Tag Archives: Matatoa Bobby Doomgex

Under The Radar 8

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Thanks to happenstance and engineering, a most bizarre scenario had been created: one of my guises was celebrated by the public while heroes are reviled. Or at least mildly detested. Like, maybe old ladies won’t spit on them and call them names, but they’re definitely not offering any hard candy from their purses.

It’s about degrees. According to Carl, the worst insult he ever heard from his grandma was when he had his picture taken in middle school and she said it didn’t do him justice. For a granny, that’s a harsh burn. That’s one step away from an old lady ordering you be taken to Auschwitz.

The Argentineans reading this know what I’m talking about, right?

I guess I need to start a series where I just go around the world insulting various countries. Hey Paraguay, up yours!

Now that Argentina and Paraguay are out of the room, allow me to continue.

I was a local hero. I was the poor, persecuted villain who injected people with a mysterious substance while claiming it would protect them from a spreading chemical disaster they weren’t sure they were affected by. I was like one of those alternative medicine quacks, except my stuff worked. I just didn’t have it do all its work yet.

Sure, it helped them if they had legitimate minor problems, but I had a more dickish reason to give people access to my panacea. It’s not like Venus could warn them otherwise. It didn’t help her any that the news played right into my hands. My newshound buddy, Harlon, helped direct things even without my tipping him off. He did send me an email asking me if the pirate look was my new thing or if that was someone else. He’d been sitting on Tricia’s story until after everyone knew I’d survived my escape.

I wrote him back that he should keep my secret awhile longer, but that it’d say something bad about Venus if she knew all this time and didn’t reveal it to people.

I suppose I should stop being a double-crossing son of a bitch one of these days. Alas, she is the frog and I am but a mere scorpion riding her back across the water. It’s a fable, people. Venus could have learned from it.

Instead, she took an entirely different lesson away from my misadventures of late.

I discovered the first inklings of it when checking the watch she’s been keeping on me. I took a step out the door, then looked around. No reaction. I walked out the door a few feet. Still nobody crashing my party. Finally, I ran out into the street. One car wreck later, my ass hurt worse than breeding day at the donkey emporium, but no heroes had anything to do with it. No heroes responded at all. Fucking heroes. What if I’d been an innocent civilian running into the street? Why won’t anyone protect me from myself?!

Oh yeah, because I keep killing them. Well, if they were better heroes, they’d be able to save each other and me, now wouldn’t they?

So I didn’t see the young heroes again. Technically, I didn’t know for sure that Pink Pixie died off. The last I saw of her, she looked like death warmed over if death was a cheap gas station burrito. While I’d really, really like to think that assured her death, I’ve seen enough improbable things by now to not count her out just yet. Heck, last year I saw my own stolen technology used to revive people I killed. And it’s very possible I gave Venus an idea of how to save Pixie with my little clinic.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she had her buddy Forcelight fly up some samples of the Long Life nanites. So Venus will keep Pixie secret, maybe switch up her costume, and have her sneak up on me for a chance at revenge. Expose me in public. Something like that. Sounds par for the course considering our confrontations in the past.

After I put my ass bone back into place, I figured it was time to go out and explore the big, wide world. Eh, it could wait. The outside world is overrated. That’s why all the cool people stay inside and read stuff online.

So I worked on my armor to get it into tip-top shape before heading out to Rothstein’s Sports Bar. I liked that place for the joke in its name. That, and the disposable bouncers. I liked to make them live up to their job title if they didn’t let me in. I strapped on my armor, gathered up Matty, Moai, and Carl, and took them on a nice family outing to the city’s wretched hive of scum and villainy.

A muscular little person guarded the door, looking out at the crowd between his bowler hat and redhaired mustache. I hear folks like that consider the term “midget” insulting, and dwarf is probably right out. It might offend the dwarves, and they can be real axeholes when riled, especially if they prefer to be called dwarfs. I stepped up to the door while directing the car around to a parking space by remote. The bouncer’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Yer Psycho Gecko, right?”

“That’d be me. Unless the feds are asking. Then I’m not me. I’m having an out of body experience right now,” I answered. In the back of my mind, my car rammed a car out of a handicapped space and parked there instead.

What? I bet a lot of psychiatrists would declare to me mentally incapable, especially after I threatened to feed them their own lungs.

“Go on in,” the fellow told me.

“Thank you, sir. Dapper hat there, by the by,” I said.

He tipped it toward me as I led my little group into the place. It looked nice and bright, as always. Unlike some of the others, Rothstein’s Sports Bar didn’t choose to look dark or grimy. The place had its bar, its old-fashioned looking checkered tiles, its raised section with laminate wood, even its pool tables. It could have been a nice, normal sports bar if not for the people in costumes and masks sitting around, a number of whom shut up when they saw me.

I took a bow. “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have my pyro with me, but suffice it to say you are now in the presence of the most awesome thing you’ll see until the next time I do something. Play me off, jukebox!” I pointed to the jukebox, which just finished its song and gave me a warm welcome with…Tom Jones.

Great. That’s what I needed. “Here’s a guy who’s totally not annoying! And let’s really pound that message in with ‘What’s Up Pussycat?’ as accompaniment.” Thank you, douchebox. Thank you very much.

We put a couple of small tables together and settled in, the waiter stopping by to take drink and appetizer orders. That’s when I noticed that we still had a few eyes on us. Most of the crowd stopped paying attention by then, but not the trio at this other table. They wore sharp, jutting armor that would have made a good shaving razor for someone who didn’t mind being decapitated. Glowing red eyes peered out of helms. The one seated facing us looked like she had feminine lips under that helmet, but then lots of villains like wearing makeup.

Eye shadow, blush, a little bit of lipstick; it’s part of being theatrical. I’ve done it, kinda. I mean, I wore a purple glittery thong with a unicorn on it before under the armor, just in case a superhero tore my pants off and I had to really intimidate him.

Heroes do it in their own way, too. I know for a fact that some of them stuff their tights. I tore an entire summer sausage out of one guy’s pant legs in the middle of a fight once.

I took off my helmet as the others ordered. When it was my turn, I asked the waiter to send some drinks over to the trio. They looked up, surprised, when he brought them the glasses. “These are courtesy of the gentleman over there, who wished me to tell you to go fuck yourselves.”

I raised my own glass and smiled at them before turning around to discuss the Superbowl snack list. Carl and I were just getting into the debate over which hot dogs to get when a large shadow loomed over the table. The armored trio. The tall one lifted me up, giving me a good look at a helmet with a spiked crown that looked like it would make the perfect skewer.

I pointed at the assumed female and told her right then and there, “Listen, lady-like thing! If you’re that stuck on it, I’ll fuck you, but you three need to form a nice, orderly line and have lots of peanut butter handy.”

“Boss, you’re gonna need this,” Carl said as he settled my helmet onto my head.

“Thanks,” I told him, just before the spikey gal threw me toward the wall. Correction, she threw me toward the outside of the building. I know because I didn’t stop at the wall. Those three sauntered their skin-flayingly gorgeous hips out through the hole, at least until Moai bulled into them. The smaller and taller ones didn’t react much, but the one with middling height got knocked around. She sent up sparks as she skidded along the road.

I activated my evasion sequence. I disappeared, while four holographic copies of me split off from where I had been, each one a little different. The short slicer person punched right through the one doing a crane stance. That hologram looked down at where her arm still stuck out of its chest, then back at her, then back down, then raised a hand to the sky and crumpled in a clear delayed reaction to a mortal wound.

The middle-sized one got up and ignored the rest of the holograms, heading right for me. The tall one did something, and all of a sudden the holograms were blasted away, including the one I hid behind. Ricochets began to ring off her armor, accompanied by the roar of Carl’s mini-pistol.

I jumped high to go over the middle one, but that’s when the smaller one grabbed me and tossed me to the ground like a slam dunk. I managed to turn and land flat on my back, which is the age old secret of reducing damage when falling. Increased surface area equals less pressure and damage on any individual spot.

Before I could pick myself up the ground, the middle-sized slicer girl did it for me. She shoved the tip of a blade against my chest, where it began emitting electricity.

Looking back, I’d say that was a definite sign that I knew these people. At the time, I couldn’t quite understand it because she was electrocuting me. It hurt. It even disrupted my bowel movements. The entire day afterward, I kept having electrical discharges.

She stopped for a moment and that’s when I saw Matatoa standing between me and the short one. He held his cane up at her. “For everyone’s sake, do not do this,” he said.

The scene had all our attention, even the tall woman who held Moai in a headlock and Carl in her other hand. In a distorted voice, the small one answered back, “Stay out of the way, old man. You have nothing to do with this.”

Matty shifted and seemed to stand a little straighter. More quietly, he said, “I see why you all disappoint him so. I’m sorry, but it is time everyone found out who you truly are.” With that, a light flashed out of his cane that warped the armor around the small one. Gunmetal grey turned pink and black; metal plate became tights and butterfly wings. The teen girl underneath looked like crap, and now her mask covered over her mouth and nose in a bubble. A breathing mask?

That made a hell of a lot of sense, actually. I’d been pretending to be a hero, now they were villains. They couldn’t humiliate me with the city hating them, but here they were kicking my ass in front of the villains. The one with her hands on me was probably Venus, which explained the electricity. Truly, a shocking turn of events.

In the spirit of foul play, I punched the presumptive Venus in the breastplate as hard as I could with my right hand. Activating the Nasty Surprise, I drove it toward the armpit region where armor plates can’t quite cover. She dropped me and backed off a step. I had room now.

Pixie didn’t want to let me have that room. Ignoring the cry of “Wait!” from the tall heroine, Pink Pixie charged for me. Matatoa got in her way, seemingly sliding along the ground as he slowed her with nothing but his cane. Good old Matatoa. He had quite a bit of magic left after his time as an anthropomorphic personification of a year.

Not enough, it seemed. Pixie grabbed the cane’s midsection, snapped it, then heaved her fist into Matty’s chest. Stuff splashed on me. Matty flew back and I caught him in my arms. The wet “hammer hitting a melon” sound stunned Pixie into stopping. Meanwhile, her friend let Moai and Carl go and ran to grab her. “Shit,” murmured the presumptive Venus as she backed off to help.

I immediately pulled out a syringe of the nanites and did a quick field reprogramming. The giant hole made getting them into him easier than when he was a baby, but I didn’t think it’d do any good. Considering his heart rested in a globby gob on my chest, I doubted he had a pulse. I wiped it off and tried to stick it back in the hole. Looking in his eyes, I couldn’t see any reaction with his pupils.

“Ye’ll want to be leaving now,” I heard from the little bouncer while I waited to see if anything would take. I noticed he had rolled up his sleeves and his eyes glowed the color of emeralds. I saw others who looked ready to start a fight. The diners of Rothstein’s weren’t aiming glowing eyes and high tech weapons at me.

The heroines fled and left us there: the living, the dead, and the Psychopomp.

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Under The Radar 6

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You know, folks, I’ve seen a lot of stupid things. Politics tends to top the list. Though, perhaps higher, are those who decide that there’s no difference anyway. Of course, delving into politics in-depth is usually seen as a pretty good way to alienate people. Funny thing is, everything’s politics. The word is made up of two parts. “Poli,” which is Latin for many, and “ticks” which are bloodsucking insects. But as long as there’s more than one person alive, there’s politics.

The other reason I said it’s all politics is because everything gets dragged in. Every major project, like NASA, has major effects and provides hundreds or even thousands of new inventions. Little things also have big effects, like when the Advanced Research Projects Agency starts working on a worldwide network of computers to share information between government scientists and winds up with the internet. Or people studying cuttlefish come up with monitors and screens as thin as, well, cuttlefish skin. Flippin’ glorious little sausages, aren’t they?

The overall reason for me to talk about all this boring crap is because it interfered with all my boring crap. I first heard about it, incidentally, while taking a crap. I often read on the toilet. A guy has to keep up with the world’s news. Heck, Long Life’s accelerated their human trials and might get their own nanites out on the market as early as this year. But what really caught my eye was the announcement that the new U.S. Congress is crafting a bill to hold superheroes accountable through some sort of licensing program. A new bureau or cabinet position might be in the works, also.

I’m sure that’ll work out well. While they’re at it, maybe they can provide a directory of undercover cops and Non-Official Cover Agents for the CIA. Next time an agent hears, “This message will self destruct,” it might be due to an angry man with a RPG-7 pointed at it.

And to all that, some folks choose to say, “Oh well, I’ll ignore the problem until it goes away.”

As Empyreal City’s resident problem, I wasn’t going away. Pink Pixie didn’t either, not yet. In the meantime, Venus wanted to negotiate. The heroine had to have realized her attempt at containment failed. That status quo couldn’t be maintained. As Dr. Horrible once eloquently said, “The status is not quo.” I figured at some point she’d have to try and bargain with me. Welcome to Crazy Psycho Gecko’s Used Corpse Emporium! Every body must go!

The meeting started off on the wrong foot when Venus walked into my lair, flipped over the table I sat at, pinned me under it, sat on it, and kicked me in the face.

I ran my tongue over my bleeding lip and looked up at her. “Venus, how insert adjective here it is to see you. Welcome. Come on in. Have a seat. Make yourself at home. Are those new boots? Why don’t you introduce me to them?”

She gave me another kick. Carl pulled his mini pistol on her, but stayed at a distance. Moai pulled a cricket bat out of nowhere. Venus kept her eyes on Carl’s gun. He tapped the trigger, spinning the barrels. “Now, Venus, you’ve posed me quite the conundrum. You picked a bad time to get sassy. I could talk, but why do that when Carl’s right there with a gun?”

“You still want something from me,” she said. Bow chica honk honk. Nah, she maintained that idealistic optimism of someone who the world hasn’t yet disappointed. “If that’s not enough, my armor is rated to withstand small arms fire. That includes the visor. Handguns are notoriously inaccurate, and so are miniguns.”

“Carl, Moai, put ’em away. But be prepared to whip ’em out and hose her down if things get too hairy.” I smiled up at Venus. I couldn’t see her eyes, but I knew she rolled them under that visor. “So, Venus, are you letting me up anytime soon, or do you prefer a full spread of me on my back?”

“I want you to stop. I didn’t put you in jail or lead an army to your doorstep, but I can’t keep letting you do this. I said I’d kick your ass if you did this.” She stomped on my face.

“Hard to do that here alone and in private, eh? Feels wrong to beat a guy who can’t fight back, doesn’t it? It gets easier, believe me.”

Venus let out a frustrated growl and let the pressure off me. Then she stood up and let me pick myself up from under the table. “Why are you going after Pixie? Is this about pretending you have standards?”

I made myself comfortable on the floor, but checked my lip. Eh, more blood. Blood happens. It’s a good way to make an exclamation point on a statement. If you’re a woman, it also makes a period every month.

Well, y’all know what they say. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. It doesn’t apply to this situation in the least, but it’s what they say.

“It’s a job, Venus. Someone offered it, I took it. Someone didn’t appreciate that some guy’s life was ruined by an overzealous hero following him home. Why does that sound familiar to me all of a sudden?” I feigned confusion.

“Well how much to buy you off?” she asked.

I put my hands behind my head. “Why, Venus, you want to hire me to not kill someone? I didn’t think you had the money. Been stealing wallets from muggers?”

She crossed her arms. “I have friends.”

“Yeah, you think they’d appreciate you paying me, of all people?” A character in a movie once outlined a strategy I sometimes use. If they try to appeal to my morals or honor, play the mercenary. If they offer me money, play up the moral reasons. I believe it was Rum Tum Tugger’s song from Cats. For I will do as I do do, and there’s no power in the ‘verse can stop me.

“If it’ll stop you from killing people, yes,” she said.

I kipped up to my feet, then slipped on a paper plate on the floor and tumbled back to my ass. I made it on try number two and brushed myself off. “Well then, if you’ve got the green, I suppose I can leave your pink alone. I won’t start anything, but don’t think I refuse to defend myself if she starts something. I don’t suppose I can interest you in any extras while I’m at it, eh? Happy ending, perhaps?”

She shook her head quickly. “Uh uh. That’s not happening.”

“Awww, poor me. I shall die poor, celibate, and alone,” I threw my forearm against my forehead.

“From what I heard about you and that Tricia woman, I doubt you’re celibate,” Venus said.

I shrugged. “I thought she could fast track me to the top of an acting career, a journalist like that. For something like that, I’m fully prepared to wind up on the bottom. But then she left me. She left me so cold, Venus. I just need someone to hold me…” I reached out as if to hug her.

She pushed me away by my face. “You’ll get paid. We can hash that out another time over the phone. So no attacking Pink Pixie.” When I nodded, she left.

So then I went and found Matatoa where he napped on the couch, watching Westerns. “Hey Matty,” I said, dipping my face down close to his. “Matty, Matty, Matty, Matty, Matty. Are you sleeping, Matty?”

“No,” he answered, keeping his eyes closed. “I’m practicing being dead. You should try it.”

I stood up then and clenched my fists as I strained. After great exertion and reddening of my face, I held my arms out and thrust my tented pants forward. “Behold! Rigor mortis has set in!”

“What’s that smell, Gecko?” Matty asked.

I lowered my hands as I sniffed and looked around. Then, holding them out again in all their dramatic glory, I announced, “Behold, the bowels have been voided!”

Five hours later, I stood at an intersection, waiting. After a quick clean up and pants burning, Matty gave me the low down on when and where I could accidentally run into Pink Pixie. That’s why I stood on a street corner in a purple velvet jacket with tiger stripped trim and interior, with a wide brim purple hat sporting a peacock feather. Pimp Man on patrol!

A few minutes before Matatoa predicted Pixie’s arrival, screeching tires led into the slam of a car getting t-boned by a truck. That explained why Pixie would be there, I realized. This, in turn, gave me a brilliantly malevolent idea.

I leaped into action, transforming before everyone’s very eyes from a pimp to the super pirate disguise I used when I confronted Pixie last week. I ran over to the car. The driver’s side was stuck, so I tore the whole door off.

“What are you doing?” asked a man with his arm around his crying wife. They stood on the other side of the car, by the open passenger door. Man, I sucked at being heroic. Then again, being heroic isn’t my job anyway.

Then the wife gasped and started banging on the rear window. “My baby!”

There in the back, a car seat sat strapped into the rear. Seatbelts were everywhere and the rear door looked like a mess. Pimp Man to the rescue! Or Pirate Pimp Man, as it may be in this case. I came in through the driver’s side, tearing through belts to haul the child out. Except he wasn’t breathing.

The mother and father both scrambled to get around the car. Blinded as they were by fear, tears, and mucus, they didn’t think to crawl through it.

I held my fist up to the sky. “You’re not getting this one, Lord!” Then I lowered the baby to the ground and bent over it. Pulling out a syringe, I popped one end off it and slid my other hand out of its glove. The regenerative nanites inside attempted to go to work on me, but I bonded enough to give them new orders that they passed on to the others. Then I poured the syringe into the baby’s mouth and pretended to give it mouth to mouth and CPR.

After a couple seconds, I stopped and raised my head up, the hologram showing me licking my lips. “Mmm, ma’am, that is some delicious breast milk. Would you mind if I had a-?”

I didn’t get the question out all the way because the baby began wailing. That got applause from the crowd, including the drunk guy finally stumbling out of his truck. The parents hugged me as I stood up, their eyes dripping tears of relief instead of fear and grief. Disgusting, snotty tears of relief.

I held the baby up, then dropped it, but I caught it before it hit the ground. Being extra careful now, I held it up above me. “The circle of liiiiiiiiiiife!” I sang.

That’s when someone punched me from behind. Anyone could be forgiven for not paying a lot of attention to their surroundings in those circumstances, but I would have let this happen regardless. I stumbled forward, careful to keep hold of the baby, as the Pink Pixie glared and pulled back to get another swing in at me. Before she could, the father jumped on her and the mother swung her purse at Pixie’s head.

I reiterate, an unpowered human man and his wife attacked a superhero. Folks, break out the Genesis puppets. We were now in a Land of Confusion.

Confused and seriously ticked off, the Pink Pixie lashed out. The dad went flying onto the front hood of the truck that wrecked his car. The mother backed off and I handed her the baby. She stood behind me, using me as a shield. Before Pink Pixie could start anything more, though, a shoe came flying out of the crowd around us and smacked her in the face.

All around us, regular folks gathered, yelling at the hero for daring to attack me, led by a rather tan fellow who hopped on one foot to avoid getting his shoeless one on the ground. Pissed off and perplexed, the Pixie took to the air and escaped rather than make things worse.

The day saved, I hopped up onto the car and posed with my hands on my hips. “Let this be a lesson to everyone: even heroes have their flaws. They can go bad, like anyone else. But hear me now. Fear not, America, for you will always have allies in the never-ending fight against evil, as you saw here today. And to the children, I’d just like to add: study hard, eat your veggies, and don’t drink and drive.”

Then I looked up and raised my fist to the sky while powering up the jump boosters. “Excelsior!” I yelled as I took off into the sky.

They didn’t see that my “flight” ended when my arc landed me on a building the next street over.

That night, back at the lair, Carl turned from the news broadcast of the events, and from his hot dog, to ask, “Do you really have to talk like that when you’re pretending to be a good guy, boss?”

“Carl, once you’ve decided to put on a mask and a colorful skintight outfit, there’s really no room left for shame. Seriously, where am I supposed to keep the shame? Do you think I have special shame pockets in those tights, where I can keep it?”

Carl rolled his eyes at me, then took another bite of his hot dog. His face scrunched up as he chewed. “Ugh, for some reason these dogs taste pretty bad.”

“You grilled them, right?” I asked, holding in a smile.

“Yeah.”

“The one with the burnt pants in the bottom with the charcoal?”

“Yeah.” Carl nodded.

“Nope, can’t think of what might have caused it, Carl. If anyone needs me, I’m going to go up on the roof and do an evil laugh.”

Like y’all would have kept a straight face. Mwahahaha.

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Under The Radar 5

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Train didn’t work.

I had a hell of a time getting Pink Pixie’s attention, too. For about half a second, that challenge left me puzzled. Luckily, puzzles are why saws were invented. And saws were why puzzles were invented. See, way back in ancient Egypt, where the forests grew out of control, ancient lumberjacks used saws to cut pieces of wood in ways that only allowed certain parts to fit with each other. They did this while singing a merry tune and dancing a jig, so they became known as jigsaws. Later, the Egyptians would be conquered by the Persians, who had invented colors, thereby revolutionizing the world of puzzles, artwork, and racism all in one fell swoop.

I don’t know if any of that was true, but let that be a lesson to y’all.

So, despite Matty warning me that this was a horrible idea sure to tip someone over the edge and upset the delicate balance with Venus, blah blah blah, I went out into the world to take on Pink Pixie again.

The new sewer escape worked. I didn’t have to go too far, but the cramped pipes left me a little scared of Germans while I was down there. Claus-trophobic, I mean. If any alligators actually grew in there, they’d have to get out of my way, though. I’m the king of that jungle. King Gecko of Shit Mountain. Look upon the verdant fields where I grow and harvest fucks, and sniff of the fertilizer.

Once I got out, I decided to ignore Matatoa. Right after texting Carl where he could find some spare cash and head out to an amusement park with him.

Usually when I exit a manhole, it’s just because I shoved my hand up there. I don’t involve the rest of the body as a general rule. Hard to clean up. I didn’t have that choice this time. With that, I stopped by a pharmacy for a hell of a lot of deodorant and perfume. Except I holographically disguised myself as Pink Pixie.

I stood in line to pay, then grabbed the wrist of the woman in front of me as she reached into her purse. “I have you now, evildoer!” I said. I should have eased off the ham, but it’s a habit when pretending to be a hero.

“What’s this all about?” asked the woman, who tried to slap me. Funny thing about slapping someone wearing a metal helmet: it doesn’t end well for the slapper. If you would like more intimate details of that sensation, please have another whiff of the fertilizer.

Disguised as Pink Pixie, I grabbed the woman who assaulted me and tossed her over to the makeup counter. There, I helped her apply some free samples of the makeup. Well, they became free samples right about the time I broke them out of their boxes. When I finished with the accused shoplifter, I showed her a mirror. She was so happy, she screamed. “Yay! You look just like the Ultimate Warrior now.”

She screamed again, so I gave her a hug and told her. “You’re welcome!” Then I threw her out the door and into the side of a car. When I followed after her, I stood over the crumpled car and yelled, “Take that, Captain Shoplift! Your reign of crime ends now, you nefarious bitch.”

You know, I enjoy using nefarious. It’s a nice word.

A few people clapped; they couldn’t see the pulpy corpse embedded in the car. Those who stood closer looked horrified. I held up my hand and waved to the not so adoring crowd. Once again, the day was saved.

After that, I focused on larger crimes.

Like this one bank in the city that acted a bit irresponsibly. Matatoa talked me into this one during a performance of Cats. We didn’t dance or sing in it; we just attended the thing. It’s great. Everyone should see it, especially if y’all like catboys and catgirls. He turned to me while Bombalurina and Demeter gyrated, and told me, “I’m not going to try and stop you, but remember that you try to direct your urges to something constructive. And now, look at this.” Then he gently knocked me on the side of the head and my search browser opened up on a search.

After the consolidation of financial and investment banking, various banks began to pursue some interesting investments. At first, they just bundled together home loans and sold interest in the debt as investments. Those investments made them a shitload of money, so then came the part that shouldn’t have been legal. They ran out of people who could pay the home loans, so instead they started offering them to people who they knew couldn’t pay. They didn’t give a shit about repayment, just all the money that could be made by the mortgage-backed securities.

They also tried to protect themselves and write off their own liability by taking out insurance policies on the securities, but that’s beside the point. Well, except for the insurance companies that went under. Though, if you’re interested in how all this is legal, then you might look to an insurance company. Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company can’t legally bribe anyone, but they can give away $10,000 door prizes for the people at their holiday party. Just like it’s illegal to bribe them, but not illegal if the CEO invites influential friends to a birthday party and they happen to bring presents for him.

But I’m the criminal.

All this may sound strange coming from someone who would much rather dance around a Mexican grocery store in an inflatable cow costume, but y’all should be expecting the unexpected by now.

So that’s why I attacked one of these banks disguised as Pink Pixie. For clarification, the bank wasn’t disguised as the Pink Pixie. A still make mistakes in English, so it’s best to be clear.

“Alright! Everyone on the-…wait, sorry,” I paused in my announcement on the counter of the bank. I’ve made a habit of ordering people onto the floor of banks. I forgot I didn’t need to this time. “I meant to say that I’m here about a crime. Someone in this bank stole a metric buttload of money. Technically, it’s closer to a fuckton, but I don’t need to get technical. Now, I need access to the manager’s office.” I jumped off the counter and didn’t wait for cooperation.

Admittedly, the manager alone wouldn’t do the trick. A cog in the machine, he just acted on instructions from higher up, if he even had to do anything at all. But, I thought as I shoved my way into his office, he had one kickin’ leather office chair. His access helped, too. I couldn’t delete all the records, but an awful lot of people in Empyreal City lost their mortgage debt.

Pink Pixie left me unmolested despite my actions in her name. A shame. I wanted that teen girl to molest me. Before y’all start, I meant that innocently. I mean to murder her. Perfectly innocent.

The really weird thing is that no one responded. I mean, sure, the cops showed up. But no one that stood a chance tried to stop the Pink Pixie. But if I covered everything I do to cops, we’d never get to the juicy stuff. The juicy stuff about the train, that is. Not the part where I stick cops in a giant juicer.

Matty had other suggestions, though. More evil suggestions. “Here, here, and here,” he said, pointing to where Empyreal City would be on the Fool’s Cap map on my wall. It’s an old map.

“Can you zoom in a bit?” I asked. He nodded and tapped the map, causing the view of the world to shift and close in on Empyreal City, which suddenly appeared on it in its current layout. Then I grabbed the middle of his cane and started tapping the end of it against my crotch.

Matty pulled the cane away from my grip. “It’s not going to look any bigger that way.”

“Aww. Well then, if you’re done playing with your wood, why don’t you tell me what you had in mind, Matty?”

That’s how I wound up dropping in on a bunch of anti-meat protesters hanging around Wall Street, wearing my freshly-aired out armor and the projection of Pink Pixie. I had the explosive cylinder attached to my belt as well. If everything went well, Pixie wouldn’t need to worry about her reputation much longer. Or breathing.

“Alright, evil vegans, in the name of the Pixie, I will punish you!” I yelled at them, taking a pose.

They kept on shouting their phrases about fur being murder and animals being people too. Unfortunately for them, I brought a sack. “Alright, people, I have heard your concerns, and I would like to address them with one simple phrase…release the snakes!”

With that, I reached inside the sack and started tossing snakes of all sort at the protesters. Cobras, constrictors, kings…my goodie bag had fun for all inside. Except for snakes. I had to almost freeze the little bastards to keep them from fighting in there.

The animals didn’t seem to approve of their defenders. One of them ran over to me and waved at her flailing friends. “Why are you doing this? Who are you?!”

I put my hands on my hips and looked off over her head. “I am the Pink Pixie, and I speak for the trees.” Then I looked at her and jumped back. “Ew, you have a snake on you!”

She looked at the moccasin crawling on her shoulder and screamed. I did too. Then, to reassure her, I said “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.” I grabbed a nearby mailbox and went to town on that snake slithering along her arm. Then I helped the rest of her friends out.

When it was all said and done, I think I did a good job. Sure, there were some fatalities. Ok, there were a lot of fatalities. Maybe a couple people got away. That didn’t matter. What mattered was the attention I attracted to my cause. The attention of Pink Pixie, who swooped in and must have seen a snake on me. Except where I used a mailbox, she threw a car.

She didn’t even tell me to stop in the name of the moon or anything like that. All she told me was, “Raaaagaghg!”

I wasn’t familiar with the language, but it sounded beautiful. Rather than allow her to beat some understanding into me, I took off for the nearby subway station that Matty chose the site for.

Pixie flew, grabbing a passing car and tossing it at me with no regard for life, especially my own. It almost got me, but I slid down the stair rails and into the subway station below. There I had to pace myself and worry about timing. Unfortunately, pacing didn’t mean anything to the extremely strong and extremely mad young lady chasing me so I made it look like I ran down the tunnel. I stood there, invisible, as Pink Pixie passed by, only to be rewarded by the sound of an oncoming train. She looked down the way her doppelganger ran, then stopped on the platform. That coward wanted to let a train finish me off! It didn’t slow down on approach, either, which worked out great for me when I reappeared and pushed Pixie in front of it.

Didn’t work out so well when she turned and grabbed me by the arm just before it struck her. Because she kept the arm. And her grip on me. The sides of the train and tunnel played a game of pong with me as the ball.

As y’all can imagine, I was between a rock and a hard place. Bouncing back and forth, breaking my leg and hip bones into smaller and smaller pieces, I first hoped the ride would end quickly. I reversed my position when I realized I lost my little explosive cylinder.

In a way, the one problem solved the other. The explosion behind us nearly blinded me in that darkness. Rumbling consumed everything, and the tunnel began to collapse. The subway car wobbled, then collapsed on its other side. That proved favorable to my health. I can’t remember much about how the pressure from the blast felt on me, mainly due to the cripplingly horrible pain of having bone chunks in my kidney and halfway up my prostate. If I had a boner, it’s because an actual bone stuck out there.

I flew off as we skidded to a halt near the welcoming lights of another station. I think Pixie took a bump on the head and got knocked out. Now I just had to crawl along the tracks, pull myself up to the platform, crawl up the stairs, and somehow escape, all with an intact murderous superheroine chasing me.

No sweat. Good thing I replaced the nanites in the suit’s nanite quilt layer at the risk of death by extreme boredom. All my syringes cracked or fell into darkness during my wild ride. Or maybe one of them stuck halfway up my dick.

So I crawled until I could walk, then walked until I could run. Civilians rushed the platform to see what was happening. Many had cameras. With my suit too torn up to project shit, I took off my helmet. At that point, it was the most recognizable thing about me. With all the bouncing and shearing, the ride scraped off most of the colors on my armor.

They didn’t recognize me like that as long as I kept my helmet held with the face toward my chest. Aside from the people taking photos and videos, they were helpful, too. I got a pair of guys to help me outside while others ran off down the tunnel to try and help.

We were halfway up the stairs when I heard a girl’s voice shout, “You!” behind me. Looking back, I saw Pink Pixie at the bottom of the stairs with her arm around some guy’s neck as he helped her move.

“Guys,” I told my two helpers, “I can’t explain this right now, but we need to get me out of here. She’s trying to kill me.”

That began an incredible high speed chase. We were booking it. I swear, we almost hit one mile an hour there if we’d gone twice as fast. Despite the aid, Pixie closed in on me during my mad hop to freedom.

At that point, it didn’t even surprise me when they helped me out into the sunlight and I saw the Whambulance parked there with Matatoa, Carl, and Moai sitting around looking bored. “…right about now,” Matty said, looking down at his watch. Then he looked up. “Right on time. Carl, I think he needs some help.”

I patted the two random guys who helped me on the back. “Guys, thank you very much for all you’ve done. You touched me today, and I don’t just mean whichever one of you groped my ass. I’ll admit, I haven’t felt all that confident about the strength of human character lately, but y’all still have much to teach me.”

Then I grabbed them and tossed them at Pink Pixie. “You almost got me, Pinky, but know this: you haven’t seen the last of me!” I gave her a pair of middle fingers as I felt something lasso me with a clinking noise. Looking down, I noticed two things: a hook and chain around my waist, and the Whambulance’s engine cranking.

It occurred to me that perhaps my minions weren’t happy with my pursuit of this particular contract right around the time Carl took off and yanked me off my feet.

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Under The Radar 3

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Shit did not hit the fan. That would have been too small. Ladies and gentlemen, shit has hit the stratosphere. Things are worse than when Captain Lightning killed that wizard in Washington D.C. last year. That was high profile because Captain Lightning is a big deal. Or maybe was a big deal. He’s still missing in action. But he was a major hero. That wizard was really powerful, too. We’re talking about a situation where someone could make the case that things got out of control.

The media made that claim, of course. It turned out to be good practice for when all those cops went wild shooting people.

In the same vein, people didn’t take kindly to the idea that a superhero may have fatally injured a villain. They don’t like the idea of villains killing heroes, either, but we’re the bad guys. We’re assholes. They expect us to be low on morals. They expect us to be murderous psychopaths, dirty druggies, and even Nazis. Which accounts for me, Mix N’Max, and that Hitler Clone I met in New Orleans, but you can’t judge everybody based on those examples.

But what really caused the current shitstorm is the death of Urban Croc, apparently by a police officer finishing what Pink Pixie started.

I found myself discussing the recent events with an older gentleman at a charity event. Something about providing eyeglasses, shoes, and food to impoverished children. They invited major donors over to this hotel ballroom as a sort of thanks. It allowed a bit of mingling between the middle and upper classes, which made a good impression on the middle class donors. They also had an area to allow someone to pledge donations for the upcoming year. Very convenient.

“I agree, these violent incidents have gotten out of hand, but what can you do? If you get into a fight with either the police or vigilantes, it’s your own fault for getting hurt, isn’t it?” he asked. We were in a group. Some of them nodded, but one couple looked more like they had sucked on a lemon.

My projection resembled Matatoa as he’d have looked in his twenties. Matty had come with me, though people mistook him for my father like this. We hadn’t shown up with any intention of committing crimes. Not with Venus watching me. “You say that, but the people enforcing the laws shouldn’t be killing unless they absolutely have to. They’re supposed to de-escalate situations. Try for a peaceful solution if possible. Look at all the demonstrations and riots that have happened when they didn’t. Second, murder is a crime. Can’t have people uphold the law by breaking it. Third, it denies the criminal the right to a trial. There’s a reason we say people are ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Otherwise, just rename the city ‘Mega City One’ and call the cops ‘Judges’ and don’t even bother about rights of the accused. Make sense?”

They didn’t get the reference. Instead, a woman in a gleaming golden gown added her two cents. Of course she did. It’s for charity, isn’t it? “I think a hero should do whatever they can to stop a fight quickly. Those villains get dangerous normal people. Remember that man who destroyed the Empyre State Building? They had the chance to kill him just before he did it.”

I shook my head. “It’ll just make things worse, and I got a whole ‘nother reason why. Escalation. Not just a lack of de-escalation. It’s like with burglars. They tend to be non-violent and they don’t carry guns. Get caught breaking and entering with a gun or attacking someone for no reason, you get a harsher sentence. But if it’s ok for cops to shoot burglars just because they’re committing a crime, they won’t stop. Most crime is driven by need. They’ll still rob, but they’ll start carrying guns and shooting first at cops and witnesses. Sun Tzu recognized the value in leaving an enemy an apparent means of escape. If you don’t, they fight harder and they fight to the death. After all, even crooks worry about self defense.”

That last sentence coaxed a guffaw from the older man I’d been talking to first. “I’m afraid you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle convincing anyone here. You’re in the minority on this one.”

“Well then, let me go from Sun Tzu to Marcus Aurelius, who said ‘The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.’ Personally, I prefer to think of it with a comma after ‘escape.’ But perhaps it’s time for me to leave this little discussion and try to convince that heroine over there to dance with me.” I nodded toward Venus.

She started following Matty and I on the way over once her underlings reported we had been on the move. When we entered, my display showed her questioning the man at the door. Joke’s on her. The invitation was legitimate, though it named one of my aliases instead, George Denis Patrick.

It pays to give to charity if you like to steal stuff. It provides great shopping opportunities, and government agencies generally dislike taking back stolen money from hungry orphans with club feet, cleft palettes, and hunger pangs.

I looked across the dance floor to Venus where she stood guard against a wall. No need to panic I couldn’t read her eyes behind that visor of hers. That was power, of a sort. I hadn’t given her any reason to move on me, other than every other thing I’ve done in my life. Just nothing here. I dipped my head and flourished my hand in her direction. Then I stepped out onto the floor. She stepped out as well. People cleared out of her path a lot more quickly than they did mine, but that’s the benefit of looking like you’re wearing power armor.

Yes, I’m immature. Yes, I generally dislike society, and any parts of it formal enough to involve wearing a suit. But I have been drilled to blend in with a variety of different situations until they beat me for it. The good thing about that is, when you’re spitting up blood and your belly is covered with bruises, it’s very easy to blend in as someone who just got beat. I could have won an award for that performance, though I heard the pants-crapping was a bit much. I heard it from their boots as they started up again.

Soldiers make surprisingly good tutors on acting. I bet if the Senators in Julius Caesar had real knives under their togas, no one would be flubbing any more lines.

Venus and I met up for a bit of dancing. The armor affected her gracefulness; my general ineptitude affected mine. It’s good to know my limits. It’s good to know her limits. “That armor seems to have left you a bit stiff, but I’m glad you’re morally flexible enough to allow me to attend. You know how charitable I am.”

“You hand out a lot of stolen money. There’s probably a case to be made for holding up your contributions, but I’m being lenient with you. I don’t know what you’re up to, but at least you haven’t blown up anymore buildings lately.” The visor didn’t extend all the way down her face, so I saw her smile.

“What you don’t know won’t kill you, Venus.” Pink Pixie, maybe, but not Venus. Not yet. “You and I seem drawn together, somehow, for better or worse, even by my impulses. I hate it, you know.”

“I hated it too,” she said.

“Hated?” I asked.

“You’re my project. I want to stop you, permanently, with as little bloodshed as possible.” I laughed at that, though she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t like to laugh at her own jokes.

“You don’t want to kill me and you can’t stand what jailing me means. The only option left for you to hope for is reforming me. Which, by the way, is as good a time as any to have a rimshot. I do have to thank you for taking me in last time, you know. You reminded me how good it feels to end a life.”

We were in our own little world there on the dance floor. That kind of thing happens when an armored hero is twirling around in public. “Hush,” she told me. “You can’t be all bad if you feel you need to die-”

I sighed dramatically, “Ugh, I knew this would come up again,”

“-for what you’ve done. Yes, it’s coming up again,” she continued through my interruption.

“It’s disrespectful, Venus. All the people I’ve killed, and here you are wanting to deny them their due justice. Some hero you are.”

She let out an exasperated sigh. Well, weren’t we all just sighing tonight? “Making someone kill you isn’t any better. But you’re too big a coward to commit suicide? It goes without saying you’re confusing.”

“And an ass.”

“A confusing ass.”

“A nice ass,” I said.

“Thank you.”

“I meant me,” I clarified.

“It’s about time you accepted a compliment from someone. You don’t strike me as a coward. I don’t like what you do when you come after me and my friends, but that takes courage.” I tried to break away, but she had quite a grip in that armor. She kept me close to her by force. “I want an answer, even if it doesn’t make sense.”

“Venus, I am a coward. I killed people because bigger men, with hard boots and guns, threatened to kill me. I traded their lives for mine. Those men, women, and children deserve a little better than me giving up. I intend to leave this world the same way I entered it: pissing myself in the middle of explosion. Which, by the way, is a refreshing thing to survive, thank you. You should try it sometime. I’ll help you with the explosion part. You’ll have to take care of the urination and survival.”

I pulled away. She tried to hold me, so I tipped my hand and pushed her away hard enough to tip my hand. I wanted to leave. I should have gone before telling her all that. I turned to go, sweeping my 360 display for her any surprises.

“Don’t go,” She pleaded. For a half second, I almost believed the lie I felt in her voice. That she might actually care. Not in any romantic sense. Let’s not kid ourselves there. But that’s not what I do. I don’t give up because a pretty face wants to imagine she cares for me. I’ve faced hard decisions before. You either lay there and take a turkey leg up your ass, or you let yourself turn away.

A man had approached me. “Sir, is something wrong? Is the hero bothering you?”

I chuckled and turned around. “Don’t get close to him,” Venus said.

I looked her over, checking out the armor a little better. A line from a song came to mind. Just Another Machine, by The Megas. I started humming it, then a few pertinent lyrics came to mind. “Your light is going out on me. It was you who built this uncertainty. This is your answer, just another machine.” I gestured toward her and her armor, then back to myself. “I’m just another machine.”

I disappeared. I didn’t leave, though. The crowd that had gathered around the scene Venus and I made murmured in confusion. Venus swept the area with her gaze, trying to find any sign of me or perhaps trying out vision modes. I passed by right behind her and whispered, loud enough for her to hear over the hub bub. “Will you tell her that her mother died?”

I pulled a woman from the crowd as I said it, which worked out nicely when turned and punched. The armor slowed her a little, but she nonetheless managed to knock the ugly off a woman in her mid forties and apply an entirely new coat, all in one swift motion. Paint on, paint off, Daniel-San.

Luckily, Matatoa was waiting for me by the car. “This would have been awkward if you had to wait for me to leave before storming off after your tantrum, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh yeah? Well, so much for you not knowing everything like when you were in charge of the year. You’re holding out on me, aren’t you? If I rub your belly, do I get a wish?” I asked as I slid into the driver’s side of my customized ’51 Hudson Hornet.

“Gecko, if you rub any part of me, I’m going to break this cane in half and clear your digestion with it.” He said, eyeing me sternly from the passenger seat.

That made me feel proud, actually. You could tell I raised him.

Then I was out. I had shit to do. I had devices to finish up, like the thing I worked on for Pink Pixie. I didn’t have to worry about her mother, though.

About the same time I had myself a tantrum at the ball, the police received an anonymous phone call reporting gunshots at an apartment building. Dutiful, loyal Carl didn’t enjoy killing, but who doesn’t enjoy speaking on the phone? And anyway, police aren’t that different from phone sex operators. Sure, one is 1-900 and the other is 911, but both of them want you to stay on the line, both of them get excited at the prospect of using handcuffs, and both are more than happy to hear about all the dirty things you’ve done wrong.

I already have the name worked out of the police ever want to go ahead and make it official. I was thinking 1-900-Blue Balls. Crap, too many numbers. 1-900-Catch Me. Wait, no, that sounds like an STD hotline. 1-900-Luv Cuff. I don’t like spelling it that way.

I’m no Grammar Nazi, though. He fights The Saurus, not Venus.

No, Carl didn’t kill anyone. As far as anyone was supposed to know, a burglar entered, found a woman in her apartment, panicked, and opened fire. They even found part of the torn ski mask. I congratulated Moai on his thinking there. My magically-animated minion did a fine job. The victim seemed to be no one special: a widow whose daughter sneaks out in a pink and black costume with fairy wings attached.

But I changed the plan slightly. Now I just need to see how long until Pink Pixie flits around to call me out.

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Under The Radar 2

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Now, when taking vengeance on a teenage girl, one of the most important things to remember is…ah, hell, why bother with that shit? She’s an excuse to get out and murder someone. She doesn’t matter. Venus matters somewhat. Her patrols take her or someone associated with her by a lot more.

She’s gotten something of a team together. I haven’t seen the dinosaurs since that one day, so I suspect they’re back to doing whatever it is they do. You’d think I’d have a better idea about the life of talking dinosaurs in modern times, but I have no clue where a talking speedster raptor goes in his spare time. Though, if I was a talking speedster raptor, I suspect I’d go wherever I wanted. The Saurus went back to his book tour. Didn’t even miss his appearance on Oprah dealing with me.

I can’t hate the guy. He’s one classy son of a bitchasaurus.

To make up for it, the rotation contains at least one other speedster, in a blue and yellow outfit with a visored helmet. He stopped by once and tried to leave a flaming brown bag in front of my door. I grabbed it, tossed it into the air, and shot it out of the sky with my double-barrel bazooka. They all tried little pranks like that of their own until I did that. Blame Ball Boy. He started by leaving a sign in front of my lair that said, “Warning: Convicted Sex Offender Within.”

I bet he got chewed out when I grabbed it, brought it in, and then it wound up in front of EC University’s Fraternity Row without me ever leaving.

Luckily, most of the things I’m sending my two minions on are mostly legal. Matty doesn’t count, because he’s a bystander who refuses to use all that juicy knowledge to help me out.

“I love you, but that’s hardly fair to the rest of the world,” he told me when I asked.

“Fair? So many people say that; I’m curious what their basis for comparison is,” I said, appearing as David Bowie for that response.

“You’re alive, out of prison, and Venus doesn’t want to send you back there. Don’t press your luck, young man.” He lowered his head as he looked at me and tapped his cane lightly against my chest.

“You call it luck, I call it a tendency to put people in horrible situations and give them an out they have to take, then turning on them anyway. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, ascending, asscending. And seeing as I changed your diapers as a baby, you don’t get to ‘young man’ me. If you’re not going to help me, what are you going to do?” I asked.

He stared off into the distance for awhile. “I might take a stroll through the park or go see what’s playing on Broadway. I wish they still had Cats.”

“I wish I had Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, the notorious catburglar cats, in my bed, but we all have to live with disappointment. That reminds me, I should check up on Dame. Unlike the others, she’s a real catburgler and she has that nasty tendency to find me. Should I bother to ask, or should I shake a Magic 8 Ball?” I whipped out a police baton and cleaned off the blood and fecal matter I got on it while “purchasing” it.

“That should be obvious. Dame always finds you, but Venus already knows where you are. She doesn’t need her.”

He had a point.

That’s when Carl came in from out back. “Hey boss, I got that gas you wanted.” He held up a small two gallon container to prove it.

“Good, good. Set it wherever. Now, I have something very important for you to do.” I stopped when I caught sight of Moai coming in, too. I waved him over. “You too. I got jobs for y’all. First thing’s first: Carl, I want you looking at that ambulance I got from the auction. I’ve had it sitting back there with the cannon on it. Disconnect the cannon if it won’t injure you to do so, then get that thing in fighting shape. We need another war wagon. I’m thinking this one will be more of a Whambulance.” He nodded.

Next, I turned to Moai, “Alright, Moai, my man, you’re stone cold anyway and you don’t have any balls to freeze off, so I need you to stop by junk yards and get me a few items. These items. It’s a mix of various stuff. Appliances, car parts, industrial scrap. Do as best as you can. And if Carl needs anything for the Whambulance, you might go out again and pick that stuff up for him. Or he can go. However it gets done, that’s how we get it done. I don’t care how many grannies get mugged, how many babies you have to kidnap, and how many burly men Carl has to pleasure with his mouth hole.” I pointed at Carl.

“None!” He looked shocked, so I clapped him on the shoulder all friendly-like.

“Carl, you make a persuasive argument. Try to keep the illegal stuff to a minimum. That goes double for you and whoring your tongue out to random men, Carl. Y’all will likely be in the eye of these heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if y’all spot Pink Pixie dropping by to watch y’all. Whatever. Y’all do this today. I have to go visit someone to shove things in his body. Team Gecko on three, ready?” I put my hand in to sound off. Perhaps focusing on the line about shoving things into a body, nobody put their hands in. “Y’all know I wash occasionally, right?” I asked after a few awkward seconds.

“It’s not your hands that need washing at this point,” answered Matatoa. “It’s their minds after what you said you did with your hands.”

After that, I was off to the hospital. Moai and Carl left to pick up what they needed, which let me slip out, too. To hide my footprints in the snow, I rode piggyback on Moai until I got to a good spot to ditch him and run along the salted roads.

The same armor that kept me sweaty and stinky during most fights also helped to keep me warm until I reached Our Lady of Perpetual Infection. Obviously, that’s not the real name. But seriously, folks, wash your hands. That goes double for doctors. There are enough people like me out there, y’all don’t need to let some infectious diseases take work from me.

I have to protect my phoney-baloney job here, gentlemen! Harumph!

I went from invisible to looking like a policeman as I turned the corner and headed for the entrance. Once inside, I checked with the duty nurse. “I’m looking for that villain what’s in here, Urban Croc.”

“Your superior should have told you where you were going before he sent you in here,” she snapped at me. The rather large black nurse didn’t even look up at me.

“They did. They didn’t want me to get sidetracked by the siren working the desk, but then I walked in here, saw you, and forgot both the room number and my pants size. I’ll have to pay if these things rip, so maybe you can give me the number now. Maybe later I can meet up with you again when I don’t have to worry about pants.” I winked at her as she stopped and glanced up. I saw a smile tug at her lips.

She gave me the room number and her phone number.

As for the officer already at the door, I handled him delicately, in a way that would be more difficult to link back to me. I beat him upside his head with the baton, dragged him into the room across the hall, and choked him out with the baton until he passed out. Then I stuck a patient gown on him, plopped him on an empty bed, and covered him up. He tried to get back up after a second, so I hit him with the bed pan. From the splashing noises that accompanied his lack of consciousness, he’d have been better off staying down the first time.

A little less death than I prefer, but otherwise a job well done. I gave the baton a congratulatory whirl as I headed across the hall to the room I wanted. Urban Croc, a college student with the ability to turn into an anthropomorphic reptile creature. Increased strength and durability. Scales tougher to get through than skin. Fangs.

All those powers only mattered when he was shifted into that form. That ability to shapeshift gave him a chance at a good life, too. Not everyone with powers can hide what they are. If you aspired to being a politician or a doctor or whatever, you better hope you don’t get glowing eyes and a tail. Supers like that don’t have much choice but to fight each other.

That’s why this guy did his best to avoid it. Jewelry heists and electronics thefts. Low risk, relatively high payout. Does this guy want to be responsible for the death of a superhero? I don’t know.

I unhooked a two gallon container of gas from the back of my belt and unsealed the cap. It’s not about revenge or justice. I didn’t flinch when I splashed the gasoline over the sleeping man on the bed, or when I pulled out a match and tossed it on him. It’s about sending a message.

I smiled to myself beneath armor cloaked now in the appearance of a doctor in scrubs instead of a cop. The message, ladies and gentlemen, is “Everybody burns.”

Of course, looking like a doctor in a hospital has its downsides. The fire alarms went off, the elevator stopped at the maternity ward, and I had to head out past a small crowd of visitors who fled there for safety during a fire emergency. A nurse came up and grabbed hold of my arm with an emergency of her own. “Everyone else is busy, now we’ve got a fire, you’ll be fine!”

Then she shoved me into a room with a screaming woman whose legs were spread wide in stirrups. Another nurse looked at me. The screaming woman looked at me. If the woman’s legs hadn’t been in the way, I bet the kid would have been looking at me. A nurse slipped gloves onto my hands, which she didn’t realize were a lot more taut over my own gloves, armor, and the sheathe barbed wiring.

Seeing all the blood, crap, and extended lady parts made me realize I wouldn’t be having a hard-on for a few months. “It’s real easy, doctor,” whispered one nurse in what she thought was my ear. “Just catch.”

Well, the baby blew that plan. He peeked out, took one look at me, and went right back in.

“Oh, no you didn’t, you little bastard,” I said. I jumped up on the bed and called on my extensive experience shoving my hand into orifices. I reached in after the little asshole. “You think you’re not ready for life? Get in line! No one’s ready. But you’re here now, and you’ve got a front row seat on the crazy express. Get out here! You’re going to be born even if you die trying, you son of a bitch. No offense, ma’am.”

The mother didn’t seem to take offense. “Just get it out of me, motherfucker!”

Screaming, I stood over and pulled. Screaming, the mother pushed. Screaming, that baby was yanked out of its mother and held into the air. Covered with womanly goo, it cried as I held it up. A nurse helpfully handed over some scissors for me to cut the cord. Then I tossed the baby to a nurse, who caught the little asshole. “It’s a boy!” she told the mother, adopting a much happier demeanor than I think she anyone else in the room had.

One knockout, one kill, one birth. Not much more I can say about that night. I was on fire.

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Holiday Black And Blues 9

Next

Previous

I hope y’all had a Happy New Year. I’m still dealing with a tiny bit of old business from the Old Year. And even that got put off once I got a visitor.

I should have expected it. Actually, I did, just not in this specific way. Here, let me stop being vague and just tell y’all.

The whole gang sat at my lair, going over the plan for taking on His Eggcellency. Venus, Ball Boy, Carl, Moai, and I bent over blueprints of the factory that I acquired. That’s one of the things that took more time than needed. I could have just stolen them, but Venus insisted on doing things legally. Yet there she was, about to barge in on him without a warrant or any sort of oversight, all on my word. And I have been known to lie like a dog.

She made lots of friends in City Hall while cleaning up my mess. She pretty much moved here because of me. Then she found herself working with me to face an army of mutated chickens, a situation so deliciously ridiculous that even Tricia wanted to join in on the planning stage. So we feasted on pizza.

Then the doorbell rang. Which is odd, because even though I’d covered over the door glass, I never added a doorbell. Or a doorknocker, like what we heard next. Even if I did, it wouldn’t have sounded like metal on wood.
I immediately narrowed my eyes as those thoughts crashed on my brain in waves upon hearing someone trying to get us to the door. “Moai, have a peek at the door. I’ll start getting the armor on in case the Krampus wants to crash here or something.”

“Shouldn’t you send someone who can talk?” asked Ball Boy, as if being mute ever stopped Moai and I from communicating in the past.

“Fine, you check the door with him. If it’s a tall guy in a suit with no face, let me know somehow. Scream, maybe, if you have time.”

When they came back, I was barely out of my pants. It was still too much out of my pants for Venus’s comfort level, but I threw them back on in a hurry when Moai led someone in.

I didn’t recognize him at first, then I made the connection. “Matatoa Bobby Doomgex! What’s it been, a year?”
He looked much older, and a lot like his predecessor, save for one very important distinction. When he saw me, he smiled wide. “I think it has, Papa Gecko.”

I cringed. “Papa Gecko? That makes me sound old and like a dad. Besides, don’t you have Papa Moai and Papa Carl to embarrass instead?”

“Who is this guy?” asked a befuddled Tricia as Carl and Moai sandwiched Matatoa in a gentle hugs.

“This is 2014’s Baby New Year. I guess he’s a Father Time by now. Or something. I don’t know how it all works out, but I won’t be killing this one like I had to kill the last one.” I walked over last to hug the baby that had grown up over the course of the year.

“You won’t be killing me. No one will. Time’s just about up for me. I won’t be Father Time. He’s busy fixing more problems created by a time traveler.” He let out a tired sigh as he broke the hug with me. “I wish I’d been a better year.”

“This is for real?” asked Venus. “It’s New Year’s Day. Aren’t you supposed to be ‘gone’ already?”

Matatoa favored her with a smile and set both hands on his cane as he looked over. “When does everything that’s part of one year end and everything that’s part of one year begin?

“Good point,” I said.

Trish looked at me. “You snapped at me last night for all the questions I asked. Where’s my ‘good point?’” She smirked.

“You were here last night?” asked Carl and Ball Boy at once.

“So, come to visit us finally, Matatoa? What’s next for you after this? Write some memoirs, maybe? A tell-all about all the relationships you’ve had called ‘Fucking 2014′?” I preferred that line of conversation as opposed to the other one.

He cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind too terribly, I’d like to stay with you for the time I have remaining. Now, I won’t be a burden on you. I know how you realized you didn’t have anything for the Rejects to do and I don’t need to join you on your adventures.”

“That’s why you didn’t care enough to save them,” Venus realized.

“Young lady, you provided an excellent means for my adoptive father send them on to a better, safer life.” Matty put his arm around my shoulders as he revealed that to Venus.

“You really shouldn’t give her that sort of insight,” I told him. “People might start to suspect I’m playing them more often than they realize.”

“I already knew that, Gecko. I didn’t know the Rejects were part of it, but it makes sense now.” Venus looked down, but not straight down, as she remembered. I noticed her eyes widen slightly before she controlled them.

She didn’t appear surprised when I spoke in a flat voice devoid of questioning emphasis. “Gee, I wonder how you knew which chain of stores to check.”

I heard Tricia give an “Oh my god.” I realized then that I never did find out what story the media presented about the EMP. Venus and the FBI probably covered their asses.

Seriously, all this time and she still hasn’t shown me dat ass. I haven’t asked her because she might hit me, but I’ve thought it hard enough that she must have figured it out by now.

Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass.

Well, Venus looked ready to hit me, but I doubt it had to do with my feeble attempt at telepathy. “Nice to meet you, Mr. 2014, but we were in the planning stage for an assault. I’m sure someone can make you comfortable while we get back to that. Right?” She looked around at everyone.

Matty looked completely unconcerned. “I can find my way around. I’ve kept my eye on Psycho Gecko well enough to know this place. I was sorry to see the club go. You’ve really lost a lot over the past year.” He settled in on a barstool and helped himself to the vanilla and chocolate marshmallows I hid in an empty can of Cream of Snake soup.
I knew no one would decide to fix themselves a mouthful of cream, after all.

The only major thing left for me to push for in the plan, especially with Venus’s mystery guest showing up, would be more chickens. I refused to be out-roostered by His Eggcellency!

“Let’s not make this a cock measuring contest, Gecko,” Venus said, momentarily staring daggers at me before forcing a smile onto her face. Dat ass?

Cut to later that night, back at the egg packing plant. It started with a bang; a pair of my chicken grenades tried to cross the road and blew a hole in the lobby on the north side. Dozens of chickensaurs flooded the gap within thirty seconds, a ferocious feathered flood of freaks. I slipped in the docking bay again. The giant, fire-breathing chicken stomped around there. It grew since the last time I saw it. Claws grew out of the ends of the wings, like it was turning into a dragon.

It made sense. The chickensaurs resembled velociraptors, and even the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers had been known to shoehorn a dragon mech onto their team when everyone else on it used old animals like dinosaurs or a sabre-tooth tiger.

Though everyone waited around the perimeter, we settled on a swift decapitating strike to minimize destruction. I’m fine with decapitation, but the lack of destruction irked me.

I navigated through the south end of the plant to find the main packing floor that held His Eggcellency’s dais and throne. Hopefully, the throne held His Eggcellency’s ass.

His royal roundness stood on the dais, organizing chickensaurs into rows and columns like some sort of Roman legion of roamin’ yard birds. He didn’t notice me, more because of my invisibility than because of his long-winded speech. “Whoever has attacked us has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fryer! The day may come when the courage of chickens may fail, but it is not this day! This day, we fight! This day, they die! Should our enemies blot out the sun, then we will fight in the shade. Now, peck hearty, my chickensaurs, for tonight we dine in hell! They may be men, but we are chicken!”

And the crowd went mild. Guess he forgot to teach them English. It’s not his fault, though. He must have been busy. A training regimen like he put these birds on must have left him feeling hen-pecked.

I slipped an arm around his neck and tightened up enough to preclude any tricks like fleeing for his life. I dropped my invisibility projection as well. “Hey there, Humpty Dumpty. Now that you’re done doing the Humpty Hump, how about you put your cocks away and let’s talk man to man?”

“Never! If I die, my horde will not rest until they’ve picked your bones clean,” he responded.

“You’d have better luck picking speck of pickled peppers, Peter Piper.” I opened a line to Venus. “Hey there sweet thing, he’s decided he’d rather surrender than die. Mind dropping in?”

She crashed in through the skylight. She’d planned on that, and I figured she’d have a rappel line or grappling hook to ease herself down. Instead, she dropped and landed easily in shiny, sleek armor. It fit close, emphasizing the gold and white that she took as her colors. The armor itself looked thin, but I could tell from the way she swatted away a leaping chickensaur that she had strengths enhancing pseudomuscles.

“Attack, my chickensaurs! Feast on their bones!” proclaimed His Eggcellency. I let him go and stepped back, then activated stealth mode and disappeared.

“I should have known not to trust you, but usually you’ll keep your end of a bargain,” Venus said in between beating the crowd of cocks threatening to overwhelm her. Then, to someone else, she said “I’m going to need your help. He turned on me. Yeah, you won the pool.”

A blur sped in and bounced against chickensaurs like a pinball in a machine. When it stopped, it resembled the altered birds a great deal. There was no mistaking a raptor in a cape for a chickensaur, though. I called up my guys on the perimeter. “Better clear out, guys. They have a speedster.”

“Who is it, boss?” asked Carl.

“Veloci-raptor. Funny, he looks more like a Utahraptor. I wonder if he’s Mormon. I don’t like Mormons.”

“Why’s that? Did they ever betray you and leave you to die?”

“Shut up, Tricia. I don’t know why, though. I’d like to know why. This isn’t like that thing with Jupiter.”

That got Trish in journalist mode. “What happened between you and Jupiter? Is that a hero or a villain?”

“Your lack of knowledge about astronomy astounds me, Tricia. It’s a planet.”

“What did Jupiter the planet ever do to you?” she asked.

“It knows what it did. But when it comes to Mormons, I refuse to allow my mind to be held hostage by irrational neuroses.”

That set off enough laughter that I reduced the volume of my comma. I moved clear of the fighting to enjoy the show a bit and evaluate Venus’s armor. When the giant dragon-chicken approached the field of battle with a mighty squawk, I knew I’d get a treat.

I didn’t think it would involve a Tyrannosaurus Rex crashing through the wall and picking the fire-breather up in its mouth. Then I noticed the monocle over its eye and the book in its tiny claws.

“Boss, what was that? We heard a roar and a big crash and then you sounded like a little girl at the Lisa Frank house.”

I ignored the crossed reference. “I’ve always wanted to see this guy. That backup Venus mentioned? She has more than just Veloci-raptor.”

The T-rex whipped it’s head around, ringing the chicken-dragon’s neck and then spitting its limp body to the floor. Then, with some sort of British accent, he said “Ptew, that fowl tastes quite foul. The bellicose bird left a bad taste in my mouth. The sweet smell of Nike’s ambrosia shall surely cleanse my pallette of such odious bloodshed. To victory, my compatriots!”

“Who is it, boss?” Carl asked.

“It’s…The Saurus! But seriously, get out of here. They aren’t losing this one.”

Carl, Moai, Tricia, and Matatoa left. I stayed. I think Venus realized it, or she’s still got her insight into how I think.

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” she asked, dragging a black-eyed Eggcellency along a floor covered in feathers and chicken blood. “I hope you got a good look at what will happen to you if you try me again, Gecko. You used to have the advantage with your armor. You don’t anymore. I have friends who can build power armor, too. If I have have to redeem you by knocking your teeth down your throat every time you commit a crime, I will. That’s not what I want. I think there’s some decency in you that wants to reconcile, and I won’t put you back in a place like the Rubik’s Cube. I think I frustrate you more since that day on the roof. You’re so cynical, you’re letting compliments get to you. I hate to break it to your cynical self, but even though the bad guys can win, so can the good guys. Maybe you’d like to go and spend time with your friends now and stay away from anything illegal for awhile, alright?”

What a bitch.

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Three Criminals and a Baby 7

Pretty! I feel pretty! I feel pretty, and witty, and gaaaaay!

Y’all tell anyone I’m super happy and I’ll gut you with a shoe. Except for the person who can survive a shoe gutting. They will be the sole survivor.

The first thing to make me happy was the completion of my armor! I felt like Sweeney Todd getting his silver straight razors back. But I was dealing with some heavier metal than silver.

It still pulls on the same way as before, with a separate top, bottom, boots, helmet, and gloves that all seal together. The distinct metal bands are gone. There are the nanite quilt patches, a thicker muscle enhancer layer, and a thinner but more protective layer of armored pads. It fits more closely due to the materials in the plates being smaller in size and better able to fit against and under each other. Like some sort of odd fusion of laminar and scale mail designs in a lazy V pattern. Same for the legs. Instead of having joints at the shoulders and elbows, the layer holding the armor can stretch when I bend. It makes it more flexible, but provides some gaps in those situations. Still gives me the ability to pop someone in the mouth with an armored elbow or knee, though, and it’s still more overall armor than my legs used to have.

The gloves are mostly the same, but with a little more internal padding over the knuckles. They still have the sheathe wiring, and it’s still nice and barbed.

I didn’t change much about the boots, either. The exception to that was that the toes now point up, like I’m an elf. Or, to be more specific, like I’m an elf with boots that curve up into a sharp point capable of cutting through skin. It’s one of the other elements hinting at the jester design I almost went with.

The other was on the helmet, of course. As I previously mentioned, the visor still keeps its little glare, but the rebreather’s hose fits more closely with an oval shape and there are the two parts in the rear above the ears that somewhat resemble a jester’s hat.

Now, don’t worry. This update won’t be me just spamming armor porn, you brigandine libertines.

I was so happy that the first thing I did was run down to one of the many local liquor stores, some place called “The Full Package Liquor” and went to town on it. I don’t think I quite have the hang of setting vodka on fire for a drink, but I stopped the cashier’s screams by making him happy. Because with me that happy, he was damn well going to be happy even if I had to slam his face repeatedly into a keg!

As for me, I seem to have settled on drinking lots of Bailey’s Irish Cream. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m addicted. Addicted to murder. I’ll have you know I can stop any time I want. But honestly, look around you. You see all those assholes that range from petty jerks to those actively trying to make the world worse? Yeah, you wouldn’t stop either.

I got a call from Carl while I was out, too. I’d gone and left them all behind. Hadn’t even put on my armor. He was just wanting to make sure I hadn’t been caught in any webs or anything. I told him I’d bring dinner back.

I also brought back some of the liquor store’s stock to help us celebrate the New Year, whatever that might entail under current conditions. Carl was even all set to join us. Something about his ex getting the kids for New Years Eve and all that. Works for me. I’d have offered to help him get full custody of the kids, but for the fact that he’d have to bring them here too.

Which brings us back to the main topic at hand. Matatoa Bobby Doomgex.

I’ve been pondering that particular mystery, and, as it’s New Year’s Eve, I feel that my time pondering is just about over, as I explained using the visual medium.

“Alright,” I said, tapping a drawing pad with a potato peeler. “First, we got a Christmas card by someone claiming to be Santa.”

I pantomimed a circle around a drawing of a Christmas card that said “From Santa…or is it?” and “Dun dun dun!” drawn in the air next to a lightning bolt.

Carl raised his hand. “Yeah, uh, what’s Captain Lightning got to do with this?”

“Nothing, that lightning bolt is just there to add atmosphere.”

“You can’t make it look more like a cartoon? That card has too many corners.”

“Yes, well, if I could draw worth a crap, I’d have a webcomic rather than a blog, now wouldn’t I?”

“What?”

“Moving on!” I flicked on the potato peeler’s laser and burned away the first page. The next showed a giant lizard in a luchador mask bodyslamming a snail. Stick figure cheerleaders with large chests jumped for joy.

“This is a representation of our initial fight against the clunkers of Countess Clockwork. Fine work on being Godzilla, Carl, especially so soon after getting out of the hospital.”

“Don’t mention it.”

I swiped the laser across the top of that page, letting it drift to the floor. Next page had beer bottles and cake with a baby’s blanket holding a cube with a heart on it. “We found Mat and proceeded to take care of him.”

I tore that page off, crumpled it up, threw it into the air, and fired the laser at it. It plopped unharmed onto the floor as I missed. I went ahead and incinerated it on the floor anyway.

“Boss, what’s this one supposed to remind us of?”

Carl was referring, of course, to the page that featured David Bowie in tight pants and floofy hair from the 1980s sitting on a throne holding a TV. A tiny Moai statue sat nearby aback a dog and held a small staff. I had turned to admire it.

“Oh, this just reminds me of the babe.”

“What baby?”

Now, if Moai tackles me too many more times like he did at that point, I think we’re going to have some issues. By the time I got to my feet, he’d already yanked that page out and had been repeatedly jumping on it. I brushed myself off and gave it a quick once-over with the laser.

“Spoilsport.” I stuck out my tongue at Moai. He returned to his spot next to Mat and Carl.

“Our next page, as you see, features an unsuspecting clunker in a hairnet washing up in the shower being approached from the first-person perspective by some perfectly reasonable slasher with a pair of razor sharp boxers. I think this symbolizes a lot of things for us. The clash of old fashioned Cold War politics in a digital world. The damage done by Great Britain in exporting opium to China to hook themselves a market. The sound of warm summer’s rain on flower petals in a meadow. Also, it’s damn hard to shove a hand up a clunker’s ass.”

I zig-zagged the laser over that page. It ignited and I pulled it off to reveal an X-ray I’d printed off the internet of a hand with all the fingers broken.

I looked at it thoughtfully for a minute, a small smile on my face, then flung it off the page it had been taped to.

The next one had an equation. “Bomb + Psycho Gecko + Oil + Torture = Something Fucking Awesome!”

“I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.”

“It wasn’t really all that psychological of a torture, was it?”

“I don’t want to admit that was regular torture working after all.”

Nobody said anything. After a couple seconds, Carl spoke up again, “Is there a ‘but’ in there somewhere?”

“Nope. I really don’t want to admit it. Anything else?”

“Wasn’t it like really homophobic torture, too?”

“Caaaaaaaaarl, it wouldn’t have been torture if he was the sort of person who didn’t hate another man’s balls slapping him in the face three-quarters of the day. There are people out there right now who would pay for that experience. I know because they’ve asked. What did you expect me to do, put a cage on his head and force a rat to stick its balls in his face? This isn’t the ‘80s, Carl!”

I slashed a Z into that page with the laser and tore it out the book.

The next page had a giant newspaper swinging down at a spider with dreadlocks and a Rastafari hat. A speech bubble leading to the spider said, “Who am I? I’m Spider, mon.”

“And that catches us up. We suspect Matatoa here is the personification of 2014 known as Baby New Year, which is something I should have realized. Also, Santa didn’t show up. That’s normal for him, actually. After all, I did blow up half of one city, cause a temporal paradox over a city, drop the F-bomb on two other cities, blew up Elvis’s house, attacked another city with hallucinogenic gas, blew up the Statue of Liberty, and started two or three massive gang wars. That doesn’t even involve my conspiracy to commit public nudity, so it’s possible I’m on the naughty list.”

“You’re conspiring about public nudity?”

“Carl, every plan of mine is about public nudity.”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“Anyway, due to the Santa card, Spider’s intervention on behalf of Father Time, the fact that Baby New Year is personified at all to be kidnapped, and gaps in my comprehension, I think we have at least one other person influencing these events. You know, besides Father Time, too. After all, somebody had to set me up to thwart Spider. Now, if Matatoa is that particular figure, that means we just need to see him safely to midnight. To that end, I propose we head to Times Square and take off all our clothes.”

I ducked under a chair Moai threw at me that knocked over the drawing book.

“Objection noted from the guy not wearing any pants. The secondary plan involves staying in and getting shitfaced.”

There was much less objection to that plan.

Hours later and close to midnight, after we finished off the vodka and the song “Friends in Low Places”, we sat around resting and I realized I had something very important to add about the situation.

“You know why they call him ‘Father Time’ right?” I asked Carl.

He shook his head.

“Because time is relative.”

Moai slammed his head enthusiastically against a table, almost upsetting a radio that, frankly, could have used it. It was playing country music of the less-than-tolerable variety, which meant most of it.

“Hey, that was a good one!” I threw an empty bottle at him.

A hand caught it out of the air. An extraneous hand. A hand that did not belong to our group.

It was a hand attached to an arm that wore a suit. Actually, the whole person it was part of wore a suit. A tophat too. I’d say the sash that read “2013” across his chest was strange, but that’s the part that made him less strange. He was old, but the youngish kind of old, like when you won’t be absolutely grossed out to realize he could be getting laid. He had close cropped black hair with lots of gray, and a soul patch on his chin that was almost all gray save for some black in the middle.

“Good timing,” I told Father Time.

“It is what I am known for,” he said. Or, I think he said it. He didn’t open his mouth. Just had this little smile there.

I checked the clock on my eye HUD.

“Two minutes to midnight? The hands that threaten doom, to quote Iron Maiden. I guess you’re here because it’s time to retire.”

“I am not going away yet. I have many more years left in me.” That voice again. Not telepathy, not exactly. For one thing, all that psychic stuff doesn’t work the way it should with me. An oddity of my physiology. It’s like his words suffused the area around us.

“I thought that was kinda…ya know…not how things worked.”

“I thought psychotic supervillains killed each other and little kids. We all have to deal with little disappointments in life. I’m here to deal with the one you have been taking care of.”

“It was all you?” I asked. I didn’t want to kill him before I had answers, but I thought I’d just found the mastermind.

He didn’t so much punch me as swat me aside. I had a rough landing on a flatscreen TV, so the Japanese judge only gave me a 4, but it was a Toshiba, so I can probably count on the Chinese judge approving.

Moai was first to respond. He charged Father Time, but was lifted into the air easily. Moai was held there easily, then Father Time threw him across the room and through my cordoned-off workshop area.

That left only Carl between him and the baby while I stood up a few wookies away in distance. Six or seven meters; something like that.

Carl pulled his mini-pistol and fired at Father Time, who cocked his head, smile never leaving his face. The bullets slowed, then disintegrated into nothing. Carl looked around and noticed me. He threw Matatoa to me before Father Time could get to him. The smile stayed on FT’s face, but a burst of air threw Carl back toward Fort Beercan, a little project he’d been working on for Mat while he drank.

I caught Mat and set him down to send the TV back at Padre Time. I sat Mat on the table as I donned my new armor, the Version 26. The network of nerves that made the power core deep inside my chest an integral part of my body were part of the same network of tissues that connected to my armor. I know I said at the very beginning that I didn’t want to talk about the power source, but I’d say it’s a bit late for that now.

Speaking of late, I needed to know how to make Papa Time late. Here were the facts as I saw them. He was powerful. I should have realized Time would be superhuman. After all, everyone knows he flies. If he was anything like Mat, that meant he was unusually resilient. Very strong, too, from the look of things, with some time manipulation powers. It didn’t explain why he didn’t speed in and take Mat, or just leave us all in dilated time bubbles, but whatever. I was ready to take any weakness of his I could get. Hell, I didn’t even know why he waited so damn long to show up and kill the kid. Then again, Santa could only show himself at a certain time as well.

“You degenerate mortals fail in so many things.” There was the voice again. Weaker, so at least I could tell his distance by it. Problem was, he was getting closer. “What is one more? First Countess Clockwork planned to keep the baby to herself. What thanks was that for the one who taught her how to bring him to this plane? She wanted to find some way to harness her power and set time back. Spider was a proper foil for her, especially with his proclivities, but I had to hide my intentions to obtain his services. You were to antagonize Spider when it appeared he would honor what he thought were my wishes. One child could easily wind up dead between the three of you.” His voice and shadow were right outside one of the curtains I’d put up.

I had an idea while he was talking and got to work coordinating the holographic systems.

That curtain fell aside and he stood there, his hands clasped together. I couldn’t tell if he was confused, but I figured on it anyway. Anger had aged him even if it didn’t show. His hair was all gray now, and longer. His face seemed more haggard as well.

Mat was hidden from his sight. In front of him stood a fully-armored Psycho Gecko, a pissed off Spider, and Countess Clockwork with copper legs. Lieutenant Clockwork, you got magic legs!

The hologram of me held out his hand, palm out, while I grabbed a metal mallet and stepped behind ole Daddy Time.

“Alright stop!” I projected the sound all around us to try and make it seem like it was the hologram speaking. “Hammer time!”

I brought down the mallet on the head of my foe with quite a bit of added strength due to my improvements. The handle of the mallet shattered, while its head cracked. Father Time grunted and staggered forward.

I tried to kick him in the balls, but that didn’t affect him. Instead, he squeezed his thighs together and held me there. I dropped the holograms of myself and the other two villains, but kept on hiding Mat. That was when Moai jumped back into the battle. With a mighty headbutt, he knocked Father Time to the side and forced him to release me. FT retaliated with a punch that sent Moai skidding, but not nearly as far this time.

“I have gotten fond of this life. I will not cede it and damn the natural order!” He yelled. This time the invective in his voice was easily evident. The smile on his face had disappeared. The gray beard that was growing would have rapidly hid it anyway.

He was beginning to match that image of Father Time as an old man. An image that contrasted with his successor, Baby New Year.

I disappeared.

“So that’s it. I bet like Santa, you couldn’t show up until it was appropriate. As far as anyone knows, there is no personification of a middle-aged Father Time. There’s just the baby and the old me. You know, you remind me of the babe.”

“You can not hide him from me. I can feel him. He is close.”

The curtain FT stood by fell down around him. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to feel little kids!” yelled Carl. He was alright and had wrapped it around the being that was becoming weaker and more frail by the second. Father Time released another burst of air, showing he still had plenty of fight. It threw the curtain and Carl off, which left me pretty much curtainless for my work station.

Eh, I’ll get over it.

“You think you can win by distracting me?” Father Time yelled. No, this time he actually yelled it, with his mouth and spittle and a throbbing vein.

“The longer this takes, the weaker you become,” I taunted, unseen by him. “You might say we’re just…killing time.”

Enraged, Father Time sent out another burst that forced everything back away from him and, consequently, knocked Mat out of the holographic invisibility he was protected by. Father Time saw him and stalked forward, ready to finish this.

I jumped on his back, one arm around his neck, and locked the hold in with my other arm. He was a personification. Might as well try and put enough pressure on the arteries and veins that maybe existed in his neck. It may be called a sleeper hold, but if you hold it the right way long enough, it’ll be the last nap your opponent ever takes.

I heard an encouraging sound from the radio though. A countdown. “10!”

He tried to blast me off, but all he succeeded in doing was sending the top hat and the hair atop his head tumbling down.

“9!”

Then he grabbed at me, got a hold of me by the boot, and tried to throw me. As I swung out in front of him, I whipped around and grabbed his other shoulder, hooked under the armpit, and inverted myself.

“8!”

This time it was my legs wrapped around his neck from behind. I held onto the shoulder too, and wrenched it up.

“7!”

He was forced to bend over. He kept moving forward, though, for Mat. Mat was backing away too, but I think the kid wasn’t quite ready to come into his own just yet.

“6!”

“I will not die! Death is for you mortals. Not for me. I am a being beyond mortality.”

“5!”

“Hey, buddy, didn’t anyone ever tell you? Anything can be killed. ‘And with strange aeons even death may die,’” I taunted him one last time as I tried to slow him down by upping the pressure.

“4!”

He crawled for it, grabbing some shattered curtain rod with a jagged edge.

“3!”

He was slowing, though. He was still super strong, but growing weaker every time he tried to throw me off. The sash around him fell away and a new one appeared on Mat, reading “2014”. He even got a snazzy top hat.

“2!”

He gave one last great swing to pull his arm out of my grasp. Off I went, swinging the other direction and wrenching with my legs. Oh snap.

“1!”

The former Father Time and I dropped to the ground

A crowd erupted into cheers over the radio.

I stood up to find Mat…well, Baby New Year now, float into the air.

“Thank you for saving me, Uncle Gecko,” he told me.

“Uh, thanks little kid.”

“I have to go now. I wish I could stay, but it’s time for me to go out in the world now. Maybe I’ll see you in a year under better circumstances than my predecessor. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ll clear up a little work for you.”

“Aww, they grow up so fast. Now you’re killing people for me.”

“Not exactly.”

With that, he was gone, though I could see the blackboard through the wrecked lair. The same one we’d kept around from the time we were checking for kidnappings. The names disappeared.

Sure, sure, that he takes care of, but I don’t get a T-Rex with cybernetic extending cleaver hands?

Ah well. Here’s hoping 2014 turns out alright after all.

Well, looks like I better get this all over to OOC. Lucky for y’all over in Central Time that Empyreal City is Eastern, eh?

Happy New Year.

 

Next

Previous

Three Criminals and a Baby 6

You know, I kinda expected a special Christmas visitor to help sort out things with Matatoa here. The jolly old elf has to realize I’m not fit to take care of this kid for much longer. I’ve been keeping abreast of the news too, and there are still no indications that someone’s lost a superpowered kid. Powers this young, you’d think there was some sort of big accident or maybe his parents were supers too, things that would show up on the news as big deals. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

Sure, the kid’s been of some use. I don’t get security called on me in the toy store as much if I have him with me. It gives me a lot more time to ponder the mystery of these “rangers” of “power”. They resemble my old foes from home too much to be a mere coincidence, but have been around over here since before I ever showed up. I must know what their secret is! Once I find it out, I will destroy the Rangers once and for all!

Woops, old habit there, if a fun one.

Alas, there has been no word from the big man, the Lord of the Yule, the Saturn of Saturnalia. Moai and I waited all Christmas Day for him to show up, to no avail. We had escorted Carl to his place for him to celebrate with his own kiddoes, then parked our wrecked van inside the hideout and waited. And got a shower, at least on my part. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot left of my bed, so I had room to stretch and scrub and get all the oil off me.

Took me so long to get the oil off that it messed with my dreams, too. I dreamt I was in Shawshank Prison, surrounded by big burly raspberries while Morgan Freeman’s voice drifted through talking about them wanting to get me alone to make some vinaigrette.

Eh, I’ve had better dreams. I still hope for a sequel to the time I was a vampire wielding a flaming ritual knife to fight the Ghostbusters who had been revived by a ritual performed by a mass of ghosts in an ancient temple that was in the U.S. for some reason.

As Christmas Eve passed into Christmas Day, I hopped on a loader and brought out Moai’s present. The wrapping was crooked, with patches of paper to cover up ripped spots and holes that the first run had missed. The tape alone was probably half again the weight of the paper, not that it would be noticed. The whole thing was rather heavy.

I had to keep Mat from swallowing a bunch of paper, so I didn’t see Moai open the present, but I think he liked it. He’s been wearing the pukao I got him since then ever since he unwrapped it. It’s like a big red statue hat for moai. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a flamethrower, lots of noodles, and a pukao. Feel free to quote me on that.

And, yeah, I had to pick up something for Matatoa too. I don’t know what to get a toddler, which is what he definitely is by now, so I just tried to imagine what I’d want if I was a little tyke. Well, aside from less live fire training on how to outrun robotic guard dogs. And years of psychological trauma, but that’s water and weighted down former military instructors under the bridge.

I got the tyke a little pair of sunglasses and a little trench coat, complete with some protective mesh inside it in case he goes running with scissors. Looked almost like a small version of me like that, which was a little bit creepy. It especially doesn’t help the idea I had of maybe copying what he looked like as an adult from that projection I made. It was just a minor idea I had, before I knew the kid was aging so fast.

Moai got him some toys too, including this giant stuffed gorilla that was bigger than Mat. The big ape stands out the most to me, though Mat ignored it for some of the noisier stuff. I couldn’t even cover my ears with my present from Moai. It was a Rastafari hat with dreads. I don’t believe that this deceased Ethiopian emperor was the second coming of Jesus, nor do I see pot smoking as a religious sacrament, but it’s a cool hat.

Mat didn’t get either of us anything but trouble, and that showed up Christmas night.

I was trying to look up some reggae music in the workshop after checking how the armor was coming. It’s almost done, by the way. About time, too. The damn thing’s smaller, but also more complicated in the way various plates lock together. That’s one consideration I’ve had for a long time. I could have been running around here in a fifty foot giant robot all this time, but do you know how hard it is to put one of those together or repair it if it takes the least bit of damage? Nope. I don’t want to keep sitting around rebuilding suits of armor, so that means simpler designs. Bulkier designs. Designs with fewer intricacies to patch and repair when I take damage.

At least the creation of this prototype will make the production of later copies easier all the way around.

But enough about that. Let’s get back to the part you were all waiting to hear about.

So I was trying to find an internet reggae station in my workshop while fiddling around with what I hoped to make into a marijuana smoke grenade, when I heard a skittering noise and a wet thwack. Then I smelled the blood. Distinct smell and taste, blood. Like a nickel or a penny in your mouth. Easy way to tell if you’re close to a dead animal is because the blood smell will be there too.

I grabbed the trap remote and whatever junk was nearby and jumped through the curtain. I rolled out of it to my knees and threw what I had at the direction of the sound. This junk, which appeared to be a metal sculpture of male genitalia, flew towards a man in a jacket with a shirt so poofy in places that it looked more like a blouse. It was Spider, he of the darkened eye sockets, the wild hair, and the red-stained lips. He was holding a hand that was one finger short. Moai stood in front of him and on top of a large, hairy arthropod leg that had been pinned to the floor and wrenched off in its owner’s struggles. Matatoa stood behind Moai, hiding from Spider.

“Glad you showed up, Spider old boy. I didn’t get a chance to interrogate your partner in crime this year, but you’re moving down in the world. Last year you had an eldritch guy thingy with mouths opening all over his head. This year, you had a goggle-loving geek in a corset.”

Spider hissed at me. It was a much larger sound than he appeared.

He stepped back, angling to face Moai and myself. He didn’t want to be flanked.

“Moai, I think it’s time to take the kid for a walk. I’ve got a bug to squash.”

Moai nodded, but Mat tried to run for it. Spider pounced…and he came away with his hands pinned to the floor by the Moai’s pukao. Moai rolled for the front with Mat laughing and toddling on top of him.

Spider’s hiss grew in volume and fury as he gripped the hat. His glamour slipped as an extra pair of forearms split away from his elbows. He hefted the pukao and tried to throw it like a Frisbee at Moai. He was stopped by a well-placed application of my ass. You’d be surprised how many problems can be solved by an ass in the right place. In this case, I’d jumped in front of Moai and Mat to block the thrown pukao cheek first.

I didn’t stop the pukao, but I did deflect it and kill some of its momentum. M&M made it out the door, though. When Spider tried to ignore me in pursuit of them, he found sawblades and bananas blocking his path. My chuckles prompted him to turn and face me as I pulled myself to my feet, brushing off my rear end.

I held the remote in front of me and settled my thumb on a toggle, “You’re a real pain in my ass, Spider, you know that?” My laughter accompanied the darkness that washed over us as I pressed the button to kill the lights.

That’s not to say I was stupid enough to keep standing there. He pounced on where I was, but I wasn’t there anymore. Put a sweater on me, man, because they’d have to write a whole book about how to find me. “Where’s Gecko?” they can call it.

“One, two, Gecko’s coming for you…” “Welcome to my lair, said the gecko to the spider…” “The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout. Down came urine and washed the spider’s mouth…”

I taunted him, duh. Had to. It was a moral imperative. Not that I have many imperatives. Or morals. Or commemorative plates. What is the deal with commemorative plates? I will uncover their secret. Once I find it out, I will destroy those plates once and for all!

I threw plates as well as taunts at Spider as he stalked through the dark, looking for me. He swatted them away with limbs that grew longer and darker as he searched. He spat lines of webbing, trying to set up a means to find me and deal with me.

Short fights are rather common for those of us with powers who aren’t afraid of killing, but my ultimate goal here isn’t to kill. Sure, I’d like to, but this is about backing him off and getting Matatoa away. Oh, and handling the real interrogation in all this mess.

I slipped around in the dark, avoiding pistons that shot out with boxing gloves on the end, keeping an eye on Spider with some low-light vision. By now, the thing I was watching had lost all semblance of being a man. I think. I pulled up Wikipedia to look up sexual dimorphism in arachnids. Turned out he hadn’t lost all semblance of being a man after all, or at least a male.

“Hey, fatass, what’s with you and kids?”

I had been leaning against a wall, but rolled out of the way. Spider landed on the wall and set off a pressure trap. The wall opened and a giant hand slapped him off the wall.

“Gotta hand it to me, I know how to rig them.”

I fled his wrath again as he landed and set off a gun that fired a spike and a piece of steak into Spider’s flank. He turned toward the attack, a natural response. It put the steak on the opposite side of his body for the delayed follow-up: a flamethrower.

“How’re you enjoying the flank steak?”

It’d be rude not to feed a guest after all.

Spider shrieked, in so much as he was capable, though he took on a human’s voice and most of one’s shape as the light from the flames flickered over him.

“Gargh!” he said, in my best estimation of his grunt. This time, he wasn’t hopping after me. He chased, but had to hobble in his semi-human form. I walked calmly down the hallway to the bathrooms. It was a dead end, more so for him than for me.

I yanked open the door of the women’s restroom and screaming came from within. High pitched screaming. And that song about the Grinch. Spider made a beeline for the hall and the interrogation room, inclined as he was toward the bugs.

I let him get close and I slammed the door quickly, just in time for him to bonk his head on it. He was quick to latch three of those hairy legs onto me, and this time I was not an oily god. I was a wily one instead. I stomped back on another pressure plate. Poles thrust out of the ceiling, the walls, and the floor. The bear traps on the end of the poles bit into whatever they could find, and they just so happened to have found a moderately sized Spider.

I ducked my head as one shot out of the wall behind me and gripped the half-man, half-spider head of my enemy in its teeth.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I told him, “And I can’t bear this bathroom line any longer myself.”

I couldn’t tell if his pained groan was due to the traps or from what I said.

“You know, I was thinking of having these poles all along the ceiling. What do you think, will pole vaults ever catch on?”

A lesser being probably would have diverted an arm from holding me so he could face palm. Credit where credit’s due, Spider didn’t. Damn. He still couldn’t do anything to me, though. Ah well. I had him at the interrogation room. It was time to interrogate.

“Your ally’s henchman in there seems dumb enough. I might let him live. Just being in it for the money, I think. You, though…I don’t know what sick pleasure you get from going after kids so frequently, and especially on a truce day-”

He interrupted me, a rattling noise accompanying his speech. “You’re one to preach. You slaughtered the others on Christmas Eve. Couldn’t stand the competition? So greedy for power you’d kidnap a child.”

“Kidnap nothing. I saved him fair and square from your friends. In this instance, I’m a hero…no, that’s not right. I’m doing something vaguely heroic.”

“Heroic! As a service of my punishment, I was tasked to find and protect that baby by Father Time himself. I’m the hero of this story.”

“Fuck Father Time. What’s he want with a superbaby anyway?”

“None of you are going to exploit that boy.”

I grabbed two of the arms that held me and dug my fingertips into them. I pulled them away from me and slipped out of his grasp, an accomplishment made easier by the work of my tricks and traps. “Yeah, yeah, blah blah. I ain’t exploiting any kids, save for that time I published a fake Harry Potter book in China. I’m holding onto this pintsize superhuman until I get to the bottom of this. And this time I’m not running from a compromised base. You want another opisthosoma-whipping, you come right on back.”

I wound up dumping the injured Spider off on a lonely road near some factory that still smelled of the fire that had gutted it. The other prisoner, the guy who gave up Countess Clockwork? I glued a Santa suit to him and dropped him off in front of the Salvation Army. For the henchman, he got away because of the truce. Spider got away because I hope he’ll try again so I can learn more.

Of course, some of that was unnecessary once I had Moai, Mat, and Carl back at the hideout the next day. Moai and Carl were sweeping up some of the mess while I had Mat play a little game called “Help Moai and Carl sweep up the mess.”

I went over the whole ordeal with Carl when he mentioned something that shed some interesting light on all this.

Just a few little words that might just put this all into context.

“If that guy’s working for Father Time, does that mean Matty is Baby New Year?”

That gave me a lot to ponder. I’m once again in the middle of some supernatural pissing match involving a holiday. And I think someone’s messing with me. The Christmas card, the indirect way of getting the kid, and now all this stuff that I feel like I should have figured out by now. There are things I should have seen before now. Baby New Year. Abney Park.

Not only am I taking care of Baby New Year, but I think someone’s been manipulating me to do so without realizing I was.

 

Next

Previous

Three Criminals and a Baby 5

Torture among supervillains is usually a very violent affair, as my interaction with Holdout shows. There are a couple of reasons for this. One reason is that, like most people, some villains think that physical torture is effective. Anyone with sufficient knowledge of the human mind can tell you that isn’t the case. A person can trick themselves into thinking you’re bluffing right up until you hack off a finger. Then they get to do it all over again about the next finger and soon enough they’re out of phalanges.

Oh, and another reason why it doesn’t work is that the defensive side of an engagement comes across as more heroic. They were just minding their own business when someone attacked them. They didn’t want any trouble. They’re locked in a cell somewhere doing nothing to deserve a guard coming in with a popsicle dildo to add some grape flavor to your asshole. It’s not like they can reciprocate in kind, so it’s a pretty blatant abuse of power by someone. You can abuse your power to get away with all kinds of stuff. You can threaten to fire a woman unless she sleeps with you. You can hint that a man will only get a promotion if his politics agrees with yours. You could give tax breaks to your religion automatically while forcing other groups to apply and meet standards. People will put up with a lot of shit as long as it isn’t physical

Plus, if they know you’re only hurting them for fun, like most in my line of work would do, then they know that you won’t stop no matter what they say.

And people will say anything if the alternative is dumping them into a vat of piping hot sweet potatoes and marshmallows. If you’re in it for information, you’d then have to try and verify what they said, which gives them more time.

No, no, no.

The way you get information from someone is psychological. You play on their fears, you threaten what they value, or you break them down psychologically so that they are no longer the hero in their own mind. That is how you get intelligence.

But I still like to have fun in the process. Hence why I oiled myself up, sprayed on some body glitter, put on a bright yellow thong, and slipped into some ballet slippers. After 16 straight hours…well, not exactly straight…of creatively imagining famous theater to loud RuPaul music, he cracked. It was good timing, actually. I was on the table in front of him, bouncing my sack off his head.

“That concludes my one-man dramatization of ‘Waiting for Godot’. Now I will begin my special holiday presentation of a little play I like to call ‘The Nutcracker’.” I twirled around, raising one leg straight out over the prisoner’s head as I rotated around to give him a slap in the nose. “Look, no hands!”

“I can’t take it any more! I’ll tell you anything you want to know! Stop it, stop it, for the love of God, stop it!” he screamed through tears and the bruises that dotted his face.

I kicked his chair back from the table and hopped down onto his lap, putting my arms around him. “For Christmas this year, I want to know who sent you. And a pony. A pony with a Utahraptor’s head on it, and flaming horseshoes, and a scythe for a tail that whips around like a scorpion.”

“I’m just a union man, okay? Countess Clockwork hired us after the clunkers she had moving some baby failed to report in. She wanted someone nearby to help coordinate them. Clockwork robots are dumb as a box of rocks.”

“What’s so special about the kid?”

“I don’t know.”

“All this talk is boring me. I feel like dancing.”

“I swear I don’t know! Some guy asked and she fed him to her octopus.”

“She’s got a man-eating octopus?”

“No. It choked on the guy, but the rest of us got the message. No asking about the baby.”

“Alright, little fry. Tell me where I find the big potato?”

“We’re based in the amphitheater at Abney Park.”

Abney Park. I should have known. Never has there ever been such a pit of scum and Earl Grey tea as Abney Park. It’s a small park that’s a favorite hangout of steampunk fans during the day and prostitute fans after dark.

“A steampunk villain hiding in Abney Park…it’s so stupid it’s brilliant! I should have thought of that, actually.” I really should have. It’s what I would have done. Then again, I’d have a robotic killer octopus, and this person, this Countess Clockwork, she only had a flesh and blood one capable of choking. Stick that in your windpipe and be unable to dislodge it!

“Why thank you, nameless enemy minion. You will be greatly rewarded for this.”

“Just let me go, please, and shut off that music!”

“You’re right. That is getting repetitive and annoying.” I pushed a button on the radio, switching it to a station playing nothing but Christmas music.

The poor guy started wailing and crying some more.

I left the room and found Carl waiting with a sandwich, trying to avoid looking anywhere near me. I tried to pick it up, but the damn thing slipped out of my oily hands and tried to come apart. “Dammit, so hard to hold on to my meat like this. Uh, and the mayo just shot out and got everywhere. I’m going to have to wash this thong, you know?”

Carl didn’t say a thing, just kept on looking up at the ceiling.

“Well, anyway, we can leave him behind. Maybe stop by the animal shelter, feed him to the kittens later, I don’t know. Before that, there’s the matter of handling the person who has been after our little Matatoa…how’s his teething, by the way?”

“I put the Twix bar in the refrigerator like you said, but he still chewed through it.”

“Damn, that boy’s got some chompers on him. Maybe I can replace his jaw so he can unhinge it…”

“No! Bad boss!” Carl exclaimed as he pulled out a spray bottle and squirted cold water on me.

“Mwahaha! You have failed miserably Carl. You have forgotten that oil and water don’t mix. I am immune to your attempts to prevent my cyberization of Mat, for I am an oily god! May your salads quake with fear. Now, it’s time to celebrate a little Christmas Eve-l”

So after a short time to gather some common household ingredients that are usually perfectly harmless, we set out for Abney Park in the van that Carl built. “The old battle wagon,” I called it. Carl disapproved.

“She’s Bertha.”

“Bertha the Battle Wagon.”

“Just Bertha.”

“Big, fat, ugly, bug-faced, baby-eating Bertha.”

“Just Bertha.”

“I prefer my name for it. Now, let’s be off.”

I was not in my armor. Alas, it was not yet complete. Besides, I was still oily and I didn’t want to try and clean all that crap out of the torso armor and helmet. It’s ok. I had my crew backing me up. Carl, my personal thug with his mini-revolver and bladed knuckle glove. Moai, the Beast from the East-er Island. The statue that’ll whack you. And Matatoa Bobby Doomgex, the boy we’re all protecting. Taking him to the lair of the person trying to get him may not seem like protection, but the other factor was Spider. A gentleman in clothes from the same time as these Victorian Era steam punks, or so he seems. I know from personal experience that the appearance is a lie. He’s appropriately named, though, and a dangerous opponent. For some reason, he’s tried for Matatoa, so coming with us into a fight is safer than hiring a babysitter.

It was mostly a pleasant little trip with the heater working on full power. We did have to worry about some dogs running out after cars, but I took care of that. Hey, if their owners really cared, they wouldn’t let them run out into the streets, now would they? I just wish the van’s doors weren’t so high as to preclude smacking the little shits with the doors. They can make other people crash all they want, but I hold my transit to a higher standard. A double standard.

The park was easy to find, as was the amphitheater. So was the rear loading ramp, a relic from when someone thought it might be used as something other than a hard surface to lay some pipe.

Carl didn’t even need to ask how we wanted to make an entrance. I reached over to Mat, who was in the back with me, and ruffled his hair. “Now you hold onto that bottle, alrighty?”

He giggled and once again tried to lift the gallon bottle that used to hold bleach back before I started mixing stuff up. Now, it was considerably more dangerous.

Carl gunned it. I held my bottle between my legs and put my hands up as we sped down the ramp, hit the twin doors, and smashed through. Carl joined me as we ran out of road and smashed into the edge of something. We fell.

I couldn’t help laughing even as the others screamed in terror. It was a thought. Comparing my traps to this, I thought, “Kudos on the pit trap.”

It wasn’t much of a pit, though, as we soon smacked down on some sort of platform. Then I realized we were rising. I opened the door and knocked a clunker away in the process. It was an elevator of sorts, with a contingent of clunkers smashed beneath the van and letting out loud grinding. Actually, it wasn’t just the clunkers. The grinding came from the elevator as well. Then it stopped. Then it began to fall, albeit in a much more controlled manner.

It dropped us smack dab in the middle of an underground lair. There were many more clunkers interspersed with the occasional lieutenant standing at attention facing a platform backed by a large water tank. On the platform was a woman in a regal, floofy Victorian dress showing clear signs of corseting, and a clunker with especially large shoulders holding a staff topped with two gears marched along inside a ring and a third small cog between the two. Huge, inefficient computers flanked the elevator on two sides. We’re talking card punchers. Coiled wires along the ceiling provided light over brick floors and walls covered in levers and rotating sprockets.

Just one of these bombs, as long as the blast wasn’t blocked, ought to do a good job of wrecking the place.

Everyone was quiet and still for a few seconds. They were shocked by our sudden arrival. We were recovering from the fall. I broke the silence by stepping out of the van and holding aloft the homemade bomb I had with me and dragging along an uncooperative pooch that didn’t want to leave our van well enough alone. “’Scuse me, but did somebody order a pain and pwnage pizza? We promise your asses handed to you in thirty minutes or less.”

“How dare you?! Who dares to invade my headquarters?!” boomed the woman in the dress, almost certainly Countess Clockwork.

“It is I, Psycho Gecko, savior of Christmas, temporary Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Crosser of Dimensional Boundaries, Slayer of Space Marines, the Sixgun Killer, Ender of Long’s Life, the Reality TV Star Destroyer, the Scar of Venus’s beauty, Terror of Yabloo City, the Paradise City Pandemic, the Molester of Marscow Prison, Liberty’s Reaper, Shieldwall’s Breaker, and the current protector of that little baby you’re after. I hope to someday add ‘Mayor of a Little Town up the Coast’ to that list someday, but I have my doubts.”

The clunkers started to march toward me, but the Countess stopped them. “Halt! For his transgressions against our cause and the invasion of my sanctum, he will face a greater fate.” As she spoke, something made of glinting metal rose from the water behind her. “Steamtopus, attack!”

The copper tentacles gleamed in the lights of the underground lair, and there were more than just eight of them. A massive plume of steam rose from the water, which retreated, presumably into the towering robotic octopus that rose in the middle of those tentacles. It settled the big bulbous head back and exposed its mouth. A beak, with saw blades whirring behind it, snapped at me, then steam shot out from it.

I raised the terrier in my hand toward the steamtopus in a challenge. “A robotic bastardization of nature, eh? Why don’t you come down here and fight me like a-“ And that’s when it raised me up in the tentacle it wrapped around me with surprising swiftness. I have to give her credit for that one. This thing was much quicker than the clunkers.

“Yes, my pet. Crush his bones with your steam powered might.”

The steamtopus tried to comply and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do with my arms against my sides. Except let go of the bomb, of course. Heat was a better way to set it off, but a sufficient bump like that might have done it. I didn’t get the chance, though, as I shot out of the steamptopus’s grasp and into the air. Another tentacle tried to grasp me, but it squeezed too hard and I slipped out of it as well. Another got me by the leg momentarily, but I fell right out onto the body of the steamtopus right near its mouth.

I laughed. I’d figured out why it couldn’t get a grip by then.

“Suck on this, cephalopod.” I tossed the homemade explosive into its beak and jumped off to run for it. Steam shot from its beak again, but this time it took the bomb with it. It tripped me as I tried to flee, and that actually helped me as it blew. Contained in its body as it was, the blast didn’t effect quite as much of the area around it, but it did throw bits and pieces out. Most of the clunkers went down. One of the punch card computers shattered to pieces as something crashed through it. A piece of its debris actually propped up the computer that had been closer to the blast, which had merely started to tip as the shrapnel passed completely through, then turned and done much more damage to the second computer. As for the steamtopus, it was no more. It had ceased to be.

I stood up and threw my hands to the sky, ignoring the yipping canine I held by the back legs. “I am an oily god! Bwahahahaha!” Just think. I’m sure someone’s been told that oiling themselves up to dance in a thong would never save their life. I am proof that they are wrong. Spread it from the mountaintops!

Prickly pain shot through my body as I was struck by some sort of electrical attack. I fell to my knees, eyes acting up under the assault. What I got from them finally showed Countess Clockwork approaching with the gear staff in hand that she used to strike me with a stream of electricity. A little closer, a little closer…there! She got too close and a swipe of the dog in my hand knocked the staff away while simultaneously giving her a little shock as well. I lost my grip on the dog though. My hands were kinda numb.

I tried to stand, but the Countess grabbed some necklace around her neck. I realized it had the same rotating cogs in miniature before she zapped me with it. Relief came with a screeching of brakes, a loud thump, and something floofing against brick flooring.

I looked up at the welcome sight of big, fat, ugly, bug-faced, baby-eating Bertha as driven by Carl. He gave me a thumbs up from behind the wheel. I stumbled over to the door and opened it. Matatoa giggled at me from around the cap of the bomb he was chewing on. Behind him, through the back of the van, I finally noticed the metal tentacle that went straight through. I grabbed the bomb from Mat, patted him on the head, and borrowed a lighter off Carl.

Countess Clockwork crawled away from where she landed, trailing blood, moaning in pain each time she dragged herself just a little further. She was headed for the elevator, and actually closing in on it. I stepped on the hem of her gown and ripped off a strip. Then I loosened the cap and dipped it in as a fuse.

“Now, you have to know you’re not getting out of here,” I said and stepped around in front of her. I shook the bomb at her and then set it down in front. In my other hand, I pulled out the lighter and flicked the flame to life. I lit the end of the fuse, then ran for the van.

“Then neither are you!” she spat after me, though the words were joined by blood in spraying at me. ”Clunkers, elevator!”

The elevator did indeed begin to rise. I threw myself into it. “Drive, drive!”

“Where?” Carl asked, but took us around for the edge of the room, looking for safety.

“The computer!” I yelled and pointed.

Carl got my meaning. Good guy, that Carl. He swerved, crashing through an unlucky clunker, and brought us around toward the tipped computer. We ramped that bitch and skidded to a halt on the rising elevator platform, which ground to a halt again.

Damn.

Then the bomb went off. We didn’t get to see the damage it did, but the Countess was undoubtedly killed. It threw the platform up like a piston, sending our van back up to street level and the group of us off into the night.

I have no idea about Spider though. Wasn’t exactly a lot of time to ask, but at least those Clunker motherfuckers are down for the count. Hopefully, Santa will be by later to handle this baby. In the meantime, Merry Christmas if you happen to celebrate it.

Gecko out.

 

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Three Criminals and a Baby 4

This whole “under the radar” schtick has really been getting to me. I had a dream where I was in a cubicle. Not the good kind of dream, either, where I’m choking a man in suspenders and stapling his face to his desk. It was the bad type of dream. I was working there.

Gah!

First thing’s first. I got up and sold my stock as low as I could get it. Well, second thing’s second. First thing, I lit my bed on fire, then went to town on it with an axe. A fire axe. It seemed appropriate. It was a water bed, though, so that put out the fire and I had to resort to beating it with an ice cube tray and stabbing it with an apple.

Hey, don’t talk to me about how sharp fruits are. I know all about fruits. You think an apple is bad? I won’t even stab something with a peach. You agree with me on that, don’t you? Yeah, I thought so. It’s because deep down in their core, you know peaches are the pits.

The fuck am I doing, playing nice like this? Playing the stock market? I’m the guy who blew up half the city! Nope, if I’m getting money, I need to do it by my own efforts and for my own reasons. What am I doing, moving around money just to make money? How disgustingly lazy, how feebleminded, how utterly devoid of purpose is that?!

Ugh, I might as well be a hamster running on a never-ending wheel of money.

I was so disgusted, I finished off my bed by clamping a car battery to it. After picking myself up off the floor about a wookie’s height away and trying to flatten my hair, I called in Carl.

“You rang, boss?”

I patted him on the shoulder with one hand and drew his mini-pistol with the other, firing back into the battery, bed, and the jumper cables. When it was empty, which didn’t take long, I handed it back to him and gave the battery a kick away. All clear.

Third thing’s third. I should give an update about the baby. After all, Carl was there and he’s the one who wanted the tests done in the first place. I gave Carl the rundown, starting with “First off, your suspicions are correct. That baby’s growing more than usual.”

I explained that this kid, Matatoa, is quite unusual after all. No sign of disease or illness at all, but I couldn’t tell on the genetic level because something about this kid messed with any sort of DNA analysis to check for syndromes or genetic diseases. About the best I could do was extrapolate future physiological problems from the phenotype. I didn’t see anything off from that model, but that wasn’t going to tell me very much anyway unless he had some bone issues already.

As far as the immune system goes, he shows no sign of illness despite a lack of antibodies.

Little Matatoa here is not a baseline human, but I can’t determine just how off the baseline he is. Some of this suggests a certain resistance, possibly even some invulnerability, that means we probably were supposed to get him when we followed the Christmas card’s instructions. The resistance also means that the crap we’ve been feeding this kid hasn’t screwed him up. That’s a plus.

We’re not exactly the best cooks around here. Carl’s more of a beer and burgers guy, with it turning into more of a beer burger if he’s already had a few. I cook a mean basil teriyaki pork chop myself. Moai’s specialty is known as “Chicken Under a Brick”. Despite that diversity of skill, there’s not a damn thing we’ve fixed that this kid will eat. I caught Moai trying to waterboard him with chicken noodle soup the other day. Despite not hardly eating, the kid still runs around like he’s on cocaine.

Carl didn’t quite grasp everything about it, but he got the important parts. He was also relieved to hear that Mat hasn’t gotten hurt by anything we’ve done. “He stole some of that beer I had that time and I got to chasing him and then he slipped and hit that cabinet.”

“Well, it’s probably ok not to worry about it quite as much. We know the kid’s special. Now we just have to find out why we are the ones taking care of him. Speaking of which, where is he right now, and why do I hear a saw?”

“Oh shit!” Carl said, rushing out of the room.

There’s nothing like the sounds of saws, gunfire, and children’s laughter.

Fourth thing, and I’m probably going to forget about this list any moment now, I dumped the bed, battery, and jumper cables into a shower in the back and gave it all an acid bath. I didn’t feel like taking the time for cement shoes. You think I have all day to spend on that? As for the showers in this former goth club…hell if I know. Maybe it was for employees, maybe it wasn’t always a club, maybe the guy who owned it last liked to use it to smear his makeup so he looked like he’d been crying.

At last that gave me some time to look over my armor. That kid has been acting up a lot more the past week or so, and it has been slowing me down with working on the new design. I stepped past a pair of curtains I had strung up around the workplace area. Kids, much like evil geniuses, will want to play with whatever rays and doodads and gadgets you’ve got so long as they are in sight. I’ve been jonesing to check on it since I woke up in a mood to wreck some shit.

It is nearly ready. I have to settle for a few smaller patches of the nanite-quilting for now, but I can expand coverage when I get a better idea how that idea’s working out. See, that’s how you solve a problem. You throw brains at it, try stuff, and you drop the stuff that doesn’t work in favor of stuff that does. It’s all very scientific, right down to rewarding the most brilliant scientist with a VIP card to a Nevadan brothel. That’s “Very Important Pussy” as first discovered by physicist Richard Feynman.

Another idea I had needed to be dismissed out of hand. Self-repairing armor. Might as well cover myself with nanites. Little buggers are good at healing me, but they can’t take a punch very well, which is the point. It’s why you don’t liquefy the metal to forge a sword. You have something like that which is made to change shape, and it’ll be inherently weaker. Plus, I really don’t want to lose all of my armor just because someone shot me a few times in the chest. That’s really counterproductive.

I lifted the helmet up. It was completed at least. It was sleeker. Less bulky, in part from the fastenings no longer showing on the outside and in part because of the two elongations that arched out high on the back of the armor like I had to fit sylvan ears in them or something. A minor reference to my idea of wearing something more akin to a jester suit.

The front breather was also altered. It looks less like a SCUBA diver. The hoses are no longer round, but ovals. They fit better against the armor and aid to it looking smaller but faster. I was nearly tempted to paint flames on them they looked so fast.

I heard the curtain rustle as someone entered and I spoke aloud, “The Version 26 marks a departure in my design aesthetics, which ought to throw off those who may think I’m a copycat Psycho Gecko upon my public reappearance. Also, and I don’t say this lightly, it looks cool as shit.”

I turned toward my audience. It was a clunker. Yay, some shit to wreck! A copper and bronze steampunk robot in copper and leather armor. “Catch,” I told it and tossed the helmet. It did so with a hiss of steam that shot upward from the back of its neck. I grabbed a remote out of my pocket and armed the traps. The clunker dropped the helmet and lunged for me, but I slipped around him, Victorian-era robot technology being notoriously slow and stupid, and grabbed my helmet off the ground. It was in mid turn when I knocked its head off with my helmet. The head flopped against the curtain, then fell against the floor and rolled. The body just stood there, water gushing out of the unbroken, but now quite disconnected, pipe that had terminated in the thing’s head.

Another yanked the curtain away behind me, so I grabbed the first by the arm and threw it into the second. I took the opportunity at that point to slip out of my pants, a wise decision as I was forced to pull them down over the head of a third clunker. The second clunker came at me again, but I pushed the third one into it now.

It stood up again, but by this point I just kicked its shin out from under it, sending it to its knees. It threw a weak punch, but steam shot from its knuckles. I grabbed it by the bicep, put my boot on its back to force it down, and wrenched the arm. The hydraulic pipes were metal, so I couldn’t just rip those off unaided, but that arm wouldn’t be doing anything anytime soon.

I saw the third one, the one I’d blinded by taking my pants off, stand as well. It reached up and slowly tore them apart. I turned, jumped onto the table my armor was being assembled on, and jumped off into a backflip toward the steam meanie. When I landed, it was with my foot on his chest and then flattening a part of its chest as we both hit the ground. I was still standing. It was grinding on itself against the floor and slowly stopped moving.

I remember thinking there were probably more beyond this curtained area. Probably surrounding me. I needed more than just my bare hands for this one, and without my pants, there was only one option left to me. I charged out of there with my boxers in one hand, yelling, “For silicon!” only to find the situation well in hand. Carl stood over a few clunkers that he’d shot up, with Matatoa under one arm. Matatoa, for his part, was spilling juice from his cup onto one of them.

Moai was dressed in a karate gi. From the looks of the crushed and disassembled clunkers surrounding them, he must have been kung fu fighting. When he’s in the mood, those hits are fast as lightning.

“Hiya,” I said, with a wave of my underpants. “Where’s the rest?”

The sounds of falling objects and grinding clunkers helped us figure that out. Over near the entrance a group of clunkers tried to retreat, but a small cannon was firing banana peels onto the floor. The clunkers’ legs flew out from under them, which was ill-timed for them. A pair of circular saw blades half a man tall rose and paced along their track. They threw off sparks as they cut through the clunkers.

“Looks like they made like a banana and split,” I said while pulling my boxers back on.

A good look revealed more clunkers caught in the traps. A pair near the rear entry had crows embedded in the metal and shot into their inner workings. Moai hopped over, looked down at the pair, looked at the contraption that fired them, and then looked up to me.

I just shrugged. “I shouldn’t have to explain, but clearly this trap was meant to murder someone.”

“What the fuck?!” said Carl. I hopped on Moai’s back and urged my mount to the source of the problem.

“Hi ho, sculpture, away!” He crashed us through the wall to where Carl had been surprised by something. He was pistolwhipping a clunker that tried to steampunch him. It was two clunkers and a man in a Napoleonic uniform, with a big hat and massive backpack with its own smoke stack. I jumped off Moai’s back and let him charge into the clunker, slamming him through another wall. The remaining clunker was still going for Carl and Mat, so I turned my attention to the man, who had a Napoleonic-era looking pistol he had pulled on Carl.

He tried to adjust his aim from Carl to me, but I dove in front of the remaining clunker. With a whirring and a grinding, the clunker, now with a hole through its back, dropped to its knees and then the ground.

That left the poor fellow facing down Carl, a returning Moai, and me. He chose to run for it. He just didn’t get very far. He tried to escape out the back door, but a frozen turkey fell on his head and knocked him out cold.

“Boys, it seems we got ourselves a prisoner.”

“Hey, what about the one without all the metal and stuff?” asked Carl.

I grabbed a broken length of wood from the wall. “There was another one of these guys in here?”

He and lil Mat, who was in his arms, both nodded. “This guy was after Matty when it all started. That’s why he had that saw. Cut a finger off ‘em.” Carl reached into the pocket of his camo cargo pants and pulled out a brown, furry digit. Looked to me like something from around a spider’s mouth.

“That’s interesting, and maybe why we got Mat at all. I look forward to finding out more.” Then I nodded to the guy with the backpack and the steampunk uniform. “Bring him in before he catches his death of cold. When it comes to this heinous attack on us, I suspect fowl play.”

 

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