Tag Archives: Mix N’ Max

Down With A Sickness 6

Next

Previous

Yeah, this compartmentalization thing is done. As of now, Master Academy, Cape Diem, and Ricca are sharing resources. Maybe there are more moles. Me, I’m a risktaker like that. But I don’t think we have too many risks left to worry about. That long list of cities infected with this disease, those were some of the most populous cities on Earth. And my city, but I think they targeted us special. That’s why we were first. Don’t I just feel special?

We had a lot of things to do, including a bit of brainstorming while we dealt with the collar situation. We’d brought back Psychsaur and Max. It was a big happy reunion, except we had to figure out what happened.

Max and Psychsaur were both taken unaware, the collars slipped around their necks. And then they just couldn’t do what they do. Funhouse carried them through the portals. Titan sent a team to India to see about this other portal, by the way. Master Academy’s people have formally arrested the teen who worked with Funhouse too, figuring out what he knows and how much he had to do with it. He was the next logical choice. Besides, they’re heroes. They won’t be too rough on the boy.

Funhouse had transportation and fuel waiting. He didn’t have to stop until he got to that base. Venus went over some of the files taken from the base, but no other doomsday plans came to mind, so I sent it over to Dr. Creeper to have the Institute check it out.

It wasn’t much of a debriefing. I think Max got a longer one from Holly and Sam. But it led into a couple more things that needed doing. Now that we’d confirmed the power loss was linked to the collars, we needed to experiment with them. That’s why we gathered in the Institute of Science’s medical wing. We’d be able to scan the brain and the whole rest of a person’s anatomy under the influence of the collar, figure out what was going on.

Because here’s the thing… there isn’t supposed to be a way to do this. People have figured out workaround to counteract individual powers, if possible. They work too differently. That’s why they have to do stuff like locking me in prisons with nothing I can join with and no way my brain can get a signal out. Like the fucking Cube. I don’t know what they had to do to lock Spinetingler in there, but I know what it took to break the place and set him free. Now imagine if someone gifted like he is could be stopped by a simple, stupid collar.

There was a guy once with some ideas on this whole thing. A mad scientist teen once had ideas about a previously-unknown force that manifests itself by providing superpowers to people in various circumstances. He actually sent in papers to some scientific journals focusing on superhumanity, even theorizing about devices that could transfer these powers. Nobody knows what happened to him. If anyone’s got a device like that, they haven’t used it where anyone’s been able to find out.

Understandably, no one was willing to step up and have their powers taken away.

“I just got them back,” Max said. He yawned. “My powers are conditional compared to others here.” The doctors and scientists of the medical wing, including Dr. Smith, gathered around to watch us figure it out.

“I’m too large,” Titan said. He had a point. The collars we took off our friends were sized more for standard human necks. There’s variation, and then there’s trying to fit it around a log.

Venus pointed to herself, then to me. “Our powers are biology.”

“There are other supers, though,” Psychsaur pleaded. She looked to the doctors. Several nodded.

I raised all four of my hands. “I think we want to hide some of this from the general public. I can find someone else, and it’ll take a little bit more time, but we can do it. But how about I go ahead and put one on with you? You won’t be alone, ok?” I held my hand out for her. She took it. With one hand, I handed her a collar. With a third and fourth, I slipped the other around my own neck and forced it closed.

Everything went dark. I couldn’t see, I could barely hear anything, and my connection to the internet, networks, everything. I felt back for something to lean on. My chest ached. And my lower arms didn’t respond. Or feel.

“What’s wrong?” asked Venus. Someone grabbed onto me and held on.

“I can’t see, I can’t feel stuff. My lower arms aren’t working. For fuck’s fucking sake, I’m the guinea pig.”

Hands grabbed me and led me along to a table. There were plenty of excited mutterings I couldn’t hear entirely well, but I could still call out. “While I’m under, I need y’all to confirm the outbreak. Find out how far it’s spread.”

There’s a reason “battery” refers to both relentless testing and a crime where someone attacks you. Except the latter doesn’t necessarily involve so many needles being stuck into a person’s body. Making it worse, MRIs were explicitly off the table so long as I’m the person on the table. Though I guess the collar was always going to stop that one. Too much metal in my body. And lucky me, all those parts were no longer working so well, which is especially troublesome for a guy like myself with so many organs replaced. Or, in some cases, moved. I remember gasping awake, able to see and hear and circulate blood.

I was laying on a table, surrounded by doctors. “How do you feel, Empress?” asked one.

“It was like I was walking down a corridor to a bright light. And there was a light pole, and a faun named Mr. Tumnus, and a White Witch who had this androgynous look going on, but it kinda worked for her. She had this big rivalry with a lion going on, but that ended in a hurry once I taught her people about explosives and gunpowder. Are the tests done?”

“We managed a third of what we hoped to do before you began to code,” answered the doctor who had spoken.

“Wonderful,” I said, resting my head back to look straight up. “Well, I guess you better get it on me again. I can take it. Just do be careful not to keep it on too long.”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Venus. I turned to see her wave at me with a collar. She slipped it around her own neck and locked it into place.

“I said I got it,” I told her.

She smiled a small, toothless smile. “Yeah, but now we know it works on whatever we are, I can do it without. It won’t kill me.”

I glared at her a bit, seeing as she’d was once again doing something to help me, possibly even save my life if someone screws up. But while something about her recognizing my vulnerability and helping me irked me, arguing the matter ran up against a principle I value far more. That is, saving my own ass. She was right. It’d work on her too. It’d even give more of a range of data if they repeated those tests that they’d done on me. And she didn’t have her heart in the wrong place or lose access to memories and cognitive thought processes when powerless. I took a deep breath and shrugged. “If you’re really so eager to be powerless around me, who am I to say you aren’t?”

She rolled her eyes, then walked over. I pushed myself up partially, but she leaned down as if to speak. Then she looked to the doctors. I did as well. They quickly scattered, finding better was to spend their time. Reading charts, polishing beakers, checking equipment. One fellow put on a stethoscope he used to check his own heartbeat. Then we looked at each other again and she told me, “Thank you.”

I cringed back a little. “Why?”

“For what you did for Psychsaur. For what you would have done if I didn’t speak up just now.”

I rolled my eyes. “Doing what someone has to shouldn’t be that big a deal to celebrate,” I muttered.

She grinned this time as she stepped back. I squinted at her. “What now?”

“This is something you have to do?”

I sighed and rolled out of bed. “’Someone has too, but if it’s you, then I’m getting out of here before people get any more wrong ideas.” I turned to one of the doctors and patted him on the shoulder. Pointing back at Venus, who laid down on a separate table, I said to him, “Make sure she gets a big needle, ok?”

I stuck around to see what was going on with the collar. I figured the rest of the team would call if they needed my help, but I stuck around to see what the hell happened to me under the collar. The nanites and other equipment gave us an interesting view of the brain’s reaction to the collar. It must have sent some sort of signal, or perhaps it was a reaction to the metal. One minute, her body attempted to physically meld to technology. With the collar on, the bacteria reacted in certain portions of the brain and cut off signals moving to and from that portion. Instead of acting to stop her body’s reaction at the point where it was acting, it was able to stop it at the brain.

The bacteria worked with the collars to stop people being able to do anything outside conventional human power. No homo machina powers. No extra arms, or telekinesis, or mad scientist brain… whatever. We need a greater range of test subjects to be sure, and preferably not homo machina, but this doesn’t look good.

That wasn’t the only stop on the road to fucked-up ville. After Venus’s tests, we went to find Dr. Smith, Titan, Psychsaur, and Max in the lobby command center. They had a full-on globe going on, with a shitload of red dots all over. “I was under the impression my proprietary nanites weren’t widely respected these days. It appears I’ve made too many assumptions.”

Titan spoke up, “That is the official story, but there are a number of reproductions of varying qualities. Some just reprogrammed your existing nanites to function differently. You don’t want to get a bad batch by some basement programmer who forgot to check the code.”

“Plus, a lot of people just still use your stuff,” Psychsaur said. “Look at Russia.”

“FIFA,” Titan said. “Everyone’s cheating.”

Max just slurped on a sports drink and poured in an energy drink.

“It has to be incomplete though,” I said. “But this is a lot, all over the world.”

“Everyone with nanites in them tests positive for the disease, everywhere,” Dr. Smith said.

“More bad news,” I said, waving my wrist toward the hologram projector. The globe moved to the side and images of mine and Venus’s brains came up, showing the bacteria’s suppression. “We figured out what the disease does. It makes the collars work. Someone figured out how to shut off our powers, and they spread half the method to the entire world before we figured out what was happening.”

Next

Previous

Advertisements

Down With A Sickness 5

Next

Previous

The trail had fits of stopping and starting, but never for long. Never long enough for the guy who took Psychsaur and Max to sleep. They’d zipped over to India from the portal, but didn’t stop there. They managed to get from there into Pakistan in amazingly little time. When I showed it to Titan, shortly after he and Venus joined me on Ricca, he informed me Cape Diem didn’t have a base there. “They stole our portals. Maybe they built something to hack into our network. Either way, this is unacceptable.”

We’d set up at the residence. It wasn’t considered neutral ground the same way the Cape Diem compound was, but it was a hell of a lot more private and better protected, even with that new hole in the wall of the living room. Everything had mostly turned out ok from that event. Our assailant, the blonde multiplier, hadn’t gone after Qiang at all, and neither did she charge him with a knife or anything. I think I’m raising a girl smarter than I am, but it doesn’t make anyone feel any better about a home being partially blown up.

It was easier for us to coordinate and control information Each of our organizations’ are looking into the attack in their own way, chasing leads, studying bodies and wreckage. Well, the bodies are on my end. It’s a bit inefficient, but cross-organizational cooperation’s going to have to wait.

“They didn’t take anyone for you?” I asked Titan for confirmation.

He shook his head. “No. He killed someone. Hurt others.”

“He took knowledge from you, but he took our friends,” I said.

“Not exactly,” Venus said. “You said Max made a cure?”

I nodded. “Yeah, but there’s just not enough, and it can’t be replicated.”

Venus paced around the office, looking at the monitors of our setup. “Psychsaur found him. Her powers let her do that. He avoided her until he was ready to do this.”

I looked between them. “I thought Psychsaur was supposed to cover Cape Diem first?”

Titan nodded to Venus, “She convinced me otherwise. It’s a good thing, too.”

“How’s that?” Venus asked.

Titan scratched his chin. “If she was at Cape Diem when this happened, the mole at Master Academy wouldn’t have been exposed.”

“Do we know who he is?” I asked. “Because on my end, he was just Funhouse the Clown, aka Ricardo Milhouse.”

Venus said, “He told us he found out his little brother had superpowers and was fighting crime at night. He was concerned and wanted him trained. He told us his name was Rick Houser. He brought a kid in. God, we had to lock up a teen to find out how deep he’s into this.”

“Richard Milford Holmes,” said Titan, tapping away at the computer and bringing up some of the Cape Diem files. “Twenty-eight. No powers, but a lot of enthusiasm to join us. He’s shown an eagerness to do the shit work even when offered duties more in line with what we expect. A lot of people join up to do something grand to help the world. It’s a good attitude, there’s a lot of more ugly work to it than people want. Except him. He was staying under the radar the entire time. Ten months.” He glared down at the table. Venus patted his arm.

“He hasn’t stopped at all until now,” I pointed out, bringing up the map where they’d finally been stopped. “So maybe he’s where he needs to go, or it’s a trap. A trap would be a bad idea for them.”

“Unless they take our powers with that collar,” Titan reminded us.

That was when Venus walked over to stand beside me. “What powers? This is all training and equipment.”

Venus and I had to take a moment to suit up, each of us in bulky armor. Hers was her current generation of power armor with the face taken up mostly by a golden chrome visor. Mine was based on the suit I’d stolen from her future version, but with additional armor plating and strength-enhancing pseudomuscles added to resemble my heavy armor. I was just as agile as ever, in armor far more durable. After all, nobody said the added armor plates couldn’t be the same material as the less-bulky version.

Titan remained his giant blue and orange self, with a pair of wings sticking out the back of his Cape Diem uniform.

On our way out, I gave Qiang a hug, smiled at Silver Shark checking on a burn along her arm, and politely squeezed by Sam and Holly trying to bar our way. “’Scuse me, gotta go save Mix N’Max, just the three of us, no additional help involved.” I picked up Sam with both sets of arms and set her to the side. I turned to find Holly taking her place, so I skipped around her.

“We’re coming!” Sam called after me as I pushed through the doors. Titan and Venus followed, with Max’s assistants coming after.

“You two aren’t villains,” I called back as we walked to a Psycho Flyer parked in front of the palace.

“You don’t know what he means to us!” called Holly.

“Do you trust them?” Titan asked me.

“They’re loyal to Max above all else. They’d never see him harmed or kidnapped in any way,” I answered. “But I doubt they have anything to bring to the table on this other than potential hostages if things go wrong.” I stopped to look at the assistants. “Leave this to us.”

“We are not useless,” Sam said. She pulled out a glass bottle with a simple oval label and “The Cure” written in Max’s handwriting. “Take us or we destroy it.”

I looked up the ramp of the flyer where Titan and Venus had stopped. They looked to me, eyebrows raised. Well, I assume Venus’s were raised under the helmet. I pointed to Sam and Holly. “Nothing about them threatening the cure?”

“It’s your aircraft,” Titan pointed out.

“I’m not saving your asses if you get in trouble,” I said, turning and walking up the ramp. I heard them clatter along after me.

They probably would have regretted it if they knew the flight was so long. I had the flyer loaded up for it, though. Toilets, toiletries, an in-flight meal, and a selection of movies to watch.

“Air Force One, Airplane!, Sully… what are you trying to tell us here, Gecko?” asked Holly as she stepped up into the cockpit.

I created a pair of holographic sunglasses in my lower right arm. “I think my meaning should be quite…” I lifted the hologram into place where my eyes would be through my helmet. “…plane to see.”

“Oh god, I’m going to be sick,” Holly called out from the back of the flyer.

“It wasn’t that bad!” I called back.

Sam winced and looked back. “I better get to her. Flying can be iffy for her.”

I shrugged as she left. “It was y ‘all’s decision to come.”

When we got to where we were going, the nanites indicated that Max and Psychsaur were still there. And where we were going turned out to be a small, decrepit Buddhist temple on top of a hill. I invited Venus and Titan into the cockpit to look down on it. “That’s a pretty cunning way to hide a lair,” I told them. “Anyone who breaks in looks like their sacrilegious. On the plus side, we have plenty of room if there are any religious artifacts left. Gold, sufficiently old stonework, even bones will do.”

“We’re here for your friends, not bones,” rumbled Titan. “I guess you better get in there since you’re the quietest somehow.”

“Okily dokily.” I stood up from the controls and the flyer dropped for like half a second. In the back, Holly vomited. I hope paper bags were involved.

“You fucking psycho!”

“Asshole!”

“Prick!”

“BLUURRRGH!”

The reactions I get. I held up my hands. “It’s fine. I got it remotely anyway. Just decided that if y’all are going to ask the guy flying the thing to get off it, shit might happen.”

“You could land,” Venus growled.

“I’d rather not risk being stranded in Pakistan. Nobody should.”

I landed harder than is preferred for stealth, but at least I was invisible. When I got to the door to the place, I found was in better shape than its appearance would lead people to believe. A quick scan through multiple spectrums didn’t reveal anything. No lasers, no wires, any of that.

I called down a quartet of drones from the trapdoor of the Psycho Flyer. They assembled on their way down, forming a platform big and strong enough to hold me in the heavier armor. I hopped on top as it passed through the doorway. I wasn’t going to get caught by pressure plates this time.

I had a line open to the Flyer cockpit, Venus, and Titan, so it wasn’t long before I heard Venus ask, “Found anything yet?”

“Lots of wood and tiles. Not even any valuables. Not one piece of art, either, except this little thing.” I spotted this decoration built into the base of the altar. Three rabbits, two running one way in a circle, the third another. But that was because the third one was broken, flipped around. There weren’t even any other doors anywhere. No way down to a hidden basement. So I flipped the third rabbit around and clicked it into place.

Behind me, tiles slid out of place along the floor, revealing a circular stairwell down that had to be hell to get hostages down. It also had no room for flying. “I got a way down. Go ahead and get down here. I don’t see anything up top. Y’all should be able to hop or fly to the stairs.”

I headed down and found my way through a rusty metal door, and from there to a circular room with a floor made up of rounded stones. There, I saw a quartet of dead Funhouse. No sign of Max or Psychsaur. But there were two other corridors from there. It was easier to figure out where to go when I heard retching. It’s been a vomit kind of day. “Funhouse was dead when I got here. I think I hear someone. Going to see if I find our peeps.”

I snuck my way on down the corridor when I heard Titan and Venus behind me, coughing. “What’s that smell?” Titan asked.

“They’re discolored,” Venus said from back there, too.

I found Max and Psychsaur locked in a pair of old time cells. Stone walls, a barred door, and a whole lot of hacking going on. I dropped the hologram. “Hey guys. Here I come to save the day.”

“Gas,” Max hacked up. “They killed him.”

Psychsaur added, “It got here.”

I pulled out a couple of syringes. “Venus, got a couple patients here. Some sort of poisoning. If y’all are still alive, I’m guessing it’s dispersed and stuff.” Metal bars and all, it wasn’t even a matter of hacking. I tore the lock off Max’s cell. The alarm started up then.

“I got activity down this corridor!” Titan called out. Then, the world blew the fuck up. But we didn’t go with it. There was a booming roar that tried to kill my eardrums. It got hot as fuck. Wasn’t as bright as I expected. After everything settled to mere shaking, I popped open Psychsaur’s cell, too, and grabbed them up. It’s a lot easier carrying people with extra arms.

I found Venus in the middle chamber, where a pedestal now stood in the center. Titan barred access to the other corridor almost completely. He stepped away slowly, grimacing “Any bomb you can walk away from is a good bomb.”

“You good?” I asked.

He nodded. “I’ve taken bigger.”

I nodded toward Venus. “That’s what she said.”

“She is busy downloading files off this computer while it self-deletes,” Venus said, a USB from her suit plugged into something on the pedestal.

All in all, a successful rescue. We got our friends. We got the collars off without damaging them overly much. And we got some files to sift through about what we’re dealing with, starting with the final message left in the system from a voice that sounded like dozens overlaid on one another.

“We had greater plans for you. You were to observe and report only. You are one piece of a vast apparatus. Our plan could never be stopped by one man with a cure. Ricca was the first, followed by Moscow, Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Beijing, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Cairo, Buenos Aires, Osaka, Empyreal City. All within the first week. Thank you for listening obediently while the gas circulates. Your obedience is no longer required. You are no longer a piece in our apparatus.”

Next

Previous

Party On 6

Next

Previous

Woot! What comes before Part B? Part A!

The whole damn island’s having itself a good time to celebrate the birthday of my little baby girl, complete with an impromptu parade from the palace to the Cape Diem compound. When the first fireworks went off, Max took cover and I grabbed the nearest object, a painting off the wall, and prepared to beat wholesale ass with it.

“Watch it, Cinderella,” said Sam said from over by the living room windows. “It’s just fireworks.”

Citra moved up to take my arm and squeeze my hand in both of hers. “Yeah, it better be,” I said, before tossing the painting to the side and checking to make sure I hadn’t ruined anything on the new dress. Qiang said princess party and the tailor did his best to accommodate her wishes for a special dress to wear. It was a Western dress, very much in keeping with the Disney movies that I’ve been known to throw at her, but not any specific one. I told the tailor to make her Moana, Mulan, any of them she asked for. Disney’s not as anal about what constitutes a princess as I am, but my daughter can damn well dress as whoever she pleases.

Instead, she went with a darker pink with lots of frills up and down the front, and her own tiara. With my approval, the tailor went easy on the tiara. Most people don’t realize it, but wearing a lump of gold and gemstones on your head is hard work. Royals build up to that over like weeks or days leading up to official events. So Qiang’s tiara is better than a flimsy gold tiara. It’s durable, light, and gilded.

My own number resembled hers, except I went with a vibrant green that probably looks more at home in Rio during Carnivale, and had a little more space to hide my second pair of arms. If it hadn’t been for all these outsiders, I’d let them out. But I always gotta keep something in reserve when my nemesis is around.

While I was picking at it and making sure Qiang had hers all together, Citra took one look out the window and suggested, “Why do we not make a small parade?” I really should look into what the transit system’s like on this island. Damn delegation. Regardless, I know plenty of things fall off the back of a container ship around here, so I called up my guys in our local police force. They helped a car dealer clear a little space for more merchandise. It’s good for ’em, helps them rotate the inventory.

So my family had a parade of sorts. Nothing all that special to it, only Max was throwing treats at the crowd, and I didn’t really feel the need for security. Anybody who fucked up my dress was going to get a high heel up the urethra. And if they messed something up for Qiant? Oh, even a cyanide pill wouldn’t save them. I’d bring them back to life, and then I’d really fuck ’em up.

While I was keeping an eye out, Citra actually hopped out of our slow procession and carried Qiang down with her. I hopped out after them as they greeted some of the visitors. “What are you doing?” I asked her.

“A princess should meet her subjects, and I think it is good for us,” she said.

I narrowed my eyes at her briefly before stopping myself. We were approaching another group who were getting all respectful and bowing. I stepped back and watched as Citra asked after them, how they were doing, other such platitudes. Empty stuff. Might as well ask how the weather is for all we can do about it. But they liked it. And not just them.

“You want to walk some, Qiang?” I asked the birthday girl.

“Yeah, Baba. I can ride in the car again when I’m tired. I get to be a princess!” She was hopping up and down and running along, eager to follow Citra’s example. As for me, I suppose I can’t fault her for having a will of her own. She is still another separate person, if one thrust into position and events far beyond what her life intended. Chaos can certainly be a ladder, or a pit. So while they were all smiles and spreading good Imperial cheer among my people, I kept a close eye out in case someone decided they wanted to hurt the Empress Regnant on our way to the Cape Diem compound.

Now, even though I was fully prepared to let visitors to my world come in peace, even provide an escort to me, the leader, it turns out the Master Academy people worked something out with Cape Diem. I didn’t see anything change hands, but Cape Diem’s whole portal deal with the UN isn’t something they’d risk losing. I wonder what the cost is for using the world’s only portal network to bring a bunch of kids to a birthday party on an island run by a supervillain. I suppose there are benefits for neutrality. But it’s neutrality that goes both ways.

My minions helped prepare everything, payment being they get to enjoy the party too. As my prior discussion of the cake ratio shows, I put a lot of thought into bribing people with food, fun, and bouncy houses. That even includes the guard detail who escorted the various princesses from the pink castle they temporarily called home. All of them formed a receiving line for my daughter on her way to the cake.

The cake itself loomed over the party like a small castle all its own. It was too big for the compound itself. It’s bad hat to kick your guests out of their own home by bringing in such a giant cake. People mostly contained themselves until we got there, at which point Qiang lost her shit with high-pitched squeals of delight and ran off into a throng of her friends who were being held back by their chaperones from Master Academy. We managed to separate them and, before everything devolved into the inevitable entropic pack of playing people, I let Qiang see all the various princesses. She was excited to meet them, and luckily they’d all calmed down a great deal. Something about being in public, with superheroes around, knowing they were going to be set free, and that this was all about my daughter’s birthday party.

Finally, barely able to contain her excitement and glee, it was time for my daughter to stand in front of her cake. And like all great cakes, it required men with flamethrowers hanging from flyers in order to light the candles. Ok, so required isn’t so accurate a term for lighting five candles. Let me think… fun? Awesome? Nevertheless, she stood there in front of a lower part ready to be cut and served to people. Then I unleashed the real humiliation. “Ok, time to sing Happy Birthday!”

Once I’d finished completely embarrassing her with the help of her friends and a huge crowd of strangers, she finally got a piece of cake, and then servants made sure everyone got cake who wanted it, including themselves. And from there, people mingled, people ate, people played games. I even caught this minotaur-looking super from Master Academy snorting in frustration as he kept missing at the clown dunk. The clown itself had a white face, a big forehead, and red hair. He’d also do this little dance in between throws, glaring right at the minotaur.

And it seemed to go ok. It was more like a big fair for a pretty good amount of time. Heroes and villains and me and my family all mingling. It was almost normal. It felt weird, like I should pick a fight just to have something to do. Fucking ball just wouldn’t hit the target and dunk the clown. I swear, that big-shoed bastard did something to the balls. While missing yet again, and ducking a cream pie thrown in retaliation, I noticed Venus.

It struck me as odd that we’d avoided each other so far. Unless she was avoiding me, which is a crazy thing to think. No, unless she was PLOTTING against me. That’s a sane thing to think. So I went over to where she was looking after some of the kids. “So, what horrifying thing are you going to do now in the name of being a good person?” I asked.

“Watching kids play on a happy day. How are you planning to be an asshole and justify it because other people in the world do bad things?” she asked right back, giving me a forced, closed smile.

“I dunno, figured I’d send missionaries to teach starving kids in Africa the joys of cannibalism.” My smile was more genuine, as was my amusement.

Venus wasn’t so amused. Doesn’t mean she was offended, she just didn’t like me. She turned her head suddenly, checking on a kid that had fallen. One of the Master Academy kids she brought all the way here to my daughter’s party even though she hates me. I looked at her and held a hand out. “I should be a better host. Thanks for bringing everyone. This means a lot to her.”

She shook my hand, and this time the little smile tugging at her lips also tightened up her eyes. “You’re welcome. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s worked magic on you.” After letting go of my hand, she turned to keep an eye on everything, smiling at everyone just walking around, having fun and playing games.

I shrugged. “She’s not so different from me. Orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, and trained to be more object than person. But she’s mine.” I saw a Buzzkill giving piggyback rides to refugee children. “That’s a screwed-up life she doesn’t deserve. No one does. It corrupts you, makes you want to cling to it. Makes you af- it feels more secure that way. Because once you know that’s your life, there isn’t anything that can scare you. I can do that for her, and I can destroy anyone who would hurt her.”

I turned to look at her then. Nothing like a good threat to round it out. Instead, she smiled at me. “That’s very heroic of you.”

I flinched. Couldn’t help it. “And here I thought we were playing nice.”

“You’ve become a better person,” she said. “You jumped in front of that rocket. See, I think staying with us helped you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh yeah, y’all putting in a telepathic block to stop me from swearing or killing, that’s what I really needed in my life. Y’all didn’t help that much. Well, aside from saving my life. And… ya know, it’s been awhile since I got the shakes from not killin’ someone.” I looked at her and raised an eyebrow.

She held up her hands. “We thought it would help your recovery. We weren’t going to leave you in the middle of psychological withdrawals while we kept you from murdering anyone.”

I held up a finger in front of her face. “There anything else y’all did to my brain I don’t know about? Any more secret brainwashing to make be ‘better’?”

“No, I swear.” She’d tensed up, her eyes darting past me. Well, if we were drawing attention from her friends, they’d just get to violate Cape Diem’s neutrality and the sovereignty of my nation first.

I folded my arms in front of me.”I get so many mixed messages from you, Boopsie.” Then I just left her there. I wanted to hurt her or at least yell at her. But, and this is an important thing to remember in this instance, this was about my daughter. Besides, an Empress doesn’t get mad. She gets cake. I just have to hope any feelings for her weren’t somehow the result of telepathic manipulation.

And speaking of good feelings, there were Rhonda and Leland, the parents of my daughter’s best friend from Master Academy, just waiting for me to come say hello again and remind them about that threesome they had with a murderous serial killer and Empress.

Qiang could barely able to stay awake long enough to see guests departing by the end of the party. We didn’t have too many who weren’t already here decide to stay the night. Kayla and her parents for sure, but it’s not like all those kidnapped princesses, including all the Marias and Maries from Belgium, wanted to stick around. Even Venus had decided she’d head back instead of take me up on my offer to stay and ease her tired muscles with a refreshing dip in my jacuzzi.

Once almost everyone had departed, though, I heard a shout. I looked to Citra, carrying my exhausted five year old in her arms. Seeing them clearly both ok, I shot the similarly-burdened parents of her best friend a wink and headed off in the direction of whatever commotion we had going on. I found a pair of Security officers holding up one of their own between them. “Something up, guys?” I asked.

The one on the man’s left shook his head. “Apologies for not bowing, Empress.”

I waved off his concerns, “Bow later, talk now.”

“Very well. He got disoriented and collapsed.” I looked him over. Sweaty, even in the lighter gear he had on, but he had a half-full canteen bottle on his belt.

“Get him to our medical tent outside the fence and tell them to contact Dr. Creeper,” I said quietly. Louder, to a nearby family carrying a kid with a balloon tied around his wrist, I said, “Just a bit of dehydration. Make sure to keep drinking water, folks.”

It was when Creeper got there, along with some of the more medically-minded staff of the Institute, that I briefed him with a simple. “We have a problem.”

The man was still disoriented, still out of it. Babbling and feverish. I continued explaining in case nobody got it, “This isn’t heat stroke. We don’t know what it is. Worse, whatever’s going on isn’t being stopped by the nanites in the water or in the dermal patches they’ve applied. We need to find out what this is.”

“We need a quarantine, especially on outsiders,” Creeper said.

Fuck. “That’s not doable. Most of the ones who were here aren’t anymore.” And the ones who are here, like a little superpowered girl and her parents, won’t look so good. “Well, let’s get to it. The sooner we figure out what’s going on, the sooner we fix it.”

I knew arriving back at the palace that this whole situation would take tact. And probably sex. Just make it seem like Rhonda and Leland are having a nice vacation here while their daughter plays with mine. That’s what I was ready for when I opened the door to the palace residence and entered, only to have to hold back a lot of cuss words.

Psychsaur, scaled and feathered psychic hero of Master Academy (and Venus’s girlfriend), was seated at the bar in the kitchen, swaying, talking with Sam and Holly. She smiled a loose, too-friendly smile and her wave to me almost dropped her from the stool. Plus, I could smell the alcohol from where I stood when she opened her mouth to say “Hey Gecko! I’m not driving home tonight, so can I sleep here?”

Next

Previous

Party On 4

Next

Previous

The big day draws near. Now that I have fewer people to kidnap, I’ve had time to deal with catering, including getting a big-ass cake done. The design almost gave me diabetes just looking at it, but it had to be huge. We’ve got a lot of guests, and I’ve done some rough calculations on the additional cake necessary to offset the hard feelings from the kidnapping.

It’s one of those areas of science from my more advanced home dimension. Whereas the power armor and nanotech are the results of the hard sciences, my world also advanced in the social sciences and humanities. For instance, we discovered that there is a ratio of discomfort to cake that allows someone to completely offset all dislike from a situation with application of the proper amount of cake. I had to leave out various factors, though. Dairy tolerance, differences between frostings, the ice cream and milk modifiers.

But enough about confectioneries. I also handled the balloons and the shopping. Well, I’m not sure shopping is an accurate name with all that theft. But I didn’t want to just get Qiang the normal toys. She’ll have pretty much one of everything anybody else could possibly have. Then I realized she needed one of things people couldn’t have.

I didn’t need a toy store, or a toy factory. I’ve wrecked China enough for all that. I need… The Toybox.

“The Toybox is a legend,” said Max.

“What’s the Toybox?” asked Sam, his assistant with the more goth or perhaps punk look. There’s a certain point where I can’t tell them apart. But I suppose she’s grown some. She shaved her hair down except for a green poof at the front, so she’s got that going for her. She sat with us at the bar for our mid-afternoon drink. There’s breakfast, like screwdrivers, followed by mimosas or champagne at lunch, something with a bit more zip at eleven or so, then lunch, then the mid-afternoon drink around 3 o’clock, with more drinks at dinner and later at supper. Of course, we don’t always make all the appointments, so there’s the option to put them all together throughout the night.

“Ooh, I know!” That was Holly, the cheerier and generally preppier of the two. She’d been to Sea-Offee. A Riccan entrepreneur partnered up with Deep One suppliers who had cultivated some beans that sunk in airtight storage before the beans themselves went extinct. There’s also a gimmick about iceberg iced coffees, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a common lie.

Holly set her coffees down before answering, “So like so many supervillains went around stealing prototype toys and special toys for gimmicks and stuff or to sell to people. The toy companies got together and used their money to build a secret vault where they can lock them up safely. So the legend goes.”

“But why?” asked Sam. “Why not destroy them or sell them themselves? They aren’t useful anymore, are they?”

Max and I looked at each other before focusing on her.

“You never know when you’ll need a prototype. You can make an inferior version to sell to everyone else,” he said.

“They often have features later editions don’t and provide a practical model for implementing them,” I added. “Those can come in handy later on.”

“It can be even more valuable if the product’s good,” Max said.

I nodded my head toward him, “The artistic value, too.”

“Yeah, they make good trophies,” Max said.

“Some of them are toys they never put into production,” I came back with.

“It all sounds like stupid bullshit to me. I bet they wanted to make a vault to feel special,” Sam said.

Max and I both nodded. “That’s also likely, yeah,” I told her. It really is. Makes me wish I had a giant vault full of traps and valuables just thinking about it.

“You’re going to break into a vault that may not exist to steal toys that don’t work right when you already have everything you already need.” Sam was trying to be the voice of reason, which made it easy to ignore her.

I turned to Max, but he cocked his head to the size and said, “She has a point.”

“It’s a natural way to get Venus’s attention so I can get her here,” I argued.

“I don’t want to tell you your business,” he started, “But I will anyway. Does she bring little kids along when she goes to fight you?”

I shook my head.

“Don’t you want Qiang’s friends to come here?” he asked.

I raised a hand parallel to the floor and shook it back and forth a bit. “For her, sure.”

He adjusted on his stool and was about to talk, but Holly spoke up, “You didn’t go around kidnapping a bunch of princesses for their company, did you?”

“There was one who was actually real pleasant to talk to, but that was mostly about Qiang’s birthday.”

It was Sam’s turn now. “Hey man, if you do stupid shit, you might ruin her birthday. I remember one of my birthday parties, my mom and pop got into an argument over the cake. They both bought me one just like I wanted, but they each got mad at the other for trying to show the other person up by going behind the other’s back. Mom threw his in the trash, he threw hers out the window. I didn’t get any cake.”

I shook my head. “Destruction of cake. Those monsters. Somebody get me the Directors, we need a new law.” I started to stand up and see to that when Sam reached out and put a hand on my lower right forearm. I looked down at it then at her with a raised eyebrow.

“This is her day. Don’t fuck it up for her,” she told me.

Max clapped a hand on my shoulder, subtly moving sliding Sam’s limb away from me. “Think about it this way: now you know what to steal for her next year.”

I pondered it for a moment before heading off into an office area where I’d hung the communication screen. This is one of the newer models using Riccan paperthin display tech, so it just looked like a painting and wasn’t too out of place with other pieces of art around here. I don’t know who hung this one painting in here, but it was nothing like the rest of their aesthetic. Some old-timey looking thing with a woman playing the piano, a guy with his back to the viewer strumming a guitar, and another woman just standing there, all on a black and white floor that looks sorta like a chessboard.

Boring.

When I was nice and ready, I put out a call and, after a second, Venus’s helmeted face looked down at me. “Who is this?”

I sat there in my pretty red and gold dress, face powdered and made up, my hair running through another golden headdress. I only raised my top pair of arms as the lower pair were hidden inside the dress. “It’s your absolute favorite supervillain in the whole wide world. Did I catch you at a bad time, Boopsie?”

She stared. “Gecko?”

“Empress Gecko,” I answered. “Well, Emperor’s fine, but they insist on calling me Empress right now. I swear, you tuck your nuts between your legs then shove them up inside a pussy and everyone loses their fucking minds.”

“You sound like Gecko. Pretty hologram. What do you want?”

“Hologram? Hey, can’t a guy just put on a dress, do up his hair, grow boobs, and wear makeup and a vagina just because he feels like it? You’re getting awfully judgmental for a Catholic bisexual, you know.”

She reached up, fingers hitting the visor over where it covered her nose before she lowered that hand out of view. “What do you want?”

I straightened myself up. “I’m throwing Qiang a birthday party and she has requested her friends attend. That includes you for some reason, but also that girl she used to hang out with over there, and the others from that school.” I took a moment to consult my memory. “Kayla, that was the name of her friend. She can even bring her parents, if she’d like.”

She looked down at me, thinking. “Is this a plot?”

I gently shook my head, not wanting to fuck up my bitchin’ hairdo. “There are plots involved in it, but this is not a plot. This is my daughter’s birthday and she wants her friends there. Unfortunately, that means… you.” I rolled my eyes. “Good news is, I can provide lots of cover for you-”

“We’ll come.”

“-excuse me?” I asked. I didn’t expect her to just agree to come here like that without some sort of incentive. Over to the side, Citra stood with a photo of one of Belgium Marias with today’s newspaper. She looked at me curiously and started toward the screen’s view, but I raised a hand to wave her off surreptitiously.

“Qiang is a good girl and we enjoyed having her. I think we can make arrangements with Cape Diem to come to the party. When is it?”

“Wow, ok, this actually moves up the timeline a bit. I was planning to rob a place or threaten to in order to get your attention. Dammit, you’ve foiled me again,” I said that last sentence playfully. “A week oughta do it. Should be enough time to wrap up any sudden problems that’ll show up. And if anyone gives you any trouble over coming to see me, you can always give them some spin about it being a rescue operation to get back all those kidnapped princesses.”

“You have them, don’t you?” she asked.

I waved it off, trying to say, “No, no, of course not…”

But that’s when Citra stepped into view, smiling wide while holding a picture of a pissed-off Belgian woman with a newspaper in one hand and giving the V-sign with the other. “Hello,” Citra said, way more happily than I expected. She waved at Venus.

Venus gave her a small wave. “Hi. Who are you?”

“I am Citra, Empress Gecko’s wife.” She linked her arm with mine.

“That is so sweet. Smile, I’m taking a screenshot,” Venus said.

Gonna kill her. Gonna kill her so hard. Gonna kill her and paradox the shit out of Future Venus because she won’t live long enough for me to kill her in the future when she time travels to the past. I swear, she’s trying to bait me just as I’ve often tried to bait her.

I put a hand over Citra’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. She intertwined her fingers with mine and leaned against me. I took a breath and carried on. “Anyway, now that the pussy’s out of the sack, you can bring the whole school over, no shenanigans, and you get to walk away with the princesses that we officially do not have here. And, more importantly, I will have less time to draw out party preparations and decide to rob places for more and more extravagant gifts. We’ll have entertainment, too. There’ll be music and games. Clowns and a dunking booth, even.”

Venus grimaced. “Some people don’t like clowns.”

I waved that off with my free hand. “The clowns will be in the dunking booth. It’ll probably be therapeutic. And don’t worry about the clowns either. They’ll float. They all float.”

That got a shiver from Venus at least. “Let’s work it out with Cape Diem and I’ll see you next week, alright?”

“Fine by me, Venus. Oh, and just so you know, the theme is Princesses. Do dress accordingly,” I said, feeling my grin take on predatory menace. I’ll get a picture of her dressed ridiculously even if I have to roofie her and take all her clothes off myself! And I guess I can put more clothes on her at some point, too.

Next

Previous

Shopping List 3

Next

Previous

Grand language. “I have a dream.” I have a plan. Well, part of a plan. And bad dreams, too.

Not the usual ones, the stuff fighting on my home planet and being betrayed. They’ve been pretty strong here, with that time travel business. Mobian and Future Venus found a way to put me back there to put me off my game and I got the crap kicked out of me. My poor bowels. They had feelings, but then they were all empty inside.

I wonder if I’d be having the dream if I’d gotten that damn time machine repaired. Even if I didn’t fix my own life… well, if I didn’t fix my own life, none of this would have happened. But I could have brought it into the future. Instead, I took a coward’s way out. All that power in front of me, just like with that weird tree on the continent of Mu, and instead I turned it down. At least the tree would have destroyed me. The timeship… well I guess the timeship would have destroyed me as I am. Fucked up that I’d choose that knowing what I went through. The heroes and their weakness must be rubbing off on me, and not the way I imagine Venus does late at night with whatever toys she keeps in her room.

Note to self: bug Venus’s room.

I think I know already it was the wrong decision, letting complacency with the way things are defeat the way things ought to be. I’ve become just as bad as the heroes I deride. I get power, and instead of using it the right way, I maintain the status quo. Now that I figured that out, let me just say: the status is not quo. And to salt the wound, Future Venus did change her future. That damn hero beat me. Not physically, of course, I still won that. Obviously. But she changed the future when she didn’t kill me just before I beat her and won and did not at all lose. So I have to hand that to her and feel crappy that she took that leap, of all people. And I didn’t.

That stupid headology is what I worked on while Site Two was raided. Another success, without so much of a hero presence. Pagan went in at a time of night most were asleep, and they don’t tend to stick warehouses in areas where they call the police, especially if the people to be called on have a way to disincentivize the calling, say with weapons, or money. Pagan preferred the bribery route, which surprised me for a guy who used to kill for a living.

I kept an eye on the men, helping them get used to the armor. Without power, it was merely strong. With power, it made them strong. It’s easy to feel that raw strength and get cocky. I had to tutor some in the increased capabilities and knock a few down a peg with sparring sessions. Just Gecko a mano; I even took my armor off and let them keep theirs. I didn’t maim any of them, or make it vicious. These were my guys and gals.

I stayed behind at the military base as the flyers departed for Hyderabad, though I made sure to clap them on the back and so on. Letting them do their stuff without me is important. For me, not for them. They’re soldiers. They know their job and the risks. I’m the one who has gotten way overprotective of friends and my people. Working alone as an assassin, or as a supervillain? Not a dealbreaker then. A problem now. And not one I can solve with a visit to the puppy butcher’s. It’s something of a delicacy with people here, like veal.

So while my guys went about handling the last leg of Dr. Creeper’s and the Institute of Science’s shopping list, I decided to go hit up my personal shopping list. No, better than that, I needed a brand new shopping list all my own. Dr. Creeper’s handling the scientific development. Ricca already had a lot of data we recovered and some advances beyond the norm. Thanks to our notoriously free markets, we have routes for proliferation. What else could a guy possibly need?

I need people. I know, I’m real touchy-feely today. But this isn’t more of that existential crap like realizing I fucked up with a time machine or that I’m not overprotective. This isn’t the sort of situation that involves laying on a couch and talking it out. This is the sort of situation that involves Hu, my still-acting head of Intelligence. I was fixing lunch for this increasingly-large bunch living in my palace residence when I asked him. “Hey Hu, I understand China’s got a shitload of prisoners, but I don’t know anything about how they handle superhumans. Maybe I just never paid attention, maybe they hide it really well, but I’m hoping to figure out what they do with all of those types.”

“Your Imperial majesty, Beijing worked hard to suppress information on superhuman holding procedures, but information is a tricky prisoner. For many years, the Chinese government dispersed its superhuman prisoners in customized holding cells distributed through conventional prisons. It is said they altered this policy and created ten prisons for a small number of prisoners, known as the Ten Courts of Hell. Prisoners remain in both forms of imprisonment to this day.”

I took all this in before flipping the burgers on the grill. All the excess grease from the sausage meat mixed in caused a flare up, but I just pointed a finger and said, “Stop that.” The flames eased off, because fire knows not to play with me. If I wanted anything set on fire, I’d have fucking told it to light on fire. Fire is a tool, but sometimes it’s such a tool.

Once I was sure I wasn’t turning burgers into briquettes, I had another question for Hu. “Any idea where the Ten Courts of Hell are? Are those prison cells in every prison, or just in certain ones?”

“Ricca does not have this information.” I guess he put it that way to clarify it wasn’t just about what he personally knew. “I will look into this matter more closely if it is your will.”

I looked up and posed, spatula pointing into the sky, both speaking and typing my answer for Hu. “I so will it.”

“Will what?” asked Sam Hayne, walking over to check on the burgers. “Ugh, so greasy. I hate greasy burgers. It’s like you added fat to them instead.” She squinted and leaned in slightly to examine my meat.

I turned and pointed the spatula at her. “Sic ’em!” The fire flared up suddenly and Sam backed off.

“God, you almost burnt me eyebrows off!”

“What happened?” Mix N’Max said. My friend checked over Sam, then walked over.

I shrugged. “Eh, just some friendly fire. She got too close to the grill and it had a flare up.”

He looked at me. I raised an eyebrow. “Or do you think I can suddenly control fire now?”

Max shook his head and walked back to Sam, who had walked off to go get a drink or something. “Good fire,” I said, patting the grill with the spatula.

In the meantime, I got to watch the mission to Hyderabad unfold once my guys arrived, radar missing them. Right off the bat, it seemed to justify the superstitious crowd. Small arms fire greeted the flyers, until the pilots activated the side turrets. Twin machine guns, one on each side with a wide range of fire to suppress and eliminate personnel threats. I’d originally wanted machine shotguns but opted for something with better range. With some of them dropping and others taking cover behind walls getting chewed up by automatic fire, guards did the calculus and soon figured out how much their lives were worth in comparison to what they were getting paid. They ran for it, and the flyers let them go.

After that, my people had the run of the place. Locks were blown open and researchers hustled out, at least until Tiu made the call from his flyer to have them help carry stuff to make it go faster. I hardly think it was worth it. Indeed, it may have contributed to what occurred. One of the scientists must have been working on some good shit, because he snorted something and started attacking my guys. Threw one of the soldiers several feet.

Another one close in was at least able to deflect the wild blows and grabs of the man enough to get away, allowing the others nearby to unload on him. He kept coming, despite the blood spray and missing flesh, at least until someone hit his spine and he lost control of his legs. Once he was down, it was much easier for one of the men to step up and plant a couple bullets in his skull. Tiu, watching through their helmet cams from the flyer, ordered them to confiscate whatever powdery stuff he’d been carrying and carry everything themselves. The soldier who’d been thrown around turned out to be fine.

After that, the tension seemed gone. The unanticipated problem had been dealt with easily. It was just a matter of rounding up all the stuff we didn’t want to pay for. It all went well and fairly quickly, and they were just about to withdraw, when a reject from the Blue Man group jumped in from afar. Shoeless, shirtless, pants, and skin painted light blue. Guy started drumming on my soldiers with these maraca things, some sort of maces. Getting shot didn’t see to do anything to him, but one of my guys dropped a grenade at his feet, even with his comrades close by. The force of the explosion tossed him away where the flyer anti-personnel guns started firing on him. He got the fuck out of there after those put some holes into him.

The field medics loaded up the casualties. Not fatalities. The grenades hadn’t done anything to instnatly smear them over the ground, instead knocking air out and doing soft tissue damage. I oughta get shirts for them. “I got blown up by a concussion grenade and all I got was this shirt and a concussion.” And even that was quickly being worked on by the nanites already in their systems via Ricca’s water supply and by those administered by the medics. Helicopters scrambled, but the flyers just didn’t show up to them. Might as well have been invisible. They mostly were, from all sides. Even the satellites looking down couldn’t hardly see anything. On top of that, the flyers themselves screwed around with Indian sensors to screw them up. Some could tell something was there, but not well enough to get a lock.

It was a beautiful dance of advanced conventional warfare and cyber warfare. They were lucky to see us; lucky to hurt us.

It’s almost a shame I want to spread it around to more and more people. Going to be hugely disruptive, too. Revolutions, new wars started, new peace treaties written, borders redrawn. They’re only human, after all. If they want to stand a chance against an ancient god of death, they’re going to have to become something better.

Next

Previous

Back To The Past 3

Next

Previous

Archive Decompiling…

Section 3 Complete

Archive Begin Transmission

I barely slept as I tried to figure out the alien languages I’d surrounded myself with. It wasn’t just the programming language and operating system; I had to figure out the alien language itself well enough to fit into my translation program. I actually passed out at the console exhausting myself. Luckily, the dreams were more of those flashbacks to memories of bad times, which me up again before I could waste a whole night getting nothing done.

I had to find her, though the her vacillated between saving Qiang from Future Venus, and finding Future Venus to murder her. Pretty sure it’d work within those rules of the Parliament of Rogues if anyone wants to make a big deal about it. And if anyone wants to give me shit about aliens in costumes, I’ll remind them this happened in the Cretaceous, like 65 million years before any such agreement existed. I still dumped the body of the alien off the ship with the others in a big cloud of bugs.

Big referred to both the size of the cloud and the size of the bugs. They were tall enough to ride the roller coaster.

Between desperation and anger, I had all the motivation I needed to shove a shitload of information into my brain. I learned to read this weird language as best as possible, which involved touch sensitivity on the buttons as well. I probably don’t even have a mouth capable of making the noises necessary to pronounce the spoken version. And while I didn’t figure out absolutely all the ins and outs of this ship, I learned enough to get it going. That part was kinda important to me. I wanted well away from the ground so as to avoid any more giant gators or giant bugs. Everything’s giant back in the Cretaceous, and here I am without a penis.

I’d lament my timing, but I have at time machine! And with it, I shall find that future copy of my nemesis and tear her apart, molecule by molecule if need be. The only shot she’s got is- no. No shot. No more. Not for this one. Having figured out how to work this thing, I’m going to head back to the time I left and I will see if they returned Qiang. If she’s back unharmed, Future Venus dies quickly and painlessly. Relatively. There actually is a more painful way to tear a person’s heart out through their ass. My favorite version involves music, interpretive dance, and a fistful of rusty, glowing hot nails. The rust doesn’t even do anything at that temperature, but a lot of pain is psychosomatic. So the nails are to mess with her mind. The Thai dragon peppers impaled on the nails, those are for the body.

But like I said, if Qiang is returned to me, I make it easier on Future Venus. I’m undecided on Mobian, mainly because I put all the blame on Venus. But figuring out all that blame won’t exactly work if I’m wrong on time travel. So, once I figured I had the systems under control, I activated Time Navigation Mode. The ship’s viewscreen of the surrounding area shifted from its strange, blue-heavy that analyzed the threat posed by whatever birds, giant bugs, and pterasaurs were flying around. Instead, it sorta whited out, like looking at a wireframe mode. I noticed something off there, though. It showed me some sort of path. When I told the computer to clarify what I was looking at, it came back with the alien equivalent of “Temporal Slipstream”. Flying closer and swapping views, it appeared to be coming from where Mobian was parked.

“Cool,” I said to no one in particular. “Let’s get this bad boy up to 88.8 miles per hour and give it some jigawatts!” I switched back to Temporal Navigation and started charging it up, setting in a course to follow this slipstream. The viewscreen showed it as if I would follow the thing, but instead it created a field around the exterior of this weird little ship to match something it detected in the slipstream. The ship then rose along the same course and existence blinked.

When it came to, the ship had moved quite a bit in various ways. Gone was the marsh, instead replaced by barren plains that grew only scorched grass. And because this is alien, it didn’t use a time system or coordinates in the same way I knew them. I tried reaching out to satellites and the internet, but the ship blocked that. So I figured I’d stop by Empyreal City. At least the ship could give me enough of a view of the planet to navigate manually.

Even from a continental level, things had changed. Where California had been was now an archipelago. Florida hung out from the southeast side of North America, but an awful lot of the east coast north of it had become a bay. China was entirely desert, the middle east was setting off radiation alerts from the other side of the world, and my country was just gone. Ricca and Mu were so thoroughly disappeared, you’d think the Argentinean military snatched them up. I’m just kidding. The Falklands know just how bad Argentina is at stealing land.

And I know just the place to stay up to date on the news. This thing could fly, too. Nice to know in case Maverick and Ice Man were wingmen any time. But I didn’t get any response at all, despite this thing likely being detectable. It became more apparent why when I came into visual range of Empyreal City. The place looked like it’d been home to a kaiju gang bang. Buildings were toppled or half-missing. There were scorch marks everywhere. Then I spot a chitinous leg sticking out of a building, its torn off portion exposed to the sky like it had held up something even bigger. I immediately checked myself for any more of the prehistoric bugs hitching a ride. Satisfied that I hadn’t somehow caused this by exposing the world’s biggest cockroach to time travel, I decided to land.

The streets turned out to be abandoned by people. Not so much cars, but there weren’t many people around. Most hid upon seeing the ship lower. Some of them outright ran when I popped out, but then that’s a normal enough reaction to me. “Hello!” I said, waving at everyone. The dirty, scared people looking back said nothing. The silence deafened, which is when I realized the amazing lack of cars and internet. The phones were almost entirely silent. Satellites? Only a few left. Shit had gone down. Empyreal City’s had its fair share of problems before, but this was a big deal.

“Hey!” I called out to somebody wrapped in an oily blanket. “What year is it?”

“You a time traveler or somethin’?” the boy called back. “It’s 33.”

I looked around. “2033?”

“No, 1933, ya dumbass,” the kid responded. Nothing in those rules I agreed to about not killing civilians.

“Y’all stopped that Mot thing, right?” I asked.

“Shit, no thanks to you, time guy.” He jerked around as a wail started in the distance, then began running for it. “Shit, they doin’ curfew early! Better fly, time guy,” he said as he ran off. Everyone did.

Well, I didn’t know the big deal with curfew, but I knew I was here looking for somebody. And there was one place to find Venus when everywhere else failed. I zapped myself back into the time ship and took off for the East Coast campus of the Master Academy.

It turned out to be nothing left but a pile of cinders and some shiny land that looked like it’d been glassed. So… yeah. Over on the west coast, I found the the original campus of the Master Academy torn to shreds. Not a single whole building stood amongst a campus dotted with crescent moon divots the length of a car. This future version of Earth had been fucked up its earhole.

That didn’t matter. Knowing the year, I was able to make a few conversions and put in a course for home. One second I hovered way overhead a reef in the Pacific, the next I was looking down on Ricca in the year 2018. A little adjusting put me back there right after the disappearance of Mobian’s time ship. I actually wondered what would happen if I tried to stop it from leaving. I’ve seen the future. Fucking up the timeline could only help these people.

Instead, I waited. And waited. And when they didn’t fucking show back up off Qiang, I set it down in front of the residential palace.

“What’s going on?” Silver Shark asked, her large, cyborg body gleaming in the sunlight as she stepped out to greet me. “Where’d you get this thing?”

Archive Uploading

Decompiling…

Section 4 Complete

Archive Begin Transmission

I shrugged. “Carjacked some aliens. Time traveling super bitch stole my daughter and is probably trying to raise her to hate me. I need explosives.”

She set her jaw. “How much?”

“All the explosives,” I said. “And a shitload of rusty nails.”

I loaded up my armor stand for repair and maintenance, nanites for my health, knives for Venus’s health. I didn’t know how long this bogus journey would last, but even a most excellent adventure would still end with me making damn sure that someone was going in a grave. Oh, and I brought rusty nails.

Silver Shark tried to come with me. So did Max, but I held up my hands. “Uh uh. No. This is something I have to do myself.”

“But Gecko, why?” asked Silver.

“Because technically I’m not supposed to be murdering superheroes for no reason nowadays. So I’m going to go have a very intense… discussion… with this Future Venus. A real tongue lashing. Going to chew her out.”

“So this is sexual?” asked Sam, Mix N’Max’s assistant.

“Oh, she’s already fucked,” I said. “I’m just gonna widen the hole.”

Max offered a hand. “If you ever need us, just say the word.”

I shook it with three of my four hands. “If anyone asks, I’m not murdering a super.” He nodded. I walked over to my ship and it seemed almost like a dramatic moment, but then I was like, “By the way, as long as I succeed, I’ll be right back. Like, I’ll be gone, then I’ll be here again, and you’ll all be disappointed you felt like this was a big deal.”

“Boo!” called Max’s other assistant, Holly, causing me to smile under my helmet.

So I took to the ship, got myself settled into the command center, and flew the ship up, navigating conventionally and temporally. When we blinked through time again, we were back where I’d first come into 2033. I set the ship to scanning for any more temporal slipstreams. I whirled as someone stepped into the command room. It was Citra, my wife, carrying a spear in one hand with a bandolier of bullets over the outside of her dress and handgun sticking out of a sash on her waste. “The hell are you doing here?” I asked.

She set her jaw, which made her look more pouty than anything. “She is my daughter too. I am going to kill the bitch who stole her and left you to die.”

“No, you’re not,” I said, turning around as we got a hit on the trail left by Mobian’s timeship. Citra versus Venus? Not so much a curbstomp as a footnote.

Citra walked over and held the spear out to block my access to the console. “You are my husband. Qiang is our daughter. I want to do something.”

I shrug and gesture behind me. “Whatever you do, don’t get in my way. That’s kinda important since I don’t know where we’re going. Now let’s see what time it is these Mobian folks went to…” I hit the button.

When we came out, it was over Palestine. Zooming in to see what might be significant, I found a large force of cavalry getting their asses handed to them by about 2,000 soldiers in blue coats. “Ok, Citra, you thought this would be nice and easy. Now let’s figure out what they’re doing in 1799.”

Archive Transmission Fragment 4 Complete

Archive Decompiling Resumes… … … …

Next

Previous

The Knights Illuminati 7

Next

Previous

I didn’t turn around and immediately lead some villainous expedition into another world for the sake of getting rich on tech so commonplace, they gave it to science projects. They gave a lot of interesting stuff to science projects, and I had to gather up the scientists, including Dr. Creeper, Mix N’Max, Dr. Quincy, and myself, to try and figure out what had been done to these people to better understand what we were facing. Quincy didn’t appreciate me dumping the tentacle on him, not least of which because I literally dropped it in his lap while he was eating calamari. He didn’t finish his lunch for some reason.

He tried to argue with me. “I specialize in plants. Does this look like a plant to you?” he said, waving the tentacle at me.

I shrugged. “That’s what we’re hoping to find out.”

“I do not have a response to that. Fine. I hope they didn’t wreck the entire lab.”

They didn’t, in fact, wreck the whole lab. It came pre-wrecked, but it was intact enough for us to bring in the gear we needed to perform a bunch of autopsies and figure out what we were facing. The ones assigned to the metallurgy of the guns and ammunition I figured found something valuable, as they soon claimed it was all mysteriously destroyed while testing the strength of the metal, ammo included. And some shiny new watches fell off the back of a truck onto their wrists.

They soon left me alone to escape the Institute and leave me to punching dead bodies. I was boxing against one of them hanging on a hook like Rocky in the meat freezer as just part of my testing. I had to get a good idea how much punishment the bodies could take.

I took a break though, intending to go fetch Qiang. It’d be good practice for her. I stopped into Max’s work area first, to see what he was up to. “Knock knock,” I said.

He didn’t look up from where he mixed some liquids in beakers, then poured them on a leg of one of the mercs. “Hey Gex. Bored?” I noted that the liquid fizzled a bit and started to eat through the skin.

“Thought I’d bring Qiang on over, give her some experience with weird dead bodies. Father-daughter stuff. Looks like you’re figuring out clean-up.” I leaned against the doorway.

Max turned to me, perpetual Cheshire grin on his face. “You really love her, don’t you?”

I shrugged and, in the process of figuring out what to do with my extra arms, traced the fangs on my helmet. “There are some questions you don’t ask a guy.”

“Fine, guy,” he put extra emphasis on the second word there to remind me of my current sex. “I remember you hating children.”

“Yeah, I do. Hyperactive, loud, spoiled, stupid little sons of bitches. And they so rarely grow up to try and avenge their parents, despite what all the movies and TV shows tell you.”

“So she’s special to you,” Max said, winking.

I checked around to make sure we were the only ones able to hear. “Orphan taken in by a government determined to train her and use her for their own gain. They gave her to me.” I don’t know if he fully understood what that meant as far as the sort of person they expected me to be.

“Now she’s your daughter.” Max set the beakers down and turned full to me, putting his hands out cautiously, palms toward me. “Are you trying to make her like you?”

I caught myself with my fists raised and before I got close enough to actually land a punch. I’d instinctively tried to beat his ass for that question. I lowered my fists and moved to lean back against the wall. “No, ya Goth bastard. I want her to have an infinitely better life than mine. Why do you fucking ask?”

“Because since I’ve been here, you’ve taught your daughter martial arts and how to butcher an animal. You wanted to bring her to have fun cutting up dead people. You’re a doting father… mother… but are you teaching her the same things you learned?”

I pondered the question. “Well, yes, but not all the things, and not at all like I learned. No gun to her head, no threats of execution, no competition to see who has to fight to the death as the lowest scorers in the group. And like I said, I’m not going around teaching her the best way to sexually violate the human body. I mean, maybe once she’s old enough I can provide some sex education, but she’s too young for that.”

“I don’t mean to tell you how to raise your kid-”

“Then don’t,” I said, cutting him off. He kept going anyway.

“But I don’t think a kid you want to live a better, healthier life needs to poke around dead corpses all the time as part of her education. Unless she wants to be a doctor, of course. I’d be happy to tutor her.” He smiled brightly again, trying to redirect the conversation to something more upbeat.

There are more than 7 billion people on this planet I would murder for a suggestion like that. The one about what I should and shouldn’t teach my own kid. Max is a friend, though. And he might have a point about laying off on the number of corpses I show to Qiang. I know I’m contrarian by nature, probably because someone once told me not to be, but I figured I could at least think it over. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever really be short of dead bodies to show her if I need to.

That became less important of a point though when Max turned around. “Look what we have here.”

I stepped up behind him. “The good news is, you found a compound to get rid of all those nasty wrinkles and blemishes.” He’d dissolved dermal layers alone, giving us a much clearer view of some of the modifications made to the human. Underneath the skin was a layer of hardened scales. Reminiscent in color to those of the Deep Ones, they were nonetheless tougher than the fish monsters. It’s just that without the skin to cover it up, the resemblance was pretty strong as far as the shape of the thing with the scales. The claws matched up, but Deep Ones were weaker there, too. And these guys didn’t have the fins the Deep Ones had. “I’m going to go round a few people up and send for someone to nab some DNA from a Deep One. This is worth a little bit of looking into.”

It took me a half hour to get a Deep One over from the Drone Division. I brought him, I think him, in to the same lab where Mix N’Max and the rest of the Superhuman Science Crew were gathered. The Deep One gave a croak at seeing all of us there and a dead body with scales on the table. “My Empress, what do you ask of me?”

“Did that thing say Empress?” asked someone in the crowd.

“Shush, that’s not important right now,” I waved off the question, then addressed my soldier. “Just a tiny bit of DNA testing. We were attacked by beings from another world who we’ve just realized bear some resemblance to your people. We just wanted to confirm a few things.”

It doesn’t take much to test DNA, so he lived. He even got a good look at the thing on the table courtesy of Dr. Creeper. Seeing as I’d discarded the same handy-dandy quick tester I’d used to confirm the identity of Spinetingler’s daughter, it took slightly longer for us analyze the DNA and get a good look at its makeup. It was Dr. Quincy, he of the plant biology, who took the lead on this one. “We have samples from standard humans, a Deep One, and one of these creatures to compare to. We would need more samples to gain a fuller understanding of Deep Ones, but utilizing what we have here and the map of the human genome, it appears humanity and the Deep Ones share a common ancestor.”

The Deep One himself scratched at its chin before speaking in a croaking voice, “My people have mated with humans many times in our history.”

“Yeah, there are a stories to that extent,” I said. “That raises the question on whether the Deep Ones are so closely related to us because of all the crossbreeding, or if it was allowed beforehand.”

Quincy shook his head. “The crossbreeding could only have occurred because of how closely we’re related. It’s similar to how neanderthals interbred with early humans. That brings us back to this guy,” Quincy pointed with the tablet he held to the corpse on the table. “As strange as it seems, this thing that used to be human within its own lifetime now shares less DNA with homo sapiens than Deep Ones do. This thing might be so distantly related it may not be able to interbreed with us. If it were alive, I would add.”

It was a valid point to bring up. Technically, it’s hard to breed with a corpse. That’s why it’s important for horny teens to remember that you can’t get pregnant with a dead body. Joking aside, this whole DNA thing was making me glad they didn’t take me for a sample. I mean, homo machina are an offshoot of humanity and there doesn’t appear to be a problem with having someone be half homo sapiens, half homo machina, but I don’t know if it can occur naturally in the bedroom. And then there’s the idea that I might be more closely related to a human than a Deep One is.

“Empress,” the Deep One said, once again calling stares onto me. He walked right over, so it’s not like anyone was confused enough to think there were any other female heads of empires around. “There are elder truthsayers who carry ancient stories. They speak of beings from another world who made many things, such as great pyramids. They are even said to be our creators and gods for a time. May I bring one to you so that you may hear his wisdom?” He knelt before me.

On the one hand, stories about things from another world building the pyramids never struck me as particularly truthful before, but context is important. I patted him on the head. “Sure, go bring me one of those elder things.”

And so he did, leading in a being that proved you can be both scaled and wrinkled at the same time. It’s not a pretty sight, and I’m not entirely sure this guy could see anymore, but he came in to try and regale us with a long-winded tale of the creation of the Deep Ones. I actually fell asleep, but my armor kept recording so I was able to get the jist of it, which is basically just what the one guy said. Broad strokes, the Deep Ones have a creation myth going back to gods from another world creating their god and themselves before nonbelievers from the island of Mu refused to bow down. They were being beaten in battle by the gods, until a small group, aided by traitors among the Deep Ones, were able to sneak into the holy temple and destroy the path between the two worlds.

They thought they had failed, because they disrupted the rituals at the sight of the path, or more likely portal, but it didn’t fade away. In desperation, one of them stole a sacred relic from the gods and fled. The portal began to shrink then, and the gods warned that unless the relic was returned, they would fade away. This was when they retaliated by creating the monstrous Cthulhu, who was sent to sink Mu in retaliation. Or, more likely, he was insurance. Like “return the glowing crystal or your island gets it!”

So this glowing thing we got is probably that thing. And I bet those weird ruins on the west side of the island are the ones that hid this thing until someone, probably the Claw, dug it up and started studying it.

Which means… I’d better bring extra explosives for the enemy. And extra underwear for my allies. As the head of the ACLU once said in the future, don’t mess with Earth. And kill Zoidberg.

Next

Previous

The Knights Illuminati 1

Next

Previous

The island of Ricca welcomed all kinds of new guests here, and I think it’s time to get this musical rolling. For once, there actually will be a meeting of a bunch of evil people to plot against the world. The best part is, all the conspiracy theorists will say it’s fake news as soon as we all inevitably leak it.

I remember when I heard Ouroboros was on approach in a jet. Sam, she of little hair, saw me throw on my formal armor coat and said, “You sure he doesn’t expect a red carpet? He’s probably got a jet with its own grill.”

I adjusted the tasteful giant red and gold coat with peacock feathers sticking out of the rear collar and put my helmet on. “Psh. Some of us have both dignity and exquisite taste.”

It turned out to be a regular jet with some boring company name on it. A fake company. Easy enough to make: take a noun or a verb and add Solutions, Management, or Global to the end. Throw them all together and you get Global Management Solutions, as generic and fake a name as they come. I’m not even going to check, but that’s still probably a real company.

I was going to make fun of it probably selling mercenaries to third world dictators, but I’m now a third world dictator and the mercenaries I’d been using up and left the island. Apparently they throw a tantrum and leave whenever they suffer lots of casualties for little pay. Bunch of spoiled brats with rifles if you ask me. At least there’s plenty of resale value on their guns. And on their organs, actually.

In fact, and this is brilliant, I’m sending an email right this minute to the hospital to start cloning valuable human organs using nanites and whatever spare meat they can get. Ooh, and maybe we can sneak in tracking devices. Or some sort of robots that separate after implantation and attach to the optic nerves and ears in order to let us spy. Perhaps some sort of nanite killswitch…

I couldn’t stand around thinking all day though. I had to get out there and meet this guy. Plus, that’s kinda what we sell prosthetic organs for anyway. We could always capture the market that doesn’t want prosthetic, though…

The airport had been plenty busy with people coming and going. We had some air traffic coming in through South Korea, Japan, China, and Australia. Russia threatened to send me a plane full of Polonium right to my front door once. I politely informed them that they don’t want to mess with me, because I know where their bodies will be buried. The radiation detectors didn’t find anything unusual in a scan of Ouroboros’s jet.

I stepped out there with Mix N’Max standing a ways behind me, and Sam and Holly behind him. At the last minute before the door opened, I turned and motioned Sam over. “I need a hand with something real quick.” She looked to Max, puzzled, but stepped over. I slid the heavy jacket off and tossed it into her arms. She almost dropped it. “Here, hold that for me.”

“Motherfucker!” she started, then walked back to behind Max, who smiled at her. He leaned in to whisper something and Sam went to find a place to dump it out of view of any important people. Yeah, I did it just to fuck with her. That was my plan the whole time, or at least I expected someone would say something I felt deserved it.

Soon after she walked off to see to my coat check, Ouroboros graced us with his presence. The man himself left the jet in a suit with a version of his mask on to protect his identity. He brought with him a few aides, including an older, wide, and thick fellow with white hair. I held my hands apart, all four. “Welcome to the island of Ricca, home of the Empire Ricca, and its lovely capital.”

“The city of Ricca?” he asked, a slight smile coming to his face. He setepped down the stairs and walked over to me for the official handshake that would have been photo-op worthy if we weren’t both wanted people.

I called up the latest Director Speaker guy to confirm. “Yes, the city of Ricca. As you can probably tell, the last administration lacked creativity. That’s why it took me to gather up a bunch of us for this meeting. We’ve had an increased trickle at the end here, but I think we’re about ready to start.”

He nodded. “I saw you had a problem with the navy.” He leaned in. “You did all of it, didn’t you?”

“I would have to be some kind of evil mastermind to pull that off. Thank you for the compliment.”

He smirked. “You impressed a lot of people on the fence about this meeting by stopping that nuclear bomb and protecting everyone else. My people thought it was surprising and devious. I felt it was serious. You’ve seen my city and I would love to see yours after my people have had time to bring my things to where I’m staying.”

Sounds like he wanted to make sure he had a nice place that wasn’t going to blow up. I don’t blame him. It also gave me time to pick a tour guide from the Directors. I’m too important as the leader of an entire nation to go around showing some glorified criminal mayor around. Notice I didn’t even give him a lei or throw him a luau. Leave that for greeters or the assistant to the greeters or the intern to the assistant to the greeters. I assume there’s protocol in place for all the little people. I wouldn’t know. I first showed up in Ricca as a hired consultant to build weapons of mass destruction.

As a person with plenty of lackeys, little things like saying “Hello” or showing supervillains to an Ikea mansion are beneath me. If I want, I could hire someone just to wipe my ass. I could pay them nothing but I wouldn’t. Because I’m classy and because you don’t want to screw over someone whose job is putting their fist near your pucker.

There was one last major attendee to grab. I gathered some of those lackeys of mine in a clearing on the edge of the city. Amid chanting, we started a massive bonfire. I had a table brought out, as well as a large pig. I hefted the pig onto the table and reached over to one of my black-robed lackeys. He held out a knife.

Suddenly the chanting grew quieter. I looked over to see Holly standing by a wireless speaker, her finger just leaving the volume down button. “Is this really necessary to get this guy here?” said Holly. She, Sam, and Max were all waiting at the edge of the clearing, along with Silver Shark, Citra, and Qiang.

I pulled my hood back. “No, that part’s easy. We have a mirror for that.” I pointed to where a few of the lackeys were standing up a mirror next to a cooler full of beer. “But I figured it might be rude to summon him here without something to eat. So then I got to thinking about it and figured I’d bring us all out here for a barbecue.” I turned back to the pig and stabbed the knife down. One spurt of blood later, the oinking stopped.

“You know how to do that thing where you cut it into pieces to cook it?” Sam asked while I set to work. Qiang rushed over to watch me.

“Butcher,” Silver Shark said.

“Thank you,” Sam said.

“It wasn’t a correction,” Shark responded. Still sore I cheated on her back when I was handling her meat, I see.

A couple of lackeys finished driving supports into the ground on either side of the bonfire. Then they hefted a grill into place. “Bring me the sacred herbs! And spices.” Another robed lackey stepped over with a bowl full of seasonings for me to toss on the meat.

Max clapped for me. “Excellent job. Was that a new record?”

“I know I was watching it, but how did you clean and butcher it so fast?” asked Silver Shark.

“I have a lot of experience cutting animals apart,” I said and tossed some loin and chops onto the grill. I headed back to work on more cutting.

Sam walked over, “Do they all come apart the same way?”

I shrugged and saw how Qiang was watching me cut. I handed her the knife and let her give it a try. “Generally less, though there are some specifics that depend on who you’re butchering.”

“Who?” Sam asked.

“Who who?” I asked back.

Holly pointed at me. “You said ‘who’ you’re butchering?’”

I pointed at myself too. “I did?” I looked to Max, who nodded.

“Don’t you consider humans animals?” asked Holly.

I looked down to see Qiang’s rough hackjob on some of the meat. Eh, there are always some spare pieces to throw away. I glared back at Holly and mouthed a silent, “Yes.” Ok, so I love the girl. I might even have feelings for some of these damn, dirty apes all over this planet due to a form of Stockholm Syndrome I haven’t had formally diagnosed.

Regardless, I should cut back on some of the outright, if deserved, bigotry against homo sapiens. She’s still half human, and that kind of thing could send a pretty fucked up message if she ever starts to think about it. No heir of mine is going to go through life a brainless bimbo. Plus, she’ll probably have to marry one of these backward chimps they call people in this universe. None of them are good enough for her anyway, which is yet another knock against this sad excuse for a species. I want her to be happy though. Coincidentally, I’ve already put out feelers online for used shotguns, the dirtier the better. I have to have that thing ready to clean the night she first starts dating.

“Can I change the music?” asked Citra.

I nodded. “Fine.” I can’t expect everyone to enjoy Sunn O))) or even to pronounce it correctly. It’s the parentheses. Very difficult for human tongues. She grabbed the mp3 player I’d used because I wasn’t about to let people hook a speaker up to my brain. That way lies madness and comments they don’t need to hear about themselves. The next song was less droning, but still quite My Imperial Majesty’s jam.

Holly leaned over. “Is this song seriously called ‘Rock N Roll Nig-‘.”

I cut her off, “Hush, we’re getting to the good part.”

After a few seconds of the song continuing on as normal, she asked, “I don’t hear anything special.”

“The whole song’s the good part,” I said. I tossed some ribs on the barbecue. “I think we’re doing well enough to bring them over.” I turned to the mirror and, with no ceremony whatsoever, said, “Spinetingler, Spinetingler, Spinetingler.”

The flickering flames of the bonfire disappeared from the mirror. The reflective surface went entirely black. Some of the blackness moved and grew out, a nub of darkness. Some of it then fell to the grass as strands of hair hanging down from a head. An arm poked out of the mirror as well. A woman crawled out in a white dress. She crawled over to me, then pulled herself up on my robe.

It was Spinetingler’s daughter. I don’t recall if I ever learned her name, but I do remember her face. Big nose and big brown eyes. Or they were before turning all icey white. Her hair used to be blonde too, but there’s not a lot of good horror from being stalked by a blonde. “Hey, you’re looking better. You eating better?”

She stared at my face for a long few seconds. “I heard you were a man.”

“I often am. Where’s your dad?” I looked past her to the mirror. I heard cawing, then a swarm of some sort of black bird flew out of the mirror and moved as one gigantic flock until they dove at the ground near the bonfire.

The birds disappeared into a dark puff of feathers that resolved into a black-clad figure with red trim. Black boots, black gloves, all looking like leather. I couldn’t pin down the pants and shirt, but it had kind of a leather creak going on. His face was hidden under a black hood of his own with red eyes glowing from within. He leaned over the grill. “Smells good. Do you have any beverages for myself and my daughter?”

“Lackeys, beer the man!” I called to some of the minions, a few of which were here from scenic Missouri. “Feel free to take the robes off if you don’t mind getting smoke and all in your clothes. I, however, will stay dressed in the formal evil barbecue robes as mine are light and airy, and I’m not wearing anything under them. Come on, folks, let’s get this party started!”

Next

Previous

What Do You Want 5

Next

Previous

I know what everyone’s wondering. I know it because I keep getting asked over and over again. I’ve been asked it by Sam. “Can’t you just make your own nuke?” And by Holly, “Don’t you have any nukes around here?” Even Silver Shark weighed in, “Aren’t you smart enough to build your own?”

I am indeed capable of throwing one together. There are probably plenty of villains on this island who can help with that. My answer was simple. “It’s not about making a nuke. It’s about taking one.”

The crowd of people who have all taken to camping in my palace didn’t find that satisfactory. “I bet Maxxy could even build you a nuke!” Sam said, gesturing toward Max.

I looked over to Max, who stood in my kitchen, pouring cereal into a pint of yogurt before taking a spoon to it. “Gecko knows what she’s doing. Leave me out of this,” he said, chomping on fruit loops and congealed dairy.

“Thank you, Max, you are a scholar and a gentleman.” I nodded toward him and crossed all my arms. I looked down to see Qiang mimicking my pose and reached down to hold her against me with my two lefties. “As I was saying, I am easily capable of making a nuclear weapon. I’ll even teach my little psycho bunny here if she wants to learn when she’s older.” I turned and kissed the top of Qiang’s head, then pretended to bite her hair. She giggled at that and hugged onto me.

I will, but only when she’s old enough to handle nuclear weapons, so at least fifteen or sixteen. I don’t want to pressure her into it, though. After all, she might prefer for her first WMD to be a chemical or even biological weapon. I can help with the chemical part, but I’ll have to impart on her that a biological weapon is a huge responsibility. I don’t want to help her build one of those for her to just forget about it and leave me to take it out and clean up after it.

“Making a nuclear bomb also does some weird stuff as far as international treaties. Now, even though people don’t invade countries who develop the bomb precisely because they now have that bomb to use against invading countries, it still creates some international tensions. More importantly, I don’t want to make one because it’s more important for it to be stolen. I have a lot of old files stored away, hogging valuable gigabytes I could use for more important stuff, like porn. Some of those files include the location of places where a certain large nation of imperialist pigs.”

Holly held up her hand. “Question! Do you have to call us pigs like that?”

“Yes,” I answered bluntly. Then I held up a booklet. “It says so in the manual.” I handed it over to her. The cover featured a row of grinning prisoners standing in front of a happy firing squad. “So You’ve Become A Dictator,” read the title above it. She took it and started reading through as I continued.

“There’s a group of these guys around, they’re spying on Ricca, and some of them have almost certainly come ashore without us detecting them. In retaliation, I’m going to steal one of their bombs. Just a bit of harmless tit for tat.” I pulled out another booklet and threw it at Sam just before she started to stifle a laugh at the thought of anything tit-related with me now. She caught some more of my educational reading, “The Dictator’s Guide To Preemptive Strikes”.

“Now, this next part will require all of you to practice the important skill of shutting the fuck up… but I’ll leak that we have it in some hidden site and wait for whoever they’ve got on the island to make a move for it. Then I snap the trap before Admiral Akbar can so much as perform vocal warm-up exercises.”

The joke landed a bit flat, in part because Max was busy with his cereal and Holly had become engrossed in the dictator manual. And that was the only reason nobody liked such an obviously phenomenal reference. “Wow, this is really mysoginist,” Holly said, never taking her eyes off the booklet.

I shrugged. “High turnover from purges, civil war, and regular war. They pretty much all turn women into baby factories.”

“Even the women dictators?” she asked.

“Check out the roster on Page 78,” I said.

She flipped to it. “Wow, that’s a lot of guys.”

“That’s why they’re not called vagtators,” I said. “So, we have any questions about the plan?”

I got a rousing chorus of mildly disinterested “No”s and one question from Qiang on if I was going to fix hamburgers. I told her yes and set her down, then realized she was wearing the same dress as me. “Who got you this? You’re almost as pretty in that dress as your dad.”

“I didn’t used to hear these kinds of sentences until I met you people,” said Silver Shark, shaking her mechanically augmented head from where it sat on a neck that could adjust to let her shift it to face directly up when in the water.

“Miss Shark got me this!” Qiang answered, pointing at Silver.

“Aww, did you tell her thank you?”

Qiang nodded.

Silver Shark spoke up. “I told her about Valentine’s and helped her get a dress in case she got a Valentine of her own.”

“Huh,” I said, thinking about it. “That’s right, Valentine’s. Completely slipped my mind. I didn’t even notice if they celebrate it here.”

“They celebrate it,” Max spoke up. “The women give chocolates to men in this part of the world.” He looked at me, then down at his pint of yogurt and began to sidle off to the side.

“That’s remarkably astute. What an amazing thing for you to know, Max. Mind if I ask how you know this and, come to think of it, why my wife didn’t get me anything? Where is she, anyway?”

Sam crossed her arms. “She’s probably sleeping off the sedative Max gave her after she caught him eating all the chocolate you were supposed to get.” She stuck her tongue out at Max. “Happy VD, Maxxy.”

I turned to find a Max-shaped hole in the wall. That would be this one chemical that weakens most forms of wood only in spots with pressure put on it. Useful for making personalized doorways, but not so much preventing someone from following. Still, I was more concerned about checking on Citra. She was indeed still asleep and loopy. I figured I better get her something to make up for missing Valentine’s. With the aid of Qiang, I worked on a pink, heart-shaped cake.

“Oh god, the attention to detail. That’s so gross,” said Sam as she watched me finishing the icing.

“Don’t look so grossed out,” I told her. Qiang passed me a more red shade of icing that we’d whipped up. “Everyone has them.”

“I can’t believe you think that’s a romantic gift,” she countered.

I rolled my eyes. “You’d whine the same way if I pulled out my actual heart and gave it to her. Some people just aren’t happy, and you’re one of them.” I stuck out my tongue at her, then returned to careful decoration of the large muscular blood pump, all while thinking about stage two of the nuclear plan. A gal’s gotta have secrets, even when she’s a dude. Especially when she’s a dude, some might argue.

I had plenty of time to finish before it was time to send Hexadecibel on his way. We had to wait for an appropriate time due to time zones, but I soon strapped on my armor and gave him a set of Riccan augmented reality glasses to wear. We launched from the villain village. One moment he was there, muttering incantations in a circle, the next he was gone and in a bunker somewhere. I lost him there for a few seconds until a smaller portal opened in the circle that let the signal through.

“I got shunted, man. I’m nearby the room.” he said as soon as I could see and hear the situation. Teleporting in like that set off alarms. The glasses overlaid a path for Hexadecibel to follow to the storage area. I saw through is eyes as a squad of guards tried to accost him. Arms grew out of the concrete around them and pulled them against it. He stopped to rifle through one of their pockets before I urged him to forget about mugging them and get the big stuff. It took a bit of maneuvering until he found himself coming out into a two-story room. The floor gently sloped up in a ramp to a door on the second story. Underneath it was the opening of a bunker. “Back!” I yelled just as the opened fire. Good reflexes on those soldiers.

Hexadecibel didn’t go back. He magicked up a concrete wall. A big, beautiful wall, the best wall, nobody builds better walls than Ricca. “Shit,” he said.

“You got this?” I asked.

The view moved from side to side. “I don’t know. Maybe I can. Let me try something.” He jumped up and threw a fireball at them. The rate of fire sounded like it picked up dramatically as he landed, but so did the screaming. After a couple of seconds, the shooting stopped while the screaming continued. Hex dropped the wall cautiously, but no fire picked up. He headed up the ramp and stopped in front of the door’s keypad. “Do you know the code?”

“Give me something big enough to bring my hand through,” I told him.

He put his hands together, made a few hand gestures that created glowing runes in the air, then pulled them apart. A small portal opened, about as big around as a softball. I pulled my gauntlet off and pushed an arm through the portal and against the pad. Soon, my body connected with the wiring and allowed me to interface with it. I had it open for him, then pulled myself free and back to my own location as soon as I could. “You’re good to go.”

When he opened the door, it led to row after row, rack after rack of warheads. He stood there for a moment. When it looked like he wasn’t moving, I ahemed and said, “Hey, there may be soldiers coming up behind you. Get in and shut that door.”

He hurried in. “Sorry, I think I peed a little. There are so many.”

“The country’s had the ability to annihilate all life on Earth for more than half a century. That’s a lot of spares left laying around.”

“I guess I didn’t think about how many that means. How many do you need?”

“I said just one and I meant it. Preferably one of these near the door. They’ll be a bit more fresh.”

“Ok, you should back up.”

I moved further away from his little circle. Meanwhile, the connection showed him pulling out some mixture of a powdery substance and spreading it in a circle around one of the racks that only had a single warhead. There was some chanting, some more runes, even a bit of a red glow then… pop! The air made a little popping noise as Hexadecibel and the nuclear warhead just appeared in his little circle on this side.

“Whew!” he shouted and clapped his hands. “That was intense, man. Hey, I still hear the alarm though.”

I heard it too, then I realized. “That’s not so much an alarm as it is a loud squee.” Too late, I looked up to find myself tackled by an enthusiastic giant bee woman. Queen Beetrice, ruler of the insectoid-humanoid Buzzkills and the nation of North Korea as part of the Riccan Empire.

“I thought you were watching the Olympics,” I told her.

She just hugged me tight. “I heard you were getting me a nuclear bomb!” she said, attempting to squeeze me out of my armor like Popeye opening a can of spinach.

“Let’s talk this over elsewhere,” I said to her. I had to give the military guys the orders on where to hide our bit of ill-gotten goods. They’ll see to it.

I, on the other hand, had to go make another cake, and bees have really weird-looking hearts compared to humans. Meanwhile, at the rocket plant, custom orders began to trickle in every few hours, spread across different shifts, meant to match different sorts of rockets than the we use on Ricca. With the nuke secured, I was ready to prepare stage two.

Next

Previous

What Do You Want 4

Next

Previous

The diver we detained sang like a bird. After he finished tweeting, Mix N’Max tweaked the formula a bit and got him to talk instead. I know, we didn’t handle things the way the civilized countries do, with waterboarding and torture. All we did was treat him ok to gain his trust then subject him to drugs that loosen his tongue, like savages.

“Who are you?” Max asked after giving the guy a hell of a dose.

“I’m a lance corporal with the United States Marine Corps,” the man answered, groggily.

“Yes, but who are you?” Max asked.

I stood outside the room, watching through a one-way wall. Basically, we had this thin fabric on the wall, something they derived from cuttlefish skin. A camera fed us a view that was put on a wallpaper-thick monitor. As far as the person inside was concerned, there weren’t mirrors for us to watch him through. You know, because we’re trustworthy here. And speaking of trust, Sam and Holly were standing on either side of me. Sam took a moment to tell me, “If anything happens to Max, I will choke a bitch.”

I waved off her concerns, but she added, “And you’re the bitch.”

“Yes, yes, sure, sure. You’re talking as if I haven’t choked more bitches than a big-dicked zoophile.” Come to think of it, I have slept with humans while male, so that’s an accurate description of me. No, wait. Huge-dicked. Megaladong, leviathan of the watery, moist depths.

I turned my attention back to Max and our captured Lance Corporal. “Enough with who he is. I want to know what he wants and why he’s here.” From my lips to Max’s ears courtesy of a thing in his ear.

It’s entirely possible that we have some folks around here who aren’t supposed to be. We’ve seen lots of naval activity in the area because of the island of Mu. They’re looking at the place. A whole new age of colonialism may well begin, but I’ve got first dibs because I married into the royal family of the Bronze City. With my own guys in place scouting around there, I think I’ve found some options for advancing them a little further along the tech tree and conquering the place. Truth is, it’s my ambassador who came up with that idea. Mine tend to involve turning them into super soldiers with enhanced muscles and armor embedded in their skin.

The guy we’d captured was nothing like that. Plain ol’ human. If he had any powers, he hadn’t used them. What he did have was a tongue he could use to tell us what was going on. “We were briefed that villains had gathered on Ricca. We are supposed to monitor the situation.”

“You would think they’d be glad to be rid of them for a time. Why do they care?” Max asked.

The marine shook his head, but also nodded. “Marco heard from his boyfriend who works the radio. He overheard one of the brass saying they think this is the same thing the last guy did.”

I realized he was talking about the Claw and the Unity drug. His people gave it to supers, blocking access to their long term memories so they could convince them they worked for him. So, I guess I hadn’t realized what this might look like to outside groups.

“Why are you here?” Max asked.

“I’m supposed to scout the island for infiltration,” he answered.

“Him and what army?” I asked Max through the earpiece. In my experience, recon marines don’t send in just one person to take a look. They typically operate in squads.

“Was anyone with you?” Max asked.

“My squad. You captured me, but they got the job done. We always do. Oorah!” He sat up straighter.

“I think we got all we needed out of this, Max. Hey, by the way, that stuff you gave him isn’t fatal, is it? Especially knowing you gave some to me.”

Max shook his head as he left the room. He waited until he was out of there to answer. “No, you’ll both be fine. Did you want to kill him yourself now he’s talked?” Max gestured toward the door.

I shook my head. “I have a better idea. I’m going to make an example of him.”

The next day, after he’d sobered up, I marched him right up to the docks. He stood there, hands tied behind his back. “Care for a final smoke?” I asked him as he faced the water.

“No. Let’s just get this over with,” the Lance Corporal responded.

Soon, a boat arrived with a group of pissed-looking marines aboard. Before they got too close, I offered again. “Seriously, man, you know this is good shit.” I held up a joint for the marine.

“I’ll be lucky if they don’t discharge me after this. They’ll probably stick me in Antarctica.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, sure. I bet they’ll reassign you even harder if you’re high. Hey there, fellas!” I waved at the incoming marines. “It’s not the halls of Montezuma nor the shores of Tripoli, but welcome to Ricca.”

They really wanted to use those pretty guns of theirs, but instead made sure not to point them anywhere near me. That’s the sort of thing that causes international incidents.

I pushed the Lance Corporal toward them. “As the leader of this fine nation, I gladly and publicly return your soldier and ask that the United States refrain from trespassing again.”

Drones with cameras hovered into view, recording and broadcasting for posterity and international viewership. It’s not a good day for the States’ military or its State department. Then again, what State department? They still haven’t rebuilt it after all the damage caused by the one Moron President last year.

The marines got their man back, the marine got to go back, I got information, and it looked like everything was one big happy, stupid deal. Thing is, I’ve been the devil in the deal before. I tracked them back to their ship and I put the drone guys on alert to check the entirety of the island. We’ve had visitors.

I mean that in two senses of the words. First, we’ve had these recon guys here. We’ve also had all these villains around. The two are linked, and not just because the latter caused the former to come out here. Having a bunch of unfamiliar people around makes it easy to sneak someone in to get a look.

I know, why bother? Not like we’re doing anything wrong here. But as a serial killer, I’m used to being misunderstood by people. They never want to see the good side of me. The caring philanthropist fighting overpopulation, for instance.

More than that, this is an opportunity. Lots of things are. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, for instance.

I took myself a walk out to the villain village. I saw that one guy again, the rocker dude with the occult tattoos. He had his glowing hands up as he directed these magical rock guys walking around, picking up litter. It looked so much cleaner around. Still had a guy sleeping on the fountain, but he hadn’t wet himself, and there wasn’t technically a pollution law in place to deal with the wet farts the guy kept ripping.

“Interesting powers. Magic, right?” I asked him.

He smirked and waved his hands around, shooting a burst of flame from his wrists. Then he returned to directing the little stone men. “I know what you’re wondering. Where did the lighter fluid come from?”

I chuckled under my helmet as I approached. “I’ve had a certain question on my mind lately, and I was curious how some other folks might answer it. A simple question with a complex answer, which is how you know it’s a real son of a bitch. Unfortunately, you can’t look in the back of the book for the answer this time around. What do you want?”

“I want to get this shit cleaned up because it stinks and I hate stepping on it. People were afraid to wear flip flops. Oh, was that the question?” When I nodded, he paused and looked off into space. After several seconds. “I want money and I want to have fun.”

“But why?” I asked, aware that question is far more annoying to most people.

“So see, I actually wanted to be the lead guitarist in a band. My friend and I called ourselves the Sex Change Psychopaths.” Dammit, they stole my band name. “It was just us two, so we weren’t a real band and we didn’t have instruments. We thought we could attract some real rockers if we made a kick-ass music video and then they’d teach us how to play, my man. My buddy, Robert, he said that wouldn’t work because we’d need to know how to play to make a kick-ass music video in the first place. And I’m all ‘Uh uh, man. We just need to go to a crossroads.’ He’s got this annoying little brother who wants to be part of the band and we didn’t want to let him, but we need him to drive us.”

I pulled a bag of popcorn out of my utility belt. “Sorry to interrupt, but can you warm this up for me?” I held it out to him.

“Sure, no probs.” He took the bag in his hands. They glowed red and the bag expanded amid a chorus of pops.

I took it back when he finished. “Thanks. Now please continue. You needed Robert’s little brother to drive you.” I moved my helmet up just enough to expose my mouth for eating the popcorn.

“Yeah, see I had a problem with this cop in town, Derek the Dickwad, and I got my license revoked. Rob kept failing the test, so that meant we had to go with Ralphy, Rob’s brother. We go out to this crossroads at night and do some stuff we read about online. Nothing happens, so we pack up and go to leave, but Rob’s pissed and makes Ralphy give him the keys. Rob’s leaving when he hits this guy’s goat. There’s some people out there who raise goats. We get out to check and see what Ralphy’s gonna have to get fixed and I notice the goat landed in the pentagram we drew. Then things get freaky as fuuuck. The car dies and we hear laughing and shit everywhere. We left some candles out there and they flare up, and Rob was too close. He’s on fire and gets too close to the circle and this hand just grabs him. I don’t remember anything until the next morning.”

He finished with his little stone men. With a gesture, they all marched over in front of one of the buildings and settled into place as little statues. “We realized we had these powers. We could do things, make shit happen. Ralphy, too, and he threatened us with going to the cops if he didn’t get in the band. We kicked ass for awhile, but Rob, man, it screwed with his head. He started murdering people, and I wasn’t into that. Ralphy wasn’t either. He and Rob got in a fight. Ralphy got hurt and Rob got away. Last I heard, he’s trying to find some way to end the world. Ralphy’s hunting him down and he’d sometimes come after me. I tried the band thing, but it started making me try to be like Rob and kill shit. So I became a supervillain to make money and be famous instead. It’s been wild.”

“So that’s it. Just money and fun. What about if you’re caught or killed?”

He pointed to his chest. “That’s what Hexadecibel’s about, my man! I’m Hexadecibel, by the way.” He didn’t bother with a handshake.

“Nice to meetcha. Say, I have a way you can earn some scratch. Depending on how your skills are, it might even be real easy.” I tossed the bag of popcorn away to the side.

“Hey, I just cleaned that. And I’m good. I can make these stone guys, I do stuff with sound. I’m not cleaning there again, but I’m the right guy.” Eh, not so much. The best guy for the job would have asked what it was before talking themselves up for it.

That became apparent to him when I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “Hexadecibel, I need you to get me a bomb. But not just any bomb. I need you to steal me a nuke, and I know just the American installation with a few to spare.”

It’ll be purely for hunting purposes, of course.

Next

Previous