The End is nigh. It’s not just for preachers to shout anymore.
The Grau gave us as much time as possible, more even. We had to rush a lot of diplomatic shit with my old world, and take in as many refugees as possible from the portal in Empyreal City. In the end, it was time to turn it off.
The Grau had a device for that. Teneceroni actually got the order himself when we were all gathered up at my house. They were still using it as a meeting spot, even after the unfortunate events getting rid of The Perception.
“Ding dong, the bitch is dead!” Captain Lightning celebrated.
Miss Tycism took the beer he’d grabbed out of his hand.
“You’re not happy?” He asked her.
“You’re not twenty-one,” she responded.
I decided against letting them know that Morgan had channeled me into their body. Instead, I decided to play at being Morgan still. I already let the family know. They’re all used to so much weirdness from me already, except Alexander. He’ll learn. And since this body’s not producing milk like mine was, I was feeding the newbie with a bottle instead of a boobie. Morgan preferred it that way, too. So one good thing about losing these portals, no one will be watching this kind of stuff going on.
Anyway, as far as the world’s concerned, Psychopomp Gecko bravely sacrificed herself to trap the Perception. So yeah, I’m hiding the unicorn horn and hooves right now and appear to be nothing but Morgan.
Teneceroni put his communication device down onto his belt. “They’re going to cut the portals now. We’ve given you as long as possible.” And I took steps beforehand. I went to my interdimensional base shortly after reabsorbing my godly powers. I’d used wormholes to meld different places all over the multiverse together for different reason and had to instead use them to quickly excavate a sub-basement and fill it with various equipment, including a lake of medical nanomachines. Then I shut it down.
“Let’s fuckin’ gooooooo!” Max Muscles yelled.
With the power of my returned godly power flowing through my body, I could feel it when the shutdown hit. Knowing what I did about the situation, I checked on the dark stuff: matter and energy. The flow had stopped.
I closed my eyes and reached out. I was going to clear as much of this shit out as possible.
“What are you doing?” Teneceroni asked.
“I can sense the phantom energy. The End may not be an entity in a recognizable sense. It may simply be the influx of phantom energy that causes a Big Rip effect locally, meant to spread outward,” I explained.
“You’re different. What happened to you?” Captain Lightning said.
“Some upgrades from the late, great Gecko,” I explained, truthfully. “She explained what she’d been able to scan for. Dark energy and phantom energy, specifically. They don’t play well with physics and can have some interesting effects, but too much phantom energy is dangerous. While the Ancient Horrors were present, they were able to be trapped because coming here still weakens them. They have to play by our universe’s rules, like the Perverse was talking about. They use loopholes and bend them, but enough dark energy and the rules change, because the universe flips toward their advantage.”
Teneceroni raised an eyebrow. “There are theories, but we haven’t been able to test.”
“Yeah, let’s not experiment on that. I was going to absorb the energy.”
Teneceroni got defensive about that. “It would still be a present and threatening the collapse of the universe.”
He had a point. It would make me amazingly powerful. Phenomenal cosmic power… at the risk of an itty-bitty tiny living space like the Ancient Horrors. And being a Psychopmomp, I suppose that would make me another End.
“Hmm…” I thought it over. Earth had an excess of dark energy. I supposed I could part with some and still be feared. A smile spread over my face.
“That’s a scary smile,” Max Muscles noted. He rolled up his sleeves to show off some runic tattoos in case he needed to magically wrestle me into submission.
“Don’t worry. This is bad news for someone else,” I said.
The objects containing the Ancient Horrors appeared in front of me, floating through the air. The only one not present was the Perverse who, true to my orders, was still lost. And seeing as that was an impossible task for him, he must be really fucking lost.
“This isn’t good,” Teneceroni said. He was right. The close proximity of the contained Horrors, formed of dark matter and the gathered phantom energy were distorting reality. They couldn’t control it in general, but they had just a little bit of an opening. A literal opening. The flash of light was more because of light running away from the tear in reality that appeared. “You need to stop this. Keep them separated.”
“Opportunity,” I said. “They want us to play by their rules. Let’s return the favor. Conventional matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only change forms. Of course, dark matter and energy don’t play by the same rules necessarily, with things like negative energy values and negative mass. So, why don’t we use these properties of dark matter and dark energy, and create some positive energy and baryonic matter.”
Floating in front of the portal, I gathered as much of the matter and energy together as I could, including the objects containing the captured Horrors.
A wave of pure blackness swept out at me and wrapped around me. After a moment, it settled into a bunch of arms all grasping, clawing, and punching me. “My house, my rules,” I muttered to it. One arm reached out and plunged into Teneceroni’s chest without disturbing the flesh or clothing he wore. The awestruck alien fell to the floor. I stopped him telekinetically and raised him back up, restarting his life processes. He and everyone else with some sense retreated. Even Captain Lightning, with his teenage hotheatedness, used some of that magically-endowed wisdom and backed off. I suppose after this show of power, I’ll need to gentle massage some memories into not making the connection between Morgan and the Unicorn Goddess persona I used.
The arms grabbed the edges of the portal that hung in midair as an impossible gap in reality and pulled. The darkness that emerged coalesced into a pale form in a black robe with the fabric wrapped around its face except to show where a pair of eyes looked out. “Now I get it,” I told the thing. “You’re not the End like the inevitability of death. You’re just hungry for the life force of the living.”
“You cannot contain them and myself,” the End growled.
“I don’t have to,” I said. “You want life, right?”
“Why is there music?” Miss Tycism asked. She was hiding behind my turned-over dining room table, chugging the beer she took off Captain Lightning. No time like the present.
“Big Bang Attack!” I yelled, shooting the collected ball of transforming energy through the End and into the portal. The End bent double, then stood up and felt himself.
“I’m…” he started.
“Mortal. Let there be light, motherfucker,” I finished for him. Then I walked up and kicked him through his portal. It was shifting now as things on the other side changed. Anyone able to observe the dark matter and energy would have noticed a shift as the flow of any of that from the portal completely stopped. We were actually a little lower on the ambient stuff, but not enough to cause actual issues. I just wanted a little extra oomph for this particular thing I did. And speaking of oomph, I forced that portal closed.
“What was that?” Teneceroni approached.
“The magic was shifting the nature of the energy you gathered,” Captain Lighting said.
“Yes. Shifting dark matter to conventional, what we call baryonic matter. Same for energy. Massive amounts of matter that breaks the rules of conventional physics, suddenly converted into an even larger amount, packed into the smallest possible space. It’s making quit a big bang over there.”
So yeah, when they say, “In the beginning, there was the Word,” the Word was “motherfucker.”
“You’re converting where they live into a space more like the universe,” Teneceroni observed.
“Yes. At the very least, I’m trapping those entities that threatened us in it. Except for the Perverse, I guess. So now, we have to pass through a universe to get to another universe in our multiversal cluster, if we reopen the portals. Which we actually could do safely now if we so choose.”
“No. Not yet,” Teneceroni declared. “Not until we study what’s going on. What you just did is unprecedented.”
I nodded. “To put it mildly, yeah,” I laughed. “I don’t know if it fully ended the threat from these things. I think it’s a shift in existence they’re going to spend a lot of time getting used to, but change is inevitable. And the truth is, even as many differences as well had here,” I looked especially at Captain Lightning and Miss Tycism, who I think figured out what had happened and who was now occupying this body. “This wouldn’t have been possible without all of us. Even without Gecko, the world still managed. It doesn’t need any of us, as individuals. But maybe it just needs people altogether fighting for their world. And maybe a little luck, no offense to our alien friends.”
It was awkward. That was like a speech out of nowhere, and one that didn’t make sense unless they knew, I think. I followed it up. “So that got weird. I just think I’m going to take some time off now. Anything else we need to do here?”
“No,” Teneceroni said.
I headed out to the backyard.
“So, that’s it then?” Sam asked, following after me while carrying little Alexander. My girlfriend wrapped me in a one-armed hug. “Or were you just lying?”
I shrugged. “Maybe this is a good place to end my supervillain career. I’m on top, we’re safe from oblivion, and I got a couple kids need raising. Maybe the world needs a healer, instead of a DPS or tank. You still going to love me when I stop punching people? I mean, folks like Captain Lightning have pretty good reasons to hate on me.”
Sam rolled her eyes and brushed some stray, teal hair out of her eyes. “I’ve yet to meet anyone who isn’t a fucked up person. I’m fucked up, my parents were fucked up, and my best friend is fucked up. You got all the power in the world and instead of sitting on your hands, you fixed things. And when you get wrong, you try to be right. You’ll even apologize and admit you’re wrong. You are a rare, fucked up gemstone.”
“You’re a gemstone,” I told her, getting some warm fuzzies.
Her watch’s alarm went off. “Come on. Let’s go pick our daughter up from school.”
“Our daughter?” I asked, eyebrow raised.
Sam smiled. “That girl’s going to rule the world some day and she’s going to call me mom.”
When we were leaving the house, the whole gang of mystic heroes had finally vacated from farting on my furniture and eating my food. They were standing out on the front lawn, staring at a magical projection of a large robot in rusty red armor, dripping lava, with a pair of bony girder bat-wings on the back. All around it, demonic figures streamed out of the hole it had clawed its way out of, all in the middle of L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.
“Aw shit,” I said. “Here they go again.”
“Are you coming, Axinomancer?” Teneceroni asked. I doubt he was oblivious to the fact situation.
I shook my head. “No, y’all have fun. Have a nice life.”
There were some lingering looks, but they vanished out of there after a spell from the alien mystic.
Sam and I walked on to go get our daughter, trying to have a normal day. We passed a house where one guy was receiving a package. “What, my eccentric recluse of an uncle? And all he left me was a weird glowing ring?” asked the man at the door from a delivery guy who was just doing his job. At the Burrito Bell up the street, a woman and a dinosaur appeared in a staticy burst of electricity, right in front of a pair of plumbers I recognized as former heroes. She threw one a heavy ion rifle and they started grabbing their tools to go with her. Passing a basketball court, I watched as a couple guys played nonchalantly while some teenagers wandered over toward a reflective orb hanging in midair.
I gotta say, it was a good day.
And so there was one last, tiny portal to open for the purposes of giving people some closure. It’s maybe not a good ending, but at least for now, it’s where this ends for now. I mean, a person’s story isn’t over until they die, and even then they can leave a legacy. Sometimes a complex one.
“Oh, I should fix manicotti. You think the others would like manicotti?” I asked Sam.
See you, space cowboy.
While they were all here, the liaison, who also came to help deal with updating the trans-dimensional technology, has been telling me about all the changes I need to make to my lifestyle. Which happened while we sat around eating grilled pork chops, baked beans, salad, and grilled asparagus. I had called up some super plumbers in town to go about installing extra toilets for the occasion. To my knowledge, neither of them could change sizes or throw fireballs.
“If you want to communicate interdimensionally, we can try to get you set up with a method that won’t damage the fabric of reality,” Mystic Teneceroni told me.
“Who would want to read something you wrote anyway?” Miss Tycism asked.
I shrugged. “They’re probably getting tired of me.”
“I read it,” Sam added. “It started off a lot darker, like Garth Ennis. Cruel dark humor.”
“I once got compared to The Boys,” I said.
“Wonder if it’s because you fucking killed me,” Miss Tycism added.
I shrugged. “Safe to say I’ve had some very negative thoughts about the usefulness of superheroes. But you probably didn’t deserve it as much as I thought.”
“Do we really need to keep her alive?” Miss Tycism asked Teneceroni.
“I’m with her,” Captain Lightning II said.
“I don’t know how your system of justice works,” Mystic Teneceroni explained. “But if you fail, your world will be consumed by some manor of conceptual horror and risk the rest of the solar system, galaxy, and universe unless we cauterize the wound your world used to belong to. Since I’m on this water-covered rock with you, I advise you to suck it up until after this is over. There aren’t many left.”
“Wait, there’s a finite number? And you know how many there are?” I asked.
“Three more,” Teneceroni said. “We’ve never found a way to outright stop the last one. No matter what, no matter what problems it might cause, we have to seal the rifts before the End arrives.”
“Tell me about this End,” I said. Sam came up and put her arms around me. Morgan, the magic hero called Axinomancer, adjusted her lawn chair to be closer to mine. Meanwhile, Max Muscles was trying to impress everyone by putting up a temporary fabric awning.
“Technically, its process has already begun, but it accelerates when the others have come through already. I suppose in their own way, they all are part of the process,” Teneceroni explained. “It involves dark energy, specifically something your people call phantom energy.”
Before we could get too far into a conversation designed to melt my brain out of my ears, I noticed the awning Max put up seemed quite a bit taller than it should have been. And not like someone made a mistake, more like why would anyone create a small, two-story awning for the backyard. Looking back down, I had to shake my head because everything looked off.
Distantly, I saw Captain Lightning throw his food away and ask indignantly, “What did you put in the food? Did you drug us?”
I tried to answer, but he was moving away. Everything was moving away. My backyard stretched on for miles at least. I now sat in a vast never-ending grassland with no shade, no cover, and no clouds. I pulled out my phone. And no bars.
A change in the light drew my attention back to the sky, that little trapped bit of atmosphere that eventually faded into the void of space. The moon now hung high in it, pulling closer. I watched ad it went from a distant celestial object to filling the entire sky, giving the naked eye a detailed view of craters pockmarking its surface. I could even see various moonbases, some left behind by countries, others by supers. I swear I could even make up the abandoned cheese factory where they used to make moon cheese. The shipping and handling was bullshit.
A darkness spread over the surface of the moon. In the darkness were glittering lights from stars and distant galaxies. The mass split into three long bands around the moon, like fingers. The moon was moved out of the way and there was a face made of the same void, with dark empty impressions where the eyes would be.
“I take it-” I started, then stood up and cupped my hands around my mouth. “I take it you’re here to surrender?!”
This big thing opened its mouth to reveal teeth of blazing light as it laughed, the Earth trembling. When it spoke, I didn’t so much hear it as feel it. “”I. Am. The. Vast.”
“Say it, don’t spray it, you vastard,” I remarked.
“You unleashed more than you ever could have comprehended, childish thing,” the Vast retorted.
“Why don’t you come down here to my level and say that, big guy?” I pointed at the grass right in front of me. Then I pulled out my phone and opened a remote wormhole link to my interdimensional base. It’s held together by wormholes, which isn’t helping things overall. But now, it could be the key to beating this asshole.
Sure, the whole gang of mages could probably just suck this guy into a rock or something, but the Vast put a wrench into that. None of the group are around. Even Sam and Morgan went from invading my personal space to being out of sight. And even if I had my powers, I could have implemented this pretty easily. I was worried he’d just splat me flat but I guess he was drawing time apart as well.
Power-wise, there were no restrictions for me to make more wormholes: I’ve been harnessing direct star power. And while it would be environmentally friendly to have Tom Cruise use an exercise bike to make my equipment work, I meant wormholes that open directly into the hearts of stars. Which is great for power, but I have to do it elsewhere due to the gravity issues.
I also activated the redundant wormhole devices. All of them. I keep plenty of them around because shit can go wrong. So without power being an issue, I just had to make as many wormholes as possible: wormholes in stars, wormholes in gravitational singularities, wormholes in black holes. Most importantly, I opened wormholes in The Vast, which I was able to do thanks to the advances space-time targeting system of the wormholes made possible by the very technology that allows them to punch holes in the universe.
Sometimes, I’m really glad I broke into alien computers and occasionally used my omniscience, limited or not, to spy on distant galaxies in space. I was hoping to see some star wars, or perhaps some ship on a long star trek.
The Vast swung a fist at me, but it was taking forever. Perhaps I could have theoretically evaded it since it was taking minutes to land, but this is the same fist where the fingers were large enough to wrap around the moon. That’s a punch so big, it could wipe out the dinosaurs. It was taking long enough to get here, though. Meanwhile, I filled it up with every damn source of gravity I could find, all concentrating in the middle of that damn head. A shrinking head. A head that, along with its own gravity, collapsed in on itself.
The Vast being whatever the fuck it is, it didn’t die. But it sucked that whole thing into itself with what I feel was probably a tormented wail.
“What was that?” I called out. “Couldn’t quite hear that!” Meanwhile, grass moved around me, pulling in toward me. I looked and it was like the landscape was getting sucked into my feet. And thanks to the power of advanced technobabble behind the reckoning of mortal man, I brought the Vast to myself, using the wormholes to keep the gravity from leaking out and affecting me. By the time he got to me, he was marble-sized.
“Not so vast now,” I said. “Now to figure out-”
Sam’s hands wrapped around me. And Morgan’s. “Hey, watch it, y’all, I got an Ancient Horror here.”
“Where?” Captain Lightning stomped up to me. Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni joined me as well, examining the little floating lattice of compressed wormholes. I was able to close most of them and shut down the redundant systems. Meanwhile, Sam grabbed my face and stole a kiss. I even let Morgan do the same, which prompted a competitive Sam to grab me and go for it again. And then Morgan again. I let Sam get one more in before I had to raise my hands.
“Stop it, please, we need to figure out how to contain this thing, especially if wer’re turning off the wormholes.” I explained what I’d experienced and done to the Vast. Captain Lightning sulked, but Miss Tycism and Teneceroni went to work immediately trying to work out a way to create the same effect without the portals. They had to call in the rest of the mages, who were already on their way from the nearby motels and AirBnBs. By the time they arrived, I was just finishing sticking the Vast inside a snowglobe I had laying around from a recent trip I took to Disney World.
“Here,” I said, tossing it over to Teneceroni. “It’s a small world, after all.”
After that whole ordeal, I could have used a break. Instead, I ran to go check on the kids. Alexander was upset, and I don’t blame him. Poor kid hasn’t known anything but the Ancient Horrors since before he was even born.
So it wasn’t until the next morning when I had time to look into the information Teneceroni gave me. Negative energy and phantom energy. I had some knowledge of all that from my time with omniscience. This solar system had elevated levels, I remember, but I never looked into it more. I knew enough to modify some of my trans-dimensional tech. I had made spares of the devices that open wormholes in case anything happened to the main ones I used.
The targeting equipment was less precise without my direct neural interface, but the point was it had an amazing ability to scan space-time, which was just what I needed. Even space was warped by a gargantuan Ancient Horror, it was able to map it to precisely target With some modifications and a little lingering goddess know-how, I fixed it to detect energy and matter that otherwise isn’t observable to beings of conventional matter and energy.
The monitor I hooked up didn’t so much show dark matter and energy around Earth as it showed Earth drenched in dark energy. The physicists are going to kick themselves when they realize it. But that’s also the issue, because this is more than I think I remember, and it’s growing. I think that’s what Teneceroni meant about the process having begun and accelerating. I don’t know if The End that he spoke of is an actual being or not, but this amount of phantom energy flooding the area so quickly is going to fuck with space-time and could cause a Big Rip with a bunch of smaller ones first. The End is coming through every wormhole on Earth, flooding it with energy that’ll tear the bonds between atoms apart. Not just between atoms, but the bonds between the parts that make up atoms.
It’s one of the ways the universe could end. It could definitely take out Earth. So I’m going to have to close the portals and cut myself off from all of y’all. So I guess this useless little blog is going to have to end.
That’s another one down. But now I’ve got another problem. I’ve got a baby, and a little kid, and too many people visiting my house.
Medusa tattled on me. She warned me real quick, too. She called me up, “Hey hon. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t important. You know how you keep playing a role in stopping these things that keep attacking?”
“Last I heard, they’re being called Ancient Horrors. Not exactly horrors in the conventional sense after the Perverse, though,” I told her.
She cut me off before I could go off on a tangent. As if I’d just do that. “I talked to that Liaison. She knew other people were fighting back. She still has the Dark with her, and she knew someone had to have trapped the others. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think this was important, but you made it sound like they’re gunning for you.”
“None have used guns so far, but I may have wedgied my fair share of Ancient Horror dorks. Maybe gave one a swirly.” This is called bravado. It looks real funny to people if you have it and then can’t back it up.
“We’re on our way to meet you. We’re going to be there in a couple of hours.”
“Are you cleaning up the living room?” I asked. I looked out at a floor scattered with some clothes from everyone but Venus and Medusa. I had Alexander with me, ready for a diaper change. Little stinker’s got a lot to learn, but he picked up shitting early.
“I don’t think they’re gong to worry about the house being clean. I’m sorry, I know you’re supposed to rest, but this is important.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice,” I told her. “Just make sure we’re not going to do the whole thing where someone threatens me or tries to fight me, will you? I don’t have time for that shit. I had to deal with Alexander’s.
I was a bit down, so things weren’t that bad. Sam and Holly woke up and helped out. They’ve been adjusting as well, with thick ear muffs. I’ve been letting Qiang stay with friends more. She’s happy to see the cute little baby, but her other senses don’t care for it. Senses like smell and hearing. And Sam’s been great. She even watched Alex while I took a shower and washed my hair and cried about what my life’s come to and how I wanted this but I hate it and what kind of a person am I really?
I needed that shower. Left it feeling refreshed and put on some disposable clothes. It’s easy to go out looking nice when you don’t have to risk getting puke all over yourself on a regular basis. But the family’s helping. I knocked them for not doing so, but they’re helping a lot with cooking and cleaning until I can get in tune with the automatons again. Which reminded me, I rushed downstairs to the basement to shut down the automated defenses on the house. Would be a shame if these aliens who were bothering me got shot down by a lawn gnome packing a bajillia-watt laser and a flamingo with atomic-bladed talons.
When they arrived, I was at least nice enough to have some snacks ready. I opted for an outfit that would allow me to subtly intimidate the newcomers, too. But, I mean, I just dropped a baby out from between my legs. It’s still sweatpants and a loose shirt, but the shirt says, “Bad Mother.”
I made quite a sight sitting on the porch, sipping tea and eating a dill pickle spear, bouncing a flip flop-clad foot on the porch. They hovered overhead in an alien shuttle. I grabbed a remote and activated the landing strip on the driveway that I never really use. Usually, people just parallel park next to the yard without daring cross the picket fence. It can open to let someone in or out of the driveway, but I think only I know that.
I think I killed the vibe they were going for when they all stepped out in costume. There was Miss Tycism, the resurrected magical heroine I once killed, in kind of an indigo robe number. Captain Lightning II was wearing his usual getup. I briefly wondered if he needed to stop and pee in that or if his superpowers just did something with it. Medusa was there as well, along with a blue-skinned Grau with feathers on his head and a jumpsuit on. There were others with them in various costumes or even just regular clothing, but there were two others who stood out to me. One was Axinomancer, a young but legal non-binary mage who used axinomancy, with an ax as a focus of their magic. And the other was a meaty, muscular guy in a muscle shirt with slicked-back hair.
“Max Muscles?” I asked.
“Yo yo yo, who that is?” he asked.
“We met before, but you wouldn’t remember me,” I told him.
Medusa, in a casual Exemplar outfit, hopped out past them. “Hey babe.”
“Hey boopsie,” I told her. After a second, I stood up. “Welcome to the Gecko Household everyone. Y’all are the ones trying to fight the Ancient Horrors?”
“Is that what they settled on?” the Grau asked. He stepped forward. “I’m Mystic Teneceroni.”
“Bonjourno,” I said.
He approached and offered the standard human handshake, which I accepted. Meanwhile, the rest of this field trip of magic superheroes and Max Muscles approached. I nodded toward the house. “There are drinks and snacks inside. Pizza.”
“I’m glad to talk to you,” Mysic Teneceroni said. “I’ve heard you played an important role in dealing with Earth’s problem.”
“Seems that way.” Despite the look of clear suspicion from Captain Lightning, and the way Axinomancer eyed me, everyone else shuffled into the house. “Whoa, pizza!” Max Muscles called out.
So, in the tradition of many of Earth’s peoples, we broke bread together. It was the beginning of them attempting to woo me into an alliance, I thought. But Medusa pulled me aside at one point to tell me, “They’re here to protect you.”
“Really? You told Captain Lightning about that?” I was skeptical.
“I think he’s hoping they fail, but he’s well aware how much is at stake. Guess it’s about time for another generation to be infuriated at you.” She put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Now, I’m going to get more of that pizza. What is that black stuff?”
“Tuscan herbs. It coated the outside of this cheese I sliced up and put on there.” She left me there.
As for me, I needed a little break from all the people for the moment, except I turned and saw yet another one. I didn’t remember ever meeting this guy in my life. It was like the black of his pupils glowed just a little, or like a strong light reflected off them right in the center. White guy, pretty generic looking, brown suit, glasses, comb over, mustache. Geeky-looking fellow, which would fit for some of the mages.
“Hey,” I said, nodding toward him.
“Hi there,” he said. “Nice place.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You’re one of the biggest and baddest villains ever. Is this,” he gestured to the home around us. “really what you wanted out of life?”
“Bold question,” I said. I thought about it a bit. Good food, good shelter, a loving family, and the ability to destroy the world with a wave of my hand. I nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Really? You don’t need, I don’t know, money?”
I shook my head. “Psssh. Just don’t ask about my revenue stream. Money’s fine. There’s always more of it out there.”
“Don’t you ever miss being Empress?” he asked.
These questions felt a bit weird at this point. “It was nice, but I don’t need it.”
“You were a goddess!” he said.
“I mean, some of the kinky shit was nice,” I said. I shook my head. “I guess, once the trauma’s gone, I’m just not that complicated. I don’t want to, like, be an Olympic gymnast or star in movies. I just want a good life. Right now, the only real threat to that are these Horrors. You got a way to get rid of them?”
A hand spun me around and pushed me against the wall. Axinomancer’s mouth found mine. I enjoyed myself for a second, then pushed her away. “Right here and now?” I asked. I looked over to the guy, but he was gone.
“I want you,” Axinomancer said. Morgan, I should call them. They’re a bit young for me and I didn’t see anything in the relationship. We had some enjoyable times with me possessing their body as a goddess, but I didn’t want to make it an ongoing, long-term thing. They’ve got her whole life ahead of them, too.
Morgan turned my face back toward them. “I want you in me.”
“I don’t have those powers,” I told her.
“I know a way. Your brains, my body. We’d be perfect,” they said.
“What’s gotten into you?” I asked. I’d pretty clearly ended it and thought I made it fine with her. There were some nice perks to being a goddess.
“You, I hope,” Morgan said.
I looked around for a little delicate diplomatic help. Max Muscles was scarfing down pizza like it was nobody’s business. Mystic Teneceroni was discussing something with Miss Tycism, both of them creating little magical lightshows as they shows off to each other. I didn’t see where Medusa was at, but Captain Lightning was chatting with the geeky guy. Then Lightning turned to look at me and started over. The dork disappeared quickly when Lighting’s stride hid him briefly from view.
Oooooh. Yeah, I gotcha. Dorky guy’s doing this.
“Hey, Pepperoni!” I called out. Max looked up, but so did Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni. “Is there one of these things that offers you whatever you want?”
“Enough talk and enough lies. The world doesn’t need you!” Captain Lightning II said. He reached for me.
Axinomancer turned, summoning an ax into their hands. “Yeah it does.”
Medusa came out of nowhere to stand in front of me. “Damn right.”
“You asked a great question,” Teneceroni said, oblivious. He created more of a light show, this one more of a turquoise laced with violet. “One of the Ancient Horrors is the Desire. It finds what people want most and amplifies their desire, feeding on the chaos and death.”
Captain Lightning grabbed Medusa and pushed her into a wall. She grunted in pain. And Desire got to me a bit. I wanted my family to be safe. My mind did its calculation. I stood up to Captain Lightning. I looked him right in his angry eye and said, “Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!”
He winced and held up his hands. “It’s in my mind’s eye. It burns!”
I pulled out the phone I’ve got to use while my powers aren’t working and pulled up an image. I showed it to Morgan, which backed them off, too. Soon, the image of that evil woman had shaken everyone out of their desire. As for me, I then found the dorky guy chatting up Sam, dragged him into the restroom, and started giving him a swirly. He disappeared on me before I could drown him on it, but it gave me enough time to think on how we were going to catch this walking armadillo turd.
“Computer,” I called down to the basement. “One small talking statue of Thatcher.”
“We can catch Desire and bind it,” Mystic Teneceroni informed me.
Morgan shrugged. “It’s kind of what I had in mind for you.”
“I mean, what you said is what I was going to go with,” I told my admirer. “But I want to make sure nobody goes searching for the Desire.”
Luckily, this whole ritual didn’t take long with such trained mages around. I mean, sure, the world was going to hell while we did this, but that’s common now. Just weeks now of everything going bad out of nowhere in a world where people superpowers and guns. Perfectly fine for someone to whisper in your ear and go, “Hey, live out your secret desires.”
Meanwhile, we were all crowded around in my basement, me in black robes like this was the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, chanting. They did most of the work, which was a mixture of various languages’ magical chants to the effect of ‘Come on if you think you’re hard enough.”
Axinomancer had regained their memory some time back and, eventually, found a broader way to channel other beings. I was no longer a goddess, so I couldn’t be called upon the standard way, but this other method, while dangerous if it wasn’t specific enough, was still possible. And with this many skilled practitioners and Max Muscles, it worked. They drew the Desire out and to store it in the last place anyone would go looking for Desire: a statuette of Margaret Thatcher that plays “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” whenever anyone pressed the button.
A bit dated, I suppose.
I found out Max’s role in all this when the dorky guy appeared in the circle and Max flexed. Mystic runes glowed on his arms and chest as he ran into the circle, grabbed Desire, and threw him into the Thatcher statuette. “Boom! That’s how Max and his Magic Mind Muscle crew do it!”
“So, is that it then?” I asked when Desire seemed to be safely tucked away.
“We’ll put it somewhere safe,” Mystic Teneceroni said. “Thank you for allowing us to stay here. We would like to stay longer, if we can.”
“I mean, at least one of you wants me dead,” I said.
“Yes,” the alien mystic said. “However, while these Ancients are attacking everyone, they’ve focused on you specifically. Allowing them to manifest against you and then catching them gives us a way to prevent this crisis while my people work to repair the dimensional barrier. Do you have room for all of us?”
Oh boy. I sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Unless anyone wants to stay in a house with a screaming newborn?”
Of course Axinomancer volunteered. Too bad for them that after the trauma my fun parts just went through, I’ve gone temporarily celibate. And, ya know, the news certainly got interesting when people leaked that basically every country with nuclear weapons had a guy guarding them who really, really, really wanted to fire the things.
And as smoothly as Desire went down, unlike the others, his effects seemed to be permanent. People recovered from the Dark and the Unwelcome. The Fate’s and the Perverse’s changes reverted once they were sealed away. But it was humans who shot places up or rioted this time. Which means that dork has the highest bodycount of any of these guys so far.
Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 10
She’s out there now. I can hear her. I swear the floor sags under her weight, which I know has to be an auditory hallucination since it’s held up her, me, and a bed. But still, she stalks the Forbidden City, doing her best to find me.
Readers, send help. I think Beetrice wants to fuck me to death.
I was led to believe bees didn’t need an extended mating process, but it’s safe to say we’re dealing with a creature so far outside the realms of standard bee and human biology that we might as well be dealing with science fiction. You know, like a scenario with marauding space aliens, giant robots, or people with incredibly, physics-defying powers. Completely unrealistic, if you ask me. They left out all the magic and wizards you find in real life, too.
Eh, I guess I should be happy to be getting laid. Right now, there are millions of sex-starved people all across the world, unable or unwilling to enjoy physically connecting with another human being on a deeper emotional level…in either the vagina, mouth, or ass. I guess the asexuals get it lucky in that, aside from an awful lot of culture being related to sex.
But, hey, I lived to be screwed another day. That’s important. Not everyone gets so lucky. I’ve been the one to make sure of that before. That’s why it’s important to savor the little things before they sever your little things.
No matter what, she saved my bacon. Turns out, someone left the refrigerator open. I couldn’t walk at the time (see: almost getting screwed to death), and she shut the door for me. Almost as important as bacon, she won a fight.
I still had two to go. After the out-of-nowhere Mendes Configuration, Eschaton’s Fingerpoke of Doom, and then this whole Mecha Ashidaka mess, I don’t have a clue who to expect.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s for the best. I keep getting worried about stuff, emotional, blah, blah, blah, and things just get worse. Maybe it’s time to play to my talents again. Like a bit of cooking. I’m not horrible at it, though it makes a much less interesting subject than being a homicidal supervillain. “…And that’s how you make fettucini alfredo. Sorry it took me awhile to finish the post, I had to go murder somebody with my supersuit.” That’d focus too much on the wrong sort of details. Though, hmm, maybe I can cook up some alfredo in time to throw it into the next enemy fighter’s face?
Actually, it was my turn. Yep, time to send my own champion out. And that left me with only one option, especially because Max’s phone kept going to voicemail. According to the cameras, Sam wrangled his phone and kept hanging up on me. And when I hijacked his computer screen to try and get his attention, Sam threw it into a fire. And then when he kicked back to watch some TV, Holly “accidentally” spilled a bucket of water on it when my mug showed up on the screen.
Sadly, neither of them had my nanites inside of them, a situation sadly becoming more common. I’ll fix that after everything else here. Gotta oversee that myself. And the useless people who were supposed to help find me another hero? I’ll take care of them too. The currency situation, the labor situation, the disasters caused by the volcanic eruptions I used to solve climate change, the oncoming food shortages due to those same eruptions dramatically affecting the weather… I’ve got a lot on my plate. None of it, sadly, fetuccini alfredo. I might be on something of a kick with that food. I guess after sacrificing my body to make bee babies with Beetrice, I’ve got thick white sauce and limp noodles on the mind.
Well, I did agree that Max was backup on this one. That left me with Moai. Don’t get me wrong, Moai’s great. He’s strong, he’s surprisingly smart, and he has a lovely singing voice. On the other hand, Max’s abilities have a wider range of uses and he’s an even better singer. So I set out to talk to him personally. And because it got me away from Beetrice. I didn’t bother to tell her about the trip either. I even left the various Asian women I kidnapped. I took my armor, because I’ve been trying to wear that again when I’m not being ridden hard enough to break bones. In fact, that’s all the more reason to wear the armor for sex, too. Let that be a lesson about the importance of wearing protection, kiddos.
I met Moai on arrival at Carl’s place. He probably would have picked me up, but I took the Imperial chopper and had it flown right in front of the apartment building. He didn’t even have to meet me at the curb. There they were, having a pleasant lunch at the table, when Carl asked Moai if they had any more Kool-Aid left.
“Oh fuck!” I called out, my upper body hitting the wall above the window. At least my legs made it through. As I pulled myself through to find them enjoying a pleasant lunch of cereal, pizza, and broken glass.
“Hey guys.” I stood up and waved. “Kinda drafty in here, isn’t it? Hey, how about we go out for some food.”
No big fight. No big arguments. No talk about redemption or saving someone. Just three friends out for lunch. Then, I asked them if they had any particular monuments or places they wanted destroyed. When they suggested New Jersey, that got me to thinking about a little loose end I never tied up. A little someone to find. Just another example of a fine superhero standing up and protecting their home from an alien invader. Someone, in fact, that is obviously not a member of my team.
Serves Cercopagis right, after all, the way he started the fights. I’d have done the same in his position, but this is different. This is me. Now there’s an idea…
“Hey, by the way…anybody seen a fellow named Max Muscles around?”
See, I had this idea. This wonderful, beautiful idea. Poetic, really. It involved this superhero I’d hung out with in disguise once. Nice fellow, if a bit of a meathead. I still stand by that description after remembering Mystery Monster, too. He got into a bit of trouble being controlled by the Fluidics. I got him released, sent him to Empyreal City, and forgot about him when things went to hell. He’s a New Jersey boy, born and bred, and I think I have just the plan for him.
Later that night, Moai and I stared up at a giant tin and wood elephant in Margate City. “It’s beautiful,” I told Moai. I swept my hand across the view. “Just incredible. All this time, I knew you could build weapons to destroy a city. I never imagined you could utterly annihilate one by building such an exceptionally horrible building. Do you think there’s a slide under the tail so it can crap out visitors?”
Moai, no doubt dumbofounded, shook his head.
“You ready, champ?” I asked.
He nodded to that easily enough and headed for the entrance to Lucy the Elephant. With that Davy Crockett mobile nuke launcher on his back, he better be ready. Warman may have wussed out, but I am fully prepared to have somebody else launch a short range when I’m not around. But I wasn’t not around yet. I had to set off the fireworks. Literal fireworks. With enough fireworks, you can send just about any message, even to an alien asshole in space.
There, I spelled out my invitation in the night sky, the image flashed across the internet. “Moai Versus ???? Your move, claw cock.”
Cercopagis got the message, but Max Muscles got the message even more quickly. He was easy to find. With Empyreal City being wrecked, it was easy to search the remaining gyms for him.
Mere minutes after I took over Youtube to make the challenge, Max fell out of the sky. The invincible, super strong hero wore silver spandex and had painted his skin with gold and glitter. I didn’t even plan that part originally, but he said he had some stuff laying around for a party later. Those New Jerseyites really aren’t afraid to take “metrosexual” to a whole ‘nother level. He landed in a crater and dug himself up, then flexed for the cameras. I’d stuck around for that.
“Yeah, what now fucker!” He pointed up at Moai on Lucy’s back, six stories in the air. “In the name of Circus Lice, I’m here to fuck you!” After a couple seconds, he remembered to add, “Up!”
I panned up to watch Moai stare down at the newcomer and inserted an appropriate movie phrase as if my minion had bravely accepted the challenge. “This! Is! Sparta!” He took a running start and jumped off elephant toward Max, who ran likewise ran and jumped at him. When the two met in midair, the footage blinded everyone. You couldn’t see much with the bright explosion in the center that I stole off some old footage of a Russian bomb test. It looked real impressive, if a bit grainy in places.
When the explosion began to slow down, more sound added to the sense of drama. Grunts and whooshing noises. With the camera temporarily blinded and distorted by the explosion, nobody saw anything of the fight where Moai called out “Makankosappo!” Shortly after that, the image returned to show Moai covered with light burns, no Davy Crockett in sight, standing over a collapsed Max in a ripped outfit with hair standing out at a sharp angle.
Before anyone had any time to question the fight, including why the damage to Lucy looked more consistent with a bunch of grenades than a small nuclear device, I turned the camera to the sky. There the fireworks shot up and announced “2-2.”
Oh yes, Cercopagis did not care for that one bit.
“Fraudulent space swine! Treacherous concubine! I should have your entrails entwined around my vessel!” he screamed at me over the phone.
I did my best to sound bored and distracted. “Uh huh. Uh huh. I agree completely. Exactly what you said.”
“Are you mocking me?”
“Noooo, I would never do that. But turnabout is fair play, isn’t it? Eh? Don’t feel too bad now, there’s still one last fight. Just think of all this as heightening the drama. Putting asses in the seats.” Not that we sold tickets or had an arena for any of this. “I’m so nice, I’ll even let you send your person down first this next time so this can’t happen again, provided you give me a few days to dig up one last person to give you a run for your money.”
Sadly, Max Muscles wouldn’t do. Even if nobody recognized him after that stunt I pulled, he’s hitting the bottle again these days. Drunk as Stalin an hour after hearing the Nazis wiped their asses with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
“All I need is more time, you see. I’ll let you know when I’m ready, no more than a few more days, and this way we can prevent any more unfortunate mistakes related to perception and all that. Win-win, right?”
“Your cheating ways irk me, Psycho Gecko. I shall tolerate no breech of trust in the final battle. I shall land a party to ensure the you do not violate our agreement further.”
I laughed. “I agree wholeheartedly. Trust me, if you’re down here, our deal is the last thing I’ll feel like violating.”
And so we agreed.
It’s good to be the Emperor. It’s not too bad winning, either, even if being a winner means being a “winner.”
Capital Chaos 6
I’m glad I was here in Washington for the latest and greatest in Presidential speeches.
“My fellow Americans, I’m here to address a few points I didn’t cover in my recent State of the Union Address. First, I’d like to address the friendly rivals of the opposing party: kiss my ass, you ignorant butt monkey fuckers. I hate every one of you cumsucking scum nuts, drag-assing around for no other reason than to make me look bad. Furthermore, I have proposed some executive actions to several of your wives, and gave their pussies one hell of a filibuster. By the way, if my daughters are watching this right now, babies, you’ll want to change the channel. It’s about to get nasty. Now lets move on to a sackless bunch of so-called allies I’ve seen since Italy joined the Triple Alliance. Once again, for members of the opposing party, getting that joke involves knowing a little something about history. It’s that thing you’ve been repeating since you don’t know shit from shiitake. But you got nothing on these two-faced sons of bitches that couldn’t pass a bill if I filled it with corn and shoved it down their throats. Now, I’d like to thank God for providing an example here of the biggest room of pale, soulless dicks since the gay ginger porn awards.” The President started to point around the room. “I hate you, I hate you, I don’t even know you, but I hate your guts. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and nobody else. You’re cool. And I would just like to say to all of you: kiss my ass, you rotten motherfuckers.”
Of course, then they ruin the whole thing by showing me getting chased out by the Secret Service and the real President who hasn’t gotten through his wrist ties yet while going “Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoopwhoop!” I had to. You can’t put me around so many important people trying to maintain imagined dignity and not get something like that.
As for temporarily incapacitating the POTUS, that was also a fun little achievement to pull off. It almost messed up my performance, since I had to wait in that mini fridge for more than an hour before he decided to wet his whistle on the way to his Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech.
It certainly turned out to be worth it. I think. It’s debatable, since it was another instance of prominent supervillain crime affecting a politician. But it was funny and didn’t actually hurt anyone, so that looks better. And it served to forward another part of what I’m doing around here.
Technolutionary couldn’t stand the crack house, so he tried renting his own motel by the interstate. To be fair, cheap motels often serve as amateur laboratories to the methamphetamine-inclined. I’m fairly sure he’s not going to cook up any of that. He’s too uptight. Like, maybe he’s a cocaine guy? But even though he wanted to stare at all that, he told me he’d stay in town until we were finished so he could lend a hand if needed. With him out, I redecorated the crack house to mark it as my property and prevent stray people from strolling on in. You’d be amazed what you can use as a nice lamp cover when your only raw materials are a bunch of drug addicts.
He said he’d keep an eye out about Constellation, too. Decent of him, though he didn’t have the sort of information-gathering resources at his disposal as Harlon, Fortune Cookie, or Double Cross. I’d gotten them in on the act of hunting down the Voluntary Super Registration List and/or Captain Lightning so I could call in a favor.
While Gecko’s Amazing Spy Squad ran down the possible locations of Constellation Consortium bases and/or got a message through to Captain Lightning, I decided to look into a hunch I had and pay a visit to the Booth Busters. That’s the informal name of the District of Columbia Anti-Superhuman Enforcement. While the Secret Service handles superhuman threats to the President, Washington itself gets DCASE and their containment facility.
They kept the few supers they captured in a rounded, three-story tower erected next to Fort Washington in Maryland. It’d be pretty damn tough to get someone out of there without a lot of heavy firepower. Or a presidential pardon.
Sorry to disappoint, folks, but I released Max Muscles the legal way: impersonating the president.
The New Jerseyite strongman looked dazed as they let him go. I mean, they didn’t know what was going on any more than he did, but mine was the only car around. I stopped right by Max and the pair of guards with him. “Gentlemen!” I exclaimed on exiting the car. To them, I looked like any other man who happened to be wearing a red, white, and blue costume with my cape, ballistic vest, and eagle-themed helmet.
Max Muscles, who I’d met in one of my aliases back in New Jersey, kindly provided exposition for the guards. “Missile Patriot!”
“That’s right! I have been sent to retrieve you on the orders of the President of these United States, by the power vested in me by the grand ole flag, the grand old party, and the grand ol’ opry! By the way, here’s a little something for you boys, the President said to go out, find some strippers with really big cans, and start making some regrets.” I handed the nearest guard a briefcase full of ones.
She held out a clipboard in return. “You’re going to need to sign for the prisoner.”
Eh, fine, whatever. Makes no difference to me. I gave her my John Hancock and she undid the useless restrains on Max’s wrists. “Thank you, Mr. Hancock.”
“Don’t mention it. And you go have fun with those strippers, now!”
I looked Max over as he got in the car. A bit leaner than last time. Unshaven. No slick hair this time around. “How have you been, Max?”
“I don’t know, bro. Things got crazy. Brian is schoolin’ it up in college, just totally crushin’ the coed pussy. Oh, but right after you left, Gastrolord disappeared. Cops found his stuff, though. So I been able to party and lay down the law on my own since then. Matter fact, Gastrolord being gone’s why Brian figured he’d be fine gettin’ his college on.”
Bulletproof Brian is Max Muscles’s friend. Together, they were known as Generation Flex. I killed Gastrolord. I was hanging around in Jersey, fighting an organization called Hephaestus that maintained a warehouse there because Hephaestus refused to pay me on a job. Gastrolord was a snail-themed villain who tried to collect on a bounty they put on my head. Unfortunately for him, I upgraded his ejector seat in the cockpit of this giant snail vehicle he drove around. Extra power and the ability for me to engage it remotely. It was very messy. No wonder they never identified the body.
“So, that’s it? Gastrolord disappeared, Brian went to college, you were on your own; one thing led to another and you attack the Capital.” My visor precluded me showing off a raised eyebrow of incredulity.
He looked ahead. “Can we get away from here, first?”
I nodded and took us away. Not a fan of discussing it in the parking lot, I guess. “Why’d you do it? Someone pay you? It’s just not anything like what you’d pull. I mean, maybe party around the place, but not throwing cars around and all.”
“I think I drank too much, or it was too much ex. I started losing time. Blackout, man. Not cool, bro. I got out of control, just too much fun. One of my bros recommended AA, so I went there. It was like one of those things where you realize somethin’. I mean, they tell you to put your life in God’s hands, pray to him, confess your sins to him, and try to spread his message ‘n all. I started talkin’ to God, and he gave me this feeling. He guided me. He told me I could make the world a better place. Like, a heaven on earth. He brought me here, and then he said I needed to make a sacrifice for the good of everyone. See, everything’s better now. You’re here, and you got me out!”
I digested that mentally at a stoplight. “So no bribe? Nothing?”
“No, nobody paid me.”
“Ever heard of Constellation or Senator Powers?”
“Let’s have a bite somewhere and I’ll set you up to head back to Jersey, how’s that?”
“You’re a bro, bro.”
Another meal, another bit of cash tossed away, but at least a little information. I believe someone spoke to Max Muscles, but I doubt it was any deity. A super with telepathy, maybe? It’s a great power to pull off a scam like that. “Tina? This is Jesus. I need you to make out a check and send it to this P.O. Box, and you’ll get your eternal rewards in the afterlife.” If anything, it’s more surprising none of them have gone for a bigger prize. Then again, how would I know they haven’t?
Now there’s a question, but not one I have to answer. I’m not the hero of this story.
But I did get a visit from one. It was shortly after that, while trying to figure out which sex to go with. I was male, due to Fortune Cookie sending me a text message to call a number that in no way resembled a phone number for the United States. Celebration! I’ll have to bring her back a souvenir…the Washington Memorial, maybe? Hmm, knowing her, she wouldn’t want any phallic symbol I’d been carrying around with me. I’ll think of something. Maybe I can get her the Constitution.
At first, I wondered if dialing this number would send me backwards in time to go meet Socrates and ask him why I was kicking his ass. I used a burner phone because it’s easier to ditch a phone than my head. One call later, a man picked up and asked, “Hello?”
“Hello?” I echoed.
Him. “Who is this?”
Me. “Who is THIS?”
“My name is Captain Lightning.”
“Oh, hey dude, it’s Psycho Gecko. Remember me? I fought you to the death inside a nightmarish hellscape that time. How ya been?”
“How are you calling me on this number? This is an abandoned hospital in…a country I’m not allowed to identify.”
“To be honest, I don’t entirely know how I’m doing this either, but I’m probably going to put someone’s face on Mt. Rushmore because of this. Oh, and I need to call in one of those favors you owe me.”
He sighed. “I don’t think I can help you put a new face on Rushmore.”
“That’s not what I called for. I’m trying to find information on a PMC,” that’s private military company, or contractor, or concerto, “called Constellation.”
“Stay where you are. Where are you?”
I looked around at the crack house and its visceral aesthetic. I’m not sure if dead druggies is in style for entertaining guests. “If you’re wanting to meet me, you’ll want to meet me somewhere else than here.” I glanced at a pair of legs sticking out from a hole in the wall. The pants were stained with blood, urine, and what I could only assume is a large quantity of chocolate pudding. I could assume that, but I won’t. “Plus, I’ve got nothing to eat to offer you for hospitality.” Which was true. Some people can tie a cherry stem with their tongue, but I challenge you to find anyone else who can stick a whole coconut up someone’s nose. Not their own nose, but someone’s.
“Fine. Jefferson Memorial. Meet me there as soon as possible. I’ll be there in ten.” He hung up.
Huh. Well, I made there just about on time with the help of my armor. We met in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s statue. He had some good ideas, and some bad. They mostly stuck the good ones in the building, since it wouldn’t do to have uncomfortable mentions of slave-fucking.
Nice quotes though. “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Almost sounds like my kinda guy, though my favorite was a bit longer: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
The little attention I pay to politics makes that one hilarious. The assumption that people move away from barbarism just because they know better, especially. Makes me want to knock out half the wall and build an encroaching Nixon Memorial, because my experience shows that people will still kill, suppress, threaten, steal, and rape no matter how advanced they are. Civilization just means you wear nicer clothes while you do it.
Though some people do dream about a place where being a dick to someone isn’t the default. Bleh, now I’m starting to sound like Max Muscles, or Senator Powers, or even Oligarch.
“You never struck me as a tourist,” said someone behind me. The 360 display showed Captain Lightning floating down from roof level, having flown in real quick from spreading democracy to countries the United States isn’t supposed to have forces in. He wore a bright red costume with a white and gold lightning bold on his chest. He didn’t have a cape this time. Despite having fought in World War II, he looked to be in his early forties, maybe. No grey in his hair. Overall, he looked better than when he was in thrall to Spinetingler, the horror villain.
“Let us remember the past so we can better destroy the future, that sort of thing.” I shrugged and turned around. “You didn’t want to discuss Constellation over the phone?”
A nod. “The government loves private contractors in everything from wet works to intelligence gathering. I remember when we trusted the country’s protection and management to those with higher ideals.”
“Or people who were at least better about hiding it, which shows more competence and discernment. Anyway, I need to know where Constellation might have any secure servers that require a physical presence to get into. They have some data I need. I mean, I don’t expect you to know all that, so I’ll settle on a base of theirs and hopefully pry out the location from there. Or from other people.”
“Can you tell me a little more about why?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
A holographic ring of crazy brown hair appeared on the back of my helmet as I told him, “Aliens.”
He shook his head.
“No, I’m serious. Aliens. They’re up to something. We’re going to need all hands on deck to stop them. I’m not even killing as many heroes as I normally do because of this.”
“You think Constellation is part of it?” He floated down to touch the ground. Off in the distance, I think I noticed some snapshots. I threw up a hologram of me looking like an anonymous man in black.
“No, but I think they’re involved in something that’s going to weaken the superpowered community. Like it or not, I’m kind of a murderous referee.”
Captain Lightning mulled it over for half a minute. “Officially, I’m not helping you, because Constellation’s affiliates are not involved in the theft of foreign artwork and gold or the smuggling of illegal narcotics into the country, are we clear?” He smirked as he said it.
I cocked my head to the side like a confused dog or a man with a broken neck or a man hit upside the head with a dog with a broken neck. “…no?”
“Good. So whatever you do, do not attack the nearest Constellation base, which is a mobile headquarters stationed in the Potomac.” He pointed behind him, to the west where the Potomac river flowed.
“Really? Can you clarify where it is, so I won’t get too close by accident? Because I don’t see any boats or islands or anything.”
“It should be easy to avoid a submarine, but you wouldn’t believe how many times they run into things.” He shook his head. “That’s a discussion for another time, unless you want me to help you. That would be another favor.”
I shook my head. “Nope, I got this.”
“You’ve got a submarine?”
“Not yet, but I’m about to.”
He shook his head this time. “I hope I’m doing the right thing.”
I pointed back to the statue of Thomas Jefferson. “As a famous president once said when discussing a possible war with Napoleon, ‘I’m gonna fuck them so hard, they’re gonna call me ‘Master’.”
“That’s not-” he looked behind me where someone had etched that very line onto a wall. “Gecko!”
“Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoopwhoopwhoop!” I turned invisible and scuttled out of there.
The Jersey Score 9, Slaying Goodbye
So…one last look at New Jersey. There I was, standing on an office building, cape blowing in the wind, listening to The Megas. Do they have them on that side of the universal divide? Over here, they’re this band of people who played a videogame about fighting robots a lot and decided to make music out of the various level songs. Good stuff. For some reason, songs from the point of view of robots built to enslave or destroy humanity just really mesh well with me. They also made a good point for why I needed disappearing blocks over open pits in my next lair.
Oh, you may have noticed I mentioned a cape up there. Your eyes did not deceive you! That’s my job. I was up there in my hero costume, so I was present as the Missile Patriot. I also had a nice little cooler with me because, hey, waiting is thirsty business. I may have been a hero, but I was also unaware of any laws about drinking and rocketing. It’s not like drinking ever made the situation around me even more dangerous. Not if I was drinking anyway. I heard it loosens people up and helps them survive. If my general way of operating has indicated anything to y’all, it’s that being really loose might help someone survive me.
But enough about innuendo intended for females. This time, I had men on my mind. Macho men. Men who liked to party hard. Generation Flex. Bulletproof Brian got there first, soaring upward past the roof at a steep angle that brought him down hard on a vent near me.
I clapped for him as he stood up and brushed himself off. “Smooth landing. You ever thought of trying out for the Olympics? You would do well in the shot put, at least as the shot.”
“Max is super strong and I can’t be hurt. It works out.”
I reached down, popped open the cooler, and tossed him a beer. It bounced off his head and fell through his hands as he tried to catch it. It didn’t shatter, though. You’d be surprised how hard it is to break a beer bottle. Don’t believe me? Take a beer bottle and start beating your own head with it until it breaks. See? That’ll teach you to question what I tell you.
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” he asked. He wasn’t mad, though.
“Hitting me in the head.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” I picked up another beer and threw it at him. It hit him in the forehead. This time when he went to catch it, he knocked it over to the side, where it busted open.
Brian put his hands on his hips. “Really?” He walked over to get a beer himself, but I had try for one last attempt. I let it slip at too high an angle, but he caught it on its way up. “Gotcha!”
“You know how the beer is, man. The condensation makes the bottle all slippery and who knows where it goes? After all, look how good a job you did catching it.”
The truth is, I was aiming for his head.
It didn’t take long before I heard a grunt from the side of the building. A hand reached up and over the edge. Then another. Max Muscles, the man those hands belonged to, pulled himself up to the top of the roof. He laid there, breathing hard.
I looked down at him, beer in hand, and just asked, “Bro, do you even lift?”
“Shut…up!” he said between sucking down oxygen.
Brian had a shit eating grin on his face. “Dude, leave him alone. He doesn’t care about endurance is all. At least, that’s what I heard from Jennifer.”
“Kick me…while I’m down…why don’t you?” he asked. Then he sat up. “Low blow, brah. Bringing up Jennifer.”
I reached down into the cooler and pulled out another couple of things. “Well, I brought these in case y’all were partying tonight, but it looks like you might need some help with your energy level there.” I had a Red Bull and a 5 Hour Energy. I proceeded to open both and pour the 5 Hour Energy into the Red Bull. I’ve seen it served at a few villain bars when someone was going into a big job or a big fight.
“I guess that’ll work, but you couldn’t make it a double?” Max asked as he held out his hand for it. I was tempted to throw it at his head, but no. After I handed it to him, I sipped my own nasty beer again. Shitty stuff. I’ve found that beer tastes worse every time I take a sip. That’s why most of the time I just chug it down if I have to drink it. But, hey, I was being nice.
I started what I really came to do. “You’re probably wondering why I called you both up here today.”
“Not really, you’re leaving, aren’t you, bromeister?” Max asked, having chugged half the horrible energy concoction. I guess I shouldn’t judge, having a dangerously powerful power core in my own chest, but at least I can manage to sleep at night knowing that I could still possibly start an explosion. Two if you count what’s in my pants.
It’s ok. No one ever counts what’s in my pants.
“Yep. I have accomplished what I set out to do in your state. Hephaestus has been vanquished here. We failed to put a stop to your Gastrolord friend, but I’m sure there’s very little he can do with a bunch of random stolen super weapons.”
“That sounds bad,” Brian said.
“I’m sure it’ll all work itself out,” I said with a wave of my hand.
“I’m kind of worried about it,” Max said.
“Don’t be ridiculous, citizen. Everyone knows that inverse gravity bombs and dubstep launchers don’t kill people. They just cause them to not be alive anymore. Besides, isn’t horrible death at the hands of a madman who can attack at any random moment a small price to pay for the freedom to live in a country where a madman can attack at any moment?”
“Isn’t that…bad?” Brian asked.
“Not if you pay enough Congressmen, it isn’t.”
Max nodded along to my reasoning. Brian must have been the brains of their team.
Max stood up and offered me his hand. “Well, bro, it was nice hanging with you.”
“Yeah, you should come back sometime, maybe when we’re not all getting our asses kicked.”
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you get covered by another man’s sticky goo. It all shook out in the end, right?”
Brian wasn’t quite letting it go. The topic of conversation, I mean. He shook my hand too, but he didn’t hold it for an awkward length of time. “We don’t know if it worked out yet. I guess we’ll find out.”
“I’m sure we will, but my job here is done. It’s time for me to fly off into the sunset. To right the wrongs of America. Wherever a flag waves, I’ll be there. Wherever people reminisce about apple pie, I’ll be there. Wherever a man can purchase a donut with a giant greasy cheeseburger inside it, I’ll be there. Missile Patriot away, for great justice!”
I turned and jumped off the roof. I was halfway back to the trailer park before I remembered I left them the cooler full of beer.
As for why I was confident Gastrolord wouldn’t be a problem, it was more because I knew he wouldn’t be a problem for me. I changed at the trailer park and went over to his lair to meet him. I kicked open his door, tossed in a gas grenade that started spewing white fog, ran in waving glow sticks over my head, and had my armor play techno music while throwing lights of all colors all over the room.
“Hands up, this is a rave!” I announced.
Gastrolord sat over at a desk in front of his computer, but was turned toward me. He was stock still, with wide eyes, like a deer in the headlights. To be fair, he was in the presence of a raving lunatic. I started hopping up in down in place as the wub wub started pounding.
Finally he spoke, “What are you doing here?”
“Just checking on you, man. Letting you know I’m out of here! You were real helpful. Figured I’d be nice and say bye. I was going to bring beer, but I forgot it somewhere. That’s ok though. Beer tastes like fresh dumpster.”
“Wha, how do you know that?” He reached over and pressed a few buttons, then had to pay attention to his screen long enough to minimize the browser. I guess he had an email he didn’t want me to see.
“Because every dumpster I’ve ever sniffed smelled like old beer.”
“Well…I…wasn’t expecting you. I thought you were gone already. In fact, maybe you should go. I have lots of repairs left on the Super Snail. The Tesla stalks alone…whatever you did out there, you burned up a lot of circuits. Maybe come back in a few days?”
“Nonsense, Gastrolord. I’ll be leaving soon and you’ll probably never see me again. I’ve got lots more Hephaestus to blow up. Big organization, you know.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, I did have a little something I put together for you…just as a way of saying thanks. I was going to give it to you when I had it finished, but it looks like it’s now or never.” He smiled wide under his mustache. That’s what it was! This guy reminded me of an evil Tron guy. If y’all don’t know, he’s a Tron cosplayer who started the whole “Net Neutrality Protection” movement over here that played a part in enshrining those protections over here. Good thing, too. It would suck if either Hephaestus or Long Life were in the business of buying up internet service providers.
Gastrolord stood up and waved me into the big room where he had the Super Snail opened up. “Now you wait out here. I’ll be out in a jiffy.”
I hoped not. The last thing I wanted to see was him dressed in peanut butter. Instead, the Tesla stalks sparked and then crapped out. “No, no, no, I thought they were at least good enough for this…” came Gastrolord’s voice from over the Snail’s speakers.
I just bounced there, dancing along to my heavily-distorted electronic music. “What happened, Gastro? Hephaestus made you a deal? Or was this some lingering hatred from my perfectly valid criticisms of your tabletop game?”
“If you had just stayed away, I wouldn’t have had to try! If you hadn’t gotten me involved, I wouldn’t be getting angry calls late at night promising me a cell with a big, hairy man named Wyatt who has been in jail for a decade and likes chubby women! And shut up about my game! I don’t have to sit here and take that mocking from you.”
The laser on top of the shell swiveled around and took aim at me. “Wait, Gastrolord, before you shoot me, I have something I need to tell you.”
“That’s right, grovel, worm! I am Gastrolord! I’ve been kicked around long enough and now everyone will feel my wrath.”
“Yeah, yeah, everyone except Hephaestus because they scared you the other night, I get it. You know, I’ve been in some communication with your two nemeses as well…nemeses…nemesises? Nemesi? No, nemeses. Anyway, you know why I didn’t kill them last time I talked to them?”
“Because you don’t care about me. You just wanted to use me and laugh at me behind my back. Now it’s my turn to show you what I can do. I have the power. I have-!”
I sent off the code and there was a sound like a pumpkin suddenly smashed on concrete floor. Turned out I had a reason to use that ejection seat of his against him after all. I guess he shouldn’t have been a dick to someone who had done nothing but help him. Can’t say it surprised me, though. Mostly because I had the foresight to put in the killswitch ahead of time.
“You had to be a dick. Could have just let me go on my merry way, distracting the authorities, killing heroes, and generally making things easier for everyone else. But no, it was more important that you were offended by a few valid criticisms. Though I suspect if I go back to that email correspondence you were reading, I’ll find that Hephaestus lured you in with the promise of money with a lot of zeroes in it. But why am I telling you about all that? You’re smooshed.”
Yep, it worked out for Generation Flex after all. They just didn’t know it. What saved them wasn’t being heroic, smart, or good-looking. What has always mattered a lot more to people isn’t how someone looks but instead how someone acts. Gastrolord’s problem wasn’t how he looked, and it probably wasn’t because people just wanted to snub him. He was just too much of a dick. The problem with being a dick, dear readers, is that he picked the wrong person to get into a measuring contest with.
Because let me tell you, dear readers, nobody wants to get into a dick measuring contest with the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko. As a dick, I tower head and boulders, I mean shoulders, over all the rest.
Next time, we’ll be heading to New Orleans to get my favorite fluffer back. Moai, I’m coming for ya!
Ok, considering the prior paragraphs, bad choice of words.
The Jersey Score 7
The day of the attack, I looked at my costumes, glancing between the Missile Patriot tights and my power armor. Max, as in Mix N’Max, walked up behind me. He patted me on the shoulder and asked, “What are you going to wear? That could have a pretty big impact on things. You can’t use illusions outside your armor.”
“It’s all an illusion. That’s the basic trick of every illusion, especially the more mundane kinds. The key is to make someone trust in a false premise. I could do that with the Patriot suit too.”
“Well, whatever you decide, I hope you choose soon. It’s real hard to squeeze by you here while you’re standing around in the nude.”
He had a point. I was in the trailer and Holly couldn’t get to Sam or the door because I was blocking the little bit of available walking room.
I made my choice.
It was the day after I took down Terrorjaw. I decided that anymore delays would be dangerous. I didn’t know who all had signed on to take me out, but I knew Outlaw X had taken to calling the group the Annihilation Eight. Unfortunately, my old line about knowing how many they were going to use didn’t apply here, because they weren’t all likely to be here so soon.
The more time I took, the greater the chance they’d all be after my ass, minus Terrorjaw. If this group had been assembled due to some sort of willing teamwork or friendship, I could have used him as my toothy canary in the coal mine. They’d have broken him out. However, they were in it for money. As in, they didn’t care if a competitor for my head was in jail. So I didn’t know how many of them were here in all the time I took, though at least they lost one. I also knew that I had a way to cause infighting.
I had other assets as well. My car, Black Sunshine, was useful when I had Holly and Sam in it flipping out. Mix N’Max. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian, aka Generation Flex. Gastrolord. Me. That was a bit closer to even, though Max and Brian weren’t exactly in the know about being on my side or working with villains inadvertently.
To say this wasn’t a well-organized attack was not only an understatement, but the point. For years, people have said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I am that enemy.
Noon. Broad daylight. That was when the Super Snail charged the Hephaestus compound on my orders. It didn’t go in unsupported. It churned its way up the road toward the gate with Black Sunshine trailing behind it. Finally, Gastrolord attacked. You wouldn’t expect the guy who picked a gastropod gimmick would be impatient. Maybe he was overly eager to test out the new guns.
The air crackled with energy like lonely man making himself a bubble wrap condom. When it cracked against the shield, the thunder rolled. The shield appeared briefly as the electrical blast overwhelmed it, the white of the electricity seeming to fill in a bubble around the compound. Where it got past, it struck a light pole. The light blew up, but the electricity was diverted to the ground.
I think he should have listened to my last-minute idea on how to shore up his defenses on the Super Snail, but he didn’t see the strategic value in strapping people to the front and sides of the giant mecha snail. Some people don’t have an eye for strategy, I guess. Sure, Hephaestus haven’t seemed all that morally upstanding beforehand, but everybody has a breaking point. Everyone except your friendly, neighborhood Psycho Gecko, of course.
Plus, it’d make any potential allies of Hephaestus a bit squeamish if they’re spotted on the local news shooting up civilians. Even the police might look past their own gooey filling and discover a nougat-y core of morality.
Gastrolord refused, though, which left me to do everything myself.
While Gastrolord, Max, Sam, and Holly made their way up the road, I had wheeled a few barrels into a few back alleys nearby, my coat covering up my costume. While the slight brigade charged, I fiddled with the detonator. And, when the snail passed through the entrance despite the shield trying to resist the upper parts, I pressed the button.
The effects were not as drastic as they could have been had I spent more time preparing for this. Much like the people strapping idea, this one came to me later than I’d have liked. Why be selfish with my attack? I wanted to share it with the whole neighborhood! You know, really get lots of people involved. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that stuff I used back in Memphis, the BZ, laying around. No, this was all about blowing shit up, drawing attention, and possibly making sure that nearby tunnel entrances were hit in the crossfire. I was sure they had at least one tunnel.
That’s the kinda thinking I needed: putting the fun in murder. Er, the fun in kill. The fun in devastation? Oooh, that was close. The fun in fundamental threat to human life. Yeah, that got it. Ignore the linguists reading this disapprovingly over your shoulder. Why the fuck are you reading this in front of linguists?!
After all, linguists are only good when you use their noodle. Linguini, it’s called. I know, that cannibalism was a bit of a stretch, just like long pork.
Concluding our commercial interruption, we were back at the attack. A giant mechanized snail tank broke through the forcefield of Hephaestus and was shooting electro-beams from its stalks at anything that moved, aside from my car. I was on the outside, blowing up a buildings in a trench coat that hid my costume.
Gastrolord knocked on the door to the warehouse very gently. With lightning. While he did that, the laser carved out a human-sized hole in the loading bay’s garage doors.
“Part One of Operation Jehovah’s Witness is good. The door is open,” Sam relayed to me over the comms.
“Good,” I replied, “Let’s get in there and share the good news. Somebody’s about to die for my sins. And somebody save Dr. Typhoon for me.”
The mouth of the Super Snail opened and Gastrolord stepped out, aiming his goo gauntlets around at empty air. Max had his syringe gun in hand, and Sam actually joined him with her sprayer gun that looked like something off a hose.
I got a call from Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian. “Yo, dudes, ‘sup?” I asked.
“Shit is going down. Repeat, it’s hitting the fan.”
“Max, I thought fans were up in the air, and waving like they just don’t care?”
“Something big is happening.”
“I’m aware of that, good super citizen. I’m over here near our Hephaestus friends. Gastrolord just made his move, and he’s got friends. You had better get over here. I don’t think the regular guards are going to do the trick.”
That part was honest, at least. There weren’t many guards outside at all. I zoomed in with my eyes to watch what happened. Even the mundane resistance didn’t last long once Gastrolord gave them the goo. His gunk stuck to the two guards who tried to nab him, and they stuck to one another in turn. Why did I think it made them slip? Except then he doused them with gunk from just his left gauntlet. That made another pair of guards slip all over the ground and fall. He had slime for every occasion!
My villainous allies advanced cautiously. Sam and Max took up positions by one of the garage door holes. Max splashed something on himself, then offered a little spray bottle to Sam. Sam shook her head no. A lightning bolt struck by the hole from the inside, knocking Max down. Sam hadn’t been pressed against it, but she took a moment to cross herself as she checked on Max. He gave her a thumbs-up, then accepted her help getting to his feet.
Meanwhile, Gastrolord charged in the doorway. I kinda wondered if they even needed me. I couldn’t make things worse, that’s for sure. I found a secluded alleyway, threw off my coat, finished pulling my costume on, then jumped out, arms akimbo and chest up thrust toward the sky. Nearby a woman cried out and put her hands over her young daughters’ eyes. I looked down. Forgot the pants.
I jumped back into the alley, then out once more when I was in my full regalia.
The Missile Patriot was ready to have a blast. I launched into the sky and maneuvered for the guard gate. It was from there that I saw Max take another blast of lightning that sent him flying off the docking bay. Sam jumped down and ducked so she was out of sight from anyone on it. The garage door strained outward, then flew off as the spinning Dr. Typhoon floated through it in a vortex arcing with electricity. Out of the regular doorway came Gastrolord again, being forced back by something. Wind maybe? He covered his face with his hands as he stumbled back. A sort of weird fog came out as well. Another super was around.
As I flew in through the gate, I dipped down and a section of the broken guard gate arm. I tried to ease my landing on my feet, but stumbled. When I had a moment to regain my footing, I threw the gate piece like a javelin at Typhoon. The cyclone deflected it and the piece popped Gastrolord in the head. Gastrolord grabbed his head and yelled “Why?”
There was a weird sound, like if you imagined a snake chuckling. That fog thing came together into a vaguely humanoid shape that looked like sand suspended in the air. A quick search via the eye HUD turned up a villain named Quick Sand. Not much known about him…her…it. It was sand, though a mouth formed out of the head region in a big smile. I think it was laughing.
I wanted to join in, but I was in the bright and shiny costume now. I had to act like a hero. Ugh.
“Give yourselves up, foul fiends, and save yourselves some pain.”
Everybody laughed at that one, including Gastrolord.
“Let’s rocket,” I said. I flew at Dr. Typhoon and he pulled his arms together. As soon as I saw them move, I went low. I dodged lightning more thanks to his reflexes than any super speed. His cyclone churned up the air even stronger than before and I got sucked up into it, but I got sucked in the upward direction. I know what you’re thinking. Innuendo. Well I stuck my fist in Typhoon’s endo.
I spun around with him in the opposite direction he did, electricity crackling around us both. He wasn’t much used to hand-to-hand, though. He was the type to keep people at a distance but he couldn’t do that. That cyclone could try and toss me out all he wanted, but I had rockets pushing me right back in and throwing my fist into his stomach with a very satisfying feeling. He lifted us higher, then lower, trying to shake me that way, but that just threw off a punch. I tossed one across his face and broke his nose just for that.
The rest of the battle was hard to make out for obvious reasons. I caught glimpses. At one point, Max was sinking into a puddle of quicksand. Then Max Muscles was trying to hit on Sam. Then Holly was shooting Max with the car’s Gatling. Brian got stuck to the ground by Gastrolord. It was all a whir and it was beginning to make me nauseous.
I grabbed Dr. Typhoon by the face and blew chunks. Corn didn’t go well with his eyes. I laughed as I saw that, but then he puked on me right back. In the end, he dropped the vortex entirely and I flew right past him. When I turned to catch him again, he was heaving in the middle of a new cyclone.
I was running low on fuel and it occurred to me that my heroic costume didn’t have much in the way of weaponry. I cut the rockets and acted surprised. I screamed as I fell and tried to flap my wings. It was hard to concentrate on falling, too. If I forgot for a moment, I might have ended up flying instead, and that would have ruined everything. Instead, I angled for the Super Snail. I knew this was about to hurt, but not any worse than a lightning strike. I cut the rockets on just a little, as if I slowed my speed only with a last gasp. I still landed hard and bounced off the shiny metal between the stalks. It felt like my ass had tried to devour a rhino from the way my tailbone and other lower spinal bones felt. I think something was jiggling freely inside me. Probably my nuts from the feel of things.
As I knelt there, I checked on the others. Gone except for Holly, who was facing away from my fight along with the car, and Quick Sand, who was trapped in a giant pile of sticky slime. From the sound of things, the rest of the fighting had moved inside. Even with the hole in the wall that looked like Brian’s usual entrance, I couldn’t see anything.
But then, there was only so much I paid attention to that. Dr. Typhoon descended near enough to get a good shot at me. He didn’t drop below the level of the stalks, though. Didn’t want to get too close, I suppose. His loss.
I accessed the car with Holly in there and changed the radio. I had an idea how to tease Dr. Typhoon. Hulk Hogan’s old song, Real American.
“I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man. I am a real American. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!”
Dr. Typhoon scoffed. “Is that the song they’re going to play at your funeral, you hokey piece of crap?”
It took Holly a moment to get the hint, but then I saw her looking back at us.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, Dr. Typhoon.”
“I didn’t think they made heroes as cliché as you anymore. Big talk for someone on his knees.”
I forced myself to stand and look up at him defiantly. I wished I had a bald eagle on my shoulder. “Oh, I can stand alright. So long as I have Uncle Sam watching my back, I can stand up to any evildoer.”
Typhoon choked down a laugh and threw a bolt of lightning at me. Well, he threw it in my direction. It split instead and went for the stalks. The Tesla-based equipment there did the rest and protected me from everything but a little static electricity.
“The fuck?!” Typhoon yelled, then tried again. Once again, I was safe between the stalks.
Behind him came a whistle. When Dr. Typhoon turned, he found Holly and Black Sunshine turned around, facing him, with an array of weapons protruding from the car. He didn’t get to react before she flipped a lot of switches. Bullets roared, lasers seared, a duck quacked, rockets burst, and a hunk of smoking meat fell down in front of the Super Snail. I gave Holly a thumbs-up and slid down the side of the gimmick vehicle. I leaned in over the crispy remnants of Dr. Typhoon and said, “You’re grounded.”
I’m glad she figured that out and felt like helping me. I could have done all that on my own, but it meant something more for her to turn and pull my ass out of the fire. For one thing, it made her feel a bit closer to me emotionally and made her think I wasn’t quite such a bad guy when I acted all thankful and gave her a hug. She pushed me off, though. I couldn’t tell if it was her natural disgust for me or all the barf, but it was the thought that counted. I think.
In the end, the villains, or at least our group, won. Gastrolord got out of there with some weapons schematics and a bunch of launcher-fired sticky grenades. Quick Sand was relaxing in that gunk rather than chasing me down. Hephaestus didn’t lose many personnel this time, having decided they were mostly useless for fighting us. Bulletproof Brian and Max Muscles didn’t save the day. In fact, Brian was found running through the city naked save for his mask, under some odd impression that pants and shirts wanted to control humanity by moving people’s limbs. Sam got a good slap on Max Muscles before Mix N’Max shrunk the other Max’s head down to about one third its regular size. And, last but not least, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko got away with manifest records.
It was later that night, while Mix N’Max was busy dancing around a barrel fire with the man in the underwear and the trapper hat who lived next door and the women munched on s’mores, that I dragged myself out of a regenerative little nap and inserted a certain pointy body part into the servers we stole to check what they had to say about my good buddy Carl.
“Subject status: Liquidated.”
And so I threw open the door, naked but for a server tower hanging off my dick, yelling at the sky with arms outstretched, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”
And I think that server gave me a virus.
The Jersey Score 6
A cowry is a type of mollusk that counts as a gastropod mollusk. Learned that while I was helping overhaul the Super Snail with Gastrolord.
I learned a great many things from him, most of them useless. I will never get back the time I used up listening to him yammer on and on about his stupid RPG game series he wanted to make. Gods that gained power from various actions related to humans. Godswar this, Godswar that, and boy did he hate criticism of it, or even the suggestion that some of his ideas weren’t entirely original. The second game, Lost Vegas, being a post-apocalyptic game set around Las Vegas with regular survivors trying to survive against raiding slavers? The third game involving regular humans getting superpowers in New Orleans? Uh huh. Suuuuure. He may have had pipe dreams about making it rich creating knockoffs of Fallout: New Vegas and Infamous 2, but that’s not what he was doing for a living. He was a supervillain with poor financial planning.
I know, I know, who am I to criticize someone’s dreams after advocating people go out and seize them? I’m the guy he got into an argument with, that’s what! Somehow, we got into a discussion about another game, Bayonetta. Full-on fanservice, complete with the main character shooting angels while pole dancing in a graveyard. It was made with that in mind. Gassy thought it was horribly over-sexualized. This from a guy whose most powerful goddess gained power from sleeping with human men and whose created servants for that goddess take jobs as whores to siphon power for her. This was a game meant to be taken seriously.
He stormed out in a huff when I said that, mumbling something about how that was completely different. Hey, I have been an extremely poor example of feminism here, but at least I never said a woman’s strength increased proportional to the amount of bukkake she wears. Yeah, can you imagine a male character with superpowers that function that way? “Hey Ironman, we worked out a new, strokier way to put your armor on. Oh, hello there Captain America. Ready for your special ‘injection’ to give you strength? Careful, Dr. Banner’s getting buttfucked. You wouldn’t like him when he’s buttfucked.” Actually, that last one would work if anyone ever threw that in.
Some people are hard to work with, and the lack of ability to take criticism well regarding his writing? Yeah, I used the time Gastrolord was out to mess around with the electrical system and the ejection system. I figured he could turn on me over some minor slight in the heat of battle. The tricks I installed ought to keep that from being a problem.
I don’t take betrayal or shoddy writing well.
Gastrolord’s attitude improved when he saw what our collaboration had wrought. I mean, he didn’t like the chrome Mohawk between the stalks on its head. The stalks themselves had been modified. Forget just electrifying the outer shell of armor as a defensive measure. We went full-on Tesla electro-beam on this bitch!
I’ve never met Nikola Tesla, but I doubt he’s happy about people using his work for that sort of thing. He has stopped by the Twenty-First Century a few times along with Teddy Roosevelt and Alfred Nobel, causing a big stir. Adventures followed every time. Tesla did all his energy and electricity stuff, Nobel would stomp around in the mining power armor he invented, and Teddy would inevitably get drunk and shoot something. Team TNT, as the group is called, has traveled the globe and time as well to right wrongs and solve crimes ever since they collaborated in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.
Cool shit, but they weren’t the important part of this story. We gave the Super Snail electro-beams from its stalk and a new haircut. But wait, there’s more! I added a laser on top of the shell that could rotate to fire on enemies that weren’t too close to its body. Together, we increased the power plant’s efficiency a little and reduced the booster rockets’ rate of recharge by twenty percent.
That alone ought to keep him onboard with the plan at least until he’s at the warehouse blowing shit up. He was happy as a slug in a rug. He could stay that way, too, unless I needed to a-salt him.
While he was sitting tight, it was time to work on the opposite side of the coin. That’s right, coins have two sides. You might say I was a bit two-faced like that.
In my off time, I’d maintained contact with Generation Flex. They weren’t messing with Gastrolord, so they had more time for regular patrols. They even managed to save the mayor when his brakes gave out.
Anyway, I went and met up with them to join in as Missile Patriot. They pulled up to meet me at that most patriotic of institutions, the bus stop.
“Yooooooooo, yo yo yo yo! What’s happening, bro?” asked Brian from the driver’s side window of their truck as he pulled up and skidded to a halt.
“Nothing, my fine compatriot in the fight against Communism. I have need of your truck bed. These buckets are carrying things which are both valuable and extremely stinky. Also a little bit of cable. Can I set them back there?”
“That would be better than riding up front with them.”
I nodded in thanks and set the roll of cable and the buckets of bloody fish guts back there. Then I came around to the passenger side and slid in.
“Out of gas?” he asked, motioning toward my arm rockets with his head.
“Conserving it, as all great Americans should. Remember, carpooling will keep this nation strong. Also, I thought we could hang out and chat. Sorry I was a no-show for that run in with the snail guy.”
“It’s cool. We’ve been handling him by ourselves for awhile now. You got any preference where you wanna patrol?”
“Do you mind doing a drive-by of that Hephaestus place? I heard they had a bit of a fracas there.”
“We can check it out, but we can’t do anything. They paid off the cops after crap blew up all over there. If we went in and didn’t find anything, they might put the cops on us for trespassing.”
Bah, trespassing. Going where a person isn’t wanted is really considered a crime? In that case, pretty much everywhere I’ve ever been would be after me for trespassing.
Anyway, Brian drove us toward the place. He did have a query for me in relation to my goal. “What do you have against Hephaestus anyway? Is it personal?”
“Hephaestus killed my parents,” I said, slipping into my best Batman growl.
“Oh. Oh man, I’m sor-“
“It was the eighties. It was a dark night in Kingscrow, the streets filled with a rancid mixture of fog and hairspray. My mother dragged my dad away from his business wheeling and dealing to go with me to see some movies based on the Beverly Hillbillies. ‘Return of Jed’ or something like that. Hephaestus was pulling a robbery in the area when the three of us stumbled on it. They sent me running away, mom’s poofy shoulderpads obscuring the goons’ view of me. From that day forward, I knew I would become a fighter for great justice!”
Brian just sat there absorbing that for awhile. The only thing he said to all that was, “Wow.”
We sat like that until we got on the street that ran behind the warehouse compound. Everything was fixed. Those had been the only shipments to or from the place, our surveillance showed us. They either halted regular operations or were moving it another way, like the underground tunnel I suspected they had. We never saw Dr. Typhoon or Terrorjaw enter the premises either.
“Doesn’t look like anything happened?”
“You and Max better be ready all the same. I’ve been snooping. Gastrolord wants to hit this place. Say, where is your friend with the muscles anyway?”
“Max is busy right now. Working. Gotta make that money, you what I mean? I guess Gastrolord knows too.”
“I have to know me. What does a guy like Max do for a living?”
“He sells car stereos. Installs ‘em too. He gets that bass pumping.”
“Huh, that makes sense. What about you?”
“College, man. Gotta get my degree and find some work. Won’t be easy and I already got $30,000 worth of debt.”
“Ouch. Not going to try and make money off your persona?”
“Naw, this is just for Max. He’s the one who wants to do all this. I want to move on to bigger and better things. I’m allowed to do that, right? Even if I got powers?”
“I suppose you do. It’s all laid out in the Ninth Amendment, of course: ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’ Y’all are much different than I expected, you know?”
“It’s that fucking show, isn’t it? They take a bunch of assholes from New York and Empyreal City, give them a house on the shore, let them do stupid shit, and everyone thinks that’s us.”
“Huh. You guys must be…is that a shark?”
Yep, it was. Terrorjaw couldn’t help but respond to the buckets of chum in the back of the truck. He was running up the street, scaring drivers and pedestrians away. He had an eyepatch on since our last run-in. It was a good look for him. He just needed a pirate hat.
“I’ll go show that fish my hook.” I practiced a few punches, then opened the door and gave the Missile Patriot’s newest catchphrase. “For great justice!”
I swung onto the back of the truck. Brian slowed, then stopped. Terrorjaw’s gibbering visage approached as he sprinted past other cars, not even noticing the people inside. I knew some sharks had an ability to sense electricity. I didn’t know if he had that ability. What I had known was that he was a fucking shark. Bloody fish guts? Sharks eat that shit up. I readied to unleash a rocket punch as he approached.
He got close and his undamaged eye rolled into the back of his head. He jumped. I almost threw the punch, but was stopped by the sight of Bulletproof Brian throwing himself between us. Terrorjaw’s teeth dug in impotently. Against Terrorjaw, Bulletproof Brian could have been called Biteproof Brian. That made it easy. I grabbed the metal cable I set in the back with the buckets for just this confrontation and hopped out.
I tried getting his arms, but he resisted. Finally, I just passed it to Brian. “Lend a hand?”
He sighed, or maybe that was from the pressure on his diaphragm, and took the cable. He passed it just inside of himself and I grabbed it out the other end of Terrorjaw’s mouth. Then I straddled his back, grabbed both ends, and pulled.
Terrorjaw reeled back, swiping his hands at the sky. Then he tried to both buck me off and turn Brian around so he could swallow him whole. I don’t think he was thinking too well at the time. Funny how that happens to supervillains.
I yanked on my reins, getting him away from Brian. Instead, he concentrated on throwing me off his back. He jumped, he spun, he rolled, he even knocked me into a car. This was why sharks were never allowed in rodeos. Only cows and horses, which is bullshit.
As he began to tire, I pulled hard on the reins and used his motions to ram his head into other things. Parking meters, mailboxes, a trash can. Then I swapped hands and turned backwards. “Let’s rocket!” From the HUD in my eyes, I put in the code. 3-3-5, EJ. He roared as the backblast from the rockets burnt him. I pulled into the sky and eased up my grip on one hand. Excess cable pulled along the corners of Terrorjaw’s mouth, cutting into it as I flew into the air. When I clamped down on the cable, that was when he couldn’t stay on his feet any more. He was pulled up with me, at which point I turned my rockets downward toward the ground. It was a fairly easy landing for me, but he flipped over, cable still caught in his teeth, and smashed into the road.
In all the time it took me to get things ready, Hephaestus might have managed to bring in another villain. Maybe, maybe not. I couldn’t speak to their overconfidence.
One thing I do know is that one of the ones who took a bite out of my ass just wound up in the shark cage. A police shark cage, true, but all the media attention and public exposure means Hephaestus couldn’t money that situation over so easily as they did at their compound.
And that, dear readers, is how you school a fish.
The Jersey Score 3
The mission is slowly getting accomplished. Surveillance is all set up, for one thing. On the villain side of things, Holly and I headed out to drop off the cameras. We drove a little scooter she had gotten, which reminded me to check on the Minstrel Cycle. Turns out my little tricked-out pink scooter had been stolen by Hephaestus as well. They really scattered my stuff all over the place.
At least I rebuilt my laser potato peeler. It was originally conceived as an elegant weapon for a more refined age. Why? Because in the land of the invading potato aliens, the man with the laser peeler is king. Remember that, readers. That’s sound advice.
Anyway, Holly waited by the scooter just up the road from the turnoff to get to the Hephaestus Distribution Site. I left her there and carried the camera to set it up in the perfect position to catch anyone driving in or out. Along with the others planted on buildings nearby, we had a good overall view to watch guards and keep track of major happenings. This one was in the perfect spot to nab us license plate numbers to anonymously drop to any law enforcement agencies that we wished to use for the tools they are. I also had a concentrated batch of a nice little chemical. Hey, I figured I could still pull that off. Maybe. Unlikely. For all I knew, it had already delivered. Still, I figured that even if I was disappointed, I could still find something to do with a bottle of strong laxative.
When I got back to her, Holly idled on the scooter next to the road.
That’s when I got lucky with her. Not that sort of lucky, no. Geez. I’m not that sort of person. No, I saw a water truck coming, grabbed her by the arm, said “I’ve got to borrow you for a moment,” then pushed her out just into the road. Hey, I pulled her back, but only after a part of her thumped against it. So it hit her, she screamed, and the whole mess spooked the driver. The truck braked hard and pulled over to allow an older gentleman with a back support on to hop out of it.
“I’m sorry. Is everyone okay? What happened? I didn’t see you there,” he said, rapid-fire.
Holly pushed away from me and cradled her broken arm with her unbroken one. She backed away from me with gritted teeth, pained screams strangled and warped in her throat to sound off with a hateful growl.
“Hey, are you alright? Let me help,” said the driver, oblivious to me at the moment. That part disappointed me. I was going to throw his head into the side of the truck a couple times and knock him out. That wasn’t necessary and would only make things more difficult, but I wanted to do it anyway. Instead, I had to remain content with altering his deliveries in the truck.
Like I said, he was too concerned with Holly who was more upset than people usually are when you push them into the road so they get hit by a truck. Why couldn’t she just drive over it, er, I mean get over it?
So while she provided a distraction, I grabbed the backpack I made Holly carry on this trip and brought it with me into the truck. I proceeded to puncture the caps of the cooler bottles with my peeler, then took a small chug straight from the bottle, and finally poured a little something in from the gallon. It went in clear. That was good. If it had been within a certain range of pH, it would have turned fuchsia. I made sure to empty all of the jug into them and covered it up by closing off the plastic caps with the aid of the potato peeler’s laser.
Simple. Clean. Elegant. Hephaestus was going to miss those adjectives once they got a swallow of that stuff. So would anyone else those bottles were intended for, but sometimes there are civilian casualties in love and war. Civilian casualties and torture. And unknown bodily fluids flung every which way. But mostly in love and war, what you get is a bunch of shit.
I caught a little of my own in payback for what I had done. After I snuck out of the truck, I noticed Holly taking off on her scooter and leaving a confused and worried driver behind. When he looked around, perhaps to confirm that there had been another person there at some point, he didn’t find me. I was invisible and bounding through the air in the direction of the Skid Mark.
When I got there I dropped the stealth in favor of a hologram of my current civilian self. Holly’s scooter was already there, but she wasn’t in sight. Neither was Sam. Instead, I was approached by a scowl-wearing Mix N’Max. I wasn’t sure that I had ever seen him do anything but smile before.
He threw a punch at me and knocked my head to the side. “Why did you do that to Holly? She’s one of us. She’s your friend.” He took a moment to shake off the pain in his fist and punched me again heedless of the helmet he now knew I was wearing.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about people who want to kick me when I’m down, like Venus and Forcelight. When it comes to how Holly acts, what’s the difference between her and everyone else who wants to treat me like shit? How often has she hoped I was really dead so she could win a little money from Sam?”
He grabbed me by my head. “She helps you, that’s what! And I care about her. She’s my friend. I won’t let you hurt either of them. I vouch for you to them and for them to you. It took a lot to convince them you wouldn’t hurt them. This kind of shit is exactly what you don’t do to your friends.”
“She’s your henchwoman. Not my friend. Considering how things have been lately, I’m quite ready to take advantage of everyone deciding I’m a joke.”
He pointed his finger at me and stuck it right in my face. “Never hurt Holly or Sam again.”
I rolled my eyes under the armor, then wrapped my pinky around his finger. “Alright, pinky swear.”
“I mean it. You always hated people who were assholes just to be assholes.”
“Why did you do throw her into traffic?”
“I gently pushed her out into traffic, then reeled her back in. It’s just a broken arm.”
“A broken shoulder and sprained ankle. I fixed her up, but that’s not the point.”
“I had a perfectly good reason. I may have managed to give everyone of them at Hephaestus some diarrhea.”
“That’s a good reason to hurt a lot of people, but not Holly and Sam. They’re not just henchwomen. I respect them.”
It went on and on and and on and oooooon. I felt like I was sitting at a desk as boss after boss came up to remind me to use the right cover letter on my reports, each constantly asking if I had gotten the memo.
I just tried to ignore him as I switched costumes. I could have kept the same armor and employed a hologram, but I suppose it’s better for me to not spend all my time in the armor. Reduces the funk I have on me at any given time. Too much funk and I might end up in a leisure suit with an afro, a porn stache riding elegantly just over my upper lip. That level of funk could cause a man to attract boogeymen. Also, I can’t fly in my normal armor.
Let’s skip ahead. Later that night, about eight o’clock, I rode in the backseat of a pickup truck. It was big. It was red. It had a set of those chrome lights on top that also featured a pair of buff chrome arms flexing.
Inside rode myself, Max Muscles, and Bulletproof Brian, singing. “…Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meeeeeeeeee!”
It was that sort of night. I’d told them I had a tipoff on a place and we were driving over there, singing horribly all the while.
When we finished up, Max Muscles got curious. “Sweet Brohemian Rhapsody, dudes. Hey, Missile, what kind of a place is this we’re checking out?”
“Hephaestus. Dudes that steal inventions and junk to give people superpowers. They’ve been in the news lately, but I knew about them long before that.”
Brian turned around to look at me. “So what kind of a place is it? We’re kind of new to this. Is it a full-on secret lair, or what?”
“Storage and distribution, I heard. We should get in there and own their asses. Like, if they’re too much for you guys, I think we can probably find the records room or their computer, some shit like that, and we’ll be home free.”
“Whoa, you put a lot of thought into this,” said Max. We pulled up at a T-shaped intersection behind the compound.
“That’s it, but aren’t we a little close? Someone could look in and see us in costume, bros,” I warned, ducking.
“Yo dawg, check this out. The windows are tinted. I got the hook up with this friend of mine from Pittsburgh and made it where we can see out but they can’t see in,” Max explained confidently. That was a redundant adverb. They were confident about almost everything, at least that I noticed. Easy way to bite off more than they could chew.
“Hella tight, right?” Brian asked, sticking his tongue out for no apparent reason as he looked all around.
I gave Max a thumbs-up. “Cool story, bro.”
“This place is big,” he said as we drove around. “I wonder how many guards there are?”
“Oh, I don’t know…” I checked the cameras placed around it and did a quick headcount. “…maybe only twenty outside. I doubt that’d be too much for you, eh?”
“Might be if they got some sorta super guns. I’m super strong, but not invincible. Brian’s invincible, but not any stronger. What do you got?”
“I’m super smart. I got these cool rockets so I can fly in and be all like ‘Rocket Punch, Bitch!’ KA POW! Also, the suit’s bulletproof and I’m a good fighter.”
“So you don’t have any superpowers?”
“Not unless you count my Piledriving Super Penetrator. That normally puts someone out for the night.”
This time, Brian “What’s that, like a punch or a ki attack?”
“That’s how I have sex, bro.”
After a round of “Ooooohing” with their hands over their mouths, I looked out and noticed several of the guards rushing towards the building. The guy in the lead was dripping something. One of them didn’t make it and fell over, some sort of fluid soaking and spraying out of his pants.
Shit was going down. The others saw it as well. The timing was perfect. Max turned the truck down a side road away from the site.
“Hey, why are we leaving?”
“I don’t know about you, broseph-“
“Actually, it’s Jacob.”
“Cool, man, but we don’t know what’s happening in there. It could be bad. It could be something got loose.”
“Yeah, but isn’t this a good time to run in, guns blazing? I know heroes that love to intrude like that.” I neglected to mention I fought heroes who loved to pull that kind of thing.
“Yo, Brian, man, tell him why we don’t run in blind.”
“We can’t just run up in that crib and wreck their shit like this. There’s probably sweet high tech equipment in there, brah. Like, we could hit something that creates gravity singularity that would fuck this shit up. So tonight, we’re going to look for crime, go party, have a few drinks, and get wild up in there. Then, tomorrow, we start the stakeout.”
See, New Jersey? This is why nobody likes you. This right here.
“Bro, wait up a minute bro, wait up. I got a better idea. We call that hot chick from Kingscrow and see if they want to help us.”
“Awww, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, bro. She’s fine, too.”
It was up to me to be the voice of reason, so of course we were fucked. “Why would you want to do that? We got this, guys. We got this shit. They probably don’t want you calling them over every little thing.”
Brian cranked up the radio and started dancing in his seat. “Naw, it’s okay. I heard they were mixed up with Hephaestus and that lizard man up in EC. You think they’d believe us if we lied and said the lizard dude was sneaking around?”
“Sounds far fetched to me,” I said.
“Time for Generation Flex to do our nightly club raid! Let’s go get our drink on so we can go meet some hot super bitches!”
I disappeared during the night, thoroughly disappointed. It was a crappy night for Hephaestus and me both. Worse, I wasn’t sure if this whole mess was caused by Generation Flex being too stupid or too smart.
Fucking New Jersey, man.
The Jersey Score 2
The others weren’t on board with my scheme about the heroes.
“We came along to help you rescue Carl and Moai. Remember Carl? The guy who worked for you?” Sam shook a spatula at me. I’d prefer if she just cooked. Not that I think that’s a woman’s place. It’s just that I wanted steaks and the things left on the grill resembled Phoenix turds or something.
“Yeah, the lanky, stocky guy. Blondish-blackish hair. Skin color kinda Caucasian in a sort of dark brown kinda way?” I asked by way of indicating who I was BSing a description of.
Holly shook her head. “Don’t the jokes get old, Gecko? They sound old to us. Then again, they sound old in general.”
“Just talk past him. He’ll listen, even if he’s not responding,” Max called out the window of the trailer. “And don’t forget the code name.”
“Yes, respect the code name. This might be the kind of hole where people are actually named after animals, but for all intents and purposes I am Jacob Rodney Cohen to all of you.” When I’ve needed a civilian name to go by, I tended to pick the name of a comedian or a famous character they have portrayed. Comedians often go by stage names to hide their identity as well. Or because it sounds funnier.
Sam gritted her teeth at my lack of focus. “Whatever, ‘Jake.’ You’re making this more complicated than it needs to be. Just run in there, kill everyone, and see if you can find who you’re looking for. I thought you liked doing things that way?”
A tip I’ve heard given for those entering politics is to answer the question you wish you were asked, not the question you were asked. I was playing with my sock puppets at that point, which I found slightly more interesting than having the women argue with me. Also, they hadn’t yet realized I’d stolen, cut, and drawn on their socks instead of mine. “Hello, I’m the ring-tailed Cooter of the American Southeast. And I’m the three-toed Bubba! I grew an extra one on account of momma drinkin’ the moonshine too much.”
Next was Holly’s turn. It was a classic double team. I’ve had people double team me before. In an argument, I mean. “One, this is Jersey, not Alabama. Two, that would be offensive in Alabama even. Three, Cooter and Bubba aren’t animals. Four, I thought you wanted to beef up your reputation for doing horrible things to people who don’t pay up? Wait, is that my sock?”
Max jumped out of the trailer and cut her off as she was just about to slap me. His entrance surprised the women and he got between them and me. My eyes flickered over him as I grinned and let out a small “Aww.”
He leaned over and looked me in my eyes. That perpetual smile of his looked more forced than usual as he backed up. “Maybe you ought to go ahead and do whatever it is you want to do, Jacob.”
“Things were just about to get fun here, Maxxy waxy.”
“What’s going on?” Sam asked Max in a whisper.
“Give him a goal to focus on, like anger, and he can have a lot of good days. This is not a good day.”
I didn’t see what he meant at the time. Some friendly person he turned out to be. He got in the way when two perfectly unsuspecting people who liked to HIT ME were about to put their hands on me. They’re nice women and I like them. I would have let them keep their other hands. Max was good too, generally, but his unusual perceptiveness toward me had once again indicated that he should stay back. I never got why he would, actually. It was a day like any other, with me being myself.
Only more so.
Fine, fine, I left them alone that day. Went off on my own. It wasn’t fair, though. I mean, all the times I didn’t care about being hit or insulted, that didn’t matter, but the day I cared about my burnt-ass steak, all of a sudden Max is there crying out, “Beef good, pork bad!”
Which is really quite insulting, if you think about it. I’ve haven’t been much of a diet person since the good old days, but the human body is way too fatty for that. I mean, come on. I’m trying to kill other people around here, not myself.
Now, the first thing I did upon striking out on my own was not, in fact, to hunt down and attract the attention of Generation Flex so we could have some sort of team up. The first step was gathering my luggage and my car. They had places nearby for Max and the girls to plug in the trailer for power, so I was more worried about the chunks of metal out of place on the rear of my car.
So I had my car and I had my costume. I slipped into both in little time. More than that, I was also in a particularly vindictive mood. To that end, I reconned the target. The Piñata factory was actually a warehouse compound. It looked fairly normal. Chain link fence around the exterior with a guard outpost at the entrance and people patrolling around the exterior. There were a few too many guards for the place, though. More security than Ass Blaster implied back at the hospital. Also, way too many dead birds around the perimeter of that fence. I watched one try to fly over the warehouse and smash its hollow little skull out on some invisible barrier. It was murder most fowl.
I saw an opening, though. A water company delivery truck there to change out the cooler’s giant bottle. When he went walked out and started the truck, I turned invisible and ran up to the guard post. I hadn’t built yet another laser potato peeler yet. Don’t even remember when I lost the last one, but it would have been useful to have. Instead, I had to quickly charge and hope no one noticed the glow from my hands penetrate my illusion in the sunlight. I gauged the distance as it began to speed up just past the gate and punched his truck in the tire. The tire popped and the wheel deformed, bringing the truck to a stop.
I backed off as the driver got out. I suspected he might have been Zeus, because he swore up a storm.
When the guards came over to investigate, I pumped out some interesting noises for them to hear. First, seductive moaning to get their attention. Then someone speaking Russian and guns being cocked. They erred on the side of paranoia and set the water cooler guy off for a special delivery from the river Styx.
Sticks and stones could break his bones. Amateurs.
My ultimate plan in all this was to give them all diarrhea. Spoiler alert, I guess. I thought I’d kill off their water supply and get some stuff into the replacement. One problem: their communications were secured. It was the kind of thing I should have noticed. They didn’t need their own special satellite or secret server base or anything. All they needed was telephone wire.
I didn’t want to spend all day or all week waiting on the next truck. I had places to go and people to see, so it wound up being a senseless death. A useless, meaningless waste of a person’s life. The guards didn’t even make him wear a funny hat first.
After that, I spent days doing some soul-searching, specifically for a pair of souls called Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian.
I just had to think about where I would find a couple of manly muscle men doing manly things.
That was the line of thinking that got me kicked out of various gyms I checked in, save for this one where some guy was going to practice soccer and wanted me on his team. He thought I looked like an excellent ball handler.
“I don’t have time to help you handle your balls. I’ve got to find a pair of macho men to get down and dirty with me.”
For some reason, the ball handler guy didn’t take the hint that I wasn’t interested in playing with him after that, but whatever. After shaking him off, I decided that if I couldn’t find them patrolling or working out, I needed to make them come to me without also making everyone come to me. Did I say everyone? I mean EVERYONE. If people spot me too early on, I’ll have so many initialisms up my ass, people will think I ingested alphabet soup rectally.
I needed to fake being a villain they would want to fight.
When I tore through the display window of a jewelry store that afternoon, my holograms showed me in a whole different light. I looked bulkier and dark grey all over. The face that I projected over my helmet was growling, with three small tusks sticking out just past the lips. The body was designed to look more rounded, which incorporated some parts that looked like circular weights on the biceps, triceps, thighs, and calves. There was a barbell with the weight plates on my upper back and hanging out past my shoulders, and a black cape hung from it. The barbell was real, actually. It was a temporary addition made possible by a natural adhesive that I have a huge supply of, ladies. I hear women like a guy who knows where to buy a lot of strong glue. Those kinds of couples really stick together.
Eh, eh? Anybody? Come oooooooon. You know you wanted to laugh at that.
The hologram had a helmet that looked like a samurai’s. That type of helmet is called a kabuto, by the way. Samurai had these crests on the front of the helmet, called maedate. They were clan symbols or holy symbols or just something to intimidate people. They were like the prison tattoos of the medieval Japanese warrior class, but without the teardrop meaning murder. Samurai didn’t cry about that. The one I had topping off this weight-themed appearance was another weight plate.
I had designed this appearance because I figured they were exactly the sorts to go after something like it. I have experience knowing what my audience wants to see, at least when it comes to designing monsters to send after young men and women with attitude and bright spandex. Not as much experience when it comes to attracting an extradimensional readership, but I haven’t heard of anyone who has managed that.
I took my time.
“Cower before me, puny mortals! I am Noman the Barbellian! Your merchandise is hereby confiscated to serve the glory that is the Glorious People’s Constitutional Republican Aristrocratic, Democratic, and Ochlocratic Monarchy and Fried Chicken Emporium of the Barbellians!”
If you knew you had an audience hostage, wouldn’t you have fun with them too? I was in it to take my time anyway. After my announcement and throwing a brave security guard through a glass case, I started looking through them. “Hmm, the diamonds are nice, but I’m really looking for something with more emeralds or Oregon sunstone to make my eyes pop out for people. Ooh, do you have any carbonados?”
They didn’t have anything special for me, unfortunately. Just the boring regular diamonds. Fucking ripoff, that’s all those things are. Sure, people have built hellacious blades out of them, but the price has been artificially inflated. Seriously, people have found more than enough to make diamonds cheaper than they’re sold for. I still pocketed a few decent pieces for later.
I was rewarded for my patience by a man’s butt hitting me in the face. He came flying at the store, hit a column, then spun out. His squooshy buns slapped me right in the part of my body that I typically rank low on the “butt friendly” scale. Still, something was finally going right for me since I ran off from Max, Holly, and Sam.
When I picked myself up, I saw Bulletproof Brian was there to save the day.
“Who dares?” I asked. I wanted to test something. My fist began to glow as energy sheathed it.
“I’m Bulletproof Brian, and I dare!” he said while striking a pose. I drove my fist into his gut. It knocked him up through the ceiling, but he tore the hole wider as he fell through it and landed in front of me, holding his stomach. He was trying to catch his breath, but looked otherwise unhurt. I’ve exploded skulls with that kind of punch in a weaker version of my suit.
“Whoa, we got a big man over here,” I heard from behind me. I whirled to find the blue and gold clad Max Muscles. He punched me in the gut like I hit his buddy, but not hard enough to become an Unhappy Flying Object. It managed to fold up the armor in the stomach region and drove the air out of me. The suit, with its ever-faithful life support functions, forced some air down my breathing hole, but the hit still hurt. Then he grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me into the ceiling. Unlike BB, I made it outside the building and landed on the roof. I had seen Max say something as I did my impression of the Space Shuttle Challenger, but I missed the second part to his combat witticism. Strong fucker, too. Threw me so hard, the barbell fell off my back. I was glad to get outside the building as that was part of my plan. I guess you could say it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
I dropped that hologram and instead opted to become invisible. As they searched for Noman the Barbellian, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko crawled to his car in the parking lot of the building behind the jewelry store. There I swapped costumes.
It was the Missile Patriot who flew to the scene next to help them fight. I landed on the rooftop in front of Max Muscles. “I got here as quickly as I could, citizens. What appears to be the happy-hap, my good bro?”
I improvised my dialogue for handling these guys based on what words felt like they attracted fists toward my mouth as I spoke them.
“Bro, there was this big metal dude, right? Have. You. Seen. Him?”
“I’m afraid not. The Missile Patriot flies forth swiftly to save my fellow Americans, but not swiftly enough this time. May I render assistance unto you, dude, in your just search for truth and a heinous behind to put boots to?”
“Bro, you read my mind,” MM said.
“Then lets get to it!”
“Sure brah, let me take you to my bro Brian. Hey Brian!”
Just like that, I was formally introduced to Generation Flex as we searched high and low for the nonexistent villain. We bonded over this fruitless endeavor and in the end, we agreed to hang and even patrol together. Gee, wherever would a patrol with them take me?
When I pulled up at the Skid Mark Trailer Park, I was soon greeted by a very cross Sam. I guessed she was cross because that’s how she tried to punch me. I grabbed it and flipped her over onto her back, then pulled her to her feet and brushed her off.
“Feel better?” I asked her.
“No.” Then she tried again. I slipped an arm under her arm and behind her neck, holding her in a half nelson.
“That’s no way to treat me. I come bearing good news. And gifts.” I held out my hand to show off a white gold necklace. It had special rings to hold three small diamonds per side as it approached a large ring with ten similarly-sized diamonds set in it, with an inner ring holding a larger diamond. Told you there were a lot of diamonds out there.
Now, Sam has never fit the traditional gender stereotypes, but I would have most people’s attention if I gave them a necklace like that.
“Holly, Max, get out here! Jacob’s back!”
I think the yellow gold emerald earrings for Holly may have been worth more than Sam’s necklace, but that was not due to favoritism. Still, she liked them. Max got a nice fancy black diamond ring.
“Now you can punch someone with style, you see?”
“Alright, what’s the occasion?” Holly asked.
“The occasion, is that I succeeded. When the Missile Patriot patrols with Generation Flex, I will lead them straight to Hephaestus. Those louts will likely run in, guns blazing.”
“They didn’t have guns,” Max commented.
“Try telling them that. They both asked me over and over if I had tickets to the gun show. Anyway, I’ll have them do my bidding, and soon the Glorious People’s Constitutional Republican Aristrocratic, Democratic, and Ochlocratic Monarchy and Fried Chicken Emporium of the Barbellians will destroy Hephaestus!” I finished by throwing my hands into the air and cackling madly. Max quickly joined in. He always loved a good evil cackle. Holly forced a giggle and Sam just crossed her arms and watched the rest with a raised eyebrow.
When we all stopped, she was the one to ruin the mood by asking, “Who?”