Tag Archives: Fake Gecko

Gecko 2.0 6

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The Fake Gecko and the Dead President. Interesting pair of enemies I’ve got here. The Dead President faked his death after revoking the citizenship of every superhuman and everyone running around as a villain or hero. ICE was meant to be the dogs he unleashed on us. They’ve been building up to this. I don’t know if it was their ultimate goal. I don’t even think going against supers was the endgame, but we’re a perfect way to make this power play happen. Anyone could be a super.

I’ve had such a low opinion of humans, especially the ones in this country. I feel I’m entitled to some of that from my own history. I figured there’d be protests that would be put down as law enforcement fully embraced their role as lethal enforcers. Resistance would be limited to protesters and people complaining online. Probably the President-elect and his VP issuing some legal challenges and words in Congress that couldn’t go anywhere because of deadlock.

People didn’t stand for it. After a year of protests, all the right people were plenty geared up to take it to the police. One of the first videos after it happened involved cops trying to arrest a superhero who helped put out a fire at an apartment building, and the residents of that building getting between the cops and the hero. Elsewhere, a night raid by Icers was interrupted by regular people gathering and attacking ICE. Cops showed up and tried to keep the protesters in line, but someone else with powers put them and the Icers to sleep.

I noticed when more folks showed up in Radium, too. Some residents are working on housing, while some of us find room for the refugees. I have a small campground in my store’s workyard. I might be stacking some in my underground lair, because some of these houses put together by superspeed and super strength are amateur efforts. At least there’s plenty of work for the people who know what they’re doing.

The incoming administration refused a test and said they would be taking office regardless. “If you got a problem with the Constitution, then you got a problem with me, Jack, and I suggest you let that one marinate. The time for pushing around the American people is over. That includes all the American people, including criminals. Yes, they have rights as well. Just like non-citizens among us have rights, and all Americans should feel insulted that my predecessor believes non-citizenship is a license to discriminate.”

And on and on.

But the point was, I thought the humans would throw the “Other” under the bus. Instead, they were stopping the bus.

My humble contribution was to take a seat in my nice little chair that keeps my body healthy while I take control elsewhere. I sat down on it, closed my eyes, and opened them in Virginia, in a military base that’s been taken over entirely by ICE. The National Guard’s pretty much all at the Capitol in a stand-off with ICE forces that want to come for Congress. The National Guard doesn’t have ICE’s equipment, but they have the numbers.

I was in Top Knot’s body, looking at a mirror while she washed her hands. The mirror shook, an attempt at rebellion from the telekinetic and telepathic super. The nanites moved in and… yeah, no more problems from her. Brain’s all mine now. I felt a little sorry for her. I can say all I want about this being her fault for daring to help kill my robot armor body. I had a bunch of different ways to handle this that were less cruel. I doubt the falsified assassination would have been thwarted by me bombing the bunch, because they could have shoved a different minion in another copy of my armor. But I had other options. Instead, I’ve had nanomachines build a transceiver and eat at her brain. No wonder they used me to justify their takeover.

I finished washing and drying her hands. Less blood and brain than on mine. Then it was off to go find the rest of the bunch. They had a special tent set up for this crew, who sometimes operated in ICE uniforms. I nodded to Lister in his weird metal orb. Zotz was polishing his war club, which isn’t a euphemism. He flexed his bat wings behind him, glanced at me, and went back to his business. I left them behind and headed for the administrative building.

The guards didn’t look twice at me. I wish I had Top Knot’s telepathy. Unless it’s a side effect of my physiology’s incapability with psychic powers, I think the work I did on her brain to take control and get rid of her has destroyed whatever lets her do such things. But I have technopathy going for me. I stood off to the side of the hall, closed my eyes, and started peering out through every unsecured electronic device I could. You get enough people in one place and they just can’t be secure. After a minute, I had a pretty good idea where people were in the building.

A pair of guards went to stop me entering the conference room. I thrust my palms at their heads, nanomachines forming a pair of spikes that rapidly drilled into their heads and deposited some of themselves inside. Still bleeding from the forehead, the guards went back to attention, nanites running a basic servitor program.

“Divine Wind? Get out, you’re not part of this,” the Dead President said. He stood over a table in ICE command fatigues. Fake Gecko stood nearby, arms crossed. A few other officers milled around, one of them working a laptop.

“Did you see the news today?” I asked, transceiver in my borrowed body busy delivering data. “That speech from the President-Elect?”

He snorted. “Non-citizens and rights.” He shook his head. “This country is for us, by us, not a bunch of degenerates. Your dimension is what happens when you let these freaks run free.”

Fake Gecko stood silent. All of a sudden, though, the man at the laptop stood up. “What the…?” He looked at me, then spun the laptop around so the rest of the room could see my point of view livestreaming online.

“You shouldn’t be playing around on Youtube while you’re working,” I said, the video echoing the sentiment.

“Get her!” the Dead President ordered Fake Gecko. The impostor disappeared. Several of the officers drew sidearms. I ducked back behind the door guards who burst in and fired on them. My meat puppets took several to the chest, but that wasn’t all that important to them. With a chainsaw roar, their heads were lopped off and their bodies dropped. Fake Gecko became visible just in time to shove his fist and his under-forearm chainsaw through Top Knot’s chest. I probably had enough metal in her to keep her alive.

The livestream ended. The stream of nanomachines began pouring out of her and onto the fake’s armor. I didn’t kill the man inside, not yet. I just paralyzed him and moved the armor on my own. “Just like old times,” I said, raising the forearm and pulling the Nasty Surprise back under the forearm.

“What are you?” the Dead President asked, panicked, hitting pretty much every panic button near a podium.

“The real Psychopomp Gecko,” I explained. “Not some fake. Who is he, anyway?”

“I don’t fucking know. Some soldier willing to do his duty!” the Dead President said. He pulled a pistol with a thick barrel. It punched right through the chest plates on this old armor.

“Let me guess, that duty involves dying for someone who doesn’t even know his name?” I asked. “Say it! Say his name!”

The Dead President aimed for the head. We disappeared. He lowered the gun and fired, trying to hit the wider target of the chest for all the good it’d do him. He realized how little that was when his wrist twisted and broke, dropping the firearm to the floor. I reappeared.

“Killing me won’t solve anything!” the Dead President declared.

I shook my head. “It wouldn’t have if I did it before showing the world you were still around. Now, everyone knows you lied to them. Now, maybe your VP sticks with the program, or maybe he realizes he was being used. A lot of folks would say murder doesn’t solve any of these problems, but then we can always remind those folks who is next in line for the Presidency.” Then I shook his head right off his neck.

The nanites dissolved the armor from Fake Gecko and stood there as a shimmery mess of tiny robots in human form. “Now, as for you.”

The man who had been in my armor was getting up there. I’d say forties, bald, with a few tattoos. He raised a hand to his chest where I’d quickly patched the hole his boss had left in him. “What do you want with me?”

“Against my better judgment, a word.”

“Fuck off, subhuman trash. Can you even count how many people you’ve killed anymore? If we did all of this just to get rid of you, it’d be worth it,” he mustered as his final bit of defiance.

“You’re right about me, but I’m beginning to see that you’re wrong about so many others you’re hurting. And y’all did this thinking I was dead. Is there nothing else in your life but hate?”

The man tried to square up at me, his service record flashing before my eyes after a quick search. Career military, married and divorced a few times, with restraining orders and brief stints in jail. Child abuse charges after his son developed gills and webbing between digits.

“No, doesn’t look like you do.”

He opened is mouth as if to say something. Paused. Then, “Why do you care?”

“I’m learning. I’m probably failing, but I’m trying. I’m not the same Gecko who first wore that armor you used, Johnathon.” Of course I had his name. “I doubt the man telling you to die for him knew your name.”

“Bullshit. Knowing my name is meaningless. All of this is for show. You’ll always be a monster. Everyone like you will be a monster. That kid, the one you adopted, she’s a-”

The last bit of nanomachines keeping him alive tore their way out of his chest, opening wider the gunshot wound. They flowed to meet my nanomachine body. The man’s answer disappointed, I have to say. So one-dimensional. Was hate all he had? In spite of my earlier assertion that he wouldn’t get a second second chance, I was willing to let him go if there had been more to him.

I tried. Maybe I failed. Maybe there was nothing to do. The nanites flowed out, eating a hole through the ceiling and roof while the room was stormed with more guards. A chopper hovered overhead, just taking off. The nanites flowed up into the cockpit and an empty seat, forming a body that turned to the pilot. “Get out!”

The pilot bailed. Smart guy. And the chopper cloaked, fun stuff. I had to ditch it before it got close to Radium, I just didn’t want the nanomachines left there like a discarded piece of armor, to be weaponized by small people full of hate. More people like me, I guess.

The Vice President, even not hearing that he’d be next in line, officially repudiated the pronouncements of his predecessor and is just looking to fill the position until the inauguration. So it looks like the solution wasn’t to kill someone this time. Or I should say the solution was to show someone was alive, then kill him. The general public doesn’t know about the circumstances surrounding the Twice Dead President, but I don’t think they’re inclined to take the word of ICE right now. The incoming President’s vowed to disband ICE. ICE is beating him to the punch, going AWOL with weapons and equipment. Might even have more stolen gold or cash in other places.

But things are changing. It’s even possible I might be changing. I’ve sounded much the same as my double did, but about humans rather than supers. And those humans stood up and rejected what these cynical bigots tried to make of them. Maybe things can get better.

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Gecko 2.0 5

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I have relied on these little nanomachines for a long time. I probably owe them more than anything for my success. I’ve taken a lot of punishment I couldn’t fight through otherwise. Right now, it’s looking like a clear advantage for flesh after the loss of my robot armor, but that’s a hasty decision. It had nanites with it, and that’s given me the chance to turn that loss into a victory. That’s the second key to my success, I guess. You keep fighting long enough, losses turn to victory.

The nanites in Top Knot’s system were ordered to collect what they could to multiply and maintain communication with me. That didn’t go anywhere until she slept and they could head outside her body to scavenge for material. Even the weirdest human diet doesn’t provide what nanomachines need to reproduce and build a transdimensional transceiver under orders from a sour transgender outside of Transylvania.

But I was watching. Waiting. The whole shebang rerouted when they found out their base had been cratered. Whatever had been keeping them there, they left. Maybe it was the base itself. Maybe this whole thing was just about that base and that gold they had coming to them. The fact they left told me two things. First, it led me to another base. They didn’t go back to Paradise City. Instead, they rerouted to Whiting Field, and from there to a National Guard base in Virginia.

The second thing this showed me is whoever the person is under the armor, they aren’t me. Not even some version of me from another Earth. Not some offshoot who got quantum jiggled into landing on a different one than I did after that first D-Bomb went off. He never went back and finished it with Gavel. Never even tried.

Anyway, I was watching some breaking news on Friday. Interesting stuff. The Honky Tonk Hero was having a showdown with Elvis, who had taken back his enchanted guitar. Despite Elvis’s age and gut when he reappeared from the space between dimensions, the power of the guitar had rejuvenated him somewhat. He wore a gold jumpsuit with orange fringe and designs while standing on an exposed beam on a skyscraper under construction. “One note, and the music dies. Full cessation, wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Then, there will be only the King.” Elvis strummed on the strings, the winds around them whirling, making it hard to hear anything but the sound of the mystic musical instrument.

Honky Tonk Hero stood nearby. He wore a jumpsuit of his own, blue and yellow, with the famous pompadour of Elvi everywhere. Elvi’s the plural of Elvis, by the way. Octopus, octopi, Elvis, Elvi. Honky Tonk had no such weapon in-hand, only a shiny platinum microphone. But when he spoke into it, the cameras picked it up perfectly. “You’ve let the power and fame get to your heads. You’re high on celebrity and all manner of pills, old man. I- I looked up to you. I loved you. You inspired devotees around the world, but you’re not our hero doing this. You have to recognize when you’ve got to let the power go and make way for the next generation, or else there won’t be a next generation. What King of Rock N’ Roll would destroy music so that nobody who comes after could surpass him? That’s not nobility. That’s craven pursuit of power for its own sake. I want to believe you’re better than that!”

The reporter edged into the camera’s view. “God help me, Mark, if you cut to a commercial about reverse mortgages right now, I’ll gut you with my heels.”

“Son, when you’ve grown as old as I am, and your legacy is bought and sold so often, you learn the one thing in life you can count on is your own power,” Elvis said. Then hit a power cord that buffeted Honky Tonk Hero with hurricane-strength winds, threatening to throw the younger hero off the building. Honky Tonk, in the middle of this gale, hit a high note that cut into the storm and gave him some room to breathe. Then the King got him again and the support under Honky Tonk strained and shook. And in the middle of all this, I had to wonder what the fuck Honky Tonk was using to keep his hair up. That’s industrial strength hair gel right there.

“To be human, is to know you can count on them that come before and after, and your friends who support you now,” another voice said. The winds died down some as more people assembled. A wizened old Black man in suspenders and a button-down shirt dispersed the winds with his banjo. A middle-aged, hefty Black woman rose with her own circular platform surrounding her, catching Honky Tonk as he fell. It looked like a spotlight centered on the singer and creating a thin yellow circle for others to stand on. A wide circle, given the motley crew with her. Perhaps it was the power of that microphone, or the musical abilities at play, that let the camera overhear, “Once again, a Black woman’s got to do the lifting.”

On the platform, a young woman with a ukulele tended to the downed hero while others stepped forward, adding their voices to the harmony opposing Elvis. A punk with a bass, a flautist, a trombone player. Even some 80s throwback with a lounge suit and a keytar. They were a mess. It should have sounded like chaos. Instead, they calmed the storms and, under the leadership of the old man with the banjo, a wave struck Elvis. He raised his guitar to block it, the mystical instrument seeming to suck in the light. Then an explosion of light blinded everyone. When it faded away, only the guitar was left with broken strings. The old man stepped forward and grabbed the diminished and plain-seeming instrument. Honky Tonk Hero stepped forward and the old man held the guitar out for him. Honky Tonk took it, looked it over, then reached up and removed the pompadour wig off his head. Which raises even more questions for me after earlier events. The hero tossed both the wig and the guitar off the side of the building under construction.

The banjo player stepped back and disappeared into the air. Others of the harmonious group went their own way, like the punk running off at super speed or the trumpeter growing a pair of wings and flying off. Honky Tonk put his arm around the ukulele player and raised the microphone in his hand, holding it out in front of him as he flew with her. The others went their own way on the platform moved by the curvy singer.

“Holy shit,” the reporter said as the camera panned back down to her. Behind her sat a pair of non-plussed good ol’ boys sitting on the tailgate of their Chevy, shaking their hands and downing bottles of what looked like whiskey or maybe rye.

Then, the broadcast was interrupted by an announcement by the President. It’s like he got annoyed someone was taking all the attention and he decided to make a speech that would be talked about for a long time. It started with a bunch of normal, unassuming platitudes. He ran down a list of various world-threatening events of the past few years. I was a major part of most of them. There was a bit of a theme in that most of what he talked about centered on supers. Baseline human terrorism was reframed as being people in masks as well. Was a bit annoyed to see he brought up the aliens who invaded and the supers who were brainwashed into helping them without noting the ones who helped stop the invasions. Then, he got to the key part of the address, the real reason behind it all.

“In light of these extraordinary events, these extraordinary threats, and the inability of Congress our and institutions to deal with them through ordinary means, I hereby order all agencies of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to revoke or treat as revoked the United States citizenship of every masked villain or vigilante and every human who exhibits superpowers. All super technology, including some of the self-declared heroes, is to be seized. We are making a push to remove drugs that are the product of super science as well. To those who have no powers, or those good-hearted men and women with training who sought to do the police’s job for them, I say to you now that you can stop. If you have no powers, take off your mask and put away your cape and walk away. No harm will come to you. But if you continue past today, you will be treated, along with every superhuman within the United States, as a non-citizen with all the rights that classification entails. It will be a hard road to root out these dangerous individuals of mass destruction in our midst, but we have the loyal men and women of ICE and other government agencies to do the job for us. I am also asking Congress to undergo testing for superpowers and subject my successor and his vice president to this testing before they take office.”

And there it is. The naked grab for power. He didn’t even take questions. Instead, the nearest reporters got plasma rifles pointed at them courtesy of Icers while someone in power armor stepped forward declaring that all members of the White House Press Corps would be subject to powers testing starting today.

Which is another shitty level on this. I’m not aware of any particular test for superpowers. I know people can be tricked into showing their powers if you catch them off guard or stress them enough. Some folks can’t hide it, like the ones with weird eyes and skin, or the various animal-people. Which I guess makes this authoritarian move all the more brilliant in its own way. Who says if someone has powers and is subject to whatever the government wants to do to them? A test done by the government with no oversight or clue how it works, if it works. Could just be some guy holds up an unplugged supermarket scanner and declares someone a super to be arrested because the President didn’t like them.

The President didn’t even make it off-stage when my double appeared and put a fist through the gut of the President. He’s not me, but he pulled a spine out of a stomach hole in the way I like to. It looked to all the world like Psycho Gecko had proven the President’s wisdom. The press shouted in fear while ICE opened fire on Fake Gecko. The Fake disappeared and the room descended into pandemonium. People fell and got trampled. I think I saw plasma bolts firing into the crowd.

The announcement was made a short time later that the President had died and been replaced by his milquetoast Vice President, who resolved to carry out on the dead President’s fight as long as it took, even another four years if the incoming administration proved to be supers.

Top Knot hadn’t gone with them to that event, but the base where she was at, I was able to listen in when they brought in part of the Washington National Guard detail. Among them was the dead President, healthy, laughing, and completely unharmed. He tossed an old holodisc of mine to the Fake Gecko who caught it. Then the dead President said, “I hear my retirement package didn’t make it. Let’s go find a new one in all the quote-unquote rioting that’s about to happen. What do you say?”

I say some folks got awfully cocky that I’m not around anymore before they stole my likeness to enact a fascist takeover, but I’m more than happy to help them retire. And with the way my machines are transforming Top Knot’s body, it won’t be long before they find out I never left.

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Gecko 2.0 4

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“I deserve to go after these bozos. They killed my friends,” Gavel demanded when I was headed out of the casino.

He wore a costume that was two different shades of purple, with an oversized metal gauntlet on his right hand, carrying a huge hammer with him. Warhammers don’t have to be as oversized as people think, but this one’s head was the size of a cinderblock, with a handle as thick as someone’s forearm. Gavel’s hands couldn’t wrap around it, but the large gauntlet he had on could. He had a buckler shield on his left forearm as a nod to defense, but he still looked like he hadn’t had much sleep.

“And I’ll kill them. You’ll just have to make peace with that being the only justice you’re capable of.”

“I-!” he started to yell, raising his hammer overhead to swing down on me. My nanites surrounded his neck with three jagged shards of metal before he could even let gravity drop the hammer.

I turned my back on him and walked out of the casino, past O-sec. Gavel sheepishly lowered his hammer.

“They were ICE inside. We fought with them, but they held us off maybe five minutes. Then, more ICE were on us. We were in the middle of nowhere. They came up on four-wheelers and jetpacks.”

That’s what he’d said when Ouroboros and I paid him off. They were off in rural Alabama, between Mobile and Paradise City. Five minutes into the heist and Icers were on the scene. They were able to get away with armored truck they were using. Makes sense to me, sure. ATVs aren’t the fastest thing around and most people really don’t want to try and keep up with a speeding truck on the land equivalent of a jet ski. The main problem with jetpacks is their lack of range. So ICE was close and that seemed to be their shipment of gold, not Mobile’s. I did a little bit of cross-checking with satellites and nearby roads.

The guys jumped the gold shipment at what was just about the halfway point to Mobile. Usually a pretty solid strategy, they just happened to do so right near some weird compound that seems to be right where the ICE agents would have come from if they traveled through the woods to reach the road. Gavel and his friends just got unlucky. And look at that, a string of helipads. For a agency tasked with handling immigration, that’s a hell of a lot of firepower to have in rural Alabama.

If it was up to me, I’d have handed over the info to the Exemplars, but Ouroboros made a good point. “Think of all the gold in it for us,” he said. Which was somewhat persuasive, but the thing that really gained my sympathy was him saying, “Besides, they attacked and killed three villains. Our community has the right to avenge itself upon them before you call in the heroes.”

I told him to be ready to go for whenever I’m dealing with the fake. And so, after leaving the casino, I spent days with my robot armor pretending to be Gavel doing a shitty job laying low in Paradise City. Ouroboros even put out the word through some of his guys about how Gavel had been expelled for causing so much destruction to the casino. The young villain instead got comped one of bunker rooms under the casino

I was a couple days into it when I got a call from Ouroboros himself. “We have contact. My men saw ICE performing recon on the Pea Ridge safehouse. Head there and they’ll know where to send your double.”

“Weird that they’re looking there,” I mentioned.

“Heh. I was curious how it got out that the villains were staying at the casino. I told men I thought I could trust. This time, I told them I was secretly hosting him at a safehouse, but I told each one a different address.”

“Looks like whoever was told about the Pea Ridge house is about to take a long swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Some surprisingly strong currents out there,” I noted.

“He swore on his life he was loyal to me. I’ll collect this one myself. You worry about your well-dressed friend.”

The armor pulled up outside the Pea Ridge safehouse, in a neighborhood behind a movie theater. Depending on the city, it can be cheaper to rent a place to lay low, even if it’s just paying to use someone’s garage or back room. This area, the real estate’s so cheap Ouroboros can buy multiple neighborhoods for employees or to subsidize housing for the poor. That last one helps him look good and distracts from when he buys random homes that only ever seem to get used when someone needs to lie lower than the casino can manage.

I went into the house as Gavel and turned invisible once I passed into a hall where they couldn’t see in from the outside. I waited for anything to happen while going through the motions, like turning on a bedroom and bathroom light, and starting to run a shower.

A text from Ouroboros alerted me: “They’re bringing in a few vans. They really want Gavel gone. We’re ready to move on base on contact.”

I’d have smiled if I wasn’t inhabiting the body of a robotic suit of power armor. The head didn’t have eyes, a nose, or a mouth, just the suggestion of them.

“Contact,” Ouroboros said. It was a minute later the bathroom door swung open and that fake fucking Gecko walked in. He walked up to the shower curtain and pulled it aside. Seeing nothing in there, he stepped back. His reflection in the mirror turned toward him and shrugged. Fake Gecko smashed the mirror with his fist, returning it to normal.

I fell on him from above, cracking the tile floor beneath him. Looking down him, though, I pondered what I’d learned in recent days and recent years. “You know you don’t have to fight for these dipshits, right? Let them spill the blood themselves. You can step back from it. Maybe be a better person than I am.”

An invisible force pulled me through the wall and out onto the front lawn. Out there were a squad of those henchmen in the orange and grey, along with another costumed group.

“I detect no mental activity. I don’t think it’s alive,” said a woman with a top knot hairdo in a green and black robe.

A mechanical orb the size of a beach ball floated up next to her, unfolding a set of small arms with saws, blades, and an arc welder from underneath where a human face stared out. “I call dibs on the pieces!”

I jumped up to meet another shape heading right for me, a man with a war club. I caught the club and kicked him in the chest. He flew back and unfurled a pair of bat wings from behind him. Next came a woman in Venus’s costume, but not her power armor. I just stared at her after the punch. “Another fake.”

“Real, just from one planet over,” she said. Sounded like my Venus, who now went by Medusa. Even grunted like my Medusa when I smacked her away with the club that then flew out of my hand to meet the diving bat guy. I went to punch him, but top knot’s head glowed and suddenly my arm wouldn’t move forward. I took a club to the gut, but the armor didn’t have anything important there. The bat guy landed and turned for another strike. My nanite armor rose up off my back and formed into a humanoid form of its own, then ran for him. He raised the club to strike when the nanites turned into a liquid flow that went through him, leaving a hole eaten in through his chest and reforming on the other side.

“What is this thing?!” yelled one of the henchmen.

“Death. And hell follows after,” the armor said. I charged Top Knot with the liquid metal self. The pressure on my arm failed as she mashed the nanites down and encased them into a spherical shape. That let my swap back into the armor and toss a flash bang into her eyes. She dropped the nanites then, but they didn’t even land before the orb lit them up with a flamethrower. I think it got all of them.

I tossed a regular old grenade his way and cloaked. Venus cartwheeled and kicked it back toward where I’d thrown it from, but I had run to the kneeling bat guy. Went to grab his club away from him, but he looked up, the hole in his chest closing. Regeneration’s a really unfair power when people other than myself have it. He pulled me in close and wrapped me in a bear hug, calling out, “Here!”

Behind me materialized Fake Gecko, with a glowing fist that punched through my helmet. They all stared at the space where it was, then the robot armor’s joints reversed themselves. I grabbed the Fake by the leg and elbowed Bat Guy in the face. I tossed my double into the air, where he went invisible, sure, but I just swapped vision modes. I settled in, charging up my own armor’s gauntlet for a punch. Even Bat Guy still being wrapped around me wasn’t enough to keep me from adjusting to get underneath Fake Gecko.

He stopped in midair, fifteen feet up. Top Knot’s head was glowing again. I pulled free of Bat Guy’s grasp and kicked him backwards, throwing up a line of dust. The orb tried to shock me, giving me a boost of charge that I used on the next person rushing me. Fake Venus’s chest, mushed and goopy, sprayed over the ground behind her. She gasped, squeaked, dropping some gadget she held in her hand. She still sounded like my Medusa. I grabbed her by the neck and slid her mask off.

She looked like my Medusa, too. I faded into invisibility, wanting to take a moment to examine her face despite the whole situation. I dropped her when my right arm wrenched right. My left leg went left. Top Knot held me in midair telekinetically by the two opposing limbs. Bat Guy walked up, checking on the dead Alternate Venus The orb flew in, spraying some foam onto the robot armor. Without my cameras, it was difficult to see or project, but I knew I looked like a poofy mushroom person. Like a headless Gozar the Gozarian. “Easy, Zotz, this thing’s a work of art!”

“I don’t care, Lister, we’re destroying it,” Fake Gecko said, uncloaking.

“Nooooo,” the orb guy wailed.

“Give me a clear line of sight,” Top Knot said. “I’m tearing this thing apart.”

I went for a grenade with my free left hand. Fake Gecko pulled it free and tossed it to the orb, who caught it in tiny robot arms hanging out of the bottom of his orb. I checked around for anything else to use and didn’t see a lot of options after they burned the nanite cape.

Well, almost all of it. There was a tiny bit of it that I realized I could direct. Considering distance and personal dislike, I directed a droplet of it toward Top Knot. The metal on the robot armor’s body strained. I kicked the bat guy away and reversed my joints again, punching Fake Gecko in the throat. He knelt, gasping I went for my belt again, setting off a flashbang. She didn’t drop me. Instead, all four limbs were now being pulled in different directions. Things started to come undone. Screws, bolts; it was nuts. It was like every separate piece of the robot armor telekinetically disassembled itself, leaving behind a power core that was beginning to go unstable.

“Wait! We must be careful with this!” Orb said. It swung in close, opening a black cube with those tiny arms and snatching up a power core that now refused to respond to any signals whatsoever.

“Is that going to work?” Bat Guy asked. Then he looked to Fake Gecko and knelt to check on him.

I had sources in the area, still. The nanites couldn’t hear or see any of that in the same way. They were almost useless at that point, I figured, until I got a different idea that could save face for me. Because I could have just struck the whole spot with a missile, sure. I had plenty of bombs. But now, after I dared give Fake Gecko a chance and had to watch someone I still actually care about die, they were rood enough to tear one of my bodies apart. And they’re trying to do a bunch of sneaky shit.

The nanite droplet slipped onto the robed, top knotted woman’s shoe and began looking for a nice, subtle opening. A cut, a sore, something like that.

But I figured I’d give Ouroboros a heads-up. “Turns out Fake Gecko has a team. I’m going to find out where the next hole they hide in is and kill them there. Sorry about the bathroom wall.”

After a few minutes, Ouroboros got back to me. “Most people die when their heads get torn off.”

“Most people aren’t me.” And the only other me isn’t getting a second chance twice.

Then it was up out of my comfy long-distance chair to vacuum and cook dinner, like a supervillain homemaker does in between murders.

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