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.