In the middle of the craziness that is my life, it’s important to stop and enjoy the little things. In this case, that involved a petite nineteen year old stripper calling herself “Funsize” who catered to the guys who didn’t like to shove money between a lot of mammary.
So I was enjoying Funsize, wondering how much I’d have to pay her to get a tattooist to add my John Hancock to the list of crossed-off names on her back under the phrase, “This ass belongs to,” when I became aware I’d missed a doctor’s appointment. I know, a sentence runs like that, it’s hard to believe I could be late. But I knew I had missed a doctor’s visit because he decided to make a housecall. One moment, I’m staring at areola. The next, a man in a black leather costume stood there with a tight grip on his weapon. Not the most unusual sight in a strip club, to tell the truth.
My friend. My ex-teammate. The guy whose daughter I murdered. Also, he wants to kill me.
“Darling,” he said in that smooth British accent. “You’ll want to get dressed and leave.”
“Fuck you!” she said from atop the table. “I’m fucking working here.” She bent over and turned, sticking her ass and g-string in my face. “Get out of here with your fetish ass. This is my goldmine.”
“She’s very enthusiastic about putting herself through college,” I said from behind Funsize’s ass.
“Bitch, you’re going to make me a doctor,” she said.
“Marry me,” I said.
The Good Doctor cleared his throat. “As touching as this is, whatever it is, I’m here to kill this man and I would avoid extraneous bloodshed if at all possible.”
“You won’t kill her, no matter what. You’re a good guy now. A good guy who is cool with murder, but a good guy nonetheless, right?” I asked. I reluctantly pushed Funsize away. “Sorry, darling. This really might get messy. See ya later.”
She left, all pouty, giving Good Doctor the finger as she passed him by. “Bullshit!”
Good Doctor watcher her leave, then jumped on the table and threw a scalpel for my throat. My chair’s bottom caught it. I rammed him with it, knocking him down off the table with my weight. “Can’t we talk about this?”
“You mean lie to me? I know the tone of voice you were using before!” he said. I had my feet on the chair, but jumped up to set them on the table as one of his scalpels penetrated the seat bottom to almost stab it.
“Yeah. I don’t really think you’re a good guy. All the proof I need is that you’re here now to kill me. And if you were really serious about leaving my kind of life behind, you wouldn’t jump to trying to carve people up for spare parts, no matter how bad they were!”
He struggled a bit before getting a knee under the chair to help him leverage it off. I had to push off just before so I wouldn’t fall of either, but it left me with the high ground as he stood up. Yup, the high ground, where it’s even easier to cut my Achilles tendons and then jab a scalpel down my breathing tube until I die from it. Good Doctor stood, scalpel in clenched hand, then slid it into his belt.
I sat down on the edge of the table. “I’m sorry I hurt you, but I really hated her.”
His punch made my jaw pop. I had to make sure everything was more or less in place as I sat back up. “If not for the annoying fact you are right, I would gut you for saying that. You know entirely too much about the morality you ardently reject.”
“You know well enough that I can’t do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. If I’m doing good, it’s got to be the kind of good people are ashamed to admit, or it’s just a means to an end. Usually someone else’s end.,” I said, running a finger across my throat.
He shook his head just slightly. “If only your persistence and single-mindedness had been put to good use. It never shall be. Come along peacefully for the sake of everyone else. If you care about me, do not make me kill you.”
“Ohh, now who’s using who?” I asked, before shaking my head. “I can’t, I’m afraid. I’ve tracked down the guy responsible for bombing the city and setting up everything with that militia who kidnapped the super kid. He’s got political friends, too, so it’s kind of a big thing. It’s helpful for you guys, too.”
“I am not, precisely, a part of Master Academy. I disagreed with them over searching you out alone, but they were too busy to accompany me.”
“I get how that is. They should treat you better, though. They only put up with me because they think they need me and my childish antics often distract from my homicidal tendencies. You’re actually trying to change and you have a really, really, really, really good reason to want to kill me. On the plus side, they’ll like that the encounter with me didn’t really hurt anything besides a chair. You’ll probably want to wash that scalpel, by the way. I don’t trust what some people do on those things,” I looked down at it, then slid off the table.
“Are you serious about what you’ve found?” asked Good Doctor in a calm and measured tone that hinted at his continued malice toward me. “Where is this person you say you found?”
I pulled out a phone and tapped a few buttons. “Still in Chinatown. I’ll send y’all a message on when you can show up to pick him up.”
“Why aren’t you there?” he asked.
“I got something cooking to take him out. He’s a bit tougher than I expected initially and I don’t have your eye for detail. But, hey, you guys can have him after I’m done,” I offered.
Doc cocked his head. “What would we need with a dead body?”
I shook my head. “Dead men tell no tales. I need him to sing like a parrot. As a sign of good faith and an excuse to not bring me back in, you can keep him and take him to your Master Academy buddies. They should be able to hold him. Hell, that might even be a good Plan B if this doesn’t work out.”
He took that in, keeping his arms by his side, before nodding to himself. “Then I will go with you, but this is not like old times. I will be watching you.”
I shrugged. “Fine with me. And since you’ve ruined this evening, I’ve got to do a little shopping. Funsize will just have to buy herself new textbooks on somebody else’s dime.”
One day and an audio-only presentation of my findings later, the pair of us stalked along the rooftops of Chinatown. Doc still had his costume, along with a gun capable of shooting a spike with rappelling line into concrete. I just had my armor, which was more than enough to get me from building to building, even as I protectively carried a very large water gun.
“The smells here,” he stopped and said to me.
I unsealed the mouth hole and opened it briefly. “Smells good. Yummy. You know, they have a fruit somewhere around here that tastes like pussy. Can’t remember the name of it, though.”
Doc took a moment to stop with me and catch his breath. “Which one is that?”
“I can’t remember. Depending on the person, you can just stop by the fish stall instead.”
“Where is this person already?” he asked.
I pulled out my newest mangled gadget, this one intended to let me see and hear their exact location. “They’re close. Looks like they’re at that herbalist store over there. But first, our recent conversation gave me an idea.”
“Good lord, why did I ever agree to spare your life?” he asked as I hopped down to street level.
Less than five minutes later, I approached the outside of the herbalist with my props. Staff in my left hand, big pointy hat on my head. “Goldilocks, where are you?! Here Goldy!”
“This one again? I will make sure to finish him off this time,” I heard Aurum say through the person next to him. His minion really has a problem with constipation.
“Come on out, you gaudy bastard! I had to leave a hooker early to be here, and I really need someone to finish me off!” I called out. I heard snickering through the bug before I saw a golden glow from inside. The front of the shop blew outward, and from inside floated Aurum. The golden man himself with the glowing white eye. Instead of a suit, he wore a Chinese-style shirt and some jeans, which were the same gold as his body. The man’s powers would be an awesome way to increase the value of a Hawaiian shirt. Or screwing over the gold market, if done enough.
“You barely survived our last fight. Luck will not avail you this time,” he said, fixing me with a million-dollar glare.
“That was before I rerolled as a level ten Fishromancer. It’s a mage that specializes in seducing fish,” I added that last part in a stage whisper, then threw down a smoke grenade. Under the cover of thick, black smoke, I reached to the rear of my belt. Fish after fish flew out of the cloud of smoke at Aurum, who shot them all down easily with his eye. He charged right into the smoke cloud, blowing it away with a blast from his eye a moment before he would have reached my position. There, he found nothing.
Well, until a five foot cod fell on him, ridden by yours truly. That threw off his balance for a moment, and my jumping back flip off it and him messed with it even more. Both distracted him quite well from the breaking of the glass container within the fish, and the way the hot fluid inside seeped down onto his body, particularly covering his right arm.
“Aha! You forgot, metal man, that there’s always a bigger fish!” I announced.
He coughed as he threw the fish off, then noticed all the liquid on him. “What the hell is this? What’s going on?” He had begun to bubble just slightly where the liquid touched, then coughed some more.
“You’re killing him?” asked Good Doctor in my ear.
“Oh, I’m not gonna kill ya,” I said. “I’m just gonna hurt ya, really, really bad. Sad to say, my little trick here is at least a little predictable. Aqua Regia, originally figured out in the middle ages by alchemists, the predecessors to chemistry. So-called because it can dissolve even that most noble of medals, gold. Produces some pretty nasty fumes as a byproduct, too. Don’t worry, I can’t smell a thing. You, on the other hand, are caught between gold and a hard place. I wouldn’t change back if I were you, or that stuff would do plenty to wreck your system. On the other hand, you’ve got nitrogen dioxide, nitrosyl chloride, and chlorine gas all coming off you at the moment. Aurum? Darn near rectum, am I right?”
He growled and tried another white blast that fried somebody’s poor food stall. Missed me by a mile even as I rolled and chucked another bottle of Aqua Regia, hitting Aurum in the crotch. “I can do this all night, you know. Or you can tell me what I need to know and I’ll use my ancient mystical powers to stop you from turning into a puddle of orange piss.”
“I would die for a righteous cause,” he said.
“Even slowly, over a few agonizing hours of dissolution?” I asked.
He raised a palm toward me, and I whipped out a squirt gun. His palm started to glow, so I squirted more all over it, and into his eyes.
“This is going too far. He is not talking. Plan B,” I heard from the Good Doctor.
“Sounds good. Just try not to get too enthusiastic,” I whispered into my helmet comms. Then I charged and began beating the carats out of Aurum, alternating between fisticuffs and using more of this lovely liquid I brought to inflict pain on him. I didn’t anticipate the acid doing as much to my armor. Besides, unlike Aurum, my armor is no longer a part of my body. Not much to feel there.
As I’d given Good Doctor plenty of heads-up and my own approval, it took mere moments for the heroes of the Master Academy to descend upon us. For his part, Aurum had stopped doing too much fighting. He’d tried his palm blast, but it fizzled out last time he tried. So when the heroes came down, with their various flyers and glowing body parts, they found myself and a seemingly-defenseless golden man who tried to cover up his eyes without directly touching them with his bubbling skin.
I pointed at him. “He did it! Glad y’all are here. Book ’em.”
Then Minotaur threw me over his shoulder. “Come along peacefully or I’ll hit you until you shut up.”
“Now remember,” I said over the comms. “Plan B means I’m not really a prisoner.”
Minotaur threw a punch that would have hit me in my side, if it didn’t pass through the hologram from a holodisc I’d left behind.
“Call me paranoid, but I somehow don’t trust y’all to keep me in platonic custody. If it helps, you can just pretend you caught me. He’s on so much of an acid trip over there, Goldy won’t know the difference. Just remember to let me know what y’all tug out of that brain of his, ok?”
I know, leaving him with heroes who don’t like me and don’t really want to cooperate with me is a risky plan. But it is a plan. Plan B. Possibly Plan C, depending on how successful they are. After that, the plans get a bit messy. I know there’s one plan where I get a scar from the temple through my eye, and Venus dies in Plan M.