Tag Archives: Magic Moai

Season’s Thievings 9

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In the aftermath of messing about the campsite, I returned to the library. The armor performed pretty well, overall. I didn’t build it with disposable plates, but they got a little dented. Hey, that kind of weight is why an exoskeleton is a must. I’ve been working on that, too. Been a problem in between dealing with some of the students staying at the school for the holidays. They have all sorts of circumstances, like the Korean girl scared of all the stuff happening in North Korea, or the guy from Georgia who can’t go home due to discrimination. Not because of being a super, in that case, but because he’s gay and his boyfriend here is a Muslim. That domestic situation doesn’t get much worse unless he was dating an illegal Mexican black guy.

I’m not mentoring people, by the way. It’s just that since the library is my unofficial base of operations, I tend to find people wandering around there looking for books, or making out in the study rooms. Making out puts it mildly. I’d write all the specifics, but I’m pretty sure that’s technically illegal for y’all to read.

Anyway, they hang out and read stuff. I build stuff and put the books in place so they’ll stay out of my way. Word’s starting to get around that I hurt people a bit, which is both making them more polite and offending me slightly. I don’t just hurt people. That’s like saying Leonardo da Vinci likes watercolors. I paint a Sistine Chapel of pain, suffering, dead bodies, and a bit of bukkake. I got a little over-excited. I swear, it usually never happens. I’m the Jimi Hendrix of beating people to death with guitars. The Michael Jordan of bouncing my balls on their pained faces. The Charles Manson of… I got nothing. But people are returning their books and make sure to keep things clean.

For my part, I don’t try to intimidate them. I’m even trying to stay out of their way using an improvised system of pulleys and some grappling hooks I appropriated from the gym. The end result is that I’ve taken to hanging from a rope track, pulling myself around a as I stalk the shelves and do what I do. Rumors that I occasionally sing “Nana nana nana nana, Gexman!” are obviously the exaggeration of a bunch of students with too much time on their hands, and who shouldn’t have been eavesdropping on me anyway.

That’s the context behind when Venus walked in and caught me stocking a shelf with discs. She ahemmed, so I grabbed the rope above me and spun around. “What are you doing upside-down?” she asked.

I folded my arms across my chest against the pull of gravity. “That’s quite a question coming from someone walking on the ceiling.” And who has been out of town and not paying attention to me.

She pulled a bit of hair off the pretty brown skin of her face and rolled her eyes. “So that’s just one of your things. But what’s with the CDs?”

I reached behind me and pulled one out to show her. “I found your lack of educational material disturbing. I have amended some of this in order to retain my sanity. This one’s got Lazy Town on it. Pretty good villain in there, and he even has a song teaching people to be bad guys.” I handed it to her and pulled out another. “Here’s Weird Science. Very educational. There’s remotes that rewind and fast forward time, a supercomputer with an AI that wants to take control of people’s lives and make out with a pretty woman, changing people’s gender to teach them a lesson… really, it’s a must-have for the modern mad scientist.” I whipped another one out.

“And what does ‘Cats’ teach?” she asked. I glanced at the disc and saw that I’d pulled that out. Huh. That should not have been that close to the Ws.

“Makeup, flexibility, and that women really want the villain,” I said. Actually, I got that one for myself.

“Sure. Right. Well, as long as you’re not letting people check out any inappropriate material, I suppose that’s nice of you. Here.” She handed me back the discs, which I slipped into my utility belt to be sorted later. I needed something to hold things while I swing around upside down in the place. “You’ve really taken to the place, haven’t you?”

I narrowed my eyes at her.

She raised her hands defensively. “Sorry. I know, you’re the evil bad guy, and buying a kid’s show about sports and fitness doesn’t change that. I haven’t forgotten all you’ve done to me and those I care about. I just mean, it’s nice that you’re doing something with yourself that instead of something destructive. How have you been holding up?”

I pointed up. “Well, the trick is distributing the weight along different points and not just the legs, though that can be handy if you have too many hard landings.”

“You know that-”

I cut her off. “I know you don’t care about me insofar as you think you can reform me. Real frustrating to not know if all my thoughts and ways of behaving are my own. Also, really frelling frustrating not to be able to cuss. Sometimes, I feel like the movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ edited for cable. Just so you know, I wouldn’t go on a wild killing spree here even if I was allowed to, so there’s an astounding chance you’re right about the peculiar inconsistency of my ‘addiction’… and besides, I take that debt seriously. I hate taking things seriously. Do you know how hard it’s been, being serious? I’ve had to pull myself together for so long and it’s tiring. I want to go beat up moon Nazis or kill a superhero themed around pie. Or pi. Either works for me.”

Well, that’s a lot of words people probably glossed over. But seriously, I can see myself fighting Pi Man. Pi Man, with the strength of 3.14 men! Or the Pie-azon, who defeats evil with a little help from her blueberries. Sounds like the type to have a jealous boyfriend, though. I’ve heard you’re never supposed to rub another man’s rhubarb. Ah, that’d all be fun.

Instead, Venus folded her arms. “Too bad. You did the crime and now you’re doing the time. Easy time, too. Do you know how many prisoners in maximum security would kill to be in your place? Suck it up and stop whining. Now, if you can, I need to take you down to your cell or some other place out of sight.”

I held up my hands. “Geez, Boopsie, I didn’t know that’d finally set off all that unresolved sexual tension. There’s a study room nearby some of the students use for that. I’ve been waiting on something to make it easier to clean, actually…”

She shook her head. “Yeah, we got that package, and I don’t know how I feel about the condom dispenser, but that’s not what I meant. We’re having a party at the school. We’ve kept a lot of supers away from areas you were likely to be seen at, and they aren’t the important social areas anyway, but this place will be full of superheroes we don’t want to see you.”

I raised an eyebrow. From that angle, it was more like lowering one. “First you want to jump my bones, then you’re embarrassed to let anyone see me. You have a strange way about relationships.”

She grabbed me by the hair. “Do you really want to let Good Doctor find you after what you did to his daughter?”

I raised a finger and started to speak. This time, she didn’t let me speak. “With you being unable to fight back?”

I suppose she had a point. With that in mind, I had to move my armor machine, which was a pain. At least they didn’t give my room away to the captured militia member. I had a small hiccup at one point, though. I tried to move the x-ray I’d stolen from the infirmary down. Venus found out I was moving it when she caught me wheeling it on reinforced library carts.

She didn’t appear happy, especially in light of the infirmary being short their x-ray machine. “Is that what I think it is?”

I patted the machine. “Yep. My own personal microwave. This baby can heat a burrito like it’s nobody’s business. Which is good, because burritos typically end the digestive cycle as nobody’s business.”

“That looks an awful lot like an x-ray machine. I know, because the nurse wanted me to keep an eye out since theirs mysteriously went missing.”

I blinked, then put my hands behind my back and bowed my head a little. “Ok, you got me.You found me out. My secret is shamefully revealed to the world… I got the school a new x-ray machine. I heard about it going missing and figured I’d get y’all one for Christmas. Thanks a lot, Venus. You ruined the surprise. You ruined Christmas.” I forced myself to tear up and tried to blink it back.

“Pull the other one,” she said. When I reached for one of her boobs, she loudly added. “Leg!” Funny she slapped my hand away when I tried to touch her leg.

So they took the x-ray machine and consigned me to the fluorescent-lighted depths of the school for their Christmas Eve party. Lots of folks having a good time who want me dead. Some traumatized kid in the infirmary being nursed back to health during one of the worst holidays of his life. Another guy down under the school being restrained and probably honey-boarded. What, y’all thought water was the worst thing you could use in torture? I mean, I only did it for a second. It’s just that honey makes for really long seconds.

But I took a break like all of them. Sorta. Maaaaaaybe. I can say for certain that what I chose to do on Christmas Eve was definitely of my usual soundness of mind. I stopped by a place on the outskirts of the city where a family lived. Nice place. Got its own lawn and a little money to it. Well, a family doesn’t live there all the time, but from what I’ve been able to stalkingly pry out of the internet, he gets his kids over a lot more these days. The money helped.

They weren’t home when I got there. The guy about to bust in a side window with a rock noticed that, too. He didn’t see me until it was too late, though.

My entrance was more subtle, and the sack I carried was full before going in. As soon as I set foot, something stirred within the house. Something the burglar wouldn’t have liked to find. Not everyone appreciates an authentic magic moai statue. “Hey there, fella.” I dropped the sack and gave him a hug. “You still getting on ok?”

He nodded slowly. From my spying, he doesn’t seem as spry as he used to be. A bit less active. It’s the cracks, including one big one running through the center of his head. It probably works better to keep him with Carl, instead of out fighting more things that could destroy him. “Yeah, that’s right. I’m still here. Just don’t let people know,” I explained. “I don’t believe I ever found out whether you were Jewish, and it’s Hanukkah starting tonight. Kwanzaa’s almost here, too. Always Saturnalia if you’re a fan of the classics. Anyway, big guy, happy holidays from a supervillain bearing presents and epoxy. And just a little quick concrete.

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MechaGecko 3

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The way things ended last time, y’all might assume we’d cut straight to me in a dungeon or cell somewhere. Well, this oughta be a kick in the head. The fight wasn’t over that quick.

Kinda like the one or two I took from this weird amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler. The battle raged on. Deprived of my networking advantage and my mecha’s arm laser, I threw buildings at him and clambered over some to gain distance and time enough to figure out a plan.

The first step seemed obvious enough. I needed a bath. The weather wasn’t accommodating, but luckily there’s this big puddle of water near Empyreal City called the Atlantic Ocean. I figured, hey, why not hop down into the harbor? This thing could survive that kind of dip long enough. Better yet, let’s not even go that far! My opponents let me put some distance between us, probably due to Spinetingler’s love of inflicting fear over efficient killing,and I knelt the Colossus down by a fire hydrant. One swipe of the right hand knocked the hydrant over and a gusher of water flowed out to clean off the gunk I’d been inflicted with.

Almost instantly, that hand smoked. I pulled it out and saw the goop reacting with the water, bubbling, and falling off with chunks of liquefied metal. So…yeah. Turns out, good thing I didn’t wash the entire thing.

Just then, the amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler leaped atop a nearby building and unleashed two sets of booming laughter. Rather than finish me off quickly, they pounced. I quickly grabbed a nearby billboard advertising a sale on baseball bats at a sporting goods store and swung it. The sign broke, but the motion of the giant hands knocked them to the side more than it did. I stomped on their back and jumped straight up. I cocked my arm for a punch and, as I began to drop, a motorjet in the elbow activated and accelerated the blow. Mecha Gecko rolled to the side, so I lost some power stretching out for the hit. When the blow hit, it put a dent in the flesh-covered chest armor of Mecha Gecko. The jet popped off, a disposable booster having done its job.

It also shattered that hand, which had already been partially dissolved by the reaction with the water.

The laughter started again. The mouthy limb that grew out of a lower spot on the chest scraped and scrabbled. I heard it against the armor of the cockpit and threw the Imperial Colossus back. Mecha Gecko rose, pushing itself off the ground with skeleton-thin growths stretching from its back.

I pointed past it with my left hand. “Look, a fire!” When it turned its head to look, I added, “Wrong direction, here, let me help you,” and swept the arm back toward it to activate the flamethrower. He didn’t look in the right direction, but he found the fire anyway.

It swept toward me with brownish-reddish wings, grabbing that arm with one hand. Claws dug into the metal. It brought its other claw up and lunged for my head, but I met it with the stump. Good ole stumpy.

Despite everything, we were still evenly matched in terms of strength when I heard Spinetingler in my head. “Gecko. Wake up, Gecko.”

“I’m not asleep.”

“Oh, but you are. All of this is just one big dream. Haven’t you ever realized it? No one can really win as much as you. This is all some fantasy cooked up in your head while you sleep off a coma. In reality, you live in a trailer infested with roaches and hide from your depression using literature and video games. There are no superpowers, no heroes. You swallowed a mouthful of pills to end it all, but it didn’t stop. They found you, alive. A roach crawled out of your open, drooling mouth.”

“Shut that glory hole you call a mouth, French Tingler!” I shot back. Metal groaned around me. Mecha Gecko adjusted his footing and Imperial Colossus bent back just slightly more than it should. The enemy robot slowly pressed its advantage and I realized I didn’t have any better footing.

“It’s time you woke up. Time to go back to the real world, where the only ones who care are all the companies sent to collect on your debts. Leave the fantasy behind and embrace real life. It’s so much better. At least there, you might finally lose your virginity. All it costs is fifty dollars and your dignity. Maybe you’ll find the love of your life in a toothless meth head street walker. So much easier to find one of those than someone like your Venus. Even in your own head, she’d rather do the unthinkable than submit to you. Wake up. The roaches miss you.”

He made a mistake. I spotted it immediately, just in case anyone thought I believed him. How can anything be unthinkable and surprising if it exists in my own head? I gritted my teeth, hearing something snap in the right arm. Then Mecha Gecko activated his disposable elbow jets. My left almost gave, but I still had one there to push back. It was the right that couldn’t hold until it locked up in front of me. The limb it struggled against slipped off and dug its claws into the shoulder, tearing the entire thing away. Then the claws took the head off. I could have sworn I felt a breeze from up above. Regardless, I lost most of the sensors when the head went.

I gave with it and pushed, jumping back. My robot’s left hand stayed in Mecha Gecko’s right, even a the rest of the arm came free. Mecha Gecko cocked its head as I caught the Colossus’s balance now that it had less weight distributed differently. Spinetingler continued, “Don’t you know it’s not healthy to live in a fantasy world?”

“I expect people say it isn’t,” I said over speakers. “People with good lives. People with plenty of money and no imagination. But even if you were, somehow, telling the truth, why the fuck would I want to go back to that life? Why be mundane? That’s what you and everyone else wants. Give up being awesome. Make a living as a pencil pusher? Live in a world where the only action I have to look forward to is a bunch of pissed-off people blowing each other up for no good reason? Where every good guy turns out to be just a bad guy on the right side?”

I raised the stump of my left arm. “That’s giving you the finger, so you know. I’d rather have the robots and flying men of steel with ideals, even if I hate them, even if I doubt they live up to them. I’d rather have a life like mine. And even though I hate those spandex-wearing boyscouts out there, I’d rather be part of a world where someone tries to exemplify the best of humanity. Where supposedly ‘good people’ try to live up to it! And where, when I run around killing and enslaving people, most people realize I’m a villain and an asshole and treat me accordingly! Even like that, I’m more someone to aspire to than any dirty politician or hypocritical prophet who wants to excuse what they do because a bunch of people listen to them and have a majority vote about what’s good and bad. What do you say to that, O Great Ass Clown the Prostate Tickler?”

Mecha Gecko pointed down. I checked the remaining sensors and found some tendril had squirmed its way across the streets and damaged buildings to wrap around Imperial Colossus’s ankle. It heaved and threw me into the distance to dig a long scar into a road. Ok, so they’re doing a great job of distracting me. For someone who tried to convince me this was all a coma dream because I somehow survive, they missed the part where they’re kicking my ass. Besides, I don’t always win. I just manage to get by because I can think. It’s not my fault nobody has actually put much thought into how amazing a technopath could be, even if I’m restricted to physical touch.

Well, I was. And, sadly, I didn’t have many trump cards left aside from making myself able to network again. But that would cost me the robot, and it’s not like either of those two have nanites in them. Somehow, I doubt killing everyone will convince them it’s useless to kill me. Even if I were to go all “grey goo” on them, like I did that one other time around here.

Hmm… now that gave me an idea.

I bullied the Imperial Colossus to its feet and made a run for the harbor.

Mecha Gecko managed to catch up when that was almost within reach. A shadow passed over the sky overhead, drawing my attention up to find his robotic body floating overhead on giant bat wings, robotic head writhing with whipping tentacles. It landed on the back of my Imperial Colossus and dragged me down. Mecha Gecko’s digitally distorted voice asked, “Where do you think you’re going? Water you think you’re doing, committing suicide?”

“If that’s what I’m doing, why are you keeping me away from the water?” I answered his question with a question. I kicked the mecha’s feet, squirming ever so slightly toward the ocean despite the extra weight.

“Yes, why are we keeping him from the water?” asked Spinetingler’s deeper voice from the mouth growing out of Mecha Gecko’s chest.

“Because he wants to go into the water. He has a plan, even if I can’t think of it,” Mecha Gecko said.

I decided to point out something. “Or I don’t have a plan, but I want to make you think I have one so you don’t throw me into the water.”

“See? Throw him in!” urged Spinetingler. The mouth reached up and turned toward the robot’s head, arguing.

Mecha Gecko slapped it away, giving me a chance to slide a little further out from under him. “No, he’s just saying that to encourage me to throw him in. He knew I’d question why he was going in the first place. This is all a trap to get in my head and make me keep him away from our biggest advantage over him. Yeah.”

Mecha Gecko rose up and grabbed the Imperial Colossus. I heard metal protest as he lifted me overhead. “It’s almost like you’re in my head!” I exclaimed. I really had to get that sentence across.

He didn’t throw me away. He paused for a moment, then said, “Yes, you are in my head. Ha! Figures you’d think that’d work on me. Uh uh, not buying it, but damn good try. Into the water with you!”

“My head hurts,” I heard Spinetingler say before Mecha Gecko threw me into the welcoming embrace of the Atlantic Ocean. I put on Dethklok’s “Go Into The Water” even as I heard it rush in. It was a struggle, between the melting exterior of the robot and the added weight, to get it vertical. In the end, one of Imperial Colossus’s legs fell off and I had to settle for sitting up only. But I was out of the water and the armor was dissolved.

Oh, and so was any of that gunk blocking me from reaching out and connecting with the rest of the world.

I laughed to myself as I sent out a signal. I didn’t have to go far. The evacuated nanite infected of Empyreal City weren’t too far out.

“Wait a damn minute…fuck!” Mecha Gecko stomped his way over. I dive bombed him with grabber drones to slow him momentarily, to give me time. “He’s got the damn nanites and anything else again!”

“No he doesn’t!” yelled Spinetingler. The mouth shot more goop at me, but it just pushed the Imperial Colossus back into the water, dissolved more of it, and left me sinking in my armor, which does seal up and recycle air.

A giant metal hand reached down and grabbed me nonetheless. Mecha Gecko pulled me up and brought me face to face with its armor. “What did you do? No, no time. Better to just kill you know and deal with it all later. I guess it’s sad to know you couldn’t beat me, but that’s why you’re afraid of me, isn’t it?”

“I did beat you!” I announced to him. “I just didn’t want to ever see another me again. I deserve to die, and so does any other me out there!”

The lamprey-like head rose in the air underneath me, glistening, gleaming teeth threatening to catch me should I fall. “And me? I remember you thought you could take me once. You foiled me…temporarily. But you can’t kill fear, little Psychopomp Gecko. Search that trash heap you call a soul and tell me, truthfully, if you can.”

“Kill you? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t have to kill you. I just have to beat you. And distract you until reinforcements get here.”

“Reinforcements? You have no reinforcements. Nobody gives a shit about you! Nobody would die for you!” Mecha Gecko started to squeeze until a Moai statue flew through the air and smacked into the side of its robotic head. Moai landed on Mecha Gecko’s shoulder but soon the copy swept him up with a tentacle and brought my loyal minion around to his face. “This is who you called? You risked our loyal Moai. Why do you serve him and not me. I’m just as real, but at least I didn’t do everything he did. I’m just a copy. I didn’t kill anyone before the heroes let me loose on this city. Join a better team, Moai.”

Dammit. I didn’t call Moai. I didn’t even know he was in the area.

Moai shook his head.

“Come on. It’s me, Gecko. Your boss. Compadres. Hermanos. You saved my life,” Mecha Gecko insisted. That’s one of those things glossed over about clones and copies. All the memories of being the real person, but it’s like suddenly everyone you know has decided you aren’t really you. And they’d be right. Then again, the asshole did try to use that as a feature. He made his bed, now it’s time to lie in it.

Except, when Moai shook his head again, Mecha Gecko went quiet. Then his head tentacles tightened. I heard something snap and crack. He tossed Moai away, but I couldn’t see what happened. He went out of sight. Fucking hell, I didn’t call Moai into this! I didn’t need his help. No one gives a shit about me anyway, so I make do without. I am Psycho Gecko!

I am Psycho Gecko. When I thought it, a sort of stillness settled over me, just like the bad old days. Just like when it was either kill another kid or be executed. Like bombing some conference because the Psychopomp program ordered me to. Like squeezing the life out of some bright super warrior’s neck because they defended those same old generals. Tearing apart dozens of people too stupid or willfully ignorant to know they were on the wrong side.

Let the panic go. There’s no place for that. No bargaining around here. Nobody here but Psychopomp Gecko, who lacks friends, family, or a fuck to give. Just a necessary evil to do, for one reason or another. I looked up at Mecha Gecko and told him, “For the record, that was entirely unnecessary. He’s not who I called.”

Under my dangling feet, Spinetingler growled. “Then- what the hell is that?!”

A wave of nanites flowed over the city, drawn from hundreds of millions of the closet people in the entire state, with more being drawn toward me in a general recall order. They came for me and began to envelop me, eating through the hand around me and working their way up the arm. Mecha Gecko tore it off with his other hand and stepped back, careful to avoid the massive flowing greyness that enveloped me. He tried his flamethrower, but I swung out with a blade of nanite that cut that arm off at the elbow.

My voice reverberated out of the mass of nanites that held me up and began to form a body around me. “Just who the hell do you think I am? I’ll tell you. I am the pirate signal. Let me in. I am the word virus. Let me in. I am the ear worm. Let me in. I am the brain pathogen grammar. I am the dreamer’s dream. I am what I am. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in. Let. Me. In!” I punctuated the last sentence by driving a flowing arm into Mecha Gecko’s side. He tried to dodge, but the arm curved in midair to follow at the speed of my perceptions. Spinetingler tried more of his acid spit, knocking some parts of my new fluid mecha away, but a sheet of them curved up from below to sever the second head and begin crawling in through the wound, dissolving anything they touched.

Mecha Gecko shook as my nanites chewed through his robotic body into the cockpit, where I found a damaged and burned mainframe hooked up where I would have sat. The parts that had broken off looked to be replaced by tumorous growths, likely Spinetingler’s addition. From the speakers of the other robot, I heard him announce, “Here, catch!”

And the robot exploded, flinging heat sensitive nanites away and coming for me. I didn’t notice when it reached me.

I awoke in a hospital, handcuffed to the bed, with a hell of a pain in my head and chest. They had me in a private room. And even though my eyes worked, I realized I couldn’t connect to anything. Which sucked. I JUST solved that problem before. But a quick check confirmed that I didn’t have any gunk on me. Scars, yes, and now stitches on my head and chest.. A bigass fucking, sutured-up incision on my chest. What the fuck was going on? At the very least, I could answer the internet question with an internal diagnostic.

I was missing several key pieces of my internal router and wireless interface. Somehow. The fuck? Handcuffed, no ability to connect, big scars on my head. The fuck happened after that thing exploded? Spinetingler better not have fucking been right. I tried my laser eye. Nothing. Another diagnostic said that part showed an inability to connect to those parts. Which meant more damage. As a last resort, I checked to see if my spine and transdimensional implants were working. At least they appeared to be all ok. Then I remembered what someone might want with my chest and realized I couldn’t feel the familiar inner warmth of my power core.

A machine I was hooked up to set off an alarm as I began to panic. What can I say, the discovery of my various surgeries surprised me. I reached over and placed my hand on it, figuring maybe I could shut it up. And waited.

I turned to keep an eye on the door and found someone looking in, just watching me hold my hand there without anything happening. He calmly opened the door and stepped in. “You’re awake. That is something. Hello, Mr. Gecko. Are you feeling alright?”

I kept my hand on the machine. “Not really. Feels like I was anally probed in the chest. Mind telling me what the hell happened that necessitated y’all digging into me?”

The man glanced down at a clipboard and pulled a pen out of his pocket. He doodled something on there. “You are remarkably lucid. That’s good. They weren’t sure about your tolerance level and ability to heal. I cannot reveal much about the procedures undertaken while you were unconscious, but I am supposed to warn you not to struggle and agitate your incisions. I’m supposed to say that, but you gave my wife a seizure for double parking. She was a brilliant, beautiful woman that I didn’t deserve. Now she wears diapers. While I’m informing the authorities that you’re awake, I won’t be able to respond if anything opens up.”

“What authorities? What’s going on? What did you do to me!” I called out. Didn’t have a clue about any wives given seizures.

The man just turned and stepped out, then poked his head in one last time. “And leave the machine alone. You won’t be able to do anything with it if that procedure worked like they said it did.” He smiled at me without warmth; just sheer animosity. “I don’t care what they say, you don’t deserve to be called human now.”

Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-

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Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 11

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Finally, the last fight. I had it all planned out, regardless of how Cercopagis wanted to do things. That’s the important thing. Can’t let him have act like he had too much power or he might start believing it. Plus, I got back to thinking about how poorly I marketed the entire thing. Sure, I pitched as an epic struggle between us versus them, but the follow-up’s been horrendous! If I had PR people, they’d have been all over this. Anyone wanna guess why I put off getting them?

So, anyway, I rented out the big Olympic stadium in Rio this time. And by rented, I stole. Admittedly, that’s a lot less badass of a thing to do as dictator of the world. On the plus side, it’s somewhat made up for due to residual badassity of having taken over the world.

See, my problem was the spectacle. This could have been so much better if we’d publicized it more. Actually put our team memberships out there, done some opposition research, run out some dossiers, come up with customized theme songs. Then again, that would have been a lot of build up with little results to show with a few of those. It’s like those MMA fights where they make a big deal about it, then it’s over in a few seconds. At least I wouldn’t have forced people to pay to see them.

But that would have required for us to collaborate instead of compete. And that’s kinda tough when it could go either way. But it’s time I stopped caring. Not caring works out much better for me. After all, I rule Earth. If Cercopagis wants this planet, he can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Or, at least make it clear he could kill me and give me an option to give it up while still living. I’m open to negotiation, particularly when it comes to certain death versus a chance of life.

I know I gave up the ability to pick the site of our final conflict to Cercopagis Lysis, but cheating has worked out well for me so far. With Mix N’Max still not taking my calls and Max Muscles too busy doing oiled-up superhero things, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And since I, the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, am not supposed to fight…I chose to bring back The Missile Patriot! Clad in Kevlar, with tactical straps on my chest, I once more masqueraded as the red, white, and blue defender of Truth, Explosives, and solving problems the American Way: mindlessly beating people up. It’s a shame that of all the extra stuff laying around, most of it’s related to not being me. Still, the eagle-beak helmet hides my face very well beind the visor. Just a shame how much the rockets on the forearms resemble those on almost all of my Electric Eyes.

Oh, yeah. Them. Kinda got a status update there. So it turns out that someone might be working against me there. I know who I suspect, but the actual list of people who might want to destroy them is about the same as the number of folks on Earth.

Near as I can tell, Electric Eye Berlin was just walking along, patrolling, trying to keep the streets quiet when BAM! Piano landed on it. I might have put it down as a simple accident, except the camera phone of an onlooker showed the piano had a safe strapped to it with an anvil welded on top of the safe. And when I got Electric Eye to turn its head, one of those baby pianos for kids fell on it, with sandbags tied to its legs.

I suppose somewhere out there could be a world where weighted pianos fall on people all the time, but this is sadly not one of them. And it’s an extremely unusual way to assassinate someone. It’s the kind of method I’d use, which also shows why it worked. I mean, important people have counter snipes and guards with submachine guns, but I’ve yet to see the Secret Service work out how to stop a mad piano bomber, and I’ve seen the plans. They had a contingency for nuclear bombs hidden in vaginas, a contingency for an android sent back from the past, and even a contingency for aliens that turn into giant monkeys. Granted, that last one involved lots of screaming, but they still planned for it. I can respect that, actually.

What I can’t respect is someone dropping pianos on EE Berlin, sniping EE Los Angeles, and EE Tokyo getting eaten by what I assume was a squid. Except I’m pretty sure squids don’t often come above water, even if he was inspecting one of the damaged nuclear plants around there. Rio is showy, but there’s something to be said for a battlefield that makes Geiger counters tick. So either that one got eaten by a mutant squid when I wasn’t looking, or Cthulhu got up for a midnight snack.

At least the sniped one made it obvious who was to blame. I should have just killed Lone Gunman back at the United Nations or the last time he was after me. That’s what I was taught. Don’t taunt too much, don’t explain an evil plan, just shove the grenade up their colon and pull out faster than the Flash if he was Catholic. Next time I see him, I’m going to hit him so hard, it’ll knock his ass off his genome. We’re talking slapping the rectum off his DNA.

So that turned out to be more to deal with after everything else. The most important thing, before all of that, would be the fight.

I didn’t make attendance mandatory or anything like that. I just set up food vendors and cameras and drew attention to myself with a small parade in my armor. I left the armor sitting up there on the throne, attended to as if it was me by three hanger-ons and Moai, who I kept around and ordered to keep a close eye on the few people I’d attached to my government. I needed to delegate and I knew I could trust Moai.

So this was the state of the Imperial Gecko Regime as of the final fight. I lost three Electric Eyes, had Moai as my Prime Minister, disguised myself to fight, and otherwise had cheated my way to victory. Overall, I’d say things were looking up and I decided to have the history books write that I had won with style instead of using a word like “cheat.”

When my final challenge went out to Cercopagis, it came in the form of a Missile Patriot dancing in an empty Olympic stadium to the song “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. I meant it as a taunt and because I felt like dancing. As the old saying goes, “Dance like you’re threatening the entire world with death if anyone laughs.” I kept satellites overhead to make sure nobody flew overhead with any pianos, too. Or at all. They might go after the armor, but I’m not a fan of being collateral damage, especially where flying machines are concerned. Just my luck, somebody’d build a lead zeppelin just to land on my head.

This time, the gold and purple flying saucer arrived and hovered over one of the VIP boxes. Luckily, I doubt he had any pianos on board. Heh. I remember wondering if he’d send out a piano monster. And thinking how weird it is I didn’t catch any sight of the squid from other sources nearby. And thinking how tired I’d become trying to be everywhere at once. It was nice to be just one person, one body, about to punch some serious dick.

Then the saucer blared a noise like a zombie bear’s fart and their champion entered the arena. It came as something of a pleasant surprise when the man entered, wearing all black, duster and wide-brimmed hat included. He twirled his revolvers and I caught sight of a rifle barrel over his shoulder.

Lone Gunman, who used to be the sidekick known as Holdout to the hero called Sixgun. He’d been a rather nubile teen at the time and known for wearing short shorts. He’d vowed vengeance upon me when I permanently disarmed and deheaded his boss. Kidnapping him and torturing didn’t help matters. Though Holdout proved surprisingly resistant to assassination at that time, his attempted vengeance hasn’t amounted to much. There was this time he took over a criminal organization to kill me, but that worked itself out in the end. That is, I killed enough people to make it right. That’s generally how the world works.

And here I was, all hyped up to kill the lad for everything he’d attempted to do to me.

He didn’t make a good first impression on the fight by ending the twirling of his guns with a pair of shots at the armor on my throne. One went right through the head, the other where my heart would be. Then he looked to me and smirked. “The fight’s over.”

“You’re not worried about the killswitch?” I asked. Cercopagis already attempted to hijack everything to claim victory. Every time he tried, it suddenly swapped away from his gilded mug back myself and Gunman on opposite sides of a large arena.

“It’s worh killing billions to get rid of him. He’s a monster. You can’t compromise with something like him. You kill them, even if good people sometimes die in the crossfire.”

“That may be, but the agreement he made hasn’t been fulfilled. The alien scum who seeks to control this great nation has not won three fights. Until this is so,” I posed here, legs spread and arms flexing, “Then he cannot control the planet. And as a red-blooded American hero, I do not cede control of the Earth so easily! As George Washinton once said ‘My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, alien domination, banished from the Earth!’”

It’s more realistic than the real quote, where he wanted to get rid of war.

“You can’t be serious,” Lone Gunman said. He casually fired a shot at me. The moment I saw the gun barrel pointed at me, I activated my rockets. And the fight soundtrack for the television broadcast started up. I made sure to focus in really well on my leaping into action, t-shirts, lunchboxes, and the still on the back of the DVD case. The only question remaining is…bed sheets?

He only tried another shot from his revolvers before dropping them. He ignored his rifle in favor of a gun pulled seemingly from nowhere. Holdout’s power had been his ability to store weapons, and probably other objects, so that he was almost never disarmed. It didn’t necessarily matter if he was tied up properly. But as a slug whizzed past my ear, I smiled at the thought of not tying him up at all.

I’ve been dodging bullets my whole life, figuratively and literally. So many people have pointed guns at me, I have a pretty good idea of where they’re putting the bullet (excluding a whole host of other factors). And I could move. There’s not usually much else you use rockets for, after all. I jerked all over the place, heading for him. I led shots only to stop suddenly and dive in another direction. I even reached inside one of the many pouches on my armor and whipped out a flashbang. Though I’ve thought up an alternate version involving a projector showing extremely bright porn while high-pitched moans and grunts play, this was the conventional one. I caught more of the bang, but Lone Gunman took the flash.

Blinded, he pulled out everything he had and just unloaded on the air. The firestorm of lead grew from just in front of him to spread around both sides and his rear as he took potshots in all those directions. Unfortunately for him, like most humans, he neglected a very important one. One that, ironically, a hunter would have been more likely to catch. I dove at him from above.

I landed on his shoulders. He collapsed under the weight and dropped the submachine guns he had at the time, a pair of those crappy little Russian types unrelated to the AK family that everyone hates. I fired my rockets to keep my balance with my feet now sitting on his arms. I then raised my right foot and brought it down, swinging my arms down to get a little extra oomph from the rockets. Crack! Went the bone of Lone Gunman’s right arm. I almost laughed and gave myself away, too. I can’t help it. It was humerus.

A second stomp broke the left one. For added measure, I ground on his fingers with my heels while he screamed and tried to crawl away. “Yeah, writhe little man. Still feel like supporting the death sentence before anyone gets a trial?”

His answer consisted of several syllables of vowels but nothing substantive in a philosophical or legal sense, which was just fine with me.

I looked up toward Cercopagis’s saucer and announced. “Psycho Gecko wins! You have no claim to Earth.” Remembering who I was supposed to be, I put my left hand on my hip and pointed with my right. “Now get off America’s planet, alien scum!”

The bottom of the saucer slid open and a dish descended. It swiveled to aim at me as electricity danced along the dish to gather in the middle. I grabbed Lone Gunman and held him up, figuring on throwing him one direction and bolting in another as a way to confuse any targeting systems.

Before I could, I heard metal tear, which is completely different from the sound of most weapons firing. Dropping, Gunman and kicking a bit of dirt in his eyes, I looked up to find Warman standing in the stadium, a torn-off dish in his hands. Eschaton and Captain Lightning were there as well, blasting at the saucer.

It rocked back and forth before Lightning flew right up to it, pulled his fist back, and punched the saucer hard enough to send it flying into escape velocity with a hole in its side. Eschaton and Captain Lightning flew up after it.

“Good going, kid,” Warman said. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder with one hand. “That would have been harder if you hadn’t kept him here.”

“What’s going on? You all were working for him,” I asked. I got the feeling I’d mised a few trees for the forest.

“We worked with him. The whole fight was our idea. If he won, they knew they could kick him off Earth like they’re doing now. They did it before. If he lost, it bought us time for the Master Academy to finish their project to take the Psycho out.”

I cocked my head to the side. “You put an awful lot of trust in Psycho Gecko adhering to his agreement. Do you even care about all the people dying now to his nanites?”

“I’m not responsible for what bad people do to each other,” he gestured to Lone Gunman and the dish in his own hands. “And for what it’s worth, Gecko has been known to stick to an agreement in the past. Doesn’t matter now…but let’s go make sure.”

He dropped the dish then, pinning Lone Gunman under it. I don’t think he agreed much with the younger hero. “We’ll settle up with you for what you’ve done after we go check his vital signs.”

Warman and I jumped up to the throne where the Koreans and Saki cried over my still armor.

I could almost hear Venus in the back of my head. She told me I didn’t have to pull off the helmet. I could find a way to bury empty armor and an entire identity. I could leave that darkness behind and start over fresh, like I always claimed nobody gave me the chance. Like I always said I couldn’t. I could even be a hero instead of some killer. I felt oddly sure that she’d help me.

“Why are you waving?” asked Warman.

“Just saying goodbye to a passing thought.” I stepped up to the armor. I unsealed the helmet and pulled it off.

“What the hell? Oh no, where did he go?” Warman put his finger to his ear. “Priority One is not dead. Repeat, Priority One Target is still alive and unaccounted for.”

“He’s not unaccounted for,” I said. I pulled off my eagle helmet and smiled at the hero. “It was me, Warman! It was me the whole time!”

He glared at me and raised a fist. I spat in his face. “Five people for each of you. You, Eschaton, Captain Lightning. For what you’ve done, five others will die. Other heroes’ family members. Sons and daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Maybe I’ll even pick some related to former world leaders.”

“Why? Isn’t that like shooting the person who didn’t fail you?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I just had the idea that you hero types are just the type to not care about sacrificing yourselves or your friends. Even your good names, for a time. But are you willing to sacrifice each other’s families? Are you willing to let another person oppose me if it means your child might die as a result? Or, in your case, your old friends and their families? Maybe that woman you wanted to marry that time but didn’t because she was a spy and you were a soldier? Did I mention I did my reading on you?”

Warman lowered his fist. “You bastard.”

“Count on it,” I said and pulled my own helmet over my head. Right there, I changed out of Missile Patriot’s armor and into my own. I clapped Warman on the shoulder as I passed him by. “And good going, kid. I probably would have been blindsided if you hadn’t told me so much. By the way, I want Victor Mender and Venus of Master Academy brought before me. Don’t worry, I’ll let your little trio of superstrong mofos know, too. Be a shame if Capain Lightning let them go and your childhood friend had to pay for it, eh?”

I lept down to where Gunman struggled to tip the dish off.

Hide who I am? Pretend to be people like this who sometimes look so barely different from me except that they’re on the “right” side. Maybe I just don’t want to let them all win. Maybe I want revenge. Hell, it could be as simple as knowing there’s still no way I’d ever be able to truly integrate into society. Or even want to. I’d just end up as some hero who kills, and heroes don’t kill.

“You hear that?” I asked Gunman, who hadn’t been privy to the conversation in my head.

“Please, you won, let me up,” he groaned. I stepped around in front of him and dialed up the strength on my leg’s muscle enhancers.

“Heroes don’t kill.” I brought my foot down on his head, hard. Then I stepped out of what used to be a human head and wiped my boot off on his sleeve.

I won’t be the hero the Earth wants. No. I’m the villain the Earth deserves. I am Emperor Gecko. All hail the man-emperor of mankind.

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Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 10

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She’s out there now. I can hear her. I swear the floor sags under her weight, which I know has to be an auditory hallucination since it’s held up her, me, and a bed. But still, she stalks the Forbidden City, doing her best to find me.

Readers, send help. I think Beetrice wants to fuck me to death.

I was led to believe bees didn’t need an extended mating process, but it’s safe to say we’re dealing with a creature so far outside the realms of standard bee and human biology that we might as well be dealing with science fiction. You know, like a scenario with marauding space aliens, giant robots, or people with incredibly, physics-defying powers. Completely unrealistic, if you ask me. They left out all the magic and wizards you find in real life, too.

Eh, I guess I should be happy to be getting laid. Right now, there are millions of sex-starved people all across the world, unable or unwilling to enjoy physically connecting with another human being on a deeper emotional level…in either the vagina, mouth, or ass. I guess the asexuals get it lucky in that, aside from an awful lot of culture being related to sex.

But, hey, I lived to be screwed another day. That’s important. Not everyone gets so lucky. I’ve been the one to make sure of that before. That’s why it’s important to savor the little things before they sever your little things.

No matter what, she saved my bacon. Turns out, someone left the refrigerator open. I couldn’t walk at the time (see: almost getting screwed to death), and she shut the door for me. Almost as important as bacon, she won a fight.

I still had two to go. After the out-of-nowhere Mendes Configuration, Eschaton’s Fingerpoke of Doom, and then this whole Mecha Ashidaka mess, I don’t have a clue who to expect.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s for the best. I keep getting worried about stuff, emotional, blah, blah, blah, and things just get worse. Maybe it’s time to play to my talents again. Like a bit of cooking. I’m not horrible at it, though it makes a much less interesting subject than being a homicidal supervillain. “…And that’s how you make fettucini alfredo. Sorry it took me awhile to finish the post, I had to go murder somebody with my supersuit.” That’d focus too much on the wrong sort of details. Though, hmm, maybe I can cook up some alfredo in time to throw it into the next enemy fighter’s face?

Actually, it was my turn. Yep, time to send my own champion out. And that left me with only one option, especially because Max’s phone kept going to voicemail. According to the cameras, Sam wrangled his phone and kept hanging up on me. And when I hijacked his computer screen to try and get his attention, Sam threw it into a fire. And then when he kicked back to watch some TV, Holly “accidentally” spilled a bucket of water on it when my mug showed up on the screen.

Sadly, neither of them had my nanites inside of them, a situation sadly becoming more common. I’ll fix that after everything else here. Gotta oversee that myself. And the useless people who were supposed to help find me another hero? I’ll take care of them too. The currency situation, the labor situation, the disasters caused by the volcanic eruptions I used to solve climate change, the oncoming food shortages due to those same eruptions dramatically affecting the weather… I’ve got a lot on my plate. None of it, sadly, fetuccini alfredo. I might be on something of a kick with that food. I guess after sacrificing my body to make bee babies with Beetrice, I’ve got thick white sauce and limp noodles on the mind.

Well, I did agree that Max was backup on this one. That left me with Moai. Don’t get me wrong, Moai’s great. He’s strong, he’s surprisingly smart, and he has a lovely singing voice. On the other hand, Max’s abilities have a wider range of uses and he’s an even better singer. So I set out to talk to him personally. And because it got me away from Beetrice. I didn’t bother to tell her about the trip either. I even left the various Asian women I kidnapped. I took my armor, because I’ve been trying to wear that again when I’m not being ridden hard enough to break bones. In fact, that’s all the more reason to wear the armor for sex, too. Let that be a lesson about the importance of wearing protection, kiddos.

I met Moai on arrival at Carl’s place. He probably would have picked me up, but I took the Imperial chopper and had it flown right in front of the apartment building. He didn’t even have to meet me at the curb. There they were, having a pleasant lunch at the table, when Carl asked Moai if they had any more Kool-Aid left.

“Oh fuck!” I called out, my upper body hitting the wall above the window. At least my legs made it through. As I pulled myself through to find them enjoying a pleasant lunch of cereal, pizza, and broken glass.

“Hey guys.” I stood up and waved. “Kinda drafty in here, isn’t it? Hey, how about we go out for some food.”

No big fight. No big arguments. No talk about redemption or saving someone. Just three friends out for lunch. Then, I asked them if they had any particular monuments or places they wanted destroyed. When they suggested New Jersey, that got me to thinking about a little loose end I never tied up. A little someone to find. Just another example of a fine superhero standing up and protecting their home from an alien invader. Someone, in fact, that is obviously not a member of my team.

Serves Cercopagis right, after all, the way he started the fights. I’d have done the same in his position, but this is different. This is me. Now there’s an idea…

“Hey, by the way…anybody seen a fellow named Max Muscles around?”

See, I had this idea. This wonderful, beautiful idea. Poetic, really. It involved this superhero I’d hung out with in disguise once. Nice fellow, if a bit of a meathead. I still stand by that description after remembering Mystery Monster, too. He got into a bit of trouble being controlled by the Fluidics. I got him released, sent him to Empyreal City, and forgot about him when things went to hell. He’s a New Jersey boy, born and bred, and I think I have just the plan for him.

Later that night, Moai and I stared up at a giant tin and wood elephant in Margate City. “It’s beautiful,” I told Moai. I swept my hand across the view. “Just incredible. All this time, I knew you could build weapons to destroy a city. I never imagined you could utterly annihilate one by building such an exceptionally horrible building. Do you think there’s a slide under the tail so it can crap out visitors?”

Moai, no doubt dumbofounded, shook his head.

“You ready, champ?” I asked.

He nodded to that easily enough and headed for the entrance to Lucy the Elephant. With that Davy Crockett mobile nuke launcher on his back, he better be ready. Warman may have wussed out, but I am fully prepared to have somebody else launch a short range when I’m not around. But I wasn’t not around yet. I had to set off the fireworks. Literal fireworks. With enough fireworks, you can send just about any message, even to an alien asshole in space.

There, I spelled out my invitation in the night sky, the image flashed across the internet. “Moai Versus ???? Your move, claw cock.”

Cercopagis got the message, but Max Muscles got the message even more quickly. He was easy to find. With Empyreal City being wrecked, it was easy to search the remaining gyms for him.

Mere minutes after I took over Youtube to make the challenge, Max fell out of the sky. The invincible, super strong hero wore silver spandex and had painted his skin with gold and glitter. I didn’t even plan that part originally, but he said he had some stuff laying around for a party later. Those New Jerseyites really aren’t afraid to take “metrosexual” to a whole ‘nother level. He landed in a crater and dug himself up, then flexed for the cameras. I’d stuck around for that.

“Yeah, what now fucker!” He pointed up at Moai on Lucy’s back, six stories in the air. “In the name of Circus Lice, I’m here to fuck you!” After a couple seconds, he remembered to add, “Up!”

I panned up to watch Moai stare down at the newcomer and inserted an appropriate movie phrase as if my minion had bravely accepted the challenge. “This! Is! Sparta!” He took a running start and jumped off elephant toward Max, who ran likewise ran and jumped at him. When the two met in midair, the footage blinded everyone. You couldn’t see much with the bright explosion in the center that I stole off some old footage of a Russian bomb test. It looked real impressive, if a bit grainy in places.

When the explosion began to slow down, more sound added to the sense of drama. Grunts and whooshing noises. With the camera temporarily blinded and distorted by the explosion, nobody saw anything of the fight where Moai called out “Makankosappo!” Shortly after that, the image returned to show Moai covered with light burns, no Davy Crockett in sight, standing over a collapsed Max in a ripped outfit with hair standing out at a sharp angle.

Before anyone had any time to question the fight, including why the damage to Lucy looked more consistent with a bunch of grenades than a small nuclear device, I turned the camera to the sky. There the fireworks shot up and announced “2-2.”

Oh yes, Cercopagis did not care for that one bit.

“Fraudulent space swine! Treacherous concubine! I should have your entrails entwined around my vessel!” he screamed at me over the phone.

I did my best to sound bored and distracted. “Uh huh. Uh huh. I agree completely. Exactly what you said.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“Noooo, I would never do that. But turnabout is fair play, isn’t it? Eh? Don’t feel too bad now, there’s still one last fight. Just think of all this as heightening the drama. Putting asses in the seats.” Not that we sold tickets or had an arena for any of this. “I’m so nice, I’ll even let you send your person down first this next time so this can’t happen again, provided you give me a few days to dig up one last person to give you a run for your money.”

Sadly, Max Muscles wouldn’t do. Even if nobody recognized him after that stunt I pulled, he’s hitting the bottle again these days. Drunk as Stalin an hour after hearing the Nazis wiped their asses with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

“All I need is more time, you see. I’ll let you know when I’m ready, no more than a few more days, and this way we can prevent any more unfortunate mistakes related to perception and all that. Win-win, right?”

“Your cheating ways irk me, Psycho Gecko. I shall tolerate no breech of trust in the final battle. I shall land a party to ensure the you do not violate our agreement further.”

I laughed. “I agree wholeheartedly. Trust me, if you’re down here, our deal is the last thing I’ll feel like violating.”

And so we agreed.

It’s good to be the Emperor. It’s not too bad winning, either, even if being a winner means being a “winner.”

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AvPG: FUBAR FTW 2

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This town really livened up. Empyreal City has seen its share of new arrivals since my group trickled in. Wildflower’s been somewhat resentful, since she’d been here fighting the good fight. A quick check ruled out the possibility of her being a double agent. She let me do it again, though she did ask me to refrain from snapping her neck this time around.

She gave Girl Robot some particularly hostile looks when the cyborg approached me and ran her hand over my shoulder. The whole jealousy thing would have been over in a hurry if I bothered to crack the armor. Sure, Wildflower and I got a nice shower in the hotel, but I had to spray down the interior to keep it tolerable. With the environmental seals, it’s not really a threat to my stealth, but it’s not very romantic either.

When Wildflower saw the way Girl Robot was touching on me, she asked, “Who’s that?”

Girl Robot narrowed her eyes and asked, “Who is that?”

“Wildflower, this is Girl Robot. She’s one of the Claw’s people. We met on the way up here, talked a bit about cybernetics.” Girl Robot looked at me, surprised by my answer. I then continued to her, “Girl Robot, this is Wildflower. She’s my girlfriend. Unfortunately, she was left behind. I’m glad to have her back, though.”

“You didn’t mention a girlfriend,” Girl Robot said before walking off quickly.

Wildflower looked at me. “Cybernetics?”

“I came back for you, didn’t I?”

“Yeah.” She walked off, too.

I’ll have to give that situation time to cool off, which may be difficult. There’s not a lot of room for it.

It was a spacious bunker, wide open, but it’d already been crammed full of Buzzkills before I brought in the Moonies, Satan’s Poolboys, the Claw’s people, the runaways, and so on. I’d gotten trickles, and little groups, but it sucked to not get more with me. I hoped for more. Like the Rejects, or more from the Master Academy. At the end of the day, people didn’t like me, didn’t trust me. Nope, so I get the dregs and crazies, maybe the odd villain who wanted to kick some ass. Well, and folks like the Claw’s group, who hoped to show up the United States government.

So it was very nice to hook up with the other group I had Forcelight call up. I expected them sooner. I thought we’d meet up outside Empyreal City. I didn’t panic when it didn’t happen. I figured that maybe I’d get someone there. Y’all know how the cavalry is. They show up at the last second to save the day. Might as well rely on them to do what they always do.

So with me getting villains and crazies, it didn’t entirely surprise me to have Beetrice report back on the approach of a group that included a man in a black leather costume and another who almost took a Buzzkill’s head off with a revolver before the man in black could stop the gunslinger.

I grabbed Moai, Max, and a semi-fresh fruit basket. Empyreal City doesn’t have a lot of space for agriculture, so the quality of fruit within it diminished rapidly when the aliens separated the entire place from the rest of the world. Still, everything in the basket remained technically edible, except for the grapes.

I heard footsteps approaching in the darkened hive tunnel and hefted the basket. A glow rounded a corner, which turned out to be Good Doctor’s helmet light. I held the basket out and said, “Heya Doc! Great to see you again!” just before his boot hit the room’s light. He twirled a scalpel in his fingers the way some men knuckle-shuffle a coin, then gripped it in his fist with the blade pointed to the side in time to punch me in the throat.

Bulletproof doesn’t mean padded, by the way. An area like the throat, you can’t exactly fit armor plating on it. And even though a nanomaterial capable of preventing penetration by ballistic projectiles will stop a fist, it doesn’t do jack frickin’ squat about how much kinetic energy transfers through. At least Doc didn’t try it with the blade of the scalpel. It might have hurt more, and his power is very good at finding weak spots to slip a knife.

He made sure I remembered that part while I tried to keep breathing with the help of my suit’s life support. He grabbed one of the jester horns molded onto my helmet and held it, then dragged the scalpel along my visor where I could clearly see it. He moved it down, under the lip of my helmet, making sure I knew that he knew how to unseal the thing and get at my vulnerable face.

Naturally, this didn’t diminish the tension in the room. Gunman had pulled a gun, and more powers lit up the tunnel behind him. The Buzzkills raised their stingers, someone broke a glass bottle, and Festus slipped his shoe off into his hands. Shit was about to go down, yo. I just leaned down, trying to recover through the coughing fit invoked by the blow to my throat.

When I quit coughing enough to speak, I asked, “What’s up, Doc?” After a beat, someone cracked up and a lot of that tension eased up. Gunman holstered his revolver and soon the only ones not relaxed were Doc and myself.

Doc just stared at me. “My daughter!”

“I want to kill him anyway, but this scumbag didn’t have anything to do with Forcelight,” Lone Gunman helpfully provided. “This isn’t the time for this.”

Good Doctor twitched his head to the side and almost turned to look at Gunman. He stopped himself, and returned his gaze fully to me. When he spoke this time, it was with a more wicked, deeper tone to his voice. “She told me what you did.”

Oh really?

When I didn’t say anything, Doc continued, “In a few minutes of freedom, when your thoughts no longer touched hers, she told me the truth. You put those things, those nanomachines, inside her. You trapped her in her own body. Moved her like a puppet. Made her do things, made her say things. Watched through her eyes. Felt with her hands. Lied with her mouth.”

Oh, really. Well, good thing he didn’t know everything I did with her hands.

Doc leaned down and spoke in something of a loud, harsh whisper that carried to those immediately surrounding us. “Do you deny this?”

So, it occured to me my old friend might have been a bit angry at me. It happens sometimes. Still, these setbacks in planning are the cracks through which inspiration shines. Which is probably a quote from somebody, hell if I know. I stood up, looked him right in the glowing visor of his mask, and said, “No. I did it. It was the only way to get even this many here.”

Doc’s hand jerked. It didn’t come all the way to me, but I saw it all the same. He had to restrain himself, and he must have known I saw.

“Surprised?” I went on. “You know me to be shameless, but also a coward. And yet, I’m the one who came to fight. I did that to your daughter, but the Fluidic aliens have done it to eight million other daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, yada yada, in this city alone. And in other cities around the country. Did you hear that the anti-ET rallies in Russia mysteriously dispersed all on their own? The Chinese publicly laud Beijing as a new model for efficiency, but they sent me a contract to fly over and consult with them. Everything your daughter experienced, every one of those people is going through. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the army to save them?” I held out my arms.

I then pointed to Wildflower, who had her claws ready in one hand and a grenade in the other as she contemplated the violence we were close to. “What about her friends?” I switched to Festus then, who stood frozen in mid-shoe replacement by my attention. “What about his family?”

I leaned in close to Doc. My whisper didn’t carry like his did. “You want to be a good man? Sometimes good people have to sacrifice. And sometimes, someone like me has to make people get up off their asses and go save the world.”

Hopefully not often. That’s all kind of wrong.

I noticed Doc’s hand squeeze on his scalpel at the word “sacrifice” and he didn’t let up until the end of my little statement. His gaze drifted down, then back up. “Speaking of sacrifice, Psycho Gecko, I’m curious how you escaped Empyreal City the first time around. You were here, weren’t you?”

I nodded, as did Beetrice and Festus.

“What did you sacrifice to get out?” Doc looked around. “What could you sacrifice? How did you get out on your own, and why did you leave everyone else behind, except your dutiful Moai. No offense meant, Moai.” Moai shrugged. “Or did you strike a deal? You were at their mercy, and it’s obvious you don’t like them. What did you give them?”

You know that feeling, where an entire room turns against you? Yeah, that happened. Like suddenly all the attention turns to you and you know it isn’t good. “That’s not what happened. Technolutionary tried to bargain. He has this weird fantasy about me and him. And I think the Fluidics still feared I had a trick up my sleeve. And I do. I have two of them.”

“Then they could have killed you, or capture you. Do to you what you did to my daughter, all for Technolutionary. They didn’t. They had millions of people. Ordinary people, but they didn’t have what you have here: resistance. Superhuman resistance.” Doc held out his hands.

“I thought of that, but I-” I was cut off.

“You led us into a trap!” Someone threw a tomato. I didn’t even know we had tomatoes. Why is there always someone with a tomato?

I raised my hands and the volume on my speakers. “I disarmed it! I can keep them from doing anything to you! Listen!”

Well, they didn’t listen. I had it all in hand. But, well, then came the tarring and feathering. Or the honeying and spray painting. Then they tossed me outside the bunker, right onto the street. And I had to let them, because their lives were still valuable. Standing up afterward, I shook my hand at the retreating crowd as they started to close up the hive trapdoor and shouted, “Yes, I brought you into a trap! I can deal with it! I’ll show you. I’ll show the entire world! You haven’t seen the last of Psycho Gecko!”

Which was true. One of the things caused by my public messages and the time it took to get here was a larger media presence from the outside, hopefully ones not taken over already. One such chopper even got good footage of me looking like the world’s worst dessert. I let it follow me, publicly broadcasting my whereabouts, as I made a few calls to get even more people in the air.

Of course, I couldn’t let myself be taken out publicly by whatever the aliens have done to take out entire buildings, so I had to stay mobile until I had too many things overhead. I had to improvise. I originally meant to goad them into a big battle, make sure they had to commit a large crowd, show that resistance was futile, all that mess. I wanted as many of them out and about as possible.

I didn’t get that. Instead, I jumped around and ran along the sides of buildings before jumping off again, making my way around the city. Because this isn’t just about whether I look right or wrong. It’s about if the extraterrestrials want to demonstrate the complete failure of resistance by simply wiping me off the map. I figured, hey, maybe getting some cover overhead would work. Like in Central Park. I’ve done so many things there before, too. Killed some campers, stole some penguins. It’s got range.

And I always wanted to stop by and see Thoth. He’s this performer and super, possibly magical. Has a thing about prayer and worship in these musical street performances. Always wanted to see him after he got laughed off some show full of people who dismissed him because he looked unusual and spoke a language he himself invented. But he wasn’t there.

It wasn’t a complete waste. All things considered, the Bethesda Terrace Arcade, where he used to perform, is pretty nice. The camera angles from the news folks allowed me to keep an eye on things, even as I paced around under this terrace. That’s how I saw when they arrived. Venus and several more of the tights brigade who I assumed were known as heroes. I didn’t recognize any particular villains, and I doubt Technolutionary would avoid me.

They brought enough to form a wide perimeter, something I saw well enough myself out in the fountain courtyard. And I heard when Venus descended the steps behind me in her power armor, a hum accompanying each step and sway. It looked less blocky than last time, but like fitted armor plates. Like you could remove one and put another molded piece in its spot. It bulked up around her lower legs and forearms. The legs were wider at the bottom, providing more stability. The forearms built into bigger fists with a surprise or two likely built in. Her helmet didn’t show anything, but I noticed the gold visor formed a rough heart shape.

It always comes back to Venus, doesn’t it?

“It’s time you did the right thing, Gecko,” said whoever controlled her.

I looked out at the fountain of the angel blessing the waters of Bethesda, trusting my heads-up display to keep her in sight. “Facing the music? Facing my fate? Let everyone throw me to the wolves because I’m a bad person. Ah, hell, I’m sure Venus would know I deserve it.”

She cocked her head to the side. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”

I shrugged. “Venus isn’t here. Just you. You’re a puppet, sent to kill me. Venus wouldn’t.”

“I’m not here to kill you, just to stop you. They want to make this place better. I know you hate humanity. We’re flawed. We’re so flawed. But they can change that. They can make us of one mind, wipe away all our petty bickering.”

I supposed so, but then, look what they’d use them for? I leaned against one of the pillars of the arcade while Venus approached. “Yeah, as mindless and uniform as a gun. You’ll just be a weapon, Venus. Nothing more. So are you? Especially now, knowing they can’t swoop in and convert me and all the rest?” I turned toward her and held my hands out, wrists turned upward. “It’d be easy. I’m Psychopomp Gecko. It tends to end in death when I’m around. Your masters will get what they want. You know nobody else will mind, since that’s why I’m here alone. Unless you are Venus.”

She screamed, which I could probably depict here as “Raaaagh!” or something like that, but it’d take away from the drama. Then again, so did this. Whoops. Either way, she screamed, then punched me. I flew back, my flight path altered with a bounce off the column nearby and landed on the edge of the fountain where I rolled into it.

I stood up, slowly. Not for drama’s sake. It really hurt. “Venus…you leave me so wet sometimes.” And disoriented. That armor got quite a bit stronger than I remember. I needed to fight this one as the physical inferior, looked like.

“If you want to do the right thing for once, close your eyes. I’ll make it quick,” Venus called out, walking into the courtyard.

“Quick? You want to make me dead, but I’m not going to just lie back and think of England.” I responded, then charged.

She broke out into a run as well. Just before we reached each other, two things happened. I dived into a roll so I could kick up. She jumped into the air, a metal spike punching out from her armor’s right gauntlet. In the resulting clash, she didn’t get any on me, but I didn’t get as much of a good kick under her ribs as I meant to. It stopped her, left her dazed, but it also left me on the ground.

By the time I stood up again, we were back on equal footing. Cue the simultaneous appearance of the health bars and appearance of dramatic music, ala Metal Gear Solid IV. I laughed as we squared off. “Memes, Snake! Doge and trollface! Plank me, baby, plank me hard.”

Venus threw her spiked right again, but dodged back, shifted my weight, and rolled to the side. The enhanced pseudomuscles of my armor lifted me into the air to land on short wall nearby.

“You got into a fight just to run again?” Venus asked. “You’re good at stalling, dodging around it all. Why don’t you ever fight? Stop boring people.”

Under my helmet, I grinned. “Well, no one had to die today, dear. But, if you insist…” I knew the Fluidics were playing me. I knew it meant I still had the upper hand. Including the ability to hide my hand perfectly. Sure, all the gunk on my armor disabled the systems that allowed me to project complete holograms or hide myself, but even a partial disappearance, such as my left arm and right leg, helped.

I jumped. She caught my waist, where my invisible leg used hers as a nice step for leverage while I rained fists down on her helmet. She tried to let go and drive that spike into my belly, but I grabbed her wrist with my left to keep it from digging in and gave her a hard haymaker that stumbled her and dropped me to the ground.

“Where the head goes, the body must follow,” I commented, then dropkicked her. It didn’t send her flying, but it knocked her on her ass, and I bounced back up a lot quicker than her. I knelt by her and went for her helmet, scrabbling for an opening or seal, punching it to try and loosen it.

Venus grabbed me by the neck and threw me over her. She maintained her grip as she rolled over to straddle my chest and keep me pinned. Her punch, spike and all, barely missed its mark. And by barely, I mean it put a gash in my cheek. It’s not because of anything fancy, like Venus pulling her punch. I had cocked my head to the side. A couple inches over, and that’s all she wrote.

Her next attempt would have been on the mark until I caught it in my hand, losing my left palm to divert it. My other hand gripped her throat. Having a good grip with both hands, I at least managed to get her off me. I swear, so hard to keep the ladies off me lately.

I charged up the energy sheath in my right fist, ignoring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or at least Venus’s headbutts and other punches. My fist drove her head back against the courtyard and cracked her helmet. “One to one,” I taunted, chuckling. Then she stuck my side with a spike. Not the one in my hand, either.

“Laugh too much and you’ll split your sides,” she replied.

“Nice one,” I told her, and dug my glove into the crack of her helmet. She loosened her other hand from my other hand even as I did so, sliding the metal spike between a pair of my ribs. This gave me the opportunity to bring my other hand to bear and finally pull it off, exposing Venus’s face, surprisingly bloody. Then I noticed the way the neck of her armor merged right into her skin. “You’ve been upgraded, haven’t you? You’re like me now?”

I couldn’t take advantage of the exposure because she drove the sides of those spikes against my armpits and threw me off. My newly-ventilated body didn’t feel like standing up as quick as I meant it to, and the addition of Venus’s boot on my chest didn’t help matters. “You’ve lost. You just don’t know it yet.” The thing controlling her made her smirk down at me.

“I got that helmet off, didn’t I?”

“Look around. Punch my face in and you still would’ve faced the others united in our cause.” She didn’t bother to look up. “Just look.”

I did. There weren’t just a few heroes there anymore. Heroes, villains, civilians. Obviously, the entire city couldn’t have been there with me, but a hell of a lot showed up just to really grind in the futility of what I did. I picked Carl out of the crowd, looking down at me. Leah, who I’d briefly mentored, also appeared there, ready to be thrown against me in a wave of human fodder. And above them, various flying supers, news helicopters, and small planes saw it all. Heh, chemtrails over Empyreal City. None of the aliens had stopped by, though, nor Technolutionary. Ah well.

And then the riot broke out. Buzzkills flitted in. Moai stormed through a crowd. I even saw Ethan Basford carried by a glowing red lattice of magical energy that flipped bodies away. One of the converted began to crackle with electricity stopped dead when a scalpel appeared in her throat. The Good Doctor pulled it out before she could fall and looked down on the fountain courtyard as the sky darkened. A haze in the air blocked direct sunlight.

The bater had become the bate. Which could have described my sex change too, but that ship already sailed awhile back and took my penis along with it.

“This is your plan?” Venus asked, “You still don’t have enough to win.”

I laughed, spitting up a bit of blood in the process. “Nah, can’t say it is. But funny thing is, soon you won’t have enough either.”

She cut off my laughter by stomping on my chest, then plunging her spike through my throat. Then a green, tailed, barely clothed mess of a woman landed on her and got tossed against the angel on top of Bethesda fountain. Venus glared down at me with contempt, but at least I knew it wasn’t all hers. “You finally die, and there’s no deus ex machina to save you. No nanites for me to heal you with.” She knelt on my body, giving me a feel for more of that lovely weight before withdrawing her right-hand spike with a “shunk!” sound and reached into my chest wound. I felt her fingers wiggle around in my lung and then tear something off.

Ow. Lungs. I need those. I’d have told her, but she was doing things with one of my lungs. I looked into her triumphant eyes and coughed. She joined in as a mist drifted down from the air. I managed to smile through the coughing and tried my best to breathe deep. Just a few calls is all it took. Just a few messages back and forth. Long Life Corporation’s nanite reserves. Cropdusters. A few calls I had to make because my plan to goad them into one big battle didn’t work out. It wouldn’t be as effective this way, but it’d still do most of the work for us. Now I’ll get to see just how much those Fluidic aliens will piss their pants at someone combining my nanites with their rain idea.

Venus tried to cover her mouth. “What’s going on? What did you do?”

The fights around us ended with almost everyone coughing, even the lightning lady with the scalpel hole in her throat. The converted certainly lost their urge to fight, that’s for sure. For Venus, whose helmet I only needed to remove, I decided to clear something up. “Tends to…end in…death,” I repeated. “Except today. Everybody lives…Venus. Just…this once…everybody lives!”

Still not a hero, by the way. And if y’all tell anyone I did something good, I swear I’ll cut ya.

And that’d be a shame, because we aren’t nearly finished yet.

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Mad Gex: Fury Rode 2

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Seeing as I’d appeared to slow down and enjoy the sights in our trip, the excitement that marked our earlier movement abated. It wasn’t entirely a bad thing. People had time to think about the actual attack, which sounds like a bad thing for most people. I’d much rather they chicken out before we get there and the front line decides they’d rather be fifty feet behind me.

We also got more volunteers. They trickle in here and there, some useful as bullet shields, others actually capable in a fight. There’s a militia that thinks the government is working with the aliens and the devil. They don’t get along well with the Moonies for some reason. A handful of small town supers like Shadowcrawler.

They were all a bit surprised when, on a detour from the epic showdown with the aliens, I decided to visit a tourist attraction. I could have gone with the world’s biggest ball of aluminum foil, or perhaps the popcorn capital of the Midwest, or even the world’s only existing sculpture of Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount carved entirely out of various cheeses. No, instead, I visited South Dakota’s most famous tourist attraction: the United States’ biggest ball of exhumed Native American bones. I’d make a comment here about them having bad taste to throw that exhibit together, but you have to remember the tongues are all rotted away. And, technically, it means they don’t have to worry about being on an old Indian burial ground.

While the rest of the bunch explored and purchased commemorative bones from the gift shop, I had a special lunch with Max, Moai, Holly, and Sam. Not special in terms of being all that grand, though and day when I make my fetuccini alfredo is a good one. Nah, this was special because I trusted these folks over all the rest.

“This is ridiculous,” Sam said, watching some of the Moonies swordfighting with what we all assumed were fake bones. “Why did you want all of us to sit together today?”

Max cocked his head to the side, looking at my helmet. I’d taken to wearing it more and more, both as a precaution and to hide some of my distractedness as the Kingscrow Trio worked on the problem of the alien storms. He looked like he had something to say, but he didn’t get around to it.

Instead, I slipped off my helmet, shook out my hair, and started chowing down on a bowl of pasta. After getting a little in me, I gave them an answer without looking up. “To let you know what’s going on. Why we’re not in Empyreal City already.”

“Because you’re waiting for more people?” suggested Sam.

Holly offered, “You’re scared?”

Max responded to them with a stage whisper, “It’s a trap.”

“Ding ding ding, we have a winner.” I really didn’t want to speak. I make a mean alfredo. “It’s gotta be.”

“Then where are we going to fight them instead?” asked Holly, carefully picking through her plate so as to avoid getting my creamy white sauce all over her clothes.

“There,” I answered, nodding. “In Empyreal City. We’re going to spring the trap, but I want to figure out what all it’s going to be first. My guess is that it has something to do with the rain, first.”

Max steepled his fingers. “Yes, if I had such power and wished to conquer earth, I would let it rain all at once.” He pointed at me. “So why haven’t they?”

“Well, I have an idea on that, but it assumes they’re smart bastards who bothered to learn about Earth. I mean, they may be alien, but I can at least figure out some of why they are doing what they are doing based on what they are doing. After all, when someone pulls a knife on you, it’s reasonable to assume they don’t like you and would like to express that in an unhealthy way. Unhealthy for you, preferably.”

I looked between the group, who waited for me to go on.

“Right, so they opened up the barrier. That’s a sign there. They want me to come to them, and they even goaded me with Venus. Why? What do they have to gain?” I dipped a garlic knot in the sauce and took a bite before continuing. “What they always have to gain: us. A large force of people, powered and unpowered, who want to resist the aliens so hard that we’d throw ourselves at them. And any military forces that show up to assist us.”

“They’re suckering us in,” Holly summed it up.

I nodded. “Beats the hell out of gassing everyone now that they’re here, only to find that the world’s leaders and militaries were hidden in Cold War bunkers meant to survive nuclear fallout or ready with MOPP gear to fight back. I mean, let’s be honest,” I pointed with my fork toward where the militia practiced sloppy marching, “These guys are worthless compared to the crew of one aircraft carrier, one nuclear bomber, or even a tank. A few rifles compared to a submarine packed full of intercontinental ballistic missiles? It’s no contest, and to believe otherwise is to be as crazy as those fuckers right there in their hunting camo.”

Moai leaned over and nudged me on the shoulder. I turned to look at him, then at a pad in front of him where he’d written the word, “So?”

“So, I have a team out there trying to figure out how they do their alien rain dance. It’s all last-minute, and they don’t even know they’re working for me. We’ve ruled out planes and their own ships.”

“What about those weather buoys in Paradise City?” Sam asked.

I shrugged. “They could make it rain, yes, but that manipulates things like temperature, density, ions. It doesn’t add completely new stuff to the air that isn’t naturally occuring.”

“Do you know that it isn’t done that way?” Max asked. “Or do you assume it isn’t?”

“Ass, you, me,” said Holly, referencing some saying about assuming, rather than extending an invitation.

Moai scribbled more on his pad, then held it up. “Still no mind control organ chemicals.”

“I wouldn’t put it beyond the scope of their abilities to manipulate the chemistry of the air and create that substance. In all likelihood, the elements used are on Earth already. They just have to be put together in the correct way.”

I shook my head. “I’m not buying it.”

“Why?” asked Max, leaning forward.

I stopped to think on it. “…I mean, if they could make that stuff localized with hidden machines all over the planet, why use the rain? Why not sneak one close to the White House, turn all the air into a cloud of that stuff, and so on?”

Sam added her two cents again. “Do you know they haven’t?”

“Captain Lightning is there. He’d know.”

Max looked me straight in the eyes, losing his smile for the moment. “What if he’s one of them?”

“I trust that he isn’t.” Sam made a face as I said it, while Max shook his head and smiled.

Pretty preppy Holly is the one who dared ask, “When did you start trusting heroes?”

I glared at them and didn’t say anymore, thinking about how much of a point they had. I was being a bit too trusting despite knowing about all the infiltration.

Max broke up my reverie. “Try satellites. If it looks like any other satellite, they could drop a package from space that opens at the right altitude to influence rain.”

I nodded and murmered my thanks.

Over at the Long Life corporate headquarters in Kingscrow, Forcelight looked up suddenly from her, Good Doctor’s, and Lone Gunman’s examination of maps and other wide-ranging charts to exclaim. “Space! The final frontier…”

Good Doctor ahemmed patiently, as he had to do a few times in our association together.

“Satellites. They could have satellites up there dropping something to cause the rain.”

“Like a chemical weapon,” Gunman added.

The Good Doctor put his hand on Forcelight’s shoulder. “The field of debris orbitting the Earth would hide it. From what you told me, perhaps they hijacked pre-existing satellites. Brilliant idea, sweetie.”

I really didn’t care for Doc acting all fatherly toward me. It’s been weirding me out, though I know it’s because I’m controlling his daughter’s body.

“Good. Now what do we do about it?” asked Gunman impatiently.

I hopped up and walked over to the company landline on Forcelight’s office desk. I never bothered to memorize her secretary’s name, so as soon as someone picked up, I ordered them, “Get me the number for that company trying to do the private spaceflight, Vesta Aerospace!”

With that problem solved, I thought I could rest easy. We moved on from the bone exhibit and got well out of town before we crowded around some other small town’s various highway hotels and motels. I could have slept in the car just fine, but Moai insisted on keeping watch on it, which would also allow him a good view of my room so as to keep an eye on me.

Everyone let me have a room to myself, no one daring to suggest they keep me warm after this one Moonie offered to give me the smoothest anal probe I’d ever felt. He held up one of the fake bones for emphasis. After I tested out just how good the souvenir was on his ass first, I decided to show him that it could also be used to check the tonsils and throat like one of those tongue sticks the doctors use. He just about ate a bar of soap getting clean again.

Imagine my surprise when I was rousted from my sleep by a familiar voice coming from a familiar mohawked head that I could barely make out in what little light penetrated the motel room’s gloom. Sam settled onto the bed and kissed me as she finished securing my right wrist to the bedpost. I would have stopped her, but my left one was already tied as well.

I didn’t remember Sam being that stealthy, and I that’s with me in one of my more paranoid moods.

She grabbed my chin and pushed my head back against the pillow so I couldn’t see her as she leaned down. I gripped whatever straps she used to hold my arms out when her wet tongue trailed over my throat.

“Gonna be honest here, Sam, I didn’t think you were into this sort of thing with me.”

She giggled, still keeping me from seeing her. “Mm, tying you up and killing you? I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.”

Her nails dug into my skin even as what I had assumed was a tongue now gently flicked over my throat, drawing blood.

Not to sound like the History channel here, but my first assumption was aliens.

Unfortunately for Sam, whether some altered real one or alien copy, my nails were much stronger than hers. Blackened zirconium. They cut through the straps like they were all the tissues now being discarded by any bondage fetishist readers. Well, unless they’re into this sort of thing too.

I brought both fists right at her. One knocked into a much harder body than Sam should have while the other hit her on one of her elbows and forced her to give up some leverage. It was enough for me to angle my face toward her and fire off a stream from my laser eye. “Eat light amplification through stimulated emissions of radiation, bitch!”

It glanced through the side of her head as she rolled, using her grip to drag me to the floor. She tried to wrap herself around me, but I continued to roll and got her upper body off me. From the feeling of the spikes that dug into my waist from her legs, it was a good call, and it allowed me to carve off her head. I heard something splatter in the dark of night. The smell betrayed a lack of blood coming from her, as did the amount of spray from what should have been a cauterized wound.

Yep, alien.

I sat up and pushed, wrenching her off of me with a hell of a lot of pain borne of dragging spikes. I saw her get onto her hands and knees and forced myself to jump on her upper body, pushing her down. I raised up just before her back got as horny as her grasping legs had become, and grabbed her where women tend not to have any spikes: right between the legs.

With one hand in her ass crack and the other in her neck hole, I threw her against the side of the bed and tried to pin her there. She sliced the air back at me with hands that had somehow become blades. Whatever this body was, and I couldn’t see it too well, it wasn’t covered in skin.

“Ok,” I told the assassin as I held it against the bed by its ass. “We can either skip the killing and go right to the sex with a headless body, or…” A spray of black slammed into my face, almost forcing me to lose my grip. I avoided it by firing the eye laser again and keeping it on until the thing in front of me stopped. When it did, I grinned and told her, “Fine, we’ll do everything in order then.” I cackled as, mindful of the spikes, I grabbed the body’s feet and forced them apart.

Now, between all that noise, it was rather surprising no one had ran into to join me already, but I discovered when I bounced out the door of my room that they had noticed and were gathered around in confusion. The sight of me using a humanoid body like a pogo stick, with my foot jammed up its ass to push a vaguely gem-like core against the ground as I bounded, only made that confusion worse. And it didn’t help at all that said body was headless, with clear skin that showed black fluid inside.

After a couple good cracks on the parking lot, the core split and the whole body spasmed and died in my grip. My new toy broken, I settled back down with an “Aww.”

“What the fuck?” asked a nearby Sam and Holly simultaneously. Max yawned and approached behind them.

I helped myself off my impromptu ride and walked over, stealing a kiss from Sam. She slapped me, getting black gunk and blood on her hand, but I just told her, “They really did their research on their doppelganger.”

I laughed to myself as I walked back, ignoring the crowd around me and the sound of Sam spitting up and yelling, “Seriously, what the fuck?!”

At least, until I slipped on my own blood and fell, rather painfully reminded that the stitch in my sides wasn’t due to exertion so much as attempted execution. “Medic!”

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Mad Gex: Fury Rode 1

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Come Thursday, my merry cross country trip met with a bit of resistance when our lovely caravan made its way through a ghost town. Not an expression, either. There are still a few old Wild West towns out there with some restless spirits. They’re nice enough folks, if a bit backwards. This one guy kept wanting to feel me up outside the ruins of his old shop. I had to threaten to burn it down to get him to give up the ghost. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a threat in most of those old places, but they’re a bit of a tourist attraction, so they used some of the money to renovate. So he went from skulking around the ruins of his old, deteriorated ice cream shop to trying to grope me outside his fancy Howard Johnson’s.

Could have just grabbed my armor and energy-punched him to undeath, what with the way the energy can affect ghosts, but whatever. It got solved and we got enough gas. Like most tourist traps, it’s really becoming commercialized. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts a call center there or something.

The gas and the groping weren’t the problem, though. It was when someone shot the bottom half of the beer bottle while I was downing it. I looked over and found some rickety black bag of bones. Which sounds like a special operations skeleton instead of the old, goo-covered bones that had shot me. Somehow. Half the gun was lumpy rust, so I didn’t know how he managed that, though I figured out the hat with the hole in it had more to do with hiding the core.

The aliens’ latest attack really pissed me off. It’s not because I’m an alcoholic, or because they’re getting to me. No, what really pissed me off was that, of all the times for me to fight an undead gunfighter in a Wild West ghost town, it had to be this idiotic stopover. Not even a whole stay, with a horde of skeletons coming after me! Just some random alien-controlled undead gunslinger. How dare they steal that really cool experience from me?

So I lowered that broken beer bottle and spat out some of the glass and beer in my mouth. “Well, cowpoke, I hope you’re feelin’ frisky. ‘Cause I’m the quick, and you are so very much the dead.”

It ground its teeth, a molar falling out, then raised that old revolver again. It cocked the hammer back, at which point I saw some of that black goo slide down into the mechanism. When it fired, the goo shot out as fast as a bullet and winged my cheek.

While it reloaded and tried to go off fully-cocked, I ran to the side and threw the remaining bottle piece at its gun. It really didn’t do much, since it wasn’t all that heavy. The alien skeleton cowboy decided to move its nonexistent ass, trying to dodge to the side, but I was a bit faster. It’s a matter of stability and durability.

Most people in my situation would run directly at a gun-wielding assailant, but of the many differences between myself and most people, two were relevant in this situation. First, I’m smart enough not to charge in. I mean, I know some people try to claim that trained gunmen couldn’t effectively draw and fire on someone charging within twenty feet, but I’ve never known a trained gunman who didn’t appreciate the target sticking their face against the barrel. It makes aiming easier.

I even saw Lone Gunman pull that off. Some nut, maybe a grieving family member, ran at him and pulled a knife when he got close. The same amount of time it took him to pull a knife, Gunman had his pistol out and was firing into him point blank. Probably didn’t help that Gunman had a LOT more experience and muscle memory drawing a gun than the other guy had with a knife.

Oh, I got so into all that ranting that I never mentioned the second different thing about me. That would be the laser eye. Which I made use, sweeping it across the thing’s body while the skeleton stopped any pretense of needing to reload and starting putting holes in my holes. And I don’t mean I was shot in the vagina. That I still have due to my critical nanite shortage. But I gotta give the skeleton a hand for its courage under firing at me. Someone needed to, after I carved off its gun hand.

I expected it to fight to its death some more, but then a glowing forcefield covered the cowboy hat’s holes. Every bit of black goop pulled up into the hat, leaving the skeleton to fall the rest of the way apart while the hat hovered there, then began to fly off. Trying to zap it revealed the forcefield could deflect anything my eye could dish out without burning most of my face off.

I’ll admit, it was really cool, in a stupid and cheesy way. As much as I wanted to nab that hat, I also had a lot of blood to try and keep in my body. Standing there with my enemy fleeing in a far too intact state, I knew I was going to feel those shots in the morning. And with a pinky, given the size of the hole in my arm, my hip, my gut, and my chest. Luckily, it completely missed my boobs, and almost missed one of my lungs. Funny how you lose track of all those in the middle of a fight when the adrenaline kicks in.

See? Stupid aliens totally ruined my chance to have an epic fight with undead gunslingers all on their on. And I had to grab something from Max that he assured me would likely heal me. Given how he’s normally pretty good at throwing concoctions together, I could only assume it became iffy because healing wasn’t the primary goal of the bubbling liquid I poured into my gullet. If anyone’s wondering, it tasted like carbonated grape soda foam mixed with codeine.

Shortly after drinking it, I awoke to find myself being driven by Moai, with everyone else’s cars far to the rear. Sam was tracking Moai and I with binoculars, they were so far back. I think I saw her hand something to Holly, too. Either way, whatever Max gave me fixed what ailed me. At first, I thought it filled the holes in with some weird purple scabs that felt remarkably smooth, until I spotted them on my hands as well.

Yep, I’d been polka-dotted.

To get the bad taste out of my mouth, I screwed around with the radio until an appropriate song came on. In this case, “California Love,” by Tupac.

Not that it mattered to those our little trek had picked up. We aren’t exactly alone anymore. There’s this biker gang for starters, Satan’s Poolboys. Maybe all the good biker names were taken, though I suspect it has more to do with the message I saw on a pair of their jackets. The first, worn by a man whose handlebar mustache was big enough to have its own handlebar mustache, said,“I love to ride my Harley.”

The second, worn on a burly biker with covered in enough tattoos to shame a Yakuza, had on a jacket that read, “I’m Harley.”

Some of those flyers who had been following us from Los Angeles were hanging back still, but within sight. Probably still on the fence about joining up with us.

Then there were the Moonies. The Moonbats. It’s not an official name, but their bus had their website’s URL on the side, and I figured they deserved the name once I read it. I guess it’s not completely crazy for there to be a militant abductee support group, but no extraterrestrials Earth has ever encountered were as focused on the human anus as the ones they claimed to have met. The fact that real aliens are out there means people can’t completely dismiss those types, however.

They sped up to wave hello to me, many not practicing proper gun etiquette vis a vis where they pointed the things in relation to other people. They had a couple of supers with them, though. One guy had blades all on his skin. You know how there’s a generic spiny super in a lot of shows, movies, and comics? Like he’s just got spikes or quills sticking out? Imagine that, except with half-saucer blades that orient themselves along the skin. He was bound to be more useful than the lady holding onto the outside with her suction cup hands and feet. Not all powers can be winners, folks.

Even with all that help, something was missing. Parts of my body, for one thing. As easy as the skeleton was to take down, and as much as any of these folks could have done to it, I realized I needed more on hand. I didn’t have any explosives to speak of, no trusty laser potato peeler even.

Seeing an off road to a town coming up, called back to Max to lead the group while I made a pit stop for something more befitting my trip. It wouldn’t take long. I just needed two stores, and a hardware store was one of them.

When we caught back up to them half an hour later, Moai still drove. I stood on the rear of the car, past the back seats, with bungee cords holding me to the car by my belt loops. Our car blasted out “Careless Whisper” with me pretending to play along on my new saxophone until I got a break and angled the mouth of the sax up and to the side. With the press of a button, a gout of flame spewed into the air. It nearly hit one of the flyers who had been following us, making him regret catching up for a moment.

Got me nice applause from the Moonies, at least. I made sure to wave at them as I passed by, and called out, “May you ride eternal, shiny and chrome!”

The flyers were not to be the last of our recruits on this leg of the journey, either. I’d picked up one in that little town. All black skin, weird legs that curled under him like a clawed frog. He had little glowing teal spines sticking off his back and some points on his arms. They complemented his slitted red eyes and the trace amounts of luminescent teal on his curved horns and straight tail. Shadowcrawler, he called himself. Apparently a big fan of mine, or at least he had become one when I decided to fight the aliens.

But he wasn’t the only one to join up. The next day, after I forced Ethan Basford to give him a ride, we got a still more welcome sight.

Coming from an angle, a cargo plane adjusted course to match us, then came lower and lower, showing off the pilot’s impressive gonads and the golden claw symbol on the side. The rear of the plane opened as it dropped still lower and moved in front of us along the road, turning that highway into one hell of a no passing lane. One by one, three buggies dropped out of the back of the plane, moving aside with uncanny precision to not only stay up there ahead of us, but also to move aside in time so the next could exit. Then a car dropped out and the plane climbed.

They dropped back to us as a group, each of the buggies carrying six masked men in yellow, loose-fitting shirts with a black claw insignia on the front. Their masks had built in goggles that reflected the sunlight and hid their eyes. They looked ungainly at first, until someone in the lead car made a circle gesture in the air and they pulled off a part that revealed nose, mouth, and ear holes. Credit where credit is due; the Claw may be a vaguely racist stereotype Asian Pacific island supervillain dictator, but at least he cared about his minions’ comfort.

As I pulled up beside the lead car, I saw he sent more than just minions. A woman with metal teeth and segmented metal tail waved the scythe-like metal claw that replaced her right hand at me. She must have been a newer underling, or the Claw’s internet agents are just that damn good at censoring outside information.

She slapped the driver, another of the regular Claw minions, on the arm. He waved at me politely, but concentrated on his driving. In the backseat, though, were more. I recognized Podling, that being the nickname of this round stone carved with symbols and runes. Don’t let that fool y’all, though. When it comes time to fight, that thing floats around and does all kind of magic shit. And it sat right beside a Japanese mercenary named Senpai who had a fondness for knives and bondage that mixed interestingly with a voice capably of compelling people to do what he said. He blew me a kiss through the gag strapped to his face.

“Oh what a day,” I told Moai as I tuned up my new rocket sax before me and my allies had a chance to make the sweet music of battle. “What a glorious day!”

Meanwhile, in a diner a few miles outside of Kingscrow, Forcelight sat humming to herself with The Good Doctor and Lone Gunman eating dinner beside her. Doc focused on the TV, then on a tablet in front of him.

“Plotting something?” asked Gunman, gripping his fork a little tighter. Forcelight reached over and broke off the head of the fork, though that still didn’t solve the problem. It just left him with one jagged piece of metal instead of four smoother ones.

Doc looked up, eyes flicking briefly over the broken utensil before looking at the others. “In one definition of the word, I am. I am attempting to ascertain why these cities were picked and why only these cities. Surely they could accomplish their perceived goal better by dousing the entire planet at once, correct?”

Forcelight nodded at my command. “Sounds right.”

“Maybe they only have so much,” Gunman suggested. “They have to spread it out.”

Doc ran his hand through his hair, gripping a short-trimmed mane that had many more grays in it since he went to prison. Then again, the Earth currently has more grays on it than when he went to prison, too. “That is one idea. Infect a wider range of countries and in so doing make it impossible to isolate anyone. Note that Madagascar has already closed their borders, however. I don’t feel that is the full picture, but neither is my original theory that they must have limited supplies. If that was the case, why these targets? Political capitals are understandable, right? Empyreal City is a populous city as well, noteworthy for its superhumans. But Johannesburg? That is not a large city.”

“That still could support the containment theory,” I said through Forcelight, still controlling her like a puppet. I didn’t even have to stick my hand up her ass to work her mouth. Unfortunately. “Although…hey, has anyone actually seen ships passing by any of the other cities?”

“Other than Empyreal City,dear?” It was weird seeing Doc looking at me like that, though at least I knew it was because I was controlling his daughter’s nanite-enslaved body from afar. “No, as a matter of fact, they have not.”

Gunman sat up straighter as he thought through this little riddle. “They could be using airplanes instead, but someone should have noticed if they were.”

I, by which I mean Forcelight, frowned. “I think we have a mystery to solve before we meet up with the villains.”

“We should have plenty of time.” Gunman nodded.

Doc raised one finger before politely correcting him, “I checked, and it is technically only forty hours of straight driving time to get from Los Angeles to Empyreal City. If Psycho Gecko has enough people to drive constantly, it won’t take long at all.”

Huh. He was right, too. Might have to slow up a bit, both to help gather people along the way, and to give this group time to figure out the cloud thing. It’s an intriguing question, and suggestive of either weakness….or strength. Yes, dramatic dots, it’s that intriguing.

“We’ll have to hope he gets distracted,” Forcelight said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll decide to touch up Mt. Rushmore before fighting the aliens?”

Goal one: reach the city full of an alien army where they conveniently removed their shield in order to meet my challenge. Goal two: figure out why they haven’t yet gassed the entire planet into being their puppets. Before we get the fat lady warmed up to sing, I better look into how my Admiral Ackbar sense is acting up, because my mind can’t repel tingling of that magnitude.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 8

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“Busy bees, Gecko. Beijing, Empyreal City, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and almost Washington D.C. Captain Lightning earned his pardon.” Max punctuated each of the cities that suffered the alien chemical control rain by passing around drinks that had purple, blue, and green yellows with floating pineapples on top. I had no clue what they were, like much of what Max throws together, but I was willing to risk these. All things considered, what’s the worst they could do? The aliens are the ones supposed to kill me, so I’ll just worry about accepting fruity colored drinks from them. So Sam, Holly, Max, and I enjoyed our drinks toasting the loss of some fairly big cities, while Moai finished his almost-Washington drink. It wasn’t the same as the others. For one thing, it was on the rocks.

“Anybody else giving a damn and fighting back?” I asked, sipping on my fruity drink. I suppose I tend to focus on my own problems to the exclusion of the rest of the world, but I’m hardly unique there.

Max settled in across the table, between Holly and Sam, then nodded to me. “Yes, my dear.”

I raised an eyebrow, as did Holly and Sam. And Max, too, who said, “You wouldn’t react that way if I said it to a man Gecko.”

“He has a point,” I responded, shrugging. “And it’s good that I’m not the only sane person on earth.”

Max grinned. “The rioters in Russia would disagree with you taking that title for yourself.”

“Everyone would disagree with you calling yourself the only sane person,” muttered Holly.

She had a point. “It’s not my fault they keep handing it to me. But, as I’ve often thought, I’m not insane so much as just reacting to an insane world. Now, bottoms up. We’ve got some more reacting to do.” I took a big sip before setting my glass down on the table, right next to five signal interceptors.

I had a message I wanted heard, and for that I needed a lot of help all over the place. Like Forcelight. She hasn’t been taking her captivity well, though you’d never know it to look at her. It’s very distracting having to control her, too, but at least her company’s access to nanites kept her from breaking away. All I had to do was keep administering them to her while the old ones’ orders superseded the general reparative programming they’d been given to work on anyone. It all comes down to reading the DNA, which is likely going to cause a hell of a lot of trouble with some folks.

I know, I know. Tiny machines that read DNA? How is that even possible? What’s next, tiny machines that can take half a strand of DNA and use chemicals to create the complementary opposite side? Madness! Madness, sorcery, and biology.

Imperfect analogy aside, I’ve had to fly a fine line as Forcelight to keep The Good Doctor from suspecting I had taken over his daughter’s body. Well, ok, it was pretty easy to keep him from thinking that. All I had to do was not suggest that to him. Even if I acted strange, I could blame it on any number of things but that. Like when Forcelight flew back in after visiting a couple of local TV stations, then immediately turned on the TV in her living room. Good Doctor thought it odd, but he had enough to deal with between getting caught up on news, asking old friends for help, and riposting Lone Gunman’s barbs.

That trio in Kingscrow saw the same thing that could have been seen anywhere else in the country, from L.A. to D.C., from Empyreal City to Paradise City, from Kingscrow to Memphis, though those last two aren’t as far away as the others I mentioned.

And what they all saw was, apparently, a cheap motel bathroom as viewed from a small, round camera balanced on a towel rack. At least until I dropped the invisibility. “Hello out there, TV land. It’s time for Uncle Gecko’s Molestation Minute again. Ah, but that’s the sort of attitude that makes y’all try to turn the channels. Go ahead. Aha! See? Still here.”

Yeah, I kinda didn’t want anyone covering anything else.

“Now, right about now there’s a bunch of buildings spontaneously combusting all over the country because those Fluidic aliens up above are trying to take me out. They’re kinda scared of me like that, probably because I’m one of the few people who is actually doing anything about them. Though that probably explains any other mysterious explosions y’all might have noticed that got rid of xenophobic elements. Don’t try too hard, Fluidics.” I showed them why. The bathroom shifted and transformed into a view in front of Mt. Rushmore. Then in front of the White House. Then in front of a bunch of rampaging movie Indians from a Western, a stripping cop, Colin Mochrie of Whos Line Is It Anyway making funny faces, and finally settling on Times Square in Empyreal City.

They could attack wherever they wanted, but they’d destroy an awful lot of places before getting me.

“Listen, everybody knows what the aliens are doing. It’s mind control. Forget the crazy chemtrail stuff some people have been preaching, this is actual mind control. They stimulate the growth of an organ in the neck that gives them control over the human body. And they did that to the entirety of Empyreal City, which I know because I had been there. I got out of there, but I had been there. Saw it happen with my own two eyes.”

A familiar voice interrupted my feed, which I could see since I was both recording and watching at the same time. “Where’d they dig this copy up?” asked another Psycho Gecko, this one standing in front of a black and white atom bomb test. The world may not revolve around me, but I was starting to wish the Fluidics knew that. “I don’t know much about all this alien mess, but I know I wasn’t anywhere near Empyreal City after those jackass Starfleet wannabes almost tossed me in a hole and threw away the hole. Now stop cramping my style, copy.”

With that, my doppelganger pulled a screaming woman close, put one arm around her shoulders, and tore her head off with the other.

I let him keep broadcasting, instead doing a sort of side-by-side editing job that put us both on the air at once. “See? They’ve even been trying to copy me. Just ask the Master Academy about that one. But they used a suit full of one of the slimy black aliens to do so. Hey, fake Psycho Gecko, let’s see you do this!” I pulled off my helmet, revealing the face of Norma Mortenson, my secret identity, to the world.

“…you win this round,” grumbled the copy, before walking offscreen to the side. I cut off his interruption, all while reaching over and grabbing my camera off the towel rack. The view shifted as I set my cybernetic eye back in my socket.

“Here’s the rundown, folks: aliens are bad. I’m bad, too, but at least I don’t want to enslave everyone and destroy the Earth. And since all the heroes, all the alleged ‘good guys,’” and here I used finger quotes, “Aren’t doing shit, that just leaves me. And anyone who will help me. I may be a monster, but I’m a monster pointed in their direction. And someone’s got to do the right thing. Since everyone else on the list has shirked their responsibilities, it falls to me. So I’m announcing now that I’m about to leave the City of Angels and head straight for Empyreal City. When I get there, I’m taking back that city, the ship, everyone they’ve captured, and I’m going to destroy their fleet. I’m going to do it whether you’re on my side or not, but somebody’s got to do it. Now on to the announcement I have to direct at the aliens themselves: I’m coming for you.”

I cut it off there and donned my helmet again, strolling out of the motel where everyone waited. Max and his girls were taking their own car. Ethan Basford had brought along a vintage green Jaguar he would be riding in. Moai and I had a bright yellow convertible, the better for Moai to feel the wind on his face.

It was not exactly an impressive caravan.

It must have impressed someone, though. After a day on the road in which I’d swear we were being followed by human-sized flyers from afar, we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and saw my little message had gotten a response. The barrier came down. A figure approached suddenly to look into the cameras.

She’d changed quite a bit. Seemed like her cheeks were a bit thinner. Oh, and there was the way her eyes glowed through her visor and a metal implant showed through her cheek. It was Venus in her power armor, but it was her new overlords who spoke. “We will bring you peace, starting with this threat from the supervillain Psycho Gecko. Everyone, you are safe with our friends from the stars. They have done wonderful things here in Empyreal City. No crime, no pollution. It is the beginnings of a paradise.”

They forced her to smile. Those assholes. Made me so mad, even Forcelight frowned where she and her group were packing their things to head out to Empyreal City. The Kingscrow group got the idea from my broadcast and decided it would be better to head there first and see what they could do to take down the barrier. It was better than letting me get there and start deploying weapons of mass destruction. Or so Good Doctor and Lone Gunman thought.

“If Psycho Gecko hates us, it must be for good reason. We welcome his hatred. Let him come,” Venus finished before leaving the startled news team behind and leaping back over to the city.

“Shit’s crazy, right?” asked a man of indeterminate brownness who spent most of our time in the store eyeing the screen instead of us. Too bad for him we robbed the shit out of it. We even sent Basford around to suck the gas out of the clerk’s car with a hose. We could have paid for anything, but…why?

I brushed aside a Slim Jim that slightly obstructed the view on the tiny TV set, glaring at the screen as the station replayed images of Venus and long-distance shots of Empyreal City as it looked now. The people and cars didn’t move right. It was too organized.

I reached out and touched the flat image of Venus as she talked. I thought back to the odd bodies of the extraterrestrials: black goo surrounding a brittle core. I didn’t know much about them, even the basics of how they sense things or eat. “Do they defecate, Venus?”

I narrowed my eyes as she leaped away in replay, then growled, “They will.”

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 7

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“You know, what’s really interesting is that the weakening of the dimensional…uh…fabric? Maybe? I guess the dimension bomb does, in its own way, create a localized weakening in the fabric of the universe. I’d have to wonder what that means about the laws of physics, though I suppose the least information transmitted through in any given place, the better. I mean, this could be pretty damn disastrous if we’re going big enough…hopefully a space fleet isn’t within that threshold, but it also creates the possibility that a weaker spot could let more things through. Hell, I wonder if we could make some sort of wormhole-like network…” I finished my little talk as I readjusted the D-Bomb. I didn’t leave it fully functional, of course. Then all the aliens would need to do is turn it on with me around and problem solved.

Moai interrupted my reverie by dropping the holodisc in front of me on the table. I looked up at him, raising an eyebrow, then over at my armor. Max walked around that table, looking over the armor, especially a hole just under the main chest armor. “Impressively done. It’s hard to tell it almost melted you.”

I grabbed the disc and rolled my chair from the bomb table to the other. “The nanite quilt layer is shot, and a hell of a lot of the hologram system went up in smoke.” I began to install the holodisc in that hole. It didn’t take that long at all as a finishing touch, though an imperfect one. When I finally set down the screwdriver, Moai nudged my shoulder from behind. “Don’t remind me. I can’t believe it’s time. I’d rather it not be time.”

“You need to do it,” Max said.

“Yeah, stop being a pussy,” Sam added. “There are people saying Beijing was just covered by something not made of smog and pollution for once.”

“Aww,” I whined, totally not being a pussy, “but I still have to finish hiring the cropdusters for the thing…”

“Meow,” Holly said. Sam looked at her. Holly looked back and said, “Pussy, alright?”

But I’d much rather have gone back to Hephaestus or fought off another Fluidic assassin
than go to visit the original Master Academy campus with my hands out. Odd how that works out. There’s no reason to be worried about them, even. Could be I’ve got some sort of psychological hangup left over from the events in Empyreal City. Why couldn’t it be something simple to deal with, like wanting to fuck my own mother?

Well, I put on my lightly-refurbished armor and set out for Master Academy with Moai backing me up. Max said he’d be ready to help, but he also stayed at the hotel, so he was more useful in case I got into some sort of extended situation, like if I took hostages, got into a high-speed chase with cops, or had to bake a turkey.

The similarity of baking a turkey to dealing with heroes is all in how you reach in and pull out the giblets, I should note.

They were not happy to see me there, but I wasn’t that happy to see me there either. That is, the copycat armor that looked an awful lot like mine except for these twin plasma cannons held in each hand. I could tell they were plasma cannons from the way they fired bursts of plasma at the building, blowing walls apart as they superheated.

A human tank ran out to greet the copy. That is, a large and rotund fellow with the body shape of a weightlifter grabbed a section of the multi-colored brick wall and carried it in front of him like a shield as he hurried to greet my double with such enthusiasm. The first shot blew the wall apart. The second scorched a hole in the man’s shoulder. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth got him in the eyes until his brain popped out with an audible sizzle. At least the copy got some details correct.

But, if there’s any good lesson to take away from Ethan Basford’s double-edged gift of truth, it’s that I hate myself. That, and my distinct desire not to lose to what I surely felt to be a Fluidic plot, propelled me to action. I jumped, invisible to naked and clothed eyes alike. Power flowed from the hidden core inside me to my gloves, that concentrated them in wiring that wrapped around the outside and projected a field of high energy a short distance from my forearms and fists. My first blow struck the imposter in the head, denting the helmet in a way that would be fatal to most at least for what it meant happened to the head inside. Though the neck snapped to the side, I noticed the head seemed to flop in that direction before gliding back into place quite fluidly.

That was, however, merely the first hit by my lovely right hand. Even as my doppelganger whirled to try and cannon-whip me, I brought my left up in an uppercut aimed at the other me’s jaw. His helmet popped off, spewing black fluid like I’d just struck oil for a second. I decided to stop admiring the gusher and jumped up, aiming to bring my arm down on the double’s neck hole.

The alien had other plans. It formed up its body enough to grab me around the waist and instead pull me down toward the suit’s arms. It dropped the cannon in its left arm. From the forearm popped out a nasty surprise of its own: a blade with edges that glowed white hot. Something told me this wasn’t exactly standard-Earth-issue. I also began to hope that it went for the chest instead of my less-armored crotch, despite the fact that I had not yet gone through with giving myself balls again. It’s a very male instinct, for those of my readers who sport a perky pair of X chromosomes on your chest instead of a dangly Y between the legs.

I was saved by the timely intervention of rock n’roll. Moai struck the alien like The Dude picking up a spare, forcing the alien to drop me as it went under my sidewinding sidekick. I landed on my knees next to it in a puddle, conjuring up John Goodman screaming “You went over the line!” Because they had certainly crossed quite a line this time, those Fluidics. The image of a squeezed container of toothpaste came to mind, except the armor was still mostly unbent, so I worked my arm into the neck hole and felt around a bit.

The alien’s core tried to elude me while it regained its senses. “Come on,” I grunted while reaching deep down into the double of my armor while Moai approached me from behind, “I’ve got to grab the ball.”

I ignored some polite coughing from behind Moai and pulled, wrenching a green, clear, multi-faceted stone from within the armor. I tossed black-stained grass next to Moai, where it began to attract the fallen fluid to itself. I jumped up, grabbing hold of my minion’s head. “Come on, big guy, let’s give it the stamp of disapproval.”

As if I dragged Moai down, he fell sideways onto the core and crushed it before it could pull itself together. Moai righted himself immediately, setting me back on my feet and allowing us both to get a look at whoever had settled in behind him to enjoy the fight without joining in.

This turned out to be a small crowd; one adult who ushered a small group of teens and kids back toward the buildings and two other adults who looked over Moai, me, and the situation itself to figure out what threat, if any, we posed.

I grabbed the suit of my doppelganger and raised it above my head. “I know this usually the aliens’ line, but we come in peace. Take me to your leader.”

In a way, the copycat worked out for me. The attempted framing by the Fluidics convinced the remnants of Master Academy that my intentions were good, or at least hostile toward the right people, though they didn’t have many warm bodies to throw into my meat grinder. That got me an audience with a man wide enough to have trouble with some doors, named Broadside who had a knack for creating blasts of varying concussive force from his hands. The problem, as he explained it to me, is that most of the senior staff had already gone to Empyreal City. “I didn’t go because I caught the flu. We have a few more good folks here, but I’m not putting them teens in harms way, unnerstand?”

I nodded enthusiastically, but told him, “Nope. Not one bit. Because I’m pretty sure the Fluidics aren’t going to spare them. In fact, if Empyreal City is anything to go by, they’re going to make a pretty big effort to nab them especially. So they can either go down fighting, or go down doing nothing. No, wait, better turn of phrase: they can go down sucking.” His raised eyebrow made me reconsider the statement, “Hmm, yes, a bit much on the innuendo for teens. Either way, those boys and girls out there are going down. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Hell, some of them probably have already. But you can’t protect them forever. It’d be better for them to be forewarned, forearmed, and capable of their own protection, than just trying to get them to abstain from the inevitable.”

“We have sex education covered, Psycho Gecko. This is a battle. You don’t understand that we don’t just use powers for fighting. They aren’t all heroes out there. Some of them are businessmen, teachers, bankers, homemakers, chefs, even barbers. They can be anything they want to be, even if they have powers. Would you ask a barber to grab his razor and help you fight the aliens?”

I projected a straight razor into my gloved hand. “Why yes, actually. If the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was around, I’d proudly call on Sweeney Todd myself to march beside me. Because they are after everybody. This is something I understand, ya see. There are no civilians on this planet anymore, because that is precisely their goal. We are all bodies they can mold, arm, and send to die for them. The only way to stop from being mindlessly being slaughtered by aliens is to try and mindlessly slaughter the aliens first. It’s a moral imperative.”

Broadside sighed. “There’s nothing about this moral, and you can check any book you want about that.”

I held my hand up like a ham reciting Shakespeare, “’Happy is he who taketh thy little ones and dasheth them against the rocks.’ That’s right there in the Bible. Now come on, Broadside. I need your little ones. Help me dasheth them against some alien head, Broadside. What do you say?”

That’s how I got turned down for help from Master Academy. The only thing I got from them was some spare armor parts. Instead of offering baby bashing, I should have offered some babes. This shit would have worked if I brought seventy-two virgins to the offering table, I’m sure.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 5

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“What puzzles me is that if their dispersal technique is that effective, why is the barrier still up?” asked The Good Doctor. Lone Gunman eyed him suspiciously, but by this point that was pretty much his default assumption around my villainous friend. The fact that Doc turned himself in out of some bizarre desire for penance didn’t seem to matter to him. He still acts like Doc is just a criminal. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Doc is a confused criminal. A very confused criminal.

Then again, he had a point about the barrier thing. It crossed my mind from time to time as well. These…fuck it, I’m just calling them Fluidics from now on…these Fluidics pretty much won in there. Most, if not all, the city were converted. The heroes were going to get their asses stomped in that last battle I ran out on, too. I think the Buzzkills I ordered to hide would also be dead by now if they’d been found and besieged.

As Forcelight, I chowed down on some cereal, looking between the two. The old Good Doctor would be more than capable of stopping Lone Gunman if he tried something. This version…I have my doubts. For one thing, he didn’t like his costume anymore. What kind of a person doesn’t like a black leather coat semi-reminiscent of plague doctors? Though I heard their stuff was more like oilcloth. He even had this nifty helmet that matched. It was nice, a costume any murderer would be proud to stalk people in.

Compare that to the rampant use of tights on women as stacked as Forcelight and her glorious rack. There’s a different sort of pride being shown off there. I very much enjoyed having her assets, though. The contact information for the superheroes, too. Every member of that old super group Shieldwall who wasn’t dead or retired, for example. It saved me a lot of time, because I’d been considering stopping by Memphis to collect Honky Tonk Hero and Gorilla Awesome.

I wanted to gather as many heroes and villains as I could, but the problem was just as bad as when I tried it just in Empyreal City, except this time I didn’t have a pair of social networks making it easier on me. Forcelight’s got some pull, and even Max could walk into a place and get someone on his side, but I’m usually just tolerated until someone needs something from me.

That’s why no one is returning my calls. I don’t have a lot of contacts in the supervillain community these days anyway, and even that fox guy from Empyreal City hasn’t bothered getting back with me. If I could spare the nanites, I’d just grab the whole lot of them. I might have Max come up with something to influence people instead.

Or, better yet, I’m headed to Los Angeles. I figure The Trust still owes me. The Trust is this group, an extended family or bunch of families, who pretty much sold their souls for great magical power under the regime of whatever supernatural overlords they’ll eventually be able to unleash on Earth, except they’re more like the family from Arrested Development than the one from The Godfather. I worked with them some. This guy, Ethan Basford, is one of their patriarchs. As payment for saving his ass, he sent me a magic truth potion. He owes me for that one, too, since Venus turned it around and used it to learn some things from me that I’d rather not have told anyone. Whether he thinks he owes me for that happening doesn’t matter. I’m the one with the mean attitude and the knowledge of exactly how to choke a man with his own testicles.

The secret is tearing them at the base, so they don’t deform.

Much as I hate to say it, I should also stop by the Master Academy. If anyone over there had been let in on me taking refuge with the Eastern Campus, maybe I’ll find allies there. Or at least let them know that their friends are all caught in Empyreal City. I don’t have high hopes for them.

So while I’m heading to L.A., and while Forcelight is calling up her old friends, I’ve found I do have a few people looking to contact me. CIA, FBI, DIA, NGA, MSS, GRU, DIH, MOIS, the other DIA, BND, DGSE, DPSD, MI6, MI5, MI-Done yet?, and Mossad. See what happens? You give one or two spies your card, and soon everybody has your number.

It makes a certain amount of sense, actually. Who wants to spy on a regular person on the street? All you’ll find on their computer is some porn and maybe the occasional web serial. But if you manage to look at a spy’s computer, you’ll get all kinds of juicy information. And the good porn, too. The stuff the Slavic countries keep to themselves instead of exporting to the United States.

At least all those agencies gave me a place to start as far as recommending that the aliens be taken as major threats, but I ignored them in favor of checking on a message from one of the few groups that hasn’t treated me like a child or tried to screw me over. Both of which, I believe, are intrinsically linked. Of course, I mean the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF. They’re not even the Vatican’s intelligence agency, either. Yeah, the Vatican has their own intelligence agency. But as the office originally created as the Inquisition, they have occasionally made use of my talents. Father Poffo, my handler there, was itching to know about the extraterrestrial.

See, that’s really bad news for the Christianity in general. Not because of the idea that life on other worlds could prove their religion wrong. That’s not much of a concern except for some of the crazier sects. But it probably really pisses off any of them that holds to that Original Sin business, since aliens were never in the Garden of Eden and seduced by a serpent into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Long story short, aliens get to go to heaven without Jesus, because they aren’t born sinners.

Like I said, pisses theologians right the fuck off, so I naturally assumed that Father Poffo wanted some dirt on the Fluidics. He’ll run to the Pope and the Pope can tattle to Yahweh.

So here’s how things broke down: Forcelight made her calls, inviting heroes like Black Raptor and Raggedy Man to either come up and help with Empyreal City, or maybe send some friends who could help out. Moai took a car of his own to go crash The Trust and bring Ethan Basford to me for a chat. Moai’s a really good choice for that considering Ethan’s preference for hanging out with vampires. I sat with Max while Holly and Sam went shopping along Rodeo drive. It was more Holly’s suggestion, but Sam sacrificed her time and energy like many a good friend would. And I waited on hold as I tried to get through the Vatican’s phone lines to contact Father Poffo. Their hold music is some excellent Gregorian chanting, by the way.

“Ya know,” I said to Max while trying to pass the time, him sitting across both backseats and me hanging out in the front. “I kinda miss my dong.” A pair of guys passing by immediately turned away and hurried faster.

“You don’t like being a woman? It seems like a stunt you would enjoy to mess with people.” He laid back, looking into the sky with eyes safely shielded by shades.

I shrugged. “Some parts of it are fun, but it’s not really a stunt. My body…well, that’s not really me, no matter what. I am the armor. This,” and here I gestured to my body, despite him not looking, “Is just what I look like when I don’t want people to realize I’m me. It only stands to reason that if I can be a bunch of different-looking men, I can also be women.”

Max looked over, “You like being a lesbian, don’t you?”

“Actually, that’s the part where I wish I had my boner back. And I like some of the curves, too. The hips, the boobs, the painted nails. That’s the problem, too. I had to make some adjustments to my armor to account for some body shape differences, and I can’t fix that as easily.” Meanwhile, over at the Vatican, I had left the Gregorian chanting behind when I got transferred from International Collections to the Complaints Department. I think I got some of my Latin wrong and they misunderstood, but I got to listen to an organ-only version of O Fortuna, so that was awesome.

“Have you tried keeping your boobs and growing a dick?” asked Max.

I brought my hands together, fingers steepling like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, “That’s certainly an interesting idea. Yes, maybe…hmm. Ok, maybe I’ll just grow a dick.” I turned to a pair of people who had walked beside us awfully slowly, “Ya hear that?! I’m gonna have my own penis!”

They hurried away, but a man across the street yelled out, “You preach it, sister!” before sauntering off with the guy he was with.

Complaints transferred me to the Heresy Hotline, so I was getting close. Once again, the hold music changed. The Heresy Hotline must not get a lot of callers. That’s the easiest way to explain why their music was AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. Fitting, I’ll give them that. After a second, it wrung through. “Oooh, yeah, this is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Poffo speaking.”

“Hold all thoughts, I have to take this call,” I told Max. To Poffo, I said, “Greetings, padre. Been awhile. It’s God, but you can call me Psycho Gecko for the purposes of this call.”

“I must ask that you do not take the lord’s name in vain, my son.”

“Jesus Christ, will you lighten up? Besides, his name is Yahweh. And this is the Heresy Hotline. It’s your cover to hear this.”

“Uh huh. We don’t normally communicate this way and it’s justifiably putting me in a position I don’t want to be in.”

“Aww, but you wanted to hear from me about the aliens.”

“Oh yeah, my son. Let’s talk.”

I filled him in on the key points of our extraterrestrial visitors: hostile aliens who are using advanced technology to grow mind controlling organs so they can use all of Earth as their own army in some galactic civil war taking place far, far away. Do not accept their medical treatment, and stay away from rain and fog. Most damningly, I informed him, they had some major issues with the concept of transubstantiation, so he better send some missionaries.

“I will keep that in mind, my son. Have you uncovered any physical weaknesses to go along with the spiritual?”

“They’re fluid, but seem to have some sort of solid core that floats around in the fluid. I don’t know if they need some sort of suit to maintain a useful form. In fact, I had one try to choke me out after I tore a hole in its suit. But breaking that core seems to kill them. And I’d really appreciate it if you’re able to send any Catholic supers to help me deal with these guys if I put out the call.”

“Father Church will always remain vigilant against the forces of the Great Adversary, my son. Have faith.”

“Why Father, of course I have faith. She’s tied up in the trunk. I’m thinking about nabbing Grace and Charity while I’m at it. Not sure about Chastity, though. I hear she doesn’t put out.”

“Is there anything else you need, my son?”

“I’m a little hungry. Got a van of candy around?”

And suddenly I’d been hung up on. How rude. The arrival of Holly and Sam was most convenient, though, especially as I got a text from Moai inviting me down to a spot called The Vampire Club. While I’d likely fit in with my fangs, I decided to go in my armor, and without my escort. I didn’t want to stick around just because Max and Sam liked the atmosphere.

Well the sun was high and the color of piss when I chose to visit a spot with a name like this. A lot of them were clearing out under wide brim hats, umbrellas, and so on. I guess fangs had been flying, capes were torn, and a lot of vampires were left scorned. I could see wigs were pulled and top hats were crushed; those pointy boots were in a rush. As I stepped in, a scruffy put-upon bartender slid a beer over to a bald-headed nosferatu who smiled and said, “Thanks for the Bud.”

It wasn’t beer, either. Not that color and thickness. I guess somewhere out there is a bottling plant that hires a lot of people named Bud as blood donors.

In the middle of the room, Moai stood guard over Ethan Basford. An older, thicker, balding man, Ethan managed to look out of place even in the rather diverse crowd I’d spotted around this club so far. Maybe it was the lack of pallor, but you could just tell he wasn’t one of the other undead around. Plus, he had a broken leg. That set him apart.

“Well hello there, Ethan. Nice to meet you. No, no, don’t stand up. I’ll sit.” I helped myself to a chair across from him. He kept wincing and held onto his leg where part of the bone strained against his skin. I pointed to it, “You’ll want to put a bandaid on that, ya know. So, since you don’t even have an option of running away, I suppose I’ll get around to what I want to talk to you about.”

“You know you could have set up a meeting. We parted on good terms, right?” he asked, hissing through the pain.

I shrugged. “Eh, think of it as a little bit of payback for how your little ‘gift’ got used against me.”

He leaned away from me. Maybe he didn’t know for sure, but I figured he had a pretty good guess that sending “three drops of truth” to a supervillain like me would inevitably be used against me.

“Now, Ethan, I don’t want to kill you if I can help it, but I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. I’ve got these guys who don’t like me. Maybe you’ve heard of them; they’re an entire fucking alien fleet parked in Earth orbit. They are obviously quite advanced scientifically in comparison. Now, any sufficiently advanced technology is pretty much just magic to the ignorant, but not everyone realizes how sufficiently advanced magic is a pain in the ass to the scientifically literate. You follow me?”

“You want magic help against the aliens or you’ll kill me,” he reached out and grabbed a glass of some amber liquid, downing it quickly. I’m surprised he held off that long, actually. Alcohol’s use as anesthetic is well known, just like alcohol’s use as a social lubricant, incendiary device, and as the lead writer of numerous reality shows, including Cops.

“Yeah. And you know there are others in your Trust that’d give me what I want for that. The aliens aren’t going to let any of you bring about Hell on their Earth, but I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on your friends from the other side. If you need to know one thing, know this: I am going to annihilate them. This planet ain’t big enough for me and the aliens. So you can help me try and wipe them out…or you can help me go commit suicide. Or I kill you and someone else in your Trust helps me out.”

He held out his hand.

I looked at it, “You’re willing to shake on it?”

“No. I mean, I’ll do it, but could you get me another beer?” he squeezed the air with his hand as if hoping for a glass to fill it.

I smiled under my helmet and raised a hand up. “You heard the man, barkeep! Let’s get some human alcohol over here, and make it strong. The guy’s got a bum leg, so he needs something that could send a bum to bed.”

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