Tag Archives: Mix N’Max

Hare-Brained 7

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Sitting around and waiting isn’t much of a life for me, but it does give me time to catch up on doing things that need doing. For instance, we had a successful first test of the shield generator. It’s more my design, but the guys at the Institute of Science said they built in a few redundancies for the sake of security. When I asked for specifics, since the entire thing’s made for our security, they showed me fake panels on it that just look like you’re doing stuff if you mess with it. Now that it’s functional, they’re going to wire those panels so that messing with them sends a signal to myself and the men and women of the Riccan Armed Forces.

It also gave me time for a nice lunch meeting with Hu that I didn’t rush. It was overdue, but I wanted to prepare first. Part of that preparation involved a nice lunch outside on a balcony. Yes, I have balconies. I’ve sometimes imagined I’m never going to keep finding rooms and other areas on this house. I’m going to notice a door I never opened before, look inside, and find an entire dead menagerie of exotic animals. The smell will be horrible. But at least I knew about the balconies. Being outside, missing them would be particularly egregious.

I munched on some lumpia as Hu was sent out to meet with me. “Hey there, Hu,” I said, waving him over with the fried, flaky roll in hand. I moved a file folder out of the way as he sat in the only other chair available. Instead of files, I pushed over the plate of lumpia. “Care for one? I made them myself.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” he replied.

“You’re welcome.” I set one on a plate that I pushed toward him. “They’re not really all that authentic, since I focus on meat and don’t care for the normal mix of veggies. But I didn’t say they were authentic, just that I made them.”

“Are you alright, Empress? Have you been drinking again?” He took off his shades and pulled out a wipe to clean them off. He appraised me with bare eyes and I gifted him with a smile. He set his glasses down to try a bit of my lumpia.

“No, silly. Just offering you food here. And I offer all my people of Ricca my protection and services as the sovereign. I am the state, so they don’t have to. I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy ruling. And despite the fact that I am a vicious killer known to utilize chemical, sonic, and dimensional weaponry, I’m trusted with both. You trust me to rule, and you trust that I didn’t poison you on a whim just now.”

He looked down at the roll he’d taken a couple bites of. Then he looked up at me and sat back. I held up a hand to reassure him. “Nope, I didn’t poison you, but the point is that you know I cooked it and you trust me. It’s just lumpia.”

I lifted the plate up so I could grab one underneath it and throw the empty plate at the floor, smashing it.

“Empress?” asked Hu, still no longer touching his lumpia.

I smiled. “I wanted to be dramatic and smash a plate, just not while wasting the food. I think it’s damn good lumpia.” I set the plate down and continued. “There is an enormous trust placed in me that is not put in you. You are not the one people look to when things go wrong. When rebels storm the palace to throw someone’s neck into a guillotine, it’s mine they’re after, not yours.” I grabbed the file and set that on his plate, then flipped it open. “These signatures creating a paper trail, though, are not mine. Some people know how much I dislike paper these days. Plus, I’m a career criminal even if you don’t count my time in politics. Creating more evidence someone could use if a team of heroes decides to make their name delivering me to the UN? Not smart for me.”

“I can explain,” he said.

I nodded. “Good, because that’s why I invited you. I want to know why you’re issuing orders in my name for the sorts of things only I can sign off on. It was apparently quite the secret.”

“You hadn’t been entirely well after returning from captivity. I’ve been led to understand your nightmares are worse. You had been irritable, more murderous. Instability is the bane of nations. I used my own judgment to moderate your impulses militarily so that your disregard for human life did not extend to the grandiose crisis created by your predecessor. I feared you would lash out and create a similar situation to the one that required his removal.”

“What about my demeanor and drinking?” I asked. I wanted to keep the questions as open-ended as possible. Let him create a story to be tested and knocked down, if need be. Knowing how much I was messed up, I went back through the recordings of my memories.

“Your substance abuse convinced me I was right. Heavy drug and alcohol usage is a sign of distress after a traumatic period. I began researching therapists as well, but this is a delicate and private matter.” Hu picked up his glasses and tapped the side. A file appeared in my own augmented reality with a few names of therapists with dossiers attached. I checked to make sure they were real, then I skimmed to see if he’d done more work than a Wikipedia entry. Everything looked legit from that brief view.

“Doesn’t matter. Talk to me. Question me constructively. Suggest better alternatives. Let me know when I screwed up. I welcome that kind of interaction to help me improve. It’s better than not figuring out my mistakes until I have Eschaton halfway up my ass. And by all means exercise your power to do what you think is best. Issue your orders. But you don’t get to issue my orders.”

Hu sat there in silence for a minute after I stopped, then bowed his head. “Empress.”

“Intelligence Chief Pagan will see to your replacement. Take the day to organize the files for the continuity of your successor. Then you will be put on leave for the immediate future while Pagan decides your reassignment.”

Hu sat for a moment, then reached for his lumpia. He took a last, deliberate bite. He set it down and stood up, then bowed low. “By your leave, Empress.”

“Go, Hu.”

I got to eat another one before my next meeting was shown in. She sat across from me, smiling. “Hi baba!”

“Hello dear. What’s this I heard about you making fun of another student?”

“I don’t know.” She bowed her head but looked up at me.

“You don’t know?” I asked. I moved aside Hu’s plate and tore a roll of lumpia in half for her on her own plate.

She took it and began to munch happily, at least until she remembered what this was about. “The kids at school made funna this boy who had a bow in his hair and I said ‘Did you assume his gender?’ like you do to be funny and everyone laughed.”

I may have made a mistake. “Hon, let’s have a little chat, and then we’re gonna make a deal that involves ice cream.”

It’s a good thing most kids can understand all this gender stuff pretty easily. I explained to her about the differences between gender and sex, and how some people might be a certain sex but realize they’re a different gender, and this is just how people are. “And you shouldn’t make fun of people for that,” I finished, not adding that it’s really too lazy. Any asshole can make fun of someone for that, and they do. Just a constant stream of identical assholes, all needing to be torn up. “And you helped me realize that joke I made is a lazy one that works like how those bullies act even if I didn’t mean it that way. So from now on, I want you to let me know if you catch me saying it. Let’s try it for a week first. If we both get through it without using that joke, we’ll have big sundaes.”

She giggled. “Ok, baba.” Of course, then she had to sit up all excited and go, “I get it, because, because, because they’re just like you!”

I looked at her, wondering how I was going to explain the thing that is Psycho Gecko to my daughter, when she hopped out of her chair and walked over to hug me. “I’m sorry, mommy.”

Ok, let’s just leave that behind and focus on the other big major meeting that’s way more important and relevant and not gushy and in no way involves warm, fuzzy feelings or ideas about raising a child to be a better person than the parent or anything at all like that. We are dropping further discussion of Qiang calling me mommy from here on out. It’s dropped. It’s done.

After another day of observation to see how, if at all, Mix N’Max took my discussion with Hu, I invited him along to go fishing with me. Just the two of us on a little catamaran, switching off playing Kevin Costner as we headed out into the water. We each brought our kit: dynamite for me, pescacide for him. That’s fish poison, and that’s why I wouldn’t eat seafood from our fishing trips even if I did eat seafood. And even if he claims to have a way to treat them to make it safe.

Far out in the water, we opened a cooler, I pretended to drink, and began setting our lines. He took a jar out of the cooler and tied it to a rope before poking holes in the lid. I fetched out a bagged chicken, threaded it with fishing line, stuffed the dynamite inside, synced a blasting cap to a detonator, shoved the cap in there, and tossed the chicken overboard. The secret is to get good distance on the throw, and to include a bobber that lets you know when it’s a safe distance away to detonate. You really don’t want to lose track of an explosive cock. It’ll sneak up behind you and, bam!

I let us enjoy the fishing for a bit. Even set a timer for it. Max noticed when it went off. “Is that the Godfather theme?”

I reached up and squeezed the tip of my nose, shutting off the alarm. “Yeah, just to remind me of something.” I checked around to see where my bobber was. I’d had some nibbles, but nothing big, so I pressed the button. The water blew, causing the boat to bob a bit. I waited for the seas to settle before standing. “Well, guess I better get that net.” I walked on over to where we had this big net on a pole in the middle section. Max was sitting on the rear of it, legs dangling out over the water in some cheap flip flops. He’d smeared himself with something to avoid darkening his gothly-pale skin. “Hey, Max… just why have you been drugging me?”

He turned to look at me, standing there behind him next to a pile of dynamite, a net and pole in hand. “Are you going to kill me?”

“I’d rather not. I’ve buried enough friends. But I want to know what you’ve been doing to me and why.”

He shifted to the side so only one leg was dangling and he could better look at me. “I wanted to help you. I was trying to medicate your mental health.”

“Without discussing it with me.”

“You’ve been worse than ever and you never want to work through this stuff with anyone. You keep collecting traumas to carry on your psyche without ever offloading it.”

“Why the fuck is everybody so fucking worried? I function! I do more than function, this is how I win. It fucking sucks, but it’s made me the awesome being you see before you today.”

“Nice sarong by the way,” he said.

“Oh, thanks,” I showed off a little. I’d picked that shade of pink for its potential to cause blindness from how the brightness, and because it matched my bikini.

Max tied the end of his rope to a metal loop, then turned all the way around to face me while sitting. “It’s great that everyone is worried for you. It means you have people who care. That’s new for you, because you were alone for so long that you resented that and saw it as weakness. You’re still kickass, but think how much better you’d be if you were healed up there. Not to take away who you are as a person, but to get rid of the damage that’s keeping that person from being 100%.”

That made a frightening amount of sense to me, and I’d made sure my drinks on the way out here weren’t spiked. I turned away from him to contemplate this and scooped up floating fish from my dynamite blast. After a moment, I called back, “Never do it again, dude. And seriously, you’re on some Buddha level shit right now.”

“I haven’t felt my face for days!” he called back happily.

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Down With A Sickness 4

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Leave it to Max to figure things out. His methods aren’t exactly science, though he argues otherwise. That’s why he’s not my preferred way of curing this thing. My guys can mass produce a cure, probably. Anything he comes up with, he’s the only one who can make more, through whatever processes he uses.

Still, his lab was safely tucked away in one of the many rooms in the palace residence while I tossed fake stuff in spare building we had over near the graveyard. That has an added bonus of being more convincing if the person we’re after is someone familiar with the island, plus the growers who operate out of the tombs will be more than happy to sell all kinds of stuff to relax people if they come looking. I made sure to pick a building at least far enough away that explosives wouldn’t screw with their operation. Probably. I also warned them that they probably want to cook any meth in the daytime until this gets cleared up.

I know, breaking in at night. How cliché, but most people don’t live where they work. Yet. Now if I’m done turning into a socialist dictator, I had a mouse to catch in my trap. And I like traps. There’s something about letting someone walk into their own doom that appeals to me, much like the concept of a deal with the devil. It’s like when the drunk old man warns the counselors not to go up to Camp Crystal Lake. Or when the drunk old man warns the tourist to get out of Innsmouth. Or when the drunk old man warns you that the woman on the sidewalk gives people an itch. I think what I’m saying here is that if I’m going full-on cliché, I need a drunk old man.

It was too late, though. I’d been camping out in the place and didn’t have time to shop for an old drunk when the motion detectors went off. It was a simple but ingenious system. The walls were rigged to detect vibrations, but the actual motion detectors were at all the doors. I watched as someone tripped them, moving swiftly but quietly through the small former store. He came to the room underneath me, one of the ones done up to look like it was in business for Mix N’Max. The figure bent down to examine the obvious bear trap on the floor, then jumped over it. The motion detector, set on the wall at stomach height, detected him and activated the second bear trap. The one on the ceiling. It clamped down with a satisfying and juicy squish.

He cried out, because this wasn’t an instant kill or anything. Just a large, jagged, metal trap that tried to get its jaws to meet just under the guy’s rib cage. I’m not saying he couldn’t die as a result of this. I’m just saying it’d take awhile.

A second guy dove between his friend’s dangling legs and over the first bear trap, which was less expected. But that’s why we have backups, like solid steel doors to slide into place, locking everyone inside whatever rooms they were in. There were other sensors going off, too, which spoke to a much larger infiltration than I’d expected. I stepped out of the corner from where I waited, staying invisible because I don’t resort to dramatics all the time. The lights rose, revealing identical men in front of me. Not just the same clothes and my usual “all humans look alike” view, but the exact same faces. I just figured it was identical twins until the cameras in the other rooms with motion showed the exact same thing. Identical septuplets spies? Talk about 007.

The guy looked familiar, too. Big forehead. The hair’s an obvious blonde dye job. Ah, and my ID program got a hit. Last time I saw this guy, he was dancing in the dunking booth while wearing clown makeup. “Seven of you clowns?” I asked.

The one who was free looked around the room and let loose a chuckle before blurring and splitting into two, then four, then eight. “As many as I need to deal with a problem.”

“I don’t know how many copies you can make,” I said as I dropped the invisibility. His clones? Extras? Whatever they were, they were crowding in enough that they’d have found me anyway. “but I know you don’t have enough to stop me whoopin’ your ass. This is my house.”

They surrounded me, and all spoke at once. “Right now, it’s looking like more of a funhouse. Let’s have some fun.”

Silly rabbit. He thought this was going to be some sort of fair fight, when it’s really a rigged carnival game. His powers must have extended to mere copies, because they went down like regular humans. I charged one of them and punched through him, and the one behind him, and into a third one. I smashed them against the wall, grabbed an organ out of the last guy in that bunch, and pulled out to burst it over the head of another one coming at me from behind. He stumbled back, but another came for me. I grabbed his shoulders with three arms and his chin with the fourth. He screamed as his skull came up, at least until he gave a pop and part of the spine came loose too. By then, the guy who got beamed by a kidney cleared his eyes enough for me to beat him to death with his own skull.

One moment, just realized I needed to put that accomplishment on a list somewhere. Beat a man to death with his own skull. Question is, do I count the consistency with physics as a plus or a minus?

Considering I have four thumbs and don’t give a fuck, a lot of dead bodies started piling up. He probably thought he could just concentrate one or two of them on reinforcements until I grabbed a pair and started swinging them, knocking the remainder on their asses. And one onto the floor-based bear trap, which clamped down on him.

“Looking pretty fun for me right now,” I said.

One of them grinned at me. “A shame we couldn’t play longer,” he said. He pulled his shirt up and tugged out a detonator. I quickly cranked the power of my leg armor’s pseudomuscles up and jumped through the roof, catching a nice big fireball up the ass because I didn’t bother to angle anything. The whole damn building blew up, and not even because of my stuff. I mean, yeah, I prepped explosives. I wasn’t going to use them with me inside the place.

I’m not entirely sure if my legs broke from the jump, from the landing, or from both. I just knew they broke sometime in all this. It took me a minute after landing to stand up and start pulling hot debris away to see if any had happened to be taken alive. As could be expected, I got a call in short order, from Silver Shark. “Gecko!”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Big-ass explosion, though.”

“Us too, fuckface! The Aryan brotherhood just broke in here. One of them grabbed Max and hightailed it. The others are fighting and blowing up.”

“Grabbed Max? These guys are pushovers.” Despite that, this was no time to argue. If he’d grabbed Max somehow, then he was moving him. I jumped to the top of a nearby building, heading for the docks while I pulled open the satellite view and focused it in on the area surrounding the palace and Directory building. “I’ll get him,” I said before dropping the call. I adjusted course for the Cape Diem compound and tried calling up Cape Diem.

I had a direct line to Titan, at least. It’d have to do. I’d rather have the number of the guy working the portals. He could still get an order through to trap the military truck with the canvas-covered back. “Titan, Gecko. Our mole’s trying to pull someone into his hill through your portal.”

I heard growling. “I’m elsewhere, but my people are on it. I just found out a mole on our end is barricaded in the central portal hub with the controls and passcodes. Hold on.”

There was a beep, then I heard Venus’s voice come through. “Titan, this is Venus. I found the mole. He’s running for the Cape Diem portal and he’s kidnapped Psychsaur. She couldn’t use her powers. He had some collar on her. He might have more for you.”

“That must be how he could get the upper hand on Max,” I said. I reached out, trying to access the nanites. He had to have been exposed to the water supply at some point during his time here, right? Fuck, somehow this guy didn’t bother washing his hands the entire goddamn time.

“Gecko?” Venus asked.

“Hold on, I got a kidnapping to stop on this end, too.” I’d hopped from rooftop to rooftop paused to pull out a drone from behind my back and throw it. I reoriented it and flew it ahead of me, trying to catch a truck that must have had its pedal welded to the medal. And me with throwing explosives. The drone flew after it. I jumped along. And it was a disorienting experience. Hard to aim, but I did. I raked the rear of the truck, lower down, with machine gun fire. The rear left tire popped and went flat. The truck wobbled. It hid some sort of debris and began to turn onto its side.

The canvas rear burst open and a motorcycle flew out, carrying one of those blonde fuckers and Max on the back, something around his neck. He had to have been tied there or something. The cycle burst through the gate into the Cape Diem compound and headed right for the tent surrounding the portal. I chased after, unable to shoot becaue of my friend.

People scattered out of the way, some in regular clothes, some in the soft white and blue of Cape Diem personnel. The motorcycle disappeared into the tent, and I landed outside it a second later, popping something. I limped in after them and saw the portal flash and close, leaving me alone with a team of confused Cape Diem portal technicians.

“Gecko, you copy?” Titan asked. “You were breathing hard and growling, then you got all quiet.”

“They got away,” I said, realizing I still needed to breathe.

“Damn! Same here,” Venus said.

“My people just retook the portal room. It’s empty. Something’s in the system. I have techs on it. Good people. One of them’s like Gecko. We’ll find out where they went.”

I stood there, flexing my fingers, pulling up as much of a view of the world as mankind’s satellite network could give me. Not like I’d get lucky and somehow run across the exact tiny spot where he was and be able to recognize him and whatever other copies of his were working. “Unfortunately, he somehow managed to avoid getting any nanites in his system while he was here. Or he found a way to clear them out. Otherwise, I’d… Oh, right.”

“What?” asked Venus.

“Nanites in the drinking water. I put them there to keep everyone healthy, which is how I knew something was up when someone got sick and stayed sick. This guy didn’t have any in him, which is why I couldn’t stop him earlier. But Psychsaur and Max both have them in their system. I can track them.”

Venus spoke up. “This is going to sound bad, but we should wait until they stop running.”

“Find them in their lair,” Titan said.

“Yeah, and then clean them out, hopefully before they can do whatever they need to do to flush them out. I’ll and order them into the hard to reach places.”

“I recommend we keep this under our hats,” Titan said. “I want to make sure this is the last mole in my organization.”

“Agreed,” Venus said.

I cracked my neck and turned with a flourish of my cape, ignoring Cape Diem people running around, trying to calm everything down. “Eh, I’d say I doubt there are any more, but this isn’t looking like a good day for me. Looks like it’s just the three of us, then.” Despite all that, I did trust Dr. Creeper to not be a mole. I had him send a team to the ambush building to see if they could scrounge up anything like what the clown had on Max and Psychsaur.

I had to delegate. After all, my house, with my kid in it, had just been attacked. Just another thing to save up for when I get my hands on someone.

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What Do You Want 3

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Today, the great nation of Ricca welcomed a most esteemed visitor. He stepped off a boat, pale of skin, velvet of jacket, and frilled of shirt; Mix N’Max at last arrived on the island. He stepped down the gangplank right toward me. I met him in friendly hug, the both of us exclaiming the other’s name. “Gecko!”

“Max!”

“Gecko?” asked a feminine voice from behind him. It came from one half of his assistants, Sam Hain, who I barely recognized without her purple hair. She’d gone for something of a punk cancer look, except for this tiny puff of it at the front that was bright green. She also looked pale, but I never remembered that as an affectation she liked to share with her boss. I figured it had more to do with her shaky walk down to the ground that ended with her bending over with her hands on her knees for a few seconds. She had the sea sickness, that Sam Hain. And yes, it’s Sam like Samantha, not pronounced like Samhain. She had on her boots, her fishnet stockings, a lacy black skirt. Excellent seafaring gear, of course. Takes a brave woman to think a corset is appropriate gear for seasickness, but maybe she was trying her hand at formality.

Her friend did not have same issues. Holly Wayne ran down in a flowery dress that didn’t quite match up with the purple highlights in her bleach blonde hair. Even tugging along some of the luggage, she seemed no worse for wear. “Oh my god, Gecko? You look… pretty.” People can be a bit unsure of how to refer to psychopaths having sex changes. Ooh, that’s a nice band name: Sex Change Psychopaths.

“How do we even know that’s Gecko?” asked Holly, standing up. She held her back ramrod straight as she walked toward me.

“You can’t tell?” asked Max, turning toward her with his arm around my shoulders. He held up a hand toward me face.

I did likewise. “Yeah, it’s totally obvious.” I sent Max an email with my picture on it. The rest was the same teamwork that once made us part of a deadly trio of villains. The Dark Triad had been comprised of the three villains known for so many years as the only few to survive breaking one of the unwritten rules of superpowers by murdering other supers. Mix N’Max, Psycho Gecko, and the Good Doctor.

Doc had been a good guy, and I don’t just say that because he’s dead. He had been a good guy blackmailed into villany, but I know he had a taste for it. Once his blackmailer had been dealt with and he had a chance to live with his daughter, he took it. I never did accept it, but our difference of opinion didn’t become truly problematic until I killed his superhero daughter. It was for a good cause, but that didn’t matter. Once I started to accumulate my own family, he showed up to try and deprive me of it. I had to kill him.

“How have you been, dude?” I asked Max. “It’s been too long.”

“I had this great setup in Vegas. It was awesome!”

We spent the evening getting caught up. I showed him my palace, and my daughter, and my wife. Well, technically Citra’s just pretending to be my wife, but close enough. They took it pretty well.

“Who would give you a wife?” asked Holly.

“Who would give you a child?” asked Sam.

“Is this all the alcohol you have?” asked Max.

I answered in order of importance, starting with pointing Max toward the vault where I hide the seashine.

After quite a bit of drinking, we wandered off into the most somber hours of the night toward the big state cemetary. I say somber hours, but they’re the same early hours that super criminals like us often do our best work. This wasn’t about robbing, not even graverobbing. That business isn’t as lucrative as it used to be in the days of undisturbed Egyptian pyramids and medical colleges needing cadavers.

There was more drinking, some alleged crying, and some strange substances were ingested. I won’t specifiy too many of the actions, except to note that I smoked something and then took a trip away from the graveyard. I was being sucked away from the Earth I was living on and toward the Earth I came from. Screw that. I wanted my Earth, not that old one. My Earth, with my daughter, my obsessed bee woman, my old magical Moai statue, my former minions, my current friends, and even that poor woman who decided to be my wife. I wanted to grip the ground and hold tight no matter what forces tried to tear me away.

Then I found myself back at the tree. This pissed me off because I hate extended dream sequences. I would torture a damn tree if I needed to. I figured I was safe once it grew the face of Good Doctor. That kind of cheesy symbolism was a better indication of my own mind playing tricks than having never left the tree. It didn’t make me feel any better toward it. Its branches grew at me like claws. I grabbed it by the trunk and squeezed like I could choke it off. “What do you want?” I asked it.

The words echoed. The tone changed and the tree moved its mouth in sync with them. I really gotta cut out… whatever the hell it is I smoked. The damn echoing felt like it wouldn’t stop. Felt like it reverberated deep inside me, so I tried to yell things to stop it.

“I want Qiang to be safe! I want to get rid of the worst people!” That didn’t work. It surprised me, because I thought those were pretty good answers. Revelatory stuff that went a little deeper into my core and how I’d changed than most people would expect. While true, the answers didn’t stop the echoing question, so I kept throwing out answers. “Truth, justice, freedom, reasonably priced love, and a hard-boiled egg. I wanna be free. I wanna be free to do what I wanna do. And I wanna get loaded. And I wanna have a good time!”

It just wouldn’t end, so I sat there, punching the face of a tree monster, trying to figure out what I could say or do to make it shut up. I tried kicking it in the balls, for instance. No balls. Poked it in the eye, but it was just wood. I even tried thinking really, really hard. After what felt like hours of dealing with antagonistic plantlife, I was tired. I hung there, slowly thunking my head against Good Doctor’s face in ineffectual headbutts. I finally stopped, sighed, and said, “I just want to live and make this place better.”

I paused. “Wait, how long have I wanted to live?” I looked at Good Doctor’s face. “And don’t you get any ideas about that other part. I said make it better, I didn’t say saving kittens out of trees and flying around with my underwear showing. Those types have sat around letting bad people do plenty of bad things because it’s easier than rocking the boat.”

I awoke the next morning to find myself laying on top of a mausoleum. I crawled to the edge and tumbled off, startling Max awake from where he slept curled up on a grave. “The fuck did you give me last night?” I asked my friend, grabbing his neck and lightly swinging his head side to side.

He coughed and pulled away. “Drugs. I made this strong stuff that’s like LSD on steroids and Beta blockers.” I couldn’t easily process this statement at the time due to the LSD on steroids and Beta blockers in my system.

“What?”

“I made it to get in people’s brains and mess them up for questioning.” He groaned and rolled over to me, his face really close to mine.

I slapped him. “Dick move, dude. Why would you give me that?”

He held his hand to his cheek. “Sorry, I think it happened while we were drunk. I think the seashine melted my fillings. I didn’t realize you might have smoked it until you were yelling things at the sky!”

“What things?” I asked, grabbing onto his lapels. Then a massive, nasty burp came up and I just let it go in his face. He winced and tried to keep his mouth shut, then turned his head and coughed a few times.

“It was all gibberish. A lot of things were messing with its intended purpose, but I didn’t hear anything private and nobody else could either.” He patted my ands and I reluctantly released him.

“Fine… gah, let’s get back to the palace. My mouth feels like I had a hobo-eating contest.”

It was Sam who opened the door to the palace, which looked to have had quite a party on it sown. I saw Silver Shark sprawled over a couch and Queen Beetrice hanging over the counter. Sam yawned and looked at me with my hair resembling the starship Enterprise. Then she looked to her boss, Max, whose clothes were all frumpy and wrinkled. “You two have yourselves some private fun?”

In deference to her being Max’s minion, I didn’t try as hard as I could have to hit her.

Later, after being rested, showered, and enjoying some hair of the dog that bit me, an idea crept into my brain. My brain was recovering from a lot, including my admission to myself that not only do I truly have some altruism of a sort inside me, but I don’t really want to die anymore. That wasn’t as important as recognizing a problem that Max’s drugs provided a solution to.

Armoring up again for appearance’s sake, I dragged Max along with me to the military base where they held our unknown diver. “The guy’s spoken in English before, and his gear matches up with U.S. Military, but it only tells us so much. We don’t know what they’re doing here, what he was sneaking in to do, even if he was the only one sneaking in here. For all we know, they could have a whole base set up in those old ruins off in the western part of the island.” I stopped and smiled to myself at that one. “Ok, that’d be pretty funny if they did that. Problem solved if that’s the case. But until we know, I figured you could give our friend in there a sample of what you gave me last night. I want him talkin’ like a Furby.”

Max smiled and pulled out his syringe gun. He swapped out a few parts right there in front of me until it more closely resembled a bong crossed with a super soaker. “I’ll smoke him out.”

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 8

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I remained hard at work at Argentina’s Pink House. “Work, work, work, work, work, work,” I turned toward the Korean girl near me whose boobs tried to fight back against being shoved into a tube top, “Hello boys, did you sleep well? I missed you.” The Korean, whose name I’d never bothered to learn, giggled and patted me on the head. Maybe I should call her Kim? I dunno, I’ll leave that one to the philosophers.

“Emperor Gecko, it is time,” my newest assistant, the Japanese girl, added. Ya know, I’m beginning to suspect that way of referring to people might be a bit degrading and/or dehumanizing. She hasn’t complained, just like she hasn’t said a thing about my inability to find any clothes her size other than Catholic schoolgirl outfits.

I turned to her as she slid into my lap I may have encouraged her to sit there. I mean, Japanese people don’t have the same hang-ups as sitting on the lap of someone the same gender, but they also don’t get along well with Koreans. It’d be as out of place as casting a Caucasian woman as a Japanese character in a setting where a refugee crisis is causing racial tensions to flare up in Asia. “Thank you. And I see you put your hair up in the pigtails like I asked. Good…uh…what’s your name again?

She smiled at me, “Saki.”

I didn’t have anything to do with that one, I swear. She looked all confused, too, as I snorted and sat my head down on my desk for a moment. “Ok, Saki it is. You said it’s time?”

She nodded and handed over a tablet showing Times Square. Where else? Where the fuck else? Always Times Square? I’ve done it too. It’s just one of those places. It’s iconic, like how a spaceship trying to blow shit up will always gravitate over the White House, or how revived Romans somehow always end up learning English with one specific British accent. If Mobian was still around, I’d ask him what they really sound like back then. We’re all going to feel real stupid when it turns out the Romans were some Cockney-sounding bastards. Or, hell, maybe they had a Southern accent like me?

I’d tracked Cercopagis Lysis’s ship as it approached the Earth, but he took his sweet time on showing up, nor did he and I ever work out how this whole thing would start off. Except for the whole “I’ll show up, and if you don’t show up, everyone will think you lost,” thing. Perception is a well-known battlefield.

I had other things to do besides stare at him all day, waiting for him to make a move. He could play that game with people who didn’t have to coordinate shit around the world. Sometimes literaly, given some areas with a lack of plumbing and my attempts to rectify that for the good of people’s rectums. That doesn’t even count time spent kidnapping a team.

Not that it’s all kidnapping. Moai came around when I gave him a direct order, and I left Carl out of it. Then I swung over and told Beetrice, the queen of the bee people Buzzkills, that I’d rock her fucking world if she fought for me or provided a kickass champion for my team. She thought I meant right then, which caused a bit of a problem. The Korean girls got the wrong idea, see, and then Saki had to go out and buy a crowbar.

By the time she got back, I’d been manhandled enough in a literal sense that it was more a matter of avoiding death by sex with a giant bee woman than missing pointy booty call in the first place. Beetrice thought the choking was just my kink, too. She didn’t realize I still have a few issues about that sort of thing going back to when I was a kid.

So that’s Warman, Moai, and Beetrice accounted for. I also called up Mix N’ Max and asked him to be a part of the team, as both a backup and to supervise another project. I wanted him to create a monster for me. Let me briefly go back to before Saki brought me the news so things aren’t a huge surprise to y’all.

“If you want me to revive someone as a strong reanimated being, I can do that. They don’t have a lot of powers and retain their own minds, though. That’s mostly chemical, with some electrical work to pull it all together,” Max said, pointing with a pointer wand to a screen against the wall with sketches projected onto it. His assistants worked the projector and the laptop set up by it. Holly looked all bright and fashionable, like a blonde Valley Girl, in contrast to her friend Sam with the nose stud and the purple hair. Sam looked more like what you’d expect the pale, goth-looking Mix N’Max in his red coat and poofy shirt to keep around. The chemical- and drug-minded super was no stranger to odd people, and had remained something of an ally and friend of mine for years due to the both of us having some history killing other supers. In my case, it tends to solve problems. More often in Max’s case, you can’t make a few omelets without injecting a few eggs.

The Electric Eye I inhabited shook its head. I’d sent the one in Los Angeles to meet up with Max at Salt Lake City, where he’d been working on methods of changing skin tone and sexuality. Wish I could have been there for that one. “I want something with a lot of power.”

Smiling, always smiling, Max nodded toward Holly. She pressed a button and the image of a large, pieced-together human body disappeared. The next screen looked a blank lime green until an imagine flipped into the screen from the side. After a couple of rotations, it stopped to reveal a picture of a large, hulking brute of a man. No, wait, a woman. I think. One of the boobs was big and droopy, and the hair was a bit on the long side, though that technically didn’t rule out being a man. Either way, it was large, and while that size isn’t beyond the realm of humans with gigantism, the wide, heavily muscled chest.

“I present to you the ‘Mutant’ permutation of unsafe super-empowerment. Chemicals are handy, but sometimes we can manage the same results with enough radiation, but those are unstable. Strangely, the most stable variants arise with lower levels of mutation and a few generations of living out in a desert. We don’t know why that is, but if you want power, we can just grab someone, inject them, zap them with a lot of microwaves, and have you a mutant in no time.” As he spoke, bullet points shot out of the bottom of the screen, one character at a time, giving some of the same information.

“Powers?” I asked.

“Generally, strength and toughness. They are not easy to kill once you’ve made them, except they die on their own easily. The stable ones are a little stronger than people despite the radiation poisoning, but the bigger ones surpass your standard ‘Reanimated’ type and can go toe to toe with a flying brick, except for the flying part. If you can hit one with a nuke, sometimes they come out able to shoot radiation or heat vision.”

I considered it for a moment before going, “I need bigger, stronger. Do you have anything that could take out a city?”

Max pointed back to Holly. Getting no response, he threw his pointer at the sleeping assistant. She snapped to attention and pushed a button, moving us onto the next screen where the words “Tokyo-Class” appeared up top.

“If you have a candidate in mind, don’t expect them to survive this,” Max said.

I shrugged. “That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Max cocked his head to the side, “You?”

I shook my head. “No, I meant someone else’s life is a sacrifice I am fully committed to. Just give me something that’ll work on anybody I happen to grab off the street, alright?”

And that’s how Team Gecko recruited Mystery Monster, aka Albert. Al liked to think of himself as a nice guy with some flaws. Just a normal, average, everyday working stiff. Just someone who drives a little fast from time to time. How could he know that keeping someone from merging onto the freeway would lead, several cars back, to someone hitting a pedestrian?

The butterflies know, of course. I am, I’ve said, an agent of Chaos. And the thing about Chaos is that it has this Theory. In that Theory lays omniscience and the means by which to show that even someone who does nothing more than speed and shag the occasional neighbor’s pet Shiba Inu is still capable of murder through such simple and otherwise accepted forms of injustice. Besides, the Shiba was asking for it, running around with no pants on.

Now, back to the present day. Lysis’s ship sent down a gold and purple colored saucer that landed. Out of which stepped a thin being in golden armor, because Cercopagis buys armor for the look of it. I can’t entirely complain. I do a lot for the look of things. Armor made to look good and armor made to look fortified both come out about the same as armor with any joints big enough to slide a blade. Still didn’t stop me thinking how gaudy the guy looked, with his gold armor and his staff.

He stepped well away from his craft, earning dozens of honks from annoyed drivers, then raised his staff. A minor shockwave pushed all the cars just slightly. If he thought it’d get him fewer honks, he sadly misinterpreted the Empyreal City rush hour traffic.

“I am the Herald of Cercopagis Lysis, the Galactic Conqueror!” he announced, giving Cercopagis a title we couldn’t easily fact check. If someone can conquer anywhere in the galaxy, why go after Earth? At least the Fluidics had a good reason. They needed brainwashed bodies to serve as fodder in their wars. This guy just keeps getting beaten and comes back for second chances. Any similarity to any other supervillians y’all know is clearly unintentional, wrong, and in no way me.

Anyway, that’s not all the guy said. “I am here to announce the first fight of this contest between our respective leaders. My master now gives you his first champion, secured from our daring raid upon the Hiveworld of Sathe during the Eternal Culling: The Mendes Configuration!” He turned to his ship and raised the staff. From the top of his craft, an orb rose.

I began to wonder if we’d have yet another enemy more concerned with being completely alien to humanity when the exterior of the orb broke and shifted around. In the process, it grew. It grew big. The Mendes Configuration, whatever hunk of space junk it seemed to be at first, was clearly a grower, not a shower. It grew in pulses, pushing out evenly at first, then less evenly as it took shape.

In the form of a giant robot with one eye. I frantically sent out my consciousness to the Robot Room, as I wish I officially named where I had people putting together my robot. The PA systems startled everyone as I said, “Please tell me it’s ready, please tell me it’s ready, it’s gotta be fucking ready, come on!”

Unfortunately, the camera showed that what they’d assembled looked more like a stickman with boxing gloves and boobs than a proper giant robot, leaving me thoroughly disappointed.

So I put in a conference call to Team Gecko. Warman started to say he’d take Mendes but I muted him and said, “Max, it’s time.”

“It’s time?”

“Yeah. I wanted to say that in a dramatic way. And it is time. Send in…dun dun dun!…the Mystery Monster!”

After a second, he asked, “Is that what we’re calling the guy we…?”

“Yeah, him. Stick him in the microwave, give him his shots, do whatever you need to do, preferably on a plane ride over to EC.

In order to fill the time, I brought in Electric Eye. “In the name of the Ruler of Earth, the Emperor of Awesome, the Immaculate Man-Machine, his Lordship the King of Kings, the Master of Disaster…” Now, I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t just have it rattle off titles the entire time, “while Team Gecko’s champion is arriving, I would like you all to enjoy the musical event of the…week, let’s go with week. Ladies and Gentlemen of Earth, your planetary anthem will now be performed by its original singer, Sir Mix-A-Lot.”

Because Earth enjoys big butts, even if I can lie. It wasn’t just that, I really did bring in various one-hit wonder artists to sing and otherwise earn the first musical paychecks they’ve seen in twenty to thirty years. It was a thing. Got some goodwill going.

And then Max texted me, “Bombs away!” and Electric Eye had to carry Sir Mix-A-Lot to safety as a giant-sized man-thing crashed into Times Square opposite the Mendes Configuration. That was a good enough way to describe it, because longer ways involve words like “bulbous, club-armed, tentacle-headed” and other odd things that normally don’t describe anything derived from a human. Except bulbous, I suppose, but I don’t like to see anything bulbous on people. You wouldn’t call a big, beautiful butt bulbous, now would you?

The Mystery Monster didn’t really have a head, or a neck. More of a lump on top of its torso, with a mouth that opened to roar. At the pincered, one-eyed alien robot made out of round bent pieces of metal. What is it with the lack of eyes? Then again, the monster over there didn’t have any visible eyes. Had a big lump in place of an arm, looked like a club. And the other arm ended in five very wet-looking fingers. I certainly wouldn’t shake it. I wholeheartedly approved of the other weapon it packed, though. It looked like a giant blotchy pink and wet naked humanoid except for the bony drill poking out between its legs. Some men are hung like a horse; this one was hung like it could build a house.

They both stood tall at thirty feet, but I think Mystery Monster had the reach on the robot.

All over the news broadcasts, I interrupted to provide some voiceover work of my own. “Fight Numero Uno: The Mendes Configuration versus Team Gecko’s Mystery Monster. Begin!”

Before I even finished, the Mystery Monster started on its own…by turning around and smashing its club into a car that finally learned to stop honking. I decided to hijack the scroll at the bottom of the broadcast. “Fun Fact: Mystery Monster hates obnoxious drivers. The owners of that building were probably assholes anyway. Technically, there’s nothing in city ordinances against tearing up the road with a drill dick.”

I had to stop due to the call coming in. The Imperial Hotline, aka the phone line for anyone who really, really, really needs to call me but doesn’t know me well enough to get my private number, lit up with a call from an unknown number. “Hello?”

“Greetings, soon-to-be former ruler of Earth!” See what I mean about needing better names for these titles? Cercopagis went on with his gloating and laughing, “Does your champion ever intend to actually fight?”

“Oh, he’ll fight. See? He’s fighting right now.”

“I believe that’s mating, though I believe your species doesn’t typically do that to architecture.”

“Any moment now, he’ll be doing it to your random space robot’s face! Then you’ll see.” I told him all that, but I began to have my doubts. Max warned me that making a monster bigger and more powerful, especially in such a short amount of time, left them rebellious and prone to turn on their masters. Like teenagers. And like a teenager, Mystery Monster had started sticking its parts into strange things not meant to hold it. In public, again like a teenager.

I decided to send in the Electric Eye, setting Sir Mix-A-Lot down in the hopes he could find his way back to his fiefdom without my help. Electric Eye rocketed up onto the building that was a-rockin’ because Mystery Monster came a-knockin’ and called down to it, “You stop humping this and go hump that other thing this instant, or you are ground! You’ll be turned into Mystery Meat when I’m done with you!”

Turns out he’s a lot faster with that club than I anticipated, but still not fast enough to smash Electric Eye. Eye threw it to the side and missed the domestic abuse visited upon the poor building that been drilled by MM. Figuring Eye finally had its attention, I sent the smaller robot zipping around toward the bigger one.

“You cannot have two champions in a single fight! We agreed to one-on-one battles!” Cercopagis yelled at me over the Hotline.

“Don’t worry your golden panties off. Electric Eye won’t fight.” The Mendes Configuration tracked it anyway, a red laser light appearing and growing larger as if considering an attack as the smaller robot approached, then stopped right in front of the single orb that made up its combined eye and head. Except while Mendes paid attention to Electric Eye, Electric Eye paid attention to Mystery Monster and cut its rockets, ending this dance of alliteration.

Fancy souvenir snow globe from a space knickknack store or not, the Mendes Configuration didn’t take that laying down. Unfortunately, it didn’t even take it kneeling down or losing oil control. It unloaded some sort of beam onto Mystery Monster that scorched the flesh of its chest, bring a wail out of the monsterized human. MM responded by bringing its club down on the robot’s head. That forced the robot into a squat. That turned out to be a bad position when facing an opponent with a biological drill in place of its private parts.

Right about then, the news censored the fight with black bars. It didn’t help that I inserted sounds from some porno. Debbie Does Space, anyone? Is that a thing? Wouldn’t be the first time some shit I made up to be funny turned out to be real.

Things seemed to be going well. And, as Sir Mix-A-Lot’s cameo appearance early indicates, that clearly foreshadows a but. But, the Mendes Configuration reached down and grabbed the drill with its pincers. It squeezed. It tore. It simultaneously caused billions of men around the world to reach for their crotches in sympathetic pain. And then it shoved that drill right into the middle of Mystery Monster’s fleshy torso.

Mystery Monster stumbled back, pumping a different sort of troubling fluid onto the street below. At which point, its screaming mouth filled the air with an emasculated cacophony until the Mendes Configuration shut it up with a blast of whatever laser, plasma, or heat vision constituted the red stream coming from its eye.

Between the internal burns and the loss of what may be blood (usually, it’s not green), Mystery Monster collapsed and curled up in the fetal position. From there, the fight was purely academic, if academics often beat each other to death with their own severed cocks. Which, to be honest, would make debates a hell of a lot more interesting. It’s probably the only way I’d pay attention to philosophy. Because, let’s be honest, there’s only so many times people can go around with circle jerks about wondering if the world is nothing but a computer simulation. As a dude who has crossed dimensions, that means either I disproved it, or the entirety of existence is centered on me.

Sounds about right.

Unfortunately, the Matrix fucked me over and left Mystery Monster so smashed up by the alien robot that I could have renamed it Ground Beef. Except I don’t know what you call human meat. Pigs are pork, cattle are beef, but long pork is just a euphemism.

“That is one in my favor. I will let you start the next fight, Psycho Gecko. Consider it an act of mercy,” Cercopagis Lysis said over the Imperial Hotline.

“Go eat a mystery meat dick,” I told him.

Some days, you think you get a chance to use a giant robot. Other days, you see a thirty-foot tall monster get its weaponized penis torn off and then stabbed in the chest with said penis. Unfortunately, today was dick-stabbing day in the worst way.

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Mad Gex: Fury Rode 4

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I wasn’t sure Pritchard Ajax would even be capable of squeezing out a spaceflight, but it’s not like I was gambling with my own life in the process. I mean, Forcelight might be able to survive a shuttle explosion.

Well, spaceplane. They were very insistent on the terminology. It’s basically where a a big plane carries a 1950s sci fi-looking rocket-plane hybrid real high, at which point the rocket plane rockets into space. It looked much older than it was, though it surprised me to find out it wasn’t the most recent of the company’s planes. “We had another one, a newer one,” the pilot told me. It was just he and me, so I was filling in some gaps in my knowledge about private spaceflight after he announced our altitude. I’d loosely heard things, but filed it away under “North Korea” for some reason.

“Yeah? What happened to that one?” I asked. It wasn’t exactly a roomy plane, even with just the two of us. The thing was designed to only seat three.

More quietly, the pilot answered, “It suffered a failure.”

“It blew up, didn’t it?”

He didn’t say anything. Yep, that’s why I had put it in that particular mental filing space.

“But this one’s sound, right? It’s in good shape?” I asked. It better be. We were attached to the bigger plane, just waiting to be hurled into space like Gaia had decided to binge drink the night before.

“Yes, she is. We kept her in a museum after her big flight.” The pilot gave a more enthusiastic nod at that.

“So, this is the first time this thing has been flown in awhile. There a reason for that?” I doublechecked the spacesuit I had on.

“After the flight where she actually made it to space, the company retired her to keep her from getting damaged.”

Ah, yes, of course. They got to space, but decided to keep the ship from flying any more in case it couldn’t do that again. I began to realize I’d gotten ripped off in my deal with Ajax. “The flight where she actually made it to space?”

“She won a prize for getting past a hundred kilometers twice in a week.”

“Any further? Like orbit?”

“Well, the prize was about getting to space, and that’s the boundary. But don’t worry, she had the equivalent of three people in her at the time.”

“…but not actually three people.”

“The equivalent of three people is good enough!”

“Except for the part about not even risking three people when you could sacrifice some crash test dummies. Or are we boldly going where only Vesta Aerospace’s trained astro-chimps have gone before?”

“You wish. We took a dog up. More more docile.”

“Dumber, too.”

Quite the mess I got in. I told Ajax I needed orbit, not the bare edge of space. Anyone could go to the edge of space. Just being that far doesn’t exactly exempt you from immediately plummeting back like a stone. “Congratulations,” I told the pilot. “You chased a prize that was already won back in the 1960s.”

The pilot scoffed. “Yeah, right. Those were government planes. They didn’t own those.”

“Who owns this one?”

“Vesta Aerospace, in conjunction with both Death Valley Ventures and Solar. I guess no one person owns it.”

I laughed at that. He didn’t get the joke. I just hoped that Forcelight at least got up there before becoming the punchline.

That doesn’t mean the action was entirely up in the air. I sat with Max in the middle of a campsite about thirty minutes from Empyreal City, whittling away at wood and tosing the scraps into a fire in front of us.

“It’s good you focus on a creative hobby,” Max said, chewing into a round, purple thing.

“Thanks. Figured, after putting together all the rockets and all the discs, I deserved a break that involved using a knife. And the secret, or so I’ve read somewhere, is to imagine what you want the wood to be, and then remove all the parts that aren’t it.” I turned my head to acknowledge him in a friendly enough way, though I kept my view focused on the carving itself thanks to my helmet’s display. Yep, still spending most of my time in my armor. The smell could be better. Probably why Max’s assistant, Holly, insisted on tossing a pack of incense into the fire in front of me.Then again, she had been eating smores, so she could just be baked.

Max nodded toward the piece of wood in my left hand as I scraped the knife along it, smoothing an edge. “What did you imagine that to be?”

I gave it a couple practice swings. “Well, it started out meaning to be an elephant, but then I took too much of the nose off, so then it was going to be a horse. Then I accidentally cut too much of the dick off, and figured we’d go with a goat. Then this leg went and I figured, hell, why not go for a starfish? Naturally, that led to throwing stars and next thing you know, I’m holding a shiv. You ever go to prison, this sumbitch will make sure the vampire gang doesn’t pick on you. Isn’t that right Ethan?!”

I called out to another fire over where Ethan Basford grumbled and held onto some small metal chest while the Claw minions chatted around him. He didn’t join in when they started tossing popcorn into each others’ mouths. Just kept muttering to himself and his precious little treasure.

It was then I noticed the Claw super with the metal tail, metal teeth, and scythe hand approaching with a bottle of whiskey. She stopped at the edge of the fire and grinned at me, teeth gleaming. “Hey, Psycho Gecko. Hello Mr. Max. May I speak with Psycho alone?”

Max shot me a look like “Hey, now I’m Mister Max. What are you getting in to?” then closed his eyes to nod toward her. He stood up and dusted off his pants. “You two have a nice talk. Don’t let it hold you up from moving on.”

I waved at him as he left, “Yeah, lots of ground to cover. Make sure the new arrivals are there.”

She sat down across from me with her, wrapping her modified arm around her legs. She unscrewed the top of the whiskey with her natural hand and held it out. “You want?”

I shook my head. “Nah, not my preferred taste.” I tossed my shiv into the fire to burn with the rest. “You wanted to talk?”

Gotta give the boobs some credit, I get a lot more attention with these things around, not that this person had much opportunity to see them. Before she could say anything else, I asked her, “You came with the Claw’s people, but I don’t recognize you from anywhere.”

“I am Girl Robot,” she said, though I got the “Girl Robot” part from my translator. The name in Vietnamese involved a weird U and O, so I’ll gladly stick with the English version, no matter how generic it is.

“A lot of cyborgs where you come from?” I asked. I crawled around the fire to get a better look at her parts. The metal ones, pervs.

She looked right at me as I moved her hair aside to look at where the metal arm integrated with the shoulder. “No,” she answered quietly. “I am a prototype. I was lucky. I like metal and robots.”

It looked like good work. Incredibly good work. It wasn’t as natural as me, but it was still something. “This is very good work. Do you have any trouble with your parts?”

She reached out and ran the edge of her scythe over one of the lines between my armor’s chest plating. “You could make them better. Your parts are like your real body. It is lucky I get to meet you, because I want to change myself as naturally as you do.” She brought the tip of her tail up. It went from a thick stump, the thickness of another leg, that worked its way gradually thinner until it ended in a trio of blades.

I ran a hand over her tail. “Well, you’ll never be quite the same with your human physiology, but you should congratulate your maker on a job well done when you meet him.”

She gave me a puzzled little smile. “Can you show me how your parts fit?”

Now, I could have been misinterpeting that, but I think she was into me. Just a bit. So, purely for scientific purposes, I removed a glove and ran my hand up the tail, resting it on the base of her tail.

There’s a special spark that passes between two of my species who are both connecting to the same thing, since it’s the nerovus system that’s involved. And this Robot Girl could actually feel it a little bit. Not the same way, but closer than any others so far.

But let’s not dwell on that too much either. I had lots to do in space, too. Lots to do. Lots.

Like detaching! Which prompted me to ask the pilot a question. “What are the odds we’ll survive your trip into hyperspeed?”

“Never ask me the odds,” he responded before the force of the rocket doing its thing forced me back into the seat and pleasantly vibrated Forcelight’s body, making me quite glad she didn’t have balls for fear of reverberation.

When things finally eased up, the pilot turned to laugh at me and announce, “Congratulations, lady. You made it to space.”

I reached over to pat him on the shoulder. “Yep, now to set a new record with this baby. Keep us over here and keep an eye out. We need to stay near Empyreal City for just a little longer…”

“Is something going to happen?” the pilot asked.

I doublechecked the seals on Forcelight’s suit, then smiled.

I know I’m skipping around a little in time here, not much, but I sat around the fire on my own back on the ground at this point. Armor firmly secured. I poked at my dying fire with a stick, looking around at all the others our whole group put together, with all the various faceless pieces of meat to throw into this grinder. Looking around at them, I put out a call. Not some grand horn signalling an attack. Just a phone call. To Venus.

Her voice sounded utterly emotionaless. “Who is this?” If not for the context, I’d have had trouble telling she even asked a question, her voice was that even. I responded with a bit of song.

“Hoofbeats go a-trotting, trotting, up to Heaven, bold. At the gates a-knocking, knocking, sheep in wolfish clothes. Holy jaws are dropping up in Heaven’s hold. Plant my hooves, my hooks, my books!…I’m here, Venus dear.”

Up in space, Forcelight looked out over the atmosphere through a porthole. “There! Fly us at that thing!”

“That? You were looking for that?” The pilot looked incredulous.

“It just released from higher up. Nevermind, forget that thing, pop the door.” I stepped over to the exit which was meant for more terrestrial usage. Under my breath, I gave the scared woman I dragged along into this some motivation of her own. “Get this done and you’re free, Forcelight.”

“You can’t!” The pilot called out. I looked over, more curious if he had left something open and would die. Hey, they didn’t give me all the details, I don’t have to give them all the details either. Instead of suiting up, he had reached for a bright red switch.

“That better be the manual unlock, because you don’t want me to tear this door off.” I told him. Forcelight rose, hovering a little.

“We just needed to know your plan. You will not win,” he told me, then forced a smile onto his face. I almost thought I saw it break into the beginnings of horror as he flipped the switch and the cockpit exploded. The pressure threw Forcelight out into the thermosphere. Gonna be honest, was really confusing for a second. Things exploded, things got really cold and sucky, there was some pressure stuff. Yeah, this wasn’t going like I meant it to.

But Forcelight could fly. And she could reorient herself. I just had to get her pointed in the right direction, take into account the velocity of the falling object, and try to track appropriately. And then just keep firing a whole bunch of blasts from Forcelight’s hands that tore through the night sky at the speed of light, causing distant explosions and breakings, or so I hoped. Kinda hard to keep track of things, so I was reduced to yelling, “Dakka dakka, suck it Kessler!” as I put her hands together and formed one giant beam that I tracked across a swath of space. Satellites possibly blew up or were allegedly knocked into pieces. TV shows were potentially missed. And, as soon as I finish dealing with the aliens, I’ll have to find out just how much of a wreck this may have caused for Earth’s ability to use satellites.

But I had a way to hopefully make sure.

With Forcelight falling, I spared a moment to turn her around and pick off the falling object, which almost looked like a seed to me. It was significantly easier to see with the heat building up around it, and a long blast from Forcelight sent it wildly offcourse and accellerated it. No way would it land anywhere near me, their target.

I tried my best to calm Forcelight’s body and take in the view, both because it’s space and because I needed to check, but I had trouble keeping everything together. The suit was fucked up, and being up that far was starting to do things to her. “I didn’t necessarily plan for things to go so far South for you, Forcelight. But I did what needed to be done, and I did it the best I could under the circumstances. If it helps, I’ll tell the nanites to do their best to keep you alive.”

I let her go, stood up, dusted off my armor, and walked away from the bright collection of fires, allowing the holodiscs to flicker out behind me and reveal that the Fluidics’ chance to rain on my parade was wasted anyway.

But I had one last message. One last announcement broadcast through what signal interceptors remained online after my initial warning that I was coming for Empyreal City. It interrupted regularly scheduled programming across the nation to show my perspective as I put out a fire, then walked to the edge of these woods where Empyreal City stood in the distance, lit up a bit less than before the barrier went up.

“We’re here.” I told the audience, before cutting the feed.

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Ragin’ Against Cajuns 11

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“Vegas?” I asked.

“That would be the only Vegas I know of,” replied Max.

“Why there?”

“I felt we needed a vacation. I’ve gotten too familiar with what it’s like to be a damsel in distress lately and Holly was starting to crack. I thought I would try my luck with bandits who only have one arm instead of two.”

“Uh huh. What about my stuff?”

“It’s fine. Moai, too. I left your car and the trailer with my sister. I told Moai she was a friend, too. Just remote control it back to you if you’re worried about it.”

I glanced around me. The city of New Orleans was significantly safer than before my captivity. Most of the monsters had been cleaned up either by the police, Faustus, or the newly-arrived National Guard. I hadn’t heard who won the little fight that broke out there between Faustus and Hephaestus, but things were still tense between the groups that I saw in the streets. They were moving out of the streets, though, and back behind the scenes. Everything was slowly going back to normal, with fights moving out of the public eye. Now that the city was opened up again, nobody wanted to risk causing too big a catastrophe.

So it was a pretty good idea for me to skedaddle.

“You know what, I think I’ll head up there and get it.’

“Do you need some directions?”

“Nah, I have a GPS lock on the car, remember?”

“Yeah, right, I remember now. Are you ok?”

“I’m ok. It takes more than a little bit of inhumane treatment to break me. Speaking of breaks, how’s Holly?”

“Better than she was. I heard what happened. Thanks. Don’t ever do that again or I’ll cut you. But thanks.”

“Nothing to thank me for. I’m always happy to break someone’s arm for no reason.”

“No reason? I thought you broke it because you didn’t want her killed.”

“Oh come on, like I don’t want someone hurt.”

“You like her. She’s your friend.”

“Shush, Max.”

He got all sing-song then. “You liiiike her. You wanna make baaabies with her!”

“Don’t make me wreck Vegas.”

“Maybe you two can get a quickie wedding here.”

“I’ve always wanted to crucify people outside Caesar’s Palace.”

“Ow!” he said.

“That’s how I roll, bitch. I can kill you with my mind.”

“Not you, Gecko. Sam’s been listening in and just slapped me on the ear.”

“Serves you right. Hit him again, Sam?”

“She said ‘no’.”

“You hit him for her, now hit him for me, Sam.”

“I think we’re going to hang up now. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

“Of all the conversations on all the phones in the world, she had to walk into mine.”

“You’re getting weird again, Gecko. Call me back if you need something.”

I hung up from my helmet and continued my inconspicuous trek through the city, taking on various guises when I figured no one would notice the change. I did need one thing, but not from Max. I still needed a car. I knew of someone I could take one from that nobody would mind. Good thing I had a pretty good idea of where this guy would be on a certain day.

That day was the Fourth of July. Independence Day. The day the Declaration of Independence went to the printers after having been signed a couple days earlier. The national day of fireworks, grilling, flags, and hot wings. Want to know an easy way to rile up a Canadian? Wish them a happy Fourth of July.

Anyway, I walked into the AllWays Lounge to the sound of a collective buttclench of epic proportions. They didn’t have anything special going on, but there were still plenty of people in there with red, white, and blue on. I was surprised to find out how patriotic criminals are on this version of the planet, but then I was the guy who wanted to blow up my old planet at one point. Heck, people in the Cosa Nostra, what y’all know as the Sicilian mafia, even joined the military back in the old World War II days. Even guys who liked to buy their enemies a new pair of cement shoes hated Nazis.

Case in point, the Hitler clone was surrounded by empty tables. The only people helping him down the set of frothing pitchers in front of him were a pair of neo-Nazis in brown uniforms. At least Hitler made an effort of sorts. He had on a Confederate flag shirt that said “Heritage, Not Hate” on the back.

I walked right over, giving Belle a good view of my middle finger as I passed her table. People stayed out of my way as much for the smell coming off my armor as all the other good reasons.

Hitler grabbed the handle of one pitcher. I raised a foot up onto the table, my crotch right there next to his hand. We may have even touched. His hand left that pitcher like it was on fire. “Good lord!” he yelled in surprise and a Southern accent.

“I thought you’d sound more like the movies.” I said.

“I had tutors in German, but I was cloned here,” he said, pointing down at the shirt.

“Huh. What about these two assistant assholes-in-chief?” I waved to the guys seated on either side of him. “What are they, the Third Reich out of Kansas?”

“This is Jeremy, this is Christopher,” he motioned to the two brownshirts with him.

I brought my other foot up and dropped to a crouch on Cloned Hitler’s table. “Hey, I saw a fancy black polished Beetle outside. Has a bumper sticker on it that says, ‘Hitler is the Shit-ler.’ Is that yours by any chance?”

“Ja,” he said, adopting his German accent again.

“Well then, Cloney Boy, it looks like you should have brought brown pants instead of brownshirts.”

“Why?” he asked. The question was moot a moment later as I grabbed his buddies by their necks and lifted them into the air. I tossed them up above me to give me time to grab the pitchers. Those I used to nail them in the balls, shattering them. The pitchers, I mean. Well, the balls too. I assume. I didn’t exactly give them a prostate exam before I pulled Hitler up and slammed him on the table.

“Keys.” I said. Out of my peripheral vision, I noticed muscular men in black shirts come to stiff attention. Not that way, pervs. No one bothered to approach. Good for them. They just helped the two brownshirts who crawled away and left the copy of their idol to his fate.

“What are you doing?!” screamed Hitler.

“I’m jacking your ride. Ain’t you ever heard how bad New Orleans is about crime?”

“I expected this from the negros, but not from-“ Ladies and gentlemen, that’s when I gave him das boot. Right up in his asshole. I used his boot this time. I’d been in my armor since before getting incarcerated in a magic egg. I did Nazi any reason to get Adolf Jr.’s shit on my boots.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” is how the story went for a couple minutes, but I decided to go easy on the crowd and I stuck the boot in his mouth to shut him up. Then I held him down in his chair so we could talk like two civilized mass murderers.

“You done crying, or are you still not used to getting the shaft?” I said as I sat down across from him. Then I held out my hand. “Right, keys, that’s one of the things I came here for.” It was listed on a little checklist on the side of my HUD, along with “Chimichangas,” “Hephaestus,” and “Leah.”

Fumbling around and teary eyed, he finally fished the keys out of his pockets and slid them across to me. “Was that so hard?”

“Ja. It was real hard. I’m not going to shit right for a week.” He reached back to rub at his butt. Hopefully he didn’t reach too far. Just sliding along skin until, surprise!, you’re touching colon. It was probably easier on the sphincter than a normal colonoscopy camera, save for the part where a boot was shoved up his there.

Then again, I’m sure modern medicine would often work better if doctors were allowed to take boots to asses.

As I said, though, that was only one of the reasons I went there. I waved over a waitress. “We’re going to need another pitcher here. A last drink for Adolf here.”

“What?” Cloned Hitler asked. He tried to get his feet under him but got tripped up in his chair and fell over. I got up, grabbed him and his chair, and set him firmly back in it.

“You know, Hitler, old chap, there are some people who everyone hates. Universally. Maybe they fear them too, but in the end, they hate them. They hate them so very much that if they are killed, it’s celebrated. To be fair, in one of those bizarre examples of the crowd being a genius where individuals are morons, they tend to pick people who actually do deserve it.”

“What are you doing this for? Why is no one helping? Help!” cried the artificial Adolph.

“They aren’t helping because you are one of those people. Don’t worry, if it was me about to die, they wouldn’t me help me either. Ah, here’s your drink.” The waitress stopped by and left a pitcher on the table for us. I let him drink as much as he wanted while I explained, “I’m doing this as a gag. Something a little like Andy Kaufman, you might say.”

“This isn’t funny. This is just because I’m a clone of Hitler? I was born this way. I didn’t get a say in how I was brought into the world or who they took the genetic material from. Are you saying it’s right to kill me just for how I look and, and, and because of what the people who raised me taught me to say? Is that any better than my father?”

“Ooooh, sure, throw Godwin’s Law at me why don’t you? You know who else compared people to Hitler? Hitler, that’s who!” He jumped in his seat as I thrust a finger at his nose.

“For Gott’s sake, man, I’m the forgotten vanity project of a Nazi scientist, not the dictator himself! I’m ceremonial, like the Queen of England.” He sweated profusely. It matted his bangs down and left big, dark blotches at his armpits.

“Come on, let’s take a walk. Get you some air and leave all these nice, happy folks a little more ignorant about what’s going to happen. What do you say?”

My hand clamped down on his shoulder was all the answer I needed. I led him outside to a bicycle. A bicycle that had a rocket launcher strapped to the handlebars just above the basket. I stopped the clone in front of it. “Junior, can you tell me what that is?”

He stuttered as he said, “A-an R-R-RPG?”

If I took into consideration the moogles, chocobos, and cactaurs painted on the bike, I could see where he got that idea. ”No, not unless you mean rocket-propelled grenade, and that’s not what this is either. That’s a rocket launcher. Inside is a rocket, but there’s no grenade in sight.”

“What is it for?”

“It’s for America, Adolph. It’s for patriotism. Freedom. The smell of hot wings and hot dogs on a warm summer’s day. The worry over watering a lawn enough and taunting the Middle East about there being water every-fucking-where over here. It’s blood, oil, and fake tits. This July Fourth, I’m giving America a present. I’m going to kill Adolph Hitler, again, with that fucking rocket launcher right there.”

I took my hand off his shoulder. He looked at his shoulder, then up at my helmeted face, then down the street. He looked both ways, then hightailed it across St. Claude Avenue.

“Oooh, it’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood, a wonderful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” I sang to myself as I casually strode over and hefted the launcher. I sighted the clone through the scope, but then I was all like fuck that. I waved my arms in the air like I just didn’t care, arms in this case referring to weaponry. When I fired, the blowback dirtied up my armor a bit, made it slightly hot under the collar, but I had more important things to worry about. I had a rocket to direct.

You didn’t think you saw the last of my remote control rockets, did you? I swerved this puppy around quickly so I could bring it parallel to the street. Hitler was still trying to run for his life down Marigny Street.

I know, you’ve seen it in movies and wondered why they don’t do that. It’s animal instinct. Run directly away from a pursuer. Then again, Marigny was lined with a bunch of cheap little houses all crammed up against one another, so he didn’t have many options

Anyway, Hitler was maced and this night just wasn’t going his way. Maybe he’d get lucky?

Nah. Seeing through a camera mounted on the rocket itself, I directed it right where I wanted it to go. A handy little target area I created earlier. If you think back, you can probably identify when I created the perfect target on him earlier. A nice, wide open hole.

I doubt it helped the rocket glide on in. My view through the camera wasn’t too pleasant either. So Cloned Hitler became a rocket-propelled Nazi. Don’t worry, it only lasted up until he got far enough into the air, a distance my computer said was 500 feet. Then I detonated it, blowing him apart in a patriotic display of red, white, and blue strobing peony.

It was just one of many bright bursts in the sky. Looking up at that lit sky with its fireworks and the death of a resurrected specter of racial hatred, I was aware that some people could read something symbolic into all that. Because instead of anything grand, those events were merely the result of a pissed-off and increasingly pissed-on supervillain stealing a car from a clone. But in the end, maybe that revisionist grandiosity which transforms a murderer with prosthetic parts into the father of a nation is what Independence Day is about. Sure as hell explains celebrating the delivery to the printer.

That’s how I handled the Big Easy. Now take it easy, folks, and don’t go choking on any weenies. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In that case, when life gives you wieners, find some buns to stick them in.

 

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