Tag Archives: Holdout

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***

 

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A New Boss in Kingscrow 3

Good Doctor didn’t let me in on what was up right then and there. Instead, we rode over to Mix N’ Max’s lab. He was persistently silent throughout the drive. When we walked in, we found Max looking at some brain matter under a telescope. The TV in the next room was on and loud enough for us to hear.

They were reporting on Chief Assistant District Attorney Joseph Adontes Jr., whose father was kidnapped and forced to abet a bank robber. Looks like Joe’s grandkids are going to be more pissed than I thought.

“Heya Max,” I said.

“We need to talk privately. Make sure the girls don’t interrupt us,” Doctor said curtly, indicating the room the TV’s noises emanated from.

Max looked up, one eyebrow raised curiously, then called out, “This can wait if it’s so important, just let me get to a stopping point first. Hey girls. If you will, turn that TV up and don’t come in the lab until I say otherwise!” A stopping point? Must be an important matter.

I walked around and messed with some of the equipment as Max’s current helpers turned the TV up. “Meanwhile in Empyreal City, the absence of Sixgun was revealed by his successor, the Lone Gunman, who has vowed to take up his mentor’s guns and charge…” That was so surprising, I nearly knocked over a large bag of baking soda sitting right there in Max’s hidden lab.

Luckily I didn’t. It could have mixed in with the big bag of cocaine right next to it and then how would we heat soft drinks in the oven?

When Max went to put something in his centrifuge, I snuck a peek at the piece of brain he was messing with. Nothing all that interesting. I poked it and it jumped. Curious, I poked it again and it opened a mouth, baring fangs at me. Obviously, I was perplexed. I had to know more, but before I could poke it a third time, it jumped at me and began to chew my collar. Stumbling back and swiping at it, I hit the latch on the freezer. Out stumbled a zombie.

Whew, never have I been so glad to see a zombie. If anyone could help me fend off an attacking brain, it would be a zombie. The carnivorous brain stopped and sniffed at the air, which I consider quite the accomplishment for a cortex. The zombie shambled for me, releasing a moan, but was cut off as the brain practically flew at it, biting into the pale flesh of the zombie.

Relieved, I kicked the zombie back into the freezer and shut the door. When I turned around, I found Doc and Max just looking at me, arms crossed. “You done screwing around?” Max asked me.

Before I could answer, the news caught all of our attention, “Bennett Long, owner of the Long Life Corporation, has expanded on his statement about working to clean up Kingscrow of supercrime with a $500,000 bounty on noted supervillain The Good Doctor, who reportedly attacked him in his office before being fended off by Long Life’s new Peace Enforcement Teams.”

I looked at the Doctor, who knew what I was thinking if the knife he palmed was any indication. Max stepped between us, hands up. I noted the wrist sprayers under his sleeves. “Knock it off, Gecko.”

“Good idea.”

“It would be imprudent to try, Gecko,” came from Doc.

“Cut it out, Doctor,” said Max, still trying to keep the peace.

“Lungs, liver, or lymph nodes?”

“None of the above. If you, EITHER of you, start anything in here, I’ll dose you. The moment you take off those masks, you’ll be paralyzed or worse. So here is what we are going to do. We’re going to sit down and I would like to hear why the richest man in the city wants our Good Doctor. Then, you two leave through separate doors.”

Reluctantly, we backed off, Doc and I standing on opposite sides of the room. “Sit,” commanded Max. Keeping our eyes on each other, we sank into chairs.

The Good Doctor spoke: “You know I kill people for their organs and sell them, but what you didn’t know is that I had an employer. Bennett Long, the city’s benefactor, has been paying me to provide organs for research and transplant purposes. If you were wealthy, secretive, and well-connected, Ben could get you what you needed to live. For more, he could even get you the organ of someone with powers. That an organ transplant was incapable of transferring special abilities meant nothing. It was something of a status symbol, in their sick way. There are heiresses and aristocrats walking around with organs stolen from men and women who risked their lives or notorious crime figures. They were stolen by me for a man who used to be my friend. At least until he turned on me last night and attempted to liquidate me.”

“Ben and I knew each other from college and medical school, my aspirations aided by the gift I discovered in those days. At that time, he was unaware of my abilities. He dropped out of medical school, but found a way to get into the medical profession with Long Life and offered me a job at one of his private clinics. I chose to work in a hospital he sponsored instead. “

“I met the love of my life due to that friendship. She had secrets in her past that she never let me in on, but her relationship with Ben was not one of them. Ben had moved on and gotten married, so it didn’t appear to affect our friendship. It is unfortunate that Alice proved to be the impetus of so many unfortunate events as well. Her pregnancy was troubled from the start, but I didn’t expect anything would put her into labor prematurely. I acted then and there at home, but I lost her. Our daughter, Aneta, was saved, but needed more time to develop.”

“The police found drugs in Alice’s system. I never knew her to be an addict. They were hospital-grade pharmaceuticals and sedatives, so I came under suspicion and they were going to take my daughter from me, but Ben stepped in for me. He hushed things up and supposedly his company’s testing threw their results into question. He even covered Aneta’s care at no immediate cost to me. I later found out his price was to help him in this new endeavor, organ acquisition from those who were doomed to those who could help fund more hospitals and outreach clinics. I thought he was taking a risk by covering up Alice’s test results. Later, he held them over my head to force me to continue. He made a killer of me. I tried to balance this with caring for Aneta, but she found one of my scalpels and began to notice things. I thought that if I sent her off early enough, she would never even suspect what I had become. I sent her to my best friend, that damn traitor!”

“Last night, he told me he was planning to take a more active role in the city’s and state’s politics. He needed to clear skeletons out of closets and then he called in his men. I had to fight my way out. He’s got everything to make it look like I was drugging my wife, he knows all about my role as his damn assassin, and he’s been raising my daughter for 13 years. I have money saved, but not what he’s offering. Is there anything I can say to convince you two to help me fight him rather than turn me in?”

“You had me at ‘turned on me last night and tried to liquidate me,’” I told him. Let’s be smart about this. The guy already broke his deal with his former friend, the Doc. What are the odds he’ll pay me that kind of money?

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The Death of a Feud (Special Almost Double Size Update!)

I wasn’t even causing any trouble. I know that’s hard to believe, but it was the night before Mr. Rogers Day. Yes, I’m planning to be a good neighbor on Mr. Rogers Day. Or I would have, if I was going to have neighbors anymore. I’ll get to that.

I was watching Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a fun documentary, when I dropped my remote. I bent over to pick it up and missed the bullet that shattered my big screen. I dove for the side, my popcorn spilling into the air. More shots tracked me, probably near misses, and I landed behind the workbench with my latest rocket assembled on it.

“I appreciate bringing me lead to eat, but I ordered Italian take out!” I called out to my attacker. If you can multitask, I suggest talking to someone while you face them. Some people can get mixed up if they have to do something while listening to someone else.

A gruff voice with a Southern drawl answered back, “From now on you’re gonna take your meals in the pokey or not at all.”

I reached for a plastic sack full of white capsules hanging on the wall. “In the pokey? Listen buddy, I’m as wild as the next guy, but I really don’t care for food to be shoved up my-“

“In the hoosegow!”

“…right, I hope you brought lube along.”

With that, I leapt across to the other side of my workshop. This time, no mere bullets were fired my way. Instead, flames licked at me as fireballs barely missed me. As I settled against the tough metal cabinet and counter, I yelled to my assailant, “That’s one hell of a gun, Quickdraw McGraw!”

“It’s not Quickdraw, it’s Sixgun!” That explained it. The man with the empathic gun of interchangeable ammo, even ammunition like fireballs that shouldn’t exist. I wondered if he had anything like what that big fucking gun shot back on the space marine ship.

“Shouldn’t you be promoting mass shootings to impressionable middle schoolers?” I asked. Regardless of my stance on the issues I bring up, a good verbal kick in the balls always helps. Mwahaha, that’s right, fear what my mouth will do to your balls!

Wait a tick, that’s not right. Also, the wall is on fire. See THIS is why people go for metal or concrete construction right here.

I reached up without looking and found my utility belt on the countertop and dragged it down. I slipped it on and clicked the buckle when I heard him respond, “Guns are perfectly safe when used by properly trained individuals with no mental problems!”

Not sure where he got the idea most people who had them count as properly trained AND sane. “I’m sure that comforts a lot of grieving parents. ‘Oh, geez, sorry your kid got shot with a legal killmachine, but it’s ok because most of the rest of us probably aren’t going to do that. Now if you’ll excuse me, there was an incident at an elementary school today and I need to go reassure more people they won’t be limited to just 5 killmachines.’”

“You’re a real bastard, Psycho. You don’t have the right to lecture anybody about weaponry. Besides, I’m here to deal with your continuous assassination attempts on my sidekick.”

I tore open the bag, pressed on the caps of a few white capsules, and threw them towards the doorway Sixgun appeared to be taking cover behind. They burst into flames in midair not too far away, prompting him to pop out of cover long enough to fire back in response while holding his white cowboy hat onto his head. Lightning flashed out of the end of his gun’s barrel and cracked against the TV. One line went wide and wrecked the top of the workbench I hid behind earlier, blasting my rocket apart.

See, this is why I can’t have good things. And where are my knives?

“Took you long enough. I wonder how long he kept begging for a chance to not have his life put in danger before he kicked the bucket!” I said, changing tracks.

“He might ask me the same thing when I’m finished with you.”

Ah, in all the lightning and fire and bullets, somehow my explosive throwing knife belt wound up on the ground right in the middle of the room. “Now that was a stupid thing to say for someone trying to protect him. You know he started this, right?”

“You captured him! You tried to kill him!”

“He’s a teenager whose first instinct upon seeing a murdering psychopath was to follow him and try to sneak up on him!”

“You poured vegetable oil on him and beat him over the head with a salami. Don’t you know how wrong that was?”

“Yes, I know. I should have used knockwurst!” I heard the sound of metal smacking against flesh. Facepalm. I took the opportunity to slide out on the floor and grab a knife. I armed it and threw it towards the doorway with no particular aim. It was hard to hear anything over the explosion and the spreading flames, so I just had to risk it and rush the door.

On the other side, I saw Sixgun, laying there, staring up at nothing through a pair of holes cut out in a tied strip around his face. I slipped another knife off the belt as I stood over him. I dropped to my knees, pinning his arms down under them, grabbed the back of his head, and raised the blade in the air.

“Hehehe, gunslinger. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
Unfortunately, I lost the base. My next step, with all the smoke going everywhere, was to change into my armor and get out of there. Was grabbing as many remote hologram discs when I saw the flames had reached the box of rubber chickens. Fire trucks arrived in time to see me fleeing a clutch of chicken grenades all walking towards the street before exploding, sending my latest lair and me flying.

It wasn’t too much better at the apartment. I was learning here. What I was learning was I was being followed. I had an idea who as well. I also had the advantage of keeping some nifty explosives in my apartment for intruders.

But I couldn’t do that.

See, now I’m at my apartment, staring down a wounded Holdout. He walked in, one arm in a sling, to find me standing there in the dark.

“Still at it? Can’t get enough pain, or are you just suicidal?” I say to him.

He pulls a gun out of thin air. Literally, empty air, then a gun, and his sleeves aren’t that long. Guess that’s why he’s called Holdout.

“You killed my-…you killed Sixgun. You have been trying to kill me. You’re not walking out of here alive.”

“Then I’ll walk out dead.” He cocks the hammer. “Oh come on, you think that’s going to hurt me?”

“It’s built like Sixgun’s. Yeah, I can shoot through that armor.”

“How’d you find me, by the way?” I’m curious. Best to correct for that next time.

“The truck. I memorized the license plate number when you had me tied up and covered in oil. I followed it on the day you tried to crash into me and that confirmed who it was. Sixgun was able to pull together trips it had made from examining the minions you killed and that led us to your new base. And after…you did what you did, I followed you here.”

“I guess you CAN do a little more than pull a trigger, huh? Are you good for anything useful aside from that? I bet you can’t feed a hungry orphan or remove a lump of cancer. Just track down and try to shoot lil ole me, the evil molester of pandas and weapon master of the deli section.”

“Shut up! I don’t have any real power, but at least I can do a little good in all this. Even if it is just a little, it’s better than nothing.” Whoa. He looks shaky. Looking closer, I can see scars and burns. My handiwork by now. “You can’t talk your way out of this. I have to do this and even if I fail, I’ve led the cops right to you.”

Crap.

“Crap. With all these bombs I keep in here, that’s going to get real messy, real quick.” He stiffens at that. “Or I let you evacuate the good people of this building before folks charge in here after me.”

“You’re going to kill me if I turn around to do that.”

“I take pity on you.” He nearly shoots me right there. I stand there, stoic as a guy can be in armor that doesn’t show his face. After a minute, hearing sirens approach, he eases out the doorway and speaks into something at his shoulder, alerting the cops to a bomb in the building, in my apartment. I just close the door, catching a glimpse of my neighbors and their little girl being helped out of there by the wounded sidekick.

They manage to get them all out in 20 minutes. I’ve fortified the doorway pretty well in that time and there I am, standing at the window as helicopters illuminate me with the floodlight. It doesn’t shine off my armor but it does off the window, making it a little harder for sharpshooters to take a whack at me. I know the SWAT are getting close, so I press a button.

The apartment explodes outward as the bombs go off, raining burning debris over the assembled cops and a few onlookers too close to the scene. More of the blast was directed away from the interior than I figured.

Me? Oh, I’m watching from a couple of buildings over. Wish I had a drink with me. Yep, I barricaded the door and the interior walls, set one of the hologram discs down with an image of myself, and hightailed it out of there. Before you start with the “Oh Mr. Gecko, you’re so handsome but sooo cowardly,” let me just add that I was trying to avoid blowing up the little girl next door. That’s why I couldn’t just lead Holdout in and blow it all up right then and there.

She’s a former client. That sounds really wrong, but it’s the truth. Looks like the fire trucks will get most of the damage since they were called along as well.

Holdout? Maybe I’ll kill him, maybe I won’t. Let’s just say the kid showed some balls and some good decision-making skills. He gets a part in taking me down as far as anyone knows, I killed his boss. And almost killed him a lot of times. And murdered supervillain support staff. And I struck out with Dave’s wife. I suppose we’re roughly even if I go easy on NEEDING him dead.

Well, my apartment’s kablooey, my lair got blown up, most of my equipment is destroyed or seized, a hero is dead, I appear to be dead too, it was all done rather publicly, and it is now Mr. Rogers Day, when I shall do no harm. I’m not a really good neighbor to have, though. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Hmm…now there’s an idea.

Road trip!

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The Many Deaths of Holdout

Transcript:

“Alright, let’s have a word here, gentlemen, while we have time. I’d just like you folks to get a sense of me and the kind of man I am. I just want you all to know that this is going to hurt you a lot more than it’s going to hurt me.”

*Muffled mumbling*

“You might be wondering why I called you all here together to day. If you are, I’m doing the world a favor by keeping you from having children. Don’t bother struggling. You aren’t going to be able to break free of that adhesive. It’s amazing the things you can do with peanut butter. Now, if anyone here feels they have been unfairly beaten over the head with a bat and restrained, I am willing to field some questions. Give you a few last words. Now, who wants their gag off first? You there, with the broken nose.”

“You better let me go or so help me God I’ll-“

“Shut the hell up, that’s what you’ll do. Next!”

“Please, man, you don’t have to do this,” “Why?” “come on, it’s… it- it, it’s Dave’s birthday!”

“Oh is that true? Shut the facehole! There.” *Footsteps* “You’re Dave? Happy Birthday Dave. You know, birthdays are a happy time for some, usually youngsters, or young’uns to use the vernacular. Not to be confused with onions, which, unlike teenagers, make you cry when you cut them. What I find when I think about a birthday is that it’s this one day where you have to admit you’re older. That, or a good time for your wife to go ‘Sure, why not stick it in my ass?’ Which I don’t have to tell you is rhetorical question. Do you have a wife?”

*Muffled affirmation*

“Oh yeah, good to know. The other thing about birthdays is that people contemplate mortality on their birthday. You’re lucky. You get a consultation with an expert in mortality. Um, by the way here pal. Hey, cut that out, what am I going to do, squeeze your shoulders until you die? Anyway, I wanted to ask you something, man to man, buddy to buddy. It’s a delicate subject, but…how long after you die can I start nailing your wife?”

*Muffled yelling*

“I take it you don’t approve of my plans to bend her over your washing machine while she’s got whipped cream on her knees and a cucumber shoved up her tailpipe. That’s what women have, right, tailpipes?”

*Banging of a human head on a metal wall accompanied by frantic noises of struggle*

“I’ll take that as an ‘Over my dead body’ so, you know it’s not really specific after today. I’ll be more subtle about it and see if it grows in her, on her, I meant on her.”

*More gagged screaming*

“Hell, you’ve all been spreading rumors about me. Maybe I ought to just whip it out here and go to town. What’s that? You look like you have something to say. Here, let me get that.”

“You aren’t going to rape us are you? Please, don’t-“

*Something fleshy slams against metal.*

“IT IS TOO LATE TO ‘PLEASE’ ME! Frankly I’m offended you think this can all be avoided by a bunch of guys in a van pleasing me. If you wanted to say please, it should have been ‘Please, sir, can we shut up really hard rather than blab to everyone around about you looking like you were banging a teen sidekick with a nice ass that you were killing. Killing the sidekick, that is, not the sweet, sweet ass.’ But you didn’t. You who work in the business of moving secret equipment for known criminals to secret lairs didn’t keep a secret. This can only mean one thing.”

*Paper crinkling*

“Now, let’s put your thought processes down on paper, shall we? ‘Dear friends, loved ones, and Dave’s soon-to-be-wheelchair-bound-from-excessive-fucking wife.’ Calm down Dave! ‘We, the bodies you are about to find, have grown weary of this life. There is only so many great works of literature you can read, so many impressive artworks to contemplate, so many vampire killer stories of dead presidents you can snub for the Oscars, and so many things you can shove up your ass and enjoy the funny feelings. Not for you, Dave’s wife, but for everyone else. We have reached our limit on all of these things and more. Now that we have lived life to its fullest, we have taken it on ourselves to commit suicide. Suicide by Gecko. To this end, we have spread some COMPLETELY false rumors about him and a certain teen sidekick. We would ask that you disregard those rumors. We also ask that you remember us not as the assholes we were, but as the full blown raging assholes we secretly were online. P.S. Dave’s wife, medically speaking, it’s healthier to do it up the butt.’”

“Now that that’s out of the way, I would like to show you men this. To the naked eye, this appears to be a banana. Those of you who served in the military had to learn how to defend yourself from one of these in basic hand to hand. What makes this one different is, you guessed it, an incendiary device. Smart crowd. I’m just going to leave this here, and when I push this little button on the device in my hand, your bananas are going to fry.”

*Struggling, rustling, and gagged pleas for help*

“Huh…any of the rest of y’all see that motorcycle back there? That guy there looks familiar. Here, I’ll tell you guys what. I’m going to leave Mr. Banana back here with you guys. You take good care of it. And I’m going to hop in the driver’s seat and take a little drive over Holdout. I don’t know how he keeps surviving, but I know I have a moving van here. As we all well know, vans are dangerous to underage people.”

*Engine starts up and radio turns on. Psycho Gecko sings along*

“There’s a path running under the city, where the stones and the hills divide. There’s a path we can walk through the loss and the pity…good song, you don’t usually hear these guys on the radio. Appropriate band for the occasion, Dave! Alright, chums up, let’s do this, Leerooooooooy-!”

*Squealing tires*

*Transcript Ends*

Took care of that damn Holdout. Again. A truck to the face ought to finish what the potty rocket apparently didn’t. Either he was following me or he tracked the license plate number of the moving van. Now I know how curiosity felt.

Oh, and the Screwhaul guys are taken care of. I’m thinking of going to Dave’s funeral and comforting his widow, but we’ll see if I’m going to be busy killing Holdout again.

 

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The Few Deaths of Holdout

Okay, took care of Holdout. I just had to hang out in one of the nastier parts of town for awhile on stakeout. It isn’t always easy to hunt down a hero, as they’re better about those secret identities. Holdout isn’t the one winding up in jail with his mask yanked off, after all.

No, I had to crash somewhere he’d likely be looking and set a trap. I was real subtle about leaving my challenge. He and Sixgun had taken down a group of Triads and their boss, Sha Moke. Moke is more mid management, but his nifty smoke powers made it a little bit of a story. Even if the regular news passes on the story, the Supers journalists will run on it.

It’s a whole subculture, like videogames and wrestling. And like those two industries, it entertains a lot of people. Think about it. Most of the well-known villains aren’t mugging some nobody on the street or just going around killing up a storm. They have a vendetta against one or two people, like a hero, or they steal from someone who makes it worth their while, or they just want to conquer the world. Either way, most of them are not a danger to the general public. Well, not until the heroes show up, but even then they aren’t targeting the regular Joes and Joe-ettes.

Like Sha Moke and his boys. Just doing their thing with smuggling and drugs, barely causing anyone any harm until those masked thugs showed up and beat, shot, and/or hogtied them for the cops. Do you see us just waltzing into your place of business to hogtie you?

Oh right, we do. Scratch that.

Anyway, I puttered up to the scene on my pink scooter. That’s one of my rides for when I need to get around in a hurry. Bright pink, so I don’t confuse the color with some sort of purple as I’m wont to do, it features a wide-brimmed hat with a plume sticking out of it and a lute underneath it. It has “The Minstrel” between the hat and lute with some swirls and curls on the ends of the letter to make them look awesome and stuff.

Before you ask, I had it made for me and then heavily modified it. Some might analyze my choice to ride a pink scooter. They may even start pulling out symbolism, like the plume being indicative of a male bird, like a peacock, or that the lute means something about either my mother or my phat loot. Those people are thinking too hard.

I rode right up on my Minstrel cycle, wearing a bright red and white target on my chest for the cameras to see. I skidded to a stop driving my fist into the cheek of the reporter and knocking him on his ass. In my other hand was a knife. Pressed against the knife’s blade was a homeless man’s throat. The man was in my lap, which barely helped circumstances, but not all my victims can be nubile teenage boys. “You’re on,” I told him.

The homeless man looked right into the camera and said, “We’ll see you in an hour with even more great hits like that. You know the place. We’ll be starting off a nonstop commercial free session of killer tunes with ‘Holding out for Hero’ unless a special guest saves me with a request.” Then I zoomed off with him.

I let him go under a bridge 10 minutes later, and handed him $20. “You really do have an amazing radio voice. Thanks for the help.”

“You’re welcome and God bless,” he told me. I started to go, but then I looked down at the knife in my hand, then at the back of the man as he walked away.

“Wait!” I called out. He stopped and turned, eyebrow raised. “You forgot your mugging knife,” I reminded him as I held it out for him by the blade.

The man shrugged with an embarrassed smile on his face and took it, “I swear, I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t attached. Thank you kindly.”

“No problem.”

When the hour was up, I just had to hope the reporters figured out what I was doing. Innuendo is difficult to do, you know. Almost as difficult as jacking off a rhino. Not that I know anything about that. I’m just saying, it is as difficult as I imagine jacking off a rhino would be. I assure you I do not think about that kind of thing often. Or rarely. Or at all.

Moving on, I had to hope the reporters figured things out and got the message out either live or really quickly and conspicuously to draw my target to me. My hard work, cleverness, and rhinoceros masturbation paid off when I saw Holdout arrive at my former lair and enter the building by himself. It was, after all, something he had to do alone. That’s not true, but it doesn’t matter to me either way. I suppose it’s also possible he and Sixgun valued human life and figured I meant to come alone, but that’s just crazy talk at this point.

He found a coffin nailed to the floor with padlocks on it and box on top. The rhino handjob of that, in case you’re wondering, is that the person was trapped in there. One side of the box featured a timer. Just to be more of a dick, it was counting down in Roman numerals.

I saw him disable the bomb by cutting the red wires. This stopped the timer, but started the grandfather clock I had had delivered earlier in the day. Inside of it was another box. He cut those wires as well.

I saw all of this happen from safely outside via a surveillance camera. I pulled out a remote detonator. Originally I wanted to just have the bombs go off anyway, but I decided it lacked style, dignity, and fun. Instead, I pressed the button, launching the porta-potty next to me into the air while the coffin in the lair began to play “Ride of the Valkyries”.

The song was tragically cut very short when the porta-potty arced overhead from my position to slam into the building and erupt in an explosion that got even worse when experienced at the speed of smell. Ew. I was going go over and roast some marshmallows on the burning building right after I did this, but I passed on it.

Like I said, now that I’ve finished with the boy I need to go get Screwhaul. Tomorrow, though. I’m spent after giving that teenage boy one hell of an eruption. I really blew him away.

 

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The Death(s) of Holdout

Fuuuuuuck fucking piece of fucking fuck fucker fuck fuckity fuck poop fuck!

I didn’t care about killing that kid. You know that assuming you were paying attention last time. That’s one thing that made it hard for me. Properly motivated, I could kill someone with a tomato. A motherfucking tomato.

I’m motivated now.

Holdout survived. Barely dressed piece of shit with that those big, needy eyes.

Last time was about convention. You capture the hero’s sidekick, you tie them up, you rough them up a little bit, and then you try to kill them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to spend on overly elaborate deathtraps. If I throw a refrigerator on your head, you damn well better stay on ice. Even if I don’t care about killing someone, they stay dead. That goes double for any necromancers out there thinking of raising some zombies. You summon up their bodies to do your earthly bidding, you and I are going to have words. Words with fists attached to them.

That’s right, motherfucker, I’ll fist your earholes until your brains pop out. And then everyone will know to beware Psycho Gecko, Fister of Teen Boys.

There needs to be more cusswords.

I found out just recently. Got moved into the new base, a former icecream place this time. Headed out to celebrate out at the bar. There was a big guy just inside the door this time. Looked like he had a crocodile head. I think. Possibly an alligator head. Not that I’m going to voice either one near the guy. Not like I want to offend the guy, you know?

Anyway, Crocofucker actually tried to stop me. Something about me not wearing a mask. I like my armor. In fact, I love my armor. It’s just hard to drink in it. Crocofucker was just trying to enforce the bar’s mask policy.

“It’s alright, just check with the bartender,” I told him as I turned and pointed to him. The barkeep’s eyes went wide as Crocofucker looked. Probably because he also saw my other fist driving up into the bouncer’s stomach. He doubled over and grabbed on to me. On top of the desire for retaliation, he probably wanted some support. He of course turned to look back at me, so he didn’t see the hand I pointed with coming back around to punch him in the throat.

Basic lesson about various enemies. They need to breath. Even giant crocodile men. I slipped out of his grasp while he focused on drawing air, gave him a pat on the shoulder, and told him, “Walk it off, biggun.”

The bartender held up his hands to ward off my wrath. I just told him to get me some hot wings. Also, that the new bouncer better watch his ass. “I guarantee you he’s going to wind up through a table.”

It didn’t take long for him to bring me some. Not that I was going to hurt him for the slight with the bouncer. If that guy wants to keep up that whole “mask rule” business, I’ll simply keep beating him up. I’ve got tenure at the university of ass kicking. Mess with me and I’ll start handing out degrees.

So it was time to check the news. I have got to hand it to the civilians. They really don’t care. I’ve seen huge hulking masses of muscle on so much pot they have a Mexican cartel named after them give more of a fuck than people out there making a national crisis out of a singer lip syncing to her own song at an inauguration. We work so hard to get respect at times and instead Joe Schmo out there is too busy watching a con artist on Oprah try to tell people they can quantum heal their cancer with the power of positive thinking as taught in this one specific $49.99 book he sells.

Which, frankly, is insulting considering all the money he makes off it. At least I’m upfront and honest about robbing people blind. I don’t even trick them into thinking it is for their own good, except for this one time. I had a really good reason though. Really.

The major networks don’t have too much to interest me though. Figures. You want good information about technological advances or rare artwork coming to town, you’ve got to go with NPR or BBC. I switch to the local news, though. Never know when they’ll have something.

This time, it was talking about how Sixgun and Holdout took down a drug ring. I was surprised Holdout was back on his feet so quick, but it was him. The bruises were distinctive, especially the one from the spoon on his nose. Plus, as much as I don’t care to acknowledge it, I recognized his ass.

If I cared about you judging me maybe I wouldn’t be killing people all over the place.
Like I’m going to do to Holdout.

I ordered a beer real quick, something crappy. The bartender asked me to narrow it down among domestic beers, but I glared at him until he brought me something. Then I turned and threw it at the far wall with a cry of “MotherFUCKER!”

The bouncer started to move, then started to stop, then reluctantly started to move toward me again. He looked relieved when Elita the Warrior Woman walked into the bar. He had to stop her since she wasn’t wearing a mask. She put him through a table with a backhand. How does a crocodile reset its jaw? Do they ever need to?

It was entertaining but I just wanted to stew and plot. A different story was on when I turned back. Advances in asteroid tracking technology at a local research lab. I made a note of it as Elita stepped up to the bar. “Anything interesting?”

“Holdout is alive.”

“Oh yeah? Thought you’d be happy about that?”

“The fuck’s that mean?”

“I heard all about you oiling him up and choking him out from the ScrewHaul.”

I hopped off that stool and onto the bar, and then backflipped over Elita. I grabbed her by the collar and waistline, pulled her onto my shoulders while ducking, then threw her over me where she broke through the table next to Crocofucker.

First, I rekill Holdout. Then I kill those movers.

 

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The Death of Holdout

Nope, didn’t get credit for disabling the ship and saving the day. Boohoo, cry me a river, heroes save the day, parades all around. I didn’t even get to keep my transport ship. They towed it. Something about being double parked on top of a building.

What have I been doing in the meantime? Some business in the Vatican, dealing with the Pope. Nothing for y’all to worry about, as the story will be old news soon enough. Just some useless pop culture drivel associated with a situation that last happened a few hundred years ago. Also means there’s no use telling it later because, hey, who the hell’s going to remember it later to give a crap?

Instead of leaving whoever is reading this a little behind on the timeline, I’m just going to catch you up. Let’s see. Built a new eye. The nanites regrew my hand and that part of my leg. Still haven’t broken in the hand though. Trying to take the relationship slow with this one.

Anyway, I’ve been working on my rocket again.

That’s not completely honest. Work on the rocket has stalled right now because I am changing lairs. Now, I don’t have any dedicated minions of my own, but I know a few good movers. That’s right, villains have movers. They charge extra too. They’re transporting dangerous or illicit objects. If they get caught, or decide to turn them in, or push a wrong button, something bad might happen. They could be vaporized, arrested, maybe even have their skin turned hot pink. Not that I have anything against pink people. Just don’t call them the P word. You know which one.

Why do I have to move? A sidekick found me. Holdout is what he calls himself. His boss, Sixgun, has a Lone Ranger vibe to him. That doesn’t explain why Holdout’s tights are shorter than shorts. It’s an…interesting…image when combined with the cowboy hat and full face mask. Not judging here. Who am I to talk about how hard it is to resist the charms of a young teen in skin tight short shorts and cowboy boots.

I’m resisting them just fine, though, don’t you think otherwise. I have him tied up and covered with oil. Wait, let me explain. The idiot actually recognized me while I was out and followed me back to my lair. I work hard to change my face every once in awhile just to keep this kind of thing from happening. Fuck if I know how he figured it out.

So, my “lair”…yeah. Hoo boy.

It’s more like one of the shops at a strip mall. I don’t do a lot of security because this thing rarely happens. It happened this time, though. What little security I do have proved more than adequate to capture Holdout once I saw him on the cameras. Yep, I bonked him on the head with a baseball bat when he walked in the door. But it’s fancy security. This time the bat was aluminum.

Doesn’t sound too threatening, right? You’re forgetting that heroes always find out who has their sidekick. That’s one reason I never kidnap them. Kid might have a tracking gizmo on him, or checked in along the way, or someone else saw the boy wonder in booty shorts.

Right, I got sidetracked away from the oil. I called the movers as soon as I could, so they took most of the stuff already, but I got the idea to have some fun with the kid. But not that kind of fun, dammit. I’m not sexing up the sidekick.

This is just torture. Or I’m trying to make it torture. Most of the stuff is gone, though, so I’m not exactly working with a car battery or paint thinner here. All I’ve got is a few things left from the kitchenette, so I can’t even get any penetration on this kid.

For fuck’s sake, I hate teen sidekicks already, especially talking about them.

Ok, I’m back. Just smacked him in the nose with a spoon. It was very satisfying. Bam, there we go again. You know, I think I heard some guy used nothing but spoons to kill a guy. I don’t have the time for that. Trust me, it takes a long time to carve a heart out that way. That’s why the Aztecs never had spoons, you know. The closest they ever had to them were obsidian utensils that were somewhat rounded, but with sharpened points on them. They called these fearsome weapons “sporqueatualpoctli” and they were the bane of Spanish conquistadors.

Or it would have been, but the Spanish are notorious for having food that does not require the use of utensils. The Aztec warriors greatly feared the coming of a conquistador mess wagon, whose dinner bell struck fear into their hearts. Their sporks were useless against such cuisine. To this day, the heart-craving Aztecs are kept out of the United States by a chain of restaurants that utilize the fear-inducing warning of a conquistador chuck wagon.

In your universe, I believe they’re called Taco Bell.

The only sporqueatualpoctlis I have are made of plastic, though, and they just broke when I tried to stab Holdout in the head with them. I may have drawn blood. Or ketchup. I’m not tasting to find out. The last thing we need after me oiling him up is putting my lips on him.

Alright, so let’s check the fridge. You know, I like bratwurst. Good stuff, especially the ones with some cheese in them. The only problem is you feel like you’re going to be sick a little bit after you eat them. They’re the only thing I eat mustard on, so don’t feel bad when I tell you I poured mustard in the kid’s eyes and rubbed it in. Not too much of an effect. Pow, frozen salami to the head!

Aaaand he’s out. I told the guys at the deli that I needed Genoa salami, not hard salami.

This is almost turning into more work than it’s worth. I don’t usually use guns, but I’m thinking I might need to ask the movers for one of theirs. It’s just disappointing, you know? I had a very simple dream of executing an annoying sidekick and getting away with it. But now the getting away with it part is messing with the execution. What kind of a world are we in when you just can’t slay a person with whatever you have in your refrigerator?

Lightbulb!
Ok, you’ll be glad to know that I’m getting out of here. Mission accomplished. I threw the fridge on him. Now, that didn’t actually kill him the first time. Not the second time, third time, fourth time, or the fifth of vodka. So I wound up sticking his head in the ice storage, shoving marshmallows in his mouth, and gave him the biggest wedgie until the struggling stopped.

That’s when I heard someone say “What the fuck?!” and found the movers had returned.

I tried to tell them it wasn’t what it looked like. “No, it’s ok, I’m trying to make him choke! You can’t see it, but I’ve shoved something in his mouth.”

Needless to say, they got the wrong idea, but when they wiped the horrified expressions off their faces they were able to finish their job and take the refrigerator. Then I activated the device I built in under the sink. By the way, if anyone is ever in an old store, warehouse, or apartment that I may have stayed in and finds some weird machinery under the sink that they don’t recognize, you might want to carefully remove it, take it to the backyard or an empty lot or even a lonely desert somewhere, and set it off in a controlled and safe demolition. If the resulting mushroom cloud is blue, then you’ll know it was really one of mine. Or tie it to the tail of a cat, I don’t care.

No, no, no, that’s wrong. Strap it to a Chihuahua. Yap yap yap ba-BOOM! Woosh!

All in all, I’ve had better torture sessions where I was the victim.

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