Tag Archives: Mecha Human Sloth

Arete in Destruction 9, the Grand Finale

The end is nigh and here I am. But that’s getting ahead of myself. I’d better explain how I reached this apocalyptic time on the Empyre State Building staring down a pissed-off bunch of heroes without any way to fight back.

I had been mostly ready for this endgame when I said I would be. I didn’t intend to drag things out even though I wasn’t completely ready for them. For one thing, I hadn’t come up with some unique counter for Forcelight, Honky Tonk Hero, or Mecha Human Sloth. As the heavy hitters of the group, I’d wanted some specific way to take them down that didn’t involve revealing a certain built-in trump card I’ve been saving up. Never did get myself any allies. Just me, Moai, and Carl.

But that comes later. Let’s start at the beginning of the end.

First, I trashed the Museum of Modern Art. Stole a few valuable pieces for Michelangelo to sell through the improper channels, but I kept one or two with me. I figured it would coax Dame out at last.

I figured right. I woke up to her trying to steal my shit again. Yes, it was Marilyn Monroe on my wall, but it was done by Andy Warhol, not Playboy. The Playboy stuff would be worth more. At least she didn’t touch my Starry Night by Van Gogh the Earless Wonder. When she saw me sit upright, she phased and ran for the wall. I ran after her and sent the signal to her device to render her solid again but it didn’t work. “Found a way out of my reach, have you?”

She was running along the dance floor of the former club for the front door when she became solid again just to answer me. “I guess you aren’t the only one with a mind for gadgets. You should have had two contingency plans!”

There was a thud as she passed by a front counter near the coat check. Dame fell back on the ground with a groan. The canvas she was carrying slid along the floor before stopping.

“How about a man swinging a car battery?” I asked as Carl stepped over her and laid the battery down on her chest. Moai jumped out over the bar and rolled upright, wearing a black ninja outfit. I think he was trying to strike a pose.

“Hey, Moai, take that off. It looks ridiculous. Everyone knows ninjas would have worn something like dark blue to blend in at night if they wore that kind of thing. Damn glad to have you on the job, though.”

I gave him a thumbs up. Now, this was not, as some might suspect, an attempt to foster a rivalry. Moai serving as backup was indeed a legitimate necessity. I’m not sure if he has an ego, but that shit gets in the way of what’s necessary often enough. If I’m fighting a hero who knocks me on my ass, puts a pink tutu on me, dips me in horse manure, he can laugh all he wants as long as I’m the person who walks away from the fight without my head ripped off and shoved up the horse’s ass. Laugh it up, deadhead.

I had Dame in my company, though, so I had to keep the horse asses to a minimum with her around. She’s a lady, you know. She’s like a female knight to British people. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take her bracelet or bangle or whatever you call the mirrored doohickey with the phase technology hidden inside it.

I was hoping to get a hold of this.

For her, it’s a defensive measure. That could get…interesting…if I were to use it that way. Possibly suicidal as well. My physiology, which made me so easy to cling to when Dame was trapped in an ethereal state, wouldn’t react well to it, I think. I knew I could weaponize it, especially if I made copies. I just didn’t have time for that. A regrettable casualty of my need to expedite my plans. Still, it was a good idea for handling Forcelight or Honky Tonk Hero.

At least I’d had time to fix up the Heatflasher. Hell, I improved on it and found a nice way to handle my heat problem.

Moai and Carl got Dame chained down to a chair while I slipped into my armor. Good old chains. I like using them because they’re so much more difficult to get away from than ropes. Luckily, as skilled as she was, Dame wasn’t good enough to wiggle loose of these babies. And, since the Chastity5000 was buy one, get one when I tied up Venus, I had a spare for Dame. Still, she struggled, even tearing at her black bodysuit in places.

“Now calm down, Damey wamey,” I told her. “I’m not going to hurt you. In fact, I technically haven’t hurt you so far. That was Carl. Say hi, Carl.”

Carl raised his hand and gave her a small wave, “Hiya.”

“Thanks Carl. So, Dame, time for the explanation about what’s going on. I promised someone, made a deal actually, that I was going to drop my grudge against you, wouldn’t kill you, wouldn’t pursue you at all, even said you’d be untouchable to me. So far, I have not touched you, nor am I doing this because of a grudge. In fact, this wouldn’t have happened if you had decided to not find me once again to steal back stolen artwork once again. Predictability is not a good quality in thieves. There’s a reason for the phrase ‘thick as thieves’ and it doesn’t involve your bodily figure. Don’t worry. No matter what, you’re going to live. Or at least I have no plans on killing you. You’re just going to be my bait to get Venus and her friends to join the field of battle.”

“Why do you think that matters?”

I played a certain audio clip of Venus’s voice: “It was Dame. She told us all where you were hiding. She and I had some common ground and she gave me a picture of your latest face.”

“You really ought to pick better friends,” I told her, then leaned closer. “You know, you and I could be better friends sometime.”

She headbutted me. It hurt her more than it hurt me, but I think she was trying to make a point about my chances being less than or equal to a punitive flaming underworld afterlife reaching freezing point. I pointed my finger at her, “That was entirely on you and does not constitute me touching or hurting you.”

“Why does that matter?” she groaned.

I turned away from her as I spoke. “Because, so long as I make a deal and try to keep it, then I will try to keep it. At least until something more important comes up or the other party reneges on their part. I like the idea. You see it in fairy tales, you know? A neutral or good person makes a deal with a party, usually a darker force. A sea witch or a voodoo bocor…or is that houngan…either way, a voodoo guy. The hero gets stipulations, something he or she wanted or thought they wanted…good reason to read a contract, by the way…and if they dare break their end of it, there is hell to pay. But I feel I’m monologuing again and I should note that Moai may get a tad homicidal if you actually manage to escape.”

Moai hopped closer to Dame. Via my 360 degree view on the helmet, I could see she’d started to move an elbow further than it should go. Moai dropped a heavy gold chain with an old-fashioned ticking clock around her neck.

“Thanks, Moai, that ought to hold her,” I said with a nod. True, I was facing away, but Moai knew what I meant.

“Won’t matter to Venus. You haven’t been listening at the right doors.”

I didn’t turn. Instead, I raised my arm up so I could point a finger at her over my shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No one’s seen her ever since that bank was blown up, and the rumor is that she didn’t get out of there before the place was given a volatile redecoration. There’s been no word of her from the heroes and no sightings of her on patrol. Nothing in hospitals about someone matching her description. I think your unrequited love interest is dead.”

That didn’t seem right. It actually gave me pause for a moment.

“I doubt that. Heroes are pesky like that, and she’s peskier than normal. She’s got to be alive. Since when do chains and a bomb kill a superhero?”

“Maybe you should ask someone when you get back from sailing down denial.”

“Sailing up the Nile. Moai, right foot.”

Moai got in the way of my view of Dame as he slid a stiletto heel made of cement onto her foot and closed the iron manacle set into the top of it. She had had something metal gripped between her toes. Such a clingy suit allows greater articulation, like hiding tools in unusual places. In this case, hiding something around the foot, and bringing it to bear with the toes.

“Well, either way my dear Dame, they should be informed that you were their source for that raid on me. That means you still make a wonderful hostage for my plan.”

It was the next day when the plan went into action. The Heatflasher appeared once more in the skies over New York and circumcised the Empyre State Building. I crashed it into the observation deck and melted my way through supports in order to tip it to one side. The elevator dinged, then opened to reveal Carl and Moai carrying Dame, a TV camera, and some very important equipment for the ‘Flasher. They dumped Dame, who was now wearing quite a heavy outfit made up of cement shoes, hammer pants stapled together, balls and chains around her wrists, the heavy gold chain and clock around her neck, and a football helmet that wasn’t for a New York team.

Carl then turned and tossed something into the elevator he left, even as panicked civilians crowded past to escape. The doors closed and then a muffled blast blew up past them. The doors didn’t blow out, but they popped out toward us. The same went for other elevators. Might as well have a captive audience for what was about to happen.

With the floor and Dame secured and the guys setting up in what we figured were safe spots, I took to the air again. It wasn’t easy cutting through the building like that. I had to angle things just right so the upper floors, like 20 or something, slid off to crash on the streets and smaller buildings below.

The observatory level was finally open air. I settled the ‘Flasher at one corner of it and cooled my jets. Well, my rockets. And the barrel, too. I had to shut it down long enough for me to slip a little something onto the end of the barrel and tighten it up. Connect some hoses, that sort of thing. When I lit that mother up again, the new section on the end of the barrel glowed a brilliant yellow-white, like the sun.

An invisible heat ray may be one amazing, powerful thing, but I realized that if I was going to do this from atop a building, I’d need some way to keep it from dissipating to a warm breeze against the smaller buildings around. In fact, if I wanted to threaten the whole city, I’d need something like a miniature sun.

Well, the power source, a design from my own dimension, ought to be able to sustain it. If not, we’ll still see a lot of destruction and possibly a city rendered unlivable.

“For all those in attendance and the millions watching at home,” I spoke aloud and turned toward the assembled hostages, a number of whom had their phones out to record video of the occasion, “I have been hounded day after day, month after month, and this has gone on too long. Just think, without heroes coming after me, you’d have had a blown up Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, as opposed to that messy spectacle in the city. What a danger they’ve become to you, your saviors. I’m here today for two reasons. Reason one: I want to make it perfectly clear to everyone that if you escalate against the great and devious Psycho Gecko, then I will take you to a land of hurt that you will not enjoy. Ooh yeah, I’ll tear your soul out and cast it down to an Abaddon of anguish that will make the heavens weep blood in heartrending sympathy for your unending abomination of an existence, and you will know what it’s like to drown in my bloodlust, to starve, to thirst, to pray to whatever deities you hold dearest in life…and not die.”

You could hear a pin drop. Burn the city down? Hell, I just chewed half of it up.

I sat down at the Heatflasher.

“What’s the other reason?” said a shaky voice. I turned to him and cranked up the volume on my suit’s speakers.

“To end this feud of ours, once and for all. Ahahahahaha!”

And that’s when the firing began. The Heatflasher took longer to fire this time, with the extended barrel glowing more yellowish in color. Suddenly, a glowing orange-yellow beam shot was just there out the barrel and poking through several office buildings. When I shifted the aim around, it sliced through streets and cars like they weren’t even there. Fires spread and ash flew. Steam rose as well from flash boiled water. Admittedly, it didn’t spread the heat around quite as well, but as the guy sitting on the machine doing all this, I was grateful for the ingenious bit of gadgetry that was pumping plasma into the landscape rather than all around me.

Boom! There went a meth lab. Sizzle! A butcher’s shop. Scramble! A semi full of eggs. Pop! A popcorn packing plant! When you’re lighting up the cops, the fun never stops.

I stopped firing and turned back around. I saw Carl and Moai getting me on camera. There was a very lucky news show in the city who just realized that the camera stolen while reporting on a cockfighting ring was giving them one hell of an exclusive.

“Hello out there in TV land, viewers. A very special hello to our heroes. Without their constant pressure, I doubt I’d have ever found myself in this position,” I said genially. I was having a good time at least. I got up and held my hand out to the area I’d burned in the distance. “This is fun. This is what I do when a team of heroes chases me day in and day out.” I then guided the camera around toward the people, including the bound Dame. “And these are people who are going to die. Including this little lady here, she’s a thief who knows the heroes a little bit. I don’t know why I brought her along now that I realize it was a busy day, but I figured it would add that special touch and really drive it home that air strikes on the observation deck are not a good idea.”

Yeah, Dame’s value was diminished somewhat by the good turnout, but it was still better than having her free and joining up with the heroes who had an ass-whooping in mind. The more the merrier, anyway.

And while it seemed counterintuitive to make sure the heroes were needed elsewhere but had to come here, that was also nice. Tear them in half using their heroic intentions. Plus, other heroes who have no business interfering will probably be down there instead of up here dealing with the guy who keeps defacing landmarks. I took the whole head off; you can’t argue Lady Liberty wasn’t defaced.

Still, I waited for them. And waited. And got impatient. And jumped back onto the ‘Flasher to burn this city like a disco inferno but Forcelight was there in all her glory to try and catch it. See, this is where something invisible works better than something putting off light. But, to my great delight, even she could hold up only briefly under the onslaught. I saw her duck out of the way, unable to hold back the destructive beam of plasma any longer.

Instead, Honky Tonk Hero swooped down at me from the side and tried to give me an el kabong right to the skull. He got me some, but I rolled with it. Could have sworn I felt things shaking, actually.

Honky Tonk lowered himself right in front of me and grabbed me by the neck. “Someone should have put you down long ago. You should have been taken out back as a child and drowned.”

It’s not like I was going to feel bad about this anyway.

I raised a hand slowly and pointed down for him to see the diamond and mirror bangle of Dame stuck in his pocket. He didn’t know what it was, but he grabbed for it with his other hand. I headbutted him in the eye, then threw a classic Elvis pseudo-martial arts punch to his throat. It got me out of his grip long enough for me to remotely activate the phase device. He dropped it a moment later, but it was too late. With Honky Tonk suddenly insubstantial, the wind was quick to push him away from the building. With the device no longer touching his body, I brought it back, nice and solid.

There was that shaking again, though. I looked over the edge of the building and saw Mecha Human Sloth climbing his way up. Where’s a gorilla when you need one? Oh, wait. I realized he had Gorilla Awesome, Troubleshooter, Mechamoto Musashi, Apollo, and Paveman clinging to his back. He must have been on a sugar rush from marshmallow cleanup duty.

“Okay, I need a volunteer…” I said and drifted off as I turned around. Moai and Carl were filming everything, but the crowd of hostages was gone. In their place was Raggedy Man. He knelt beside Dame, trying to help her out of the chains. I didn’t know how the hell he got up there. I’d torn the roof off. Not for him, just for fun, but still. “Yo, dawgs. Seize him and stuff. You know, if it’s convenient.” Moai followed my finger and went after Raggedy Man, who dove behind a column and disappeared into the shadows cast behind it. Huh. A mystery solved.

Still one massive mystery left: how to take out the giant robot superhero boyfriend mutant human-sloth guy whose girlfriend I apparently killed. I was already behind, though. I almost died from adjective poisoning.

My solution was one I didn’t want to use, as I’ve said before. The grey goo protocol. Not completely grey goo, though. They build themselves like crazy, but they still break down fairly quickly and don’t self repair. There’s a limit, in other words. I pulled out syringes of nanites and jabbed them into myself. As many as I could, save for one last one. Just in case.

I sent a signal to the first ones to link to me. It activated a program that involved spreading the activation to the others inside me. They then forced themselves out of me any way they could. Nose, mouth, ears, skin pores. They moved under my suit toward my right hand. I unsealed the glove and slipped it off. Shimmery grey liquid covered my hand and bulked up as more nanites joined those assembled. My hand formed into a liquid metal claw.

I looked for Mecha Human Sloth again. He was right under the edge where the Heatflasher rested. He grabbed it with one claw and pulled himself up with the other, sending my machine of mass destruction plummeting. He jumped and did a forward flip, landing on his feet and letting the ground-based heroes off. Gorilla Awesome and Troubleshooter had separated from him when he was in midair. Awesome hovered, but Troubleshooter lowered herself to the ground.

Couldn’t let them all come after me at once. I gave Human Sloth the “come here” motion with my nanite-covered hand.

“Alright, big fellow, let’s have us a little revenge versus wrath, shall we?”

He roared and charged. I cackled and jumped. My claw dug into him like he wasn’t even there. There was no armor. There was no flesh underneath. Just me hanging onto his collar, elbow deep in his chest. “Wait a minute, spread to the sides, there’s something I want,” I said to myself. The nanites dispersed, eating through Mecha Human Sloth. I grabbed a souvenir. When I pulled my hand out, his giant, inhuman heart came with it.

As he fell, though, I was greeted by a pretty horrible sight. Carl was held above the floor by his pants and underwear by one of Troubleshooter’s backpack waldo arms at an angle that showed his ass. There was no sign of Moai, but Gorilla Awesome was braced against the edge holding something up by his grappling hook.

Oh, and there were more heroes standing there. Black Raptor. Bright Star. Miss Tycism. Venus. Well. Shit.

“Tricky tricky heroes. My compliments on it, but it’s my turn,” I told them all, then vanished. They just stood there, holding their line.

That didn’t seem right. I projected bursts of light and four more of me stepping out of the explosions, laughing and holding swords.

No reaction.

Invisible, I walked right up to Miss Tycism and poked my hand through her. Hologram. Raptor was right next to her, so I tested him too. Turns out Raptor was not right next to her. I looked up and saw Troubleshooter looking harried and trying to program something on a keyboard attached to her multi-purpose backpack that just sat there on its tripod legs, trying to make my own eyes lie to me.

When I reappeared, it was right behind her, tearing at what I thought looked like important cables. I was right. Her backpack’s various tools and arms and gadgets stopped their moving, their whirling, their whizzing, and even their whirring.

Troubleshooter gave me a look full of incredulous shit when she realized I had her figured and helpless within arms reach. I’d have acted on it, but something kicked me from behind and nearly sent me off the building.

The cameras revealed a most unwelcome sight. The holograms were gone alright. All except for Venus. She was too busy trying to axe kick my neck to worry about how someone said she was dead.

I was off balance from her initial surprise, but I blocked that. Vulnerable position to be in, and I don’t just mean her and the axe kick. Mechamoto and Apollo crowded in while Paveman held Carl in a bear hug. I grabbed Venus and held her between myself and Mechamoto. Apollo’s hands gripped me from behind. Rather than start some slashfic material here, they smashed in my visor and reached in. He tore my helmet off me. I instinctively cranked the jumper in my left leg up and drove my foot back at crotch level. My tibia snapped.

I grabbed a fish stink grenade hanging off my belt and swiped aside Mechamoto’s sword as he circled and tried to find a way to more easily strike me without Venus in our way. He was distracted as a hole in the floor opened up under Paveman, causing Carl and Paveman to fall to the next floor down.

While he wasn’t focused on me, I armed the fish and chucked it at his head. He noticed it at the last minute and brought his sword up. It burst just as it touched his blade, enveloping him in a horrible stink.

I dragged Venus by her still-raised leg back toward me and parallel to the edge of the skyscraper to give me room. With my free hand, she and I traded and blocked blows, at least until I charged it up. Then I took a step in her direction and dumped her on the ground.

This felt familiar to me. I stepped forward and released Venus to the ground, but she wasn’t Venus anymore.

She was the woman I’d gotten involved with back on my world. We had argued, and that turned into an actual, physical fight. She didn’t want me to blow up the Dimensional Bomb, of all things. I grabbed her by the throat. A blade came out at me from nowhere, but I backhanded it. The energy built up in my glove released through the impact and snapped the blade. I used that hand to pummel her face again and again. She couldn’t understand either. None of them could. For them, it was a fight to be first if humanity wouldn’t allow them to be equals. I just hated this stupid world for all it had done to me.

“There is no place for me. They made me and refused to take responsibility for me. I tried to get over what I did, but none of them ever let me leave it behind. I was the government’s mistake, the Justice Rangers’ foe, the people’s great fear of us writ large. I’m done with their system and all their pettiness.”

I stood and pointed behind me. “I’d rather have my own system that means using this D-Bomb and taking us all out than see these hypocrites live. It’s on a strict timer, too. As soon as it drops to 0, that’s it.”

She kipped up, jumped, wrapped her legs around my neck, then back flipped. Where the fuck did she learn to do that? I fell to the ground and something cracked in my neck with a great pain. I lost feeling in everything below my neck as I settled in an odd position. Didn’t know my head could turn that far under the rest of my body. Couldn’t see anything though. Where the hell was I?

People talked nearby, a pair of voices, male and female.

“You alright?”

“Yeah.”

“I saw his eyes. It’s like he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

“I know. There is no bomb, so he’s talking about things that aren’t there. He’s talking in a weird accent, too.”

Something rolled me over. A gorilla. It talked. “He’s still alive, but I would be careful of moving him. My initial prognosis, and I’m not a medical doctor mind you, is that he has broken a cervical vertebra,” he said.

“No, we’re not,” one of the voices, a female, said to nobody in particular. “I don’t care, Gunman. Don’t start that Lone Gunman crap with me either. He’s out of the fight. I don’t care how big a rifle it is, I’m not going to let you shoot his heart out and watch him die.”

More people seemed to be showing up as the gorilla examined me. I had some odd urge to tell him to get his paws off me because he was damned and dirty.

One of these strange people climbed out of the floor, “They’re down there somewhere. Waiting to try and save him, I reckon. What, we won this one?”

The gorilla was pushed aside by a man made of marble who hauled on my arm, got underneath it, and lifted me to my feet. I still didn’t have that good of a view because of how my head drooped over. “I’m with Lone Gunman on this one. Take the shot,” said my manhandler.

“No!” ordered a glowing woman in white and black tights as she landed. “We can’t do that.”

“Why, because we’re better than that? He killed your father!” Apollo said with voice raised. Sensitive to that sort of thing?

“Yes, I know there’s nothing most of us would love to do more right now than give him an execution, but we can’t just yet. You hear me, Gunman? Stand down.”

Venus spoke up. “You can’t be serious Aneta.” Right, Forcelight’s civilian name.

“I am.”

“About killing him?” Venus questioned the team’s powerhouse.

“Your boyfriend looks like a flock of vultures ate him for a buffet. He’s goo and bones! You were willing to stand there when that happened to stop him, but you won’t go the rest of the way? Venus, after everything he’s done, why wouldn’t you kill him?” Forcelight made her case for my death.

“Because as bad as this all is, as much as I want to set him on fire and beat his head in with a brick, I’m not going to start acting just like him! You really want to do things his way? If so, then he’s your future.”

There was silence. This was all good and dramatic, but I still couldn’t see shit.

“Moot point at the moment, anyway. Is he unconscious?”

“Paralyzed.”

Marble hands grabbed my head and nodded it for me.

“Good. You know I’ve been meeting with that Good Doctor man. I figured I’d at least hear what he has to claim about me. If it’s a trick, he tricked Gecko there too. He warned me about doing anything rash if we got our hands on him.”

The man holding me up, whose name was just on the tip of my tongue, gave an exasperated sigh. “Why?”

“Because whatever powered that laser, and I don’t know how stable it is, but whatever did that and didn’t show any signs of running low, he’s got one in his chest. The Doctor’s seen it in there. That’s why we never found a reactor or a battery. If Gunman puts holes in him, he might get it too. If we start doing things to him, that thing might go up and take this whole building with it, at least.”

“More like the whole block,” said Troubleshooter.

At least if Doc’s ratting me out, he’s saying things that are keeping these assholes from killing me. Trust me, the great and devious Psycho Gecko makes damn sure his personal reactor isn’t going up the first time I crack my head.

Yeah, I’m back from Lala land, aka the land that time forgot and would prefer to not think about, and activating the transmitter and receivers I’d set up for just this situation once upon a time. We’re up to that point I mentioned earlier, about facing off against heroes with no way to fight back. My present tense. So I can feel again and move again. The question is how do I move out of here?

“Y’all need to shut up already,” says Raggedy Man as he approaches with the phase bangle in his hand. “Someone’s got you on camera right now. Everyone watching the news just heard everything you said about executing a guy!”

Times like these, I love my minions.

Raggedy Man lifts my other arm to take the weight off Apollo. “And for God’s sake, he broke his neck and you’re dancing him around like a puppet? Do you know what people think of you right now?”

My arm shoots out, not quite as naturally as it normally would, and grabs the bangle while I stumble forward out of the grasp of the surprised heroes. “Yeah, they think the camera adds 10 lbs…in the testicles. Especially you, Venus.”

“Another trick,” one of them says accusingly. If only they knew. Hell, I’d rather they didn’t. I’d much rather I knew what I was about to do, because my options for escape look nonexistent. Except if I try the unthinkable. Ah hell, it’s worked for me so far.

I activate the phase mechanism and everything loses its color, its substance. It’s like a drawing that the artist hasn’t colored in. I look down to see what all it had done to my armor and find it warping as my body expands, pushing out against it. Adverse reaction to my current state and the power core in my chest that’s filling me with energy now. Fist-sized holes appear in my armor, but do nothing to hurt me or even move me. I glance back along their trajectories to a lower skyscraper. Lone Gunman, the lost lil Holdout. He finally gets his shot, but I’m immune to bullets when it happens.

Defiant, I tear at the holes, pulling the chest portion of my armor apart. Looking down at my chest, I see the reactor isn’t fully phased. It pumps energy along my bio-technological nerves. My brain, my cybernetic enhancements, my armor. They connect to everything my power works on.

I’m pretty much an energy being. The generator lost containment and is filling my ethereal form with energy, enough that I maintain cohesion and even tear through my own armor with ease. The heroes grow smaller and smaller. Forcelight raises her non-smoking arm, the one that isn’t hanging limp by her side, and starts concentrating light to try and hit me or shoot me. I throw a punch at her and she releases early to try and meet it.

She goes flying.

Cool as fuck.

Hey, that just halted my growth for a moment, but I’m back to expanding now. Anyone else got the image of a balloon filled to bursting in their heads right about now?

I hope Moai and Carl are running like hell by now. I turn and tiptoe to a support beam that I’d sheared off above my head. It’s now significantly below that. No need to pay attention to the puny heroes any more. They are no threat.

There’s a more important threat I have to deal with. I need to lose a lot of energy in a hurry, then deactivate this device. I raise my arm up and bring my fist down with everything I have on the support that runs deeper into the building.

The floor, and my size, fall sharply. So do the next floor and the next after that, and so on. There’s dust everywhere and I’m lost in the middle of the collapse, falling and landing and getting landed on. I can’t see or hear anyone else, but I feel like I’m about the right size.

No way am I changing back right now, but –

***Connection lost. Archiving transmission. Preparing transfer. Transfer complete.***

***Waiting for connection***

 

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Two Tickets to Paradise 11

I’m going to try and relay what happened after my capture to you and it’s going to take awhile. Asses were kicked and feelings were hurt, but keep calm and read on. And for now, we’ll put Polonius and his art behind a tapestry. I swear I use no art at all.

I spent a great deal of that night unwell. That I am mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity; and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. I am a foolish figure. Mad let us grant me then. The cell reminded me too much of my childhood. It was not a good childhood. There were whips and chains, but not the good kind. It had too many rooms like the one I was in, full of too many men like the ones keeping me in that cell. I was mad, and when I say mad, do not mistake me for being angry. Indeed, I was happy. Why wouldn’t I be? I knew the cause of this effect, or rather say, the cause of this defect, for this effect defective comes by cause. I had been worried when my enemies were the shadows of everyone around me. Knowing that the world was against me made things easier. I could deal with that. Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.

I knew who my enemies were and I knew a lot about what they could do. I realized in that moment that to break the Shieldwall, I would need to know not what they could do but who they were. Seeing as I was bound, that revelation would have to go on the backburner.

First is first, to put it my accustomed way. Escape. I was never a good hacker. Give me the physical touch of a computer and I can make it bend and stretch in ways its designer never meant, but programming language does not come so easily to me. That’s not how I handle things. If Ouroboros left everything as unsecured as your average criminal then that wouldn’t be an issue, but he’s smart and he’s been dealing with Yakuza and their otaku. End result, I couldn’t get out ahead of time.

I wanted to. I felt like a tiger in a cage, except with more imbeciles walking by to taunt me. At least tigers have a chance to get back at whatever drunk guy jumps into the enclosure.

Shokushu and Suishou stopped by when the Yakuza showed up. They looked tipsy. Shokushu had his tie around his head and pressed his ass against the door/window. I was able to figure that out from the files I could access.

No one bothered to pay a visit from the Columbians except for Terribilis, who chatted with a young man in tactical gear that I realized was the man Ouroboros had been talking to. I made the job easy on him. He didn’t have to hunt me down at all. I couldn’t match the guy up in the database. I checked for villains or mercenaries with the sort of wide-brimmed hat he tipped my way, but I had no luck. He had a bandana pulled up over the bottom half of his face.

All that and he didn’t realize the man next to him in the bright yellow power armor wasn’t the real Terribilis. I saw the heroes take him down. That armor put up a decent fight before Troubleshooter got the power drain net on him and Forcelight cracked it open at the entry seam.

When they were done whispering between themselves, the shooter knocked on the door and said, “You behave in that cage now or I’ll have to put you down,” he made a motion with his hand and suddenly his rifle appeared, like a prestidigitator’s trick, “I’d put you down for free, but I’d rather get paid for you.” He backed up a step, then pointed it through the glass at me.

He wouldn’t, unless he wanted to die. If the heroes walk in and see me dead, they know automatically they’ve been set up. That’s why they have all tolerated me to the degree that they have so far, save for the Cartel’s attempt to take me out when I was thought to be a turncoat. Or maybe that was part of a plan of theirs.

Either way, the shooter stowed his gun nowhere and they left me alone, leaving me with nothing to do but stare at the exceptional rear of the man who shot me as he walked away. In all seriousness, dat ass.

That was my night, being gawked at people who should have felt nothing but gratitude at surviving my presence. It took a long time to bring us to night. A long time that I spent worming my way through whatever I could find. Casino security was right out. Ouroboros had actually invested in decent network security. Damn Yakuza otakus. Or is it otaku for plural as well? It may be one of those words that doesn’t change between the singular and plural form, like The Last Samurai, that movie where that white guy rode into battle with the last of the samurai.

At 8 o’clock, a crowd of O-sec gathered outside my window which retracted into the ceiling. Two of them trained flamethrowers on me while more stepped forward to latch chains onto my restraints. Someone pulled ahead too far as we stepped onto the floor, causing me to fall. Real original, guys.

As soon as I saw the heroes assembled, I gave Venus a call and muted my exterior speakers. I saw her turn away before answering with a whisper that only the heroes and I could hear. “Not now, Gecko, we’re in the middle of capturing you.”

“Where are you, by the Burger King?”

“We’re at the casino.”

“This is no time for slot machines, hero. Wait a sec, the casino? There’s not some version of me in a crappy knockoff costume around, is there?”

“Yesss,” she drew the word out, glancing first at a wall where wind blew the leaves of a rubber plant as passed, then back to me.

“You know that’s a trap, right? They found out about our deal and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat. I-…hold up. Ok, cops are here, got to go, bye.”

I hung up, having been led to the middle of the casino’s floor. Table games and ropes had been cleared all around me.

“If it isn’t too much trouble, we’re taking your new fountain ornamentation as well,” said Forcelight as she stepped forward. “How do we know this,” she pointed at me, “is the real deal.”

Venus in particular looked expectant of the answer. Torrent stepped up behind me and kicked me in the back of the knee. I didn’t go down the first time. “Say something, Gecko.” The second time, I fell to my knees.

I turned around partially to look at him, then back to the heroes, then to the Cartel’s members specifically, then to Forcelight, and spoke, “Lo siento, pero no soy el hombre que busca. ¿Dónde estoy?”

“What is this, Ouroboros?”

“It’s a lie, that’s what it is!” said that pockmarked face man from the Columbians. “That’s Psycho Gecko, I know it.” He stuck one finger out and it began to glow purple. He thrust it toward me and the purple glow flew threw the air toward me to be stopped by Forcelight, who had taken to floating. The others in the Cartel didn’t take kindly to this. They drew their guns, prompting everybody else with guns or powers to get them ready to go.

“Shieldwall together!” Venus called as they began to move toward me. My heroes.

Forcelight and Ouroboros approached me ahead of everyone for an emergency negotiation. “¿Quiénes son estas personas?” I cut them off. I’m no expert in Spanish, but it was one of the languages I considered adopting when I landed in this universe. Learning new languages is somewhat like learning a new way to think. My trip to the South may be somewhat less stereotypical than I expected, but most people draw the line at speaking common language of the country.

What gave me away was a ringing noise coming out over the comms, the source of which was a cluster of Troubleshooter, Gorilla Awesome, and Venus, with the trio focusing on Venus’s earpiece.

You ever get that feeling like you created all your own demons and they’re about to tear you to pieces? Me neither. At the time, I hoped I wouldn’t die there because of what I’ve mentioned before, about awesome tombstones. I didn’t want mine to read “Psycho Gecko, in hell he’ll dine, thanks to *69”. Or to exist, really. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t want to die.

Forcelight put her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll take him. And the rest of you. Lay down your weapons and put your hands on your heads.”

Ouroboros was back in the midst of his men one enhanced strength backflip later. “I think not, Forcelight.” He began to speak into an earpiece when that gunman in tactical gear held a gun to his head.

“I think so,” he pulled off the mask, revealing the former Holdout, now the Lone Gunman. Ah ha! The ass never lies. Pockmark of the Columbians began to laugh and even that nameless guy from the Yakuza cracked a smile, at least until Terribilis trained his rifle and minigun on them, respectively. Those smiles died a quick death. One of them had to go: the smiles or their owners.

I had a chance to smile as the effects of Ouroboros’s few commands were followed by men in the security office. I broke the little standoff going on with my words, “By the way, whoever sets me free gets to survive.” I think everybody laughed at that.

The casino floor itself had little in the way of static defenses by its very design. Customers don’t want to see sentry turrets and mines and such defenses shouldn’t be within the range of stumbling drunks. Funny thing is, those networks stayed off most of the time. I felt them come online below me and found out they weren’t as well protected because of their rare use. It was that surprise Ouroboros mentioned if the fight came into the casino proper. Let this be a lesson to those who cross a man improper.

The floor shook beneath me, both indicating incoming firepower and sending pleasant vibrations through my crotch. The floor opened. Shieldwall was scattered around the room as the strongroom emerged. I fell right on top of it. The vault, complete with automated guns. They were set to recognize the security badges of casino staff and higher ups like Torrent and Ouroboros. I didn’t want to play favorites.

In control of their IFF, I closed my eyes and targeted anyone not me. When I fired, the fighting started. Heroes versus villains. Gangs versus gangs. Like a police raid on a NAMBLA meeting, this was where you separate the men from the boys.

They were leaving me alone in all the chaos, too. Everyone had better things to do than worry about me. I was all chained up and on my knees. I wasn’t eager to remain that way, though. Machine guns and lasers turned inward and took aim. While I don’t have a motif or a theme, which would be awesome you know, I felt this epic battle deserved some epic tunes. Trust me, you ever have a huge fight with four large groups of people who hate your guts, you’re going to want to have an awesome soundtrack too. Forget the imprisonment, it was more agonizing to pick out the song. I went with “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night.

Not as hard hitting as what I normally go for in battle, but a song I felt very fitting for my emergence into the fray. It sounded from the sound system and over the Shieldwall frequency, leaving my enemies barely able to hear their teammates or potential dangers in combat.

I threw off the blasted shackles and chains, then stood up, proclaiming, “Now it’s time to tear off your own asses and BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM!” Yep, it sounded much better with that emphasis on it. Right after that, a strong explosion hit the door of the vault, causing the forcefield over it to blink out for a moment before it was restored. I nearly fell on my ass but recovered my balance and figured I’d watch some of the festivities until somebody stepped up to get stepped on.

Shokushu’s tentacles whipped at the Honky Tonk Hero while Suishou threw his body in chunks at Paveman, knocking off pieces of the craggy bastard. The villainous pair fought well together. One would occasionally lend a tentacle or a few shards to keep their respective opponent off-balance. The Street Artist left swipes of paint in the air that he used to deflect bullets and knock enemies away. He spotted Troubleshooter and built up a large cloud, but she realized she was in danger and fired that kinetic weapon she introduced me to the other day. It dispersed the paint and left the Artist skidding along the floor on his back. With lights destroyed, Raggedy Man appeared in the shadows near the roof with an Ouroboros security officer in his hands. He disappeared again, leaving the guard to fall with a scream from on high. Torrent threw rival gang members at the giant Shieldwall robot, his body absorbing kinetic energy and increasing his strength. Forcelight flew into him and the pair stumbled into the empty all-you-can-eat buffet, trading blows beyond the ability of mortal men. Scythe-Skater and Gorilla Awesome traded blows. Her weapon of choice was her scythe. His was a slot machine. Pockmark dueled with Lone Gunman. He took his own men as human shields, but they were shot out from in front of him. Raggedy Man disappeared and reappeared throughout the scene. He drove steel-toed boots into the nameless Yakuza guy. The man with no name deflected the kick and drove his open palm into where Raggedy Man’s face was before he disappeared. Bright Star was bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the eye. Miss Tycism’s green shield deflected Cartel gunshots as she knelt beside him. Venus hurried over and jabbed Bright Star with something. A syringe full of familiar fluid. Seconds later, his bleeding had stopped and his eye was regrown.

My nanites. I was about to jump down and engage Venus for her supply of nanites, but checking my rear revealed the reappearance of the armor thief. He looked down at his hands. Must be power issues. I left an illusion behind that I was still watching the battle over the side. He approached, thinking he had the element of surprise. I circled around behind him. I jumped, locked my legs around his neck, and flipped backward to introduce him to the elements iron and carbon. The helmet rang as it hit the steel on top of the vault. I took advantage of his stunned state and unlocked the helmet. I pulled it off to reveal that the faker was… Old Man Wilkins?!

That’s right, and he’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this meddling supervillain and his Moai.

Actually, it was a teenager with lightning flashing in his eyes. Red White Blue Kid. I hit him in the head with the helmet. After a smack, he raised his hands, slowly charged the gloves and creating a sheathe of energy around them. I tossed the helmet into a melee below that was set ablaze by an O-Sec flamethrower guard. I charged my gloves all the way. I caught the Kid’s laughable attempts to strike back, overpowering his sheathe and causing to backfire. The bones of his hands and wrist snapped and burned, though much of the energy was dissipated into the steel around the vault as I pinned his wrists to it in the same move.

Before I could take advantage of that state, Ouroboros joined us on the vault. Bloodstained ivory daggers whirled through the air. I kicked at him, but he drove one into my leg. Normally a knife wouldn’t penetrate. Normally, I’m not being stabbed by a guy with twice human strength. I backed away and put pressure on my leg while hoping the last guy he stabbed with that didn’t have herpes. Come on, baby, I got it fighting a supervillain, I swear!

He approached over the Kid, who moaned and shifted. Ouroboros looked down and seemed shocked by the teen in my armor. It gave me an opening and time to start charging my gloves again. I grabbed for his wrist but he spun smoothly out of the way with his blades gliding over the metal of my torso armor impotently. So much for my opening. I raised an illusion of myself still standing there as I dropped to my knees. He learned it was fake when his blade found the illusion’s throat but I had opened up my hand like I was going for a karate chop. Except I drove it fingers first into his belly with all the strength of myself and my armor. His armor and skin gave way. I stood, reaching up inside his body until I found that traitorous heart and tore it out. Ouroboros gawked at me and his little knives fell from his hands. I wrapped my fingers around it and punched him in the mouth with that hand. I left his heart in among the broken teeth, grabbed the top of his head and under his chin, and mashed his mouth open and shut a few times. Finally, I activated the jump enhancers, bent my legs, and gave him a tremendous uppercut to the jaw knocked him over the crowd.

Undying dragon my ass.

I looked over to see the Kid crawling over the side of the vault to escape. Uh uh uh. I dragged him back by the foot and flipped him over. He leaned up. I popped him in the nose. “Now then, let’s have none of that nanite bullshit from you too. The lesson needs to be learned that I kill heroes dead. D-E-Eye of Horus-Squiggly line-Norse Rune-D. Dead!” I grabbed his tongue and his leg and tossed him high into the air. At least a Wookie in height. I jumped after him and, thanks to my closer proximity, got a good view of a rogue RPG blowing a hole in the roof. I caught the Kid with my feet on his armpits and rode his inverted body down on top of the vault. When he landed, it was on his head with all of his and my weight.

But hey, they can always put his brain back together once they’re finished scouring his colon for all the pieces.

I felt it was about time to get this baby opened and get myself some sweet immortality now that I had proven myself King of the Hill. I dropped my flat, propane-selling ass to the ground in front of the door to the thing. A computer panel nearby was active. Ahah! It only took a few minutes of contact to get at this thing. Hacking? No no no. This thing was part of my nervous system. The door’s forcefield deactivated, internal alarms turned off, and the door swung open, revealing the contents to me. Gold bars. Bricks of cash. Gadgets. It was all brightly lit by the fluorescent lighting making up the entirety of the ceiling.

I ran in and found my way to a glass case with what appeared to be an ordinary stick. I busted the case and snatched it up eagerly. “Ok, I wish that gold was chocolate milk. I wish the White House was pained pink. I wish to be…immortal!”

I expected something dramatic to happen, but I had nothing. “I wish this thing would give me a sign it is working.”

No such sign. I hit it. I tried looking for an On switch. I was holding it in the same hand I ungloved to get in the vault, so it wasn’t the skin contact. I tried magic words after that. Hocus Pocus. Aveda Kedavra. Magical source, mystic force! Klaatu barada nikto. Magic missile. Shazam! The door slamming shut interrupted my attempts. I couldn’t maintain the connection to anything outside the vault after that, not even whatever system controlled the vault itself.

And a half hour later, I still hadn’t gotten it open. I couldn’t wish it open. There was no interior panel to bond with. Even the weapons laying around were useless. They were broken or had no power cells. There was a missile launcher that could have done the job, but it was missing vital parts of ordinance and firing mechanisms. Also, I was in an enclosed space with it. I even tried throwing gold bars at it because why not? They broke apart. Fakes. At least I had time to dress the stab wound to my thigh from the fight where I’d killed Ouroboros.

“Well, well, it looks like you got in my vault after all, Gecko,” said Ouroboros over an intercom.

“Great, now I’m hearing voices again.”

“Not at all. I enjoyed watching your fights from my panic room. My double provided a lot of insight into how I should fight you. It shouldn’t come to that, Gecko. Not with the heroes having just wiped the floor with the Yakuza and Columbians. My men withdrew and it seems my contingency plan worked after all. I still have something the heroes want thanks to your blatant interest in my vault. Here, let me get them on the line. Heroes! Over here! I need you to find the intercom on the vault to speak to me. Actually, I don’t, Gecko, I just want you to hear us talk.”

“When I’m through with you, there won’t be a Paradise City to rule,” I yelled. I admit, it sounded ineffectual to say.

“What’s your angle, Ouroboros? How did you survive?” said Forcelight.

“I survived in the luxury of my panic room. Inside this particular room is someone else you are looking for. You’ve done me a good turn by putting my rivals down, but I still need an agreement. If you agree to leave tonight, you’ll get Psycho Gecko, who is conveniently trapped beyond this door.”

“Deal. We’ll get him to Marscow Prison in Kingscrow as soon as we get him out of here.”

“Hey! You can’t do that! I’m too important to myself to be sent to prison!”

“They can’t hear you, Gecko. Try your intercom.”

“Thank you, motherfucker,” I said, feeling all Samuel L. Jackson up in this beast. I pressed the button, “You can’t send me to jail! I’m too homicidal. There’ll be no survivors! Besides, don’t I get a trial?”

“The prison is better suited to hold you until we get to that trial.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Just drop me in jail with Max and Doc. By the way, do you visit your dad in prison any?”

“My dad is dead. It’s- stop. Just stop.”

“What? I hit a touchy subject.”

“Just shut up. There are no mind games left to play. We’re taking you in as soon as Ouroboros opens up.”

The O-man cut in himself now, “The system has been corrupted. I can’t control he door remotely anymore. I’m afraid you will have to find a way in on your own, heroes. Pardon me if I do not wish to come down there in person and provide assistance.”

“The panel has an axe embedded in it. We’ll find a way to get in. You just sit tight in your hidey hole and play nice,” Forcelight spoke with a note of irritation in her voice.

My plan was to get some of these weapons laying around to work right. Mix and match them to shoot my way out if needed. I started gathering up piles of the junk.

“You alright, Gecko? You’re not running out of air in there, are you?” said Venus over the intercom.

I considered not even answering her. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams, but it’s nice to hear you still care, Boopsie. What do you think, are you going to stop by and visit me in jail? Maybe we could arrange a conjugal visit.”

She responded with laughter that went on so long that she stopped holding down the button. When she next spoke to me, she had taken time to get herself under control, “Gecko, you are as appealing to me sexually as your name, and twice as slimy. I don’t care about being kind. Not to you and not after all you’ve done. I just want to see you locked up with nowhere to go for the rest of your natural life. I would actually prefer to see you bound in a nutshell, you nut, but you can find a way to be annoying while folding the prison laundry for all I care.”

These damn intercoms won’t let me interrupt, but eventually I get to have my say to play with her brain matter, “Then our monarchs and outstretched heroes are the beggars’ shadows. In court, I don’t expect you’ll look good having hunted me so maliciously. Your team either, but especially you, though. Is it justice when you hunt me just because of your boyfriend? How many greater threats have gone unattended to because of this obsession?”

It was Forcelight who spoke, “Venus has no conflict of interest. It’s not like you killed her boyfriend. Thanks to wonderful new life support and body repair technology that is soon to be patented by Long Life, he’s still alive and can’t wait till he’s put together completely and we can make him look less like a robot.”

“I held his shattered skull.”

A distorted electronic voice answered me next, “You had a few pieces. There was enough left of me to save. Thank you for the nanomachine technology, by the way. We adapted it to work on everyone if need be. Stealing from you is going to make the world a much better place when we begin mass production.” The giant robot, aka The Human Sloth. No. He’s Mecha Human Sloth now. He’s half the half-man he used to be.

“That’s not…well oh yeah? I thought your ass already had enough mass,” I wasn’t going to finish that sentence saying it wasn’t right.

Next up was Troubleshooter, “And your armor will provide great protection and strength enhancement for us and law enforcement as soon as I reverse engineer it.”

“Don’t come in here! I have a magical wishing stick! I’ll zap you to pieces if you try and get me!”

Raggedy Man responded, “I may have neglected to mention that only certain types of people can use that. I neglected it because it’s obvious you are a bad penny and no way would it allow you to wish for so much as a good penny. Thanks for getting it back for us, though.”

“I’m afraid he’s right on that one, Gecko. That thing was useless to me. That’s why I left it in the vault when I moved the rest of my valuables out. Thank you for making it obvious you wanted in there and then taking so long to come back,” said Ouroboros.

Next up was Black Raptor, “You’ve brought all your enemies together against you. You didn’t break us. You just made us even more committed to fighting people like you as a team. Even your plans here backfired on you. You can’t beat us. You can’t escape us. Your capekiller allies are in prison and your pet statue is on his way to Kingscrow now. We have your equipment. We ruined your reputation. You deserve everything you’re about to get. No, you deserve more. But you’ll settle for facing justice. When we swing this thing open, though, I hope you try to fight. We’ll try not to kill you, Psycho Gecko, but no matter what, you don’t walk away today.”

I really needed to get to work anyway so I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how long they’d be pounding away at the door and my full concentration was required on the broken pieces of scraps I’d been left with, that’s all. I could have had a brilliant response if I’d wanted to. Honestly.

It took them quite a long time, in fact. Despite all the pounding and tearing, I was able to accomplish about what I needed. I had to get this monstrosity into firing shape and scour the remains of broken gear for a power source, but I got it. I was not giving up the one I use for my suit. I need that one.

“Yo, anybody out there. Y’all almost in?” I questioned the intercom.

“Very nearly in, Gecko,” Forcelight said, “Are you going to make us this difficult on yourself?”

“I just had a few words to say,” spoke softly. It was at this point that I began to plagiarize a song called “If I Burn” because “I don’t care. Maybe I’m afraid, but still I swear. You could take my life with conscience clear, but you should still hear that if I burn, you will see the fire in your mind when you sleep and if I rise up in smoke around your eyes, you’ll know it’s mean. And the rain won’t wash away the ashes underneath your nails today. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, because if I burn, so will you.”

If I failed, I figured they’d be a badass note to go out on. If I succeeded, they’d be an integral part of the plan.

I took my position as they picked up the pace outside. I had a plan to go out in a blaze of glory, they’d think. After ten minutes, I heard the door give one last groan. Then it was yanked loose and tossed to the side by Forcelight and the robot that I realized was Mecha Human Sloth. The pair barely knew what almost hit them. It was, specifically, an old missile from the old missile launcher.

My rideable rocket lived again, just without any sorts of controls. I got up to speed quickly, zipping past heroes prepared for a fight or an escape on foot. Even Forcelight couldn’t keep up and losing track of me at that point meant escape. They would also find that their tricky little Wishing Stick was nothing but a pair of broken Wishing Twigs tossed in a corner at this point.

It was all a close call, but I was finally free.

I was so ecstatic that I shook a little on my scooter ride out of the city. I had to find where they towed my SUV to and raid it, but I got the blogging device back and my Minstrel Cycle. Let them search Paradise City a few more days. I have a new destination in mind.

Kingscrow, home of Marscow Prison, currently occupied by the Good Doctor, Mix N’ Max, and soon to have Moai in it as well. I think I’ll stop by, break out my acquaintances, and work on a more solid plan for tearing Shieldwall apart.

Don’t think that this is the last I’ve seen of Ouroboros, either. On my drive out, I noticed him calling in to the villain pirate radio station, Outlaw X. They played a request from him to me. Care to take a guess what he wanted in my honor? “The Show Must Go On,” by Three Dog Night.

Douche.

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