Tag Archives: Gastrolord

The Jersey Score 9, Slaying Goodbye

So…one last look at New Jersey. There I was, standing on an office building, cape blowing in the wind, listening to The Megas. Do they have them on that side of the universal divide? Over here, they’re this band of people who played a videogame about fighting robots a lot and decided to make music out of the various level songs. Good stuff. For some reason, songs from the point of view of robots built to enslave or destroy humanity just really mesh well with me. They also made a good point for why I needed disappearing blocks over open pits in my next lair.

Oh, you may have noticed I mentioned a cape up there. Your eyes did not deceive you! That’s my job. I was up there in my hero costume, so I was present as the Missile Patriot. I also had a nice little cooler with me because, hey, waiting is thirsty business. I may have been a hero, but I was also unaware of any laws about drinking and rocketing. It’s not like drinking ever made the situation around me even more dangerous. Not if I was drinking anyway. I heard it loosens people up and helps them survive. If my general way of operating has indicated anything to y’all, it’s that being really loose might help someone survive me.

Ladies.

But enough about innuendo intended for females. This time, I had men on my mind. Macho men. Men who liked to party hard. Generation Flex. Bulletproof Brian got there first, soaring upward past the roof at a steep angle that brought him down hard on a vent near me.

I clapped for him as he stood up and brushed himself off. “Smooth landing. You ever thought of trying out for the Olympics? You would do well in the shot put, at least as the shot.”

“Max is super strong and I can’t be hurt. It works out.”

I reached down, popped open the cooler, and tossed him a beer. It bounced off his head and fell through his hands as he tried to catch it. It didn’t shatter, though. You’d be surprised how hard it is to break a beer bottle. Don’t believe me? Take a beer bottle and start beating your own head with it until it breaks. See? That’ll teach you to question what I tell you.

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” he asked. He wasn’t mad, though.

“What?”

“Hitting me in the head.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” I picked up another beer and threw it at him. It hit him in the forehead. This time when he went to catch it, he knocked it over to the side, where it busted open.

Brian put his hands on his hips. “Really?” He walked over to get a beer himself, but I had try for one last attempt. I let it slip at too high an angle, but he caught it on its way up. “Gotcha!”

“You know how the beer is, man. The condensation makes the bottle all slippery and who knows where it goes? After all, look how good a job you did catching it.”

The truth is, I was aiming for his head.

It didn’t take long before I heard a grunt from the side of the building. A hand reached up and over the edge. Then another. Max Muscles, the man those hands belonged to, pulled himself up to the top of the roof. He laid there, breathing hard.

I looked down at him, beer in hand, and just asked, “Bro, do you even lift?”

“Shut…up!” he said between sucking down oxygen.

Brian had a shit eating grin on his face. “Dude, leave him alone. He doesn’t care about endurance is all. At least, that’s what I heard from Jennifer.”

“Kick me…while I’m down…why don’t you?” he asked. Then he sat up. “Low blow, brah. Bringing up Jennifer.”

I reached down into the cooler and pulled out another couple of things. “Well, I brought these in case y’all were partying tonight, but it looks like you might need some help with your energy level there.” I had a Red Bull and a 5 Hour Energy. I proceeded to open both and pour the 5 Hour Energy into the Red Bull. I’ve seen it served at a few villain bars when someone was going into a big job or a big fight.

“I guess that’ll work, but you couldn’t make it a double?” Max asked as he held out his hand for it. I was tempted to throw it at his head, but no. After I handed it to him, I sipped my own nasty beer again. Shitty stuff. I’ve found that beer tastes worse every time I take a sip. That’s why most of the time I just chug it down if I have to drink it. But, hey, I was being nice.

I started what I really came to do. “You’re probably wondering why I called you both up here today.”

“Not really, you’re leaving, aren’t you, bromeister?” Max asked, having chugged half the horrible energy concoction. I guess I shouldn’t judge, having a dangerously powerful power core in my own chest, but at least I can manage to sleep at night knowing that I could still possibly start an explosion. Two if you count what’s in my pants.

It’s ok. No one ever counts what’s in my pants.

“Yep. I have accomplished what I set out to do in your state. Hephaestus has been vanquished here. We failed to put a stop to your Gastrolord friend, but I’m sure there’s very little he can do with a bunch of random stolen super weapons.”

“That sounds bad,” Brian said.

“I’m sure it’ll all work itself out,” I said with a wave of my hand.

“I’m kind of worried about it,” Max said.

“Don’t be ridiculous, citizen. Everyone knows that inverse gravity bombs and dubstep launchers don’t kill people. They just cause them to not be alive anymore. Besides, isn’t horrible death at the hands of a madman who can attack at any random moment a small price to pay for the freedom to live in a country where a madman can attack at any moment?”

“Isn’t that…bad?” Brian asked.

“Not if you pay enough Congressmen, it isn’t.”

Max nodded along to my reasoning. Brian must have been the brains of their team.

Max stood up and offered me his hand. “Well, bro, it was nice hanging with you.”

“Yeah, you should come back sometime, maybe when we’re not all getting our asses kicked.”

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you get covered by another man’s sticky goo. It all shook out in the end, right?”

Brian wasn’t quite letting it go. The topic of conversation, I mean. He shook my hand too, but he didn’t hold it for an awkward length of time. “We don’t know if it worked out yet. I guess we’ll find out.”

“I’m sure we will, but my job here is done. It’s time for me to fly off into the sunset. To right the wrongs of America. Wherever a flag waves, I’ll be there. Wherever people reminisce about apple pie, I’ll be there. Wherever a man can purchase a donut with a giant greasy cheeseburger inside it, I’ll be there. Missile Patriot away, for great justice!”

I turned and jumped off the roof. I was halfway back to the trailer park before I remembered I left them the cooler full of beer.

As for why I was confident Gastrolord wouldn’t be a problem, it was more because I knew he wouldn’t be a problem for me. I changed at the trailer park and went over to his lair to meet him. I kicked open his door, tossed in a gas grenade that started spewing white fog, ran in waving glow sticks over my head, and had my armor play techno music while throwing lights of all colors all over the room.

“Hands up, this is a rave!” I announced.

Gastrolord sat over at a desk in front of his computer, but was turned toward me. He was stock still, with wide eyes, like a deer in the headlights. To be fair, he was in the presence of a raving lunatic. I started hopping up in down in place as the wub wub started pounding.

Finally he spoke, “What are you doing here?”

“Just checking on you, man. Letting you know I’m out of here! You were real helpful. Figured I’d be nice and say bye. I was going to bring beer, but I forgot it somewhere. That’s ok though. Beer tastes like fresh dumpster.”

“Wha, how do you know that?” He reached over and pressed a few buttons, then had to pay attention to his screen long enough to minimize the browser. I guess he had an email he didn’t want me to see.

“Because every dumpster I’ve ever sniffed smelled like old beer.”

“Well…I…wasn’t expecting you. I thought you were gone already. In fact, maybe you should go. I have lots of repairs left on the Super Snail. The Tesla stalks alone…whatever you did out there, you burned up a lot of circuits. Maybe come back in a few days?”

“Nonsense, Gastrolord. I’ll be leaving soon and you’ll probably never see me again. I’ve got lots more Hephaestus to blow up. Big organization, you know.”

“Oh. Well, in that case, I did have a little something I put together for you…just as a way of saying thanks. I was going to give it to you when I had it finished, but it looks like it’s now or never.” He smiled wide under his mustache. That’s what it was! This guy reminded me of an evil Tron guy. If y’all don’t know, he’s a Tron cosplayer who started the whole “Net Neutrality Protection” movement over here that played a part in enshrining those protections over here. Good thing, too. It would suck if either Hephaestus or Long Life were in the business of buying up internet service providers.

Gastrolord stood up and waved me into the big room where he had the Super Snail opened up. “Now you wait out here. I’ll be out in a jiffy.”

I hoped not. The last thing I wanted to see was him dressed in peanut butter. Instead, the Tesla stalks sparked and then crapped out. “No, no, no, I thought they were at least good enough for this…” came Gastrolord’s voice from over the Snail’s speakers.

I just bounced there, dancing along to my heavily-distorted electronic music. “What happened, Gastro? Hephaestus made you a deal? Or was this some lingering hatred from my perfectly valid criticisms of your tabletop game?”

“If you had just stayed away, I wouldn’t have had to try! If you hadn’t gotten me involved, I wouldn’t be getting angry calls late at night promising me a cell with a big, hairy man named Wyatt who has been in jail for a decade and likes chubby women! And shut up about my game! I don’t have to sit here and take that mocking from you.”

The laser on top of the shell swiveled around and took aim at me. “Wait, Gastrolord, before you shoot me, I have something I need to tell you.”

“That’s right, grovel, worm! I am Gastrolord! I’ve been kicked around long enough and now everyone will feel my wrath.”

“Yeah, yeah, everyone except Hephaestus because they scared you the other night, I get it. You know, I’ve been in some communication with your two nemeses as well…nemeses…nemesises? Nemesi? No, nemeses. Anyway, you know why I didn’t kill them last time I talked to them?”

“Because you don’t care about me. You just wanted to use me and laugh at me behind my back. Now it’s my turn to show you what I can do. I have the power. I have-!”

I sent off the code and there was a sound like a pumpkin suddenly smashed on concrete floor. Turned out I had a reason to use that ejection seat of his against him after all. I guess he shouldn’t have been a dick to someone who had done nothing but help him. Can’t say it surprised me, though. Mostly because I had the foresight to put in the killswitch ahead of time.

“You had to be a dick. Could have just let me go on my merry way, distracting the authorities, killing heroes, and generally making things easier for everyone else. But no, it was more important that you were offended by a few valid criticisms. Though I suspect if I go back to that email correspondence you were reading, I’ll find that Hephaestus lured you in with the promise of money with a lot of zeroes in it. But why am I telling you about all that? You’re smooshed.”

Yep, it worked out for Generation Flex after all. They just didn’t know it. What saved them wasn’t being heroic, smart, or good-looking. What has always mattered a lot more to people isn’t how someone looks but instead how someone acts. Gastrolord’s problem wasn’t how he looked, and it probably wasn’t because people just wanted to snub him. He was just too much of a dick. The problem with being a dick, dear readers, is that he picked the wrong person to get into a measuring contest with.

Because let me tell you, dear readers, nobody wants to get into a dick measuring contest with the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko. As a dick, I tower head and boulders, I mean shoulders, over all the rest.

Next time, we’ll be heading to New Orleans to get my favorite fluffer back. Moai, I’m coming for ya!

Ok, considering the prior paragraphs, bad choice of words.

 

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The Jersey Score 7

The day of the attack, I looked at my costumes, glancing between the Missile Patriot tights and my power armor. Max, as in Mix N’Max, walked up behind me. He patted me on the shoulder and asked, “What are you going to wear? That could have a pretty big impact on things. You can’t use illusions outside your armor.”

“It’s all an illusion. That’s the basic trick of every illusion, especially the more mundane kinds. The key is to make someone trust in a false premise. I could do that with the Patriot suit too.”

“Well, whatever you decide, I hope you choose soon. It’s real hard to squeeze by you here while you’re standing around in the nude.”

He had a point. I was in the trailer and Holly couldn’t get to Sam or the door because I was blocking the little bit of available walking room.

I made my choice.

It was the day after I took down Terrorjaw. I decided that anymore delays would be dangerous. I didn’t know who all had signed on to take me out, but I knew Outlaw X had taken to calling the group the Annihilation Eight. Unfortunately, my old line about knowing how many they were going to use didn’t apply here, because they weren’t all likely to be here so soon.

The more time I took, the greater the chance they’d all be after my ass, minus Terrorjaw. If this group had been assembled due to some sort of willing teamwork or friendship, I could have used him as my toothy canary in the coal mine. They’d have broken him out. However, they were in it for money. As in, they didn’t care if a competitor for my head was in jail. So I didn’t know how many of them were here in all the time I took, though at least they lost one. I also knew that I had a way to cause infighting.

I had other assets as well. My car, Black Sunshine, was useful when I had Holly and Sam in it flipping out. Mix N’Max. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian, aka Generation Flex. Gastrolord. Me. That was a bit closer to even, though Max and Brian weren’t exactly in the know about being on my side or working with villains inadvertently.

To say this wasn’t a well-organized attack was not only an understatement, but the point. For years, people have said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I am that enemy.

Noon. Broad daylight. That was when the Super Snail charged the Hephaestus compound on my orders. It didn’t go in unsupported. It churned its way up the road toward the gate with Black Sunshine trailing behind it. Finally, Gastrolord attacked. You wouldn’t expect the guy who picked a gastropod gimmick would be impatient. Maybe he was overly eager to test out the new guns.

The air crackled with energy like lonely man making himself a bubble wrap condom. When it cracked against the shield, the thunder rolled. The shield appeared briefly as the electrical blast overwhelmed it, the white of the electricity seeming to fill in a bubble around the compound. Where it got past, it struck a light pole. The light blew up, but the electricity was diverted to the ground.

I think he should have listened to my last-minute idea on how to shore up his defenses on the Super Snail, but he didn’t see the strategic value in strapping people to the front and sides of the giant mecha snail. Some people don’t have an eye for strategy, I guess. Sure, Hephaestus haven’t seemed all that morally upstanding beforehand, but everybody has a breaking point. Everyone except your friendly, neighborhood Psycho Gecko, of course.

Plus, it’d make any potential allies of Hephaestus a bit squeamish if they’re spotted on the local news shooting up civilians. Even the police might look past their own gooey filling and discover a nougat-y core of morality.

Gastrolord refused, though, which left me to do everything myself.

While Gastrolord, Max, Sam, and Holly made their way up the road, I had wheeled a few barrels into a few back alleys nearby, my coat covering up my costume. While the slight brigade charged, I fiddled with the detonator. And, when the snail passed through the entrance despite the shield trying to resist the upper parts, I pressed the button.

The effects were not as drastic as they could have been had I spent more time preparing for this. Much like the people strapping idea, this one came to me later than I’d have liked. Why be selfish with my attack? I wanted to share it with the whole neighborhood! You know, really get lots of people involved. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that stuff I used back in Memphis, the BZ, laying around. No, this was all about blowing shit up, drawing attention, and possibly making sure that nearby tunnel entrances were hit in the crossfire. I was sure they had at least one tunnel.

That’s the kinda thinking I needed: putting the fun in murder. Er, the fun in kill. The fun in devastation? Oooh, that was close. The fun in fundamental threat to human life. Yeah, that got it. Ignore the linguists reading this disapprovingly over your shoulder. Why the fuck are you reading this in front of linguists?!

After all, linguists are only good when you use their noodle. Linguini, it’s called. I know, that cannibalism was a bit of a stretch, just like long pork.

Concluding our commercial interruption, we were back at the attack. A giant mechanized snail tank broke through the forcefield of Hephaestus and was shooting electro-beams from its stalks at anything that moved, aside from my car. I was on the outside, blowing up a buildings in a trench coat that hid my costume.

Gastrolord knocked on the door to the warehouse very gently. With lightning. While he did that, the laser carved out a human-sized hole in the loading bay’s garage doors.

“Part One of Operation Jehovah’s Witness is good. The door is open,” Sam relayed to me over the comms.

“Good,” I replied, “Let’s get in there and share the good news. Somebody’s about to die for my sins. And somebody save Dr. Typhoon for me.”

The mouth of the Super Snail opened and Gastrolord stepped out, aiming his goo gauntlets around at empty air. Max had his syringe gun in hand, and Sam actually joined him with her sprayer gun that looked like something off a hose.

I got a call from Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian. “Yo, dudes, ‘sup?” I asked.

“Shit is going down. Repeat, it’s hitting the fan.”

“Max, I thought fans were up in the air, and waving like they just don’t care?”

“Something big is happening.”

“I’m aware of that, good super citizen. I’m over here near our Hephaestus friends. Gastrolord just made his move, and he’s got friends. You had better get over here. I don’t think the regular guards are going to do the trick.”

That part was honest, at least. There weren’t many guards outside at all. I zoomed in with my eyes to watch what happened. Even the mundane resistance didn’t last long once Gastrolord gave them the goo. His gunk stuck to the two guards who tried to nab him, and they stuck to one another in turn. Why did I think it made them slip? Except then he doused them with gunk from just his left gauntlet. That made another pair of guards slip all over the ground and fall. He had slime for every occasion!

My villainous allies advanced cautiously. Sam and Max took up positions by one of the garage door holes. Max splashed something on himself, then offered a little spray bottle to Sam. Sam shook her head no. A lightning bolt struck by the hole from the inside, knocking Max down. Sam hadn’t been pressed against it, but she took a moment to cross herself as she checked on Max. He gave her a thumbs-up, then accepted her help getting to his feet.

Meanwhile, Gastrolord charged in the doorway. I kinda wondered if they even needed me. I couldn’t make things worse, that’s for sure. I found a secluded alleyway, threw off my coat, finished pulling my costume on, then jumped out, arms akimbo and chest up thrust toward the sky. Nearby a woman cried out and put her hands over her young daughters’ eyes. I looked down. Forgot the pants.

I jumped back into the alley, then out once more when I was in my full regalia.

The Missile Patriot was ready to have a blast. I launched into the sky and maneuvered for the guard gate. It was from there that I saw Max take another blast of lightning that sent him flying off the docking bay. Sam jumped down and ducked so she was out of sight from anyone on it. The garage door strained outward, then flew off as the spinning Dr. Typhoon floated through it in a vortex arcing with electricity. Out of the regular doorway came Gastrolord again, being forced back by something. Wind maybe? He covered his face with his hands as he stumbled back. A sort of weird fog came out as well. Another super was around.

As I flew in through the gate, I dipped down and a section of the broken guard gate arm. I tried to ease my landing on my feet, but stumbled. When I had a moment to regain my footing, I threw the gate piece like a javelin at Typhoon. The cyclone deflected it and the piece popped Gastrolord in the head. Gastrolord grabbed his head and yelled “Why?”

There was a weird sound, like if you imagined a snake chuckling. That fog thing came together into a vaguely humanoid shape that looked like sand suspended in the air. A quick search via the eye HUD turned up a villain named Quick Sand. Not much known about him…her…it. It was sand, though a mouth formed out of the head region in a big smile. I think it was laughing.

I wanted to join in, but I was in the bright and shiny costume now. I had to act like a hero. Ugh.

“Give yourselves up, foul fiends, and save yourselves some pain.”

Everybody laughed at that one, including Gastrolord.

“Let’s rocket,” I said. I flew at Dr. Typhoon and he pulled his arms together. As soon as I saw them move, I went low. I dodged lightning more thanks to his reflexes than any super speed. His cyclone churned up the air even stronger than before and I got sucked up into it, but I got sucked in the upward direction. I know what you’re thinking. Innuendo. Well I stuck my fist in Typhoon’s endo.

I spun around with him in the opposite direction he did, electricity crackling around us both. He wasn’t much used to hand-to-hand, though. He was the type to keep people at a distance but he couldn’t do that. That cyclone could try and toss me out all he wanted, but I had rockets pushing me right back in and throwing my fist into his stomach with a very satisfying feeling. He lifted us higher, then lower, trying to shake me that way, but that just threw off a punch. I tossed one across his face and broke his nose just for that.

The rest of the battle was hard to make out for obvious reasons. I caught glimpses. At one point, Max was sinking into a puddle of quicksand. Then Max Muscles was trying to hit on Sam. Then Holly was shooting Max with the car’s Gatling. Brian got stuck to the ground by Gastrolord. It was all a whir and it was beginning to make me nauseous.

I grabbed Dr. Typhoon by the face and blew chunks. Corn didn’t go well with his eyes. I laughed as I saw that, but then he puked on me right back. In the end, he dropped the vortex entirely and I flew right past him. When I turned to catch him again, he was heaving in the middle of a new cyclone.

I was running low on fuel and it occurred to me that my heroic costume didn’t have much in the way of weaponry. I cut the rockets and acted surprised. I screamed as I fell and tried to flap my wings. It was hard to concentrate on falling, too. If I forgot for a moment, I might have ended up flying instead, and that would have ruined everything. Instead, I angled for the Super Snail. I knew this was about to hurt, but not any worse than a lightning strike. I cut the rockets on just a little, as if I slowed my speed only with a last gasp. I still landed hard and bounced off the shiny metal between the stalks. It felt like my ass had tried to devour a rhino from the way my tailbone and other lower spinal bones felt. I think something was jiggling freely inside me. Probably my nuts from the feel of things.

As I knelt there, I checked on the others. Gone except for Holly, who was facing away from my fight along with the car, and Quick Sand, who was trapped in a giant pile of sticky slime. From the sound of things, the rest of the fighting had moved inside. Even with the hole in the wall that looked like Brian’s usual entrance, I couldn’t see anything.

But then, there was only so much I paid attention to that. Dr. Typhoon descended near enough to get a good shot at me. He didn’t drop below the level of the stalks, though. Didn’t want to get too close, I suppose. His loss.

I accessed the car with Holly in there and changed the radio. I had an idea how to tease Dr. Typhoon. Hulk Hogan’s old song, Real American.

“I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man. I am a real American. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!”

Dr. Typhoon scoffed. “Is that the song they’re going to play at your funeral, you hokey piece of crap?”

It took Holly a moment to get the hint, but then I saw her looking back at us.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, Dr. Typhoon.”

“I didn’t think they made heroes as cliché as you anymore. Big talk for someone on his knees.”

I forced myself to stand and look up at him defiantly. I wished I had a bald eagle on my shoulder. “Oh, I can stand alright. So long as I have Uncle Sam watching my back, I can stand up to any evildoer.”

Typhoon choked down a laugh and threw a bolt of lightning at me. Well, he threw it in my direction. It split instead and went for the stalks. The Tesla-based equipment there did the rest and protected me from everything but a little static electricity.

“The fuck?!” Typhoon yelled, then tried again. Once again, I was safe between the stalks.

Behind him came a whistle. When Dr. Typhoon turned, he found Holly and Black Sunshine turned around, facing him, with an array of weapons protruding from the car. He didn’t get to react before she flipped a lot of switches. Bullets roared, lasers seared, a duck quacked, rockets burst, and a hunk of smoking meat fell down in front of the Super Snail. I gave Holly a thumbs-up and slid down the side of the gimmick vehicle. I leaned in over the crispy remnants of Dr. Typhoon and said, “You’re grounded.”

I’m glad she figured that out and felt like helping me. I could have done all that on my own, but it meant something more for her to turn and pull my ass out of the fire. For one thing, it made her feel a bit closer to me emotionally and made her think I wasn’t quite such a bad guy when I acted all thankful and gave her a hug. She pushed me off, though. I couldn’t tell if it was her natural disgust for me or all the barf, but it was the thought that counted. I think.

In the end, the villains, or at least our group, won. Gastrolord got out of there with some weapons schematics and a bunch of launcher-fired sticky grenades. Quick Sand was relaxing in that gunk rather than chasing me down. Hephaestus didn’t lose many personnel this time, having decided they were mostly useless for fighting us. Bulletproof Brian and Max Muscles didn’t save the day. In fact, Brian was found running through the city naked save for his mask, under some odd impression that pants and shirts wanted to control humanity by moving people’s limbs. Sam got a good slap on Max Muscles before Mix N’Max shrunk the other Max’s head down to about one third its regular size. And, last but not least, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko got away with manifest records.

It was later that night, while Mix N’Max was busy dancing around a barrel fire with the man in the underwear and the trapper hat who lived next door and the women munched on s’mores, that I dragged myself out of a regenerative little nap and inserted a certain pointy body part into the servers we stole to check what they had to say about my good buddy Carl.

“Subject status: Liquidated.”

And so I threw open the door, naked but for a server tower hanging off my dick, yelling at the sky with arms outstretched, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

And I think that server gave me a virus.

 

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The Jersey Score 6

A cowry is a type of mollusk that counts as a gastropod mollusk. Learned that while I was helping overhaul the Super Snail with Gastrolord.

I learned a great many things from him, most of them useless. I will never get back the time I used up listening to him yammer on and on about his stupid RPG game series he wanted to make. Gods that gained power from various actions related to humans. Godswar this, Godswar that, and boy did he hate criticism of it, or even the suggestion that some of his ideas weren’t entirely original. The second game, Lost Vegas, being a post-apocalyptic game set around Las Vegas with regular survivors trying to survive against raiding slavers? The third game involving regular humans getting superpowers in New Orleans? Uh huh. Suuuuure. He may have had pipe dreams about making it rich creating knockoffs of Fallout: New Vegas and Infamous 2, but that’s not what he was doing for a living. He was a supervillain with poor financial planning.

I know, I know, who am I to criticize someone’s dreams after advocating people go out and seize them? I’m the guy he got into an argument with, that’s what! Somehow, we got into a discussion about another game, Bayonetta. Full-on fanservice, complete with the main character shooting angels while pole dancing in a graveyard. It was made with that in mind. Gassy thought it was horribly over-sexualized. This from a guy whose most powerful goddess gained power from sleeping with human men and whose created servants for that goddess take jobs as whores to siphon power for her. This was a game meant to be taken seriously.

He stormed out in a huff when I said that, mumbling something about how that was completely different. Hey, I have been an extremely poor example of feminism here, but at least I never said a woman’s strength increased proportional to the amount of bukkake she wears. Yeah, can you imagine a male character with superpowers that function that way? “Hey Ironman, we worked out a new, strokier way to put your armor on. Oh, hello there Captain America. Ready for your special ‘injection’ to give you strength? Careful, Dr. Banner’s getting buttfucked. You wouldn’t like him when he’s buttfucked.” Actually, that last one would work if anyone ever threw that in.

Some people are hard to work with, and the lack of ability to take criticism well regarding his writing? Yeah, I used the time Gastrolord was out to mess around with the electrical system and the ejection system. I figured he could turn on me over some minor slight in the heat of battle. The tricks I installed ought to keep that from being a problem.

I don’t take betrayal or shoddy writing well.

Gastrolord’s attitude improved when he saw what our collaboration had wrought. I mean, he didn’t like the chrome Mohawk between the stalks on its head. The stalks themselves had been modified. Forget just electrifying the outer shell of armor as a defensive measure. We went full-on Tesla electro-beam on this bitch!

I’ve never met Nikola Tesla, but I doubt he’s happy about people using his work for that sort of thing. He has stopped by the Twenty-First Century a few times along with Teddy Roosevelt and Alfred Nobel, causing a big stir. Adventures followed every time. Tesla did all his energy and electricity stuff, Nobel would stomp around in the mining power armor he invented, and Teddy would inevitably get drunk and shoot something. Team TNT, as the group is called, has traveled the globe and time as well to right wrongs and solve crimes ever since they collaborated in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.

Cool shit, but they weren’t the important part of this story. We gave the Super Snail electro-beams from its stalk and a new haircut. But wait, there’s more! I added a laser on top of the shell that could rotate to fire on enemies that weren’t too close to its body. Together, we increased the power plant’s efficiency a little and reduced the booster rockets’ rate of recharge by twenty percent.

That alone ought to keep him onboard with the plan at least until he’s at the warehouse blowing shit up. He was happy as a slug in a rug. He could stay that way, too, unless I needed to a-salt him.

While he was sitting tight, it was time to work on the opposite side of the coin. That’s right, coins have two sides. You might say I was a bit two-faced like that.

In my off time, I’d maintained contact with Generation Flex. They weren’t messing with Gastrolord, so they had more time for regular patrols. They even managed to save the mayor when his brakes gave out.

Anyway, I went and met up with them to join in as Missile Patriot. They pulled up to meet me at that most patriotic of institutions, the bus stop.

“Yooooooooo, yo yo yo yo! What’s happening, bro?” asked Brian from the driver’s side window of their truck as he pulled up and skidded to a halt.

“Nothing, my fine compatriot in the fight against Communism. I have need of your truck bed. These buckets are carrying things which are both valuable and extremely stinky. Also a little bit of cable. Can I set them back there?”

“That would be better than riding up front with them.”

I nodded in thanks and set the roll of cable and the buckets of bloody fish guts back there. Then I came around to the passenger side and slid in.

“Out of gas?” he asked, motioning toward my arm rockets with his head.

“Conserving it, as all great Americans should. Remember, carpooling will keep this nation strong. Also, I thought we could hang out and chat. Sorry I was a no-show for that run in with the snail guy.”

“It’s cool. We’ve been handling him by ourselves for awhile now. You got any preference where you wanna patrol?”

“Do you mind doing a drive-by of that Hephaestus place? I heard they had a bit of a fracas there.”

“We can check it out, but we can’t do anything. They paid off the cops after crap blew up all over there. If we went in and didn’t find anything, they might put the cops on us for trespassing.”

Bah, trespassing. Going where a person isn’t wanted is really considered a crime? In that case, pretty much everywhere I’ve ever been would be after me for trespassing.

Anyway, Brian drove us toward the place. He did have a query for me in relation to my goal. “What do you have against Hephaestus anyway? Is it personal?”

“Hephaestus killed my parents,” I said, slipping into my best Batman growl.

“Oh. Oh man, I’m sor-“

“It was the eighties. It was a dark night in Kingscrow, the streets filled with a rancid mixture of fog and hairspray. My mother dragged my dad away from his business wheeling and dealing to go with me to see some movies based on the Beverly Hillbillies. ‘Return of Jed’ or something like that. Hephaestus was pulling a robbery in the area when the three of us stumbled on it. They sent me running away, mom’s poofy shoulderpads obscuring the goons’ view of me. From that day forward, I knew I would become a fighter for great justice!”

Brian just sat there absorbing that for awhile. The only thing he said to all that was, “Wow.”

We sat like that until we got on the street that ran behind the warehouse compound. Everything was fixed. Those had been the only shipments to or from the place, our surveillance showed us. They either halted regular operations or were moving it another way, like the underground tunnel I suspected they had. We never saw Dr. Typhoon or Terrorjaw enter the premises either.

“Doesn’t look like anything happened?”

“You and Max better be ready all the same. I’ve been snooping. Gastrolord wants to hit this place. Say, where is your friend with the muscles anyway?”

“Max is busy right now. Working. Gotta make that money, you what I mean? I guess Gastrolord knows too.”

“I have to know me. What does a guy like Max do for a living?”

“He sells car stereos. Installs ‘em too. He gets that bass pumping.”

“Huh, that makes sense. What about you?”

“College, man. Gotta get my degree and find some work. Won’t be easy and I already got $30,000 worth of debt.”

“Ouch. Not going to try and make money off your persona?”

“Naw, this is just for Max. He’s the one who wants to do all this. I want to move on to bigger and better things. I’m allowed to do that, right? Even if I got powers?”

“I suppose you do. It’s all laid out in the Ninth Amendment, of course: ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’ Y’all are much different than I expected, you know?”

“It’s that fucking show, isn’t it? They take a bunch of assholes from New York and Empyreal City, give them a house on the shore, let them do stupid shit, and everyone thinks that’s us.”

“Huh. You guys must be…is that a shark?”

Yep, it was. Terrorjaw couldn’t help but respond to the buckets of chum in the back of the truck. He was running up the street, scaring drivers and pedestrians away. He had an eyepatch on since our last run-in. It was a good look for him. He just needed a pirate hat.

“I’ll go show that fish my hook.” I practiced a few punches, then opened the door and gave the Missile Patriot’s newest catchphrase. “For great justice!”

I swung onto the back of the truck. Brian slowed, then stopped. Terrorjaw’s gibbering visage approached as he sprinted past other cars, not even noticing the people inside. I knew some sharks had an ability to sense electricity. I didn’t know if he had that ability. What I had known was that he was a fucking shark. Bloody fish guts? Sharks eat that shit up. I readied to unleash a rocket punch as he approached.

He got close and his undamaged eye rolled into the back of his head. He jumped. I almost threw the punch, but was stopped by the sight of Bulletproof Brian throwing himself between us. Terrorjaw’s teeth dug in impotently. Against Terrorjaw, Bulletproof Brian could have been called Biteproof Brian. That made it easy. I grabbed the metal cable I set in the back with the buckets for just this confrontation and hopped out.

I tried getting his arms, but he resisted. Finally, I just passed it to Brian. “Lend a hand?”

He sighed, or maybe that was from the pressure on his diaphragm, and took the cable. He passed it just inside of himself and I grabbed it out the other end of Terrorjaw’s mouth. Then I straddled his back, grabbed both ends, and pulled.

Terrorjaw reeled back, swiping his hands at the sky. Then he tried to both buck me off and turn Brian around so he could swallow him whole. I don’t think he was thinking too well at the time. Funny how that happens to supervillains.

I yanked on my reins, getting him away from Brian. Instead, he concentrated on throwing me off his back. He jumped, he spun, he rolled, he even knocked me into a car. This was why sharks were never allowed in rodeos. Only cows and horses, which is bullshit.

As he began to tire, I pulled hard on the reins and used his motions to ram his head into other things. Parking meters, mailboxes, a trash can. Then I swapped hands and turned backwards. “Let’s rocket!” From the HUD in my eyes, I put in the code. 3-3-5, EJ. He roared as the backblast from the rockets burnt him. I pulled into the sky and eased up my grip on one hand. Excess cable pulled along the corners of Terrorjaw’s mouth, cutting into it as I flew into the air. When I clamped down on the cable, that was when he couldn’t stay on his feet any more. He was pulled up with me, at which point I turned my rockets downward toward the ground. It was a fairly easy landing for me, but he flipped over, cable still caught in his teeth, and smashed into the road.

In all the time it took me to get things ready, Hephaestus might have managed to bring in another villain. Maybe, maybe not. I couldn’t speak to their overconfidence.

One thing I do know is that one of the ones who took a bite out of my ass just wound up in the shark cage. A police shark cage, true, but all the media attention and public exposure means Hephaestus couldn’t money that situation over so easily as they did at their compound.

And that, dear readers, is how you school a fish.

 

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The Jersey Score 5

You know, once when I was a wee lad, they decided to teach us the benefit of taunting opponents. We, as in myself and the rest of the boys, were already somewhat proficient at it. We were kids, after all. We were kidnapped kids being taught the art of murder and mayhem, sure, but that still didn’t stop the taunt war.

It began simply enough. There was an announcement that we’d soon begin the section on psychological warfare beginning with taunting. In anticipation, one of the other boys…Hart maybe?…anyway, one of them decided they’d get a head start by accusing the rest of us of doing all sorts of interesting things involving bodily fluids. We had sniffed this, gargled that, licked something else, at least according to Hart. I would prefer to save y’all a direct transcript because I don’t remember certain things that well, and because you would need a translator to understand who was what sort of wad. You people and your damn English. Go get your own language. Stop stealing from the Germans, French, Italians, Spanish, Romans, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Greeks, and whoever else I forgot!

Soon, others struck back. It all escalated and took on an art all its own. The program was watching, like they always do. I think the test they laid out for us really cemented the notion that we were all in it for ourselves, though. It was actually a pretty neat concept, I have to admit. I hate their guts and would murder any surviving family members of the people who put me through that, but they sure did know how to fuck with people.

They built a maze and certain sections of it were actually cages. Some of them would shut if anything set foot in them. Others, there was a button on the side. When pushed, we had a five second delay, then the cage would close. Empty cages would always reopen, though. They released some of us, maybe ten or twelve at a time, into that maze. They also released the hunting dogs. They were pretty good about keeping us from bringing weapons to the test, even whatever makeshift crap we’d put together by then. They didn’t want us killing each other or the dogs, not at that point. Nah, the end of the maze would only up if all the cages in the maze had been shut on something.

Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to figure out that the cages didn’t open if we were in them when they closed. No weapons, no way to sneak above or below the maze. We had to do what we could to trick dogs and each other into the cages so that whoever was left could escape and pass the test. That meant baiting a target, getting him mad enough to follow me anywhere, then close the trap on that mangy motherfucker. Sometimes I had to lead someone a good ways and that risked drawing outside attention. Sometimes I stayed quiet and snuck around until I where I needed to be. Or maybe I sneaked around. Sometimes, I had to lead one threat to another, like bringing a dog to another kid or one kid to another.

We were kids, though. We took that kind of stuff personally. Things have changed a lot since those days.

“I’m going to skull fuck your asshole and light it on fire!” I yelled, wearing my helmet with my civilian clothes. The Holly, Sam, and Max just tried to ignore me while they watched TV. I had gotten an email mentioning Hephaestus via my hidden website on the dark net. In it was a contact number in case I felt like surrendering and not hurting myself any further. The joke’s on them. I don’t like not hurting myself!

It was a woman’s voice that answered me. “That is exactly how I expected someone like you to start a call. Hello, Psycho Gecko.”

“What? Psycho Gecko? No, I’m calling from the Firefighters’ Veterans and Family Fund. They’ve got a very aggressive script for us this year because we really need the money. Now, if I may continue…ahem…I’m gonna gut you like a pig and fuck the hole, I’m gonna-“

“You’re still not taking this very seriously, I see.”

“Ma’am, if it would provide for the families of wounded firefighters, I would gladly fuck a thousand gutted stomach cavities. Now, where will I be sending our donation packet?”

“I heard we’re on the right track to stopping you. I’ll be the first to admit I thought it was stupid that the recommendation came down to stop responding to your threats. What’s one song nobody cares about but you? The orders came down anyway and that’s why I’m here as the leader of the task force with the goal of dealing with you.”

“Here at the Firefighters’ Veterans Fund, we don’t personally know this Psycho Gecko, strong and handsome as he must no doubt be. While we wish we could make the acquaintance of such a virile specimen of manhood, we have to concede that no organized group, whether firefighters or supervillains, stands a chance in hell of taking him down.”

“By all means think that. This time, you have to come to us and you can’t blow up all our buildings if you want your friends back, nor do we see any reason to negotiate with you.”

“The Firefighters’ Veterans and Families Fund would like to tell you to go fuck yourselves.”

She laughed at me.

“We’ll see if you can back all that talk up. By the way, did I tell you we never even evacuated Distribution Site Zero-Seven? We fixed the prank you pulled with our water, and you’ve already met some of your associates that came on board to help deal with you. They’re still there, along with whatever you were looking for.”

“Who should we here at the Firefuckers’ Fund make our donation packet out to?”

“My name is Pivot. Thank you for your time, Psycho Gecko. It really helped make this easier on all of us…” she trailed off. Over the city, I saw a missile streak through the sky before angling downward and flying out of view. There was an explosion, then smoke and screaming and all that boring stuff.

Faintly, I heard Pivot talking to someone else. “Do we have it confirmed? Where did it hit? We’re not calling anything off unless I see the body. I want to see a body.”

I broke in, “You and me both, sister. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone way too long without some sausage in my diet, you know what I’m sayin’?”

“What?” she asked me. Then she was talking to the other person on her side again. “Call off the search. We missed.”

Mumble mumble “y again?” mumble.

There was a shushing sound, then she was back to talking to me. “That had nothing to do with you. We didn’t like that place.”

“Understandable enough. Fucking pet shops, am I right?”

“What?”

“A guy’s got to be wary for traces, you hear me? I figured you would spy on the place and plant some bugs to see if that was where I am hiding. So now you’re the guys known for blowing up a store of cuddly baby puppies. Wow. Puppies, popped. Kitties, crushed. Bunnies, blown up. Just beautiful work on that one, really, I love what you did there. Making friends and influencing people. It’s obvious your people researched some of my recent fights, by the way. Y’all got me all figured out, don’t you? That’s alright. You can’t win them all, Pivot.”

I hung up on her and scrambled the number. I’ve got all cloned numbers to burn when it comes to contacting me, even though I also bounced that call through a few other choice targets. A hospital, an army recruiting office, a gun store. If that weapon was blatantly tied to Hephaestus and it had hit any of those, it would have been a PR disaster. PR was still important, especially if that PR involves the army wondering why somebody blew up their building in the middle of the day.

So I made a new enemy named Pivot. I also made a new ally.

That occurred after a couple more days. I researched the guy I was pulling in to all this. Gastrolord. Small time crook with a big time ego. I think he pretty much pawned or sold everything to build his first Super Snail tank. That’s what he named that thing he passed by the trailer park in. All his work was like that. Packed with defenses, slow, and not very offensive. Good stuff, in its own way, he had somehow managed to obtain more advanced results with less advanced technology.

With a little bit of trial and error, I found his hideout. The EZ Cargo Company. EZ Cargo. I have long had an appreciation for theme villains who know how to make it work for them like that. I didn’t know how he kept ahead of his debts, though. In a manner of speaking, that was my avenue of attack.

“So here’s the score. You, me, and a couple of others. We go back in. You might be thinking ‘But didn’t they kick you out of there?’ Yes, they did, back before we knew what they had in there. It was also back before Generation Flex got involved. My understanding is that they’ve got a hate boner for you, correct?”

I wasn’t there to intimidate much. I was in my civilian clothing. My helmet was ready, but the rest of my armor took longer, especially with all the added complexity since the redesign.

Across from me, a very nervous Gastrolord sat on a lumpy pink sofa that was propped up by a phone book in place of one of the legs. He was wearing his armor, the same shiny metallic look as his Super Snail. His helmet included a portion on top that resembled a crown made of metallic stalks like you see on the head of a slug or snail. The armor as a whole was rounded to account for Gastrolord not being the thinnest of fellows. Even worse, it didn’t look like power armor. It was probably fairly thin, save for the shell-shaped backpack portion. From the snail shell-looking backpack ran hoses that connected to his gauntlets. From what I had seen of news reports, the barrels on his gauntlets were how he fired off his slug slime. His hands were busy holding a nice cup of tea I had made him. He sipped at it, his brown mustache twitching as he tried the cold tea.

“A-aren’t you supposed to serve tea hot?”

“Not when it’s sweet tea, full of vitamins and minerals like tea, sugar, and ice. Now, sip your damn tea and pay attention. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian love to take you on. I think if you’re there with us at the warehouse, they will respond. They’ll provide an additional distraction for the supervillains and guards on the premises. At a minimum, we just need to get in and check their records. If this goes better than that, you can expect to walk away with loot that would be worth some serious dough. Weapons, armor, gadgetry, stuff people are looking to buy for more than you can steal from the local credit unions in a bag.”

I would rather not attack there again, but Pivot didn’t give me many options. She might have lied to me. There may be nothing there at all of use to me. Problem is, it’s difficult for me to tell for sure before we go in there. The first time around, I didn’t care as much about sneaking around the place, but I still didn’t find out where the records room was or what security they had. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Hephaestus had something there to find me when I was invisible. Caution wasn’t a bad idea, I figured, and I had already shot myself in the foot once.

“Generation Flex tends to do a lot of damage to my Super Snail. Max uses his strength and throws Brian right through the armor. Once when my booster rockets were recharging, he broke through the shell and stole back my loot. They’ll make mincemeat of me if I stay in one place too long.”

I stood up and grabbed onto him by the shoulder, lifting him up and causing the teacup to fall and shatter on the floor. I pulled him over to the window of this little den of his. Outside that window, in an underground hanger, was the Super Snail. It had a stalk off and the mouth ramp was torn off.

“I think with a few of my upgrades added to this Super Snail, they’ll be more concerned with getting the shell out of there.”

“You’re new to mollusk-based puns, aren’t you?” Gastrolord asked me.

“Slug and snail based-puns, yes.”

“If you can do what you say you can, then soon the world will cowry before us!”

Then the pair of us engaged in epic evil laughter.

“Mwahahahahahahahaha!”

“Bwahahahahahahahaahhahaha!”

For the record, I didn’t have a fucking clue what a cowry was.

 

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