Tag Archives: Gorilla Awesome

War On Uranus 8

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There I was, a woman on a mission, deep in Uranus. It got a bit hairy, I’ll admit. Even a bit nutty at times, some might say.

The heroes wanted to wait, but the revolution wouldn’t listen to them. It had too much momentum. The heroes talked to whoever was supposedly leading this thing, only to find out they were trying to write up declarations and constitutions. They didn’t even realize the mob they supposedly led started a riot in front of the Chair and the Tower.

“At least we know where this weapon or bomb is,” Gorilla Awesome told me. He loaded a hefty backpack onto me. They’d stuck at least one of pretty much any tool not nailed down in this thing, and a couple that had been torn off of where they’d been fixed. Unless something goes really wrong, I don’t know what I’d need a vice for. I have too many already. The oxygen tank was probably a good idea, though.

I don’t know how Dame had this thing upgraded, but I was glad she figured out a way to remain in contact with people while still going intangible. When I first encountered her, the intangibility had an issue with electricity. My internal power source had a heck of an effect on it once. Nothing like that to worry about in Dame’s body, just a computer brain. That’s what prompted me to improve it. Er, her.

Still a bit of a mixup from time to time, what with me sharing her brain at the moment. You can’t really make this work without some feedback from the other direction.

I could have dropped from the Domeship and gone intangible for quicker results, but I thought it’d suck to overshoot and keep going. From what the brain trust of heroes told me, it’d be a really bad idea to go too deep into Uranus. Something about portions of the mantle consisting of liquid diamond. I really want to see that kind of shit, but without being subject to the kinds of pressures that would liquefy diamond.

They flew me down while some of the heroes deployed to try to slow down the rioting. I hopped off, went intangible, and did my best to swim down through everything. Someone, keeping track of everything, noted, “Dame is loose. Alpha, Beta, Gamma team are deploying.”

It didn’t take too long to sweep through sewers and foundations. I was blind below that. “Further down,” Gorilla Awesome urged in my ear. “Left. No, the direction to the left of how you just moved.”

I had to stop and think that one through, then shifted. “Ok, I’ve turned so that’s my left now. Let’s get going.”

“I hope the light works,” he said.

It took a good hour of “swimming” through a bunch of minerals and ice I couldn’t see in the first place. I felt uneven, jagged things passing through me painlessly. The texture changed when I reached the end of that half hour. Solid and dense, then a layer of solid and slightly porous. I followed that down to a floor of dense metal. Past that was air. I tried to trace it out and found enough room to at least turn solid. I’d been so long without real mass and wasn’t used to the weight of the backpack I’d been loaded down with, so I fell as soon as I turned solid, cussing.

Gorilla Awesome was alarmed. “Dame, are you hurt?”

“Just wasn’t used to so much sass in my mass after all that.” I breathed in through the oxygen mask and turned on my headlamp. It’d be a big room for a house, like a living room, but square, with these columns built into the wall. In the middle was a big, black egg on a stand. “Congratulations… their secret weapon was a dragon’s egg.”

“Really?” Awesome asked.

I rolled my eyes, “Probably not, but it looks like an egg.” I started to approach, but I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I looked down. Nope, hadn’t been stabbed. I didn’t smell anything if there was something in the air. “Ugh, that’s not good.”

“What?” Awesome asked.

“I hope there wasn’t some kind of poison or viral agent down here… feels like I just got knifed in the chest.” I felt something warm spray all over me. “It’s for real like someone really, 100% stabbed me.” I fell to my knees, trying to take a breath even though I was fine on my end.

“Dame, what’s wrong?”

“Check on Gecko!” I coughed up. I took a minute or two to gather myself. I felt cold in spite of being deep underground. I crawled over to the stand and reached up to adjust the device attached to my ear, setting it to Venus’s frequency. “Boopsie, talk to me. Something’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I think it might be my body, up there in the infirmary.”

“What? Gecko?” she asked. “Dame warmed me you could take over her. How long have you been in there?”

“The night I went into a coma. I don’t know how that happened. I just woke up in Dame when she had that head injury with you.” I took a second to remember her body didn’t have trouble keeping air in her lungs. “I don’t know why. I tried going back.”

“I’m on the ground. I can’t-, I’m nowhere near the infirmary. They’re checking on you. They’ll save you, alright. Stay with me.”

“Keep talking, Boopsie.” I focused on the sound of her voice as I forced my way to the stand and dropped the backpack. I fumbled around in there and pulled out a small blowtorch and a box of matches. When I looked up, I noticed a thin, vertical line of light cast on the stand that certainly didn’t match my head lamp. I turned to look and saw a column cracked open. Out stepped a nude, grey-skinned man. The column insides looked like a padded pod with some computers, wires, and tubes hanging up.

The clone looked at me. “You are here to activate the device?”

I nodded. “Yep. That’s completely why I’m here. I’ll handle the bomb. You go back to sleep and I’ll handle it from here.”

His eyes glowed red. Oh, well, if it’s a fight, that I might be able to handle. I whimpered as I stood up. Venus’s voice came through loud and clear in my ear, “You can’t fight. That’s Dame’s body. You’re already dying, please don’t take her with you. We’ll figure something out.”

With friends like this, it’s a wonder I’m even trying to stop this planet being blown up. I mean, I technically get everything I’d want anyway if I just kinda “Oops” the doomsday device into activation. I might have to sacrifice Dame’s body to do so, though, which would look like a lot better option if mine wasn’t dying. But then, if my body dies, my mind’s going with it anyway.

I started shaking my head from side to side, concentrating on a beat. “I got this feeling on a Summer day when you were gone. I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn. I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs. I crashed my car into the bridge.”

The grey man shifted so my back wasn’t to the egg, then flew at me. “I don’t care!” I yelled at him and activated Dame’s intangibility bracer. He flew through me and smacked into the hard metal walls. “I love it.”

Now, I managed to at least sway in time to the music. It helped me concentrate. I went solid and grabbed the goody bag they’d packed me. I tossed it into his arms and rushed him. He caught the bag and then had to put up with his attacker leaning on him. I pulled out a pair of pliers and squeezed his nose with them. “This’ll help with the smell. It can’t be pleasant this far down Uranus.”

He half groaned, half growled and grabbed my hand in an iron grip. Yep, definitely superpowers. He pulled my hand away and the pliers dropped. “You will diEEE!” he screamed and hopped up and down, dropping the bag. It hit my other hand that had caught the dropped pliers and knocked them loose, causing me the pliers’ hold on his exposed nut sack. He threw me at the opposite wall, hard. I phased through it.

He stepped away from the wall, looking around, then walked toward the doomsday device. My voice reverberated out from around him as I maneuvered through the solid exterior. “You’re on a different road, I’m in the Milky Way. You want me down on Earth, but I am up in space.” I poked my head out from above him. He looked up and zapped the ceiling with red lightning. I dropped down, only turning solid once I smacked into the floor, and scrabbled to grab the egg thing. Then the bracer went on again and I fell through the floor with it.

The next time I sang, it was from a corner. “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch.” He turned and tried to zap me again. He hit the egg, blowing a piece of it off and exposing circuitry.

He ran and slid on his knees to cup the egg against him, checking it over. I came out of the floor behind him and grabbed for that blow torch, then the matches. The flicking of matches got his attention and he turned in time to see fire. Glorious fire! He got an eye full, and practically screamed with joy at the sight. Or maybe that was pain. As happy as I was to hurt him, I still felt like someone was turning me into a sub sandwich, so the feelings were a bit confused in me as well. But I held him there, grabbing the back of his head to force his face against the torch. The first punch to Dame’s chest made my back pop. The second made something inside break. He didn’t finish the third, because by that point I’d burnt a hole through half his head. I was almost burning my hand, but I waited until his body stopped wiggling. I let drop to the side and I shut the torch off, falling to my knees.

I didn’t even have the decency to wheeze for as bad as I felt. I fell forward, over his feet and against the shell of the egg-shaped device. It sparked a bit, but zapped me. So, it still had power. I would have to handle this with delicacy. “Venus, I’m feeling kinda fucked. But not in the good way. I’m feeling like I got mounted by a horse and nobody bought me dinner first.” I began tugging stuff out, breaking shit. Truth be told, doomsday devices usually pretty sensitive. It began to whine at one point and I noticed vibrations, but then I got the blowtorch reignited. I held it up to the exposed portion and began to burn my way through it. It snapped, crackled, popped, and stopped vibrating.

I celebrated by tossing the torch aside and laying down for a nap.

When I awoke, it was to Venus’s voice in my ear. “Gecko? Are you still there?”

I groaned, putting a hand to my chest, by which I meant Dame’s chest. “Still here.” At this point, I couldn’t tell which body the pain was coming from, I just knew I was tired of it. “Tell the Buzzkills… have a syringe ready for me.”

I had been worried I was going to die there, next to some egg that someone buried in Uranus. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but neither was the thought of those dickweeds in the Justice Ranger outfits getting the last laugh, or being abandoned by heroes who loathed my presence, or the thought of what would happen to my daughter without me there. So I decided I wasn’t sleeping anymore until I clawed my way out of Uranus and into the light again. I vowed to rise again. Plus, coming back from the dead always gives a person serious cred for building their own cult.

Finding the way out was easy enough. I went up. It was all the time spent injured, even if it was made easier by phasing through crap. When I reached the surface, I left the radio sending an SOS and just laid there, trying not to breathe too hard.

I woke up this time and held myself with four arms in my own body, glad to be back. Fuck that whole “toppling the government” celebration the heroes were having with the resident Ewoks of the Butt Planet. I couldn’t get a good read on what exactly happened. There was talk of tarring and feathering, but also drawing and quartering.

Still no sign of Dame waking up on her own, though.

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War On Uranus 7

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I don’t know why I felt like checking in on Psycho Gecko. They have us on a rotation system where we spend a few hours on duty, then come back to help. They have even less time out than when they go out on patrol. It used to be, they’d go out, hang out on rooftops, and eventually find something to stop. We’re all being zipped to and fro to hot spots where the work or fighting is almost constant. I’m mostly used for search and rescue, and scouting.

I was scared at first; I’m sure as shit not a fighter. I haven’t been scared since the head injury. More… sad, I guess? And angry. God, so angry. I didn’t think I hated them so much. If it was just the soldiers who shoot at us, that would be understandable. But I pulled a mother and her child from wreckage and wanted to slap the hell out of that crying baby. I wanted to yell at the woman and tell her this was all her fault, too. I didn’t want to be there, risking my life for people who let all this happen when I could be home.

I don’t know why I’m thinking of home so much. Home’s a penthouse paid for with stolen money because I didn’t want to live off money from those hermits with the god complex. But that wasn’t the only weirdness to happen to me. I had an incident while scouting.

They needed me to see how the soldiers were arrayed near this Perilous Tower place and the Consul’s Chair. They named their palace after a seat. I bet it’s because it had a humble name a long time ago. The oldtimers who say they’re gods talk about that stuff. “I remember when Stonehenge was nothing but a bunch of druids sitting around on rocks doing rituals.”

I got a good look, but I was sneaking around the streets circling the Chair when a group of armored soldiers with jetpacks landed around me. I normally play this safe. I could activate my bracer and go underground without issue. I turned it on and threw a punch at the nearest of the five soldiers around me. I had a thought that I didn’t know how many it would take to kick my ass, but I knew they didn’t bring enough.

I had ideas about grabbing guns, choking people, snapping necks, but the soldiers around me opened fire through me. Didn’t do shit to me, but they got themselves good. Their armor stopped most of it. I went solid long enough to grab for one’s gun. His strap stopped me from pulling it free, so instead I smashed it into his throat and sent him splaying. Another raised his gun, sans strap. I twisted it free of his grip, phased, and held the gun out so the receiver poked through his head. When I went solid, the gun did too.

He landed next to one of the people who hadn’t tanked bullets as well as the others, leaving me two more to play with. Play? The fuck am I doing “playing” with soldiers? No respawn, no GG. Like, when one of them pulled a knife and tried to stab me in the pancreas. I grabbed it, twisted his wrist, stomped on his ankle, then drove it into his throat. The warm blood splattering me snapped me the rest of the way out of whatever was going on with me.

I went insubstantial and ran. I stopped after what felt like a mile. I don’t know. I work out, but I don’t marathon run and why the fuck am I talking about my workout routine? I fucking killed those guys. They had visors and armor and I couldn’t see their faces but they were probably human people. Even those grey fucks are human, maybe.

It took a minute before the trembling stopped. I wanted to say it was emotion, but I knew it was adrenaline. I’d be fine. I probably didn’t even kill that one with how weak I am now. That thought convinced me that, more than anything, I needed to get off the ground. Because I realized, holy shit, I was critiquing that shit mentally. I knew I could do better, but thought that was a pretty sweet ankle kick considering the boots they had on. And that’s why I took a deep breath and screamed for a moment. Then I called up the ship and told them to I was done and to get me the hell out of there.

When I got back onto the ship, I headed for the medical ward. I heard someone calling for me back in the docking bay, but I needed drugs and shrinks and some electroshock therapy. Lots of electroshock. Lots of drugs. I remember when they wanted to put me on some when I was a teenager. They thought I was too willful. The people at the program… my parents? What program? I was remembering two different sets of events. What. The. Fuck?

I headed for the beds. I needed to lay down, that’s all. I ran over to the bed next to Psycho Gecko and tried to collect myself. I laid back, tried to take my mind off this, whatever this was. I started wondering if I’d see those guys in my dreams, but knew I wouldn’t. A weird little phrase occurred to me. I don’t know if I’m a woman dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am a woman. Don’t know where that came from. I know who I am. I…

A lot of shit hit me at once that made the whole “murderer” thing affect me even less than it already was. The me in the mirror didn’t match the me inside, again. This time, instead of being hairy and masculine, it’s because the me outside was Dame. I’ve spent a few days dreaming I was a butterfly. I’m a Gecko instead. I groaned, looking over at my body.

I sensed a presence and looked up near the doorway. It was one of the Justice Rangers, checking in on my body. He wasn’t paying me any mind. Kinda emblematic, I guess. My past is always there. I’m always tied to it. Venus thinks I could be better. Do I dare entertain the thought that she’s right? And what then? Give it an actual go? Abandon my daughter and my empire? Even abandon whatever this is with Venus? That’s the same thinking that drove me into my cowardice when I had a time machine. I didn’t make things better because I thought of what things were like now.

So leaving aside all that, I could just leave my body on life support. Let go of my past to try being a better person.

I know, I know, dear readers. It seems downright laughable for me to seriously consider. Of all people, I’m the one who pondered making a real and earnest change. Seeing what I could be if I let go and began again.

I sighed to myself, because it occurred to me that if any part of me really wants to be better, that means not hijacking some other person’s body and taking over her life permanently. I got up and pushed past the Ranger while telling him, “Stop staring, asshat.”

I found a seat in an area where people might not suddenly and catastrophically need beds, and tried slipping back into me. Nope. Well, shit. That couldn’t be good. I reached up and felt the stitches on my, or at least Dame’s, head. Maybe something got messed up in there, combined with falling asleep at the wrong time? Questions for later.

I went to go grab some food, giving my comatose body some side eye. I’m gonna be hungry as fuck when I wake up, but Dame needed to eat for now. It was there, while grabbing myself cloned, cooked meat patty and green beans so pale they were teal, that I saw Venus sitting and reading something on her phone.

“Surprised you get coverage here,” I said as I sat beside her at the table. Luckily, no matter the universe, humans sitting and eating leads to a limited number of options. It’s a lot easier to explain than all the English over here.

“Hey Dame,” she said, covering her mouth as she talked. She swallowed before shooting me a smile. “Heard you had some trouble.”

I rolled my eyes. “Like you wouldn’t believe. I actually need to tell you about something real quick.”

She looked to the doorway, where Gorilla Awesome bounded in. Gorillas running at you tend to draw attention. That goes double if they can talk and built their own jetpack. “I’ve found the reason they invaded! It’s that damn Gecko’s fault again, too.”

Venus sighed and looked down at her plate for a moment before collecting herself and asking Gorilla Awesome, “So Honky Tonk won that bet you two had?” Awesome snorted and pulled a seat away so he could join us on the other side of the table. Venus focused on him. “Did you run over here during my break just to remind me my girlfriend’s the devil?”

Aww… that’s the sweetest thing she’s ever said about me.

Gorilla Awesome shook his head. “Would that were the case. No. It was in the same series of messages that alerted us to a major problem. They were curious by the weapon used to attack Executor Paldrin’s province. They were relieved it wasn’t what they initially suspected it to be, but an attack that cuts them off from dimensional travel was still considered a grave danger to them. They are heavy importers of raw materials. They can’t survive otherwise. Most distressing for us, they suspected it was a mobile version of what they term the ‘Spite Solution’.”

“Let me guess, they kill everyone.” I volunteered. “You don’t call something a ‘Solution’ without a lot of people dying.”

Awesome nodded slightly. “Yes. There was an uprising on Earth. A political rival from a family with superpowers suddenly grew in strength and threatened to depose the Consuls. Because the rival, the Consuls, and most of the Senate were on Earth at the time, nobody ultimately knows if the Consuls used it to spite their enemy or if someone else used the opportunity. All these Consuls know is the Earth is a slowly-spreading lifeless asteroid field. Despite that, they have completed a similar device on Uranus.”

Venus jumped up. “Next time lead with the doomsday device they currently have!”

“Sorry!” Gorilla Awesome raised his damn, dirty paws. “But the good news is, we know where it is.”

“Where?” Venus asked, sitting back down.

“A mile beneath the Chair building. Completely surrounded by ammonia ice, blocks of methane, diamond cement, and metal plate so that no person could get in and out,” Awesome answered.

Venus looked to me. Gorilla Awesome did, too. After a moment, I figured it out, “Oh, right, if only we knew someone who could just phase down about a mile and do something to mess with it.”

Venus patted my arm. “Thank you for offering. You’re a dear.”

Thoughts of Dame and Venus were interrupted by a gorilla with a Ph.D. Telling me, “Don’t worry. We will talk you through the disarming process. This is an area where I would prefer having Psycho Gecko awake if at all possible, but it’s probably best we let sleeping bitches lie.”

Gee, thanks. Nice to know what people say when I’m not around. Little do they know the person they’re insulting is the one preparing to plunge into Uranus to save everyone.

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War On Uranus 6

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I have to revise my opinion of these rebels. Or perhaps it’s the political rivals I shouldn’t have underestimated. They spread the word that the Consuls didn’t have that much force behind them. People demonstrated. It’s an odd verb to use, especially as protesters often have to hide their identities to avoid being attacked later by paramilitary forces. Nah, what they’re demonstrating is their displeasure. Light enough cars on fire, the people in charge start to realize they messed up.

They didn’t start with fire. First, there were shouts. When the cops started beating them, they brought out the sticks and bricks. Then the soldiers brought out guns, and the protesters went in with fire. Then the heroes arrived to save the day.

It was always something that annoyed me about them. Heroes save people, sure, but they’re mainly known for upholding the laws. Even if those laws are unjust. Refusing to take a lives, when it would be the best solution. I don’t have to think too hard to come up with a few people whose deaths would make the world better.

A better world… yeah, it sure did a lot of improving, didn’t it? Fuck, we went from being invaded by other planets to other dimensions. No use worrying about that distraction at the moment.

So the heroes arrived to save the day. They put themselves between civilians and soldiers, to save the citizens of an empire that tried to conquer them. They threw soldiers around, pulled guns away, whisked people from underneath danger’s blade. And they didn’t kill. I thought I changed them at one point.

So many had been brainwashed by the Claw. I couldn’t beat him, but I freed the heroes and villains under his control. They had the power to do what I couldn’t, but I figured they’d all get a thirst for blood in them. They’re saving their enemies. I saw it from the Domeship: a soldier tried to beat a protester with the butt of his rifle. A glowing acoustic guitar stopped it, and Honky Tonk Hero kabonged the soldier to the ground. He helped up the protester, guided them to safety, and stopped another one from smashing a downed soldier’s head in with a brick. It was like that all over the planet, including the capital.

And they were failing. I think they had just about everybody deployed. Heroes, most of their defectors. That was why I was there. They could either keep more folks around as bridge crew to make sure this thing stayed in the air, or I could take over. The only group they hadn’t used, per my orders, were the Buzzkills. The heroes were more than happy to put themselves in danger. They can’t make that decision for my gals.

I warped the ship over a city called Owa. An explosion blew apart something in the street. “Toasty!” I said to no one in particular. I called down to the team there. “Major Tom to Ground Control. Everything ok down there? It’s looking a bit hot on the streets.”

“This is Pinion.” Right, flying super. Purple and light blue costume with fabric wings. Likes to throw feather-shaped knives, but she’s a hero. “They broke out the mortars. We need help.”

Whoever had that smart idea wasn’t getting it out to their buddies, but that didn’t do much for Pinion and her team. I opened up communications. “This is Gecko. Pinion needs reinforcement. Is there anyone available? Also, beware of mortars.”

“Syncopate here. I think we have this. Give me-” He went staticy for a minute. Syncopate… the guy has these little dishes around his cuffs to help concentrate sonar powers. He sounded out of breath when he checked in a couple seconds later. “This clone unit is tying us down. I’m sorry. I think we need some help now.”

I looked over at the Buzzkills standing at attention, then looked back at the situation. I cut the transmission to the heroes and looked to the Buzzkills again. “This part of it isn’t our business, so I don’t expect y’all to follow orders without questions. This is voluntary.”

“Father Empress,” said one of the Buzzkills as she stepped forward. Quite an odd title there, made possible thanks to my gender situation. “We are not only drones. We have been watching the situation as well. What the heroes are doing helps all of us. I will assemble squads to deploy and help them, first in force at the most dire hot spots, then moving to the rest. We will make you proud.”

I turned to keep an eye on the Domeship’s view screen, even though I didn’t need to with my body directly connected to its central computer. “Thank you, daughter. Be safe. Let me know when you’re ready to warp to the next hot spot.”

She and the other guard bowed, and they left. I kept my mouth shut and digitally generated the transmission when I informed the heroes. “Buzzkills are preparing to deploy. Pinion, you’re up first. Then Syncopate. All teams, keep me abreast of any trouble that pops up. We’re working on the worst spots first, moving onto others.”

A text appeared in my HUD from Venus. “Nice to see ur joining fight.”

I rolled my eyes and texted back. “Aren’t you too busy punching to type?”

“How do u no I’m not braining it?” she asked.

“Because if you were using a connection to it instead, you wouldn’t be stuck in text-speak. Fight first. Flirt later.”

“Never stop u before.”

That gave me a brief smile before the Buzzkill runner came in. “They are away.”

“That was quick,” I said. The Buzzkill didn’t say anything. She was conspicuous in her lack of speech. “You were planning for this.”

“We want to make you proud and protect our hive. We run maneuvers, we train. We plan. We are ready to fight for what we care about, Father Empress,” she said.

Well, nice to see my half-bug bumble babies got brains. If I’m going to send them into a fight to help heroes save people who wanted me dead, at least one side in all this is doing some thinking. “Pinion, help is on the way.”

“Thanks, Gecko,” she said. I put her gratitude aside. A bright white light saw us over to the next hotspot, Poarch.

“Syncopate, Gecko,” I announced. “Still alive?”

“Alive and rockin’,” he said.

I tried to remain all business during the flight of the bumblebees.

The main fighting ended quickly in most spots. Others raged on. The people, emboldened by their new protectors, refused to back down. They encircled government buildings and garrisons. I lost track of everywhere I shuttled people. It just kept going, with me as a glorified ferry. Get up, disconnect long enough to go to the bathroom, grab some nutrient-filled cloned food, and back to being the ship’s brain.

The hardest nut to punch was the capital. The seat of the Republic’s power also held its largest concentration of forces on the planet. The protests and riots that broke out there were nearly stomped out while the Buzzkills were busy with the heroes forcing other guard units to surrender and lay down arms. And then while the heroes tried to arrange for some sort of protective force to guard those other areas that wasn’t going to start a new massacre.

Meanwhile, I stood, sat, or even knelt in one place. It got so bad, I actually passed out. I didn’t realize it until I heard Venus calling out. I opened my eyes and realized I was laying down in a building. It was night, things were on fire, and a portion of the wall was gone. A hand gripped the floor. I checked and that was where Venus’s voice came from. She was holding on with one hand while holding onto a person with the other. She tried adjusting he grip, but the floor bent a bit more.

“Dame, get her,” she told me. Just great. I can’t get a break even when I pass out. At least I was off my ass, even if it wasn’t my ass I wore now. I didn’t even think about it, hitting the phase bracer and passing through the floor to land on the one below. I grabbed the guy Venus held and pulled him away from the edge and the damaged structure. Venus landed near us, and checked the guy’s head and neck. “I think he’ll be fine.”

She turned to me and I saw a wince underneath her visor. “That looks pretty nasty. You should get back to the doctors.” She reached out, a flashlight on her wrist snapping on. “Get that looked at.”

“Tis only a flesh wound,” I told her.

Gorilla Awesome’s voice broke through what had been a nice moment that had me wondering if I could steal a smooch. Dame told Venus about the whole brain puppet thing, I’m sure. Either way, the supersmart jetpack gorilla told us, “Something has happened on the ship. We need a skeleton grew again.”

“What’s up, Awesome?” asked Venus.

“I found Psycho Gecko unconscious at the controls. I expect it’s sleep deprivation. She won’t wake up no matter how hard or often I slap her. The Buzzkills are moving her to quarters, but I require aid to fly the ship.” Well that didn’t sound good.

“Jesus, is this the first anyone’s relieved her?” Venus asked. A burst of light outside showed darkened smudges all over her power armor. I checked my own self out and found Dame’s costume had a few tears as well. My feet ached, my head throbbed, and my muscles were all sore from days of physical activity with little rest. I was all jittery, too. That’d be the adrenaline. I leaned against what had been a table and breathed in and out, trying to control this body.

Gorilla Awesome sighed. “I am going to implement full rotation. It will allow us to shuttle the wounded more efficiently, and allow us to rest outside of a warzone.”

“Good idea. Let the bees know,” she looked to me. “You should go up, too.”

“I-” I started to refuse, but then my head pain roared forward like a bull and I focused on wincing and getting through the pain. Even if it’s me feeling it instead of Dame, I decided it was a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, the heroes and my Buzzkills had pretty much run themselves ragged like this. Warman stayed to fight, along with some of the supers who didn’t need to worry about that so much. And I passed out when being flown back up.

I dreamed I was back on the ground, scouting out the soldiers and finding people trapped in buildings to rescue. Ugh, and I still felt like crap when I woke up, but at least I woke. I was getting some of the blood out of my hair when I heard some of the doctors talking about the casualties. That crazy bitch Psycho Gecko didn’t even do any fighting and she ended up in a coma.

I looked at myself in a mirror for a moment while my body as a whole complained. For just a moment, I thought I didn’t look right, like I wasn’t looking back at my own face. I shook it off, and headed off to grab some chow before I went back down. Whoever said there’s no rest for the wicked didn’t count on the egotistical empress of assholes snoozing while Uranus is on fire.

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War On Uranus 2

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I’ve talked a bit about interrogations before. About how the preferred way to get information is through building a rapport with someone instead of beating it out of them or tearing stuff apart. Unfortunately, every time I try to personally demonstrate this, clueless people keep giving me accurate information during the torture part. There I am, trying to interrogate properly and save people the terrors of torture, and they fuck it up.

I thought of all this while I was taped to a chair while people took turns punching me in the face. It was a group of heavyset men and women working me over, members of a crime family called the Kah. I heard the name whispered in certain shadows, and by a bartender into a hidden microphone. They had escorted me to a back room for a talk, which I thought me useful even when they broke out the tape and the chair.

There were five of them, which seemed a bit excessive. We’d managed to get a lot of organizing done, and gotten a pretty good chunk of defectors. Most of the military guys didn’t stick with us, but they were pretty week from the cold and the lack of fresh air, so they didn’t put up much of a fight when we took their gear and left them in some little town next to the mag lev lines. I thought it was a highway of some sort, but they appear to be the main form of long distance ground transportation.

After that, we sat down and found out about the existence of groups who were, shall we say, enthusiastic about altering their government. I believe it has to do with the vote belonging only to people who own a certain amount of property and money.

Don’t worry about the ship. I left Gorilla Awesome at the controls. Unlike Venus and Warman, he didn’t head off to go find members of a resistance or rebel group while seemingly forgetting I even exist.

I’m not disappointed and bitter.

I found my way to the surface as well, because I have a bunch of daughters who are flying bee people. I had some of them drop me off and I decided to go looking for explosives. A day of wandering around the icy white and grey streets of the nearest urban stack of shit, I found a bar where the right word could get you a meeting with folks who know how to get stuff.

I don’t need explosives. There are still some on the ship, and stuff to make even more. The reason I went looking for bombs or bomb parts is because that would lead me to someone who sells them to people on this planet, in this dimension. There’s a fairly limited market for that sort of thing, involving religious fundamentalists, anti-government terrorists, and revolutionaries. Sometimes, there’s even a difference.

That brings me back to the little room in the back of a bar where four guys and a woman were taking turns hurting their fists on my face. “Who sent you? What agency are you with?” asked this one big guy with a receding hairline. He wound up and slugged me in the chin, then shook his hand. “Fuck’s sake, she’s a hard one.”

“Most be part of her powers,” said the woman with a ponytail of brown hair. She reached over and grabbed something that looked nearly like a wood baseball bat. It was shorter, with a more consistent thickness along its length. She spun it around to show me where straight razors were embedded in the wood, facing out. “Or she’s got a head full of metal instead of a brain. Did you think we were amateurs? Get her throat.”

Someone behind me put his hands around my throat and started squeezing. I kicked my legs against the tape holding me and arched my back, groaning and coughing. The woman hefted the razorbat, then noticed my mouth doing funny things. She stopped and nodded to the guy behind me, who let me go. “You have something to tell us?”

I nodded, coughed, then informed them. “Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m there.”

“There?” asked the guy behind me.

“It means I’m not coming anymore,” I said. He leaned forward to look between my legs. I snapped the tape the rest of the way through and grabbed his head, biting his ear and pulling him over me into my lap. That was in case the woman swung that bat, and she did. Her partner took the blow instead of me. What a nice guy!

When she swung again, I grabbed at the bat and ended up pinning it against him. Flexing, I managed to pull my legs free of their tape. I hadn’t been able to weaken it with really sharp nails like I had the ones on my arms, but legs are stronger. The bat got loose as I did.

I stood up and closed my eyes as a chain smacked me in the face. I flinched back, into a punch that got some fight bite from me. The chains came for me again and I raised a hand to cushion the blow. Another hand went downtown to grab his blowjob cushion. I picked that one up and threw him against the wall. He hit with a thunk and skidded down.

The asshole who punched me pulled out a knife and swiped at my face. I caught it in my teeth and raised my eyebrows toward him. I twisted his wrist to force him to let go of it, but the bat caught me in the back before I could do anything else. I spat the knife at him, where it grazed his cheek. Groaning, I did a split. The groan had more to do with taking a hard piece of wood from behind. I’m not opposed to that sort of thing with warning. I chose to show my displeasure by bending back and throwing a punch forward and back, catching a pair of differently-equipped crotches in each hand. I swept my leg around to trip the guy in front of me and spun to grab the woman by the clam and the arm. I tossed her over head, where she landed next to the chair and the guy who had slumped off it onto the ground.

That left one guy still standing and holding something in hand. It crackled with electricity as he stabbed it at me. I jumped back and kept jumping until I fell against someone. Looking back, I saw the dazed guy I’d tossed at a wall. He grabbed at me, but I pulled free and sidestepped, leaving him to get cattle prodded by his buddy. The guy with the prod turned around to look for me and got poked in both eyes like a cartoon. I grabbed the prod and gave him a little shock to each of his nipples in turn. Then I wound up and smacked him in the back of the head with the handle.

That left him, two more guys, and the woman all down in a close group near the chair. I got a pleasant little idea. I dropped the prod and instead grabbed the chair, jumped, and came down with all my weight on it. It cracked as it landed on them, but I just wasn’t massive enough to make it pop on four of them at once. I slid off and grabbed the chair, then smashed it to bits on their heads. All the Ikeas weren’t putting those four back together again.

Then I turned to the last one, and looked around. I found the cattle prod and checked to make sure it could still shock. Crackle crackle. Then I smiled at the guy leaning against the wall and informed him that, “You and I are gonna have a little chat about hospitality. Because I don’t really care if my questions get answered now, and this prod fits right here the sun doesn’t shine.”

“The Geetoh Valley?” he asked.

“Sure, buddy. Let me send it there through your wormhole.”

Proving me right, he did not provide any useful information.

I stepped out of the backroom, covered with blood, and made my way toward the bar. The bartender had signalled some people when I came in and started asking for things that go boom in the night. He seemed surprised to see me again. I pulled up a stool, because they even have stools on Uranus, and immediately sighed as a hand landed on my shoulder. “Everybody wants to get kicked in the Geetoh Valley ton- Boopsie!”

I’d spun around to find Venus there in heavy clothing like the local wore. Warman was with her, also out of costume, and they had some friends with them, one of whom had a barcode tattoo on his face.

“What have you been up to?” Venus asked.

I shrugged. “Just enjoying a Bloody Mary, but it spilled on me a bit.”

Warman turned to the barcode guy. “That’s who I meant.”

I stood up and held out my hand for a shake, but barcode guy spritzed me in the face with something. I grabbed for his arm, but felt myself falling forward…

…and off a sofa in a room somewhere, two hours later, drooling all over the place. I shook my head, but my face was numb. Standing up wasn’t so easy, either. The floor kept moving.

“Oh, you’re up!” I heard. Psychsaur’s scaled hands helped me stabilize myself. I hugged her, and she hugged back. “Been awhile.”

“You too,” I managed without biting through my tongue. “They tranqued me?”

“Tranquilizer spray,” Psychsaur said. She reached up to scratch the feathers she had in place of hair. “They did it to Venus and Warman when they found them. They call themselves The New Serviles. Bunch of assholes.”

I laughed at that, then almost fell over. She eased me down onto the sofa and sat down next to me. I slapped my face a few times, then looked to her. “Hey, sorry about you and Venus. You ok?”

She smiled without showing any fang. “We’re good. It was wonderful, but we had our reasons.” When she saw me trying to stand again, she put a hand on my arm. “Hey, rest a minute. They don’t want you out there anyway.”

I sighed. “Yeah, they’re leaving me out of stuff. Realized that one already. Who goes off to do shady clandestine stuff and leaves me out of it?”

“Did you find any resistance to the guys who attacked us?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Beat up some organized crime members. Members of the Kah.”

“You beat up some criminals, they found these guys. It worked out without you.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll level with you: they don’t want either of us out there while the Serviles are around. Their government takes every super they find and presses them into service or uses them for power clone material. They don’t trust supers, especially not supers who look super.” She motioned to me with my four arms and herself with her reptilian features.

I rested my chin on my hands, and my elbows on my knees. “Fine… but I still don’t like being left out just because the heroes don’t like me and Venus is ashamed of me.”

Psychsaur laughed. “I knew it! You two are together?”

I waved a hand. “It’s complicated, I think. I don’t know what we are, especially if she’s insecure enough to dump me in side rooms and leave me behind.”

“Well, I’m used to that,” the telepathic hero said. “I was never as good at fisticuffs as she was, so I’ve been left behind before. They don’t need you right now.”

“They never think they need me. They didn’t think they needed me when we first got on this ship, for instance,” I want to stand up, but Psychsaur stopped me again.

She looked up at me. “They need you to stay out of the way. Just for now. Take a minute to rest… get a shower.”

I looked down, at my outfit, the underlayer of my armor. I’d been wearing it all this time, having been used to it. Unfortunately, I no longer have the environmental seals that keep others from smelling me. And we were in some sort of small suite.

Psychsaur, clever girl, took my costume off to be laundered. I had nothing but a towel to wear out. Which turned out to not be so bad when Venus walked in with a smile and a dinner for two.

What happens in Uranus, stays in Uranus.

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Things Fall Apart 4

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If all this sounds like things have been a bit separated so far, good. The heroes still don’t like me or trust me. A lot of the villains don’t like or trust me either. Part of that’s because we’re generally less likely to play nice with others. Plenty of them are suspicious at how often I end up helping save the Earth and my close relationship with some of the heroes. Instead of trusting me to corrupt Venus, they worry she’s trying to redeem me. Laughable, right? She is trying, but the idea of her succeeding? Ha!

The division between hero and villain hasn’t just been because of personal feelings. I don’t know who thought it up, but Venus passed on to me an idea to make it look like the heroes and villains weren’t united. She explained it to me thusly, in a private meeting we had one night in a parking garage: “The villains need to look like they only care about themselves. The heroes will be front and center fighting. When the ship gets here, we’re certain they will send down more people and try to take us out. Don’t leave us hanging.”

That was when I got here, after I kinda wrecked Master Academy’s trap.

All this separation is good for me though. The infosphere, datanet, whatever you call the collective digital world surrounding the Earth, it’s loud as fuck right now. I have people spread out all over the world and it’s overwhelming me. If I don’t concentrate so much on what’s in front of me, I begin to lose track of myself. It’s easy to jump into a helicopter that needs support in Ghana or screw with a camera system in Belarus. Checking the road ahead of refugees in Costa Rica and redirecting a GPS. Setting off car alarms in Cairo to ruin an enemy ambush.

For a long time, one of the things that worried me about my archnemesis was her ability to get me to focus on her. To concentrate to deal with her, even if it was just screwing with her. Now, it helps to keep me back in myself. I suppose the fact that she was holding me in her arms as we laid on the roof, staring up at a sky covered by the 8-pointed body of the domeship above us. “I’m not good at romance, but it would have been good to see stars, right?”

We’d met halfway between Rothstein’s, where I’d taken rooms for my guys and myself, and whatever hospital she’d been helping at. The heroes have a makeshift command center, but they don’t rest that well. Sometimes, a villain with a handy skillset slips through. Harder to tell who it is in plainclothes unless they have four arms like I do. A lot of the people who risked staying were also willing to risk nanites.

“There’s too much light pollution anyway,” she said, stroking my hair. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“I think I’ll kill them all,” I said,yawning.

She shifted to look down at me. “There’s no reason for that.”

“I hate them. That’s a good enough reason,” I told her.

She took one of my hands. “I don’t hate them and I don’t think you should either. They’re soldiers, or they’re clones who believe they only have value as weapons. We want the boss sitting in his high chair who thinks it’s their business shooting at our homes.”

It was good to have her there and to be able to focus. What came next required a lot of focus.

They attacked just before first light.

I awoke to rumbling, alone on the rooftop. Even my internal HUD clock read “You fuckin’ serious?” I looked around and saw giant rectangular containers slowing down on jets before crushing buildings and cars. One landed nearby and opened up to reveal a trio of tanks. Jump infantry landed nearby. I rushed to get my armor back on and shot Venus and her friends a message. I don’t know if they noticed me before I got my invisibility going. Satellite coverage went wonky, but they weren’t headed back toward Rothstein’s like I was. I hopped up a skyscraper and saw them converging on the square the heroes were using.

It’s a new square. So much rebuilding around here, I didn’t even bother learning this one’s name. I don’t know if they gave it some legacy name, or went for something new. Based on the number of armored vehicles heading that direction, I knew it soon wouldn’t matter if I learned its name.

They were a silent bunch, aside from the grumbling engines and the marching boots. They didn’t really try to destroy everything in their path. If it was quicker to take the road, they took it. If it was easier to smash through a wall or a building, they did that. The enemy forces were moving in a circle, but half stopped short, where they would have cover. The rest kept going until they were in rage of the trailers and tents the heros were using. They opened fire, as if the heroes were another military force.

I understand the need for a nice, orderly bunch like superheroes to have themselves a centralized location to do all their heroing from. It’s a pretty good way to handle things before the digital age. You just gotta wonder at the invaders expecting nighttime vigilantes to have slept in such a place. I watched through traffic lights and other cameras as one group realized something was up.

The bunch that backed off prematurely did so to avoid getting hit by their compatriots’ fire. They were at least out of firing range and behind buildings. I assume they weren’t ready when the heroes’ illusionist made his move. Eschaton melted tanks. Honky Tonk Hero based one to bits with his enchanted guitar. Warman tried tearing off cannons to use for himself. The Justice Rangers kicked and flipped their way through grey-skinned infantry.

The rest of the enemy army advanced on them, and they weren’t alone. The ship disgorged more infantry. Many of them hung in the air and fired down on the heroes. It seemed like overkill. I was once again reminded of the phrase I stole from a comedian. I don’t know how many of them it was gonna take to kick the heroes’ asses, but I knew how many they were gonna use. The heroes couldn’t even finish off the separated division before the rest of the army met up with them. It would look to anyone else like a slaughter in progress. I could listen in by now. I cracked the code to their communications frequencies. The invaders had a plan where they could even warp in the remnants of the first wave.

I landed in the square at that army’s back, uncloaked, a pair of Roman candles in my hands that I set off. Every comms line the invaders used screeched loud enough to make a deaf man grit his teeth. I dumped the candles away. “I believe this is when the cavalry’s supposed to arrive?” A holographic bugle appeared in my hands. I pretended to play a charge as six grey men floated closer. One of them looked a bit different because of some burns on the side of its face.

“You are but one. You cannot save your friends,” said the one in charge. “Turn off this music and surrender.”

I cranked up “Free Your Hate” too loud for me to hear anything else they said even if they shouted and ran for them. I tripped though, when the ground rumbled even more. In front of me, a line of giant drills pierced the street. The group floating in front of me turned to look at the signature Drill tanks of the Drillers opened wide. Fire, ice, and sonic weaponry covering them, a menagerie of menaces were loosed onto the streets of Empyreal City, right against the backside of the invading army. Unicorn fired a spiral beam from his horn through a line of infantry. A squad of Drillers hopped on top of a tank and started cracking it open like a safe. Crankshaft rolled up into a ball of metal and flesh that Gearshift kicked toward a soldier who reloaded his grenade launcher. She waved her hand and Gearshift kept rolling and even accelerated, bowling over the soldier and smashing into the side of another skirted light turreted support vehicle.

The jump infantry took to the air to join the supporting fire from above. They wouldn’t find the air any more welcoming. Spring is the time for bees, and Buzzkills filled the air by the hundreds. Led by Queen Beetrice, the bee people fired spines and pierced armor with stinger swords. The sky was ours.

The six in front of me turned back to face me. “We will kill you,” said the lead one.

I let a hologram walk forward while I turned invisible. “You know how ‘try’ is a synonym for annoy? You may try.”

The lead one clapped his hands together. Where the hologram stood just exploded spontaneously.

The six turned back to the battle. The lead, with the spontaneous explosion powers, gurgled in surprise when the Nasty Surprise shot through his throat. Same for the one next to him. I jumped onto the next one and crushed his skull between two other hands. Blood fountained everywhere and negated the ability of my cameras to work or my projectors to project. I grabbed onto the next closest one, who instinctively flew upward. His eyes started glowing as he glared at me. I shoved thumbs into them, cackling and yelling, “Thou wouldst stare at me, mortal?”

It’s not so funny in writing, but I guess you had to be there, covered in blood, squishing a guy’s eyeballs. He didn’t find it funny. He screamed. Screaming has to be a product of being social animals. I can’t imagine a loan predator, surrounded by enemies and prey, screaming when it’s hurt. No, it’s a social thing, letting others in your pack, herd, or gang know you need help. Benevolent person that I am, I decided I would help end this Praetor’s misery. No problem whatsoever. It was a snap!

That left me a good distance up with some rockets to ease me back down. I reached up and found myself caught my a pair of Buzzkills. The remaining two must have figured it out. The one with the burn started off, but eased back and let his comrade come first. That one spouted metal spikes. He stayed back. The spikes shot off him. I wasn’t so much worried about myself as I was my two helpers. Unfortunately, there was only so much I could do. I raised arms and legs to try and block, but the Buzzkills still went slack and began to drop. I could even still survive the fall, as long as the spikes sticking through my armor and squishy bits didn’t kill me.

I fell toward the waiting arms of the spiky son of a pin cushion, trying to think how problems like this are usually solved. The idea of solving a puzzle box briefly came to mind. Ridiculous. Laser flashed out, and I fell through the two halves of the spiky son of a bitch and right to the burned man. He spread his arms and a green wall appeared in front of him and forged a wedge that flew at me. It smashed into me and plates melted off. I had nothing left but the armored undersuit I stole off a future version of my nemesis before I killed her. Even the spikes that somehow penetrated were gone.

I couldn’t see shit through my melting helmet, but I felt when he caught my throat and began to squeeze. “The others did not realize your power is not in your body. Your spine and heart will soon join it.”

The remains of my helmet fell away, showing that I at least still had both cybernetic eyes working. “Do I know you?” I gasped out.

“It is too late to surrender and see yourself spared. You will die when those my master answered to take your planet,” Praetor M said before punching his hand into my belly. You know how you get hit sometimes and it knocks the air out of your lungs? That, plus I think one of my kidneys exploded. It was like he tried to put his arm through me. I swear, my back fucking popped.

“Look in my eye while you kill me? Face me!” I pleaded. Praetor M obliged. It made it easier when my eye warmed up and another laser shot out, lobotomizing him. I grabbed his hand and pried it off my throat while he thrashed around. Then I reached into the hole, setting my thumb on the bridge of his nose, and pulling. One, two, and then I tore the front of his face off, trying to laugh at the pain and around the lack of air. “Face me!”

I fell, but someone caught me. I was kinda having trouble there, keeping conscious. I think it was the lack of air. I looked up at a Buzzkill, who jabbed me with a syringe of what I soon realized were regenerative nanomachines. I gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled. Mandibles make it hard to tell, but I have experience because of Beetrice. When I’d gotten a bit less aerated, I looked around because I swore we were going up, not down. I looked over and saw the Domeship next to us. We rose and she set me down on the deck. All around, I saw more joining us, flying under their own powers or being set down by more Buzzkills.

I didn’t have the full electronic suite of my armor anymore, but I still had the electronics in my body. I reached out to hear Warman giving orders. “-board, board! I’m tired of being on the defense. This time, we’re invading. We’ll take this ship and we’ll take it to their world.”

Aww. I missed most of the ground battle. Though, when I looked around, I noticed something. Aside from myself and the Buzzkills, all I saw were heroes up here. Next to me, a gorilla wearing a jetpack grunted as he landed.

I waved to him. “Gorilla Awesome? They really brought everyone along, didn’t they?”

A huge explosion below drew our attention. Awesome, the Buzzkill, and I both looked down at the flames. I hissed in pain from tenderness when I bent over and straightened up. “There goes the neighborhood.”

We swarmed the ship, though the “we” seemed to be pretty much only heroes and whatever Buzzkills decided to attach follow along with me. I don’t know if that’s because of any particular orders to that effect. We didn’t see much resistance. Someone jumped out with a pistol and got a stinger in his neck, one through the cheek, and another through the temple. A woman in unusual clothing stood next to him, screaming. Gorilla Awesome jumped ahead of us and picked her up. He shushed her, then politely asked, “I am truly sorry. Where is the command center of the ship, that we might minimize loss of life?”

She kept screaming, so he set her down. The Buzzkills raised their sting swords, but I held up my hands. “Leave her in peace. We’ll find someone else.”

Gorilla Awesome held out his arm as someone tried to scuttle past. He grabbed the fleeing man and pulled him in close. “You there. Where do the people in charge work?”

“Please don’t kill me,” he said.

“Deal,” Gorilla Awesome said, grabbing the man’s hand and shaking it.

The bridge, I suppose it could be called. Sounds of fighting were ever just out of reach as we approached. It was in the large dome, inside an inner dome at the center of that one. Because so many people can’t resist putting the spot all the important people hang out in somewhere central or where they can see things, without regard to how much of a target that makes them. The outer dome had a park paved in metal mosaic tiles and walls made up of warped pentagonal shapes. As we rushed along, the outer dome began to glow red hot in one spot. It melted open and Eschaton followed, heading toward the inner dome. Warman jumped through the opening, firing cannon that spat green fire from one of three rotating barrels. The green fireballs burst through the inner dome, and Eschaton flew through. Warman landed, then followed Eschaton in a single bound.

By the time we got in there, a man in pearl white armor with a trio of horns arching up. He wielded a three-pronged spear that he used to hold back the stream of blue flame pouring from Eschaton’s hands. Warman strode up next to Eschaton and raised his tri-cannon. Gorilla Awesome raised a meaty arm, a grappling hook shooting out to wrap around the spear.

The armored man muttered something and let the spear go as Gorilla Awesome yanked it away. He slapped something on a pedestal the moment before his face disintegrated and he fell, blackened skull cracking into pieces.

The ship shook, and through the holes I saw a blinding light. I felt more than saw the next part, where an infinite blackness stretched out containing expanding droplets full of lights. We passed through something red that felt like it scraped my nerves as we passed through. The light fell away, and my head was assaulted by new information. Data, in languages I don’t know. I managed some of the encryption, but others were merely familiar. The communications came through from all around, maybe through the dome itself, and through me.

“Grand Executor, why have you returned?” they asked. I saw a pair of faces. I saw signals flying all around us.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. It moved up along the back of my neck and over my hair. I raised my head, focusing again. I looked up to Venus in her black power armor. She looked down to me. “Put me through to them.”

I nodded and concentrated. “You’re on.”

She spoke, and I sent her words out. “Leaders of this invading world. I am Medusa, a hero of my world. We have defeated your army, taken your ship, and defeated your Grand Executor. I must stress that we want peace. Chief Executor Paldrin did not give us peace. The Grand Executor did not give us peace. We are here on your world and I ask you, will we have peace?”

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AvPG: FUBAR FTW 4

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Another exciting day in the city. At first, the aliens made some big announcement about surrendering all the superhumans to them for processing, then they started sweeping through neighborhood after neighborhood. It went well for them, briefly. What they lack in raw numbers, they make up for with mechanization, what appear to be drones, and some squads of Technolutionary’s robozombies. Upgraded ones.

Where before Technolutionary fitted human bodies with cybernetic enhancements and shoved a computer into the brain to control them, the process looks much more refined. It undoubtedly has to do with better integration of the biological and artificial components. He’s giving my species’ abilities to his robozombies now, and they’ve become a sturdier and more graceful as a result. I got a good look at them, too, thanks to hopping onto a patrol of them and tearing off an arm.

Like I said, it worked the for the aliens until we started putting up organized resistance. Or as organized as any resistance becomes when I’m part of it. Wanting to keep hurting the fuckers, I headed out on my own after some squads of the robozombies seen terrorizing the eastern side of the city.

The first sign they had that things weren’t going as planned was when one of their transports blew up in midair. The things still have something to throw off sensors and any eyeballing of their exact features from afar, but the good thing about cannons is that sight is a perfectly viable option. And I do have cannons. The confrontation with Venus was just over before I ever needed to use any of them, but I didn’t just build some of those things on buildings around the city for no reason. Case in point, one transport went down before it could land and offload anybody or pick anyone back up. Shortly thereafter, I landed and on the bunch sent to investigate it and took them apart to examine their quality.

Ah, Technolutionary used to think I was so great, a true evolutionary leap forward for mankind. Now he’s making people like me just to use them as mindless foot soldiers. Good response times, though. Less than five minutes after I tore them to pieces, I looked up to find three more shuttles coming in. I pointed my fingers at them like guns and gave a little “Pew pew!” One took a hit and slammed into a building. A second tried to dodge before I caught it from another direction with another cannon. The third tried to stomp on me like an Italian plumber who hates mushrooms.

It missed, thanks to my cunning strategy of getting the hell out of the way, but then it just sat there. I expected doors to slide open, shots fired, all that. It took a couple seconds, but when they did finally open, it was at the hands of a pair of wounded robozombies surrounded by dead ones.

“This is why they invented seatbelts, ya know,” I told them. Before they could raise their gun arms, two shots rang out and did some decidedly permanent damage to their computers.

I turned to focus on where the shots came from and saw Lone Gunman on the side of a building. He hung there from a hook embedded in the side and aimed a gun at me. He stopped and gave a little salute, allowing me to see a huge revolver with extended barrel and a stock. “Just a weapons test, for now.” Then he rappelled down the side of the building and went his own way.

Wish I could have seen his face when a fiery stream lanced out of the ship overhead and burned through the top of Double Cross Tower, taking my favorite cannon along with it. Shit, and probably my penthouse, the bastards! And my closet, too. Damn. I got the dong back, but I really like some of those dresses on me.

But at least that was the only one of the cannons they disabled. They probably needed a couple shots to track them back. And it’d no doubt do a lot to convince people they need to sit down and be ruled if they could do that. Which made me realize that if they weren’t using whatever thing they did to turn buildings into tiny pieces like before I was on the run from them, then that meant they probably couldn’t do so here. That’s a handy bit of information to have.

Another thing that’s handy to have? One slightly used alien shuttlecraft. Needs a small patch where someone shot through its armor, and needs a few bodies cleaned out of it, but ultimately good to go. It’ll be no different than buying someone’s used car.

Of course, first I had to send someone to go fetch it. That’s what minions are for. In this case, a bunch of Buzzkills and Moonbats. The Moonbats like to help like that. Apparently, it’s really cathartic for them to actually shoot at some aliens, and I find their revenge fantasies about anal probing the aliens to be particularly interesting. Plus, it gave them something to do besides whine about the food situation.

Good thing for those MREs, I guess. I grabbed one left behind by a Moonie too disgusted with the food to take it with him or finish it before leaving. Ooh, Charms.

I also needed to be there at the bunker for a pow wow. With power being what it is and the possibility of attack, the bunker has become a prominent spot in resisting alien invasion. There wasn’t a lot of organization, but we had some folks who could get people to follow them by force of personality. Man-Opener, for instance.

“Though what Man-Opener lacks in an actual preassembled retinue to take with him, I feel he makes up for with being royally pissed off. So I think he needs to be part of the strikeforce.” I argued to a few folding tables worth of assembled supers.

“I second the motion!” Man-Opener said, raising one of his suit’s limbs.

“You don’t want him on the ground with you?” Venus asked, not quite so mindful of proper phrasing.

I shook my head. “They hate me enough that I need to stay, but I think it’d need to be more of a mixed effort on both fronts. Besides, you might need someone who can make a hard choice.” Like that time in Transylvania, for instance. A guy wanted to freeze the world in time because of the death of his son. The Mobian wanted to talk him down. Didn’t work. I killed him. Problem solved.

The plan is simple, though. Venus will take a force into the enemy ship, consisting of a few people of her choosing, but definitely Man-Opener and Lone Gunman. Instead of shooting blindly into the ship, hoping to hit something important, he could go in there content in the knowledge that he can shoot through their stuff anyway.

Meanwhile, I’d stay down and be a prominent target for the aliens, drawing forces down from the ship to make things easier for them. The shuttle could make a good way in. If it doesn’t work as well, there’s also the remaining cannons. I think I could open a hole. Especially now that I have a penis again. The assignment to help me out was completely voluntary, though. People still hate me. I should have Moai and Mix N’Max on my side, at least.

So when we were ready, I took a more prominent stand. Instead of hitting and running, I’d have to be there to take the heat. It’d be downright suicidal. Odd how few people tried to talk me out of this course of action.

We got our opportunity before too much longer. A sizable force, more than I could take on myself, were taking over a neighborhood. The strike team went up in the shuttle and joined the ones returning from offloading that bunch.

Down on the ground, I scouted out the victims. Where the road was bigger, an armored vehicle sat in the road, turned sideways. Another one blocked it off at the opposite end, where the street had narrowed. Scouting it out, I saw they had other resources patrolling alleys. Small, cube-shaped drones, or these machines with an upside-down pyramid base with a single wheel on the bottom and a single rotating limb. Significantly less elegant than their other designs. The aliens seemed to prefer round shapes. Even their armored vehicles.

Whatever the case, I needed to see how sturdy they were. So I dropped down on one of the cube drones from above, bringing my rocket sax down onto it. The instrument dented a little as the blow sent the hovering cube bouncing off the ground. When it came back up, I swiped it with one hand and sent it into the brick wall next to us. It bounced off that, rebounding into the air and spinning around to gain its bearings.

“Eat hot, sexy passion, alien scumdroid!” I yelled out, then brought the sax to my lips and pressed a key. A line of flame shot out, engulfing the alien artifice. I kept bringing the heat until it finally dropped, glowing red hot, sides starting to crack and warp.

One down, a small army to go. Man-made thunder erupted over the city, all aimed at the same point. A ragged hole opened up in the ship overhead, whether the strike team needed it or not. Thanks to them running silent, they couldn’t complain about it to me. The ship responded with that fiery beam of its own, cutting through another of the cannons just before the remaining ones began shelling it. It took hit after hit, and returned them until I could no longer feel any remaining cannons. But maybe it did something after all. At least it heavily smoked where the flaming lance had issued from.

I couldn’t spend all day contemplating that, though. One of the unicycle bots rolled around the corner and swiveled that single limb around. It was a bit far for the sax, so I slung that onto my back. I nodded toward the unidrone and started charging the energy sheath around my right hand while going for a rubber chicken on my belt with my left. “Sup?” I asked it. It shot first, trying to put a hole in my chest. I was a bit worried it might overpower the sheath, especially since it tracked me when I tried to dodge.

I dropped the chicken, stepped on its neck, and kicked the body closer to the unidrone. After it stopped skidding, it stood up and began walking in the direction of the nearest street, which was behind the drone. Why did the chicken try to cross the road? I don’t know, but the rubber chicken grenade didn’t make it that far before exploding and wrecking the robot.

When I stepped out of the alley, I swung another rubber chicken around by its neck gently enough to keep it from pulling off. I haven’t been a guy in awhile, so it’s important I be careful how hard I swing my cock around, after all.

“Do you ever wanna catch me? Right now I’m feeling ignored! So can you try a little harder? I’m really getting bored!” I called out. Rounded saucers swiveled towards me on black fluid-filled tentacles. The sideways hover armor rotated a trio of barrels in my direction. The whole group stopped and paid attention. That’s probably how the hover armor got taken by surprise. Rockets crashed into it, bullets bounced off it, and an energy beam sheared through the turret portion.

I jumped on top of it long enough to pantomime blowing the rest of them a kiss. “Come on, shoot faster, just a little bit of energy! I wanna try something fun right now, I guess some people call it anarchy!” I hopped off the back of the armor and waited for any takers.

A pair of them followed. One was in a big, black, humanoid suit with a device attached to its hand that emitted a barely-visible length of…something. The other was one of those saucers turned on its side with nine tentacles carrying it over. That one tried to jump on me immediately. I backflipped out of the way before it landed for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t feel like a hug. Second, I wanted to get out of the way of my car. Black Sunshine, my lovely, pimped-out car. It charged forward, firing rockets and a minigun like it had against the hover armor. What did the most damage was actually hitting the thing and smacking it into the disabled armor it had just passed over.

The humanoid raised that thing on its hand toward me. Instinctively, I threw myself to the side. A shimmery wave, like heat rising off the blacktop, flew from the alien suit to cut into the road. Suddenly, some little glass flask crashed against the armor it stood upon. It looked down at it, where a green gas cloud spread briefly, before lighting up and then collapsing in on itself, where it exploded. It gutted the Fluidic encounter suit and tore its legs open, spilling the alien’s liquid body out. The rounded crystal core that seemed to make up the alien’s brain rolled out onto the street. A motorcycle pulled up next to it, and Herne the Hunter’s spear impaled the thing. Mix N’ Max got off the back of the bike and patted Herne’s leather-clad shoulder. The helmeted and horned biker super nodded and drove off down an alley, barely escaping the swarm of cube drones that descended on the area to surround us. The buildings became host to more of the Fluidics, who took higher positions.

Max looked up at them as he stepped over to me, then pulled out another flask. This one looked like he bottled it in an airport smoker’s lounge. “Need some cover?” I nodded, then noticed a twitch of movement out the back of my view. The laser limb of one of the unicycles snapped back, a large scalpel embedded in the firing optics.

“Much as I hate to be here, gentlemen, I don’t want to leave early because we let you die. Not yet, anyway,” said The Good Doctor like a true gentleman, stepping out of another alley and kicking a carved-up cube drone with him. “Please, Max.”

Max nodded and unbottled the flask, instantly throwing us into the middle of a fog so dense, it has to figure out if it’s going to work at an AT&T store or just buy something from one and call in to complain about it later. With the sky covered in either alien starship or glowing blue forcefield, it gave the field a really cool rave vibe. We all walked a few feet back before taking a different angle, dividing up the area around us into three zones. Back to back, Doc raised a set of thick scalpels, Max pulled out his syringe gun, and I punched one of my palms.

“Come on if you think you’re hard enough!” I shouted into the fog. Then, to the others, I asked, “They aren’t going to be hard enough, right?”

“We brought help,” Max answered.

“Huh, maybe I should have been singing ‘Lean On Me’ instead.” A black tentacle swiped out of the fog. I caught it and activated the Nasty Surprise, the blade cutting into it and beginning to spew black fluid. I pulled at it and brought in another encounter suit that had the tentacle and three others coming out of its back. I jumped on its face and shoved my blade right where its mouth would be. Opening up its head, I crawled my way down inside and burst from its chest, core in hand.

Back to back, the reunited Dark Triad fought swarming, blinded aliens. Around us, the sounds of battled rose up, indicating others had joined the fight. We moved as we fought, keeping each other at our backs as the fighting moved us. An encounter suit, a cube, a unidrone, some weird saucer. We maintained this formation pretty well until one of the saucer mages appeared, with the its multitude of wire-thin tentacles drawing numerous runes into the air and hurling subzero cold and volcanic heat at us at once, carried by winds that pressed down. Doc grabbed Max and got him out of the way, but a force like a tornado overpowered the pseudomuscles in my armor’s legs. They broke as I attempted to stay on my feet. Ice covered my armor before hissing away thanks to heat that felt like my organs were frying. Then freezing. I didn’t know if the cracking was my armor or me.

Just before my helmet completely iced over and left me blinded, I saw Terrorjaw the shark man leap up and chomp through several of the tentacles with his toothy maw.

I kept trying to punch at my helmet to see if I could knock something loose. Aside from feeling the vibrations, it was hard to feel I’d even been hitting it. That really didn’t say anything good about how cold I was, and my nanites weren’t likely to help. Nanotechnology is infamously sensitive to temperature, especially temperatures that can harm the human body.

I tried the view from my car. Can’t remotely drive it without some way of seeing where I’m going after all. It showed a battlefield shifting as more and more on both sides joined in. I saw Girl Robot clawing at a cube, then getting caught by a garrote from e cube behind her. She opened her mouth and spewed some glowing breath attack that shot her back at the cube and smashing it against the building behind her before her tail angled up and speared through it.

I saw Leah there, too. The teen girl I had to take in after getting powers and running away has come far. Three unidrones aimed at her as she waved her hand. When they fired, nothing happened except the lenses of their lasers caught fire, followed by the entire laser array. Who said color changing isn’t handy?

I even saw this one guy I recognized from the insane asylum when we captured all the heroes. He had some goblin mask on and sliced through a normal-sized encounter suit that had a pair of those almost-invisible blades for hands. When it tried to retaliate, the goblin guy disappeared and reappeared behind it, finishing cutting it in half. Flying about rooftop level, Honky Tonk Hero smashed through a descending shuttle, magical guitar first. When a saucer tried to reach out for him, the saucer found its arms seared off courtesy Gorilla Awesome, the talking gorilla, who hovered nearby with his own jetpack. Nearby, I noticed Elita the Warrior Woman raise a damaged alien tank above her head and bring it down on her Amazonian knee, breaking it in half.

Ethan Basford even got in on things. He knelt there, holding open that metal chest he’d brought with him from Los Angeles, hand bleeding as he held it over the open coffin. From within flew a massive colony of bats that. Nice magic trick. An even better one came when they began to take human shape. Well, vampire shape from the way their eyes glowed and their fangs glistened, protected from the sun by Max’s chemical fog. I saw one of them in particular fly into a saucer and carve through it with claws.

Unable to do much myself, it made for a fun watch. Still wish I could have felt my balls. Oooh, they’re going to hurt so much when they thaw out, if they don’t break off first.

I backed my car up and brought it over so I could get a better view of myself and get a hand up. Maybe I could hit the flamethrower? No, that’s crazy talk. Wait, where’d my saxophone go?

I pulled it up beside myself and popped the door open enough to drag myself in across the front seats. It almost made me wish the car could transform into even bigger armor, but it wasn’t happening. I did have a very good A/C and heating system, though.

Blocking the way out, I saw another floating mass of armor and laser barrels coming my way. I may not know why the chicken crossed the road, but I know a thing or two about playing chicken. Let’s get squawking, bitch. I revved the engine and gunned it right for the alien armor, unleashing the miniguns, the rockets, even the flamethrower, energy beam, and a trebuchet out of the trunk. What? When I say I’m going medieval on someone’s ass, I mean it.

It shot back, turning my car into a convertible without an engine. On the plus side, the Fluidic armored vehicle’s front side dipped down and scraped against the road as at least that portion lost the ability to stay in the air. In the end, my half-melted, slowing car ramped up the damaged alien tank. I swear, I got like three feet of air that time. If the horn still worked, and if I’d hat it set to play Dixie, it could have been even better.

I landed past it, just in time for The Saurus, the intelligent T-Rex, to bob his head down and give the tank a chomping. His clone, looking like a younger version of himself, roared and helped himself to an encounter suit. I wondered, briefly, if the clone was now The Saurus Jr., Kid The Saurus, or maybe even Children’s The Saurus. Alas, they moved on before I could even ask, probably for the best. Like most of the combatants, they didn’t like me.

Laying there in my destroyed car, I popped my helmet as best as I could with my numb arms and find one of the nanite syringes I’d stashed in there. Ah, the sweet sting of health flowing through my veins. Or wherever I stabbed them in. Doesn’t much matter. At that point, I just needed to be able to feel my skin again.

When I finally felt less like a popsicle, I slid out of the wreck to put some more extraterrestrials on ice.

I found Max and Doc cornered a street over, backs to a station wagon while what looked like a roiling mass of cables tore through the air. Tentacles here, tentacles there, tentacles everywhere; what horrors hath Japanese porn wrought?! Well, if someone wanted to shove those tentacles in a box, I’d be happy to oblige. I jumped on top of the station wagon and tossed a four yard dumpster at the whizzing and whirling mass of barely-visible tentacles. The open end caught the center mass of the being and pinned it to the van.

“Hey guys!” I called out, leaping over to the other side, popping the head off a chicken grenade. “Listen, alien fellow, we’re going to go on a magical adventure. And here’s the magic candy, like I promised you at school.” I tossed the grenade in the window and got a step or two backs before it went off.

Easy as blowing up fish in a barrel.

“Did ya miss me, ya wankers?” I asked the rest of the Dark Triad as I rounded the van.

“You came through it alright?” asked Doc, perhaps hoping I wouldn’t have.

I shrugged. “Don’t sound too disappointed, Doc. Friends don’t hold those kinds of grudges.”

His hand tightened around his scalpel again. “When I became a monster, no company could abide me but the company of monsters.”

I held my hands up. “Hey, easy there. The past is set, and we can’t change who we are. You have to accept what you are or you’ll never be able to live with yourself. Now remember: I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me. That’s why I shouldn’t have even let it get to me that they pinned saving everyone on someone else. Too many people through my life have made it clear what I am. Change? Not while some asshole king’s hired a knight to come after me because I hoped for a princess. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

Doc twirled the scalpel in his hands, looking at me. “It’ll never happen if you don’t even try.”

Inside my helmet, I rolled my eyes. “Bad guy ’til death, I guess. Which shouldn’t be long, since I’m fated to die in this damn invasion, and I came back and fought in it any-fucking-way!”

Suddenly, the sky lightened up. It lost its blue. “Get your suntan lotion ready, people. The barrier is down. Repeat, the barrier is down,” Venus said over the comms. Cue a LOT of cheering on the comms and in real life. It’d be a pants dampening sound if I was an alien right about then.

Doc stepped over and gave me a little punch to the chest, no blade included. “If the future can change, who says we can’t?” He turned back to the rest of the fight and began walking in there to help finish up.

“Ugh, you keep this up, I’m going to wish for someone to kill me,” I said as I joined him.

Max, done giving us our little conversation, joined in and put his hands around both our shoulders. “They’re certainly lining up. By the way, why don’t you ask Lone Gunman how much he enjoys my little fog?”

“Ha! See? I laugh at paltry change, whether it be this ridiculous ‘redemption’ nonsense, or an attempt to cease my biological functions. Now drink hearty, my fellows of the Dark Triad, and let loose the dongs of war!” I raised my hand, holographically making a hand and a half sword appear in my grip. When I brought it down, I charged, leading the other two villains back into the fray.

The invasion’s not over yet, so I don’t have my hopes up. But I think a lot of these Fluidics are going to pay for what they haven’t done yet.

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 9, the Grand Finale

The end is nigh and here I am. But that’s getting ahead of myself. I’d better explain how I reached this apocalyptic time on the Empyre State Building staring down a pissed-off bunch of heroes without any way to fight back.

I had been mostly ready for this endgame when I said I would be. I didn’t intend to drag things out even though I wasn’t completely ready for them. For one thing, I hadn’t come up with some unique counter for Forcelight, Honky Tonk Hero, or Mecha Human Sloth. As the heavy hitters of the group, I’d wanted some specific way to take them down that didn’t involve revealing a certain built-in trump card I’ve been saving up. Never did get myself any allies. Just me, Moai, and Carl.

But that comes later. Let’s start at the beginning of the end.

First, I trashed the Museum of Modern Art. Stole a few valuable pieces for Michelangelo to sell through the improper channels, but I kept one or two with me. I figured it would coax Dame out at last.

I figured right. I woke up to her trying to steal my shit again. Yes, it was Marilyn Monroe on my wall, but it was done by Andy Warhol, not Playboy. The Playboy stuff would be worth more. At least she didn’t touch my Starry Night by Van Gogh the Earless Wonder. When she saw me sit upright, she phased and ran for the wall. I ran after her and sent the signal to her device to render her solid again but it didn’t work. “Found a way out of my reach, have you?”

She was running along the dance floor of the former club for the front door when she became solid again just to answer me. “I guess you aren’t the only one with a mind for gadgets. You should have had two contingency plans!”

There was a thud as she passed by a front counter near the coat check. Dame fell back on the ground with a groan. The canvas she was carrying slid along the floor before stopping.

“How about a man swinging a car battery?” I asked as Carl stepped over her and laid the battery down on her chest. Moai jumped out over the bar and rolled upright, wearing a black ninja outfit. I think he was trying to strike a pose.

“Hey, Moai, take that off. It looks ridiculous. Everyone knows ninjas would have worn something like dark blue to blend in at night if they wore that kind of thing. Damn glad to have you on the job, though.”

I gave him a thumbs up. Now, this was not, as some might suspect, an attempt to foster a rivalry. Moai serving as backup was indeed a legitimate necessity. I’m not sure if he has an ego, but that shit gets in the way of what’s necessary often enough. If I’m fighting a hero who knocks me on my ass, puts a pink tutu on me, dips me in horse manure, he can laugh all he wants as long as I’m the person who walks away from the fight without my head ripped off and shoved up the horse’s ass. Laugh it up, deadhead.

I had Dame in my company, though, so I had to keep the horse asses to a minimum with her around. She’s a lady, you know. She’s like a female knight to British people. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take her bracelet or bangle or whatever you call the mirrored doohickey with the phase technology hidden inside it.

I was hoping to get a hold of this.

For her, it’s a defensive measure. That could get…interesting…if I were to use it that way. Possibly suicidal as well. My physiology, which made me so easy to cling to when Dame was trapped in an ethereal state, wouldn’t react well to it, I think. I knew I could weaponize it, especially if I made copies. I just didn’t have time for that. A regrettable casualty of my need to expedite my plans. Still, it was a good idea for handling Forcelight or Honky Tonk Hero.

At least I’d had time to fix up the Heatflasher. Hell, I improved on it and found a nice way to handle my heat problem.

Moai and Carl got Dame chained down to a chair while I slipped into my armor. Good old chains. I like using them because they’re so much more difficult to get away from than ropes. Luckily, as skilled as she was, Dame wasn’t good enough to wiggle loose of these babies. And, since the Chastity5000 was buy one, get one when I tied up Venus, I had a spare for Dame. Still, she struggled, even tearing at her black bodysuit in places.

“Now calm down, Damey wamey,” I told her. “I’m not going to hurt you. In fact, I technically haven’t hurt you so far. That was Carl. Say hi, Carl.”

Carl raised his hand and gave her a small wave, “Hiya.”

“Thanks Carl. So, Dame, time for the explanation about what’s going on. I promised someone, made a deal actually, that I was going to drop my grudge against you, wouldn’t kill you, wouldn’t pursue you at all, even said you’d be untouchable to me. So far, I have not touched you, nor am I doing this because of a grudge. In fact, this wouldn’t have happened if you had decided to not find me once again to steal back stolen artwork once again. Predictability is not a good quality in thieves. There’s a reason for the phrase ‘thick as thieves’ and it doesn’t involve your bodily figure. Don’t worry. No matter what, you’re going to live. Or at least I have no plans on killing you. You’re just going to be my bait to get Venus and her friends to join the field of battle.”

“Why do you think that matters?”

I played a certain audio clip of Venus’s voice: “It was Dame. She told us all where you were hiding. She and I had some common ground and she gave me a picture of your latest face.”

“You really ought to pick better friends,” I told her, then leaned closer. “You know, you and I could be better friends sometime.”

She headbutted me. It hurt her more than it hurt me, but I think she was trying to make a point about my chances being less than or equal to a punitive flaming underworld afterlife reaching freezing point. I pointed my finger at her, “That was entirely on you and does not constitute me touching or hurting you.”

“Why does that matter?” she groaned.

I turned away from her as I spoke. “Because, so long as I make a deal and try to keep it, then I will try to keep it. At least until something more important comes up or the other party reneges on their part. I like the idea. You see it in fairy tales, you know? A neutral or good person makes a deal with a party, usually a darker force. A sea witch or a voodoo bocor…or is that houngan…either way, a voodoo guy. The hero gets stipulations, something he or she wanted or thought they wanted…good reason to read a contract, by the way…and if they dare break their end of it, there is hell to pay. But I feel I’m monologuing again and I should note that Moai may get a tad homicidal if you actually manage to escape.”

Moai hopped closer to Dame. Via my 360 degree view on the helmet, I could see she’d started to move an elbow further than it should go. Moai dropped a heavy gold chain with an old-fashioned ticking clock around her neck.

“Thanks, Moai, that ought to hold her,” I said with a nod. True, I was facing away, but Moai knew what I meant.

“Won’t matter to Venus. You haven’t been listening at the right doors.”

I didn’t turn. Instead, I raised my arm up so I could point a finger at her over my shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No one’s seen her ever since that bank was blown up, and the rumor is that she didn’t get out of there before the place was given a volatile redecoration. There’s been no word of her from the heroes and no sightings of her on patrol. Nothing in hospitals about someone matching her description. I think your unrequited love interest is dead.”

That didn’t seem right. It actually gave me pause for a moment.

“I doubt that. Heroes are pesky like that, and she’s peskier than normal. She’s got to be alive. Since when do chains and a bomb kill a superhero?”

“Maybe you should ask someone when you get back from sailing down denial.”

“Sailing up the Nile. Moai, right foot.”

Moai got in the way of my view of Dame as he slid a stiletto heel made of cement onto her foot and closed the iron manacle set into the top of it. She had had something metal gripped between her toes. Such a clingy suit allows greater articulation, like hiding tools in unusual places. In this case, hiding something around the foot, and bringing it to bear with the toes.

“Well, either way my dear Dame, they should be informed that you were their source for that raid on me. That means you still make a wonderful hostage for my plan.”

It was the next day when the plan went into action. The Heatflasher appeared once more in the skies over New York and circumcised the Empyre State Building. I crashed it into the observation deck and melted my way through supports in order to tip it to one side. The elevator dinged, then opened to reveal Carl and Moai carrying Dame, a TV camera, and some very important equipment for the ‘Flasher. They dumped Dame, who was now wearing quite a heavy outfit made up of cement shoes, hammer pants stapled together, balls and chains around her wrists, the heavy gold chain and clock around her neck, and a football helmet that wasn’t for a New York team.

Carl then turned and tossed something into the elevator he left, even as panicked civilians crowded past to escape. The doors closed and then a muffled blast blew up past them. The doors didn’t blow out, but they popped out toward us. The same went for other elevators. Might as well have a captive audience for what was about to happen.

With the floor and Dame secured and the guys setting up in what we figured were safe spots, I took to the air again. It wasn’t easy cutting through the building like that. I had to angle things just right so the upper floors, like 20 or something, slid off to crash on the streets and smaller buildings below.

The observatory level was finally open air. I settled the ‘Flasher at one corner of it and cooled my jets. Well, my rockets. And the barrel, too. I had to shut it down long enough for me to slip a little something onto the end of the barrel and tighten it up. Connect some hoses, that sort of thing. When I lit that mother up again, the new section on the end of the barrel glowed a brilliant yellow-white, like the sun.

An invisible heat ray may be one amazing, powerful thing, but I realized that if I was going to do this from atop a building, I’d need some way to keep it from dissipating to a warm breeze against the smaller buildings around. In fact, if I wanted to threaten the whole city, I’d need something like a miniature sun.

Well, the power source, a design from my own dimension, ought to be able to sustain it. If not, we’ll still see a lot of destruction and possibly a city rendered unlivable.

“For all those in attendance and the millions watching at home,” I spoke aloud and turned toward the assembled hostages, a number of whom had their phones out to record video of the occasion, “I have been hounded day after day, month after month, and this has gone on too long. Just think, without heroes coming after me, you’d have had a blown up Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, as opposed to that messy spectacle in the city. What a danger they’ve become to you, your saviors. I’m here today for two reasons. Reason one: I want to make it perfectly clear to everyone that if you escalate against the great and devious Psycho Gecko, then I will take you to a land of hurt that you will not enjoy. Ooh yeah, I’ll tear your soul out and cast it down to an Abaddon of anguish that will make the heavens weep blood in heartrending sympathy for your unending abomination of an existence, and you will know what it’s like to drown in my bloodlust, to starve, to thirst, to pray to whatever deities you hold dearest in life…and not die.”

You could hear a pin drop. Burn the city down? Hell, I just chewed half of it up.

I sat down at the Heatflasher.

“What’s the other reason?” said a shaky voice. I turned to him and cranked up the volume on my suit’s speakers.

“To end this feud of ours, once and for all. Ahahahahaha!”

And that’s when the firing began. The Heatflasher took longer to fire this time, with the extended barrel glowing more yellowish in color. Suddenly, a glowing orange-yellow beam shot was just there out the barrel and poking through several office buildings. When I shifted the aim around, it sliced through streets and cars like they weren’t even there. Fires spread and ash flew. Steam rose as well from flash boiled water. Admittedly, it didn’t spread the heat around quite as well, but as the guy sitting on the machine doing all this, I was grateful for the ingenious bit of gadgetry that was pumping plasma into the landscape rather than all around me.

Boom! There went a meth lab. Sizzle! A butcher’s shop. Scramble! A semi full of eggs. Pop! A popcorn packing plant! When you’re lighting up the cops, the fun never stops.

I stopped firing and turned back around. I saw Carl and Moai getting me on camera. There was a very lucky news show in the city who just realized that the camera stolen while reporting on a cockfighting ring was giving them one hell of an exclusive.

“Hello out there in TV land, viewers. A very special hello to our heroes. Without their constant pressure, I doubt I’d have ever found myself in this position,” I said genially. I was having a good time at least. I got up and held my hand out to the area I’d burned in the distance. “This is fun. This is what I do when a team of heroes chases me day in and day out.” I then guided the camera around toward the people, including the bound Dame. “And these are people who are going to die. Including this little lady here, she’s a thief who knows the heroes a little bit. I don’t know why I brought her along now that I realize it was a busy day, but I figured it would add that special touch and really drive it home that air strikes on the observation deck are not a good idea.”

Yeah, Dame’s value was diminished somewhat by the good turnout, but it was still better than having her free and joining up with the heroes who had an ass-whooping in mind. The more the merrier, anyway.

And while it seemed counterintuitive to make sure the heroes were needed elsewhere but had to come here, that was also nice. Tear them in half using their heroic intentions. Plus, other heroes who have no business interfering will probably be down there instead of up here dealing with the guy who keeps defacing landmarks. I took the whole head off; you can’t argue Lady Liberty wasn’t defaced.

Still, I waited for them. And waited. And got impatient. And jumped back onto the ‘Flasher to burn this city like a disco inferno but Forcelight was there in all her glory to try and catch it. See, this is where something invisible works better than something putting off light. But, to my great delight, even she could hold up only briefly under the onslaught. I saw her duck out of the way, unable to hold back the destructive beam of plasma any longer.

Instead, Honky Tonk Hero swooped down at me from the side and tried to give me an el kabong right to the skull. He got me some, but I rolled with it. Could have sworn I felt things shaking, actually.

Honky Tonk lowered himself right in front of me and grabbed me by the neck. “Someone should have put you down long ago. You should have been taken out back as a child and drowned.”

It’s not like I was going to feel bad about this anyway.

I raised a hand slowly and pointed down for him to see the diamond and mirror bangle of Dame stuck in his pocket. He didn’t know what it was, but he grabbed for it with his other hand. I headbutted him in the eye, then threw a classic Elvis pseudo-martial arts punch to his throat. It got me out of his grip long enough for me to remotely activate the phase device. He dropped it a moment later, but it was too late. With Honky Tonk suddenly insubstantial, the wind was quick to push him away from the building. With the device no longer touching his body, I brought it back, nice and solid.

There was that shaking again, though. I looked over the edge of the building and saw Mecha Human Sloth climbing his way up. Where’s a gorilla when you need one? Oh, wait. I realized he had Gorilla Awesome, Troubleshooter, Mechamoto Musashi, Apollo, and Paveman clinging to his back. He must have been on a sugar rush from marshmallow cleanup duty.

“Okay, I need a volunteer…” I said and drifted off as I turned around. Moai and Carl were filming everything, but the crowd of hostages was gone. In their place was Raggedy Man. He knelt beside Dame, trying to help her out of the chains. I didn’t know how the hell he got up there. I’d torn the roof off. Not for him, just for fun, but still. “Yo, dawgs. Seize him and stuff. You know, if it’s convenient.” Moai followed my finger and went after Raggedy Man, who dove behind a column and disappeared into the shadows cast behind it. Huh. A mystery solved.

Still one massive mystery left: how to take out the giant robot superhero boyfriend mutant human-sloth guy whose girlfriend I apparently killed. I was already behind, though. I almost died from adjective poisoning.

My solution was one I didn’t want to use, as I’ve said before. The grey goo protocol. Not completely grey goo, though. They build themselves like crazy, but they still break down fairly quickly and don’t self repair. There’s a limit, in other words. I pulled out syringes of nanites and jabbed them into myself. As many as I could, save for one last one. Just in case.

I sent a signal to the first ones to link to me. It activated a program that involved spreading the activation to the others inside me. They then forced themselves out of me any way they could. Nose, mouth, ears, skin pores. They moved under my suit toward my right hand. I unsealed the glove and slipped it off. Shimmery grey liquid covered my hand and bulked up as more nanites joined those assembled. My hand formed into a liquid metal claw.

I looked for Mecha Human Sloth again. He was right under the edge where the Heatflasher rested. He grabbed it with one claw and pulled himself up with the other, sending my machine of mass destruction plummeting. He jumped and did a forward flip, landing on his feet and letting the ground-based heroes off. Gorilla Awesome and Troubleshooter had separated from him when he was in midair. Awesome hovered, but Troubleshooter lowered herself to the ground.

Couldn’t let them all come after me at once. I gave Human Sloth the “come here” motion with my nanite-covered hand.

“Alright, big fellow, let’s have us a little revenge versus wrath, shall we?”

He roared and charged. I cackled and jumped. My claw dug into him like he wasn’t even there. There was no armor. There was no flesh underneath. Just me hanging onto his collar, elbow deep in his chest. “Wait a minute, spread to the sides, there’s something I want,” I said to myself. The nanites dispersed, eating through Mecha Human Sloth. I grabbed a souvenir. When I pulled my hand out, his giant, inhuman heart came with it.

As he fell, though, I was greeted by a pretty horrible sight. Carl was held above the floor by his pants and underwear by one of Troubleshooter’s backpack waldo arms at an angle that showed his ass. There was no sign of Moai, but Gorilla Awesome was braced against the edge holding something up by his grappling hook.

Oh, and there were more heroes standing there. Black Raptor. Bright Star. Miss Tycism. Venus. Well. Shit.

“Tricky tricky heroes. My compliments on it, but it’s my turn,” I told them all, then vanished. They just stood there, holding their line.

That didn’t seem right. I projected bursts of light and four more of me stepping out of the explosions, laughing and holding swords.

No reaction.

Invisible, I walked right up to Miss Tycism and poked my hand through her. Hologram. Raptor was right next to her, so I tested him too. Turns out Raptor was not right next to her. I looked up and saw Troubleshooter looking harried and trying to program something on a keyboard attached to her multi-purpose backpack that just sat there on its tripod legs, trying to make my own eyes lie to me.

When I reappeared, it was right behind her, tearing at what I thought looked like important cables. I was right. Her backpack’s various tools and arms and gadgets stopped their moving, their whirling, their whizzing, and even their whirring.

Troubleshooter gave me a look full of incredulous shit when she realized I had her figured and helpless within arms reach. I’d have acted on it, but something kicked me from behind and nearly sent me off the building.

The cameras revealed a most unwelcome sight. The holograms were gone alright. All except for Venus. She was too busy trying to axe kick my neck to worry about how someone said she was dead.

I was off balance from her initial surprise, but I blocked that. Vulnerable position to be in, and I don’t just mean her and the axe kick. Mechamoto and Apollo crowded in while Paveman held Carl in a bear hug. I grabbed Venus and held her between myself and Mechamoto. Apollo’s hands gripped me from behind. Rather than start some slashfic material here, they smashed in my visor and reached in. He tore my helmet off me. I instinctively cranked the jumper in my left leg up and drove my foot back at crotch level. My tibia snapped.

I grabbed a fish stink grenade hanging off my belt and swiped aside Mechamoto’s sword as he circled and tried to find a way to more easily strike me without Venus in our way. He was distracted as a hole in the floor opened up under Paveman, causing Carl and Paveman to fall to the next floor down.

While he wasn’t focused on me, I armed the fish and chucked it at his head. He noticed it at the last minute and brought his sword up. It burst just as it touched his blade, enveloping him in a horrible stink.

I dragged Venus by her still-raised leg back toward me and parallel to the edge of the skyscraper to give me room. With my free hand, she and I traded and blocked blows, at least until I charged it up. Then I took a step in her direction and dumped her on the ground.

This felt familiar to me. I stepped forward and released Venus to the ground, but she wasn’t Venus anymore.

She was the woman I’d gotten involved with back on my world. We had argued, and that turned into an actual, physical fight. She didn’t want me to blow up the Dimensional Bomb, of all things. I grabbed her by the throat. A blade came out at me from nowhere, but I backhanded it. The energy built up in my glove released through the impact and snapped the blade. I used that hand to pummel her face again and again. She couldn’t understand either. None of them could. For them, it was a fight to be first if humanity wouldn’t allow them to be equals. I just hated this stupid world for all it had done to me.

“There is no place for me. They made me and refused to take responsibility for me. I tried to get over what I did, but none of them ever let me leave it behind. I was the government’s mistake, the Justice Rangers’ foe, the people’s great fear of us writ large. I’m done with their system and all their pettiness.”

I stood and pointed behind me. “I’d rather have my own system that means using this D-Bomb and taking us all out than see these hypocrites live. It’s on a strict timer, too. As soon as it drops to 0, that’s it.”

She kipped up, jumped, wrapped her legs around my neck, then back flipped. Where the fuck did she learn to do that? I fell to the ground and something cracked in my neck with a great pain. I lost feeling in everything below my neck as I settled in an odd position. Didn’t know my head could turn that far under the rest of my body. Couldn’t see anything though. Where the hell was I?

People talked nearby, a pair of voices, male and female.

“You alright?”

“Yeah.”

“I saw his eyes. It’s like he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

“I know. There is no bomb, so he’s talking about things that aren’t there. He’s talking in a weird accent, too.”

Something rolled me over. A gorilla. It talked. “He’s still alive, but I would be careful of moving him. My initial prognosis, and I’m not a medical doctor mind you, is that he has broken a cervical vertebra,” he said.

“No, we’re not,” one of the voices, a female, said to nobody in particular. “I don’t care, Gunman. Don’t start that Lone Gunman crap with me either. He’s out of the fight. I don’t care how big a rifle it is, I’m not going to let you shoot his heart out and watch him die.”

More people seemed to be showing up as the gorilla examined me. I had some odd urge to tell him to get his paws off me because he was damned and dirty.

One of these strange people climbed out of the floor, “They’re down there somewhere. Waiting to try and save him, I reckon. What, we won this one?”

The gorilla was pushed aside by a man made of marble who hauled on my arm, got underneath it, and lifted me to my feet. I still didn’t have that good of a view because of how my head drooped over. “I’m with Lone Gunman on this one. Take the shot,” said my manhandler.

“No!” ordered a glowing woman in white and black tights as she landed. “We can’t do that.”

“Why, because we’re better than that? He killed your father!” Apollo said with voice raised. Sensitive to that sort of thing?

“Yes, I know there’s nothing most of us would love to do more right now than give him an execution, but we can’t just yet. You hear me, Gunman? Stand down.”

Venus spoke up. “You can’t be serious Aneta.” Right, Forcelight’s civilian name.

“I am.”

“About killing him?” Venus questioned the team’s powerhouse.

“Your boyfriend looks like a flock of vultures ate him for a buffet. He’s goo and bones! You were willing to stand there when that happened to stop him, but you won’t go the rest of the way? Venus, after everything he’s done, why wouldn’t you kill him?” Forcelight made her case for my death.

“Because as bad as this all is, as much as I want to set him on fire and beat his head in with a brick, I’m not going to start acting just like him! You really want to do things his way? If so, then he’s your future.”

There was silence. This was all good and dramatic, but I still couldn’t see shit.

“Moot point at the moment, anyway. Is he unconscious?”

“Paralyzed.”

Marble hands grabbed my head and nodded it for me.

“Good. You know I’ve been meeting with that Good Doctor man. I figured I’d at least hear what he has to claim about me. If it’s a trick, he tricked Gecko there too. He warned me about doing anything rash if we got our hands on him.”

The man holding me up, whose name was just on the tip of my tongue, gave an exasperated sigh. “Why?”

“Because whatever powered that laser, and I don’t know how stable it is, but whatever did that and didn’t show any signs of running low, he’s got one in his chest. The Doctor’s seen it in there. That’s why we never found a reactor or a battery. If Gunman puts holes in him, he might get it too. If we start doing things to him, that thing might go up and take this whole building with it, at least.”

“More like the whole block,” said Troubleshooter.

At least if Doc’s ratting me out, he’s saying things that are keeping these assholes from killing me. Trust me, the great and devious Psycho Gecko makes damn sure his personal reactor isn’t going up the first time I crack my head.

Yeah, I’m back from Lala land, aka the land that time forgot and would prefer to not think about, and activating the transmitter and receivers I’d set up for just this situation once upon a time. We’re up to that point I mentioned earlier, about facing off against heroes with no way to fight back. My present tense. So I can feel again and move again. The question is how do I move out of here?

“Y’all need to shut up already,” says Raggedy Man as he approaches with the phase bangle in his hand. “Someone’s got you on camera right now. Everyone watching the news just heard everything you said about executing a guy!”

Times like these, I love my minions.

Raggedy Man lifts my other arm to take the weight off Apollo. “And for God’s sake, he broke his neck and you’re dancing him around like a puppet? Do you know what people think of you right now?”

My arm shoots out, not quite as naturally as it normally would, and grabs the bangle while I stumble forward out of the grasp of the surprised heroes. “Yeah, they think the camera adds 10 lbs…in the testicles. Especially you, Venus.”

“Another trick,” one of them says accusingly. If only they knew. Hell, I’d rather they didn’t. I’d much rather I knew what I was about to do, because my options for escape look nonexistent. Except if I try the unthinkable. Ah hell, it’s worked for me so far.

I activate the phase mechanism and everything loses its color, its substance. It’s like a drawing that the artist hasn’t colored in. I look down to see what all it had done to my armor and find it warping as my body expands, pushing out against it. Adverse reaction to my current state and the power core in my chest that’s filling me with energy now. Fist-sized holes appear in my armor, but do nothing to hurt me or even move me. I glance back along their trajectories to a lower skyscraper. Lone Gunman, the lost lil Holdout. He finally gets his shot, but I’m immune to bullets when it happens.

Defiant, I tear at the holes, pulling the chest portion of my armor apart. Looking down at my chest, I see the reactor isn’t fully phased. It pumps energy along my bio-technological nerves. My brain, my cybernetic enhancements, my armor. They connect to everything my power works on.

I’m pretty much an energy being. The generator lost containment and is filling my ethereal form with energy, enough that I maintain cohesion and even tear through my own armor with ease. The heroes grow smaller and smaller. Forcelight raises her non-smoking arm, the one that isn’t hanging limp by her side, and starts concentrating light to try and hit me or shoot me. I throw a punch at her and she releases early to try and meet it.

She goes flying.

Cool as fuck.

Hey, that just halted my growth for a moment, but I’m back to expanding now. Anyone else got the image of a balloon filled to bursting in their heads right about now?

I hope Moai and Carl are running like hell by now. I turn and tiptoe to a support beam that I’d sheared off above my head. It’s now significantly below that. No need to pay attention to the puny heroes any more. They are no threat.

There’s a more important threat I have to deal with. I need to lose a lot of energy in a hurry, then deactivate this device. I raise my arm up and bring my fist down with everything I have on the support that runs deeper into the building.

The floor, and my size, fall sharply. So do the next floor and the next after that, and so on. There’s dust everywhere and I’m lost in the middle of the collapse, falling and landing and getting landed on. I can’t see or hear anyone else, but I feel like I’m about the right size.

No way am I changing back right now, but –

***Connection lost. Archiving transmission. Preparing transfer. Transfer complete.***

***Waiting for connection***

 

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 8

Ah, Thanksgiving. Carl had it with his own family, I heard. Thanks to the bank job, he actually got to have one this year. A Thanksgiving dinner, I mean, not a family. I hear there are hookers you can pay for that sort of thing, though. Can you believe that guy had to make due with a ham sandwich a couple years back? Something about having his kids for the meal on a year when he didn’t have money for a big dinner. The kids got taken to dinner. Carl got a ham sandwich back at his apartment.

It’s a good thing crime pays. Compared to the regular economy, there’s a greater chance to climb the financial ladder and move into a new class.

So, yeah, he was off taking that break so soon after he decided he was working for me. I don’t mind, though. I like to keep things casual. The only thing more surprising about the attack on my prior base was that they didn’t catch me wearing nothing but boxer shorts.

Oh, while we’re on the subject of some recent history, I’ve got a few updates to make on people’s conditions. It’s been hard to get good information, especially with Shieldwall turtling after the attacks on Black Raptor and Miss Tycism. There’s been no sign of Venus, Raptor, Bright Star, or Miss Tycism. Even with the others coming out in groups and watching their hidey holes better than ever, those are out of the spotlight completely. I certainly hope I don’t see Miss Tycism floating around again after killing her.

I was sure they’d turtled when I tried going after the Honky Tonk Hero on Wednesday, but he had already high-tailed it to safer grounds. They’d been alerted by that time. I knew it was a possibility, but I was hesitant to go out immediately after that mindfuckeroonie by the late Miss Tycism. I was real close to calling up by buddy Max on the big video screen and asking him to prescribe me something to put me in my proper state of mind, like some LSD.

I didn’t do it. I decided the best way to confront a hero’s attempted disruption of my neurological makeup, or whatever she did, was to jump back on the horse before it was finished throwing me off. Like, maybe I grabbed the saddle, slid under its belly, hooked the stirrup, and then jumped up onto the saddle using impressive kung fu movie wire work. It’d have to be a horse not capable of having an erection, though.

So that is why I ran off to try and hunt down the singing superman, Honky Tonk Hero to my eventual disappointment. I considered blowing up the rooms he rented above a bar with a country music karaoke night, but instead I settled for ruining karaoke night. It was horrible. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. And that was just my attempt to sing “Friends in Low Places”. You should have heard what the poor bar patrons sounded like. The whole place got shut down after there was enough puke for authorities to claim the food was tainted. Perhaps I’ll go there again when they reopen it. Do a nice soliloquy. I hear that you can’t truly enjoy Hamlet until you’ve heard it in the original Klingon.

I took the day off from going out and blowing shit up and focused on the important things in life. Like the rocket-powered heat ray.

I had a dinner as well. Before the day itself I’d had Carl order, pick up, and refrigerate a turkey and ham from some place that prepares them for people. Reheating it all to eat was as easy as a low-power test of the Heatflasher. I had my share of it, then wheeled it on a cart with some whiskey to a group of homeless guys hanging around these barrel fires nearby.

Oh, and to those who think this story you’re reading is one of redemption just because I’m a bad guy who helps a few people, not only are you wrong, but you’re deliberately missing the point.

A good example of this would have to be the assault on the Shieldwall workshop on Black Friday. Black, for the color of mourning. Or the color of businesses turning a major profit instead of a loss.

In a manner quite unlike how I normally start such an attack, I brought nature’s fury to bear against this big zoo right there by the big park in the middle of Empyreal City. It all started innocently enough, with me using helpful brochure provided by the zoo to help me in my nefarious plan. Originally it was just a plan to attack the primate enclosure. The nefariousness of it came from the C4 being used to fire trees at the building and fences from outside the zoo. More nefariousness came from my use of the brochure’s map to aim.

Plus, you know, the kilt. I was in the kilt with the beret. I’d gotten golf shoes for the occasion. Moai held the golf bag full of C4 while Carl sat bundled up behind the wheel of the cart.

It wasn’t all fun and games.

I remember watching as the tree I’d just blown into the sky flew at a bad angle.

“Come on, turn, turn, turn…I think the wind got that one, boys,” I said and grabbed a hefty branch left behind near the crater. I tried to snap it over my knee, but all I managed was an intense ache in my leg. Instead, I had to settle for throwing my club.

Then I whipped out the brochure map and perused it to figure out where it might have gone. The camel pen. I turned toward my caddy and driver and informed them of the bad news, “It’s in the sand trap. I’m going to have to go for a mulligan.”

I got better. A couple tries later, I got a birdie! Probably a lot of birdies, actually, seeing as the tree was reported by the news as plowing into the penguin exhibit. It looked like some of the birds were going to make a break for it, but in the end they all got cold feet.

From there, the three of us made our way to the nearest Best Buy. We had abandoned the golf cart for Carl’s crappy car. Mine was still impounded as the police who still weren’t sure it was mine. Looking back, I guess I could have driven it out remotely, but that’s easier said than done when you’re being pursued.

Once there around back by a side entrance directly to the Geek Squad work area in the back of the store, I got out and popped the trunk. I tossed the clothes to Carl and Moai. Carl held up the shirt. “Boss, do I need to wear this?”

“Of course. It’s a disguise. They may think you’re some sort of thug if you just walk in there dressed as you are. This will confuse them. They would never expect an attack by these people. They’re normally such a gentle folk.”

So we were all suited up. Carl, who was about 6 foot and a thick combination of fat and muscle, was wearing a shirt with some My Little Pony on it. A purple one with a horn and streaks in her hair. He had a beard strapped to his neck as well.

Moai wore a white button-down shirt with a pocket protector, and an oversize pair of thick glasses.

I sported an orange shirt with the symbol of the Orange Lantern Corps. emphasized in the middle of a lineup of the various Lantern Corps. symbols. I also wore a fedora.

I rushed in with a sledgehammer and threw it into a monitor on the floor near a work table. Carl ran in behind me and knelt down by the door, wielding a supersoaker. He aimed at some towers lined up on shelves. Moai jumped burst in through the wall and tackled the work table.

After the high-pitched screaming was finished, the Nerd Squad techs we gathered up cowered before us as was only right and proper to ones dressed such as us. “What do you want?” asked one of them. I didn’t bother to remember which one. The one who looked like a Mormon.

“You have wiped and reset our systems instead of fixing the viruses for the last time, you code-crapping keyboard honkies!”

“Please, show mercy!”

At their pleading, I nodded to Carl. He fired the squirt gun at the towers, drenching them in Mountain Dew Code Red. The drink of Type 2 Diabetic champions. “Y’all look backed up around here. Can’t run a regular virus scan and then give up fast enough, eh?” I walked over to the monitor I’d destroyed earlier. It had skidded some when Moai crashed the place. I picked it up and faced the prisoners. “You know what’s good for helping you when you’re too backed up?” Carl began to laugh as I rubbed the head of the hammer on my shirt, shining it up. “An enema,” I told them with a wicked grin.

As I said before, those were clues. Clues about who I wanted to hit and clues to give me an idea where they were. To my surprise, the two I’d wanted were holed up together in their own little workshop.

Monkeywrench Mechanics. Nice touch for the building that Troubleshooter and Gorilla Awesome were working out of. I drove up on my pink scooter, the Minstrel, and scouted it out. Motion sensors, laser sensors, tripwires, pressure plates, and banana peels. Actually, the peels might have been because Gorilla Awesome was hungry.

I considered a plan of attack, then called Carl. “Yo, Carl.”

“Hey boss.”

“Can you fly a helicopter?”

“Uh, no.”

“Well then, this is about to get interesting.”

I had no idea what countermeasures those fiendishly clever hero minds were coming up with down there, but I knew one way to foil them. It involved Moai driving a truck full of marshmallows while Carl enjoyed a scenic tour of the city that passed right overhead. The pilot was paid not to ask why someone wanted an aerial tour in such a big chopper with so many marshmallows crammed in. From how Carl put it, even if you added a horse in there, it wasn’t the strangest request he’d ever gotten.

As for me, I got back to Monkeywrench Mechanics just after them. I had to get back to the base and grab the Heatflasher. Let’s get field testin’.

Moai’s presence drew Gorilla Awesome out to investigate, but a quick blast of invisible heat scoured him of fur and left him scrambling to get inside. Moai hopped out of the cab of the truck and around to the back and began to toss marshmallows to the roof of the building. I focused on opening a hole in the roof with the heat ray. The roof exploded outward and downward in flaming chunks as I overheated it to dangerous levels. Flaming, melted marshmallow goop from the few Moai had tossed up there fell in as well. I called Carl for the signal.

He dumped all the marshmallows over the building. I reduced the power to the Heatflasher so the test itself wouldn’t wreck it and fired away, liquefying and lighting aflame the falling gooey goodness.

Gorilla Awesome roared in pain as my hot white goo clung to him and burned him. Troubleshooter tried to light into the air, but something clogged in her backpack and she tumbled down into the building.

With my weapon working again and so many of the heroes off their game, it’s time to move into the endgame.

Next time, this city and Shieldwall all burn. Season’s greetings, motherfuckers.

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 3

I am the master of your fucking universe, baby! No, I have not had crack!

I caught a thief. She’s far too good at finding me. She made it past a number of defenses. The reverse punji pit above the side door. The Spamocles Sword. She even made her way through the flashlight area. Took me awhile to set that one up. Setting up enough boxes and heavy metal crates to form rooms. That’s the problem, I guess. All that trouble to build something up, only to have someone come along and wreck all your hard work. Reminds me of a story…well, best to save that for another time.

Dame was back, my beautiful, black-suited thieving acquaintance with the shiny mask and armband. We don’t have a good track record as far as our encounters go. This time, Moai and I saw her sneak up to the Heatflasher. It looked like this was another of those bad encounters.

“Not so fast, you thieving, conniving, deceptive, traitorous, glamorous, agile, lithe woman in a skin-tight suit!” I said, then caught my breath. It was a mouthful.

Dame turned to face us. Her response didn’t indicate surprise. Then she saw that both Moai and I were in police uniforms. I was armed with a banana and a mustache, though Moai had on a fake mustache of his own that was large enough to fit his face. “Well, well, well, looks like it’s the rabbit here to try and steal all our Trix. Book em’, Moe,” I told my stony servant. I kept the banana trained on her.

“What’s in that?” Dame asked, “Another laser? Acid?”

“Not at all, Dame. Arms behind your back,” I said as Moai made his way behind her. She complied and he cuffed her out of my sight. “This sucker’s loaded with potassium. As you know, potassium has a hostile reaction in water.”

“You’re going to blow up the water supply?”

“No, my dear, I have something much more delicious in mind…” I grabbed the end of the banana…and peeled it. Then I was eating a banana.

Dame relaxed at that. She even laughed as the tension left her body. Bad move. While the simple banana is merely a delicious source of nutrition and dong jokes to everybody else, it’s also incredibly deadly in the wrong hands or orifice.

Moai hopped over to my side again. “Good job, partner. Now, then, little lady, just what were you doing sneaking in here. I don’t have any pictures for you to steal any more. The fire ate my birdy.”
She shook her head. “Actually, I already stole that from you just before you did all that. It’s safe and sound, just like we’ll all be when I disable this thing,” she revealed.

I turned to Moai, “I get in one colossal fight and Dame gets scared. She should move in with her aunty and uncle in Bel Air.”

She groaned.

I turned back to her, “See, that’s the problem with the non-violent ones. Weak stomachs. Too willing to join the side of the angels when you start destroying national monuments. Get the fuck out of here and don’t come back or I’ll be forced to do something I enjoy.”

Dame bent her legs just a bit and backflipped over the Heatflasher. Without any sign of the handcuffs anywhere, she knelt and opened a panel. Before she could grab any potentially valuable piece, she found herself incorporeal once again. She flailed, panicking, and looked around for anything she could latch on to. She dove for the light switch. Her mass suddenly increased when she became solid again and she dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes with a fine ass. Mmmm, dat spud.

“Ah, the dangers of ourtsourcing your IT and then ever getting into a conflict with that person,” I gloated. I walked over and knelt beside her. “I recognize that you’re very skilled at what you do, but conflict with other superhumans is what I do. So what you’re going to do now is get your ass out of here and don’t come back.” I jumped up and ran to the fridge, then pulled out a frozen bass. I rushed back and shoved it in her face. “Do you see this? Do you know what this is?”

Dame tried to get away from the slimy little stink critter, but I grabbed her head and held it close. “I will find a fun place to shove this fish if you come back here. Understand?”

She nodded through some nasty coughs.

Moai and I gently escorted her out, each of us grabbing a side and tossing her out the door. Then I pressed a button on the fish and tossed it out. It exploded just above her into a pink mist of disgusting fish smell. She wasn’t hurt, except in the smellular way.

I went back inside and set an electrified cage up around the Heatflasher. I needed to get out and deal with something. A certain target among the heroes that has been exceedingly helpful to them. The Heatflasher would be great to drag along for this, but drag would be the operative term. The fight and landing didn’t do it any favors, so I have some parts to replace. I plugged the cage right into it, though. That way, if Dame comes back then she won’t be snipping the power.

That doesn’t mean the Heatflasher had no influence on my next course of action. I called in a Psycho Gecko threat at Wall Street. “You better hurry. He’s talking about bolsheviking Mensheviks in the Kolyma.”

Time to get the armor on. And some more fish out of the fridge. And that air cannon.
Minutes later I soared through the air on a rocket, a heavy pack on my back. Replacements. I saw the Shieldwall jet ahead as the heroes deployed. They were searching, with the jet lagging behind to help coordinate things. And, of course, to help provide transport for those left on the ground.

When I saw it, I activated my payload. Five rockets activated and flew off my back. It was going to be iffy controlling them like this, all through the helmet, but worse comes to worse and they’ll just crash. No big deal. It’s not my city.

I overtook the jet easily and took my rocket upward. Black Raptor broke off from circling over a block to ascend after me. I armed my fish stink grenade and turned, firing it into Raptor’s chest. It slapped him right in the chest and caught him by surprise. The subsequent pink mist got him full on. Hacking and vomiting, he dropped. I directed a rocket into his chest on the way down and bopped him on the top of the jet before circling around.

Another smacked into a rudder. The rest were closer. All at once, my rocket and the other four nearby began a flip, cut engines, aimed downward, and hit the engines, with me jumping off my rocket. I loaded another fish into the air cannon as best as I could given all the wind while coordinating the attack on the jet. One by one the rockets smacked into the canopy glass. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. I saw it as I fell past. It was cracking.

The jet opened fire on them with lasers and scored a hit on one. The rest of its fuel went up at once and it exploded.

The same rocket that assaulted Raptor flew down and maneuvered underneath me. I landed with it between my legs, remembering very quickly how bad of an idea that was around the same time I gained a lovely high-pitched singing voice.

The other rockets cut their engines and dropped to join me. I leaned on another to the side of me as I got a better seat and pulled my sack out from under my taint.

Ok, one rocket down, one hero down, one jet not down. Of course I hadn’t thought this through. You’ve seen how my plans go. They bore people. I saw the side door open on the jet. Somebody’s about to join the party. Somebody also created a way in. I sent a rocket towards the door to try and catch whoever tried to rain on my parade. It poured gorilla instead.

Gorilla Awesome, the intelligent, talking, jet pack-wearing, laser using, grappling hooking gorilla himself jumped out, caught the rocket, and fired his own jetpack, directing it away.

I sent more after him, including my own. His moved horizontally in a circle as he messed with it between dodging my attacks. The others I directed into a vertical circle each time one missed. I even tried to slap fight him as I passed, but he drove one foot into my chest and nearly knocked me off the rocket. I grabbed onto it instead and dropped the air cannon in the process. There goes leaving my own special scent on the inside of the thing. I circled back around to slam my boots into Awesome’s midsection. He grabbed my calf with one foot and pulled me free. Content with me rather than a lowly rocket, he let go and began to fly us back to the jet with his own pack.

Raptor joined us. He looked a little worse for the wear, but he grabbed hold of my other leg. “If it’s not too much to ask, can we not do the wishbone thing?” I pleaded.

I could tell Raptor thought it was a good idea. He didn’t have too much time to enjoy the idea as a rocket got him in the flat of his back, and then another skimmed between his legs and probably did some quality manscaping close to the skin. The third one to hit him in this little barrage was playing holey war. Propelled by a rocket in his ass, Raptor bothered me no more.

Gorilla Awesome still had me in one foot and I got into a weak little kick fight against him, my boot to his prehensile foot. “Monkey see, monkey don’t!” I called out as I hit the jump enhancer for my leg. The subsequent blow would have been below the belt if apes wore belts. Or even tophats, I suppose. I don’t know where the line is drawn at including other primates into fair fights.

I got to see what a gorilla with bulging eyes looked like at least, but he still didn’t let go and I was getting closer and closer to the jet.

“Arrest moi? Not if I can make an ape escape!” I bantered again and called up my rockets. One of them didn’t respond. Probably the one Monsieur Mallah here was messing with.

That left me with three. I guess I should have done this at the start, when I had more, but that’s the way the bowling ball bounces. I aimed for the VTOL jets on the aircraft itself. The first rocket exploded as it flew within, but it wasn’t going down. Just wobbling. Damn their craftsmanship!

So rocket number dos had to go in and dosey-do. This time, there was a hoedown. No word on if any non-hos went down with the plane. It lost that jet and was falling in a spiral. That’s when Wannabe-Grodd let go and tried to stabilize the fall. I caught myself on my last free rocket before letting go. It slammed into Awesome’s jetpack and blew it. The burning gorilla fell, but I saw him fire off the grappling hook before too long. He lived. Damn.

That left only one way to save myself from a rather nasty-looking fall. I landed on a screaming Black Raptor as he flew beneath me and grabbed onto the rear half of the rocket. We went into a spin as I tried to shake Raptor loose a little, then went for the jump enhancers again as we sank closer to the ground. I planted my boots on Raptor’s buns and kicked off.

He went down in a tangle on a nearby rooftop, leaving me to fly back. Looks like poor little Shieldwall’s taking the bus from here on out.

No, don’t save Black Raptor a seat. I think he’d rather stand.

Suck it, Shieldwall, right in your jet engine.

 

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Arete in Destruction 2

The confrontation started innocently enough. I set fire to the shithole I’d been staying in for a long time. I’ve been sleeping and eating over at the warehouse I rented to work on the Heatflasher anyway, so this place was now more of a convenient way to draw one hell of a fly into my web. It’s an awesome web. A web…of DOOM!

“Doomy doomy doomy, doomy doomy doomy, doom,” I sang to myself as I opened up the side door to the semi and readied the ‘Flasher. I had already sent off Moai to get me a hot dog. Nothing like a tube of unidentifiable animal meat byproduct covered in sugar and tomato to brighten your mood and fill your stomach. I slid into a seat that sat further back from the machine, with cushions full of coolant. I had managed enough of a swivel that I turned it toward the low rent apartment complex from across the parking lot and aimed via helmet. Then I lit that motherfucker up. The heat tore through that old crappy drywall like a hot knife through old crappy drywall, only bigger. It caught and the blaze spread like wildfire, which seemed only natural to me. The whole place was going up and I barely got to use my heat ray. That’s when I spotted a familiar car from some guy with a little gang that tried to harass me. He was smart enough to leave me alone after I shot his dick and his friends, but he was too dumb to move. Tsk tsk.

The car started to glow after I hit it with the heat beam. That didn’t last long as it exploded pretty quickly as well. “Hey, that’s my car!” screamed someone with a high-pitched voice from the building in front of the car. I looked up and found that same asshole who tried to give me a hard time amongst all the people at their windows watching everything happen. I saw recognition strike him and he turned to run with an “Oh shit!”

“Sounding a little high-pitched there, I must have nailed a ball too. Better even that out. Hold still, let me see if I can get the other one!” I called out. No way he’d hear that, but I swept the beam along that floor, likewise sending it up in flames as rooms collapsed in on themselves. I think I got the other one this time. I don’t expect any complaints if I missed.

It took me back. Pulling my head back from spotting oculars and grabbing a light miner. The heft of the weapon, the feel of activating a continuous green beam that cuts through everything in front of it. Tearing through superheated metal that crumples, bends, smashes the target. Not caring about the target even, whoever he is, and just shooting, shooting, shooting, more buildings falling, cackling, supposed friends at my shoulder, trying to pull me away. Not caring as I destroy a world I can never fit into.

Except the thing at my shoulder was Moai hitting me over and over to get my attention. I looked around at a significantly clearer landscape. In my remembrance of the past, I’d annihilated every building around in the present. They just stood there, more in flames than in cheap brick veneer. I saw incandescent remains of fire trucks and police cruisers from misguided attempts to reign me in that I still have no recollection of. I was in the middle of a blaze.

“Damn, and I missed all that. Well, the helmet cam probably caught it. We did get everything important out of the apartment first, didn’t we?” I turned to Moai. As usual, he didn’t feel like answering verbally. Then I remembered. “Oh shit, the Cthulhu birdy! The Great Yith Avian! Well, I shall cherish what little time together we had, my chirpy little fluffy huggy snugga wuggawy-“

I was cut off as a tiny tremor I’d felt in the ground grew more powerful. Something was getting close. So close that a giant green foot stomped on the cab of the truck. That’s pretty damn close, actually.

By the way, thanks for ruining my truck, jackass! True, I didn’t pay for it, but I had the roof opening and the side doors and I had plans to install armor. Hell, the way things were going today, I had plans to include spiked wheels even. You know, for good skull traction. Don’t you hate it when your evil vehicle of doom and death slips on one too many skulls while cutting a swath through the innocent? For just one easy payment, you can be the proud owner of the Skull Shoes! Engineered to gain traction over even the slipperiest of head bones, Skull Shoes can save you the hassle and embarrassment of leaving home and having no way to run people down. Order now, only on the Home Slaughter Network!

Paveman, inhabiting the Statue of Liberty once again, dug his fingers in around the trailer, denting it inward. I held on tight as I was lifted up. Then started to lower again before something, then jostled side to side a bunch of times. You know, it’s possible this hero doesn’t like me very much. The Heatflasher skidded slightly, but the damage was negligible compared to when it dropped last time.

Suddenly, I was tipped up and the rear door was slid open. The giant face of Paveman, with power over materials he steps on, was frowning down at me. “What do you have to be upset about, I’m the one fighting a giant!” I yelled. Then I followed it up with, “Let’s put a smile on that face.”

I fired, moving it from right to left and back again. It melted out a smile, with orangish-yellowish liquid glowing as it splashed out onto the interior of the trailer. More dribbled over its own chin. The metal around the smile where it had been touched also glowed, though it was a darker reddish-orange.

You know how you sometimes can’t help but smile when you see someone else smile? That was me. That goofy grin made my day and soon had me laughing.

I heard something drop and crash, then the Statue’s other hand came up to block the rear door. I aimed for where the proximal phalanges met the metacarpals if this were a human body. I cut through the lowest of the fingers, in my sight, the index, and it dropped. I almost completely severed the middle finger, but before I could make the bird fly off, I was the one that needed wings. He dropped me, and not out of necessity either.

I mentioned last time that I needed a better way to lift this thing. Something involving fewer ropes and broken arms on my part. I reached down to a newly-installed secondary joystick made possible by being able to sit further away from the body of the weapon, which was made possible by the machine having its own power supply and not needing to tap into mine. I flipped two switches simultaneously next to the joystick and gave the upper trigger on the stick a good squeeze.

The switches initiated the launch. Eight of my riding rockets, four of them on the corners of the machine and the other four larger and under the machine, came online and lifted the Heatflasher and me barrel first out through the open rear of the machine.

Paveman recoiled in surprise as I floated before him in my flying heat ray. Of doom! Can’t forget the 20% more doom. “That’s right. Who’s saying ‘Up, up, and away’ now, motherfucker?”

With all that extra mass, the punch he tried to throw was telegraphed like the assassination of William McKinley. The four larger rockets were devoted to keeping me airborne and adjusting altitude, but the other four at the corners turned to match the direction I took the stick. I made a big show of laughing as I easily dodged the punch.

“Alright, we got ourselves an epic battle on our hands. Let’s get some epic battle music going!”

I activated the playlist in my helmet’s speaker system. It started with a drumroll. Then birds chirping. Then “Hiya Barbie!”

“Hi Ken!”

“Wanna go for a ride?”

“Sure Ken!”

“Jump in.”

There’s little more demeaning than getting your butt whooped to the tune of Barbie Girl.

The second punch he threw, I fired along that sucker and dropped half of the Statue’s left hand. I flitted, at least compared to him, down and around to his rear, where I sculpted out a pair of big, round butt cheeks. When he managed to turn around, I was waiting at the chest, trying to add breasts onto a Statue that was considerably more male-looking with Paveman in charge. He swiped at me with both hands, but I shot up to face level with him. It was there I discovered that he was no longer smiling. Not even a trace lingered. It puzzled me for a moment before I remembered how he restored the statue from my initial adjustments to it with a rocket launcher.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his right arm shoulder shifting the arm upward and shot past Paveman’s huge face just in time to avoid the slap. I floated over by his ear. “What did the…hold on,” I stopped to count the fingers. Five, with a smaller index finger, “What did the five fingers say to the face?” I swooped in and gave him some new eyebrows. “Zap!”

A huge copper blade speared out of his chest at an angle to slice through me, but I took it up higher, then around his body. I had to avoid more such thrusting blades, but I got an idea what I needed to do.

The limbs were smaller as they regrew, to the extent that a copper statue can regrow. He likely had to draw from elsewhere in his body to restore them, so enough damage, like a limb cut off, would put a big dent in him.

My next point of attack was the armpit. Standing up there all those years, salty ocean air all over the place, and no deodorant? I’m surprised the smell wasn’t so bad. It took longer than expected, dodging the blows of Paveman as he danced around and minded the buildings and cars below us. I saw the spikes on his crown bend to try and track me and then fire. They were almost a problem, but my wild aiming nicked a couple and threw them off course enough. I took the party behind Paveman after that and finished from there, with him just having to reach behind him as he turned to face me.

I took a moment to look over how my machine was doing. It was venting heat as much as it could with all my improvements, and it could stand plenty on its own. There were redundancies in place if some parts failed. Even so, I couldn’t keep up this game of flying evil cat and colossal mouse forever. If the ‘Flasher didn’t fail on me, the rockets would go before long. Those babies can only hold so much in the gas tank. Even my music could run out. I was on “A Little Respect” by Erasure now. If I reach “Hey Mickey” then I know I’m in trouble. I can’t fight Mickey. He’s too fine. He’s so fine he blows my mind.

Fighting Mickey wasn’t a problem, though. The arm fell off! Paveman had to catch himself and stepped on a bus to do so. It fell on a street and settled there, elbow pointed upward. I fired into the backs of the still-recovering Paveman’s knees and calves. He didn’t catch himself so easily this time. He stumbled back and I adjusted my aim to light up that jolly green buttocks. I hauled my own ass out of the way as he fell on his. Except his ass was rather soft and melty, with his fallen arm under it.

Lady Liberty is too big to 63, but why should that stop me from a creative use of a hand up an ass?

I took the Heatflasher in close while Paveman was busy standing and went for the most obvious point of weakness. The neck. I saw Paveman growl at me with features crossed with the Statue. He tried one last time to grab me, punch me, swipe me, anything, but it was the only arm he had to grab anything with and he fell back, missing me. I didn’t miss him, though, and the Statue went still once more as the head finally came off.

The head rolled off, then reformed into Paveman. He was larger than average, but down for the count. I fired an invisible burst or two at him and he fled.

I needed to get out of there myself, but first thing’s first. I drew “Psycho Gecko wuz X” along the Stomach of Liberty. The mighty Stomach of Liberty, below the Boobs of Liberty that were still shaped like the Manboobs of Liberty. That is where Psycho Gecko wuz, for all the world to see. Eat it, America. Eat it like candy.

“It was self defense! You all saw it!” I called out to whatever people were within earshot of the massive wreckage of a fallen Statue of Liberty on crumbling buildings near several others that were on fire that was still burning strong. Water shot fountained into the streets from destroyed hydrants. The image didn’t fit well with “Venus” by Bananarama. One song to go until “Hey Mickey”.

Ah hell. I sang along with it. It was my victory, after all. “Venus on the mountain top. Shining like a silver flame. A vision of beauty and love. And Venus was her na-.”

Three guesses who was behind me when I rotated around in the middle of all that. Well, Venus and the rest of Shieldwall, courtesy of the jet and their ability to fly. They floated there behind me. We just stared at each other. I was on one side. Forcelight and Black Raptor kept their altitude outside the jet, which had Gorilla Awesome and Venus in the cockpit. Then the fuel light came on.

Forcelight and Raptor dove after me as I took it down to the streets to evade and escape. The jet just wasn’t agile enough. I lost Forcelight when I blasted the water from a hydrant, throwing steam into the air. As a light manipulator, she can get rid of my holograms easily enough. Still can’t see through steam for shit. Raptor was more persistent, so I took us over the burning buildings. Nearly grilled my ass off again, but he blinked first and pulled away.

And so the day was mine. All mine! That day, I just couldn’t lose.

Except Moai dropped my hotdog on the way back to the warehouse. There was that. But otherwise, there’s no stopping me!

…and it was really good timing on Moai’s part. I needed a hand putting in the new door after the first one was destroyed by a skidding rocket heat ray.

You hear that, heroes? Not even door installation can slow me down!

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