Tag Archives: Magic Moai

Star Gex: Fist Contact 4

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There’s nothing quite like a nice, relaxing ride through the countryside with a couple of people who have no choice but to listen to you. That’s probably why Holly and Sam cranked the music so loud for an hour. It might have been tolerable, but they were rocking out to some pop station. I can understand a nice love song, too, but is it so hard to shred a guitar and yell while doing so?

At least one or two were enjoyable. I know I made some comments about Bruno Mars during the Superbowl one year, but at least you don’t have to claw out your own ear drums to survive his songs. Finally they turned it off, leaving us in silence as we rode along a surprisingly empty highway, even passing some lone gas station. They wouldn’t stop off there, though. “Mind if we stop, fellow females? I need to drain the ol’ mole hole.”

Even with them being rude toward me, this whole trip wouldn’t be much to recount on its own. Not the time we passed the bathroom break by. And now the time we passed the next one by. And the third time, still with no music, when I realized that they really liked that gas station company. Didn’t even have any others within forty-five minutes of each other, and the landscape seemed awfully similar. Hell, I even timed it out for the next one. Forty-five minutes later, on the dot, we passed by the same type of station, even with the same sort of bush out by the road.

“Glitch in the Matrix…” I muttered.

“That’s a bad sign, right?” asked Holly from the passenger seat, finally including me in their conversation. I hadn’t really been listening to them, something about TV shows. Sam glanced at her, probably to tell her that engaging me in conversation was a bad idea, though they really should have been bothered by what I’d been doing instead of talking to either of them, Moai, or just myself. Like I was lost in thought.

“Yeah,” I told her. “In the movie, at least, they said that when someone experienced deja vu, because it was caused by localized changes. In that case, changes made to trap them. With all y’all’s chatting up there, has anyone noticed that everything keeps looking the same?”

“I didn’t want to say anything at first,” said Sam from behind the wheel. “But we should have stopped for gas. The gas gauge isn’t going down.”

“It’s not going down? Crap, it’s become like Holly,” I noted. When Holly raised an eyebrow, I continued with, “Sam’s been going all this time and not once have you offered any road head. Grass, gas, or ass, baby. Which one are you providing?”

Sam eased the car over to the side of the road. “Like you’re any better.”

“Sure, sure, whine about me and Moai not doing our part.” I reached out and patted Moai next to me.”

Sam turned back to me. “What are you talking about with Moai? He’s covered.” She nodded toward him.

I turned to see what she meant and found Moai looking like Bob Ross as imagined by Willie Nelson. That is, he wore an afro and beard made of marijuana. I don’t even know where he got it, or how long he’d been holding. I wasn’t even sure I paid him, actually. And what would he use it for, anyway? If anything, I figured he’d smoke rock, not blunts.

“So, we’re finally ready for a bathroom break?” I asked, indicating the desert scrubland. “Or are we possibly going to go on a little hike? I hear there’s this pleasant little desert community called Night Vale. We could stop by for a slice of their pizza, if you don’t mind that they no longer use wheat or wheat by-products. Whatever those are.”

“Driving forward isn’t doing anything. Let’s try going back.” Sam made a 180 and headed back. “I know that’s what everyone does in this situation, but we have to try.”

When we got to the gas station again, I sat up and got my feet under me. I’d really prefer not to piss where I have to sit for several hours, especially in some sort of weird spacetime distortion. I mean, come on. Then I’d have to sit in it even longer. And one of the disadvantages of no longer having a penis is an inability to pee out of a moving vehicle safely. Though I did consider hanging over the side or back and just letting all my problems disappear along the asphalt.

I was just about to jump, too, when I heard “Fuck it,” from the front seat just before Sam put on the brakes. Luckily, I landed on the dash, and there weren’t any other cars to risk crashing into anyway. Neither of Max’s helpers seemed all that surprised. Sam just told me, “Go on, you first.”

Now, I’ve often heard the cliche that men just want to see women in the bathroom, and I am notably…well…myself, no matter what physical sex I am. So some might be surprised that I didn’t insist on them joining me. Really, that’s because I don’t find anything arousing about watching someone urinate or defecate. I do know there are some people for whom that’s a turn-on. Apparently a lot of people, to hear about the cliche of men wanting to go into women’s bathrooms. However, I am not one of them. It doesn’t mean I hate anyone who does. I mean, I already hate most people anyway, but I don’t hate them for that.

So I made my way over to the building. It didn’t look brand new or anything, but the doors opened and the lights were on. There wasn’t anybody at the register, and considering the strange events I immediately figured this was all a trap. And I was right, too. I made it out of sight of the others when everything went black. Just a wave of darkness surrounding me, except for an extremely bright light from above. I raised my fist to the light and said, “Aha! God, I presume? Well, if you’re here to kill me, you’re gonna have to put up a fight!”

I didn’t actually expect a deity to show up. Instead, I got my arms immediately grabbed by thin cables that pulled me up into the sky to meet what looked like a tiny flying saucer, at least before it tried to close up on my head and eat me. Well, my nails were fairly useless, since they weren’t digging into the metal cables that held onto my arms. And my fangs would have been fairly useless against it, too. I hadn’t reloaded them with nanites. I didn’t have many nanites to spare, ya see, and I had used most of them up on Forcelight. Have to conserve them.

With my head held close to its body, the now-flower-like unidentified flying object sported more cables that that tried to wrap around my neck. Well, shit. Whatever this thing was, I figured it was alien, but they basically sent a really advanced whipping boy at me. And it might have worked. I wasn’t able to bond with this thing. But I didn’t have to.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It happens. Heck, I’m pretty sure I can’t blame all of them on the influence of alien malware. After all, it’s not like they used my credit card to buy stuff when they had the chance. But I’ve still made a lot of stupid mistakes, so it was nice this time to remember that I have a fucking laser eye! I cranked that bad boy up and carved through the cables around my throat and arms. The thing dropped me, but I kept my eyes on the prize. And it was my prize. It gave me a nice, warm feeling to see that thing’s metal cover melt partially open.

Suddenly, I was back in the gas station, except it was a rather old and rundown. Clearly not open. The doors were propped open as well. The split second I used to take all that in, the flying saucer used to try and smash into me. It dove and caught my ankle when I tried to dodge at the last second. Split seconds and last seconds aside, that still gave me another second to stare it down, which is a bad thing to let someone with a laser eye do. It responded by flying into my torso to carry me against the wall behind me. It straightened its edge into the saucer-look again as well, but I still pushed off to the side. That’s the problem with round shapes, folks.

Well, it did crash into the wall, and I set to work carving into it even more. It seemed to accommodate me by turning upward, spilling little bits of black fluid along it, but it took the opportunity to fly right through the ceiling. The fluidic alien assassin saucer escaped, slightly damaged, but entirely able to come at me again, bro. Unfortunately, with the bathrooms shut down and my enemy not dead before me, I had to find a new spot to pee.

The rest of our trip out to Lake Tahoe went by slowly, but without anymore such incidents. I explained to the girls about my close encounter of the hostile kind, and they shared with me that something weird happened and they found themselves turned the other direction on the side of the road right about the time they saw the flying saucer smash its way through the roof like a model drone Avrocar. We collectively agreed that it had somehow warped our perceptions until it could get me alone to kill me. We were all pretty sure that killing me was its goal. I had evidence, but I think Holly and Sam were working off wishful thinking.

Finally, we reached our destination: a cowboy-themed lodge called Tahoedown. The place was packed, and it seemed like there were a lot of other cars, camper trailers, and so on about. Lots of prayer circles, too, which made me look back to the cars and see a higher-than-average number of religious bumper stickers. This should be an interesting stop.

We ignored all that and went inside, Moai trailing behind me with my bags while Sam and Holly led us to the suite Max had rented. Max rushed all Sam and Holly with a hug as soon as they walked in, then looked at me. “Who are you?”

“Did I not tell you I had a boob job, Max? It’s me, Gecko.” I struck a pose to show off.

“You will have to give me the name of your surgeon for my brother. It’s great to see you again!” My pale-skinned supervillain colleague hugged me, having always been one of the few to be all that affectionate with me. At least he hadn’t changed much. He had black hair, but with a streak of red in it. Still wore the same maroon coat and one of those old-fashioned white goth shirts underneath. The white ones with the puffy sleeves. I think he once invented some sort of perfect laundry detergent that keeps his clothes fresh no matter how many years he wears them. How is that villainous? Think about all the money it’s costing people in clothes and inferior detergents, for one. Plus, I think he’s extorting the detergent companies.

Evil wears many faces, but at least it doesn’t have to worry about its colors fading.

Max also welcomed Moai with a big hug, then turned toward this big window that showed a prominent stretch of the lake. The water looked amazingly clear closer to us, and almost cartoonishly blue the further it went until reaching the opposite side’s pines and mountains. Yeah, I could see why people liked this place, even if water attractions don’t really appeal to me when the temperature is fifty Fahrenheit. “You took longer than I expected, but you’re still in time!”

“What’s the plan, Max?” I peered out, noticing that a rather lot of the religious tourists were heading toward the shore of the lake.

“These people are making a pilgrimage,” he answered.

Sam spoke up then. “Cole Osmium, you know, the preacher? He has one of those megachurches that meets in a stadium. Someone asked him on a TV interview what he thought of the aliens and he claimed it was a sign of the apocalypse. Then he made this big sermon about the end of days and the need to re-anoint Christ’s flock and show their devotion to the Lord.”

“With a big check and a show of religious faith,” Holly added. “Mass baptism at Lake Tahoe. I bet that’s him.”

She referred to the shiny new helicopter that came into view from the east. “Didn’t we see that thing at the Vegas airport?” I asked Moai. He shrugged. The chopper lowered itself onto a flat part of the shore. A man in a white suit stepped out, his smile improbably wide and shiny. Behind him followed a couple of others who carried a camera and a light; the better to film him.

The sound of beeping distracted me for awhile. Turned out Max had made popcorn. We got a few more snacks together while waiting on the festivities, whatever they were. “So you didn’t answer before. What’s the plan?” I asked, helping myself to a handful of popcorn out of a big bowl.

“They are going to get exactly what they want,” Max said with a smile.

And they did.

Osmium didn’t waste any time once he had things set up. I’ll give him credit, he at least didn’t shy away from walking balls-deep into cold water in a nice suit. His first guest was a perky teenager, whose dip under the water proved that she was quite perky indeed.

“Max,” I commented, “You hound. I didn’t think this was all about studying the effects of cold water on women’s shirts and nipples.”

He didn’t answer, and he didn’t have to. Less than ten seconds after submerging herself in the waters, the girl began to float up into the air, the clothes falling off of her. A collective gasp arose from the crowd. It was followed by murmuring as Pastor Osmium’s legs also floated up, dumping him into the water briefly before he also wound up a nude floating man. The remaining faithful made a rush to get into the water then, to the point where a few fights broke out over people getting in other people’s way. Soon, they turned into a reverse waterfall of men, women, and children, all nude, all drifting up into the atmosphere.

And, I noticed, not a one of them stopped to think about what would happen once they hit the edge of said atmosphere. And while I lamented the loss of potential cannon fodder, I did have to join in on laughing with Max in pure rapture. Besides, with mad chemistry skills like that, I might have found the perfect way to stealthily deliver a bomb to the heart of this Fluidic alien fleet.

Some look to a god for deliverance. I look to superscience.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 3

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In Kingscrow, Forcelight had been busy. After enlisting the help of The Good Doctor, her father and my old ally, I used her influence and money to arrange a furlough for him to engage in super duties. I had the help of her Board of Directors, too, since I still maintained remote access to their corporate accounts and made sure I was blind carbon copied on the various emails about the nanite projects.

Interesting stuff, there. Their little human trials were a bit more extensive than the news reported on, on prisoners in addition to legal test subjects, then with military trials. A hell of a lot of military trials, too. Oh, and they stockpiled a huge amount this entire time because of expected high demand. That’s actually some awesome news. They wanted to make damn sure they had enough of this crap, even for sale in other countries. They had some in clinics all over the world, from China and India to Germany and the UK. Isla Tropica didn’t have any coming their way, but Argentina and Brazil are looking at getting some better healthcare.

I know some of those countries have universal healthcare, but the wealthy can afford better care wherever they go. That universal stuff is just about the average folk. Let them make their own nanites. With blackjack. And hookers!

That information is all quite awesome for me, since I needed huge numbers of these things, and since they’ve all been working off a copy of programming I corrupted long ago.

It was nice getting all caught up on that, all while directing Forcelight like a slightly clumsier second body. They flying was cool, too. Flying is one of those powers that makes someone feel really superhuman. It’s pretty damn cool to lift a car with your hands as easily as you would a beer can, or take a gunshot like someone threw a pebble at you, but those things are still comparable to natural human abilities. After all, that’s why the analogies work as far as lifting beer cans and making people throw pebbles at you. But flying doesn’t really have an analogy like that. It’s like jumping, except nobody tells you you need to come down at the end and gravity can take a long walk off a short pier. And that’s not really analagous, because everyone else who goes up must come down. Except for the crew of the Challenger space mission.

Also, the wind feels kinda funny on my boobs. Er, her boobs. The problem with looking through two sets of eyes is that sometimes you forget which one is yours. The only other time I did anything like this, I didn’t maintain control for very long. That’s why I gave Moai permission to jostle me from time to time if I seemed a bit lost. But sometimes I had to know when to ignore him, like when I flew around Kingscrow looking for one cape in particular who Forcelight heard was in the city. He seemed exactly the type whose tenacity and armor-piercing weaponry would be ideal for helping to penetrate enemy forcefields.

The fact that I could manipulate him using his hate of me was also pretty cool.

So I flew over Kingscrow, going all “Whee!” in a fashion that I’m sure the stoic Forcelight never let herself do. After all, serious heroes don’t have fun. Serious heroes must feel hardass responsibility for their powers, and all that nonsense. Having fun is not properly heroic, and so every good cape’s tights must be bunched to the letter of the regulations.

Alright, already; like a modest mouse, I floated on through the night and went to stop by the Low Earthy Bar. The hero in question wouldn’t have been permitted in, and neither would I while wearing Forcelight’s face. But I figured I could fly overhead and look for anybody doing surveillance. Like all my ideas, it was awesome to the max and I soon found my target on the roof of a pawn shop, watching comings and goings from the villain bar through binoculars.

I landed next to him, apparently expected from the lack of response. “Hello there, Lone Gunman.”

The murderous vigilante wore all black in the hopes of blending into the urban night of Kingscrow. His outfit this evening consisted of jeans, a loose button-up shirt, a dark bandana-style mask tied around his face, and a sheriff’s start with a bullet hole through it that I glimpsed when he turned away from his vigil to briefly look me over. Unimpressed, or just busy, he then turned back. “Formal as always, Forcelight. Go. You are scaring off the prey.”

I first met him when he was Holdout, the nubile teen sidekick of a Western-themed superhero named Sixgun. The precocious piece of jailbait found my hideout one day and attempted to explore it all on his own. I caught him and, figuring he’d tipped off his hero or otherwise had a tracker on him, proceeded to torture and try to kill him using what was left while the movers transported my stuff to a new location. Said torture session involved me taking my sausage to his face and choking him with lots of white stuff. White stuff called marshmallows, you filthy-minded folks. Thought I killed him, especially after we were caught in what looked like a compromising position. Had to kill the movers, too, when they thought it was something that it looked like. Since I spotted Holdout alive while engineering their deaths, I then tried to kill two birds with one stone. One of the birds survived. In the end, all my efforts to murder the sidekick were stymied by one circumstance or another and I had to settle on killing his hero instead. Holdout vowed revenge, changed his name to Lone Gunman, and has tried to kill me once or twice since.

He has yet to succeed, for the obvious-impaired among my readers.

“They aren’t prey, they’re people,” I told him. And I believe it. They are people. To think otherwise is to dehumanize them in order to avoid the harsh feelings associated with killing a person. Pansy. He kills prey, I kill people.

“Anyone who seeks to prey on his fellow man is my prey,” he answered, raising a small pad and pen to note something. He glanced at his watch, then he set the pad down and moved a black hat over it from where it had sat on a rifle. Wouldn’t be a fake cowboy without his hat, I guess, and I doubt the gunslingers of the old west favored Russian Mosin Nagants rifles. He pulled it up as if a blur, checked to make sure it was still loaded, raised it, and popped a shot off at somebody who had left the Low Earthy Bar and crossed the street.

At times like that, I wish I had eyes that zoomed. Perhaps I can pimp my superhero when I get the time later on? Nah, something tells me she wouldn’t appreciate it. I did walk Forcelight over enough to grab his binoculas and look. Off in the distance, a man in a suit and fox mask was on his knees, pulling his mask off to try and breath and get a better view of the whole in his sternum. Just some old guy with grey hair and wrinkles on his face. A villain who got old.

He waved off another person, a woman in a dress and a bunny mask. Unfortunately for her, Lone Gunman took another shot. She went down with a puff of fluid. The fox raised himself to his feet. Gunman, for whatever stupid reason, took his time getting another shot off. Probably some stupid thing like savoring the moment instead of finishing off a wounded person. I mean, I’m not saying I’m the most moral person around, but it was a good example of why I think Gunman is shit.

It worked against him, too, because Fox ran to the side, for the doorway of a cornerstore. When Gunman took another shot at the wounded man, things happened almost too quick to see. Fox leaned back super quick, in a way that looks like a videogame bug or bad film editing. He was in the same spot the bulled passed through, and then suddenly he wasn’t. But it wasn’t like he’d rewound time, either, because his legs were planted forward and his body was back. He made it into the store while Gunman cussed and reloaded.

Hmm. I’d have to look up the fox later. It didn’t look like super speed, so maybe some sort of time manipulation or reflexes are involved. At the very least, I can get him to Empyreal City by giving him a tip on Gunman’s locatin. Speaking of…

I dropped the binoculars next to him. “You missed one.”

Gunman gathered up his pen and pad and stuck them into his vest. “It’s wounded. I can track it and kill it.”

I crossed my arms. “Not what I meant. Do you know where Psycho Gecko is right now?”

He stiffened up for a moment, and not in the fun way. Turning to look at me, he answered, “He had something to do with what’s going on in Empyreal City, right? Knowing him, he got out before they put the shield up.”

I shook my head. “He didn’t. I was talking to Venus when the barrier went up. They had him in custody at the new Master Academy campus at the time.”

“Custody?” he asked. “Bullshit.”

I smiled. “Nope. He was desperate for help against the aliens and they gave him a place to stay. I hear his girlfriend tricked him into it. I swear to God that Psycho Gecko was with them when the shield went up.”

And if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’, eh?

Gunman gave the Low Earthy Bar one last glance and turned toward me, then began unloading and breaking down his gun. “What do you want from me?”

“It’s an impenetrable barrier holding the man you want to kill more than anyone else in the world. You, who knows an awful lot about weapons that penetrate much more than they should. I hope you don’t kill him, but I want to get in there. Want to give it a go for me?”

He grunted, maintaining regulation bunched undies, and stepped up to the edge of the roof. He settled his hat on his head, and nodded toward me, then jumped off the side of the roof.

If only it wasn’t a one-story shop.

Ah well, I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

Back at Forcelight’s home, I gave her a little bit of free time after our shower. Confirming my prior statements on how bad her priorities are, she chose to stand in front of her bathroom mirror, crying, and say, “I hate you.”

I took over her mouth to respond. “Save it for after I’ve saved the world from slow alien invasion. You saw that they’re trying to get more of their clinics going?”

“You don’t have to do it this way. Trust in heroes, trust in us.”

“I want to, sweetie, but moment I started to, y’all screwed up stopping the invasion. It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of competence. Y’all didn’t want to do what I could clearly see had to be done.”

“Because you’re a fucking nutjob!”

I raised her eyebrow and smiled back at her with her own face. “You say that, but you’re the one talking to yourself right now.”

“Shut up.”

I balled her hand up in a fist and gentle prodded her cheek with it. “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.”

She shook her head, more tears flowing. “It’s so important to you, huh? You’re playing around, that’s all you’re doing.”

I smiled, despite her tears flowing down our cheeks. “My dear, you can’t live as dark a life as I have without learning to be real damn good at seeing the little silver linings. And I’ll have you know I’m treating this situation with exactly the gravity it warrants.”

Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, I stepped out of a high-end clothing store clad in the finest tight white leather pants and jacket I could buy, with gold patterns sparkling around the occasional blue and red rhinestone. Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” announced my exit from the clothing store as Freddy Mercury announced that he too felt that girls with big asses, not money, make the world go round. I clapped my hands and started shaking my ass, mindful of the wide-brimmed white hat on my head, wondering if the peacock feather was glued into the brim somehow. I took off my sunglasses momentarily when I got my head rolling around.

“Left alone with big, fat Fanny. She was such a naughty nanny, you big woman, you made a bad boy outta me!” sang what I’d claim to any passerby was an iPod as I stood up and smacked too passing women in their asses.

“What. The hell. Are you doing?” asked Sam Hain, one of Mix N’Max’s loyal helpers, flicking a large wave of purple hair from where it fell on the shaved half of her head back over to the half with hair. It’s a good look on her. Went well with her grey jacket and pants. Her friend Holly Wayne looked away, trying not to be seen with me, what with her nice padded coat and ass-hugging jeans.

“You don’t like?” I asked, maintaining eye contact through my mirrored sunglasses while still rolling my butt in the air. I turned off to the side, where I saw a mustached man in short-shorts dancing along with me. “They just don’t get it, do they?”

He stood up, “No they don’t, do they Jonesy?” He turned to a friend of his, a large black man, who stood with his face in his hands. Without saying a word, Jonesy turned and started walking away. The man in the shorts told me, “Sorry, he’s usually more polite than this, but it’s been a long trip from Reno.” He began to chase after his friend, calling out for him.

“Are you done?” asked Holly, a hint of desperation in her voice.

“I don’t know. Moai, we done here?” I turned to check for Moai, who walked out behind me wearing a jumpsuit originally meant for really fat Elvis impersonators, along with a pair of his own mirrored shades and the obligatory wig. He nodded at me. I looked back to Holly. “The King says yeah. Come on, let’s go meet Max. Lake Tahoe, you said?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. You’re lucky he sent us to pick you up. The Lords of Vegas don’t like people like you.”

I turned my nose up at her as I helped myself into the yellow convertible she and Holly had shown up in to pick me up from the Las Vegas airport before I insisted on clothes shopping. I lost a lot of outfits in the flight from Empyreal City. Hell, I pretty much just brought my armor, the Dimension Bomb sitting in private storage, and any nanites or explosives I could carry with me. And when I called to let Max know I’d landed in his new favorite town, he insisted I let the girls drive me. Something about them having errands in Vegas anyway and being less likely to draw a lot of heat down on him. Don’t know what he’s talking about.

For their part, Holly and Sam were not happy to see me again. I don’t know why I’d disappoint them. I’m like everyone’s favorite uncle; the one who likes to teach children all sorts of fun things out behind the shed. They didn’t want to even let me shop at first, until I mentioned that I’d have to start picking stuff out of their wardrobes to wear. Suddenly, my clothes became top priority.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can go see what they’re putting in the water here in Vegas. Knowing Max, something fishy could be afoot. Like turning people into giant fish. Or feet. Could go either way with him.

It’s always nice to have a kindred spirit.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 2

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Ah, Kingscrow. A place so lovely, makes me want to lick my lips. Or maybe that’s because I finally figured out a nice payload to load into my hidden fangs. And maybe next I’ll put some filters in my lungs. It’d help against the grime of Kingscrow. Wet, dreary, depressing. Gothic architecture. A perfect place for people to brood. Not me so much. I don’t brood, I just murder people. Apparently I’m not the only one who responds that way in Kingscrow, given its known history with crime. For a long time, it had been a special blight on the map, a city of lost dreams and hopes, where the fight to do good faced resistance from apathy, ignorance, and outright malice.

This nice state of affairs has mostly persisted, though the darkness has been pushed back somewhat by a bright light that arose just a few years ago. Bennett Long, scion of the Long Life private healthcare company, somehow found a way to empower his adoptive daughter. Forcelight, the Lady of Light, flew onto the scene. Tragically, some of the same villains she arose to fight managed to murder her father. While she’s faced a number of trials, including the removal of most of her inherited decision-making power, she continues to bring light to darkest Kingscrow.

Or so goes the fairy tale version. Bennett Long hired Good Doctor, Forcelight’s biological father, to kill superhumans and steal their organs. Those were either transplanted or studied to turn Forcelight into the woman she is today, but Long turned on Good Doctor. Doc didn’t have many friends due to his reputation as a super killer, but he had two other such killers on his side: Mix N’Max, the Czar of Chemistry, and Psycho Gecko, the Father of Face-fuckers. These titles don’t make themselves up, folks. I killed Long and Doc turned himself in to try and repent while establishing some sort of relationship with his daughter.

Who later got hold of a copy of my armor and my nanites and figured out how to use them for fun, profit, and the prolonging of superhero life. Yay. But, on the plus side, that involved the mass production of copies of my nanites that pretty much use the same programming and structure. You can copy something without fully understanding it. But that little recap is why Kingscrow, Long Life, and Forcelight matter to me. Actually, scratch that, Forcelight didn’t mean much to me. She doesn’t wear the pants in her own company anymore.

So really all I needed after arriving in the city was to sneak into the Long Life building, all invisible like a spider monkey ninja. Of doom. Incredible, edible doom. I didn’t even stop off at the Low Earthy Bar. I just had to get my hands on some computers while the top dudes in the company were off at lunch. Terrible thing, to just leave one’s computer turned on. I mean, I could have cracked their passwords without too much difficulty, but this made it easier. Even for the one guy who wrote his password on a Post-It note.

Seriously, people, this is part of what makes it so easy to do what I do. This is one of the few organizations that actually know of my natural ability to physically bond with certain forms of technology. I’d say computers, but that really simplifies things. It’s about signals and data, ya see. Despite knowing this, they either fail to have proper precautions against me, or ignore the ones they do have.

I used their accounts to make sure they were manufacturing my nanites as fast as humanly possible, and maybe even as fast as Chinesely possible on top of that. And stockpiling them, mostly in the United States. And with an additional special note to never tell Forcelight.

I stopped by her office, too. I recognized it from the last time I was in their building, wrecking shit. She took her late adoptive father’s office. Considering I wanted to keep my scheme secret from her, it probably sounds like an odd move. I had a reason; people keep all kinds of interesting stuff on their computers. I hoped she kept contact information on other superheroes in there. With my former contacts in Cape.Net and The Order sucking alien cock, I could use another army or two.

I didn’t expect her to float down from an upper story outside and blast the window, her computer, and me against the floor. With a flick of her hand, the hologram that hid me from view distorted and kept me from hiding. Ya know, now that she did that to me again, I recalled the first time she managed to get through my holograms. Something to do with her vague light-based powers that also include flight, super strength, enhanced durability, and bountiful boobage. She’s got more stolen organs than a Catholic black market. The one that doesn’t trade in kids, at least.

“You!” she boomed, narrowing her eyes at me.

“Captain Obvious, my most persistent nemesis! Wait, you’re not Captain Obvious. Stop using his gimmick!” I pointed at her, not bothering to stand up. “You want me to get up, or should I even bother now that you’re here?”

“Stay down. If you don’t fight, I promise to treat you fair. I have a lot of questions for you.” She floated through the broken window, and stayed hovering in the air. After a couple of seconds, when I didn’t try to stand, she cocked her head to the side and turned her gleaming gaze to the rest of the office. The sound of me unsealing my helmet and pulling it off brought her attention back to me. “What are you doing?”

“Taking this off. Saving a bit of time in the process. I assume you’d want me to unmask now?” I shook my hair out and smiled at her. “I don’t remember, did you know I was me?”

She glared at me. “Why are you being cooperative?”

I shrugged and set down my helmet. “If you’d rather I fight, I can do that.”

“Don’t fight. I want to know about Empyreal City and you’re the only one to get out.” She moved closer and knocked my helmet away with a solid beam of white light. In my mouth, I let my fangs poke out and stimulated the sacs in my mouth. I rolled over onto my back and grinned up at Forcelight. “Something funny?” the heroine asked.

I spat a mist of nanites into her face. Then, I rolled back over onto my belly. She blasted me again, knocking me in a huddled ball against the wall. She dropped down to her feet and ran over, mixing up her offense with some punches.

She gave me a last kick while pulling a little flask off her belt, then taking a sip. I coughed a few times, having felt it through the armor.“More nanites?”

Like I even had to ask. I’d given the nanites she inhaled and ingested special orders, and their ability to reinforce my orders. Just like the secret backdoor I’d given the Long Life nanites so long ago that allowed me to commandeer them, and making damn sure the first batch I spat at her would do their job, despite her swallowing them.

A significant portion of these nanomachines first migrated to her spinal column and interrupted the signals leaving the brain, replacing them with some a bit friendlier to me, like a desire to stand there unmoving.

I looked at her, then reached up. “Give me a hand here.”

She picked me up, under my control. I smiled as I looked at her. Her voice trembled when she asked me, “What did you do to me?”

I shrugged, then coughed again. She really got me good a few times there. “Whew, sorry about that. Somebody just tried to cave in one of my lungs. The answer is: I did what I had to. You somehow knew I was here, so good for you, but I’ve got some new tricks that can stop you. Good thing, too. We have to worry about the aliens, and I’m tired of other people fucking up and standing in the way. This whole mess could have been avoided if only people were willing to bow to my inherent superiority. In fact, that gives me an idea.”

“You’re fucking crazy, that’s why nobody trusts you!” Forcelight yelled.

I reached up and patted her on the head, then held her lips closed. “Shh, shh. Let’s just change that mind, shall we? The world will be better once you, and others, learn. Your. Damn.”

“Place!” I said with Forcelight’s mouth. The fear in her eyes disappeared as I finished taking control. As an added joke, I made her say, “Assuming direct control.”

“You’re probably panicking right now, Forcelight,” I said with my own body. “But don’t worry. Your body is in good hands. But I am here to solve the problem. I want the aliens gone, because they want to take over everyone’s bodies and use them as soldiers in some civil war of theirs. And I’ll stop them if that means I have to take over everyone’s body and use them as soldiers in a war against them. Except the heroes and other villains didn’t trust my schemes. Next thing you know, Empyreal City is behind a fucking shield. So you don’t get a choice. Maybe others will, but you don’t. And you better hope you don’t get free somehow to come after me, because these nanites can do all sorts of things to your insides.”

Two things happened then. I stayed behind to worm my way into the Long Life servers and find any possible backups to the information I’d been looking for on Forcelight’s now-trashed computer. It took awhile, but I spiced it up a bit by flying Forcelight over to Marscow Prison, Kingscrow’s number one resort for criminal spandex fanatics. There she made a tearful visit to her father. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I need your help out here. The crisis going on in Empyreal City is too much. I need you. I need the other inmates. I even need Psycho Gecko.”

You know how hard it is to smile with one face but not another? Tricky little bit of business. Perhaps after I’ve saved the world, I’ll take up acting.

My performance made the Good Doctor sigh and run his hands through his hair. He looked older from prison. More grey in his hair, more wrinkles in his face. He pressed his hand to the glass, and I pressed Forcelight’s back. He’ll be absolutely livid if he ever finds out I did this. But he’ll also be out of prison and have the taste of killing back in is mouth, so he might thank me. I don’t care what he said there, he liked it.

As it is, he said, “Yes,” and I was free to use Forcelight’s enormous monetary and local political pull to get him out especially to help deal with superhero business. By the time she flew back to her office with him in her arms, they found a trashed room and no Gecko.

“He stopped by here. I don’t like him, but he’s right.” Forcelight closed her eyes and sighed somberly.

“God in heaven help us all that Psycho Gecko is right about something,” The Good Doctor added.

I left them alone, as much as anyone can leave a body they’re in control of alone, and instead focused on the private jet Moai had procured for my travel uses. I had some business still in Kingscrow I could use Forcelight for, but the miracle of satellite and cellular communications would have to keep her in line while I headed out for the last known location of the third member of Good Doctor and mine’s merry little Dark Triad: Mix N’Max.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 1

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Let’s discuss the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog. One of those old, simply little fables with talking animals. There’s a frog and a scorpion, which I’m sure is a huge surprise, though you might capitalize them as some sort of archetypes. And there’s this stream or river or something. Really, any body of water can be used; the beach is always wetter on the other side. That was so lame, I should take it out behind the barn and beat it along with my dislike of guns.

So the Scorpion wants to get to the other side, but can’t swim. The Frog considers it, but suggests that the Scorpion might sting it. The Scorpion points out that if it stings the Frog while riding it, they’ll both drown. Sound reasoning, of course. So the Frog agrees and carries the Scorpion on its back as it swims through the water. Halfway through, the Scorpion stings the Frog. Just before they drown, the Frog asks the Scorpion, “Why?” The Scorpion replies, “It was in my nature.”

I mean, there are other versions of the story, true. Like one with a turtle that doesn’t involve either one drowning, or one with a snake freezing to death and a farmer that warms it up against his breast, or even this one old one where the scorpion saves someone from being bitten by a snake, but they all remember that it is in the Scorpion’s nature to sting. Even when it’s in his worst interest.

So much for the great, devious, and overall chaotic Psycho Gecko, huh? I’m a lot easier to control than I realized, a realization brought about my Frogs back there in Empyreal City, if you want to call them that.

Yeah, I know. I know. I KNOW. I sold them all out. Skipped town and let them do all their own stunts. I had set up this big fight, built defenses, put things in place. It all started crashing down around me, until the enemies themselves offered me a way out. I wonder why they even did that?

“Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal,” answered a voice from my belt.

I let my head loll down. “You better not be telepathic, you little alien asshole.”

“Telepathy unnecessary. You converse with yourself.”

“The fuck you say?”

The bartender turned away from cleaning a glass. “He’s right, whoever he is, ma’am.”

I flipped him the bird. “Don’t you take sides in this. Bring me your biggest glass full of White Russian.”

He pulled out a large, frosty mug. I picked it up, looked it over, and threw it on the floor. Got lots of looks from the others in the bar, and even more when I walked over to a corner next to a neon sign that had a rubber tree plant in its own planter. It took some work, since I had to concentrate on placing my steps. I had a few drinks. Some big guy, probably a bouncer, decided to sign his death warrant. “Ma’am, I need you to stop breaking things. You have had enough.”

I pointed at him, “I haven’t had enough. You’ve had enough! Your face had enough! You know who hasn’t had enough? Venus! Wildflower! Man-Opener! The other fuckers in Empyreal City. And your momma, if last night is anything to go by.” I tipped over the planter and carried it back to the bar next to my helmet. “Fill ‘er up, asshole.”

“Ma’am, that’s a pot.”

“Yeah. Get pouring, drink boy.”

He looked at the planter and took it down to the other side of the bar. “Anyway, what’s got you drinking enough to kill an elephant?”

I smiled and held my hands out, pushing away the bouncer who had taken up position next to me. Probably waving over someone else. “I’m just finding myself.”

The bartender reached down under the bar, doing something that he didn’t seem to need to look. “Finding yourself?”

“In the Alps!” I slammed my hand on the bar, making my helmet jump a little from the impact. “Find me right in the Alps, all day long.” Through the fuzzy haze in my head, I remembered I had a question. I looked back down to my utility belt in spite of the hair falling in front of my view. “Hey, wait, why did y’all make a deal with me anyway?”

The crystal made a sound as if blowing wind out of itself. “Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal.”

I blinked a few times. “Oh, right, you said that. Right. Right. Guess it’s almost about time then…”

“Time to go?” suggested the bouncer next to me.

“Almost, but not what I meant.” I slammed my hand on the bar a bit harder, the blow enhanced by the pseudomuscles. It popped my helmet into the air where I caught it and spun, knocking the bouncer on his ass with it. I turned back to the bartender and threw the helmet at his head. It cracked his nose and knocked him into a bunch of liquor bottles. The helmet, meanwhile, ricocheted into the air, bounced off the light fixture, and landed on my head during a rain of broken fluorescent light bulbs.

And lucky me, a broken fluorescent bulb landed right in my hand as the bouncer pulled himself to his feet. “Hey there, fella. It’s about time your colon had a bright idea.”

So, anyway, now that that’s dealt with, I should talk about what happened now that I’ve abandoned a city of eight and a half million people to the aliens. Yeah, that’s a lot of people. Basically more than the combined militaries of China, the United States, India, and North Korea by a couple million. Not that the news is saying that. The President is claiming that it’s all some sort of joint riot control effort aided by alien technology, either to save face politically or because he’s being controlled. But it’s still up, for whatever reason.

And that’s it for my knowledge of what’s behind the neon curtain. I still don’t know how it’s going in there. There’s still a giant ship floating over the whole thing, and a giant shield keeping anything else from entering or leaving. Including my car, I only realized once I got out. I stole the next vehicle I found and headed out of state, spending my first night out of Empyreal City in some dive pub in Philly, where I drank and talked to myself out loud.. I sent Moai out to try and find the local villain watering hole, since it’s not easy to just pull that info up on the internet, but I couldn’t stand waiting and stopped off at some near-abandoned place to throw liquor into my face. And humming “Trust Me” from Devil’s Carnival to myself an awful lot.

I realized, as I knelt in a motel bathroom puking up enough White Russians to capture Berlin, that I felt really fucking terrible. I seriously needed an Alka Seltzer, or maybe a couple Tums. That’s obviously what I mean. Couldn’t be anything else.

Couldn’t have anything to do with the idea that I might have hit reached a low depth I’m not comfortable at, or that maybe I’m not exactly the same person who wants to destroy the planet I’m sitting on. I’m no hero. A coward, maybe. Definitely maybe. And it’s more than a bit creepy that Technolutionary has this idea of “helping” me by negotiating a deal behind my back. He’s probably nifty for being able to empower humans, and for modifying them into better warriors for the invaders, but not a big enough deal to justify all that. And I’m not feeling like that big of a deal, either. If I had the means to totally curb stomp their shit, I’d have just used it instead of taking the easy way out.

Ugh, speaking of taking the easy way out, I took a big swallow of my nanite solution and then spat it up when I started coughing. No harm, no foul, but the spray itself gave me an idea. “Ha!”

I crawled back into the bedroom and grabbed the crystal off the bed. “Hey, you! Whatever I call you…on a scale of one to ten, just how much would your masters piss their pants at the idea of me combining their rain idea with my nanites?”

It didn’t betray any emotion. Then again, I’m not entirely sure what it is, except that I don’t seem to bond with it like I do computers and stuff. “This would violate the agreement.”

I laughed. “I take it that’s pretty high on the scale.”

“Do not pursue this action or you will become a target. You will become a high priority target.”

With some effort, I propped my head up on the bed. “Sounds like a ten. They’ll send assassins?”

It glowed as it responded. “Yes.”

I hummed a little bit of a song to myself, then asked. “These assassins…they’ll pull out all the stops, won’t they? We’re talking every fucking thing they could do to take me on, right? Big, mean, nasty things with what I’m guessing are goo-filled tentacles, right?”

“Yes. You have been shown a rare mercy. It is inadvisable to violate this truce.”

I smacked it aside and guffawed loudly, causing the neighbors to bang on the wall like they’d interrupted me having sex with a clown or something.

I quickly grabbed my suit and anything else I brought in, then left that motel with the crystal. It didn’t much matter if I was legally capable of driving with Moai and the truck gone, so instead I got the hell out of there before something flashed through the sky and the entire building tore itself apart into tiny splinters. There, watching any last chance at my third option in this whole mess go up in smoke, I wondered just how drunk I was. Then I called up Moai.

“Yo, Mo. Come pick me up. I’m a little pickled right now. I shouldn’t be jumping under the influence right now, and we really need to go to Kingscrow right now.”

Why Kingscrow? Because Kingscrow has the Long Life Corporation, who stole my nanites and has been mass-producing copies for commercial use. Because I could use them. And because the horribly-named Forcelight wasn’t in Empyreal City when it got cut off from everything, and so she’s likely to be a bit pissed at her friends being abducted and anal-probed. I mean, I can’t speak for what anyone’s doing to Venus, but things got a bit interesting with Wildflower in bed a few times.

And it really is quite hilarious, ya know? That I’d throw away my one shot at mercy from people predicted to kill me? I bet some dear readers are asking themselves the same question, to which I would like to remind everyone of a certain fable that’s been on my mind lately.

It’s in my nature.

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Aliens Eunt Domus 8

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Just bear with me here, folks. See, sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Ignore my boobs for the purposes of this lesson. Just keep that in mind as I recount what happened.

See, there was the usual ranting, raving, and distrust in the Master Academy Camp, so much so that I began to hope the invaders would just zap the place like they did the broadcast station. No luck. I actually watched as they tried, and somehow failed. Something the supers here did, good to keep in mind. There wasn’t much else to do for entertainment in between working on the D-bomb. The broad strokes of it are done, it’s more a matter of adjusting it to only affect a certain radius. After all, if you think of spacetime as a sheet on which massive objects sit and distort, then you have to be careful how big of a whole you punch through the sheet…

Ah, hell, that’s getting too technical. But anyway, I didn’t have too much to do. There’s been little to no TV ever since the field went up around the city, and the internet has abandoned us as well. Oh internet, we are but worms without you! Come back to us! Bring the porn!

At least I had a few games stored in my head to alleviate it, though I almost missed having teammates in Payday 2, except for the part where they bitch about how the people who make their game keep wanting to be paid. It’s one thing to steal porn off the internet; it’s another to insist all the porn should be free.

But enough about various sorts of pussies.

So, between building a better bomb and listening to Elmore James perform “The Sky is Crying,” I also got the skinny from the scouts. I almost said hero scouts, but at least some of the ones around the campus were villains who resisted assimilation after a couple of misty downpours. With the sheer numbers on the aliens’ side, it was looking futile. I put out the call to Beetrice and the Buzzkills in the bunker under Double Cross Tower, but phone lines were iffy and I didn’t quite know if bee people were immune to everything. They’re not human, but neither am I or many other supers, strictly speaking.

One fine morning, I hopped up to the wall to take a look out and saw people. Just people. A sea of human beings, unpowered and powered alike. There was no earth visible ringing the school. Further on, I mechanical tendrils reached down from the sky, and presumably a vessel rivaling Empyreal City in size. Kind of a bad sign when you can’t tell the size of a craft even when it’s right next to a city.

I dropped down just inside the wall and didn’t quite catch myself, landing on my ass. I took a minute to sit against the wall. Ya know, just for a minute. Or five. Or thirty.

I had to think. I let so many pieces get away from me. So many things I couldn’t keep track of. I even vaguely wondered how Crash and the others at the company were doing. Probably trying to kill me. Just for good measure, probably have to kill Crash with her own car. I’ve kept on wrecking them anyway. And a few other things. But at least I had an idea or two to go with it.

To my surprise, Venus walked out to retrieve me. She had her armor on, too. Kinda risky to go outside without it, even though it’d been a day since the last light misting. “Why didn’t you just send Wildflower? I’m tired of this stupid fantasy you have about reforming me, and you hate dealing with me anyway.”

She turned around and plopped in the mud next to me. “Yeah. It looks bad out there. You know it isn’t your fault, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, not so much I could have done to just plain stop them, but that doesn’t mean nothing was my fault. Even I can’t stop an army, and now I am fated to die. I did…every damn thing I did…to live. You can stomach almost anything if it’s to save your own ass, ya know? Lots of dead people. Hurt. Wounded. Taken apart. Things. Except I’ve almost certainly failed, so all that was meaningless.”

I pushed my hands against my helmet, wishing I could shove them in my mouth to hide the noises that began to burst forth. I couldn’t. I wound up holding my head, uncontrollable laughter issuing forth. I just couldn’t stop.

Venus reached out and put a hand on my shoulder, as much to try and stop me as comfort me. It took a minute of effort to force myself to stop long enough to hear the worthless words, like so many others that she employed to deter me from actions that, in the end, didn’t matter one way or another. “I failed too. I thought I could save you. We aren’t so different, you and I. I wanted to save you in spite of yourself. You wanted to make me kill you.”

“Didn’t matter anyway,” I responded. “None of it does. I think, somehow, I fooled myself about that. Or forgot it. Its very freeing, though, to realize that everything is permitted, that there isn’t guilt, just responsibility. I have always had an end coming for me, whether I made it happen or not. Maybe what I did pushed it back. Maybe not. It was always there regardless. In thinking I was so smart for knowing life was absurd, and yet I still was the victim, controlled by my past and my fear. Those bozos out there better hope they kill me. Because I feel like fetters are off that I didn’t even realize weighed me down.”

I jumped to my feet. Venus rose beside me and stepped in front of me. “We give the world meaning, Gecko. We live for a short time and use it to make the world a better place for all who come before. If they enslave me, they will know I resisted. It matters if it slows them down one second. And if I die, I died fighting. Maybe humanity will die fighting. These bastards will look down on a dead world full of dead people who would rather fight with everything they have than submit. We are not puppets.”

I gave her a golf clap, but was interrupted by something a little worse.

Someone yelling for us on the outside over a completely silent crowd. “Dear friends! Come out! Let us have a talk!”

I thought about it a moment. “I know that voice. This guy’s a jackass!”

I poked my head up first, then turned visible, then hauled up Venus when it seemed no one was in a sniping mood. I saw the alien ambassador again, who had looked so Nazi just a short while ago. Since then, he’d undergone a few changes. For starters, there was the way his skin looked a bit rotten, and how his eyes were all black with black goo dripping from them in lines down his cheeks. And how his mouth looked to be filled with nothing but more black slime, even covering his teeth. He wore one of those rough encounter suits his bodyguards had, but with round plugs or holes on the sides.

It wasn’t just him backing up the army of enslaved people around us, either. He brought friends. Most of them looked robotic. I saw spheres that waved some sort of barrels at us, usually with a smaller secondary sphere attached by a metal shaft. Balls and shaft aside, they also had a few of these things that looked like an orgy of octopi all pointed tentacles full of black slime toward the air above us. Some sort of artillery, then? I couldn’t see their bases very well.

There were definitely more of those bodyguard types, but with mechanical tendrils hanging off their suits. And giant discs with four big tentacles that ended in gleaming metal tips.

I suddenly understood why the Japanese so hated to see an invasion by tentacle monsters: no matter whether hostile or peaceful, you’re still getting fucked.

I nodded toward Venus. “You want to take this one, or do you want me to talk smack about his momma?” To the diplomat, I yelled, “Hey, your momma sucks so hard, they called her a whirlpool!”

Venus pointed toward the huge army with her chin. “I would tell you this isn’t helping, but I don’t think they stopped by for enrollment.”

“That’s right, this is a school. Maybe you ought to get the kids out here to learn some important lessons. See how many of them can name all the different types of word that ‘fuck’ counts as. Tell ya what, I’ll even spot them prepositions in light of these fuckers right fucking here.”

While she dropped down and made for the school, the voice of the aliens spoke up again, the slimy bastard. “It is time you joined us. The city is against you. Soon, the world!”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. You don’t frighten us, English pig dogs! Go and butter your bottom, sons of a silly person! I blow my nose at your ambassador, you and your sssssshitheads!” I started blowing him raspberries and patting the top of my helmet, the put my thumbs where my ears would be to make a funny gesture.

“This-!” started the ambassador, before I interrupted.

“I don’t wanna talk to you no more you empty-headed urinal cake licker. I would fart in your general direction if it didn’t make you horny. Your mother was a hamster, and your father did time for bestiality!”

With what amounted to wit on their planet, the alien asked, “Is there an adult at home I could talk to?!”

“No! Now go away, or I’ll taunt you a second time!” I gave him the V sign with one hand and the middle finger with the other.

That was when the slime-filled tentacle whipped up over the wall, wrapped around my waist, and tossed me into the middle of a huge crowd of people. They got all handsy, too. It was like being in the middle of a zombie movie, which would normally be a bad thing if I was a horror movie character. The mean, foul-mouthed lesbian who drinks and has lots of sex?

Then again, the joke’s on them. A regular person would be restrained. A regular person wouldn’t have Gecko’s patented fists of fuckin’ fury, motherfucker! Wham! Bam! Pow, right in the kisser! It’s not like the city would really miss a person or twelve. They have reinforcements, and busting a few skulls gave me room to get my feet under me and jump, narrowly avoiding an explosion from one of the tenta-mortars. Not exactly watching where I was going, I missed a large burst of blue laser from one of those floating orbs and shafts. It missed me because I clanged into it and spun off before I could even wreck its shit.

I landed ass first on someone’s head, snapping something on them in the process. Good thing, too. Helped me land on my feet, like a cat of death or a buttery piece of toasted destruction.

I landed, snapping elbows to faces and throats. Headbutt a nose, kick a ball. When the surging crowd gave me some room, I popped the Nasty Surprise out and used it to skewer some poor idiot in front of me, and the person behind him. I withdrew the mini chainsaw and and grabbed hold of the second person’s intestines. I drew them out through his friend and wrapped them around the throat of another attacker, tightening it into choking and tying it off in a knot.

My efforts to make a pretty bow went surprisingly undisturbed by other expendable slaves, but then one of those human-shaped suits stepped over the crowd using the tendrils that stuck out of its back and sides. It tried to put one through my neck, but I ducked and he impaled his friend’s face. I turned and deflected the next few blows aimed at me with my fists, though he backed me up. Despite the wild thrashing of that part of his body, he settled on the humanoid legs and slowly crumpled forward like some sort of folding-up puppet. I didn’t have all the room in the world, unfortunately, so I resorted to dodging in place until I could grab one. Before he could follow up or wiggle free, I slid under the legs of the encounter-suited liquid alien thingy, then jammed the end of the tendril right where the poop chute would be.

The tendrils flailed for a moment, so maybe that still hurt. I grabbed the base of a pair of them, set my boot on the one I shoved up his ass, and used the leverage to really ream it in there, spurting black goo all over him. To be fair, dark-colored fluid often gets on my boot when I stick it up there on a human.

Before I could dig my hand in to grab hold of its core, a mortar blast threw me onto it and tossed us both forward in a heap. Then a follow up blast reverberated the entire world around me. Felt like my teeth were going to shake out and left me unable to breath from the pressure of the blast. A third shot didn’t come in as quick succession, giving me a moment to roll to my feet and desperately try to jump for freedom. That one hit just after I left the ground.

The resulting mess of a jump spun me around enough that I almost lost my lunch and didn’t quite comprehend when I stopped flying. When I gained the ability to think again, i turned out I’d been caught by someone. I almost put my elbow through the jaw of the person who grabbed me before I noticed its yellow and black exoskeleton, antenna, and its compound eyes. You know, it’s not until you’re face to face with a half-bee, half-human monstrosity that you appreciate the beauty of its five eyes. He, or more likely she, soared above the crowd on wings that really shouldn’t have been able to lift it, let alone me.

But this is the battle where aliens are fighting superheroes, so perhaps it’s the wrong time to analyze things. And as it set me down in front of a small army of Buzzkills, it seemed like a pretty good time to give the analysis a second look.

I heard Beetrice a split second before I felt the giant, multi-armed bee person squeeze me against her yellow exoskeleton in a hug. “Weeeee! So happy to see you!” It had been an exclamation point sort of day by then.

“You’re here. Great. I mean, great! But maybe ease up on the lovin’? It’s time to do some seriously hating…”

Beetrice let me slip out of her arms to the ground while bee-people and slave-people fought before the earthen wall in the distance. “Sure thing, most important drone! But who do you want us to hate?”

“There’s not a lot of options here, but not the heroes. For once. Odd to say it, I know,” I pointed over at the wall where Master Academy capes had mounted it to blast the attackers.

“What about them?” she asked.

“Huh?”

She picked me up again, but this time to show me another force, approaching to flank both the Buzzkills and slaves.

This time, it was a bunch of people with all sorts of mechanical add-ons marching in lockstep toward the fight, but stopping short of engaging anyone. Above them floated Technolutionary, floating in form-fitting purple armor. I hopped over in front of him and the metal monstrosities he’d built. They looked like more of his human-robots, but their bodies had various gadgets built into him. This guy watched too many Borg episodes of Star Trek.

Technolutionary laughed as he floated over. “How do you like my creations?” He held his hands out to encompass the mass of mechanized abominations. “The proud merger of my work and your natural gifts. You should be proud of our children.”

“I got ya, you’re back to the weird semi-romantic thoughts. Ya know what really turns me on, though? Killin’ aliens. Come on. You, me, a bunch of expendable idiots. Let’s make this massacre happen, right?”

Technolutionary stared down at me. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”

I pointed toward the battle, where all other forces were hard at work beating the crap out of each other in an orgy of violence and explosions that would bring Michael Bay to tears. “Come on, man. Expendable stuff was made to be expended. This IS why we did all that collaboration, ya know. Saving my ass from the aliens.”

Technolutionary floated down and pressed a button on one of his forearms. A panel on his belt opened and some glowing thing floated out. He raised his hands and it floated over them before forming into a perfectly symmetrical crystalline structure about the size of his forearm. “I have saved you. This is the key.”

I looked it over. “Looks like a rock. Most people at least stick it in a ring first. What is it?”

He cupped it close. “This is a transponder from the aliens themselves. A sign of my willing cooperation.” He turned his head and spoke to his human bots. “Move on the heroes. Capture them all for our allies.”

“Willing cooperation?”

He looked toward me, then pressed another button on his forearm, causing the metal face that covered his real one to fold up. He smiled at me with that freaky look in his eye, like he wanted to get freaky. “I did this for you and I. You will be safe, and I will usher in the next evolution of mankind.”

“What does it do?” I asked, probing for information.

A voice echoed forth from the crystal thing, a rough digitized voice. “This is a sign of your cooperation. Join us willingly and become a great asset, Psycho Gecko. Your ingenuity is welcome and your willingness to serve your best interests appears infamous by our understanding of Earth’s superhumans.”

The crystal glowed, then split into two identical smaller versions. Technolutionary added his last bit to the pitch. “Come on, Gecko. Join me. Save yourself. We can watch the world evolve together.” He raised his eyebrows. “You don’t even have to fight here. Let’s just leave this city and watch the fight from afar.”

“Kind of a shield up right now.” Off to my left, humans swarmed a crack in the wall while aliens worked to pull it apart.

“It lets you out.” Technolutionary smiled. “They will know where you are, but also not to attack you.”

It took a second of thought, but I stepped close and reached out with my left hand.

Technolutionary set down on the ground. “Yes. Smart girl.”

“And if I don’t want to help, but just have a truce here?”

That provoked a response from the crystal. “Parameters acceptable.”

A puzzled Technolutionary looked between me and the crystal, then at the inside of his eyelids after I tried to fist his eye hole. On the off chance it’d negate the transponder thingy, I left him alive. I shouldn’t have, but I did. It was more than he deserved. Then I took one of those damn floating crystals, which folded in on itself until it became small enough to fit in a pouch on my armor.

“Helping you isn’t exactly on my agenda. But if this gets me out of here and doesn’t get me killed…ok then.” I muttered to myself.

Like I said, don’t judge. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. It’s not like I’m going to help them. I’m just ensuring my survival. I mean, fucking alien invasion, dudes. What am I supposed to do?

I mean, I did call Beetrice up again and tell her to get her people and hide. Lock themselves in the bunker. All that. Gave her a fighting chance. I still never found Crash or Carl since all the rain and assimilation stuff. But I did get Moai out. He helped me haul out the Dimension Bomb. And me. I rode out on his head, the energy barrier around the edge of the city opening up to accommodate everything around me as we approached.

I didn’t look back while the others fought for their lives. I’d saved mine, after all.

That was the most important thing. Sure, right. The most important thing.

But it’s not my fight anymore.

Nope. Not my fight.

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Aliens Eunt Domus 5

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The rest of the world held its collective breath. The alien delegation to the United Nations had been attacked by Psycho Gecko, who murdered the Secretary General, one of the aliens, and a lot of security personnel before disappearing. In the aftermath, the planet Earth scrambled to salvage the situation in the hopes of averting a diplomatic disaster. Luckily, it seemed the extraterrestrials were grudgingly willing to negotiate.

Considering how little of the first part of that was true, the last part might have just been a comforting lie. From what I remember, the xenomorphs liked the idea of war. Regardless, they hadn’t actually engaged in it openly. Remarkable, that.

I didn’t have too much time to worry about that at first. I had to reach deep inside myself, find the tainted portions of my psyche, and exorcise my demons. My virtual demons, in the tainted parts of my cybernetic brain implants, that is. They’ve been dropping subtle hints here at Master Academy about seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist, but no one’s forced me. Hints decorating my room with a red couch, or dropping off some books to read that included Freud and Jung, or an anonymous gift of an inkblot poster to decorate the wall.

Not a bad room, for being buried in the basement, behind thick concrete and lead. Something about rooms for students with unstable powers. They didn’t have many of them ready, since they were rushing. Accelerating, I think, because of the recent otherworldly shenanigans. That explains the presence of a window in my room, unless they figured I liked to watch worms.

They’re just scared of me. I’m the one they’re sticking in a lead coffin surrounded by a few dozen people enemies, but they’re scared of me. At least they let me eat in the cafeteria. One of the alumni is a decent cook and has some of the students helping out fixing meals for their fellows. Odd thing to teach for a school churning out heroes, but not everyone wants to live on restaurant food.

It was kinda fun to sit there alone at a table and watch students actively ignoring me. Turning their faces away, glancing and then quickly looking away. The ones closest kept their voices low and finished lunch in a hurry. If I sat in the middle of the room, it probably would have been one of the most orderly meal services in the world.

That all ended when a loud batch of voices burst in, which wasn’t unusual itself. It’s a school, with young adults, teens, and children. The worrisome part came when an oddly familiar voice asked, “So he’s in here now?”

Where had I heard that voice before? And more importantly, was my inability to perfectly remember the answer a symptom of alien brainwashing? The answer to them, I recognized perfectly. “He is no longer the correct pronoun, and she’s over there.”

I looked over to find Venus pointing me out to one of the older teens. She looked tan, with hair all the colors of the rainbow. The full set: Roy G. Biv. It took seeing her eyes to recognize her. “Leah?” Her body looked different, more grownup, but that was the runaway I’d once mentored back when I owned a nightclub. She was dumped on me because she had nowhere else to go and nobody else wanted to deal with her. I taught her important lessons that all young ladies need to know, from powdering noses to breaking noses. Actually, I focused on the breaking noses part. Pretty much entirely the breaking noses part. But as the saying goes, “Powder a man’s nose, and you make him look funny for a day. Break a man’s nose, and you make him look funny for a lifetime, or until the next time you break it.” Venus eventually sunk her claws into the girl and sent her over to the Master Academy main campus in California, where she was probably their best student in ass-kicking class.

She smiled and ran over, whereupon I slipped away from her hug, grabbed her arm, and slammed her face down onto the table next to my food. I was still eating, dammit. She took the hit, but grabbed my right arm by the one that held her right, and twisted around to try and put me in a hammerlock, which goes around the back of a person. “Stop! It’s not hammerlock time!” I jumped up on the table, did a backflip, hooked her under the arm, and used the momentum as I dropped to my back to drag her over me and drop her on top of the next table over. I kipped up after that, then looked around. “Get me a knife. We have to check her for infiltration.” I glanced around. Plastic, plastic, plastic. Plastic knives are very much not ideal for surgery on a hostile wriggling person.

“She’s safe, Gecko. We already checked her!” Venus called out.

About that time, Leah sat up and tried to clock me with a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy. I ducked under it and caught her in a hug as the brown and white goop plopped onto my table. “Ah, c’mere you!”

“Next time ask if I’ve been checked before fighting me!” she yelled, but then hugged back.

“Not my fault you forgot how to fight since joining these people.” I looked over at the various staring students. “Yeah, I said it. I’m ethicist. Stupid good people, coming to my side of the country to take away hard-working villains’ jobs. There oughta be a wall.”

“Relax, you.” Leah said, slipping out of the hug this time. “I came here with the shipment of the MasterFrame and our super cracker, A-Plus.”

I shook my head. “Leah, what have I told you about racial insults. If you’re going to use them, make them mean something. Nobody in the world is bothered by being called a ‘Cracker’. Hell, there’s a white rapper out there who called himself Uncle Kracker. First time I heard of him, I thought it was a joke.”

She pushed me away. “Um, let me down. I’d stay and chat, but I have to change my clothes now, Gex.” I gave her some space so she could leave and attend to her precious fashion sense. Then again, I also know the difficulty of walking around in public with a mess of delicious chocolate pudding on the back of my ass.

She and the rest of Master Academy were apparently as good as their word. From what they explained to me, the MasterFrame was a project created by IT and other early brilliant supers around Silicon Valley, and upgraded over the years by similarly great computer minds. They think it’s one of the most powerful computers in the world. The one they brought is the smallest one they have.

Their cracker also looked tiny. For those who are curious why a side item for soups came with a computer mainframe, “cracker” is the proper term for a White Hat hacker. A “good guy” hacker. Most people just know the other term due to the actions of Black Hats. Personally, I think 1950s representations of fictional cowboys’ clothing doesn’t make a very good classification system for computer users, but that’s why I’m the strange one here.

We all went over to the administration building, which hadn’t yet been finished, and they installed the three of us in what they hoped to be the server room. First they got the MasterFrame into place, then A-Plus and his computer station, then a comfy chair for me, then my ass in the comfy chair. Then A-Plus awkwardly held a Thunderbolt 3 cable and looked me over. I raised an eyebrow. “Where do you think you’re plugging that in at, Weird Al?”

He blushed so much, I thought he’d shoot blood out of his nose like an anime protagonist around women. “Better get ready, because my head is no place for the meek.” I snatched the cable away from him and stuck it in my ear. “Shake my hand. Come on, boys, won’t you shake a poor sinner’s hand? Are ya ready? Are ya ready? Transformation central, reformation central, transmogrification central! Can ya feel it?”

“Worst. Disney. Princess. Ever.” A-Plus mentioned as he settled in on his screen.

I’d like to say that the resulting battle in cyberspace involved people in skintight suits with glowing neon lines and chakrams that doubled as driver’s licenses. Or maybe something where A-Plus tried to look cool in a black coat and shades while hiding a small armory in guns on his body. However, cyberspace just isn’t quite that cool, even with someone else joining in. It’s all code. Even the sexy bits. Especially the sexy bits.

We had to go deep. Real deep. The Master Boot Record. Most cyber infections are eliminated by reformatting, and I assumed I got it because there were no more symptoms of infection, but it looks like that rascally piece of malware just hid deeper. Fucking Master Booter. Instead of acting overtly malicious, it provided access for commands from afar.

Heh. Wow. I’d been worried about people running around with those communication organs growing inside them, but it turns out the real traitor was in me the entire time. That’s entirely the wrong sort of Aesop to take from all this, though I’d say it fits my life story perfectly.

It was dirty, boring work to deal with the partition, partially because that part of my brain doesn’t run on anything like a normal operating system. He had to leave me alone a few times, too, but I had too much data to sift through to call him out on it.

I know, anticlimactic. There should have been something epic, like throwing a frisbee at a giant face in a tube, or fighting a personification of a virus with a personification of me. The best I could do was imagine I was stomping around a battlefield in huge power armor, burning through malicious code while shouting, “Die, xeno scum! You will be purged in the name of the Gex-Emperor of Mankind!”

It felt very liberating to give myself one last reboot, blink my eyes, and remember I had a physical body. I sat up suddenly, quoting the first thing to come to mind, “’He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.’ Huh. Wonder where I heard that. Johnson?” I cocked my head, checking my memory and spotting some things I didn’t quite remember, then looked to where A-Plus sat at his computer, a couple days’ stubble on his face and a nearly-spent two liter of orange soda at his side. “You didn’t download some new stuff into me, did you? That sounded like something you goody-goodies would want me to have read.”

A-Plus held his hands up. “Uh uh. I didn’t have any time between helping you and building the backup.”

I blinked, then jumped up. I yanked the cable out of my ear with a grimace, then stepped over to his computer. “Destroy it. Delete it. Kill it now, and then probably burn wherever it’s saved. And the MasterFrame, too. Get rid of it.”

He jumped in his seat and leaned away from me. “Alright! Jesus! I’ll get rid of it!”

I bent down and looked him in the eyes. Didn’t say a thing. Just growled. Then I stood up and started stretching. “Why’d you ditch me in there, anyway? You left a few times.”

“Um, to eat and sleep? I haven’t done much else these days.”

I ordered up the date on my HUD-based clock. I’d spent almost two days in the chair. Well that took longer than I thought. On the plus side, that should have given Crash enough time to make the arrangements I asked of her.

Stumbling upstairs and feeling rather unclean, I pushed open the door to the outside and immediately regretted it. Gah, the sunlight! It burned! Not literally, but it burned like a giant light in the sky that I hadn’t seen for two days. Perhaps that simile can express why I hated the sight of it so much, though the mobile, prefabricated building with the bee people guarding the front was much better to look at. About time the Buzzkills got out and about. I’d almost felt like I was letting down my anthropomorphic bee minions by using them for so little.

Moai slammed the door open, giving Leah a piggyback ride that ended with the both of them rushing over to me. Moai stopped short and leaned over, throwing Leah off onto me. She knocked me to the ground. “You’re back! Did it work?”

I nodded. “That’s right. I’m officially free of viruses.”

A pair of pretty bare feet with pointed toenails stepped up on either side of my head. “I could have told you that,” spoke the owner of those body parts. I looked up to see Wildflower there, hands on her hips. She didn’t look happy, but then I hadn’t been talking to her since she dragged me here.

“Have you two met?” I asked, pointing between my probable ex and the teen I mentored who had at one point apparently had a crush on me.

“We’ve met,” they said at once, with differing tones. Wildflower gave Leah a hand up, but slapped mine away when I tried to get some help.

Before I could come up with a witty remark, Victor Mender’s computer-generated voice called out, “You should not be laying around at a time like this young man. Events are unfolding beyond our ability to control. We need your expertise.”

“Oh? You need me for something? I feel like we’re missing someone in whose face I should rub this. Awkward sentence, that. Possible cybernetic brain damage?

Brain damaged or not, I still felt smarter than the people that Mender showed me saved on his DVR. They reopened negotiations. Not only reopened, but this time they expected the Earth delegation to undergo a process that would grow them a translator. The first one to get the procedure done himself smiled and pointed out that it was a painless procedure that left him feeling great. “I hear that the process enables me to use some of our new friends’ amazing technologies. Don’t be afraid of this step for peace. They are our friends, and they have much to share with us. This is the dawning of a new golden age for Earth. A utopia, in our lifetimes.”

As a show of goodwill, the aliens were even landed a medic team of those suited, flowing guys who toured a hospital and started treating patients from the Emergency Room.

I have a pretty good idea what these “translators” are that they’re getting stuck in them, and what some of this medical stuff is. It makes sense, too. The guy at the UN mentioned war, but it’s a different sort of war. A war that saves the maximum number of usable bodies for their interstellar feud.

“Their idea of war is a lot more subtle than I figured, but effective enough for what they seem to need,” I mused. “Unless this is the other side that won out. The ones who don’t want war.”

“You may enjoy our protection and sanctuary young man. I ask you to let us speak with The Order of Villains to add allies. The battle for humanity requires Yin and Yang. Do I have your aid?”

“Oh yeah, I can put you in touch with them. Huge group of Yangs, but they won’t deal with me very well. So if you got the balls, I can get my hands on some Yangs.”

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Aliens Eunt Domus 4

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In contrast to my confident kicking of several asses in my escape from the United Nations, I’m driving people nuts at Double Cross Towers. It’s the paranoia. Someone will just be walking along, trying to deliver papers before heading to lunch break, maybe wondering when they put a new trashcan in the hallway. Bam! Out jumps some crazy lady with a rag that smells like sleepytime. And I don’t mean the tea.

Then they wake up with stitches on the back of their neck, confused. If I really wanted to freak someone out, I’d stick them in a bathtub full of ice and stitch up their side like I stole a kidney or something.

That would have been a lot more fun than rocking back and forth on the couch with two screens pulled up in front of me so I could fast forward through everything I’ve done since that day I fought off the alien virus in Romania while checking through every single bit of code in my cybernetics. Because that’s most of what I did after the personnel checks, even ignoring all the alien-related news. Blahdy blah, something about people on both sides desperate to come to an understanding after the confusing and murderous events that took place at the United Nations.

I didn’t have time to worry about that. I had to get my brain back. This was no time to lose my mind, after all. It was taking awhile to check, complicated by the fact that I couldn’t trust my own eyes. Or brain.

I wasn’t about to trust Technolutionary, either. He already got to do things with my DNA. I don’t want him literally picking my brain. Wildflower doesn’t know enough about all this, either. Neither would Venus, or Carl, or Crash, or Beetrice, or Captain Lightning. There’s nobody but me, and I can’t trust myself. Because I realized that I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately. It seems like it’s been more than usual. Things I’ve forgotten or obvious ways of doing things that just didn’t occur to me. The thing where I got spotted bugging the alien shuttle, for instance. Or whatever other missteps I’ve made. Maybe. I don’t know, and that’s the problem.

My dedication to couchsurfing my own brain has worried…everyone. Crash still brings by reports, then takes them away and tries to manage them with the department heads and Carl. Moai occasionally nudges me aside to watch stupid TV shows. No matter where I sit, he always goes out of his way to push me around a little. Wildflower got worried after the first night, until I explained the problem with the alien virus making me some sort of hidden agent.

Hell, forget about just my mistakes. I didn’t kill all the villains, but now I know why Oligarch and I weren’t entirely at cross purposes. I mean, if I want to mistrust my own judgment, I’ll do it because I’m crazy, not because someone’s making me do stuff without me knowing it.

So she left. I was a bit numb to it, but it seemed reasonable. Was more surprisingly when she came back. When she got back, she revealed she’d gone shopping. Then she tried to do a striptease for me. When I didn’t look up, she checked my pulse, then ran off.

Not surprisingly, she managed to get Carl’s attention and convince him to follow her, since she hadn’t bothered to put on any better clothes than the stripper clothes she’d bought to impress me. I could understand it, both that she’d forget she was dressed like that given her usual costume, and that Carl would gladly follow her to a place with a bed upon seeing her.

I just had other, more important things to do. When Carl saw me and heard from Wildflower, with Moai nodding along, he took a deep breath. Then he walked up and knocked over the screens I’d been staring at for two days straight. I jumped up, grabbed him by his collar and waistband, and threw him over the couch. Then I sat back down on the couch and went back to binge-watching myself. In the back of my mind, I head Wildflower padding up quietly. Probably thought she was being quiet.

In my weak and sleep-deprived state, it wasn’t difficult for her to knock me out with the chloroform. See what I mean about making mistakes lately?

I was sorta surprised not to find myself locked up somewhere when I awoke. The Great and Devious Psycho Gecko brought down by a heroic girlfriend. I guess whenever Wildflower and I get tired of each other, I can tease Venus by telling her she has a better chance of catching me with some vigorous humping.

So where was I? Good question. It looked like a doctor’s office. Not a hospital, an office. You know, with the solid, oddly-padded bed and its uncomfortable tilt, along with a small medicine cabinet, sink, rolling stool, and that sort of stuff. I tossed off the blanket covering me to find myself in one of those gowns, but with workout shorts and a tank top underneath. So somebody undressed and redressed me while I was out, but at least they weren’t letting every passerby sneak a peek.

Still didn’t tell me where I am, though the GPS took care of that. I was north of Empyreal City a bit. I’d actually been here before, turns out. According to the playback from that day, I’d been here the day Wildflower showed me around her dorm.

That damn fucking hero…I…couldn’t think up enough special cuss words. Something about giraffes and deepthroating…gah! I knew there was no time for cussing. I had to get the hell out of there, if it wasn’t too late already. No one with half a brain would leave me unguarded, even unconscious. And considering some of my dreams, especially unconscious. Like that time where I was a vampire fighting ghosts who summoned the Ghostbusters to fight me, but I managed to kill one with a magic ritual knife and chased after the others while singing the song “Hellfire” from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

A weapon would be a good idea. I grabbed a couple of those wooden sticks. The ones from lollipops that doctors like to test gag reflexes with. Too bad they didn’t have an old Female Hysteria remedy, or I could have really unloaded on someone. Believe it or not, those are also good for testing gag reflexes.

I tore off the gown, then grinned to myself and hid it under the blanket on the bed. They can look for a woman in a gown all they want while I jogged my way right out the door. Or I could have, but no sports bra. Ah, hell, it just means most students of this Master Academy East Branch wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup.

No one guarded the door. The hallway looked empty. Good, maybe they’re still low on students. I slipped the mouth sticks into the back of my shorts for safekeeping until I needed to use them for a lethal tonsil examination. Since I only had two directions to pick from, it was pretty easy to figure on heading left. One corner later and I came to a door, which I pressed my ear to. Couldn’t hear anything through it, so I figured that was a good sign. I figured I’d go ahead and poke my head in.

Speaking of those bad decisions I’ve been making lately, that was one of them. Not the worst decision. Not even as bad as if I just barged on through the doors. But, yeah, it gets to be pretty bad when you stick your head through a door at a superhero academy only to find yourself at a gymnasium with a couple of bleachers worth of students sitting around. And costumed heroes standing in front of the bleachers. And the doctor who presumably new me looking up from where she tended to a downed person in the middle of the room. Why was that person knocked down? Oh, it probably had something to do with Venus standing there, maskless, resting her head on a Bo staff.

Sometimes, the hand life deals you is a Royal Fuck. It’s like a Full House…of pain.

As if taunting me, huge windows let in plenty of sunlight. That’s like, I don’t know, someone on death row finding out they won the lottery just before being marched to the needle room. Or discovering that a woman you met online is incredibly sexy, but is only interested in seeing you get reamed by her ex-Marine husband nicknamed “The Hammer.” And the fists aren’t the Hammer. The Hammer is his penis.

And while we’re at it, plenty of aliens around wanting to conquer the Earth.

See, it’s shit like this that drove me insane in the first place.

Well, the sight of all those heroes gave me a headache from instantly-supplied data from the ID program, so I cut that off. And while I’d been feeling the insistent fullness of my bladder since waking up, it wasn’t until then that it got really obnoxious. “Woops, this isn’t the bathroom,” I said with a fake laugh before pulling my head back and running back around the corner. I thought I heard someone calling for me to wait, but why would that ever be a good idea?

I heard the door slam open behind me as I passed by the doctor’s office. “Don’t come near me,” I hollered back, “or I’ll pee on you!” Wouldn’t you know it? They didn’t listen. I got to the other side of the hall, which would have given me another pair of directions to run, but for the heroes who appeared. A young man in a bright yellow outfit with black and white racing checkmarks up and down the side skidded to a halt, having left behind a man of shadows and some sort of toilet paper dude. Guy looked like a mummy, but with just the wraps.

Between Ricky Bobby, Noob Saibot, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I didn’t like my chances. Nor did it look too good when Venus, Wildflower, and a man with a bunch of snakes coming out of various parts of his chest blocked the rear area. Time seemed to slow as I faced folks on both side of me. Which, by the way, did not help my bladder situation.

“Et tu, Tigerlily?” I asked Wildflower, hoping to at least make her feel bad for all this. Might as well get some words in before the sticks and stones land on me.

“You need help,” she said, gritting her teeth.

I rolled my eyes. Bad time to take the off people, but what did it matter if I saw them coming to kick my ass anyway? Then a thought occurred to me and forced me to shake my head. “You’ve been listening too much to Venus, huh? That’s how it happens. Always thinking you can make a relationship work if only you can change someone. Funny thing is, at least the aliens sort of got me figured out. I’m merely a weapon; a loaded gun. Just another machine. I thought you knew it, too.”

Venus put a hand on Wildflower’s shoulder. “You’re just a victim. You told me about it. Something bad happened to you, just like it happened to a lot of people. Except you didn’t get over it. It’s your excuse to do whatever you like, because people made you this way. They made you, so you do what you do to them.”

I pointed at her. “I’m a bit more than a victim by now. I’m the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko!”

Infuriatingly enough, Venus kept her voice calm and level. “You don’t even have a name. Whatever anyone did to you in the past, however much you hate it, it still controls your life. You are doing the same with the future. They’re going to kill you, so the only thing you want to do is kill them first.” I wish she’d at least raised her voice. And make less sense. The connections she was making didn’t sit well with me. But I never told Venus the aliens were going to have killed me.

I swept my gaze from Venus to Wildflower. “Well? You got anything to say? Certainly not helping my trust issues here, ya know.”

“I didn’t want to stand by and let you create a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Wildflower said, refusing to meet my eyes.

“See? It’s the honest ones you can’t trust. They always do the stupid and irrational thing. Like saving my life by getting my beat up and locked up. Well, gentlemen? Who wants to be the first to beat the pinata, eh? Just no punching below the belt. Your hand might get stuck.”

A monotone, computerized voice spoke up. “One of my dearest pupils believes that you need a hero you can trust in your life.” The crowd on Venus and Wildflower’s end made way, reluctantly, for a badly crippled man in a motorized chair, who apparently used a hand and his eyes to control both the chair and his ability to talk. I think I’d seen something about this guy before. Victor Mender, aka IT. Researcher who built an armored suit with lasers and rocket launchers for extreme mining jobs, until someone tried to steal it and make a weapon out of it. I know, make a weapon out of the laser-armed power armor? Who would have thought? Dangerous business, mining. Had several designs stolen by Oligarch back before anyone knew what Ollie was really like. Retired after the battle for Master Academy left him crippled. Really surprised they haven’t given this guy a batch of their knockoff regenerative nanites.

“I see everyone’s been making ample use of the designs stolen from me,” I muttered. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to hear his voice raise unless someone turned up his volume knob. Got several angry murmurs from the crowd, though.

“Relax friends. It is his response to being frightened. If we attack he has no choice but to fight back. We are only talking so he must think.”

He might have been correct on that, though I could have made a big deal out of the incorrect pronouns. I know some people don’t like what they see as extreme sensitivity and PC culture of people who don’t like being called the wrong pronoun. But most of the anti-PC types I’ve seen are exactly the sort of guys to get offended if you start calling them “ma’am,” and “girl”. Hilarity ensues.

“Between getting a beatdown from my biggest fanclub here, then getting tossed in a jail cell to await impending execution by alien invaders who killed me once in a future that hasn’t happened yet…yeah, I may be showing a bit more caution lately.”

“You do not need to be the enemy. You are free to go anytime you want to leave. You may use the bathroom before you go.” He smiled at that one. “However if you stay we have a gifted young metahuman who can help cleanse your virus.”

“Not doing much to hide the offer of a brainwashing.” I snorted, checking behind me to see if anyone had gotten bored and left a hole. The speed freak was tapping away on a phone like crazy, but kept looking up periodically.

“I have been convinced to offer you sanctuary. We hope to make you safe.”

The meanings of those sentences didn’t go over my head. My reflexes were too fast. I caught them.

Really put me in a bad spot there. If I took their offer, I get locked up. Yeah, sanctuary. Right. If I didn’t, I’d just get locked up when they found an excuse to not let me go. Sun Tzu 101 there. Give a cornered enemy an escape route; otherwise, they’ll fight like their life depends on it. If they did let me go, I’d walk around as a potential Trojan Horse for the aliens.

I reached back with both hands to the small of my back and grabbed the popsicle sticks, one in each hand. I brought them around, ready, in both hands. Some of the heroes around Mender stepped up just in case, so obviously my reputation with improvised weaponry preceded me.

I closed my eyes, breathing, trying not to think. Thinking would cloud my judgment, by bringing to mind the fact that I’d rather be surrounded by an army of superhumans than an army of non-super criminals. Or by wondering if some of what Venus and Wildflower said might possibly have a hint of truth to it, maybe. But I also thought of my first instinct: don’t trust them. Don’t trust ’em, don’t like ’em, just try to survive the fight with ’em. Except that could be another version of “Serve, obey, pave the way.” It was my first instinct…but I could no longer trust my instincts. Or my mind.

With a sneer that was just as much about grinding my teeth in frustration, I held out my arms and dropped the sticks.

“Ok,” I told them through gritted teeth. “I don’t trust y’all, but I don’t have a choice. Let’s purge some malware up in this bitch.” Fucking hell, I wish I had my armor at that time. I felt so damn naked in front of all of them. Psycho Gecko, needing help. Psycho Gecko, surrendering. Psycho Gecko, some beaten thing. I tilted my head downward, maybe intentionally getting some hair in front of my face, wondering when the attack would come.

It came in the form of a pouncing animal-plant-woman hybrid who purred way more than she should have as she wrapped me in a hug right there for everyone to see. Hurt and embarrassed, I interrupted her little cuddle puddle purr session by telling her, “You don’t have to pretend anymore. Protect you, my ass. Congratulations on fooling me. You’re an excellent spy.”

She pulled away from the hug, suddenly losing much of her enthusiasm and smile.

“Come on, let’s show our new guest to some quarters. We should have one to spare after all the work the tanks have been doing since they got here.” Venus said, seemingly breaking up the entire meeting there.

There’s been a certain order of priority seen in many of the greats. Tony Montana once said that you get the money, then the power, then the woman. Vegeta, the Prince of all three and a half Saiyans, believed in immortality first, then the bitches. First I conquer my brain, then the aliens, and then maybe I’ll worry about getting laid again.

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Aliens Eunt Domus 3

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Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I counted too much on people being bored and forgot something really simple. See, this was something of an event, but you have to remember that by now it’s been more than a week that the aliens have been around. Not a lot of time, but there’s a limit to how many days most news crews want to sit around and point a camera at a fuzzy-looking spaceship.

And that’s not even counting government assets. Pick a government, any government, so long as they have satellites. I’d say I allowed my mortality-driven expediency to push me into acting irrationally. I’d say it, but there’s so much wrong with that sentence, starting with the assumption that my actions are normally rational. The only way I can explain it is that I acted stupid because…shit…because I’m afraid. They already killed me once in the future. That’s the way things are supposed to go. And now that I think about it, the late Fortune Cookie’s advice that I just be myself kinda sucks. I was probably being myself in the future where I died, after all. I probably wouldn’t have been Norma or this sneaky cloak-and-dagger fucker I’ve been. I’m naturally a different sort of sneaky. It’s the difference between knifing someone in the back undetected, and smuggling a nuclear bomb into the middle of a city.

I’m the nuke, preferably sent from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Or at least that’s what I am today, along with royally fucked.

I could talk a lot about having planned things to happen this way, or point out that no one can focus on security camera footage for anywhere near the length of time to catch everything, but there’s still viral footage out there. It doesn’t show Psycho Gecko doing anything. It doesn’t show my cover at the UN. But it shows Mr. Old Chinese Dude walking around, kneeling by the shuttles goo skirt, putting something on the sides, and tossing something up top.

Maybe the various governments with spy satellites would have stayed quiet, just to see what was going on, except everything got exposed to the public. The fucking public. The ignorant bunch of jackasses that distrusts every jackass they themselves put into office. The sort that thinks governments can’t be trusted to regulate food safety, but have no problem if they want to spend money on building lots of nukes.

Back to nukes again. Aren’t I in a glowing mood today?

So, anyway, the bomb’s still not done, but everyone knows something’s up. The immediate likely response? Temporary recall of the ambassador and a tightening of security, with future meetings set in a different locale, one that favors the aggrieved party. But just because one has to dip one’s toe into the waters of conventional sanity doesn’t mean I should let it sweep me away.

As quickly as possible, I set Moai up with a plane trip out of town and a nice big bag of luggage, then some very strict instructions for what to do with his life after he got off. It was important. I had to look after the most important person in my life, after all.

I also advised Crash to let everyone in the company know things may get difficult for awhile, except for Carl. I took him aside and let him know that, “Carl, my man, it’s about time you used up as much of your paid time off as you can. In fact, take extra. It’s just a good time to get away.”

He fidgeted in the fancy suit he now wore, which may well have been his source of discomfort if not for the fact that I was warning him to run. “Boss, what’s going to happen?”

I just chuckled and pulled him into a hug before whispering. “Hell is empty, and all the demons are here.”

He was too shocked to even try a grope like Juanito from Isla Tropica did. I drew the line at licking his ear, though. I don’t know where that ear’s been.

As for Technolutionary, my partner in crime hellbent on turning people into my species…well, fuck him. He can wait. Same for Venus. Same for Beetrice. Much as I hate to say it, same for Wildflower, too. Now, as much as I know that the key to a good relationship is communication, I also knew she was still at least a little bit of a hero. So all I did was tease her on my way out.

“Have fun on patrol, puttytat?” I asked, showing off how good I looked in a nice women’s business outfit.

After collecting her jaw off the floor, my heavily-hybridized honey answered with. “I stopped a mugger.”

I rolled my eyes. “Psh, stopping some poor mugger who’s just trying to put dinner on the table. Why can’t you go after some big threat, like a bank robber or something?” I stuck out my tongue at her playfully. I’d go into more depth about our goodbye, but I much prefer to discuss how the world screws me.

That implies quite a bit of finality to my leaving Double Cross Tower, doesn’t it? I suppose it all does. But, really, I hoped to survive my latest trip to the United Nations. I had to leave behind any weapons with the advanced screening procedures, but I managed to keep all my body parts and a pen. And the pen is mightier than the sword, or so says a bunch of people moping around without any swords, staring at their pens instead. Sigh. Do I have a sword yet? Nope, still just a fucking pen. At least the pen is mightier than the sword. Damn sword probably would have been too heavy anyway. Sigh.

But I got through perfectly fine, as I said. It all depends on where you position various pieces of metal. Just like homicide. Or sex.

Once in, I knew I needed to find the alien diplomatic dude with haste, a feat I thought I pulled off when I found an inordinately-sized crowd of newspeople running through the halls. I guess I could have gotten in that way instead of playing on El Presidente’s favors. Cameras are great for bludgeoning things to death. Especially, as I found out the one time I tried camping, witches. Bitch witch should have laid off the creepy stick figures.

Back in the UN’s main building, I strolled casually as if I had a purpose. And that purpose was simple: find the alien ambassador. The job, if I had to call it anything, was a Lee Harvey Oswald, aka a John Wilkes Booth. To translate that from hitman lingo, that’s a kill with significant risk to the killer. They’re expected to be arrested and/or killed in the process, due to the target’s high profile and the inability to completely subvert their security measures. Because I knew there were security suits around, and they were good enough not to look like suits. And it wasn’t that easy just finding things anymore. My recon mission should have involved some useful recon. They’d remodeled since the last time I stopped in. My visits tend to do that.

So y’all are probably wondering: why kill this guy after I made such a big deal about being sneaky before? Because it would start a war. It’s going to happen anyway, but at least I can make it happen on my terms. If you can’t completely stop an enemy’s plan, you can at least attempt to throw it off.

I had to reach out mentally and sense for open connections. They can have all the security they want, but an unsecured cell phone is still a sneaky way in. And after wandering all over the place, I finally heard something promising. Korean being spoken back and forth, with one voice sounding like an electronic crackle. Like it landed on one of those snowy channels years back. So either one of North Korea’s guys was playing with his videogame girlfriend, or someone inhuman was talking to someone Korean. Did y’all know the Secretary General of the United Nations is Korean?

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Yoooooo, Cobra!

Listening in like that, I had their location. It sounded like a small room, something my translator program confirmed when it caught up with giving me Korean. Entirely different lineage of languages compared to pretty much anything Western.

“What are you doing to us?” cried the Korean human.

The crackly voice answered, “I was ordered. ‘Induce communication cortex.’ They spoke openly of this. Many of my people are tired of fighting. They accept our loss in our civil war. I must lead them to the true way. I am one of the many who knows this. You die here and by your deception force a war we will swiftly win.”

I overheard a sudden gasp that was cut off, followed by sounds of a struggle.

The Korean must not have been the one getting choked out. Maybe he’d live long enough for me to kill him. “What would war achieve for you, besides useless death?”

“Useful lives. Our victory will be easy. Few will die, most will live. We gain an army seven billion strong. Your people will be sacrificed for our utopia.”

That sounded familiar, on several levels. I rounded a corner and found one of the fluid guards standing at the door. I stopped and looked it in its black, featureless face. It looked like it had ridges, whatever the being was encased in. I smiled and reached up to mess around with the pen holding up my hair. “Hey, you’re one of those aliens, aren’t you? I was just curious about something.” I made a show of looking down over the thing’s body, which looked neither muscular nor boobtastic.

It didn’t react to me at all, so I clicked the pen and jabbed its point into the thing’s throat. Its neck seemingly deflated as a black liquid spurted out. Pushing with both hands, I tore it through the material, which seemed a little tougher than skin. No bones in it, either. Just lots of that black gunk. Its entire head flattened out.

Didn’t seem to be that tough, at first. Then the goo stopped pouring out. Instead, it twisted in midair and wrapped around my head, slamming me back against the opposite wall hard enough to drive the air out of me. While some of it got into my mouth and nose, it didn’t push in. It just knocked me back against the wall again. I tried swiping a hand through the goop, then an arm, then both arms. I couldn’t see very well, but flailing was better than doing nothing. The goo fell away momentarily as I felt more force against my arms. I ducked then and stopped blocking, then threw myself against its body where it still stood, looking a little emptier than before. I stabbed away, again and again, while hacking up black gunk. That is, while spitting and vomitting. Not easy to stab someone while puking. It’s an acquired skill.

I didn’t think I was getting anywhere, except in the middle of a mess of more goo as it wrapped around my chest and began to squeeze. “Not gonna lie..” I squeezed out, using precious air. “You’re being a real dick right now. And a lot harder to kill than I thought.” You can kill everything living, but they didn’t seem to have anything living in the suits. Like fighting water. Worse, water with a mind, like fucking nanites. Nanites in a humanoid suit. Rage filled me at not having considered it, coupling with the mounting fear and pain to create a threesome simultaneous orgasm of adrenaline. My pen hand moved like a blur and I swiped through the suit with the blackened zirconium nails of my free hand. I just hoped I could somehow destabilize the entire thing.

And then I did. It happened when I thought I’d torn through the back of the suit because my pen hit something a little tougher. When it didn’t go through, I brought my claws to meet what I figured was the wall. Instead of hitting the wall, my hand closed on some rounded thing. I squeezed, digging my nails in. Squeezing this thing as bad as this thing as squeezing me. Now serving: heavily tenderized ribs. Probably broken.

One good squeeze later and I could breath a little more easily while standing in a puddle of the same goop that drained out of the collapsing encounter suit. Feeling like it still had a grip on me, I slunk back against the opposite wall and tried to suck down some glorious air. Ah, nitrogen. The lifeblood of the human body. The other gases might disagree, but that level of pettiness is a good example of the sort of antics you can expect among low-class gases. The noble gases never act that way. ‘Tis an elemental form of aristocracy.

I’d gotten lucky with that control sphere thing. Dumb luck can be an incredible asset when your ass is on the line, but it’s nothing to rely on. At least I now knew these things had some sort of thing in them I could break to defeat them. Now to hope I don’t have to rely on dumb luck any more.

As if in answer to my desire to no longer be lucky, the door chose that time to open, propelled as it was by the hand of the other bodyguard as it led the way for the exiting diplomat himself.

He looked between the rapidly-spreading black puddle, shredded bodysuit, and gunk-covered me, and asked me, “What has happened here?” in Korean.

“I’m Japanese,” I answered in Spanish.

His bright blue eyes bored into me, like something dull that penetrates stuff. A Great Gatsby dildo, maybe. Sorry, book lovers, but I don’t read it aloud and the opening paragraph still gives me dry mouth.

“You,” the human-looking alien began, this time in English, “Obey. You serve. You pave the way.”

“Fuck you,” I told him, wondering why what he said sounded so damn familiar.

“Stand up.”

I stood.

Fuck.

“Walk with us while we depart. My guard and I are leaving, but you stay. Thank you for killing this one. It lacked commitment to our cause. Kill anyone who attempts to stop me leaving.” He and the other guard turned and began to walk. Without meaning to, I followed, and followed quickly despite my injuries.

“I never came here to help you out.”

He didn’t respond.

“I only came to spread the word. Have you heard the Good News? You can go fuck yourself!” I tried to jump at him and bury something sharp in his neck. And by tried, I mean I gave the order and my legs wobbled. I fell against the wall.

He glanced back. “A shame you haven’t fully embraced cybernetics. You are lacking.” And with that, they walked off and left me. I still followed, hoping I did so more out of a desire to kill him than save him.

Staggering on like that, I figured out where I heard his words before. I’d have figured it out sooner, but it wasn’t the entire phrase. “Obey. Serve. Give in. Surrender. Pave the way. “ Not even a year ago, I fought my way up the side of a Romanian mountain, working my way through vampires, werewolves, and temporal fluctuations, and heard that message embedded in a virus that attacked me when I temporarily appeared in the future. A future I was almost up to, possibly. Maybe. I hope not.

I thought I’d purged it. Woops.

So I followed, my biological parts wanting to kill that guy, while my artificial ones (excepting the boobs, which are completely natural), wanted to serve, obey, and pave the way. After five of the longest minutes on earth, I hit sunlight. Ugh, just what I needed. I was already hurt, but the daytime demonstone of light assaulted my eyes as well. At least until I spotted some general or something jogging toward the diplomat and guard as they walked across the marble walkway and grassy lawn toward the helipad, ignoring both the VIP entrance and the lobby area I’d screwed around with last time.

“Wait! Please stay, we can work this argh!” he fell with a scream, a laser hole burnt through the back of his skull. I know. I saw it happen. It was my eye that shot the laser. I could almost imagine the alien bastard smirking at that, too.

“She killed General Wilhelm!” someone yelled. Wonderful. I saw guns appearing in hands all over the place. Even a janitor, whose presence mopping outside spoke wonders for my powers of deduction on my way in earlier. A pair of dress-uniform officers stopped by the fallen general to check his vital signs, but a laser-cut hole through the skull and brain doesn’t generally have a favorable prognosis.

In the process of fulfilling the literal order given to me, I’d managed to not only draw attention away from the escaping alien invaders, but had attracted a wide caliber of pissed-off people with guns. And I still felt compelled to follow.

To think, me without my armor. I made that big deal about dumb luck earlier, but there I was, surrounded by enough guns and government agents to make an NRA member wet their pants with piss and jizz. Sure would be a good time not to rely on dumb luck.

I looked up, ignoring the sight of the aliens casually jumping the helipad’s protective wall, looking. Then I smiled, because while I clearly wasn’t lucky, I also wasn’t about to be dumb.

I held up my hands, dropping my goo-stained pen. “Everyone, wait! I have something I need to get out before we go any further, but I promise I’ll go without a fight.”

I squeezed my fists shut and bent over. “Hnnnnng! Ung! Hnn!” Over the sounds of my straining, I heard someone cough and someone else stifle a chuckle. I spared a glance to see some of them had lowered their guns, but fewer than I’d have hoped for. Some people really need a sense of humor. I mean, if I looked as stupid as they did, I’d have had to learn to laugh by then in my life.

“Lay flat on the ground and put your hands on your head!” a voice boomed. No thanks. I’ve followed enough orders today. The alien ship’s loud liftoff and quick flight just made me less inclined to follow anymore, including the one given to me by the ambassador.

I held up a finger. “Ooooooooooone second, I’m trying to…hold on, I think I got a good one.” I waggled the finger. “Someone come pull this! Ah, hell, nevermind.” I grabbed my finger and gave it a tug. Then Moai and his luggage hit the lawn and threw up a dust storm.

That bought time. The guards refused to open up on anything for fear of hitting the wrong anything, so the dust and the remains of Moai’s parachute provided great cover. They probably wished they hadn’t been so cautious when I stepped out a little straighter, regenerative nanites flooring it to my ribs to give them a clean bill of health. I rubbed my wrists, glad to be in the armor I’d sent with Moai as his luggage. “Thank you, Moai,” I told the magically-animate statue minion who hauled himself out of a small crater to stand beside me facing the numerous guards who blocked my escape. A few of them had tossed aside their guns in favor of various glowing body parts. Their own, sadly. I looked them over and laughed. “Gentlemen, I promised I’d leave without a fight. I don’t think this will be much of one at all.”

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Enlightening Strikes 6

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It’s important to remember that a guy like me doesn’t try to do good deeds all that often for a very good reason: the world sucks. It’s full of bastard-coated bastards in bastard filling. Case in point, for all I did trying to make sure he wasn’t mind-controlled by aliens, Man-Opener decided to attack Venus.

See, I’d decided to give it a day or two after the bar incident before officially contacting Man-Opener as Banshee. In the meantime, Man-Opener attacked Master Academy East’s Dorms. Well, not much of an attack. More of a raid, really. He and some henchmen showed up, blew open the side of a building, and got into a short battle with the students. Most of the henchmen were captured in the process, so I’ve got Carl posting bail to get them onboard Double Cross.

Man-Opener carved his way through the building for a time, then left behind a bomb of the sort with a really obvious detonator. Asshole didn’t even make the timer tricky in any way. It actually gave them time to work out some shield to carry it and contain most of the blast when they got it further from the city. Since there’s no way he could know about my relationship with Wildflower without the assistance of a suicidal informant, I suspect he did it to throw down a guantlet in front of Venus and try to prove himself my better.

That won’t work out for him. One way or another. The bomb thing was just stupid, though. A timer that actually reflects when something’s going to blow up. Ha!

So that’s what my attempt to help the world has wrought.

And, dammit, I couldn’t think of any other leader types besides he and I. The same reputation that puts me at odds with him is why I hate his ass, and the person it’s attached to. Come to think of it, Oligarch was sort of the same way. He didn’t have power as an inventor or a fighter, but as a leader and strategist. Plus, working for the aliens, but that’s something I didn’t know at the time. But still, that sort of metaphorical magnetism is a bit rare. Maybe people can get a gang going, but it’s harder to herd such a huge group of people. I’m only pulling it off in the corporation by dumping pretty much all my responsibilities on other people.

Nah, Man-Opener and I only have any authority because of being asskickers, and that’s an unstable system. Nobody wins all the time, in every way. Every system can be beat, and any living thing can be killed.

Which is a really long way of saying that I didn’t have a clue what to do. No one necessarily to talk to. Alerting a large group would mean having to check the entire group. Not too many people would willingly let me cut their neck open, even if they don’t happen to have something there they don’t want me to see. And Hephaestus, the organization that hired Man-Opener and others to take me on isn’t exactly taking my calls today. Same problem as telling a bunch of villains there, except they have even more reason to hate me after I took some back pay out of them by force.

I mean, I wanted to get involved, beat up Man-Opener, and maybe blow up the Master Academy dorms myself. The dorm thing isn’t only about showing up Man-Opener, either. The wallpaper was terrible. But, seriously, I do bombs better.

So I didn’t really have any of them to talk to. I’ve gotten to the point where my friendliest interactions are with heroes. They may talk about beating me up, but that’s better than what the bar guys tried. That realization is why I didn’t give Venus the satisfaction of calling her to see if she might want some help. Nope. Not doing that.

I’m also ok with Wildflower, but she’s having to stay at my place now after the dorms were damaged, and I don’t want to spend all my time with her. Even if I could parley a lot of that time into vigorous physical exercise. Like some sort of sport. Softball, maybe?

Instead, I went back to examining the sample of the alien communication pod I moved to my office, trying to figure it out. I doublechecked it, then went and started checking the grey matter. Brain matter can have signals going around it, but then it needs nerves running to some sort of other organ which communicates somehow. Maybe there’s another organ it connects to?

I just didn’t get it, and spent a good long while thinking the problem over. In fact, I spent so long turning this thing over and treating it like my own personal stress ball, that eventually a couple of people came in to try and give me something to do. Prince Pomerania, the heavyweight champion of marketing, was trying to insist that special Easter cups designs I approved would be seen as a bad move for our coffee division. Crash, my oft put-upon assistant, tried to stop him, probably trying to prevent conflict and lessen the chance of injury or death.

It must have been important to Prince Pom, though. He stormed in despite the warnings and slammed the cup on my desk. It was even full! Past-tense, that is. Then the hot coffee splashed all over me. Setting down the organ, I glared up at the frozen Prince Pom and Crash, then turned my gaze to Moai, who stood in a corner of the office watching his soap operas on a tablet. “Moai, I’m going to need a team of shovelers and a flock of trained fightin’ aardvarks. It’s Varking Fight Time!”

I stood up for an epic pose, which spilled more of the coffee down onto the alien pod. In a flash, a jumble of weird shit hit my brain. Not words, but a concept. Something like “Return to sender.”

Gave me a hell of a headache, but it let Crash, Pom, and a few others screaming and clutching their heads. Geez, it wasn’t that bad. But then, that clued me in that we were talkin’ telepathy here. It’s like wifi for the brain, but you have to have a compatible adapter, of sorts. Because of my species’ brains being a bit different from humans, and then the added cybernetic hardware in there, it takes an incredibly strong telepath to even sneak a peek.

Knowing that, I placed a call to Wonder, or whatever our chemist’s name was, to bring some primo pain medication to the main office, along with anything leftover from the tests to make a telepathy-resistance drug. Then I had Moai shove Pom and Crash out of the office so I wouldn’t have to hear their screams when I poured more coffee on the organ.

Gah, fucking headpounder! But, and this is important, it gave me some insight into the mechanism of alien communication. It’s telepathy after all! Or at least it’s telepathy this time, using an implanted or grown organ that activates when the subject has access to a chemical in coffee.

The first thing I jumped to was caffeine. It’s one of the most widely-used drugs on earth, and I hear they pretty much live on the stuff at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Plus, I had both root beer and an ice-cold, refreshing drink by a company that has not yet paid me for sponsorship readily available in my office fridge for testing. Ah, undeclared drink, who would I kill without you? First, I tried the root beer. Too much vanilla, but I liked it for the touch of honey. The alien person pod didn’t care for it. To the great pain of many people in an as-yet undetermined radius around my office, that one worked. And I probably would have been a little concerned about the continued torture of their minds, but I had this stabbing headache for, like, ten seconds, and their drawn-out screaming didn’t help me feel any better.

Now, I love pained screams as much as the next person, but it does eventually get old. They didn’t even work right when I tried to play a tune. They were completely uncoachable, even when I stepped on Pom’s foot. Just when it had gotten mildly inconvenient, the elevator to my office’s floor dinged and a mist seeped through the closed door. It flowed out as soon as the door opened, as if it had been packed in tight. From the mist’s midst stepped Wonder, smoking something out of what used to be a minigun. The barrels spun, pouring the smoke from whatever he had lit inside, though my imagination filled in the blanks it was likely firing.

I guess that made him a big damn hero. At the very least, everyone stopped their screaming and took a late lunch while I sat back in my office and pondered the mysteries of the cosmos over a can of Vienna sausages. Ok, two cans. And a bag of Cheetoes. I still had some Christmas Candy in a drawer, too.

But aside from that, I just tried to think about this clever little thing the aliens used. An organ that used inputs of caffeine, albeit smaller amounts than what I spilled on them, in order to create telepathy. It must have been better-aimed while alive. Really easy to miss-.

I ran back the conversation where Captain Lightning talked about how it was found, and paused at the part where the medical examiner knew it was a communication device. Huh. They just somehow knew before I ever cut into it.

I called up Captain Lightning. “Yo, Captain Hooker, I gotta know something.”

He cussed quietly. “You are the last person I want to talk to right now unless you know how to get rid DMHP.”

Oh yeah, that stuff. I remember looking that stuff up back when I attacked the city of Memphis with BZ. It’s kind of like a version of BZ that makes people sit around and get the munchies. “Can’t help you if you’ve done a bunch of it, but you’ll ride it out just fine. It’s basically THC, so it’s not going to kill you. Before you go off into La La Land, I had a question about our other project.”

“I am not affected, but someone used it to take hostages I am responsible for.”

I shrugged. “Like I said, it’s pretty much THC. Oil-like, so hard to get it into the air, let me tell you. Cleans up easy with alcohol, unless you get some inside you. Not much capable of killing, just makes ’em weak and sleepy for a day or so, something like that. Never personally used it. They probably won’t die, unless they get enough pumped in to freeze to death.”

“Freeze to death? No one can freeze to death in this heat.”

“Don’t know where you are, and you’re not telling, but DMHP can, if you give someone enough, make someone die of hypothermia or of low blood pressure. So, about that favor…”

I paused when I heard a loud snap, then a crackle, then a bunch of little pops. Either Lightning was in the middle of an operation involving a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal, or something went down and a lot of people started shooting. “Ya know, just give me a call back when you’re not busy.”

I left him alone for about fifteen minutes and checked through the science division’s stocks, wondering what nifty chemicals they had in there. With one of our top guys being a former drug cooker, they might have authorized all sorts of stuff. You never know when a bunch of mustard gas can come in handy. It’s great on bratwurst and brats alike.

Ah, good chemicals are wondeful. They might come in handy. Before I could finish deciding between pineapples and pineoranges, Lightning called me back. I answered the phone with, “Morty’s Mortuary, we do burial and barbecue. You stab ’em, we slab ’em. Care for an order of ribs?

“No thank you. You said alcohol?”

“Yeah, makes it a little harder to clean up than regular water, but there you go. Still a handy chemical. I considered it back when I gassed Memphis with a somewhat-similar gas, but that one was much more hallucinogenic.” I spun around in my chair while distracted, since trying to plan would just distract me. “But that’s not why I called you, obviously. I just wanted to know if you checked whoever did the medical examination of the Senator’s body.”

“I didn’t think to at the time, but you think I should?”

“Well, I finally figured out how this thing works, but I cut into it. Which is odd, because someone told you it talked to people without needing to. So maybe you ought to go find that person. I need you to get in there, and open them up. You may have to sweet talk them, or maybe lubricate them with something like alcohol, but I want you to ride their ass however long it takes to bust this wide open. Don’t be afraid to use innuendo, or perhaps bad words.” I stopped my chair spinning and decided to rest my head on the desk, closing my eyes to try and block out the vertigo.

“I am not doing that to another man, but I’ll go have a beer with him and see what he can tell me. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“It’s telepathic. Reacts to caffeine. Oh, and if you get another one, go ahead and give it a try. It takes a lot of coffee or soda poured on it to get a reaction.”

Ok, so maybe there’s a good reason a lot of people don’t like me.

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Enlightening Strikes 3

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For the late Fortune Cookie to have been picked up by a killer looking for someone else, she must have been somewhere he’d be. She had that power, but it must not have been enough. I don’t know why she even bothered going herself; she’s tends…tended…to take a hands-off approach. I’ve looked over graffiti and anything else from the crime scene again and again and again, trying to tell if somehow, some way she meant to get a message to me by her death.

But that’s not how her power worked, I think. So I figured going after the killer would be the best use of my time. And maybe she knew I’d do that, too.

Regardless, once I got ready, I went all private eye up in this bitch. Looked over the other victims to see what was meant about the serial killer hunting outside their usual preference. He likes his women like he likes his coffee: tall with a pale head. Likes to go after of blondes that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Someone’s not a fan of Nazi playboy bunnies. A dark-haired Asian woman stands out in that group, but it also meant I knew what to look for while retracing Cookie’s steps.

He got distracted from his usual routine. She knew who he was after, but got in the way, or walked into his trap and made herself irresistible. So I needed to keep an eye out for tall blondes along that last route Cookie ever took. Though I narrowed it down a great deal by figuring out when she went from walking to being driven. Because I doubt the killer carried her on his back to that house.

I walked made it a part of my daily routine to pass by there several times, always in armor that projected a slightly different take on the ideal victim. Then I spotted a van with the back doors open. Someone pushed something in and the van was a rockin’. When I walked around, a woman looked back at me. The short brunette looked nice and all, nothing like a potential victim. Checking her out, I saw where she even had a fake leg. A cheap one, not one of my superior products. She’d been pushing a small couch into the back of the van. “Need a hand there?”

She smiled at me and reached over to adjust a sheet on top of the couch. “No thanks. I got it.”

My projection smiled. “No, I got this.” I pushed her aside to help finish getting that couch in there. In the process, the sheet bucked a little and I saw a few blonde hairs uncovered. Behind me, my armor’s 360-degree HUD showed the woman reaching down to undo her false leg below the knee. She raised it to overhead and smacked it over my head. It thunked off harmlessly.

“Stop,” I said, lifting the couch more to finish getting it in there.

Confused, she tried once more, whapping it horizontally across the back of my head.

“You’re just embarassing yourself at this point,” I told her, then turned around and clocked her. The blow sent her head against the van’s back door window, cracking it and knocking her out cold.

When the van drove off this time, the blonde was left on the ground and our little killer, a woman it turns out, rode in the back. And instead of some cheap little house, we were headed to a bright and shining tower. I ditched the van and carried her up the back private elevator, wondering which of the various heroes would inevitably interrupt the dispersal of justice.

Will it be Venus, with her annoying insistence that even someone as bad as me shouldn’t be killed for reasons? Perhaps World War II veteran Captain Lightning will fly in, angry that a lying killer would lie to him and try to kill someone. I suppose Wildflower could pick this time to show up, bringing naive relationship drama just in time to see the real me. But why stop there? There’s always room for more random people to throw themselves into the middle of my life. More random alien people, that is. I’ve got my eyes on them.

The peg leg killer woke up in my arms on the ride up and got a good view of me in my armor. Then she wet herself. Profusely. This did not get her on my good side, since I was carrying her at the time.

Up in the penthouse, I tossed her out onto the floor like yesterday’s salad and locked down the elevator. She stood up and hopped up and down, absent her leg and weapon, not that it would have done her any good. She hopped over toward the kitchen and grabbed for a pair of knives to hold out in front of me. I calmly approached the elevator. “Oh no. Please. Knives. Perhaps I can find something in here that can disarm you safely without risking any harm to myself.”

I threw the refrigerator at her. She folded up on the ground, avoiding most of the fridge’s impact against the counter, then crawling out from underneath it before it could slide down on her.

She’d dropped a knife in all the hubbub. I stalked toward her while she headed into the living room area. It’s an art, ya know. Good stalking, as it is used in this context, is about projecting unstoppable menace and getting really close while appearing to never move faster than a walk. Good stalking in other contexts usually involves uncomfortable levels of obsession, and I usually reserve that for Venus, but only because we’re meant to be together.

That was a joke, ha ha, fat chance. Anyway, this cake is great, it’s so delicious and moist. So I threw it and the cake dish at Pegleg Patsy! While she cussed, it appears she didn’t concuss. Holding onto the knife, she regained her footing enough to stand. “You’re not going to kill me, fucker! I’ll beat you!”

She jabbed the knife toward her throat, but found it wouldn’t go all the way with my hand on her wrist. Instead, the breaking of her wristbone convinced her that dropping the knife was her most physically possible course of action. A kick sent it skidding along the floor. A punch in the gut doubled her over. Is it singling someone over when they only have one leg?

“Why did you kill the Asian woman?” I asked. “Is this about me? Are you one of them?”

“Fuck them, fuck you, fuck her! She wasn’t even my type!” I grabbed her head and lifted her up to look her in the eyes, squeezing her face in my fingers. She spat on my helmet’s visor. I wiped it off, slapped her with the spitty glove, and then brought her back up to look into her face again.

“Then why did you kill her?”

“She got in my way! I wanted the tall bitch, with her long legs. She’s the only one that matters, whether she likes it or not. Especially if not!” I shut her up with a gentle chop to the throat, just enough to send her into a coughing fit.

“You need some serious help, you know that?” I asked, watching her hold her throat and try to recover. “So you have a grudge against a certain type, and she just got in your way?”

Ole Peggy there nodded despite the coughing. “She started to help me with the sofa before I was ready. Tried to tell me I’d be sorry if I killed her.”

I nodded. “Yes, you will be. By the way, did you know it’s actually possible to skullfuck someone while keeping them alive? The things you learn in this lifetime. And I mean it. The things you will learn.”

It was then that the glass leading to the balcony shattered from Wildflower tearing through it her claws. The green-skinned herione stepped over the broken glass and glared at me with narrow slitted eyes, vine-like green tail swaying behind her barely-clothed body. Her tight shorts, bikini-like top, and scowl full of pointy teeth all left little to the imagination. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. Pegleg yelled out, “Help, this man kidnapped me!”

“Is that true?” Wildflower asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, but only because I was going to torture and kill her.”

“See?! Help me, please. He’s crazy. He threw a refrigerator at me,” my victim whined, clearly trying to lie to garner sympathy.

“Shut up,” I said while stomping on her ankle. Something snapped and she fell to floor, screaming and crying. To Wildflower, I added, “You know, this is a really bad time for you to stop in. Can we do this later?”

“Why?” She asked, nodding her chin toward the downed killer.

“She’s the serial killer, and she killed an ally of mine. I won’t stand for that.” A moan from the floor emphasized that point. “She won’t stand for it, either.”

A metal rod speared into my floor. The cable it trailed stayed taught while a zipping noise grew louder. Venus appeared in her patrol exoskeleton; it lacked the protection of full power armor, but still gave her armor plates and extra equipment to supplement her fighting skills; all in her signature gold, white, and pink. While the metal rod rewound into her armor’s left forearm, I quietly texted Moai to grab a rocket launcher and standby.

“Et tu, Venus?” I asked the plucky heroine who always stood ready to save society from me. “This one’s owed me.”

“Funny, I don’t see you wearing a judge’s robes,” she said from behind a mirrored facemask that protected her upper face.

“Truth doesn’t change just because a jury says something. She’s our serial killer. I’ll deal with. Go ahead, ask the average man on the street if they feel safer leaving it to me.” I shooed her away.

“It’s the principle of the thing. It’s not my place to give up on her.”

“The world would be better if you di-fucking hell!” We now interrupt this message to bring you a flashbang! Both happened too soon for me to stop, as a pair of lights on either side of Venus’s helmet lit up and then a piercing noise rang in my ears. A second later, an uppercut embedded me halfway up into my bedroom’s floor above the living room area. Instinctively, I activated my cybernetic vocal chords’ banshee scream. The note once used by a prison to paralyze me instead came from my own lips while my helmet prevented me from seeing it.

My eyes weren’t blinded for long, though. Sure, the original flash got through, but they weren’t as sensitive as organic eyes, so I recovered more quickly. I’d embedded in the ceiling with my hands caught in one room with my lower body, so I took to pressing them up against the ceiling. When that didn’t give me enough leverage, I broke through the ceiling with my hands enough to push myself down onto the floor. I found Venus holding the killer under one arm and Wildflower under another, seemingly unaffected herself. I shut my yap, trying not to incur any more maintenance time on my voicebox than necessary.

Venus took one look at me and turned to run. As she ran, Wildflower pushed away from her and stopped. Venus tried to turn and reach for her, but my nemesis hit the edge of the roof and fell. I pursued, only to be stopped when the Wildflower’s mutated human/plant/animal form tackled me. As I went down, I heard another zipping go from loud to quiet, followed by the whoosh of a rocket and an explosion coupled with more glass shattering.

“I missed.” Moai’s text appeared in the lower left corner of my HUD while I roll with Wildflower and threw her off me. She landed on kitchen counter with a graceful backflip, her elongated toenails clicking on the countertop.

I looked to the balcony, but saw no chance of pursuit. “So now what. You try to beat me up as some scorned woman, fail, and I kill you? Or is this yet another escape?” I turned back to Wildflower, who slid down to the floor.

“We may as well talk since I don’t intend to arrest you. Like I could, right?.” She lowered har arms by her side and relaxed. Even the hair on her head seemed to relax. Probably some sort of response it had to make her look bigger in a fight.

I held out my arms. “Well then, let’s start with the obvious. This is the real me. Deal with it.”

“You were manipulating me the entire time?”

I nodded.

“Even when you stayed the night with me in the asylum?” Geez, what’s with everyone referencing that? The villain group I had joined captured her and held her in an old asylum. I was bringing her stuff to get on her good side and influence her. I brought stuff for her to sleep, but she insisted I watch over her so the guards didn’t try anything. So what if I didn’t intend to stay?

I nodded again. “Duh.”

“And all the dates?” She asked with a smirk.

Well, I had an image, I guess. Besides, who doesn’t like spending some occasional time with a good-looking person who hangs on your every word? “Don’t tell me you’re an adrenaline junkie or one of those women who thinks she can change someone. I always got the sense you were smarter than that.”

“Smart enough to fool you.” She walked close, looking into my visor. I kept monitoring her arms, her legs, even the surrounding area in case she smuggled plants up here for a sneak attack. “You wanted to use me. I wanted to use you.”

“For what?” I tilted my head to clue her in to my curiosity.

“I was already out of my cell before you showed up that last day, but I couldn’t have escaped without you. You wined and dined me. Bought me things. Gave me money. You have a unique charm, and who doesn’t like spending time with an attractive woman like you?”

Jamie Foxx sang the titular lyric of the song “Gold Digger” from my helmet’s speakers as I looked at her. “So that’s all you are?”

Wildflower slapped me across the helmet, then roiled in disgust at the spittle and plaster she got on herself.

“Ha! The heroine wants a sugar mama to take care of her and her bills.”

She hissed at me. “I wanted a rich, successful, evil little girlfriend who would step on anyone to get what she wanted. If she owned the lab that took everything from me, all the more poetic.” I didn’t own Sigma when their experiments turned her into the life form that stood before me, but I understand the symmetry of that situation. “Look at what you do when a friend dies? Venus wouldn’t do that. No hero would.”

I grabbed her by the neck. “You thought I’d die for you?”

“I knew you’d kill for me.” She didn’t budge one inch.

I looked her over. “Before this goes any further, I need to check something out. A bit of a physical.”

Yep, she’s almost definitely a plant. Well, partly a plant, but almost definitely sent by aliens.

She smiled, showing off those feline canines. “Anything you want.” She showed such trust. Tsk, tsk.

I snapped her neck to the side. Maybe trusting me was a bad idea. I let her body drop, then looked around for that damn knife from earlier. Ah, there it was. Turning Wildflower over, I carved open the back of her neck to check for one of those little alien communication pods. Despite the difficulty getting through her skin and its annoying tendency to refuse to stay open, the check turned up nothing. Shame, I guess. There was something thrilling about her motives. She didn’t want money or things. She wanted a crazy-ass murderer. She got one, too.

I dropped her body and stood up, wondering if I had anything nice to drink at the bar. I stopped when I saw her body move behind me. Her tail glided up her back, wrapped itself around her neck, and wrenched it back into place. The neck itself, I realized, had closed up almost completely by this point. I turned around to watch her stand back to her feet. “I lost everything to Sigma labs. Maybe you didn’t notice. You like to talk, but I didn’t have much to say. I don’t know for sure Rachel is my real name. I don’t know who I was. Everything about me, except these awesome powers.”

“A hero that tough who doesn’t want to bring me in?” She had my interest. Goody goodies often don’t like the idea that their partner is dirty in more than just the fun ways.

“Yes, a hero. I’m not going to give up stopping criminals and bullies. That’s what I have now. I don’t expect you to be anything but what you are. God, I want you to be who you are. No one will ever do to me again what Sigma Labs did.”

I stepped closer, checking her over. Her physiology wasn’t quite human, and she showed some agitation and flushing, but no nervousness, no doubt. She seemed honest about liking that I do what I do how I do it. She didn’t just accept it, she wanted it. “You’ll use me.”

She giggled. “Use me, too, but no one uses us.” She put her arms around my neck.

I grabbed one arm and moved it aside to release the seal on my helmet. She put it back in place and moved the other for me when I undid the other seal and pulled it off. Suddenly, I could smell the blood, the plaster, and her. Her most of all. It was a good smell. Like sex, or at least a close-up with some of the body parts that make it happen. I couldn’t help looking into her eyes. Or moving my face closer to hers. Or the kiss, whichever of us started it.

***

Late that night, technically into the next morning, I awoke from my sleep, disturbed by the lack of covers. I only had on a thin sheet, same as the superhero laying next to me on my upstairs landing. We lost the comforter, pillows, and bed when Venus swung by to see what had befallen her comrade in arms. We missed Venus, but not, as far as Crash’s email indicates, my personal assistant’s parked car on the street below.

I curled up next to Wildflower’s…hope she doesn’t expect me to call her by her real name, Rachel…anyway, Wildflower’s warmer body until I realized that, despite all that had gone on, things smelled very, very different. She had more of a citrus smell now. I rubbed at the little scar on the back of her neck and a still lightly-bruised throat caused by something much more recent than my interrogation of her earlier. “Tigerlily,” I whispered my favored nickname in her twitching ear.

“Mmm?”

“Did you use pheromones on me earlier?”

“Mmm. Mhm. Jus’ a little. Mostly was in heat,” she responded drowsily. I felt her tail coil around my thigh, the thorns lightly pricking my skin.

I tightened my grip on her throat, fingernails biting into her flesh, but not tearing anything open. I held her like that long enough to get my point across, and though she struggled to breathe, she didn’t raise a hand to me. “You don’t use pheromones on me.” I told her.

She started hacking when I let her go, so I took a moment to sit up and search for a blanket that might have fallen off the bed. I found it draped over the railing at the edge of the second floor and pulled it onto both of us. Even though I’d faced away from Wildflower, she soon turned to wrap her arms and legs around my body, nuzzling the back of my head. “Sorry, babe,” she said with a purr before slipping into sleep once more.

The interesting thing about being a psycho: somehow, you’ll never be the craziest one in the relationship. But, provided I believe her, it’s nice to have someone in a romantic sense willing to accept me that way. I mean, not like it’s love. But it’s still nice.

Unless she’s really an alien. Then I’ll kill her anyway. After I’m done cuddling, that is.

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