Tag Archives: Forcelight

Star Gex: Fist Contact 2



Ah, Kingscrow. A place so lovely, makes me want to lick my lips. Or maybe that’s because I finally figured out a nice payload to load into my hidden fangs. And maybe next I’ll put some filters in my lungs. It’d help against the grime of Kingscrow. Wet, dreary, depressing. Gothic architecture. A perfect place for people to brood. Not me so much. I don’t brood, I just murder people. Apparently I’m not the only one who responds that way in Kingscrow, given its known history with crime. For a long time, it had been a special blight on the map, a city of lost dreams and hopes, where the fight to do good faced resistance from apathy, ignorance, and outright malice.

This nice state of affairs has mostly persisted, though the darkness has been pushed back somewhat by a bright light that arose just a few years ago. Bennett Long, scion of the Long Life private healthcare company, somehow found a way to empower his adoptive daughter. Forcelight, the Lady of Light, flew onto the scene. Tragically, some of the same villains she arose to fight managed to murder her father. While she’s faced a number of trials, including the removal of most of her inherited decision-making power, she continues to bring light to darkest Kingscrow.

Or so goes the fairy tale version. Bennett Long hired Good Doctor, Forcelight’s biological father, to kill superhumans and steal their organs. Those were either transplanted or studied to turn Forcelight into the woman she is today, but Long turned on Good Doctor. Doc didn’t have many friends due to his reputation as a super killer, but he had two other such killers on his side: Mix N’Max, the Czar of Chemistry, and Psycho Gecko, the Father of Face-fuckers. These titles don’t make themselves up, folks. I killed Long and Doc turned himself in to try and repent while establishing some sort of relationship with his daughter.

Who later got hold of a copy of my armor and my nanites and figured out how to use them for fun, profit, and the prolonging of superhero life. Yay. But, on the plus side, that involved the mass production of copies of my nanites that pretty much use the same programming and structure. You can copy something without fully understanding it. But that little recap is why Kingscrow, Long Life, and Forcelight matter to me. Actually, scratch that, Forcelight didn’t mean much to me. She doesn’t wear the pants in her own company anymore.

So really all I needed after arriving in the city was to sneak into the Long Life building, all invisible like a spider monkey ninja. Of doom. Incredible, edible doom. I didn’t even stop off at the Low Earthy Bar. I just had to get my hands on some computers while the top dudes in the company were off at lunch. Terrible thing, to just leave one’s computer turned on. I mean, I could have cracked their passwords without too much difficulty, but this made it easier. Even for the one guy who wrote his password on a Post-It note.

Seriously, people, this is part of what makes it so easy to do what I do. This is one of the few organizations that actually know of my natural ability to physically bond with certain forms of technology. I’d say computers, but that really simplifies things. It’s about signals and data, ya see. Despite knowing this, they either fail to have proper precautions against me, or ignore the ones they do have.

I used their accounts to make sure they were manufacturing my nanites as fast as humanly possible, and maybe even as fast as Chinesely possible on top of that. And stockpiling them, mostly in the United States. And with an additional special note to never tell Forcelight.

I stopped by her office, too. I recognized it from the last time I was in their building, wrecking shit. She took her late adoptive father’s office. Considering I wanted to keep my scheme secret from her, it probably sounds like an odd move. I had a reason; people keep all kinds of interesting stuff on their computers. I hoped she kept contact information on other superheroes in there. With my former contacts in Cape.Net and The Order sucking alien cock, I could use another army or two.

I didn’t expect her to float down from an upper story outside and blast the window, her computer, and me against the floor. With a flick of her hand, the hologram that hid me from view distorted and kept me from hiding. Ya know, now that she did that to me again, I recalled the first time she managed to get through my holograms. Something to do with her vague light-based powers that also include flight, super strength, enhanced durability, and bountiful boobage. She’s got more stolen organs than a Catholic black market. The one that doesn’t trade in kids, at least.

“You!” she boomed, narrowing her eyes at me.

“Captain Obvious, my most persistent nemesis! Wait, you’re not Captain Obvious. Stop using his gimmick!” I pointed at her, not bothering to stand up. “You want me to get up, or should I even bother now that you’re here?”

“Stay down. If you don’t fight, I promise to treat you fair. I have a lot of questions for you.” She floated through the broken window, and stayed hovering in the air. After a couple of seconds, when I didn’t try to stand, she cocked her head to the side and turned her gleaming gaze to the rest of the office. The sound of me unsealing my helmet and pulling it off brought her attention back to me. “What are you doing?”

“Taking this off. Saving a bit of time in the process. I assume you’d want me to unmask now?” I shook my hair out and smiled at her. “I don’t remember, did you know I was me?”

She glared at me. “Why are you being cooperative?”

I shrugged and set down my helmet. “If you’d rather I fight, I can do that.”

“Don’t fight. I want to know about Empyreal City and you’re the only one to get out.” She moved closer and knocked my helmet away with a solid beam of white light. In my mouth, I let my fangs poke out and stimulated the sacs in my mouth. I rolled over onto my back and grinned up at Forcelight. “Something funny?” the heroine asked.

I spat a mist of nanites into her face. Then, I rolled back over onto my belly. She blasted me again, knocking me in a huddled ball against the wall. She dropped down to her feet and ran over, mixing up her offense with some punches.

She gave me a last kick while pulling a little flask off her belt, then taking a sip. I coughed a few times, having felt it through the armor.“More nanites?”

Like I even had to ask. I’d given the nanites she inhaled and ingested special orders, and their ability to reinforce my orders. Just like the secret backdoor I’d given the Long Life nanites so long ago that allowed me to commandeer them, and making damn sure the first batch I spat at her would do their job, despite her swallowing them.

A significant portion of these nanomachines first migrated to her spinal column and interrupted the signals leaving the brain, replacing them with some a bit friendlier to me, like a desire to stand there unmoving.

I looked at her, then reached up. “Give me a hand here.”

She picked me up, under my control. I smiled as I looked at her. Her voice trembled when she asked me, “What did you do to me?”

I shrugged, then coughed again. She really got me good a few times there. “Whew, sorry about that. Somebody just tried to cave in one of my lungs. The answer is: I did what I had to. You somehow knew I was here, so good for you, but I’ve got some new tricks that can stop you. Good thing, too. We have to worry about the aliens, and I’m tired of other people fucking up and standing in the way. This whole mess could have been avoided if only people were willing to bow to my inherent superiority. In fact, that gives me an idea.”

“You’re fucking crazy, that’s why nobody trusts you!” Forcelight yelled.

I reached up and patted her on the head, then held her lips closed. “Shh, shh. Let’s just change that mind, shall we? The world will be better once you, and others, learn. Your. Damn.”

“Place!” I said with Forcelight’s mouth. The fear in her eyes disappeared as I finished taking control. As an added joke, I made her say, “Assuming direct control.”

“You’re probably panicking right now, Forcelight,” I said with my own body. “But don’t worry. Your body is in good hands. But I am here to solve the problem. I want the aliens gone, because they want to take over everyone’s bodies and use them as soldiers in some civil war of theirs. And I’ll stop them if that means I have to take over everyone’s body and use them as soldiers in a war against them. Except the heroes and other villains didn’t trust my schemes. Next thing you know, Empyreal City is behind a fucking shield. So you don’t get a choice. Maybe others will, but you don’t. And you better hope you don’t get free somehow to come after me, because these nanites can do all sorts of things to your insides.”

Two things happened then. I stayed behind to worm my way into the Long Life servers and find any possible backups to the information I’d been looking for on Forcelight’s now-trashed computer. It took awhile, but I spiced it up a bit by flying Forcelight over to Marscow Prison, Kingscrow’s number one resort for criminal spandex fanatics. There she made a tearful visit to her father. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I need your help out here. The crisis going on in Empyreal City is too much. I need you. I need the other inmates. I even need Psycho Gecko.”

You know how hard it is to smile with one face but not another? Tricky little bit of business. Perhaps after I’ve saved the world, I’ll take up acting.

My performance made the Good Doctor sigh and run his hands through his hair. He looked older from prison. More grey in his hair, more wrinkles in his face. He pressed his hand to the glass, and I pressed Forcelight’s back. He’ll be absolutely livid if he ever finds out I did this. But he’ll also be out of prison and have the taste of killing back in is mouth, so he might thank me. I don’t care what he said there, he liked it.

As it is, he said, “Yes,” and I was free to use Forcelight’s enormous monetary and local political pull to get him out especially to help deal with superhero business. By the time she flew back to her office with him in her arms, they found a trashed room and no Gecko.

“He stopped by here. I don’t like him, but he’s right.” Forcelight closed her eyes and sighed somberly.

“God in heaven help us all that Psycho Gecko is right about something,” The Good Doctor added.

I left them alone, as much as anyone can leave a body they’re in control of alone, and instead focused on the private jet Moai had procured for my travel uses. I had some business still in Kingscrow I could use Forcelight for, but the miracle of satellite and cellular communications would have to keep her in line while I headed out for the last known location of the third member of Good Doctor and mine’s merry little Dark Triad: Mix N’Max.




Enlightening Strikes 4



So there I was, Valentine’s Day, walking beside Wildflower down the street after seeing a movie together, my head resting on her shoulder. And I told her, in that romantic way only I can pull off, “Admit it, you just talked all that shit because you didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s.”

The fact that she laughed? Good sign. She’s got a good laugh and smile, for an alien.

In the days since Wildflower and I came to our understanding, I decided to introduce her to Moai, Carl, and the horde of bee people hidden underneath my tower. Beetrice, the queen bee who wanted my man-gravy so she could have a few thousand kids by me, seemed a bit jealous at first until I revealed my continued lack of dong. She turned her nose up at that, saying that if I wanted to play hard to get, she’d find someone else to see to her needs.

I might send down Festus, my young head of HR. The guy could stand to blow off some steam.

Then, I took her back up to the penthouse for a serious discussion. Admitting that aliens are going to invade and try to kill you isn’t something most people say that early on into a relationship. In fact, it’s usually said just before the end of the relationship, right around the time the men with the snuggly, self-hugging jacket come to take you away, ha ha. I had to trust her. Time was essential. A long time prior to her unfortunate demise, I asked Fortune Cookie about when the aliens would show up, and she said March of this year. It’s currently February of this year. They’re coming to take me away, ha ha!

Wildflower went out on a limb and showed off her little Master Academy dorm. To hear her tell it, Venus is too active to bother teaching any sort of Master Academy branch over here, so it hasn’t been properly set up yet except for a couple of dorm buildings.

Quick recap time: Master Academy is this California-based school for powered youngsters that trains them up to be crimefighters and fully functioning members of society. Venus just happened to get in because he was orphaned or something, I think. She lacks powers, but she’s kinda been their spokeswoman because of her ability to kick serious villain ass. Including my own, a couple of times. She’s still alive, after all. Anyway, after awhile, she decided to stay with a batch of Master Academy trainees and set up a branch over here. Apparently it hasn’t gone too well, but at least there’s a bit of property north of the city that could one day be a school if she stopped, and it gives people a place to stay.

When I stepped into the Girls’ Dorm and saw that most of the students were decidedly on the nubile and statutory side of things, I gave Wildflower a look. She looked at me, then looked at them, then leaned in and whispered, “I’m over eighteen.”

“Are you sure? You might be an early bloomer.”

She took my hand, right in front of a few “Oohing” teens and led me to her room. She shared it with a roommate who appeared to be mentally deficient based on the number of posters featuring untalented singers. I think one of them was a boy band. Do boy bands still exist? I thought they went extinct.

Anyway, Wildflower’s side of the room featured a little different decor. I expected something like the poster from Cats, though. I pointed to it. “Fan of people dressed in really tight cat costumes?”

“I haven’t seen it. The others got that for me. I don’t know if they were trying to be mean. That inspired me to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, then Frankenstein. I’m up to Stoker and Lovecraft now.” She rifled through her nightstand for something.

“Hmm. Never messed with them. I keep meaning to pick up some stuff by Albert Camus. Seems like my kinda guy. You picking up those books? Don’t know how things work for you here.”

She abruptly stood up and handed me a broken piece of plastic. It looked like about half a driver’s license, with a good chunk of the picture and number gone, along with the real name. “Wow, you’re twenty-four. And they have you rooming with teens.”

She shrugged and took the broken license back. “I have a lot to relearn, and a lot to learn about my powers. I want to do this if they open a proper campus.” She almost said something else, which I got the sense was questioning if I was ok with that. In my own way, I was just wondering if an amnesiac, even one who’d been around for a few months, was a little on the dirty side.

Maybe it was all the teenagers.

She led me around, even introduced me to a couple of costumed capes I didn’t recognize. Then again, I can barely keep their names straight enough as it is. I remember once fighting a Master Academy super with some sort of ball powers. Energy balls, maybe? Then I remember someone using various ball-like devices to fight The Oligarch and The Order just before I killed Oligarch. I don’t know how many ballers we got around here. Perhaps I should ask someone in the hood.

Now, if only I could figure out where da hood, where da hood, where da hood at?

Still weird, though. It wasn’t a date. It was just Wildflower showing me a part of her life. Right after I showed her part of mine. Like, I know what I did, but the reciprocity threw me for a small loop. I’m usually more self-centered than all that. Luckily, a call from Captain Lightning precluded further introspection.

“Hey, Lightning just told me he’s going to stop by in a couple hours with the communication pod-thing. Want to stop somewhere beforehand? Maybe grab some hibachi?”

On the way out, we caught a passing glare from Venus on our way out. It was the sort of evil eye that normally includes ominous Latin chanting and ends when a car passes by and the person glaring abruptly disappears. A nudging on my arm interrupted my mental choir.

“You should talk to her,” Wildflower suggested in a whisper.

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t want to see you killed by aliens. Hey, Venus!” Obviously, she didn’t direct that last part at me, but instead to the civilian-clothed heroine. “Gecko has something to tell you!”

A pair of girls passing nearby whipped their heads around to stare at me. Well, at least she’s not ashamed to be seen with me, nor is she ashamed to be seen dragging me by the arm over to Venus.

Venus took a long swig of a water bottle, enough that I wondered if she had vodka instead of water in there. She raised a finger to ward off any talk until she finished, then began the conversation her own way. “What are you doing bringing her here? Shut up, Gecko, I’m not talking to you.”

With that in mind, I’m happy to say Wildflower improvised. “We wanted to invite you to dinner to clear the air. We’re going to meet at the Double Cross tower.”

“I’m not sure I want to go. It’s hard to forget what I saw last time.” Venus looked between Wildflower and me, no doubt meaning her inadvertent discovery that we weren’t a chaste couple, and the subsequent incident where we threw the bed at her. When I raised an interested eyebrow, she looked me dead in the eye and told me. “Not in a thousand years to whatever you were about to say.”

“How about if Captain Lightning is there? He’s bringing something by, so you can just meet us in a, where would it be, babe, a meeting room?” Wildflower looked to me. I nodded. She turned back to Venus. “A meeting room. We can compare notes about it and have a meal.”

Venus capped her water bottle before crossing her arms and looking me over. Normally, this is where I’d work the puppy dog eyes, but I had to do without since I haven’t killed any puppies lately. Instead, I laid my head back down on Wildflower’s shoulder and put my arm around her, trying to look all cute and sweet for Venus while subtly hunching over enough to emphasize my awesome boobage. That’s right. It’s my turn to shake some tits at you, Venus. But just to really give her something hot to think about, I mean to really lube up this deal so she’d take it and take it hard, I added. “You can bring along anyone you want as a plus one.”

She looked at me, her eyes flicking down to my milk makers, then quickly back to my face. “I’ll think about it.”

Imagine our surprise when Forcelight landed in front of Double Cross Tower two hours later, meeting Captain Lightning on his way up. I think they got in contact and coordinated their arrival. Well, I did a little of my own coordinating and had a giant screen set up to give Technolutionary a view of the meeting.

Lightning held the door for the ladies, staring at them. Old perv. He must have noticed me noticing, because he quickly explained himself. “They’re clear.”

“What is this about, now?” Forcelight asked. She stood tall in her white and black tights, the adoptive daughter of the former owner of Long Life. The medical corporation’s last owner died at my hands, but not before using a variety of illegal experiments involving organ theft to transform her into a superhero while forcing her biological dad to play the role of said villainous organ thief. I still miss the Good Doctor sometimes. When he got going, he really knew where to stab those scalpels. Unfortunately, he turned himself in to atone and try to heal things with his daughter. Just goes to show that being a surgeon doesn’t make someone smart.

I sat back in my chair, setting my half-eaten pork egg roll aside. “I have invited this delightful bunch here to discuss a matter of grave importance to all of us. If you don’t already know, Forcelight, I’m Psycho Gecko. Yes, I’m aware I have boobs now, thank you for noticing. Y’all are here for one of three reasons: you are already aware of what’s going on, you are a leader in your community who can help prepare them for the upcoming battle, or I’ve had sex with you.”

Forcelight immediately turned to Venus. “What did you do?!”

“He means her!” Venus jabbed her finger toward Wildflower, who smiled around a mouthful of chow mein.

“Enough playing around, Gecko.” Captain Lightning produced a small box, too large to pretend he was proposing to me. Opening it revealed the little fleshy communications device. It looked like a small walnut made out of warped skin and muscle, perhaps because it was so much easier for the body to grow those tissues compared to some others. He set it on the table past three stacks of papers roughly outlining what little I knew of the upcoming catastrophe.

They all took a seat while Technolutionary and I looked it over. Tech spoke first through his monitor. “Did the medical examiner think to perform a DNA test?”

Lightning nodded toward the screen. “Yes. It matches the person we found it in. They are still testing the one found in Mary Malady, but we should extract the one from the other man, Mack.”

“Max,” I corrected. “Max Muscles. I advised him to come to this city when he left, in case I needed to look after him for one thing or another. He’s the one who first clued me in that something spoke to him and made him attack Washington D.C.“

“It stands to reason someone they would make this device compatible with the physiology of individual humans. Remember our recent bout with organ rejection?” Technolutionary asked, inclining his head more toward me out of the rest of the group at the table.

When everyone looked at me, I mentioned, “Last Christmas, he gave me his heart. The very next day, I gave it away. This organ was part of Senator Powers, who worded a situation very similarly to other suspicious individuals. We haven’t had them tested yet. There’s not even enough left of one to test. It appears to be a method of communication we can’t listen in on. I have extremely trustworthy intelligence that points to an alien invasion force getting involved. Now we know they have infiltrated some of us, us meaning Earth in this context, so it stands to reason there are more to check.”

Wildflower didn’t help my suspicions any by asking, “What if they try to come in peace? Maybe you do something.” Her prickly tail stroked my back gently, hoping to let me know she didn’t mean any hard feelings by the question. It’s technically a good point. I am exactly the sort of person who would screw up human-alien first contacts.

“I don’t know their goal, but so far there haven’t been very many good-natured alien contacts with Earth that involve them showing up en masse. What reason would they have for peaceful contact? Needing medical help? They’re advanced enough to fly to Earth from the ass-end of wherever. Same for maintenance.”

“Whatever they use for fuel, Earth cannot or will not hand over,” Technolutionary provided.

I nodded toward the screen. “And then there’s the possibility we get the intergalactic equivalent of the Jehovah’s fucking Wit-”

Captain Lightning cut me off there. “Psycho Gecko has a point. Most first contacts between foreign cultures with such a disproportionate difference in technology are hostile in some form or another. Earth’s experience with aliens provides ample evidence in favor of this viewpoint. We should be be prepared to talk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Technolutionary spoke up, “If you want peace, prepare for war. It makes sense why you would reverse your stance now, Gecko.”

I tried to make sure no one delved into that conversation too far. I doubted any of the heroes, even my Wildflower, had the moral flexibility to see the bigger picture in what we’ve done, especially given mine and Technolutionary’s lack of restraint in terms of collateral damage. “A big, throbbing stick capable of wiping them all out, preferably preemptively.”

“A show of force would work,” said Forcelight, looking over the information I’d provided on the table. “Not everyone treats every conflict as a fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “If worst comes to worst, we need to prepare a very final method of dealing with them.”

Venus scoffed. “A Final Solution?”

“Don’t go knocking genocide just because some racist Germans used it once. That’s slander on the good name of that perfectly viable tactic by associating it solely with the Nazis. Which is falacious, I might add. Call it something nicer or loftier, like Manifest Destiny. Besides, I’d use it against everyone, not just members of one race or another.”

Venus shook her head and looked to Wildflower. “And you’re fine with this? This is who you want?”

I don’t know if I sense legitimate jealousy there, but I’ll even take hot fantasy lesbian threesome jealousy, only this time I wear a skimpy nurse’s outfit with red high heels, and Wildflower’s the one I call Dr. Feelgood.

“Do you want me to tell him not to kill people? Alright.” Wildflower leaned close guided my face around so I was looking right at her. “Baby, please don’t kill people.”

“Aww, how could I ever say ‘no’ to you…” I leaned my head close, our foreheads touching. “Oh yeah, now I remember! No.”

She stepped back, an amused smile on her face. I don’t believe it surprised her. Then she looked to Venus. “I tried.”

“You’re going to let him or her talk to you like that?”

Wildflower crossed her arms. “You should ask him. Everyone knows you two have some special bond.”

Perturbed, Venus leaned in close, squishing her twin milk cannons for best effect. “Hey, Gecko. Please, for me, try not to kill so many people, alright?”

I pretended to think. “Gee, when you put it that way, there’s probably only one thing I can say. That’s that you should back up, stick your tongue out, flap your arms, jump off the roof, and give a flying fuck. Because I don’t. Pussy.”

And she was concerned about how I talked to Wildflower.

“Since you want to pretend you are a woman now, you might watch out for that sort of sexist talk.” Venus flipped me the bird.

I held a hand to my chest. “I like to think of myself as a skeleton trapped in a woman’s body.”

“Gecko, please shut up for five minutes.” Lightning butted in, trying to stop the talk from breaking down.

“A moment, oh Captain my captain. I have just one thing to say.” I let silence fall for a moment as everyone prepared themselves for my incoming remark. To Venus, I finally said, “Suck my coccyx.”

Captain Lightning reached over with one finger and zapped with a small arc of electricity. “I’m afraid we have gone off-task in our discussion. Reign this in, stay on point. Aliens.”

I nodded. “If you’ll all avoid getting too much soy sauce on the papers there, I’ve vaguely described some of the measures I’ve taken to secure the city a little better. I don’t care about the nanites, either, Forcelight. They’ll help. But if I come out of the blue to discuss this with the heroes when E.T. Decides to pwn home, most won’t believe me. We need to get people ready for this, and we don’t have long.”

“Why do you care this much?” Venus glared at me some more. You’d think she’d have a little less anger after flashing me with her headlights the other day and punching me into a ceiling.

“It doesn’t matter why he cares. It just matters that he’s helping.” Lightning answered for me, exasperated with the arguing. “We need to find those we can trust and prepare quietly. Organize.” I noticed Venus’s eye twitch as she watched Lightning. “Anyone with an x-ray vision power can find it where the neck meets the skull.”

“A knife and visual inspection works, too.” I added. Wildflower rubbed at the back of her neck.

Lightning glanced at her neck briefly, then pulled over a carton of fried rice. In the midst of all our arguing, we’d mostly forgotten the food. I returned to chowing down on my egg roll. “Seems it does,” he confirmed.

“Gentlemen, ladies…don’t just stand there looking surprised. Let’s eat some food and plan how to take over…sorry, wrong crowd…save the world!”

Lightning and Wildflower nodded. On the screen, a doorbell got Technolutionary’s attention. Forcelight joined us in our meal, but Venus didn’t lower her guard until Technolutionary returned and lifted up his helmet enough to start chowing down on a box of Chinese delivery.

Of course, convincing some heroes to get to work on this was the easy part, if it works at all. Now I’ve got to find some way to present myself as trustworthy to a bunch of supervillains. Clearly, this will require copious amounts of lying. And more chicken teriyaki.



Together For The Holidays 1



Oh, I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, dee dee dee dee, there they are all hiding in their holes. With Oligarch gone, you’d think they forgot all about the idea of running things. I get it. Not everyone’s leadership material. There are lots of other materials they can be, instead. And, if they run into the wrong interior decorator, they might even become wallpaper material. Or even dress material, if they put the lotion on their skin.

I held a videoconference for The Order. The camera showed me standing in an empty meeting room in front of a small wall made of donut boxes. “Greetings, fellow alleged criminals and crime enthusiasts. I’m glad to see so many of you stuck around and joined me for this little get-together. We needed a talk, and I figured people were a bit hesitant to come together in person after what the heroes did.”

“They have to pay!” Man-Opener interrupted. His screen showed him still in his eyeless, mouthless helmet. After he said it, other villains formed a little chorus of agreement.

I held up my hands to call for silence and to hint at my objection. “I’m not sure it should be us who does that. After all, we technically tried to do the same to all the heroes. Are we forgetting Oligarch blowing up the asylum where we kept them?”

“How did they get out? Oh yeah, why don’tcha give up the goods on that?” asked Powder. She looked like she’d already gotten into some donuts of her own from the white around her nose. I’m sure she just got really enthusiastic while baking with flour earlier.

I threw up my hands due to feigned ignorance rather than autocannibalism and told them, “I don’t know how they escaped, but we all knew it was a personality. I mean, somehow killing them all in one fell swoop seemed too good to be true, didn’t it? Besides, what happened at the docks may have been for the best. You heard the Seals went after him. It was only a matter of time before they thinned the herd, and they could have done worse. Would you really put it past the government to bomb the city and blame on dead supervillains?” I leaned forward on the table to look intimidating for a second before remembering I was showing off the girls. I stood up and crossed my arms rather than making it apparent through sudden movement that I had forgotten about my chest-mounted dual airbags.

Not that they’re air. Nope. All natural. If you were to take a sample, they’d still show me as having a Y chromosome, but altering my phenotype means I can do a bit better than saline or silicone. I could have made a fortune with my nanites being used for all sorts of medical purposes, and even gotten away with a lot of stuff with all that money on my side. But I wouldn’t have been able to be me. There are only so many people even the wealthy can get away with killing.

In the United States, at least. I could go to Argentina, kidnap a few hundred people, chain them up, drug them, then dump their sedated asses into a river to drown and the States wouldn’t give a damn. Hell, Saudi Arabia’s going to execute a guy for the crime of being an atheist. Personally, I find it pretty bullshit that a bunch of Middle Eartern islamists go around executing infidels.

And before y’all start, since this is the internet, I feel I should point out there’s a difference between Islam and Islamism. It’s like the difference between Christianity and Christian Dominionism. It’s like I’ve always said: don’t hate blindly. Learn to hate people for who they are. Because everyone’s uniquely terrible in their own way. And that, folks, is why prejudice is wrong.

I decided to add that, “If we keep this cycle going, it will give them an excuse to come after us, right? I know I’m new around here, but that’s how it works, right? Otherwise, you’d think it would be a bloodbath out there.”

That got a round of nods from most of the villains. Then Man-Opener spoke up again. “Informal agreement since World War II. The scales are balanced. Technically. We should hire Psycho Gecko if we want Forcelight dead.”

“I’ve never met him, but Oligarch didn’t seem to want him around. He’s strong enough to get away with it, right?”

“That guy’s nuts,” Giuseppe said without looking up from whatever he was tinkering on. He had a loupe over one eye to help him see as he assembled something.

A wolfman with scorched fur added, “We only tolerate him because he’s crazy and he usually goes after superheroes. I got away with gold bars because of him. He distracts superheroes, too.”

Man-Opener joined in so the wolfman couldn’t get another word in. “He is not that strong. I could take him. He draws so much attention because lethal force is his first, last, and only option. When he shows up, someone is going to die. Murder matters more than stolen gold to the police and heroes. He also does crazy shit.”

A goat nodded its head rapidly, then grabbed it when the goat head mask started to slip. “One time, I heard he destroyed a helicopter with a banana.”

Roadkill scoffed. “What’d ‘e do, stick it ina tailpipe?”

The goat person started to answer back that of course helicopters don’t have tailpipes when someone spoke up louder. “I heard he used a walnut. He threw it at the correct angle to ricochet into the pilot’s mouth, thus choking him and making him crash,” Giuseppe said.

As flattering as it was to hear supervillain ghost stories about me, I had to shut them up. “So, does that mean we can’t hire him? I thought we could just pay him to hang around and tell the heroes we don’t want another big war or we’ll send him after them specfically.”

“It’s risky.” Terrorjaw said reaching around for something. He found what he was looking for, a toothpick, and brought it to his mouth to pick at something. Instead of pulling out a chunk of chicken or something, one of his teeth wiggled loose and he pulled it out, freeing the license plate stuck in there between it and the next one over. I hope that wasn’t from Thanksgiving. It’s not good to leave food in your teeth that long. Then again, the guy swims in the waters of the state of New York. There’s probably no disease on earth that can overcome his immune system. He’s probably got a cure for AIDS in there somewhere.

I spoke up again. “Well, this isn’t about being the boss. It’s a suggestion. I’m not the boss of the Order. Y’all are about to abandon the Order, but I don’t think it’s time to fall apart. This can be a social network for villains. Think about it! The heroes are organized enough to pull what they did at the docks. Why not have a way to see if anyone can watch your back on a job? Like, if you need someone who can do one thing, you can ask around. Come on, guys.”

While not the most elegant of arguments, you’d be surprised what you can convince people to do by saying, “Come on, guys.”

The various villains didn’t exactly give me a standing ovation. It’s not like they had a spokesman. They sorta mumbled, but at least no one said no.

“Well, just think about it, everyone. Don’t forget we have forums and an instant messenger service. Everyone who signs up will receive a box of donuts by private courier. Please don’t eat the couriers, Terrorjaw. Also, anyone caught signing up more than once, I will distribute your name to the others so they all know you have lots of extra donuts you can’t eat by yourself. Just think about that.”

I had to rush out of there because I had another meeting to attend by video. I triplechecked that I was disconnected and then connecting to the right one. This was not a time for humor. Besides, as I saw the monitor fill up with the faces of heroes where villains had stared out before, it wouldn’t be all that funny for me. That’s not a punchline I want to be on the receiving end of. Like a conga line of angry knuckles.

Shit, I really am outside my own brain lately if I’m worried about heroes punching me. Still, I forced on a smile as I looked at them, and gave Wildflower a little wink. “So, how is everyone? Glad to be out in time for Thanksgiving?”

“Absolutely!” said one enthusiastic voice while others had more muted affirmation. Clearly, some sick bastard was a morning person. That ain’t right. Morning people should be taken out back and shot, preferably about two o’clock, after the rest of us have had time to wake up, shower, and fix a quick lunch. Hell, you’ve seen how much of this story involves doing stuff at night. Do you really expect me to hold regular hours?

“I’m glad so many of you answered, becuase I want to keep this little social network service going. Y’all like it?”

“Why?” asked someone I couldn’t care less about in a lime green mask.

“It works, right? It’s not like Shieldwall, but you get to team up, share tips, coordinate patrols. I mean, it’s helpful. Plus, it sounds like you’ll need it. You know, the Order is doing the same thing.”

“How do you know? Can you get us in?” asked Forcelight before taking a long chug from her coffee cup. Bah, coffee. Relying on some drug to stimulate herself. Just abusing caffeine like that. Compare that to the villains. Do y’all think any from that group was doing something as unhealthy as drinking gallons of coffee? That shit stunts your growth, I hear. I mean, just look at Powder. She’s so think, she probably works out all the time, and she still has energy to bake up a storm. She’s always got some flour or granulated sugar or baking soda around. That’s a good role model right there.

Anyway, I had to put a stop to any notion of me helping the heroes spy on the villains. “Nope. Can’t do it. They’d know it’s me the moment y’all stop a crime. You’ll get what, only a few villains? And I’ll be outed to people like Terrorjaw and Man-Opener. I know you don’t like me, but that’s vicious. Geez. The crap, Forcelight?”

I threw up my hands, exasperated.

“Calm down. We appreciate your help and nobody wants to get you hurt,” Venus said, trying to calm the situation down. “If you can give us a heads up without getting caught, we would appreciate it. You don’t know where the servers are or who is running it?”

I shook my head, lying my ass off. “Sorry. It’s one of the others.”

“Hey, that’s alright,” Wildflower said softly, “I’ll stay signed up. You’ve done right by me and everyone else from the asylum.”

Ooh, there’s some classic guilt. I wonder if she’s Catholic.

The heroes expressed more enthusiasm than the villains at least, so I grabbed my phone and sent out a text. “Sorry, everyone. It’s great you’re all so enthusiastic, but I have business to deal with, too. Just keep the system going. Share tips. Make friends. Have awesome team-ups.”

To the villains, I sent out a notice on the Order’s network. “I just found out the heroes are coordinating thanks to shared captivity. Everyone, you NEED this service.”

I logged off to let the heroes do their helping people thing, then had to call up Crash, my personal assistant. “Crash, I need a shitload of couriers. We have to move some donuts. Try not to wreck your car doing this somehow.”

“Miss Gecko, you’re the one who wrecks my car,” she said.

I rolled my eyes. “Crash, you’ll never get ahead making excuses like that. Just handle it. I’m going to be in an important meeting seeing to my Buzzkill minions.”

“Enjoy your TV, ma’am.”

She said that because Beetrice, the Queen Bee, had been staying in my penthouse. Her hive had taken up residence in the bunker underneath the building, but she insisted on staying with me. Not for sex or anything. She’s really disappointed that I can’t give her baby Buzzkills, but enjoys cuddling me in front of my huge ass TV.

When I walked in, I found her bouncing on the couch while the credits of some new Marvel super women’s noir show rolled. When she heard me enter, Beetrice spun around and vaulted over the back of the couch. “Psycho Gecko, I am so happy you are here! I’m going to be a superhero!”

Well, there was nothing more to do at that point but toss my TV over the terrace and watch it crash onto the street below. Or maybe onto a car below. I called Crash back. “Addendum: have someone clean up that TV I just threw out. I think it hit-”

“My car!” she screamed into the phone.

“Crash, that is not an appropriate volume level for a business environment.” I got a cluster of cusswords as a response. “You take the rest of the day off and think about how you’re supposed to be acting, you hear?”

“-up your pert, curvy ass!”

“Don’t make me have to file a claim with HR over inappropriate sexual comments either, young lady.”

I hung up and sighed. Beetrice walked over and put her lower set of arms on my shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just so hard to find people who appreciate what I do for them. Beetrice, take me to the bunker. We’ll go put on Christmas Vacation and teach the hive about the meaning of Christmas.”

Beetrice lifted me princess-style and carried me over to the elevator. “Peace on earth and goodwill toward man.”

I shook my head. “Amateur mistake. It’s all about presents and pretending you aren’t a dick.”

“But you have a-”

“Christmas Vacation, Beetrice, not The Vagina Monologues. Chop chop.”



Local Politics 16



At last.

I finally talked Oligarch into the field. I suspect the Seals managed to wound him, or at least cause serious maintenance on at least one portion of his armor.

No more stalling. No more getting things into position. No more “let’s see what’s behind curtains one and two,” just curtains.

It all began with a curtain call that finally linked all of The Order up to one another. There, I explained just enough for them to be useful in wrecking me shit: the docks are overcrowded with hostile bee people led by a group of queens. Expect super strength, organic armor, and stinger swords. I ended the brief briefing with an appeal directly to Oligarch, “Your people need you.”

They didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting organized. While supervillains don’t make that good of an army when it comes to working together, it also means they don’t need a lot of time getting organized before a sortie. The two are kinda connected.

It also meant that we didn’t hit the docks as one body. It was more like waves. Roadkill skidded along in a steamroller as one of the first guys in, probably having one hell of a time. I didn’t pay attention to how far he went. I was curious what would happen when he hit the water, but I was too busy landing from on a crane and watching the attack go down.

Once again, my armor protected me physically and provided me with a convenient disguise. For some reason, I just don’t feel like settling for the marginal offensive and defensive capabilities of the Banshee costume. Besides, it helped me feel more like myself again.

So I looked down, laughing, as Buzzkills took to the sky in small clouds to pursue individual flyers. I had to catch my breath before I could call back to the bunker that it was go time. I’d also briefed the heroes on what was going on before I visited the villains. I’d admitted that I had some connection to The Order necessitated by being outed as a superhuman and as a need to maintain contact with the heroes themselves. I was surprised Wildflower didn’t vouch for me there, but she’d been distant lately. Enough of the heroes remembered my help releasing them that I made a good case without a character witness.

I gave them the same information about the Buzzkills. They are a menace, I tell ya! A horrible menace that threatens to destroy everything good in the world. But they were still my best bet against the swarm of bee people. Eh? I bet y’all see what I did there.

I revealed that I’d set up The Order to go after the Buzzkills. I’d had the plan in waiting ever since my people were the first to lock down the docks following the discovery of the insectoids. I know people say that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but sometimes lying about there being sugar in the spoon works just as well, because they swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

And I implored them, with every acting bone in my body, that though they may not all trust me, “Your people need you.”

So while I watched shit hit the fan at the docks, heroes departed from the base of Double Cross Tower and started hitching rides with each other to make it to the battle. This was their time for revenge. Being cooped up made them antsy and ready for a bit of action. I can’t even take credit for that level of enthusiasm. I’d gotten so paranoid about them all over the past couple days, I seriously almost pushed the button to fill the whole bunker with gas. Once, I stopped when I remembered I really shouldn’t do that. Another time, I didn’t go through with it because I couldn’t remember if I’d loaded Arsine, which is toxic, or Sexahol, which creates feelings of love, goodwill, and physical lust.

That one might be a missed opportunity there.

Knowing they were on the way and feeling about a half-ton lighter, I celebrated by jumping into the fray. I leaped off the crane and wrapped my legs around the torso of a Buzzkill humming by in hot pursuit of a man in a duster and bowler with a pair of bunny ears trailing back as he flew. He didn’t take kindly to my presence and attempted to throw me off by swinging around in a circle. I dug my fingers into his shoulderblades and clawed my way up to a standing position. With a back flip, I clubbed his head. This time, he calmed down a lot more when I held onto him with my legs. I liked his change in behavior so much, that I kept right at it. Hammerin’ away. I could barely pull myself away, it was so much fun.

Unfortunately, it also left me and the Buzzkill plummeting. I grabbed him by the shoulders long enough to get my feet on his chest, then pushed off into an incomplete back flip. It separated me from the Buzzkill, but didn’t really get me close enough to the crane or anything else.

And yet, I felt oddly at peace. No, seriously. It was being ok with falling that freaked me out. That got me flailing, which is probably why Forcelight chose that moment to grab my arm and save me from cracking open like a mussel dropped by a bird. The jolt felt like it pulled something out of the socket, though. Probably my arm. I couldn’t check until after she slowed down a little and dumped me on top of a rusty old warehouse roof. After rolling, I was able to take inventory of my physical state. Yep. It was the arm.

Forcelight’s presence created quite the buzz, and not just among the bees. Villains were all over the comms.

“Is that Forcelight?”

“What’s she doing here?”

“Alive? Not possible!”

And so they spoke, and so they spoke, those lords of Empyreal. But then heroes joined in the fray, with everyone clear they’re here.

No, I didn’t actually go with The Rains of Castamere as a way to announce their arrival. I didn’t think about that until later. What came to mind instead was a song from an album where a bunch of inmates break out and start killing their captors in order to obtain freedom.

That’s why some unspecified person, wink wink, played a short piece announcing, “Hell is empty… and all the devils are here!” Plus, I knew it’d piss a few of them off. I’m pretty sure Venus is some sort of Christian. And even if she isn’t, chances are good most of the other heroes are.

I guess it’s worth pointing out since it’s about time for the War on Christmas to start up again, but America is about 70% to 83% Christian depending on what poll you’re looking at. Then again, they screw up their definitions all the time. I saw one that asked people to identify themselves and discuss their beliefs, which is how they have a percent of atheists who believe in a god, a bunch of people who say they don’t believe in any gods but who aren’t atheists, and agnostics as separate group. It’s like saying that people with red hair are considered a separate skin color.

But that’s a tender subject that many people would prefer to treat gingerly.

Of course, these heroes were too busy fighting real enemies to worry about imagined ones. They swept up behind villain battle lines that were facing the wrong direction, and they were generally more inclined to teamwork than their enemies.

Of course, I say that like someone looking back on things. At the time, I just tried to get my arm back in and subtly apply my miracle-working super machines. That, and having fun. A line of about four Buzzkills came at me, bro. I ducked to the left and grabbed the shoulder of the one on that end. I whipped around and got that one in a facelock as I kicked off one of its buddies, then swung it down and planted its face into the roof. I immediately sat up and rammed my head into the belly of a Buzzkill that tried to impale my downed chest with a stinger sword. Another sword glanced off my back, showing that I wasn’t as unarmored as I appeared. The last one took a swipe at my throat from the side, though. Not cool.

I caught that one and twisted it, then used it to fend off another blow from the one behind me. I pulled her close and got her in a triangle choke. The parried Buzzkill took a step back and aimed its stinger sword at me, shooting out a flash of yellow energy that exploded against me and its comrade, scorcing some of the hologram system’s microcameras and creating a minor power surge. Needing a projectile of my own, I smashed my hand in the top of the captured Buzzkill’s exoskeleton and pulled out what could have been a brain, which I then tossed at its compadre. The Buzzkill knocked it aside, but took a moment to ponder in disgust what she just did.

The one I headbutted had recovered then, and I was tired of handling all of them on my back, so I jumped up and took a punch from it just so I could grab her arm. “Hey, doll. Ever been roofied?” Then I threw her off the roof.

When I turned, I saw the one standing up who I’d introduced to the roof. I also saw the one who shot me taking aim for a second shot. I walked forward and clapped the wobbly one on her shoulders. “Good to see you’re alive!” I told her, then ducked behind her for a moment. A good punch stumbled her back in the way of the shooter, but I didn’t stick around to see them get into a fight. Nor did I stick around to see the shooter discover the headless rubber chicken tied around the lower arm of the off-balance Buzzkill or the subsequent explosion as the chicken grenade went off.

It’s like Sweeney Todd’s joy over finding his old straight razors to be able to use those again.

I jumped from that roof to the next and then stopped a moment to survey the battlefield. It was beautiful. Lights of all different colors lit up the sky as supers fought with themselves and the bees. The bees themselves were dropping like flies, which made me wonder for a moment about how vague the line is on who supers do and don’t kill. At this point in the fight, everyone was so worried about life and limb that I don’t think it mattered. The royal Buzzkills could have easily counted as too “super” to kill, but I saw one of them kneeling beside another downed one, doing something. She shook, so maybe the trauma of our little fight had gotten to her.

Before I could see how that one went, an angry roar got my attention. As opposed to a sleepy roar or a casual bored roar, I suppose. Another of the royals threw a dumpster at Oligarch. A burst of his boot jets sent him to the side while micromunitions from his raised left arm caught the dumpster and knocked it to the side with a detonation. A pair of tubes then pushed out of the side of his gauntlet and spewed a cone of flame in her direction. Then she let out more of a crispy roar.

I let myself fade into invisibility so I could make a call. “Hello, this is Beetrice,” said a happy, buzzing voice on the other end.

“That’s what you went with?” I asked my pet royal Buzzkill. When she didn’t say anything for a second, I reminded her, “I can’t see you when you talk over the phone. Say yes or no.”

“Yes. Who is speaking?”

“It’s me. Gecko. The one who rescued you.”

“Oh! Hi boyfriend. How is your day going?”

“This is a bad time to do whatever it is you think you’re doing right now. You know how I told you you would soon take your place at the head of your people after their numbers had been whittled down and your evil sisters were defeated?”

“We talked about it before you left. Yes. Is it time?”

“That’s a big ten-four, sweet bee. Get that shiny hiney on down here and try to keep yourself and some Buzzkills alive. Come on, your people need you.”

Lot of damn people needing a lot of other people today.

While she was busy on her way, I let myself live in the moment. Nearby, I saw someone wearing a goat’s head as a mask sweep an FN MAG machinegun across the sky. I don’t even know what side they were on, but I knocked them the fuck out with a punch. Then I saw Roadkill climbing up a ladder out of the water. I grabbed the machinegun and slung it at him. He ducked behind the ladder, which blocked the gun, but the noise attracted Buzzkills. Then, some giant rolling ball sped in next to me and separated into panels that folded up into a much smaller ball held in the hand of one of the heroes. I think that asshole punched me back at the asylum, in fact. He stuck that ball to his belt, then pulled off a blue one and a yellow one. The blue one he threw at crowd of Buzzkills. It hit one, then bounced off another’s head, ricocheting around the group until they all fell to the ground. While that ball did its trick, this big baller dropped the yellow one and kicked it over to where a bloody-mawed wolfman fought with what looked like a prepubescent girl in a red cloak and hood. She contorted out of the way of a slash from the wolfman, who then seized up as electricity arced out of the ball and formed a sort of cage around him. I put the ball guy out of business by hitting him in his weak spot from behind. You know the one. His balls.

It saddened me that I couldn’t go completely wild there, but I had a job to do. I looked around, scanning for Oligarch. I found him overhead, pushing his suit to stay out of Forcelight’s grasp while they dodged around buildings and the crane. He used his munitions to try and divert the heroine into the crane as a means of weakening her. I needed a chance to get close and jumped onto the crane itself. That’s when he chose to dive down and lead her over the water.

She was in chase mode, following him out there, but staying a little higher. It didn’t help her much when Terrorjaw flew out of the waves and chomped on her. Oligarch changed course, heading back to shore while she fell below the waters with the sharkman.

It gave me an idea. I unsealed one gauntlet and began charging up the other. Oligarch soared closer, leaving a wake as he passed over the water. I jumped out, hoping he didn’t decide to juke to the side for some reason at the last minute. He would have seen a small glow in the air until the hologram changed from showing the environment around me to showing Forcelight.

I’d timed it right. My glowing fit hit him in the back, the charged energy driving him into the ground. He bounced, even. Yeah, a bad part of having armor that’s so small and fits so tight against the body is it may not leave a lot of room for padding. That’s an issue miniaturization just can’t fix. I rolled and skidded as I came to a stop, throwing up a few sparks that I hoped no one noticed.

My facade as Forcelight continued as I stepped up to him and reached down to grab hold of the stunned villain’s neck with my bare hand.

One of the reasons the neck is so vulnerable is that it’s the only way things get between the head and the rest of the body. Brain signals, food, air, alcohol; you gotta go through the neck. It’s a literal chokepoint. Me, I implanted the equivalent of bodily wifi at the base of my head that lets me bypass that weakness in case my neck is broken or even severed. Oligarch didn’t have that on his side.

I had to work quickly as I felt my system merge with the cables and wiring in Oligarch’s armor’s neck. Armor stability could have been better. Running a bit low on ammo. That’s a problem with kinetic and missile weapons. A few heat vents were cracked, though. I could work with that. I ordered more to shut down. He had a self-destruct in the suit, too. Probably remotely activated, I would hope. A way to keep people from jacking his stuff like they did with mine. I stole the frequency, then backed off when I saw him making more purposeful movements.

I became invisible again and slipped on my glove just before water exploded out of the ocean nearby and Forcelight shot into the air with Terrorjaw riding her back. You don’t see that everyday.

She spun around, and I saw Terrorjaw fall off, then go flying as she kicked him out to see. Off in the distance, I think I saw him skip a few times. Well, he’s England’s problem now.
Back on land, Oligarch wrestled with his suit. Over the villainside comms, I heard him call out for anyone with ice powers. “My suit has a malfunction. The heat is building up. This is critical. Anyone?” He pulled his helmet off, looking like a sweaty old man with a bad case of helmet hair. He took a deep breath, then Venus swung down and clobbered him in the face so hard, I swear I heard a bong sound from her armored fist.

Isn’t that some shit? Forcelight had been on his case, then I put in the real work of beating him down, but Venus shows up at the last second to get all the credit?

I let her bask in the glory while I jumped for it. That’s about the time I noticed that the living Buzzkills had already made a run for it. Nothing left but the bodies. I saw some of them bees fleeing into the city from the vantage point I took further away from Oligarch. I didn’t know how big of a self-destruct Oligarch put in his armor, but I hoped it was smaller than city-wide.

Oh well, not worth asking him at this point.

“Look out, he’s going critical!” I yelled into everyone’s comms, then counted to three and sent the signal. The explosion disappointed. I expected a nice fireball, maybe some rocking. You know, maybe bend the crane a bit. I saw fire leap into the sky and heard people scream, but a closer inspection showed very few people actually hurt. The main one I focused on after confirming Oligarch was nothing but a crispy critter was Venus. She laid off to the side, clutching her arm and smoking a little.

Well, if she didn’t know smoking was bad for her health before, she probably learned her lesson getting blown up like that. A part of me felt bad, seeing her like that. I wanted to go down there, walk over to her, hold her in my hands…and squeeze her throat until she crapped her tights.

Sadly, this was not a day for star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet. You know, a couple that winds up killing each other.

I had a window there, where everyone had stopped and wasn’t entirely sure what to do. To the villains, I said, “Retreat. We’ll have a meeting about this later. The Order is not done, but I think it’s clear we don’t own the city anymore.”

To the heroes, I said, “Let them go. We don’t need any more fighting than is necessary. We’ve won.”

Then I called up Harlon, my guy in the news. He’s an executive who climbed to that position in part because I killed the right people and feed him the occasional red hot story. He wasn’t in Empyreal City, but he was very happy he could have his people report that a fight left the Oligarch dead and the city no longer under villain control.

And, finally, I called up Beetrice the Queen Bee and told her she did good getting her hive out. That, and “You better not watch Deep Space 9 without me!”

I’m not too keen on knocking her up with a colony full of my illegitimate insectoid monstrosi-babies, but a job this well done makes me feel like regrowing my balls for a celebratory nut scratch.

I settled for a victorious glare on top of Double Cross HQ while bells rang happily through the streets.

You see, I learned something from all this. Having any one ego in charge can work for certain group, like Double Cross. The company wouldn’t exist without me. It is a manifestation of my will, acting in my name to accomplish my goals. They are my drones, my workers. But they have to work toward a goal. Without one, they turn out about as cooperative and focused as the Buzzkills. And even if I wanted a group of equals based on cooperation, someone’s going to wind up the figurehead in charge, like Oligarch and The Order. And getting that many powerful individuals together and trying to force my goals on them would probably turn out just as bad for him as it would for me. And I don’t need a gang of enemies. I have enough of that as is. You need some sort of crisis or change in the paradigm to control them. The most basic way is a threat.

Yeah, I learned something. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power, power corrupts; study hard and be evil.”

And since we’re coming up on Thanksgiving for those in the U.S., let me add a cheerful: “Party on, dudes!”



Local Politics 13



At last, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It was difficult to convince Venus that all I wanted to do was fake killing her. We just had to make a big enough public spectacle out of it.

On Thursday, she swung over to Double Cross HQ like she’d done so many times before. The gleaming hero in a gold, pink, and white padded costume that exposed her belly and neck. She didn’t wear the full suit of armor that Forcelight, her ally, had made for her. Instead, she wore a pink and gold exoskeleton that gave her big metal gauntlets and shoulderpads. It also included light armor plates on the sides of her limbs and along her spine. Oh, and a visor that covered her masked face.

A visor and a mask. When she says secret identity, she means secret identity. Assuming she ever did anything other than hero.

Only, this time, she carried a warrant for my arrest. She showed it off after helping herself in through a window using one of those rods she’s been using to swing around the city. Playing the role of a distressed villain caught off guard, I did what any reasonable person would do. I pulled out the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink and hosed her down.

Instant fanservice. That’s right, I managed to get Venus all wet as a woman. More importantly, it gave me a chance to legitimately get away without having to make it too obvious I was in cahoots with her. Oh yeah, baby, gimme those cahoots. And don’t worry about catching anything. I had my cahootie shot.

After hosing Venus down, I gave her a closeup of my melons. I threw them, and the grapefruits from my fruit bowl, at her head. I only had a single apple in there, but I tried to hit her in the throat with it. Then I grabbed a banana, peeled it halfway, and came at her with it.

She grabbed my wrist, easily overpowering me. I dropped the banana and caught it with my other hand, then mashed it over her visor. She picked me up by my wrist and tossed me toward the living room. It put some distance between us while she cleared the gunk off, so I ran for the terrace. I heard Venus running for me as I slipped into a harness clipped to a cord and jumped off.

Down I fell, wondering if Venus would jump after me. On the one hand, she might want to save me. On the other, she might know it wouldn’t really do her any good if I’d already jumped. When the cord stopped me, tensed, then pulled me back up, I figured I’d get to find out.

As I shot back up, I saw Venus had fired another rod into the side of the building, but hadn’t yet jumped. When she saw my ascent on a bungee cord, she swung off to intercept me. Except it wasn’t exactly a standard bungee cord, and I didn’t slow down. I unclipped myself and tried to enjoy the sensation of being flung several stories into the air with nothing around to catch me but the hard roof. Friction and gravity did some hanky-panky with my inertia, which is a property of matter, and I actually landed fairly softly on my feet.

Oh look. A greenhouse. A simple, unassuming greenhouse. But not just any greenhouse! A greenhouse with a cannon. I ran in there and punched the release button to fold up the walls and ceiling.

This was the tricky part. It required precise aim. Also, a mark to let Venus know what part of the wall she needed to jump up from. It helped that I ran over to the edge and looked down. I still had access to the cannon’s fire control from afar. That’s why, when Venus landed in front of me, I just hugged her, spun her around so her back was to the cannon, and said “Hey, guess what I’ve got up here?”

I ducked and fired. The smoke and huge banging noise obscured my ability to determine if it hit at first, until I realized I felt fatter than normal and pushed Venus off me. When I ducked, she must have gone down on me. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.

Ok, so she didn’t go down that way, but she ducked on top of me. When I realized she was alive, I tried to push her off me. I had to yell at her to remind her of the next part. “The door!” I pointed to a maintenance hatch by the cannon. After shaking her head a bunch of times, she nodded and crawled over there under cover of smoke.

I joined her, picking my way over what blood and gore had landed on the roof with me. Ok, so I had to a gimmick things in case Venus dodged. I used some very special ammunition. Forget armor-piercing, hollow point, incendiary, or high explosive. This November, cannon shells come in new smokey BBQ pork flavor. Yep, a pork shell. Strong enough to kill a human at point-blank range, but weak enough to explode into gore on its own. Between mine and Venus’s contacts, any DNA tests will confirm that meat chunks are all that’s left of her.

Yeah, Venus has friends in forensics labs. Go figure. Now, they can even get away with calling her a pig.

Unfortunately, Venus still survived, but she had to hide in Double Cross HQ’s new bunker. As for me, I got a replica of Venus’s costume. You know, for reasons. Important reasons. Reasons aside from feeling it. We tore it up a bit so I could present it to Oligarch. He was so happy, it appeared to have caused constipation. Or maybe I can’t read his face that well. He didn’t seem all that happy at first.

He cheered up in a hurry when he realized it was time to declare The Order’s ownership of the city. I told him I’d rather not stand out as much, so I’d be bowing out of the press conference. Why? Because Oligarch immediately settled on Friday the 13th as the date for the big announcement.

That’s all well and good for him, but I had a prison to break. Again.

I opted not to do all the work prior to the expected date of explosion. This, I explained to Venus, is because I didn’t want to be the one to set off the explosion. All I told her is I knew one was going to happen to clear up the heroes once and for all. She didn’t know that I knew it all thanks to a clairvoyant, and she didn’t need to know how I knew. Knowing how I knew is on a need-to-know basis.

Though I did check in with Fortune Cookie again to get the exact time. I started moving in only a two hours prior. I didn’t even want to give them that much time. A lot can happen in two hours. That’s also why I had to go in that early. Some of the security measures we put in place were pretty hardcore. We buried Forcelight in a fucking block with a catheter. I’m sure there are others, but I can’t just rely on the heroes being able to solve all my problems.

That’s why, when I stepped out into the abandoned mental asylum, I looked less like a horror movie victim and more like a horror movie survivor. Jackhammer slung across my back. Chainsaw in hand. Dynamite stuck in my belt. I rolled a cutting torch kit with me.

“Hello,” one of the clowns said casually as I walked in. “Doing some work?”

I smiled at him and stepped close, my boobs showing blatant, some might say explicit, disregard for his personal space. “Just beefing up the defenses. Speaking of which, is there a camera up here?”

I turned to follow when he pointed up to one of those dark half-circle camera casings in one of the shadowed corners of the room. I turned back to smile at the guard, then proceeded toward the door. Just before I left, though, I poked my head out and burned through the camera with my eye.

“What was that?” the guard asked, looking at the camera, then back at me. I threw a stick of dynamite at him, causing him to dive behind his crappy Ikea desk for cover. I hadn’t actually lit the dynamite, so it was perfectly safe for me to set down the cutting torch and chainsaw, then walk around to the other side of the desk and snap his neck. Then I took back my stick of dynamite. Never know when you’re going to need more dynamite. Not bad for seasoning a steak, either.

Though you really shouldn’t throw it. It’s a more stable way to use nitroglycerin, but it can still go off from tossing it around. I mean, feel free to play around with it all you want, but I wouldn’t take that sort of risk.

So I walked down the hallway, pulling the kit after me and balancing a stick of dynamite on the flat of my chainsaw blade. I had an idea to turn on some music, too. Emilie Autumn’s “Fight Like A Girl,” a song that a pretty big section of the internet would not care to hear. Then again, I’ve spent plenty of time as a guy fighting a female nemesis, so it’s not an anthem I could get away with most of the time either. Odd, though. I expected more guards.

I turned a corner and saw a pair of clown guards running my way. Well, that’s right on time. “Ooh, better not drop this!” I said as I flicked the dynamite off toward one. He scrambled to catch it, then tried to figure out if he should drop it when he realized what he was trying to hold onto. While he did that, I used the chainsaw to knock his partner’s gun away and started it with a crank.

“Groovy,” I said, raising an eyebrow. I swung the chainsaw, sending blood gushing as it began to chew through the second clown’s throat. The first one was just laying the stick down when I handed him the chainsaw. “Hold this for me?”

He let it drop, the rude asshole, which made something of a Pez dispenser out of his buddy, with blood as the candy. I kicked him in the balls to double him over, then knocked him out with one well-aimed smack of a boob. Yeah, I wore my brass nipples.

It took me a couple minutes to boob him to death. I guess you could say that, as far as damage went, I really nipple and dimed him.

Shutting off the chainsaw, I made my way down the corridors, a spring in my step as I headed for the security office they used to keep a good eye on everything. Yeah, right. Stick someone in a room with a bunch of cameras and they’ll be bored and tired before you know it.

Thing is, I didn’t find anyone when I got in there. The lock was too old and rusty to lock properly, so I could let myself in, but there wasn’t anyone around. Before I could even get a good look at the monitors, I felt some wind from behind me.

The air conditioning didn’t work in the asylum.

I whirled around and got a sting in my arm as I saw a man in a yellow and green costume standing there, holding his hand out at me. I looked down and saw he had a glove with a pair of blades mounted on the wrist. One of those blades currently resided in my right bicep. I looked back up at him, with his grinning yellow mask with solid green eyes, then back down at the blade. Yep, that’s a stab wound alright. Bleeding and everything. Then I looked back up again. “You ass-guzzling skunk chingus!” I yelled as I punched him with my left.

I punched him, then everything kinda blinked and people from behind grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. Which is odd, because the only thing that had been behind me was a desk with security monitors on it. I didn’t have the luxury of thinking time because of all the costumed people clawing and hitting and kicking. Also, I think someone copped a feel and someone else made a hurtful racial remark. Just getting that on the record for any potential later civil suits. I finally got a chance to ponder my predicament once I heard someone call out for them to back off. Which is good, since it gave my mind a moment to realize I hurt like a motherfucker.

“Norma?” asked the familiar voice of Wildflower. My neck was just a bit sore…possibly worse than sore…at the time, so I didn’t bother trying to look at her.

“S’ok, Wildflower,” I gasped out, wondering when my kidneys migrated to my lungs. “I’m here to rescue you.”

“You’re late,” she said, moving into my view. She looked better than she had for awhile. “But better than never. We got out on our own. Here.” She offered me a hand. I took it and she pulled me up. I tried to stand, but then the dizziness set in and I had to lean heavily on her. “Concussion, maybe? Hey, what did you bring?”

I didn’t feel like talking much and just motioned down to the cutting torch. Then I touched the strap on my shoulder. “And a jackhammer.”

The escaped heroes helped themselves to both, causing me to wince when they unstrapped the jackhammer and the touched my arm wound. “Ympe got you clean. We can patch it while we work on Forcelight and the others.”

Wildflower picked me up princess style. “I thought this would be easier than you walking like that.”

“My hero,” I said sarcastically.

She laughed. “I couldn’t have gotten out without you.” She set me down, then had someone else pass her a first aid kit so she could at least stop the bleeding. Ympe, the green and yellow man, let a bunch of heroes crowd around with my tools. Then the entire group disappeared. It was then that I realized we were in something of an infirmary section. Geez, I hope the first aid kit isn’t from when the hospital was open.

“How’d that happen?” I asked. Then I winced as she cleaned my wound. Geez, want to stick a hot poker in there while you’re at it? Yet another way in which nanites are superior to sterilizing a body with alcohol and sewing it back together. It’s basically a matter of sticking the body parts in the right place and hoping they grow together.

“I told you I heard people. We found a way to communicate, and I overheard from the guard that they had C4 tripwires on the doors. He talked about it with you, and I have really good hearing. They didn’t expect me to be strong enough to overpower them, but I have you to thank for that, too. We passed along information and arranged a breakout using morse code and here we are.”

Morse code? Who the fuck uses morse code nowadays?

Well, heroes, I guess. Whew. Glad that wasn’t my fuck-up.

“Tigerlily, we’ve got to go,” I told her.

She nodded as she took out a needle and thread to start sewing me up. See? That’s how it happens. “We’ll go when we get everyone out. It shouldn’t be long with the equipment you brought in. You were really here to break me out, huh?” She looked up at me and smiled, showing sharper teeth than I remember. It looked like she had a little reddish substance on them, too.

At first I winced again as the needle pierced my skin, but I got over that soon enough. “Yeah, that’s why we need to go. Oligarch’s claiming the city as his. Don’t ask how I know, but he’s planning to blow up this place in less than two hours. If you can get everyone together, I have a bunker where y’all can all hide.”

“Hide?” she asked. She bit through the thread easily enough and packed the kit up.

I sat back against the cool wall, trying to let my aches subside with my eyes mostly closed. “If y’all all go out on your own again, they’ll just get you all again. I think we need one big fight between everybody to settle this. Just how did they keep a teleporter here, anyway?” I had wondered about that seeing that Ympe person in action.

“He takes people and things he’s touching with him. He says his power feels him and things touching him out so it won’t take half a person, but it can’t teleport anything too big. He has to know where a place is in relation to his current location to get there, too. Someone asked about that, because even in those chains he could have gotten out to the police.” She walked over and knelt by me, looking me over.

I opened my eyes the rest of the way to look back at her. “What?”
“Thanks. You tried to get me out.”

“Sure, I try to do my good deed and get the shit kicked out of me by a bunch of your friends. Yep, you’re grateful. This is why I don’t do favors for sadomasochists.”

She giggled at that, almost starting me on it until my chest remembered it hurt. “I am grateful. Don’t go taking advantage of my gratitude, now.”

I raised an eyebrow as I looked her in the eyes. “Me? Take advantage of your gratitude?” Moments like this made me glad to have a mental condition characterized by superficial charm.

The heroes had rounded up most of the guards except for the ones I had handled, and the place hadn’t been built with a line going to the outside, so there’d been nothing to slow them down or alert The Order to the breakout. Nonetheless, we all got out of there with plenty of time to spare, with a few windowless black vans meeting us at the other end of the sewer tunnel I took to get there.

I had to pull those vans off elementary school duty, but I figured it was worth the loss in profits from weed. Hey, don’t act like that. It mellows those bastards out. Besides, when we tried to sell them candy instead, they just ran away screaming “Stranger danger!”

In the end, Wildflower, Venus, Forcelight, and all the other rescued heroes save The Saurus gathered around the TV sets in the bunker to watch as Oligarch demonstrated the power of himself and his Order by destroying a random target. Olirgarch hovered over the city in his armor, then raised an arm in the direction of the old asylum. An arm plate shifted to the side and a rocket fired, much bigger than his usual micromunitions. One news chopper managed to zoom in on them enough to show a resemblance to a Minuteman missile.

Ah. Giuseppe. Oligarch must have wanted him around to design that for him. I guess even the former head of the Master Academy can only build bombs so small. Say what you will about Giuseppe, his work is da bomb.

The Miniman intercontinental ballistic missile didn’t have enough range in that form to nuke Russia, but it easily reached the asylum and detonated with an explosion that created a mushroom cloud and absolutely wrecked the sturdy old building and a few other nearby through a combination of raw nuclear fission and the resulting shockwave. The Starbucks across the street will be serving its Chernobyl Mocha Machiatos from now on. Fortune Cookie was right about the chances most of these costumed crimefighters could have survived that. As a side note, I know we had a Mastermind Cafe nearby that’d be getting a lot more coffee business from now on.

“There goes the neighborhood,” I said, ignoring the dirty looks from the heroes around me who realized I was joking. Venus in particular shot me a look. I swear, sometimes I get the feeling she doesn’t like me no matter who I am. I guess I just rub her the wrong way.

On that piece of mental imagery fanservice, Gecko out.



Local Politics 8



Work, work, work. Too many things to do and not enough time to discuss it all. According to Technolutionary, his work is still taking time. To think I was ever concerned he’d pull this off on his own. He assured me that the delay was merely a normal part of the scientific process. I told Moai to sneak over there and get a glimpse of what Technolutionary’s doing.

I also haven’t heard from Fortune Cookie in awhile. I always thought seers blabbered all over the place. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist. I’d also have been banned from state lotteries and Las Vegas. Not that Vegas would be all that happy to see me anyway, I suspect. I’m beginning to suspect that other villains really don’t like me. Maybe I should ask her more about that. I just figured that if she’s willing to actually help me given her obvious discomfort for me and my methods, she’d prefer to have more input. Then again, maybe that’s the only way she can stand it.

It’s important to get a sense of people like that. Deep down, through all their differences, people are fundamentally the same. They want the same things. They react the same ways. Everyone bleeds the same color. I should know. I have lots of experience among a wide range of people.

I left her a message at her number, which claimed to be a psychic hotline. I told her I wanted her to get back to me about this Order of supervillains seen around.

Kinda important to keep a handle on this. While my stuff is working on profitability, I have to juggle this Order mess and somehow make them further my goals. At first glance, capturing heroes doesn’t necessarily work with that. I haven’t been the most clear to y’all, so here’s what I need: more superhumans. I need more heroes, more villains, more neutrals, and more defenses in general. I might even need a specific way to draw the foreseen alien invaders to this city. Sure, in the movies, they love to stop by Empyreal City. But how do I know these aliens don’t like rural America? After all, people out in the middle of nowhere always complain about waking up with probed asses. Personally, I’d blame the moonshine and the horny neighbor, but they went with aliens and there might be a hint of truth to that.

Ok, so I need to lure in the ass-probers and make sure I have a large group of men and women in spandex costumes to beat them off.

That’s why I requested the guys making the prosthetics create a few sets with room for weapons. Gotta fix those up and get them into the right hands. Well, not the right hands. If they had hands, they wouldn’t be getting the cybernetic parts, unless I wanted to be as much a dick as OCP and amputate someone’s limbs to give them that stuff. The question is: who do I upgrade? It’s reasonable to assume I wouldn’t want to give all that power to some cop who’d just turn around, barge up into the boardroom, and shoot me through a window. Buuut, if I gave it all to a career criminal, there’s really no reason he or she wouldn’t try the same. Or just take off and run.

I need someone with a sense of duty, and some loyalty wouldn’t hurt either. Like the Buzzkills. Well, hell, the Buzzkills. I’d forgotten about them. Ok, let’s table the cyborg discussion. I called up Carl and asked him about the Buzzkills.

“We put them up at the docks, paid up. They have a whole warehouse to themselves,” he informed me. “The people who deliver the sugar never said anything.”

“Just humor me and go have a check. Make sure they know you work for me. Make sure they’re getting enough food or whatever.”

Let’s see, what else…I checked on Wildflower and Forcelight, too. With Forcelight’s powers being what they were, we had to keep stuck in a cement block. I hear they had a hell of a time getting the catheter set in there so she could use the restroom. That’s not the sort of medical care you can just hide in a scoop of ice cream. They also keep the room dark. I don’t know if that helps, but it couldn’t hurt. I mean, might drive her insane with fear, but you kinda expect someone in an asylum to be mentally ill.

Then again, that Rosenhan guy would take issue with that. Famous psychiatric experiment. A guy and a few helpers claimed they heard a voice saying stuff and got admitted. Then they acted normally and told people they stopped hearing any voices, even started taking notes. The staff didn’t believe them and would only let people go if they took medicine and admitted they were still mentally ill, though some of the other patients did guess they were actually sane researchers. As for the staff, they decided that all this note-taking and claiming to be sane were more symptoms of insanity. The guy himself, Rosenhan, was stuck in there for two months.

When some other institution heard about this, they claimed it would never happen there, so Rosenhan told them that over a period of three months, one or more fake patients would try to get in, and that the institution had to guess. During that time period about half of the patients who came to the institution were suspected of being fakes. Rosenhan never sent anyone.

The study had a nice name, too. “On being sane in insane places.”

I guess it doesn’t really have a lot to do with actually having locked heroes up. I just find it interesting how easily the sane can be trapped in that situation. And now heroes are in that situation. Plus, with the staff taken to wearing clown masks, it looks like the inmates are running the asylum. In a lot of cases, their just monster masks painted to look like clowns. I like ’em, and the guards like that they’re staying anonymous in style.

I gave Wildflower some more decent food and a stack of books. I gave Forcelight a ridiculous hairdo.

My little Pyscho Sanitarium, as I’ve personally nicknamed it, is a little too thick for cell phones, so I didn’t get Carl’s messages until after I got out. He sounded worried. “They’re taking people! Get down here! I’m callin’ security to get guns!”

Oh great. Now we got a fucking horror story on our hands. I called him back once I hopped in my car and got no answer. Repeatedly. I called up Double Cross Security, too, wondering who and what they had on the way to the warehouse. All I got from the man on the line was a “Huh?”

“VP Carl said he’d call in. Something happened at a warehouse by the docks, he said he’d bring in backup.”

“We don’t have any record of anything like that, ma’am.”

“I’ll get back to you,” I told him, then checked in with Accounting. I had them trace where we were renting a warehouse and delivering huge quantities of sugar. I also had Crash go down, find that armor in the art gallery, and bring it in her car. “And no wasting time looking for someone else’s car to bring it! Lives could be at stake.”

Which was true. Even if the Buzzkills or other folks around the docks had already ended Carl, their lives would still be at stake.

Then it was back to Security to arrange for my own personal army to invade a small section of Empyreal City. They would move in from the south with our own fleet of vehicles, including Tacticals and armored cars with turrets. I’d head in from the north. I met Crash at the gate there to get my armor. Yes, she saw me don it. If she didn’t explicitly know it before, now she does.

The only thing she asked me was, “You don’t want me to take my car in there, do you?” She pointed toward the north gate.

I shook my head even as I noticed a few husks of beehive in the fence. Little pieces, like from normal insects. “No, this is something I have to do alone, with a private army. Your car will only end up totaled, somehow. I’d find a way. While this is the season for people to explicitly not split up, I think you’ll probably be ok if you’re nowhere near this place.”

I chose stealth when heading in this time. I crashed in through the gates riding on the roof of somebody’s modified station wagon. Its front doors formed an angled bulldozer blade on the front of it, and I controlled the wheel and speed with a pair of ropes.

I charged off through the docks, blaring out Two Minutes to Midnight from my suit while navigating around cargo containers, equipment, cranes, and all that. My HUD couldn’t tell me where Carl called from, and I don’t know what he’s driving now. Maybe the very station wagon I commandeered.

You know, I figured there’d still be some workers wandering around. Something, anything that reacted more readily to all the noise and movement. That’s one of the things about hunting. It’s easy to see a moving target, since most of the environment doesn’t move. And when there is a lot of movement, still targets stand out a lot more. That’s why you flush things. That, and it makes the bathroom smell better.

Rather than take the scenic route, I figured I’d just pop in the nearest warehouse for a quick look-see. I had to jump down and hang off the rear. It was that or get knocked flat on my ass. I don’t go around getting my ass kicked for y’all’s entertainment. I do it because asses have needs to. Fetishes, even. Listen, my ass is a consenting adult and I stay out of its business, so y’all should too.

That building didn’t have much. Just huge, ominous hives. The wheels of the station dozer crunched over it. I pulled to a stop and waited as the Buzzkills buzzed out in miniature form, then grew into anthropomorphic, androgyne black and yellow bee people. They looked a lot brighter back in Tokyo, and their angles were rounder and curved. Here, the black didn’t reflect anything and the yellow was darker. They had spines sticking off their bodies now.

I waved at them and hopped on top of the car. “Hey guys!”

I couldn’t make out their buzzings, but some of them knelt.

“Yes, good. I deserve it. But can anyone tell me what’s going on? I hear something about people getting taken, and then my friend Carl disappeared around here earlier today. Anyone got any answers for me?”

They all stopped and turned toward a larger section of the hive where a bit of human flesh stuck out. I jogged over and pulled out…some random person. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much-” I shoved her back in when it turned out she wasn’t Carl.

“Guys, Carl isn’t a woman. Don’t y’all know the first thing about human gender?”

The nearest Buzzkill glanced at me, then around at its buddies. Then its hand morphed into a curved mixture of stinger and blade. It took a swipe at me. I grabbed its blade easily.

“Hey, you’re not supposed to attack me! I’m your boss. I’m your god. I give you sugar! Sweet, sweet Colombian sugar!”

Just then, I got a call in on my secret identity’s line. “Boss! It’s me. Security got me out, but they had to fight for it. Are you around here too? They had to burn one of the nests. The bugs are goin’ nuts!”

That explained some of the hostility, like how two more of the Buzzkills stepped up in front of me to try and free their friend. The others maintained their distance. I let go of the one I had, trying to see if I could salvage things. “I understand the other guys did something wrong. We’ll fix it. More sugar, right? After all, you’re a growing species. I brought you over in a single crate.”

The three Buzzkills seemed to consider it, buzzing back and forth between each other. I thought I remembered something about colony insects using smell, or even interpretive dance, in order to communicate. Unfortunately, the only smells I naturally produce make people want to kill me, so instead I settled on shaking my hips like Bombalurina during Macavity the Mystery Cat.

When they went quiet, I had a feeling negotiations didn’t go favorably. I reached into the hive and pulled out the captive woman just in time to catch the three stinger blades they shoved at me. What else was I going to do? Dodge? That’d require mild effort on my part.

“Ah, fuck it.”

I turned invisible and escaped, making sure not to make a smell that would give away my position. Getting out wasn’t difficult. The difficult part will be taming the Buzzkills all over again. I’ve put my top entomologists on it, which required hiring some top entomologists. In the meantime, the docks of Empyreal City are currently under quarantine by sufficiently bribed police under orders from sufficiently bribed agents from Customs.



Local Politics 7



I got to be mission control for a crime. Normally, I’m a hands-on kinda person, but watching and advising turned out to be fairly entertaining, too. Gave me an idea or two for the future, while we’re at it.

So the first part was fairly simple. When I’d talked to Professor Electro, we’d gone over that there were two main ways to start things. Either hit someplace smaller and leave enough of a mark that everyone knows he did it, or get it into position for the big score and perform a demonstration there. The problem is the lack of time. You start throwing lightning bolts around, you either wind up with significant police and hero attention or a bunch of worshipers. I suppose it depends on who you aim at and if anyone wants to base a system of governance on some guy on a mountain handing out lightning bolts.

We opted to try a demonstration first. Everything and everybody fit into a moving truck that stopped outside Global United Trust. The bank, with offices only in the United States, is particularly divisive after losing a lot of people money back during the financial crisis. Like the rest of the people, they got into the mortgage-backed security business.

Not sure if I’ve explained that before. This is going to be one of the more boring, educational sections for y’all, but parts of it are important for understanding the overall scheme.

Basically, big banks started making home loans so they could use the debt as an investment. According to Einstein, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. Regular interest is pretty strong too. This doesn’t sound that bad so far, but where they really got greedy is when they realized they’d made about all the loans people could afford. So banks began to go after people with worse and worse finances by making the payments look small at first and by telling these people they could afford it. After all, they’re banks. Why would they ever want to lose money by loaning money to people they know can’t pay it back? Well, they did because the mortgage-backed securities were so juicy and could even be sold off to make immediate money.

This only lasted as long as people kept paying their mortgages. I said they made the payments look good at first, remember? Yeah, once a certain amount of time passed, those payments went up. Or giving a loan to people with no ability to pay it back led to the natural consequence of them failing to keep paying it. Either way, that amazing source of income suddenly got cut off. But don’t worry; the banks insured many of those investments.

Of course, as y’all may or may not realize, too many expensive claims coming in at once messes with an insurance company’s ability to actually pay out. Insurers don’t just keep premiums in bank accounts to earn interest for them. Well, some of it they do. They’re required by law to keep at least a certain minimum in there. The rest is invested to make more money. Anyway, the companies who insured these securities weren’t able to pay the claims and started going bankrupt, which suddenly meant that all these banks were going to lose their money after all. On top of that, there’s apparently this thing called a credit default swap where people essentially took out insurance on other people’s debts that would pay out if the other company defaulted, which made a killing for a lot of people, up until they realized that the people who owed them money didn’t have it to pay.

That really exacerbated things. Dear readers, y’all shouldn’t exacerbate so much. You could go blind.

That, FINALLY, is where Global United Trust came in. They made a lot of money in the short term, then lost a lot of money. Global United Trust being quite a bit smaller than some of these banks at the top, they could have lost a lot of people’s lunch money. You earn a fuckton of bad will by telling people “Sorry, you can’t have your money back because the bank needs it to pay off our own debts.”

That’s why runs are so dangerous, and I don’t just mean the sort caused by adding too much Rotel to your taco meat. Banks also only keep some of the money in people’s savings accounts. They reinvest too. That’s one of the ways they actually make money, doing things like investing in bonds, real estate, and mortgage debt.

All of that is why most of the money in the United States doesn’t exist in dollar form. Ones and zeroes, just like the financial stratification of the U.S. And, hey, I know I sound like the Red Menace here, but I wouldn’t have to steal from the megarich if they spread the wealth around a little more. If people could make good money from middle-class people with less risk, they would rob them instead. Simple as that.

That’s why we went after Global United Trust. Prof. Electro hopped out of the van, accompanied by a half dozen men and women wearing black coats, black gloves, black pants, and wearing black Lycra underneath all that to further protect their identities. According to Carl, minions hate being identified working with specific villains. It gets them punched on more often by heroes, or charged as accomplices to actions that would be crimes even during wartime.

Before anyone could get a good look at everyone, the Professor and his crew headed down an alley next to the bank and popped open an exterior door to the security room. I’d sent out some interns to find the blueprints for the bank. Don’t say Chat Des Combes didn’t get me to listen to at least some advice before the French catburgler in the skintight suit turned on me back in Europe.

I’m already changing everything about how I operate, so I might as well take in the occasional piece of good advice. Keep the good, ignore the bad; “but test/examine everything. Hold fast/on to what is good,” as the Christian holy book says in stark contrast to the bumper sticker that reads “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Once in the security room, the security guard cashed in his life insurance policy and the team plugged a USB drive into the security computer that gave me control over it for my viewing pleasure. They then spread out, some through the connecting hall and some through windows that gave office workers a scenic view of graffitied alley walls. Coming up behind everyone, they forced tellers down at electro-gun point.

Professor Electro’s own creations, the electro-guns are designed to shoot electricity at people in defiance of conventional physics. Tasers have to use those little line things to convince electricity to go through another person before it heads to the ground. Lightning is a notorious hippie like that, always trying to hug the Earth. And no, he wouldn’t tell me how he does it.

The civilians went down also, except for some old guy who pulled his concealed handgun and then dropped it once his heart attack started. Professor Electro, resplendent in his lab goggles, breast plate, and lab gloves, marched the bank manager out in full view. Two of the minions went to work packing up the teller cash while the other four ran out and unpacked the Lightning Rod. I used the capital letters because Electro named it that. It isn’t actually a rod. It looks more like a box with four swirly antennas on the sides and a pump going through the middle.

The minions had to get it out because it needed a straight shot to the sky with its antennae. I told the Professor I could get a chop shop to add a sun roof to the truck if he gave me enough time, but he wanted to hurry on this one.

“Everyone, please file outside into the street!” Prof. Electro announced, waving his electro-pistol around the room.

This is where he and I had a bigger difference of opinion. I’d suggested he just bring out the manager, or even leave them all in there. The Prof. Insisted that we minimize casualties. This from the guy who wanted to threaten the entire city with the machine! When he told me that, I wished I had a metal glove or something to hit him upside the head with. Even though I shut him up in the office by pointing out that he should be willing to carry through with whatever he’s threatening, he called an audible in the field and led them all out. I even heard him mutter over comms, “We could have taken the one in the office if not for that psycho henchwoman.”

Louder, addressing the crowd, he said, “Behold! I will now demonstrate the power of my Lightning Rod!” With that, he ordered the henchmen away, revealing his Rod to the assembled hostages to great gasping. He set to work, adjusting the knobs and levers. The tips of the swirly antennas glowed, then released beams of pale blue light into the air. Almost immediately, lightning crackled across the clear sky and a bolt struck the bank, trashing the electronics.

Professor Electro and his somewhat-stunned gang cleared out of there before anyone knew it caught fire because the police were on their way at that point. Even without alarms, plenty of people had cell phones outside to catch the attack and report it, with videos making it to Youtube before Prof. Electro even escaped.

The next day, Prof. Electro stood atop 30 Park Place, a skyscraper still under construction. A shame we couldn’t use one of the better looking buildings instead of one of these newer monstrosities. I actually like the arches and points of the ones from the early 1900s as compared to the giant glass sticks everyone wants to put into the sky nowadays. It also didn’t help that some of those older ones house financial services. Prof. Electro and I considered some of those, but he accepted my reminder to back up his threats if necessary. And he definitely didn’t want to be on one of those buildings when struck.

So he sat on the roof of 30 Park Place, not passing Go, not collecting $200, and addressed a Giant Screen that featured icons of a dozen major banks and insurers who had interests in the residential and commercial buildings of New York. “Ladies, gentlemen, parasites… what I did to Global United Trust was only the tip of the iceberg. Pay the amount I forwarded to each of you to the accounts I forwarded to you within the hour, or the entirety of the iceberg will fall upon you like the Titanic…which really sunk by aliens, but nevermind that now. You can lose millions each….or this wonderful skyline becomes target practice and you lose everything, just like what the aliens did to the Titanic.”

I wasn’t sure about letting them know they weren’t the only ones in that boat, but the Professor claimed it would set them at ease to know that they weren’t the only ones in that situation. They got to keep it within the family, with an understanding that they could help each other get out of it.

I invited some others to watch the view from the cameras, satellites, and Giant Screen. Moai pulled up a recliner just in time for Crash to settle into it when Carl walked into the art gallery. “Hey boss, I got the cooler!”

“Good, hand me soda.” I held up my arm, hand in position to hold a bottle. “Hail Hydrate!”

Carl handed me a bottle. “Hail Hydrate, boss.”

“Hail Hydrate?” Crash asked.

“Hail Hydrate.” I told her.

She held up her hand. “Hail Hydrate!”

Carl handed her a drink. “Hail Hydrate.”

We didn’t have much of a view for awhile as the clock ticked down. Prof. Electro got his ass out of there. Then, at about the thirty minute mark, Forcelight flew into view. She glowed white, which matched her long hair and blank eyes. She’d altered her costume, though. She wore clingy black and grey with gold trim.

It figured. As the owner of a medical company with a lot of hospitals and research facilities, she and her board probably had connections with one of these captains of finance. The project that gave Forcelight her ability to fly and manipulate light as if it were solid put a hit in the coffers of Long Life, her company. The resulting loss of money forming a superhero team called Shieldwall actually convinced the Long Life Board of Directors to remove much of the financial decision-making power from her.

They needed the money, in other words, and she could get back in her own people’s good graces by helping out. She wasn’t quite who I expected to fly in and try to save the day. I’d hoped for another sighting of my dear Venus. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

“There’s no one here. Just the screen,” she spoke to a device on her wrist.

I held up my phone and spoke, my voice coming out of the screen. “That’s right. Professor Electro can fire his device from anywhere in the city. Much of this was a deception, I’m afraid. But you don’t shouldn’t worry about that. You have bigger problems.”

She blasted the screen to pieces, then looked around, noticing the situation she’d fallen into when she wasn’t looking. The Oligarch, Terrorjaw, Man-Opener, Giuseppe’s Toy Soldiers, and numerous other villains flew into view from lower floors of the building. Herne the Hunter rode his motorcycle up the side of the building and landed it on the roof, aiming his spear right at Forcelight, his ghost hounds appearing at his heels.

You could almost hear the ding as the lightbulb went off in her head. Maybe that was the ka-ching as the various accounts on my side computer monitor began to fill up with the requested amounts. Or, more likely, it was the microwave announcing that our popcorn was finished right at the best part.

Still, a shame we didn’t fire off that Lightning Rod again, but at least my little Psycho Sanitarium got itself a new tenant.



Under The Radar 10



Ah, my wonderful Empyreal City. In the days following my capture of the premier heroines around, a wonderful change occurred. In its own way, the city accepted me back. Sure, people publicly condemned me every which way they could. However, a few people on the street expressed a bit of dark humor: according to one guy stopped on the street by a news crew, “Shit, uh, yeah, them heroes better watch who they be wantin’ to kill now. They might get him instead, know what I’m sayin’?”

A few other people on the news made similar comments, as did some letters to the editor of the newspapers.

At the end of the day, it’s not because they liked me for me. It’s just that most people are jerks. And if they have to choose between some goody two shoes breaking your arm over parking in the wrong spot, or an evil motherfucker who doesn’t care, they’ll pick me. Commit any crime in front of a Knight Templar and they’re screwed no matter what.

Plus, I hate everyone equally. No racial profiling!

That’s why I had no problem taking in the sights. Up in the sky, twenty stories high, I stood on a rooftop and peered down at the city that loved me like a battered woman. Somewhere down there was a girl I wanted to kill. But first…

I held my hand out to the side. “Oh girls…umbrella drink time.” I grinned and removed my helmet off, showing off an astounding case of helmet hair. I felt my two escorts grudgingly step forward.

“It’s your turn,” Venus told Forcelight. The taller woman continued on with my multi-colored, fruity-tasting tropical drink and pressed the glass into my fingers.

“Thank you, my dear. Oh, and I keep meaning to ask: how’s your dad doing? About gotten tired of prison food and dodging shanks, I hope.” I turned to look at her as I sipped on the drink.

Forcelight glared down at me with open contempt. And after the way I’ve treated her. Sure, she’s been my prisoner, but I’ve hardly been that mean of a captor. The two heroines ate just as well as the rest of us. I even showed off my own version of chicken under a brick for dinner, and this time I picked a clean brick. I even gave them privacy to change, and only rarely asked them to put on the harem girl outfits or the Princess Leia golden bikini.

Heck, I’d have loved to wear a golden bikini during my most recent captivity. Chicken under a brick is a hell of a lot better than drugged chunks of food. And while the nanites gave me the ability to tell where they were and stop them from acting against me, at least I didn’t take advantage of the situation by drugging them or pulling furniture away just when they were about to use it.

Ah well, I shouldn’t waste so much anger on them. After all, there are starving kids in Africa. They need to be killed too.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do after I’m done with Pixie, I thought. Take a nice vacation over to some sub-saharan region full of ethnic cleansing, drink nothing but lighter fluid for three days straight, and light my piss on fire as I swing it all over starving African children. Preferably while enjoying a greasy McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Then I can work on crashing an iceberg into Saudi Arabia…

“The Doctor’s fine. He’s staying on his best behavior to atone for what he did,” Forcelight answered me, shaking me from my reverie.

“Good to hear,” I said with a nod. “I never hear back from him when I write him.”

“You send strippers with messages written all over their bodies. If they weren’t guys, if he could read all of it, and if he could get past the glass to write on them, he still wouldn’t like you enough to write. He said you were a human black hole of compassion. You’re where hope goes to die.” She crossed her arms as she finished speaking to me.

I raised an eyebrow. “He said all that, eh? Well whenever we would play cards, he’d cheat, so there.” I stuck out my tongue, then helped myself to more of my drink. Say what you will about my inability to keep straight whether a flush is higher than three of a kind, but at least I took losing like a man. A blubbering, murderous man who threatened to gut the dealer like prostitute in Whitechapel.

“As if you’re playing fair. You’ve always got something up your sleeve,” Venus mentioned.

“Totally unfair,” I told her. “I merely create opportunities that I, as someone who acts outside the status quo, can take advantage of. There’s really less of a plan than you’d think.” I smiled at her, then took another sip.

“Like the nanites,” growled Forcelight. It’s times like that that remind me a lot of women hate me.

“Hey, y’all are doing it to. You stole my nanite design. Come to think of it, you stole my suit’s life support systems, too. Though I guess it makes sense. Crime is in your blood.” I chuckled. When Forcelight tried to hit me, I redirected it into her own face. “Why are you hittin’ yourself, huh?”

What Forcelight didn’t know about her own nanites…it’ll be my own little private joke, up until it isn’t.

“Some good will come of you being here, in spite of yourself,” Venus said. She walked up beside me with a smirk on her face. She wore a pair of cat ears with her civilian clothes, and a motorized tail flicked behind her. I smiled wide and scritched at her ear.

“Nyaaaaan!” I said, batting at her ears and erasing that smirk.Then I grabbed them and stopped, looking her in the eyes. “You know, I’m of two very different minds about so many things, such as the Long Life nanites. What do you suppose I’m like when something gets my complete attention?” I left her there and stepped to the side of the building to check.

Shortly after taking the heroines hostage and reiterating my demands on TV, I stopped by Times Square with the Whambulance and performed some creative redecorating on the side of a row of buildings. “Pink Pixie, Here,” is all it said. For, as Polonius said, I will use no art.

Venus followed, but never stepped up beside me. “She’s scared. She’s still grieving. She doesn’t know where her head is at, and you already made her sick. I know you lost someone, but so did she. Please, Gecko, call this off. Please.”

“No. I get to do what everyone wants in this situation. A loved one is murdered, so the family wants payback.” I turned and smiled at Venus, then slapped her across the face. She didn’t try to dodge it. Instead, she stood there as a red mark spread over her face from the impact. A hint of admiration escaped from within the crushing confines of my hate.

Two minds about most things; unfortunately that group still included Venus.

Down below, I noticed people turning their gaze to the air. I checked for what had captured their attention, then reached back and pulled Venus close to the edge. She whirled her left arm to maintain her balance, as if I’d let her fall.

Like I’d let her fall. I’d prefer to push her. Why didn’t I push her? I think because I was focused on the task at hand.

I pointed so Venus could follow along with the crowd and me. “Look, up in the sky!” There, dodging a flock of birds as a plane soared by high in the air, was Pixie. She still had a breathing mask, and she drifted from side to side as she flew. She didn’t fly a straight line. I noticed a little extra bulk on her backside, and I don’t mean her ass. She carried an oxygen tank.

I tossed my drink over the side of the building and settled my helmet onto my head. Then I walked back to grab my saxophone.

Forcelight didn’t say anything, but Venus spoke to me quietly. “Please, be the bigger man this time.”

I cocked my head to the side. “Ya know, Venus, it occurs to me that I’m going to be pretty focused on our disgraced heroine there. I wouldn’t be able to pay as much attention to you and Forcelight even if I wanted to. Especially not with all these innocent bystanders running around. There might be time yet today for heroes.”

Then came the important part. Setting the mood. I nabbed every passing unsecured cell phone in the area and made them join in playing a little something to put me in the mood. “Home,” by Dream Theater, skipped ahead two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. I rocked my head along to the music

“Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, make a fire!” I sang along. I held out the sax by the buttons so that the bell curved roughly in my direction and pressed on the rocket key. Flames roared out of the bell and I rocketed off the building to meet the Pink Pixie in the air. “Liiiiiiiiiiiiiines, take me higher!”

I headed right for her, already feeling Venus rush over to Forcelight and then depart the roof for the streets below. Meanwhile, Pixie halted in midair and put up her dukes. I timed it so that I hit the smoke bomb key just as we met. Smoke obscured the saxophone momentarily and I directed the bell upward. By the time the cloud dissipated enough to show clearly I wasn’t there, the bell clanged into Pixie’s head from above. Then I set my feet down on Pixie’s shoulders.

She grabbed for me and I jumped, landing on her head and trying to balance. The rocket helped. “Psycho Gecko steps up to tee. Will he be able to make the green?” I swung the rocket around and jumped, bonking Pixie hard from behind. The momentum carried her forward. Damage was unlikely, given her abilities.

Unfortunately, I no longer had a leg, or Pixie’s head, to stand on. I latched onto the oxygen tank with my free hand instead. It bought me a couple seconds as she whirled around to try and grab me. I sank lower, but not from losing my grip. The tank slipped off, pulling Pixie’s breathing mask free with it.

I had an idea about the oxygen tank from the moment I saw it, and that seemed the best moment to put it into action. I gripped it in my thighs and activated my Nasty Surprise. I cut off the end of the valve, then withdrew the small chainsaw. It spewed oxygen as I aimed it up at the pink and black-clad heroine who dove down at me now.

“Flame on!” I yelled, then brought my saxophone around and hit the rocket key again. The flames caught the oxygen on fire. It pretty much blew apart in such a way as blast up toward Pixie. The fireball-propelled hunk of metal bounced off her face, but stunned her momentarily.

I didn’t get the best look. I flew off and angled around to get above Pixie. She had trouble finding me; score one for my three-sixty heads-up display. Sax held in my right hand, I diverted a charge to my left. I flew high as the charge built. Then I let off the key and swept the sax down to rocket again toward Pixie.

Marvin the Martian would have been proud. While not as loud as an earth-shattering kaboom, the power concentrated in the energy sheathe around my fist focused outward. It hammered the Pink Pixie with far more force than the blow would have normally had, exciting molecules and burning a hole in her costume as I smashed her toward the street below.

No cars were harmed. Venus and Forcelight cleared the street sometime during my aerial struggle. Funny how that worked out.

Pixie bounced off the street and gasped for breathe. I cut the sax rocket on approach and landed on her windpipe with my knee. Any ordinary person’s throat would have been crushed. Quite a few extraordinary people, too. Pixie wheezed, but survived.

She grabbed me by the torso. I felt her fingers bend the armor plates and dig into my body as she squeezed. I tried the disorientation note from the sax, but it made no difference. All she needed to do was pull away with her hands and she’d have taken flesh off me. I bashed at her face, again and again, until I’d reduced the instrument to twisted bronze.

When she pinched, it wasn’t just a little skin and a little pain. She squeezed organs. I always meant this to get brutal, but I hoped to avoid feeling it. Sadly, feeling it is precisely what I did. In the famous last words of Rasputin, “Ouch, that kinda hurts.”

I tried wrapping my legs around her chest just under her arms in case she decided to try throwing me away. That would be bad, because littering is a crime and she’s supposed to be a role model.

I jammed the mangled saxophone into Pixie’s mouth. It stopped there, but I put as much of my weight as possible on it. I felt Forcelight and Venus on the edge of the battle then. I left the nanites one command on repeat: stop.

I felt the sax slide in far enough to be down Pink Pixie’s throat. Unfortunately, her breathing whistled out through the mouthpiece. I hadn’t thought of that. But, as my own personal history shows, any problem can be solved through the insertion of a fist. Unfortunately, this was no time to apply it rectally. Only oral would save me now; a sentence most guys would love to use in the presence of a woman. I crammed my left fist into her mouth. It didn’t fit well with all the rough metal and superstrong muscles, but I made enough headway into the back of her mouth to cut off the air supply. Laughing at an idea that flitted across my brain, I began charging the energy sheath again. Her mouth began to glow as the energy accumulated in the sheath inside her head.

It wasn’t so funny that I split my sides. Pixie did that for me.With a wet ripping sound, Pixie tore handfuls of armor and gore away. Then she grabbed at my left arm with both hands. She pulled, but I got a handhold on the back of her tongue. Caught between the single strongest muscle in her superpowered body and the combined strength of her arms, I knew my weak flesh stood the best chance of failing first.

And it would have, if the Pink Pixie’s hadn’t exploded in a moist and brainy mess. I looked down at her for a moment, feeling I needed to be sure of her death. Then my eye kindly reminded my brain that checking for a pulse is unnecessary when the head has been removed. Loudly, for as many to hear as possible, I said, “One’s own mortality is a difficult subject to swallow.”

Then I jumped to my feet and pumped my arms in the air, cheering. I quickly doubled over, holding my arms over the holes in my sides. The nanites from the broken edges of the quilted layer spread over the wounds, working to close them up, but the act itself reminded me of the incredible pain in my left arm. I went to take a look at it and discovered it missing about halfway down the forearm.

This time when I jumped, it involved a lot more cussing and holding my arm.

So that’s how the Pink Pixie died. I didn’t stick around for any parades or celebrations. I rescinded my order and left Forcelight and Venus to their own devices while I got the hell out of there. I had a lot of patching up to do. I wish I felt like mourning more. I also sent off a message to the minor supers who first contacted me about the entire job.

They sure got their money’s worth, that’s for sure. It could have been messy if I added on some of my costs to their bill. I suppose I got off easy as well, considering the forces arrayed against me.

It only cost me an arm, not the leg too.



Under The Radar 9



Surprisingly, personifications of the year eventually disappear after their death. I thought Matty just felt like cleaning up my place last year when I had to protect him from his murderous predecessor. Too bad, too. I meant to give him a bit of a viking funeral, but now I’ll have to make do without a body.

Moai and Carl had their own service, but I’ve been busy hunting down Pink Pixie since she plugged Matty. Or unplugged him.

I needed a lot more eyes and ears quickly, so I cut in to local phone and internet services using a few hidden towers. The more I had, the less lag as I received signals from further abroad, but I had limited time. I wished I could have used my nanites somehow, but the ones I injected people with were meant for more of a hostage situation. No amount of wishful thinking could give them audio recording devices. They could build antennas on people to transmit a signal back to me, but that would be conspicuous.

There was no way to physically stop her Pixie from fleeing. I could probably keep boats and planes from leaving, but the roads and bridges were another matter. Besides all that, Pixie can just fly out.

No, I quickly realized that racing around to find her while she flew the coop just wouldn’t work. I needed bait. Problem was, if I had hostages, Venus and her big friend would probably respond instead. I could make an announcement that I’d kill them unless Pixie came, but she’d never come along. Venus wouldn’t let her. She’d be disinclined to acquiesce to my request since I bent the rules so readily on our deal with Pixie.

She’ll probably understand why I’m going after her fiery little friend at this point, but that won’t make her any more likely to take me up on another deal. Used to be, I was a man of my word for such an agreement. That’s been less true lately.

A little late to take a football team hostage. Celebrities…celebrities…you know, I really don’t float in the celebrity scene. As much as I can flawlessly blend in with the rich and famous, it’s not because I like eating expensive fish eggs and drinking the highest quality rotten grape juice. I know! Elected officials!

I hear the cops don’t even like this guy. Something about his kids being profiled. Yeah, he’ll do.

The first part of the plan involved getting a good view of City Hall and seeing if any of my enemies were around. I sent Carl out into the bustling local executive branch to test the weight of the limb and see if I risked getting pecked. Trust me, I don’t want my pickle pecked, not even by a pack of pickled pepper peckers led by Peter Piper.

Carl went in, dressed much like any other normal person, and changed into a janitorial jumpsuit in a bathroom. That got him access pretty much anywhere he needed to go. He managed to get close enough to the Mayor’s office to determine that no superpowered guards waited within. “Uh, looks like we’re all clear, boss.”

I tapped Moai on the shoulder and he dropped onto his side. I jumped on and began running backwards as he rolled forward. I didn’t hide this time. No pirates, no pimps, just Psycho Gecko rolling up the stairs chasing a couple cops inside on my own personal rolling Moai conveyance. Once inside, I hopped off Moai and let him continue chasing the security. I had a bigger fish to gut.

I made a beeline for the Mayor’s office. The mayor’s secretary looked shocked to see me. “Hello there, miss personal assistant…and I’m sure you have many lovely assets for the job, too…but I’m here to see the big cheese. Hold all his calls and don’t bother alerting the police, or I may have to cut the cheese, ya hear?”

She nodded, though I still heard the panicked responses as people called out on cell phones. I even noticed the secretary pushing a panic button. I passed by Carl, who stood there with a bucket and mop. “”Scuse me, let me just borrow this here for a second…” I turned and smacked the mop against the secretary’s head, breaking the end off. She slumped over onto her keyboard with the mop’s dirty head draped over her hair. I then handed the broken handle to Carl and gave him a pat on the shoulder. He had another part to play.

When I broke in the door, I found the mayor and another man behind a large wooden desk. It was a warm office, with its own rug and rich wooden flooring, and a fireplace. Old books and memorabilia of past mayors from the city’s history adorned the walls. It looked just as much like a museum as an office. I hummed a jaunty little tune and closed the door behind me even as the other man in the office, a balding man in a blue suit of very thin pinstripes, talked to 911.

I whirled around and walked as if this wasn’t a terrible interruption in anyone’s day, then hopped up on the desk and leaned down, holding out my hand toward the guy. “A word with them, if you’ll please?”

“Do it, Tom,” said the Mayor. He had on a tan shirt with a blue tie, having slipped his jacket off to tend to business. I nodded toward the Mayor to emphasize what the man said. Tom handed me the phone.

“Greetings! It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko. I know you have heard I died after a brief stint in the loving care of Uncle Sam, but I’m here to tell you now that rumors of my death are premature. That’s a good thing, just so you know. It looks like y’all need me. Without me around to be a murder-hungry destroyer of all that’s good, looks like some of the hero population is trying to take the job. That’s why I want you to let the fine heroes know that I want one of them delivered to me here. The Pink Pixie. I know she may not want to see me again, but just tell her I’ve changed and I think I’m ready to help her look after the baby now. If I don’t get her, your mayor and his friend here will fall down and go boom.”

I ended the call and tossed it back to Tom. “Here ya go, fellow. By the way, you should invest in some deodorant. You’re sweating like an almost-stuck pig.”

That didn’t inspire him to drop his humidity level, not even as I hurried him and the Mayor to where I needed them. I knew I wouldn’t have long, and I was right. Just a short while later, Venus’s old friend Forcelight came flying through the air. Yay, Venus’s stronger, tougher, flight-capable friend with the light manipulation powers and ownership of the Long Life Corporation. If I had to guess, I’d pick her to be the tall one of those slicer sisters from last time. She carried a slumping Pixie bridal-style. I watched her on an exterior camera set up in the Whambulance hidden across the street. She passed over the news crews and assembled emergency response units, ignoring their perimeter.

They made a hell of a ruckus coming through City Hall, but finally Forcelight kicked open the door to the office and saw me there. “Hello ladies,” I said, reclining on the desk with a bottle of champagne and a saxophone. “How about we drop the hero-villain formalities along with our pants and have a pleasant conversation about the best way to scream my name?”

Forcelight’s only reaction was to look around, checking out the room. No explosives or anything, just the mayor off in the corner with the same black suit on that he’d been photographed in a hundred times.

I continued, “He won’t watch. He knows if he peeks, he’s going straight into the gimp mask. But enough about me, why not drop your little girlfriend off over here and make my day? I mean, you may be in better shape, but your friend there is what I’m after. Pale, sweaty forehead, breathing mask, nubile young body. You know what they say at St. Jude’s: if the field’s condemned anyway, you might as well play ball.”

Forcelight’s own pale face frowned as she dropped Pixie’s legs to the ground and used the spare arm to blast away the hologram of me on the desk. “Where are you?” she asked. Another blast made the mayor disappear as well. Experimentally, she blasted the desk away and a few holes in the ceiling. That fiend! What kind of villain would come in and wreck an office like that?

“How rude,” I told Carl, the Mayor, Tom, and Moai in our cramped little space. “She’s wrecking the place. Carl, we’d better stop her.”

He nodded, the kicked open the backdoor of the Whambulance. The airsoft cannon I’d built into the rear extended out and took me with it in gunner’s seat. This time when I fired, explosive cylinders took flight instead of penguins. What they lacked in ability to aim, they made up for in ability to blow the fuck out of people. They weren’t packed as full as the original one I cooked up for Pixie, but Moai and Carl fed enough of them to the gun to make up the difference.

Metal cylinders burst through the walls into the side of the building where Forcelight and her Pixie stood in the Mayor’s office. The seeds I planted in the building blossomed into fireballs as the room blew apart. I whirled the cannon to the side and swept the explosive wave over the assembled police, firemen, and EMTs. The reporters didn’t escape unscathed either. When I finished, I left the gun to Carl. “Here, take care of this. Anything tries to kick you off, give ’em hell.”

“Boss, is it fun?” asked Carl. He dropped into the seat and looked over the controls.

“Pretty damn fun,” I said as I walked toward the wreckage in City Hall.

I managed to pick up a murmur from him, “I’d a thought you’d laugh more.”

Even I haven’t been at my happiest since Matty. Part of the reason was crawling out of the wreckage. Forcelight and Pink Pixie. More likely, someone pretending to be Pixie. I found Forcelight unconscious in the rubble, but still alive. A dose of nanites insured her good behavior when she woke up. As for Pixie, I found her hidden under that thick desk of the mayor’s. She looked like a mess, with her pale makeup running off and her costume torn. I ripped the mask the rest of the way off.

Wow, must have been some blast. It deformed her so much, she looked like Venus in a Pink Pixie costume. She looked up at me, a contact slipping out as she tried to blink dust and grime out of her eyes. I put my boot tread in her face, then took advantage of her stunned and hurt state to gift her with some nice, controlling nanites. “You’ll want to behave now, Venus dear. Wouldn’t want you to strain yourself and get a heart attack and stroke all at once.”

Holding onto the pair of them, I called out to the cameras trained on the scene. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank y’all for playing along. As y’all can no doubt see, someone didn’t give me what I asked for. I ordered some Pixie, and got nothing but a pair of unwelcome bitches.” I dropped the two to the ground. Forcelight began to cough. I moved my hand in a slapping gesture and she slapped herself across the face. “But that’s ok. If people want to give me more hostages, I’ll take them. Just give me Pink Pixie, soon.”

I knelt down next to Forcelight and Venus. Forcelight tried to punch me, but stopped herself. I seemingly ignored her as I looked into a camera that a ballsy operator moved forward. “Send me Pink Pixie, folks. This time, I’m not joking.”

Didn’t I used to be funny at some point? Ah, sorry about that, folks, but I’m fairly confident I’ll get this Pixie now.

In the meantime, I may have a few guests at the lair who know how to work a palm frond fan and feed me grapes.



Not The Size That Counts 7

My time as a pet Gecko wasn’t well spent.

You folks out there, you want to know why I’d rather make heroes choose between killing me and letting me go? This shit right here. Being locked in a dark little box, day after day. Shrunken. Powerless. Stuck in a tiny box at the mercy of a man who saw me as less than a person because that’s what made him feel good morally.

Some of you may see some hypocrisy there. I guess it’s important to understand that I didn’t say people weren’t people. I said they were babies. You should understand as well that I don’t actually care about people’s lives.

Well, perhaps I did have some exceptions to that caring thing, but Leah and Venus stuck me in this can and handed me over without so much as some whiskey in the jar-o.

I had tried to get out in some way, but Amplitude was smart. His phone was disabled when not being used. No battery power. He didn’t have a giant screen, but he did have computers that were secured, to my frustration. There was nothing in my immediate vicinity that I could worm my way into. Alone in the dark, laying on the floor of the giftbox I was handed over in, I did the only thing I could.

I sang. That, and I researched some fun ways to off people. I had no intention of staying stuck. I had Hephaestus to destroy. After that, it might be time to pay Kingscrow another visit, followed by a nice vacation on the west coast, I think.

Unfortunately, he must have found some way to resist the destructiveness of my singing. It’s not a special power, it’s just me sucking hard. It didn’t even phase him when he dropped off scraps of food for me. That part wasn’t quite so inhumane, though. At this size, scraps gave me leftovers.

Today was different. Today, my world got turned upside down. That’s not much of an accomplishment once you remember that I live in a small metal box. It got a bit messy though. Troubleshooter didn’t leave me with a toilet, or an outhouse, or even a hole in the floor. It didn’t help my mood to be lifted up in this thing and realize I was sliding toward my poop corner while getting tipped out. I pressed off from the wall and dove out instead.

I rolled as I hit the wood surface I had been tipped out on, but didn’t get far. Amplitude, now much smaller than a human, got me in one hand and tossed aside my box with the other. Being as small as I was made me nimble as a mouse. Problem was, Amplitude was more like a cat in size when he grabbed me. I almost got free before he grabbed one of my arms and pulled it out straight. He pulled out a black gadget, stuck my hand under one part of it, and then closed another part of it on me. Clever.

I hadn’t been able to see it at the time, but this blocky black device must have been what Leah handed over. Forcelight had explained that it was capable of making me compliant. You’d think they would have been wrong since other cuffs meant to neutralize supers had failed against me. This time, they were right. A shame they had to alter something so elegant. I calmed down even as Amplitude locked my other hand into the device.

There I was, a prisoner in old, stinky doll clothes facing a superpowered enemy in a fresh costume.

Amplitude kept an eye on me for any odd behavior as he grew back to his normal size. He carried me over toward a small table with metal cuffs on it. He must have interrogated small people regularly to have that built. He even had one of those rolling office chairs right in front of it as if torture was an everyday occurrence. “That relaxed you nicely. I can’t imagine what all this trouble was about, seeing you like this. You’re not even capable of shouting insults at me. Just standing there with that smartass smile on your face. Psycho Gecko, I hope you take it as compliment when I say I am completely disappointed in you.”

“Don’t be disappointed yet. It’s kinda hard to stop me.” I felt my nerves connect to the doohickey my hands were stuck in.

He shook me in his hand like I was an annoyance. “Hush. It was easy. Even someone like you can not take on the world alone.”

He didn’t have much of a grip on me, though. He was just about to put me in his tiny torture rack. He was so damn cool and collected, up until the moment I activated the anti-grav device stuck to my hands. Rather than render the person using it immune to the effects of gravity, it temporarily negated it for something else. This time the something else in question was Amplitude as he took a step.

Instead of merely moving forward, he went up into the air. I used his panicked confusion to slip free and fall to the ground. I landed safely on the ground while he banged into a truss, spun out, and slammed into the ceiling.

He grabbed hold of the rafters and got himself oriented, looking down at me. “Some trick you have here, Gecko. The heroes set this up?”

“Heroes? Set up a villain? Get used to it, Ass Man.”

He grit his teeth. “That is not my name.” Using the rafters, he flung himself at me. His size distorted in midair. His hand alone grew to be at least a couple feet from base to fingertips. Still, the agility provided by my size proved useful. I was Muhammad Ali dodging him there. A four inch Caucasian Muhammad Ali with blond hair and cybernetic eyes. Perfect metaphor. As he crumpled harmless against the cold concrete floor, I ran at him from the side. I swung both of my arms in a mighty double uppercut that, along with him bouncing off the floor, knocked him up to the ceiling again.

I immediately turned the uppercut into me spinning around and reaching for the sky in a dance move that would have been seductive if performed by a woman in a cat costume. “Oh, Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity, he’s a fiend in feline shape; he breaks the law of gravity.”

“Shut up and fight me like a man!” replied Amplitude. He was such a newbie.

He came for me again, but this time I knew what I needed to do. I turned to the table where he intended to torture me, and more specifically to the chair. I zapped it with the anti-gravity thingamabobber, grabbed it, and beat the shit out of Amplitude’s face with it in a blow that sent him through a door and into a showroom full of unusually large pants. That was the way out. The front to his hideout.

Obviously, I wasn’t there to look for a new way to escape. I was looking for Mix N’Max. I turned to survey the room I was in. There wasn’t much to it. A computer system, the table with the torture rack, another table with my box on it next to a TV and coffee maker. It didn’t look overly out of place as the breakroom of a clothing store. There was another door, though.

I slipped through the bottom of the door to survey the new room. It was more like what I expected. Black carpeting, black walls with the occasional white “A” around. Another computer on its own special desk in the middle of the room. It faced a wall that of various cages that had been screwed or nailed up. Rodent cages, I mean. The kind of things you stuck rats or hamsters in. Some were connected by the sorts of tubes those cages had, and I could make out some crowds in those cages. I only noticed ones or twos in the isolated cages. Escape didn’t appear to be much of an option, though. A long, open-top terrarium sat underneath the rodent cages. I couldn’t make out what was in that terrarium.

I approached the cages and yelled to them, “It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, here to save you!”

The people in the cages began to yell for me. I held up my hands. “Shut up you crazy, desperate fuckers! Before I can save everyone, I need to know where I can find someone who can reverse my size problem. Where is Mix N’Max?”

I thought it was a waste of time at first. They babbled and pounded on the side of their cage. Then I realized the pounding was an answer. I checked the other side of the room and saw a cart next to a set of shelves full of small devices meant to hold shrunken people. Only one of them was active: a cylinder that rotated end over end that sat next to a small pot.

Maybe it tested puke resistance.

I didn’t have long, I figured. I knew the anti-gravity effect was temporary, but not how temporary. Temporary is one of those phrases that’s more like a creepy uncle who likes to play “Fun Touchy Time” with you in the basement. It’s relative.

Firing on this cylinder wouldn’t do squat, except make it harder to work with Max. I really wish I had explosives. That wasn’t necessarily relevant to the situation, it’s just something I’ve often thought about lately. I figured that if Amplitude put Max in that thing, though, he probably had a means to get him out.

I was right. I made the anti-grav manacles let me go and dropped them so I could climb. I scrambled my ass up the cart and hopped on a shelf, then stacked some equipment up until I could jump to the next one. Just because I’m a supervillain doesn’t mean I’m not also a Super Mario.

So, how was I to free Mix N’Max? How was I to surmount such an insurmountable obstacle? Turns out, the thing was plugged in to make it rotate. Once that was out of the way, there was a release on the side. Max came tumbling out. I stopped him from rolling off the edge of the shelf, and I held his hair out of his face as he threw up over the side.

“There you go, Max. Let it all out. Remember, puke is just hunger leaving the body.”

“Wha?” he asked, then heaved some clear fluids up. He had run out of food at that point.

“Just going by the same logic as that ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’ phrase. Makes perfect sense like that.”

“It’s so good to see you, man,” Max said without even looking at me. He kept dealing with false starts on another heave.

“Yeah. I’m here to bust y’all out. I don’t suppose you know a way to make me grow so I can take out Amplitude, do you?”

He stood up and turned toward me. He didn’t look quite as pale, for some reason, which was odd on several levels. His hair was a mess, he was naked, and he had vomit in the corner of his lips and hanging down from his nostrils. Still, it’s not like there was any reason for me to push him away when he went to hug me.

“Not to rush you, man, but Amplitude could get back here any minute, and you need to find someway to make me big again. Preferably some way that also works on my inorganic components. You got something?”

It was a regrettable question. Max did indeed have a solution for my problem. The solution wound up involving some of what he’d just expelled and I was beginning to think his power was to give any fluid around any effect he wanted.

See, he had hopped onto the cart. There were some things there he could use. Chemicals mainly, but also some small bowls that he said were kept around in case a prisoner of Amplitude’s couldn’t eat solid food anymore. Max even made use of some of the cleaning supplies on there, using a bleach wipe as a filter.

I did not want to drink what he handed me in a bowl five minutes later.

“You have to drink some, then pour the rest on yourself,” Max explained.

“I don’t want to do either of those.”

“It’s as safe as anything else I make.”

“If I was worried about that, that still wouldn’t be comforting. More concerned about how gross it is.”

“You’ve done gross things before.”

“I don’t generally consume gross things.”

“Yeah right. Just because you don’t know what they do to your fast food…”

I heard a crash from the other room. A crash that sounded like a chair hitting the ground. Time was up.

“Ok, ok, I got this,” I said. I dropped to my knees and bashed my head against the metal cart, then swallowed some of the stuff before I could think. Then I splattered the rest all over myself.

“I feel…dirty, like I just poured baked beans on myself.” I shivered, then asked Max, “Hey, by the way, is this going to be uneven in any way? Like am I going to be big again but still have the same size dick or something? Because I’d like to go the other way on that if we could.”

Then I noticed I was looking down on my smiling friend-like person and hopped off the shopping cart.

The landing was a bit rougher.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be regular-sized in a minutes.”

I heard footsteps in the other room. By the time I was as tall as the cart, he was coming closer. I waited next to the door as I grew. Amplitude burst in, eyes glowing, having to duck to get inside the room. I was maybe half his height, so I ducked and rammed into the side of his left leg with my shoulder. He tried to catch himself and might have succeeded if didn’t try that on the other leg too. He spun his arms and tried to catch onto something, but it didn’t help. He fell slowly. Staying out of eyesight, I grabbed the metal cart. Max abandoned ship as I swung it overhand and caught Amplitude in the head. He slumped back with a sigh, but I didn’t stop until I’d gotten a few more swings in. I’m sure y’all would think that was reasonable, right? Just one or two…dozen…more hits to the man’s head.

Finally, when I was finished, I turned to look down at the miniscule smiling figure of Max, who walked over and gave Amplitude a kick in the side. “Hey, Max. Any idea where he keeps the sharp objects around here?”

He woke up, by the way. He wasn’t dead yet. Oh, no no no. It took some slapping, even Max throwing water on him, before Amplitude woke up.

“Huwha? What’s going on? Agh! My head! What’s going on?”

“Well, look who decided to join us. Wakey wakey, sleepyhead.”

He turned his head to try and look at me, but there were all sorts of problems with that. First was the blindfold. The second was the paralysis.

“I can’t move. I can’t see. What’s going on?”

“Relax, puppet. Here, let Uncle Gecko tell everyone the story.”

“Everyone? What’s going on? Help!”

I shifted in my chair, being real careful in how the giant Amplitude was seated on me. Had to keep my hand up his ass, you see. My other hand was too busy moving this wooden stick that had a length of rope fixed to it. The rope formed a loop that let me move Amplitude’s hand.

I ignored Amplitude’s desperate pleading and addressed the others I’d released who were slowly being treated by Max. He was still small. I saw some of the clubgoers in the crowd, as well as people I had never seen before. Maybe other prisoners of Amplitudes. Sam and Holly were there as well. People had kinda gotten over the lack of modesty seeing as nobody had any regular-sized clothes.

I started using a stupid, high pitched voice as I spoke to them as Amplitude, using the stick to help him gesture as I told the tale, “Howdy there folks! I’m Ass Man, the Human Ass! I work for Hephaestus. They hired me to pick on Psycho Gecko because he wanted to be paid with all the rights to a song. Why? None of your business! But he got mean with us. Yessiree, the mass murdering serial killer with the exploding chickens didn’t want to be treated like a simple car thief. That made Hephaestus angry, so we decided to waste lots of money attacking him!”

“Who are you talking to?” asked Amplitude. Sounded like he was crying. If I could have gotten around there easily, I’d have lapped up some of his tears.

“Shut up!” I told him in the same high pitched voice. Then I continued. “So I pretended I was better scum than Gecko by kidnapping a lot of people whose only crime was going to the wrong club. What does this make me, class?”

“A jerk!”




“Wow, the class really thinks Ass Man is a jerk, huh? That’s good, because then I ran into Psycho Gecko again. He had been shrunk but got away. A hero was helping him to fight back, but then they decided they would turn on Gecko. Sure, they gave him a way to escape, but they didn’t bother to tell him. They just talked him into calming down long enough to turn him over to Amplitude. Why should they care if Amplitude dies? Why care if Gecko dies either? Nevermind that he’s in the right here and they are supposed to help people. Fuck people, they get to be heroes. Whiny little bitches whining about their own drama rather than getting out there and stopping the real assholes. So they shit on Psycho Gecko because he’s a mean, friendless, unloved, attention-grabbing asshole!”

“Why you-?” I said as I dropped the arm stick and punched him in the side. There was no reaction. “Right, forgot you couldn’t feel that.”

“Feel what?” he asked.

“Feel what?” I asked in the high-pitched voice.

“That’s right, Ass Man. After they handed me over, I got loose, broke Max out, and you got knocked the fuck out. That was fun by the way. So then I was standing there, thinking about how best to violate your sphincter with my fist, when I realized I needed to make sure you wouldn’t try anything. Step one was the blindfold.” I made him smack himself in the face.

“Step two, and maybe you’ll respect this one given all your little toys around here…well, getting technical would be difficult, but it turns out that a sharp, pointy object near the right cervical vertebra can let you do things like turn an asshole into a quadriplegic. Sure, you lost bladder control, but that’s not your biggest concern at this point. So you could, in theory, make yourself grow big. Problem is, you’re still not going to be able to walk…or crawl…hell, you may notice some difficult with your breathing right now, and that’s even with my help moving your diaphragm. By the way, you may be suffering some internal bleeding. Oh, stop your whining, you big baby. Did you really think this was going to end like it does with heroes? That we’d have some fifty foot tall fight in the middle of the city? Awesome as that would be, you’re in the wrong story if you think I’d give you a fair fight.”

“You did- fuck. HEEEEELP! Help me! Somebody help!”

“Shut up!” I said and clamped his hand down over his mouth. It muffled him until he figured out I wanted him quiet.

“I’ll do anything, I mean it. I’m sorry, you were just a job. Nothing personal.”

“That’s the problem with you types. It’s always personal. But I’m not so bad a guy. I’ll help you out a bit, ease some of that suffering of yours, provided you tell me a few things. Like what happened to everyone else? There’s a lot of people missing here, so I’m guessing some of them got turned over. Test subjects? Where’s Carl? Where’s Moai?” I growled at him, feeling the world react outside. Calls had been made from all the disturbances.

He thought it over while he caught his breath. “Yeah, test subjects. I didn’t hand over everyone because I wanted to study some, like your friend Mix N’Max. I don’t know where they all ended up by now, but they created me in house. I know they have these big distribution warehouses. Ship everything there, figure out where they need it, then send it off. They’ll have one near here, since it’s such an important area. I’m new to the city. I mostly worked in California. If you can get to their records, they’ll call it something innocuous. Some place no sane person would attack.”

I checked my memory for the list we obtained from the accounting office. There it was. It was so obvious, looking back on it now. They had a location in New Jersey listed as “Piñata Factory for Sick Children with Cleft Palates and Puppies with Amputated Legs.” It was my next target before the heroes found me.

“Yeah, I got it.”

“But that’s not where your statue is. You promise you’ll help me?”

A voice broke in behind us all. “You’ll get medical help, don’t worry.”

I turned see an unwelcome sight. Forcelight, Mechamoto Musashi, Troubleshooter, Venus, and Leah.

“Still with them, L?”

She looked away. “No. I just helped them with that plan.”

Venus shifted, moving part of the way between myself and Leah. “We figured it was only a matter of time before you got out. We had a sensor on the container we put you in.”

Troubleshooter jumped in, “Yeah, it uses magnets, just like some home alarms. It didn’t keep it closed, but it sent a signal every time it was opened. We just had to check whenever it opened, but most of the time nothing seemed to happen. If I had more time, I would have put in a temperature sensor, but we didn’t have a lot of time and we needed to worry about space, battery power, conspicuousness-.”

Forcelight cut her off. “We knew that if you got out, you would give us an opening. Now, put your hands in the air and step away from that man’s butt.”

“Seems bad for my health. I have no assurances you’ll just let me and my fellows here go. They’ve been hoping I’d kill this man. They’re right, you know. He deserves it for what he’s done to them.” I looked to Leah about that. It was a lesson, one which she should sympathize with. “Isn’t that right, people?”

“You guys suck.”



“Dick butt!”

The goody-goodies weren’t used to public disapproval. I even heard Mechamoto’s digitally distorted voice as he muttered, “Dick butt?”

Forcelight, ever the person to be a leader making hard decisions, told them what’s what. “Too bad. For all of you.” She looked at the crowd of naked people whose stares bored into her. I saw her unable to keep looking at them, breaking that stoicism of hers.

“Alright, so here is how it’s going to go,” I dictated to the heroes. “We’ll go. All of us. Fuck you and your procedure. We go. You really want Amplitude here? Fine, you get him. I don’t recommend taking the blindfold off. And we all walk out of here, our righteous desire for revenge abated…so long as you don’t try to take anyone but Amplitude into custody.”

I slid my hand out of my puppet and dropped him to the floor, then wiped my hand off on the leg of his costume. I smiled then as I stood up and walked right over. I motioned for people to file out, but Forcelight grabbed me by my clean arm.

“Why do you think we should just let you go? We’re not your personal enforcers, Gecko.” Forcelight glared at me.

A few people gave me grateful pats on the shoulder as they left. No one tried to stop any other villains in the crowd. Max, Sam, and Holly waited for me, though.

“Because, my dear hero, you care about the life of that piece of shit on the floor over there. The one named Amplitude, not the drippings from my hand here. Do you think I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, would shove his hand up a man’s ass just to humiliate him? You’ll let me go because there’s a bomb in there waiting to go off if I give the signal.”

Forcelight took her hand off me. I’d just gotten on the heroes’ bad side again. I could even feel Mechamoto glaring at me, silent as always.

“This isn’t over,” Venus said to me.

I chuckled in her face. “No, it isn’t.” I looked her right in the eye. Looked Leah in the eye too, but I couldn’t stay mad at her.

Then I walked out, finally the right size. I snagged some clothes out of the store that fronted Amplitude’s hideout. They didn’t fit because it was a big and tall store, but it was enough to be my own size, clothed, and have my car back. It was waiting right where the heroes had parked it, if a little worse for the wear.

Holly, Max, and Sam were all waiting by it. Sam spoke up as they looked it over, “You do something with your car, Gecko?”

“Nah, but they did. I just took out their tracker, but they disabled my network access to it, so I didn’t even see it coming.” I grabbed the door’s handle, letting it recognize my DNA. “Doesn’t mean I can’t get in. Come on, let’s go.”

Don’t worry, readers. It’s definitely not over. Amplitude owes me, you see. He owes me Moai’s location. He owes me a death. That’s right, I didn’t turn around and blow him up just as soon as I left. That’s because I lied to Forcelight. I did indeed shove various objects up his ass, but none of them were bombs.

That should teach them never to underestimate my desire to shove my hand up a man’s ass.