulled a chair out from the table in front of me and sat down. “Jesus, Gecko.”

“You may also call me Psycho Christ, but it doesn’t have much of a ring to it,” I winked at him over another bite of ribs.

Another voice called out from the hallway, “Hey, I got a signal! Your friends couldn’t tell me much. It’s just a weather station that’s isolated most of the year. He said people get cuckoo in situations like this, but no one reported seeing…oh, hi Gecko.” Venus stepped around the corner, having foregone her power armor so she could load up on a nice, warm coat.

I set my food down to wave at her with my right. “Heya, Venus. He found me, and I just got done explaining that it’s totally not what it looks like out here.”

“That’s probably a lie,” she said, stepping through the doorway, then holding out a bloody appendage. “By the way, I think you dropped this at the crash site.” She set a skinless severed arm on the table. Even as burnt as it looked, it had clearly been gnawed on to the point that little meat clung to the bones. The blackened zirconium fingernails were a dead giveaway, though.

“Aww, how thoughtful,” I said and unsealed my left glove to expose the empty space therein. I grabbed the arm and shoved it up into that sleeve, then struggled to keep it in while I stuck the glove back onto the arm. “The guy who investigated the crash mistook me for an alien, see, and I had this thing laying around. As soon as I get some thawed-out nanites, I’ll see about getting it reattached. Still, ol’ Lefty’s a lifesaver. I almost starved waiting on help to show.”

That led to an uncomfortable silence.

“So, when do we go?” I asked, hoping to break it.

“Well…” Venus started, then moved to take a seat next to the Captain and opposite me.

“We came as soon as we could to try and make sure you were safe,” Captain Lightning spoke. “It’s clear you found someplace warm and have food to eat now.”

I looked between the two, wondering if this was going where I hoped it wasn’t going. “Yeah, and…?”

Venus answered. “We’ve got a lot to clean up and it would still be questionable to bring you in. We would be expected to detain you.”

“I saved the world!”

“You apparently spent most of the past year quietly building up a network of alliances, secretly constructing weapons, and figuring out how to give all sorts of people the same superpowers, then used a weapon of mass destruction capable of global catastrophe to commit what might be genocide.” Venus summed up everything in a way that almost made me look like the bad guy. But at least she reached out to place her hand over mine. Then she moved it over to the other hand, because she realized Lefty couldn’t feel much these days. “People are scared of you, but we know what you did. Please, for me and for you, wait here just a little longer. Captain Lightning would be told to drop you off in prison if he flies you in now.”

Yeah, that’s about par for the fucking course with me. “Fine. Geez. I only saved everyone on Earth. I swear, I’m starting to think you humans are all masochists.”

Venus almost let herself grin at that one before unzipping her coat. She pulled out two things from within: a Long Life nanite syringe and a satellite cell phone. “We’re not all human anymore, Gecko. Here, stay safe and stay in touch. I mean it, call me in awhile. This has excellent reception out here.”

And with that, they left me, poor Gecko. Damn Captain Lightning and his speed. I’m definitely glad to have my arm reattached as well, though I think that sums up this new situation nicely: the heroes didn’t just give me the finger, they gave me the whole limb.

At least neither of them stopped to ask how a bunch of guys at an isolated weather station still had any ribs in the freezer after being so long away from the rest of the world.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 6

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Good news everyone! No, don’t assume crash position, this is legitimate good news. I remembered to call Captain Lightning. Well, he called me, wondering what took me so long to remember him, but he’s still around. And he didn’t mind Isla Tropica that much. He said it reminded him of the old days. I didn’t ask which old days. He lived through a lot, including disco. The continued existence of the island suggests he didn’t mean the disco days.

He also informed me that his friends in the Secret Service had reached out to him. “I met some old friends at a neutral location they both trusted. The Bureau has egg on their face and the President is purging it.”

Ooh, a political purge. Good times. “I’m sure that’ll look good on the news. Then again, it’s literally now controlled by inhuman beings who struggle to maintain human form and just want to use people as fodder in their meaningless wars, and will manufacture any news they want to fit their agenda. So I guess nothing’s changed over at Fox News. But at least anybody who ever thought one group controlled the entire media has a basis for comparison so they’ll realize how dumb they sounded.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you become an asshole when you’re nervous? You might be like that commercial. Have a Snickers.” Cap pondered.

“Good to see you’re in such a good mood. And good to see that whole thing worked out for you. I had a bunch of organizations waiting to debrief me, too. Problem is, I know exactly what those coordinates the CIA gave me were for. Maybe if I hadn’t ever been invited to their little Latin American torture school before, I would have gone. They picked the wrong time to understimate me, that’s for sure.

“You aren’t trustworthy,” said Captain Obvious.

“Actually, I am quite trustworthy…when you want someone dead. I’m trying to use that, I think. Yeah, that’s giving me an idea. But I do need your help.”

“Of course.”

“Get me the President. I don’t mean literally. He’s probably useless in a fight. Just get him on my side.”

“He isn’t cruisin’ for a bruisin’. He has to cut the gas while they’re in control. Make a weakpoint and we will be here for you.”

“Gotcha. In the meantime, I hope he’s finding ways to keep people from those clinics of theirs. And watch for assassins. The Fluidics have been gunning for me, when they aren’t blowing up entire buildings to take me out.”

“I don’t fear them in an open fight, but we need to win an open fight to get the world on our side.”

“True, the world does like a winner. I can blood them, though. I know I can.”

“You’re sure, Gecko? You’re punching above your weightclass.”

“Skill can divert clumsy raw power, and precisely applied force can solve many problems. That’s one of my specialties. I have room to maneuver now, room to ambush them, even to hide in plain sight. I can do this.”

“We’re counting on it.”

Of course, after such a badass boast from me, there was some awkward silence while until I was like, “Well, ok then. See ya later.”

“Goodbye, Gecko.”

But it wasn’t just empty words. I could get in, especially with the Dark Triad reassambled, Forcelight doing my bidding, Lone Gunman pointed in the right direction, and a little magical oomph from the Basford wing of The Trust. But that wasn’t the only organization I could get my hands on around here. There’s still Master Academy, which I don’t want to approach for obvious reasons. But while I work up a plan of attack to get them on my side, I have a darker group to recruit.

Hephaestus/Faustus. A dual criminal organization operating out of several fronts around the nation. The Hephaestus side handles scientific and technological enhancements to give people powers; Faustus prefers magical rituals and artifacts. I kinda copycatted them when I agreed to try and give people my powers with Technolutionary. But I had that under control, as opposed to trusting an organization I once fought. Then again, I fought Technolutionary before working with him, so I guess I was fucked any way I went.

Still, Hephaestus/Faustus probably held more of a grudge. Sure, they were being unknowingly led by Gunman to provoke me into a fight with them, but I did wreck a lot of their shit until the big confrontation that exposed him. I haven’t gotten any more work offers from them since that nasty business, but they haven’t attacked me anymore. An unofficial truce, I guess y’all could say.

I made things tough on them and haven’t been back to their Los Angeles front since then. I wore my armor. It seemed prudent, and I figured it would easily get me access given my ability to hide. But I’ve been wrong a bit lately. Like when I walked through the doors like any regular person, doors like any regular doors, and everything stopped for just a moment. It was like running into lag in real life. Then everything got caught up. I watched everyone in the lobby hurry into elevators while red lights flashed and a translucent net of energy stretched across every door, every window, and presumably through any wall.

I looked around at the situation, then walked over to one of the elevators and pressed the up button. I tapped my foot and pretended to glance at a watch, despite having a clock in my HUD that showed the whole lag thing was a result of temporaly shenanigans.

That’s right. I call temporal shenanigans!

A squeak of an intercom preceded a conversation instead of an attempted execution. “Psycho Gecko. You grace us with your presence. You shouldn’t be here. Why are you?”

“I am because I think. Or is it the other way around? Listen, I know we have our differences, bodiless Hephaestus voice.”

“Faustus. There has been a change in leadership.”

I walked around the lobby“Right. Fine. Hey, at least it had some benefit for you guys. I’m not here to start any more fights. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I want to fight the Fluidic aliens and I could use a hand.” I grabbed a metal ashtray off the floor and tossed it at the door. It broke through, then ricocheted off the energy barrier right back at me.

“What do you have to offer Faustus?”

“How about not getting wiped out by Fluidics? They’re here for everyone. They might use your research and equipment, but you’re nothing but a warm body to them.” I held my hands out to indicate the whole building. “Nice place you have here. Lots of people. Be a shame if they took all of you over just to settle some grudge on another planet. Come on, this should be fuckin’ easy to figure out! They want to take you over, I’m fighting them, this shit writes itself!”

I emphasized it with a kick to the elevator door that should have dented it. “Damn, good construction here. My compliments. You know they can destroy entire buildings? You better make sure the ones in your ranks don’t get the word out. I’ve still seen them blast a building apart. Shredded wheat. And for some reason, they’re willing to do that just to get to me.”

“Not just you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Since Empyreal City was shut off, several buildings have suffered those attacks. We cleaned up the attempts to inflitrate us, but suffered setbacks. We can handle them.”

“Bullshit!” I hopped up next to the elevators to swipe a camera off the wall, then slid down to the floor. Friction slowed me a bit. “They have spaceships that can cut off entire cities! They have an army eight million strong! Damn, if you’re this stupid, why even bother?”

I turned and started heading for the energy barrier. I examined it for a moment, ignoring the “magical anomaly” warning and instead making an estimate based on the color light it threw off and started charging my gauntlets. “Energy. Matter in a non-matter form. You can’t truely trap me with this field. All you can do is waste my time.”

Before I could gather sufficient charge and make a new exit, all the light disappeared except from the barrier and the energy sheaths around my gloves. Then holes appeared in the net, like it was rotting, the strings dying off.

When it tore open, a fireball hurled me back across the lobby. Before I could stand, lightning zapped me. It didn’t affect me the same way, but then most lightning isn’t lime green. No need for a quick reset, but that didn’t stop me from getting hit upside the head with a hunk of ice. Fire, lightning, ice. I rolled to the side, not able to think too well after the blow except to wish I could summon Ifrit and Shiva to this fight.

It gave me enough time to at least see what hit me. It floated through the windows, not breaking it. Just kinda phasing through it. It was another of those saucers, but all black. Arranged long the outer rim equidistantly were twenty U-shaped extensions. It took me a moment to realize that there were forty thin black whips, each from an end of a U. One of the lights above exploded and threw a purple ball at this thing, but a pair of whips did something, formed some sort of runes or something. When the purple ball hit it, it dissolved.

Sweet zombie Jesus, we got magic aliens.

Lest y’all think the distraction gave me a break, think different. While it handled all that and I tried to stand, more of its magical machinations left me mystically manacled, the malicious motherfucker. I was stuck to the ground, then taunted and teased by a blue torrent of flames that threatened to melt my armor and cook me like bacon. And I really wanted to save my bacon.

I totally would have, too, but Faustus beat me to the punch. The elevators opened and were immediately under attack when more of the thin lines threw attacks at him. Some were answered with counterattacks. Some weren’t. Yet more odd-colored lightning heralded the arrival of men in robes, at least one wearing a soft-meat crown. A dark purple glow grew between that one’s hands, in time to a purple whirlpool that appeared underneath the magic saucer.

As it grew, the saucer was drawn down, then struggling to rise. The magic manacles holding me weakened, then broke entirely about the time the dessicated arms rose from the whirlpool. Like beef jerky on bone. Long fingernails on exposed bones reached for the Fluidic assassin. It tried to strike at the arms, but that did nothing except take away from its ability to fight off the others. Up until the arms grabbed hold of it, dragged it into the whirlpool. It turned over on its side, half of it staying up. Then the whirlpool exploded into mist, taking half of the saucer with it.

One of the robed mages walked over and grabbed half of the core. Others gathered around that one, then they all disappeared except for the one who wore a crown of upside-down organs strung around it. That one approached, a shadow hiding its face absolutely, even from my view. It spoke with the same voice of the speakers, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just a middleman. “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. We will oppose the aliens in our own way and time.” It gestured to the door. “Get the fuck out.”

“Fine, be that way you ignorant fuckers. But you better show up when the big battle happens, because there’s going to be one.” I gave it a middle finger out of thanks, then left, once again wishing I could do to everyone what I did to Forcelight.

But I have no choice but to hope for the generosity of people so devoted to their own petty individual concerns that they would never go after a threat to everyone. Now who is the truly untrustworthy person here?

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Enlightening Strikes 8

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As badly as things were left last time, I wondered if anything else would go wrong. It just doesn’t work out to tempt Murphy’s Law too much. While the suggestion that anything that can go wrong will go wrong being some sort of physical law suggests a certain order to the universe, don’t get me wrong. It’s all terribly disordered in a way only possible by sapient life, which is hilarious if you remember that sapience denotes the ability of an organism to use reason.

And yet, for all the chaos in any one part, it’s all part of a system that makes sense with the proper perspective. A perspective that can take into account the entirety of all human decisions made by prior decisions, genetics, environment, and neurophysiology vis a vis the effect of experiences and memories on the people in question. Naturally, all human decisions includes all of them ever, just like the environment includes everything from the tiniest shift in air pressure to the effects of stellar bodies on the planet. I mean other planets and stars, not the bodies you see online of Slavic porn models.

But once you get all that down, you’ve basically got omniscience covered. To get down to anything with any real randomness, you need to go subatomic. And I’m still suspicious of that. I’m also not omniscient. But I do know it’s hard for things to get really chaotic unless something physics-defying happens, like a crazy guy bursts into your universe from another dimension, and that only works if there are no physical laws that cross into other bubbles of the multiverse.

It’s a good argument for explaining to Wildflower why I hog the covers. That, and pointing out that her body stays warm enough without them, though she insists that isn’t the point. It is, unfortunately, poor comfort for the times when things go wrong.

It started well enough. Man-Opener had been informed of the alien infiltration threat, related to my knowledge of the future. Knowledge which, as he pointed out, could no longer be corroborated by a the clairvoyant Fortune Cookie after her untimely murder. Apparently I catch flak for not going to the funeral. Or even arranging for the funeral. Or paying for any of it. Others had politely attended, it seemed. But I’m getting all negative again.

We convinced Man-Opener with the communication pod from the late Senator Powers, especially after I dunked it in some coffee. Much cussing was had, but Man-Opener agreed to work on quietly spreading the word and back up my claim as a separate authority. It always helps, since I piss people off.

Now, surprisingly, that’s not what happened this time around. I awoke to a video chat alert on my laptop. Since I contact most people through my head computer, I wasn’t surprised to find Captain Lightning on the other end of the line. “Hey there, Thundar the Captarian. Another beautiful day in paradise? How’s Isla Tropica treating you?”

He ignored the questions. “How are you going to handle this?”

“Eh, just stay under the radar for a bit. We can bribe the right Feds to call things off. Maybe go blow up a North Korean missile silo and claim you stopped a plot to destroy America. People eat that shit up.”

“I mean what are you going to do about Man-Opener?” To the rear of his furious facade, I could spot a giant beach ball being tossed through the air. Wow, El Presidente must have set him up with one of the nicer new beachfront condos. That’d be near some good restaurants, possibly even one not run by the secret police.

I shrugged. “Venus brought him in. Beat his ass all over the east side. Shame I missed it. Didn’t I shoot you a text about this? He’s on our side.”

“Then why is the news out of Empyreal saying he’s talking to reporters about a secret alien invasion that’s taking over politicians’ bodies?”

“I’ll have to get back to you on that right after I murder him. Stay in touch, Lightning.” I shut down the laptop and threw off the covers. Standing up, I took the first step in rushing off to deal with Man-Opener blowing our cover. The first step, though, caught on something laying on the floor, which brought me down as well. Turns out Wildflower had decided to use the floor next to the new bed as a good spot to sun herself like a plant or reptile or something. It’s the animal hybridization. At least she doesn’t lay down on my computer keyboard, like a cat.

She didn’t even stir. Just laid there like a log. First time for everything, am I right, fellas? Still, the distraction did give me a moment to collect myself. Ya know, like figure out where I was rushing off to when I hadn’t even begun to look things up. With my own personal internet connection in mind, I sat down on Wildflower’s cushiony butt and pulled up whatever news I could get, including a special insider feed from the news company I have an in with. If I hadn’t been asleep during the first half of the day, I suppose I could have jumped out in front of the story. My contacts had sent me early copy, but early copy doesn’t matter if you’re unconscious.

Ignoring the way Wildflower’s thorny tail lazily wrapped around my arm, I took a look to see what Man-Opener was ruining this time…and soon found that he’d been blabbing his mouth to everyone. Henchmen and other villains were exactly who we wanted him to be careful around. Breaking into a TV station to make an announcement during the weather was overkill, just like what I’m going to do to him. Even worse, he namedropped Mary Malady, Senator Powers, and the Oligarch. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he didn’t mention that I killed Oligarch. Well, that part could have been a plus. I’m proud of it, but it would look bad to a lot of the other villains who were part of his Order.

Come to think of it, there did seem to be an unusual number of black helicopters in the skies of the city. Many were disguised as other choppers, like the sort that carry medical patients, news crews, weather men, and rich people. A black helicopter is a black helicopter, regardless of its actual color. After all, what good would they be for covert operations if people knew to keep watching the black ones?

The reason I didn’t go blabbing about aliens to everyone around is that we don’t know who to trust. Sure, it’s not like it’s hard to make a U.S. Senator your own personal bitch. It usually involves a bit of cash, but it’s still relatively easy. The problem is, the infiltration could go right up to the presidency. The President of the United States is no small enemy to have.

Oh, and no way would most people ever believe me, so that factored into my decision as well. It should have factored into Man-Opener’s thinking. Most regular people don’t want to believe someone like him, and they definitely aren’t ready to follow me. While we know Earth isn’t the sole home of intelligent life in the stellar neighborhood, I also know that I’m not the planet’s most trustworthy-seeming person.

But maybe I could use that? After all, wouldn’t it lend credence to Man-Opener if he were suddenly martyred by an assassin nobody likes or trusts? But where could I, an assassin nobody likes or trusts, possibly find an assassin nobody likes or trusts?

And since I’m coming out into the open again, maybe I can finally pick up my old car.

I headed out to find Man-Opener, whose little rampage cost me the element of surprise. The last news reports put him attacking the single most important political landmark of the entire nation. A place where the political future of America is decided. The spot where the true rulers of the country do business. Wall Street.

It was more a matter of marching through the streets and shouting his message while police tried to stop him. No protesting permit, holding up traffic, jaywalking, etc, etc. After they saw what he did to the first few, they didn’t care so much about the law. Not many people would when facing a walker like that. Ten feet tall, sleek, and white; it marched on humanoid legs and swung a pair of arms that would have dragged on the street if fully extended. There were no hands, only triads of axe heads that spun rapidly. Its rectangular torso was protected by armored plates in a V pattern, with some sort of black underlayer that seemed to coalesce against the man held partially inside the torso at its bottom-most. That was Man-Opener, with only his helmet and arms exposed outside of the armor.

As odd as it would be for a supervillain to march down the street, rampaging to raise awareness of an alien invasion, my arrival just made things stranger. I landed hard near the police cordon and stumbled a few steps until nanites could finish repairing some ligaments around my knee. I caught my balance on one of the cops and acted like I was patting him on the shoulder. “That’s enough, officer. I’ll take it from here.”

“The fuck?!” he jumped back upon seeing me.

“Here I come to save the day!” I shouted loud enough for Man-Opener to hear me.

Man-Opener didn’t bother to rotate his body. Instead, the arms rotated around toward me. His voice boomed from a speaker near the top of the walker’s headless body. “We have to expose the truth. That is how you beat a secret invasion. Face it head on, like a man.”

I reached up to adjust the rockets on the rear of my gauntlets. “Silence is golden, so let me come over there and gild your ass!” I jumped, flipped, and pushed off the top of a nearby cop car with a jump that carried me in an arc past Man-Opener. His arms rose to intercept me, but I passed between them. I landed in the street and skidded to a stop, using the last of my momentum to wrench a manhole out of the street. “Hey, watch this!” I shouted, then flipped it into the air. He did track it for just a moment, long enough for my suit to hide me in a hologram of the area around me. I tossed one of my rubber chickens at him Man-Opener, who swatted it to the side while chopping its head off. He then quickly intercepted the manhole cover, which I’d flung his way when it came back down.

My armor went from showing none of me to showing three. One stood in the street with arms crossed. Another grabbed a trash can from the curb, and yet another ran to the opposite side of the street where someone had abandoned a stroller. Unfortunately, it really was abandoned, which I knew since that me was the real one. But then, what is reality anyway, except for a tangible thing that exists whether you’re there to experience it or not? I grabbed it with my left and signaled my armor to concentrate power into a sheath of energy held just around my right fist.

Man-Opener stood still, paralyzed with indecision at the three of me. At least until the headless rubber chicken grenade got tired of trying to cross the road behind him and blew up. The road is such a cocktease like that, as any truck driver will gladly tell you.

The explosion stunned Man-Opener. What it lacked in damage, it made up for in opportunity, though. I rushed him while tossing the stroller ahead of me, regretting only that it did not have a baby in it during this encounter. Man-Opener either didn’t care or didn’t think, because he brought both arms down in time to shred the stroller. It gave me cover enough to run up and deck him in the snoz with enough force to make a brick wall ask for the lube.

What actually happened is that he brought one of his arms fully against his helmet to protect his body from debris, and my punch hit it instead. My fist warped and embedded in the metal as the energy sheath added to the force of the blow and did fun things to the metal. The blades, only a couple short feet away from me, sputtered to a stop. On that arm, at least. Man-Opener brought the other one down. I pulled as hard as I could to free my arm from the damaged limb, and I did throw myself back away from him, but I ended that fall with five fewer fingers.

“Fucking son of a pirate cunt with a chest full of picked dicks!” I screamed, obviously taking the situation well. I was losing a lot of blood, too. At least the little nanite quilt layer under my armor had been damaged enough to open some of the packets in the area. It works better with blunt trauma, but it’s still a way for me to mitigate significant non-thermal damage in the middle of a fight without taking a moment to inject myself properly. I realized as Man-Opener advanced that they’d be out of a job soon if I didn’t move my ass. And move it I did. I rolled back and ordered my armor to charge energy around my left arm.

“It looks like my arms beat yours so far, little Gecko. Will you regrow that like a tail? I’ve always wondered,” Man-Opener taunted me. The last laugh would soon be mine, however.

I bolted at him as if to do the exact same thing all over again. He held the useless arm in front of his body as a shield, no doubt ready to swipe off another arm or even a leg with the working one. Probably caught him off guard when I jumped onto his arm instead and used it as a platform to leap into the air. He swiped at nothing, then tried to get a better view at my ascent, an ascent I arrested with the rocket under my gauntlet. It flared to life and drove me down. This time when I connected, metal shredded like a Slayer song and his one good arm locked up at his side. The blades on the end began to stop and start jerkily. He brought up the first bad arm then to try and knock me off. This time, I remembered to use the same muscle enhancers that allow me to leap small buildings in a single bound and back flip off before he could hit me again. And this time, the rocket fired to bring my good fist crashing against his helmet. It didn’t break his head, just a bone or two in my hand. It also stumbled him as a result of the punch, forcing his walker to take a step back.

I backed up as well so I could fetch a syringe of nanites out of my belt. In spite of my success in battle, the dizziness caused by blood loss threatened to snatch defeat from the jaws of my victory. Also, I’m really fond of my right hand. My helmet showed me Man-Opener reaching for something on the side of his walker with his real arms, but I didn’t think anything of it until he shot something green at me that burned my armor and melted it partially to my body. The inside of my suit suddenly smelled like a steakhouse, or at least a barbecue shack. Holding up my left arm to protect me only succeeded disarming that one as well when the energy sheath wiring sparked. Had it been charged, the sheath could have potentially blocked the plasma being fired at me, or at least taken most of the oomph out of it.

He stopped after a moment. “I hope you can feel the burn, Gecko. You were looking jiggly around the hips the other day.”

I threw my arm and a half up and hollered to the sky. I’d quote me, but it’d be redundant at this point. Just imagine lots of As and lots of exclamation points. At least five of each ought to do it. Man-Opener was more than willing to advance on me as I inexplicably lost my footing in the middle of a nearby intersection. He stalked forward, turning down this new street…and then I stopped to look up at him. “The last burn I felt was a leftover from your mother’s cooter, jackass.”

It’s a shame his back was turned. He missed the epic moment when a sleek black 1951 Hudson Hornet crashed through a blockade of a pair of police sawhorses to ram into Man-Opener’s back. I happily jumped on top as it came right for me as well, up until I noticed how badly it hurt the black paint and orange trim of my remote-piloted car.

We wrestled on my car, and I managed to knock his plasma pistol away with my growing right arm. That was a point in my favor, but then he gained one of his own when he pinned me against the front of his armor with the arm that couldn’t spin its own blade anymore. He actually reached out to try and choke me with his regular arm, before the car suddenly stopped and threw us both into the first corner building it had sped across since Man-Opener got his hand on me. The car’s cameras showed us flying through the front door of Moe and Lester’s Meat Mart together.

Ah, the butcher’s shop! Such a fun place for conflict. Just imagine what the meat slicer could do to someone you don’t like if applied to all sorts of places on the body. The landing took a bit out of me and I had to brace myself against a stand of alligator jerky to stand up, but Man-Opener’s bulky machine took longer. That gave me time to see inventory my assets. The right arm was coming back, but still pretty weak. The left arm couldn’t use its energy sheath, but I think the rocket could still work. If not, I’d be out a left arm.

I ran over to a counter display we shattered in our dramatic entrance and grabbed a big, bloody steak. Like a thick ribeye, I think. I know human anatomy better than I do cows. Man-Opener stood up and started throwing displays out of the way, though his attempt to clear some room made me curious about just what pickled chicken feet tasted like. I turned, swung, and released the steak right at his helmet. It slapped there and clung, possibly disrupting his vision but maybe not. I haven’t yet determined what he can see in his armor. But I did rush in, tried the rocket, and smashed my fist into his steak-covered head hard enough to dislocate some of my fingers. The rocket sputtered and ejected though, a fuel leak having rendered it useless save for that blow.

No matter. I kept wailing on him. “And now you meat your match!” I dodged a blow from the arm without functional blades and grabbed a hanging line of sausages. When worse comes to worst, trust the wurst. I whipped them out and wrapped them around that arm. When he raised it up, I swung in and kicked him in the face. “I’m going to be frank with you here, you’re a bit of a wiener.”

He tried to maneuver me over to the other arm, still locked in one position, but still with some blades that stopped and started. I dropped, and noticed the steak flop to the ground as well. So I jumped close and started headbutting him. I rammed my helmet against his again and again and again until I was rewarded with a crack on its front. It cracked like a bloody egg and showed me an eye inside.

“That eye looks pretty bad. Let’s put something on it!” I grabbed the steak again and swung it at the hole. It smacked him, doing little actual damage but still getting wet meat juices right in his eye.

I didn’t expect that hit to finish him off, but he slumped, then spun to drop to his back. The realization hit me that I was wrong about him being defeated right about the time the barely-functional blades of the locked arm swung up and started to chop a cut of meat off my thigh.

Ever been held in one spot while something like a giant chainsaw chews through your leg? Not fun. When it stopped for a moment, I threw myself to the side and felt something catch. Could have been bone, could have been tendon. Either way, I didn’t get away until the blades started up again and pulled me over him. Whatever it was that caught, it didn’t stay caught, and I landed on the opposite side of Man-Opener, gritting my teeth and sucking in breaths.

At least our car ride and the chopping had released more of the nanites hidden in the quilted layer. That’s about all I could say, because there weren’t a lot of other good things. I had to take a moment there, because that shit hurt like a night of tap water and ex-lax burritos delivered straight from Mexico.

“How do you like those cold cuts?” Man-Opener asked as he, too, took a minute to recover. Then we heard the approach of heavy footsteps. Looking up, I spotted Venus in full, gleaming armor. It was heavier than mine, and bulkier, but still armor instead of a walker. Just thick, with big boots, big legs, big fists, big everything. And a golden visor that covered her face. She came equipped with the whole shebang this time. “Man-Opener, Gecko what are you two doing here?”

I pointed over. “Nothing much. Just beating my meat. Care to watch?”

The speakers on her armor distorted her voice, but not enough to lose the contempt. “You have the right to remain silent, Gecko.”

“Nah, that implies I’m being arrested.”

“Take him in! I got him nice and wrapped up for you!” Man-Opener said.

Venus pointed an a finger at him. “You too, Man-Opener.”

“Come on!” we both yelled.

She shook her head. “You’ve both caused too many problems, too publicly. I can’t just ignore this, not when you two are ignoring everything to carry out some personal grudge. This will be sorted out and dealt with, don’t worry.”

I sat up, pretty pissed. This isn’t just some big formal alien invasion. Oh, hey, how ya doin’, mind if we invade? They were going to kill me. That makes this top priority! I just hadn’t told her that yet. “Don’t deny me this, Venus ex machina. I owe this asshole a death for what he’s doing. He’s only in this to make me look bad, but this is my life we’re talking abo-ack!” She shot me! In the back! It was with a metal stake, too, which pierced my armor and electrocuted me too much to think of any more jokes. That was probably the intention.

Man-Opener started the slow process of climbing his walker up, but Venus shot it, too. Its legs locked for a second, then continued. Meanwhile, I tried to reach around with numb, tense hands, but the straining muscles didn’t have the dexterity to pull that thing out of my back. So I tried to get my feet underneath me instead. It was hard going, and it felt like I was grinding my teeth down to the roots, but I finally stood up. Venus turned to see how I was doing after knocking MO back on his ass.

I didn’t say anything, but instead signaled my car. It roared as it backed up, angled itself, and then fired a harpoon from the hubcap. Even though it knocked the stake out on impact, it was too late to avoid the course I’d taken. I gave Venus the finger as my car accelerated and dragged me after it, leaving her to clean up Opener.

I had to roll to dodge another two while Venus busied herself with putting down Man-Opener. It wouldn’t take long, no doubt, so I ran for the open front and dived into the open door of my car.

…So that’s it. I headed back to my penthouse, full of anger, denied vengeance, and urine. And the trip to the bathroom only solved one of those. The other two I carried with me past Wild Flower, who watched me with the impotent empathy of someone who wants to comfort an angry murderer. The elevator dropped me down to the art gallery, past the few dumb little exhibits that made it look vaguely like its cover. I deposited my armor in its little repair silo for the automated systems to assess the damage and begin rebuilding based on the blueprints. I grabbed an extra syringe of nanites to get me back up to fighting fitness in case Venus chose to pursue her goody-goodiness further.

And then I walked over to a table holding a sheet and a number of bulky things that fit under a sheet. I pulled them off to reveal parts and pieces that, with a little bit of elbow grease, can fit together to form a rather unique sort of device. A device that ruptures the fabric of spacetime in a limited area, doing catastrophic damage. The first one I ever used was built to shunt half a planet into another dimension and utterly destroy any life on it in the process. That didn’t work out, though it turned out such a bomb could be contained and used to transport a whole organism into another dimension.

I was there working on the Dimension Bomb late into the night and early into the next morning, stopping for bathroom breaks and the sandwich Wildflower left for me by the door, when word spread around the world of a flotilla of unidentified objects in space approaching the Earth in a decelerating velocity.

Ready or not, here they come.

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