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.