Tag Archives: Ouroboros

Two Tickets to Paradise 10

Fuck me.

Before you get any ideas, readers, that’s not an invitation.

I’m supposed to be a bad guy. I’m supposed to be kicking asses and carving names onto tombstones. Problem is, my plans are getting their metaphorical asses kicked.

I put all this work into trying to kill these people, and you think they appreciate it? No! They hate it. This lack of gratitude is almost enough to make me go be a pacifist.

It’s not just been a bad few days. It’s been an entire bad trip. Is it me, do you think? Plans failing, people living. It’s hard to claim this is just a few unfortunate events.

The fuck am I talking about? This crap doesn’t belong here. Is this called “Saddy McSadpants in Retrospect?” I didn’t think so. You want to see me sit around and moan to myself about how awful it is that people hate me and try to make superpowers into some sort of curse? Power? Sounds good. Responsibility? I’ll wait for the other people to take it first.

I don’t go there. There’s a huge number of places you can go to if you want to see heroes moping about having the ability to save lives and make a difference in the world. If you want your tortured, brooding villains just trying to get by and do what they think is best for everyone, that’s not me either.

I’m here because some of you have recognized that it’s not just awesome to have superpowers, it’s fucking awesome! That’s right, it’s awesome on a level normally reserved for the stimulation of your genitalia by another human being. Or animal. I’m not judging, though I do suggest you at least use condoms. I hear there’s a chance diseases could jump across the genetic gap there. Congratulations, Billy and Mrs. Goat. You had a bouncing baby virus. It causes babies to bounce.

Now, where were we…oh, yeah, I was covering myself in awesome sauce and posing seductively on a polar bear fur rug, because icy you can’t help but stare.
What you would have been staring at over the past few days was my attempt to get my wits about me and finalize some deals. Now after awesoming myself back up, I have to go talk about everything that makes me sound like some pitiful depressed worm. I had to talk in person with the Yakuza and the Cartel. Problem was, the heroes made a big damn announcement.

I don’t get what’s with all the press conferences, but they sure know how to use them to screw me over. Their original plan to replace me was thwarted by my impressive ability to talk while someone drives a car into them. They figured out a different way to screw me over. Right there by the podium, Shieldwall welcomed their undercover villain into the fold.

Psycho Gecko had apparently had some big change of heart after Memphis and was trying to repay his debt to society, blah, blah, blahdiddly blah there neighboroony, something something probation and alert the cops if you see him walking around without a hero. They got my attention when they mentioned his aid in the capture of the notorious Mix N’Max before they arrived in Paradise City. “You didn’t think we just sat around doing nothing, did you?” Venus said into the camera and gave a wink.

I was minutes away from meeting with the Cartel. I saw the heroes, their pet robot, and the wannabe me on a TV screen of an electronics store and had Moai let me out to watch this. Chop my knees out from under me, why don’t you? Here, you want a butter knife to shove up the stumps?

I still went to meet the Cartel. They’re used to being a part of undercover operations and politics, I thought. Of course they wouldn’t be confused by some idiot like that in a stolen suit. They could clearly see I didn’t have my suit with me.

They welcomed me to the warehouse of their “cooking supply company.” Oh yeah, they’ll help you cook. Baking soda, sugar, flour, even that sugared powder for donuts, they have it all there. They showed me up some ramps to an office overlooking the place. The fellow who led me in was all smiles, motioned for me to sit, then offered to go look for that pockmarked guy I was supposed to be talking to.

Someday, I’d really like to learn more about all these people I run into. Guys like this, I’ll see a few times and that’s it. I haven’t even delved a whole lot into the lives of the people in Shieldwall. Then again, they haven’t delved too much into me either. Even when Venus and I chat, we can’t get too far into a conversation. I guess it’s like dealing with everybody else. You run into people every day. You even work with people every day. How many of them do you actually know, though?

I guess you could say I was trying to understand the stupidity of the man who shot me in the head.

I was just sitting back, maxing, relaxing all cool, thinking of playing the Cartel for a fool, when some armored guy who wants to be dead, started firing rounds at my head. I got right back up off the floor and the guy got scared and said, “Today Terribilis takes you out for the betrayal that you dared.”

Sadly, the resulting fight did not end in my becoming Prince of Bel-Air. I stood up, dropping the illusion that I was unarmored. Like I was really going to show up to another meeting without it. This man in a bulky suit of power armor dropped from the rafters from where he’d pumped a few rounds my way. There being a perfectly good window between myself and a drop to the floor, I took the obvious route down. I crashed through the window he’d shot holes in and I hit the stealth.

I know, you’re thinking this is all leading up to yet another fight. Once more into the breach.

It did, just not for me. It turns out that when you have an enormous crowd of people out for your blood, you also have some control over them. The heroes didn’t want to negotiate. That’s fine. They just wanted to catch me and they couldn’t just ignore me when I called up Venus, who really needs to change her number by now, and told Boopsie that I was in the middle of a Cartel warehouse full of cocaine. If I wasn’t stopped soon, I might grab a whole bunch of that powder and fumigate the city.

She hated me and she knew that I was using them. She also knew she had to bring the hammer down on that warehouse.

“We’ll see how fast we can zip in to save the day, but you’ll understand if we don’t hurry into a trap. Where are you?” her voice came over the phone, followed by a grunt of exertion. I was hiding against the wall, watching Terribilis march around firing off magnetic weights. They’d occasionally hit on something metal, like a knife or a colander, and smack it down good, but he had a way to draw it back in. He also had a rifle attachment and at least one minigun. Except a small minigun. A mini-minigun. Isn’t the name minigun one of the worst attempts at naming ever?

It must be one of those ironic nicknames, like if you called a basketball player “Shorty”.

“I’m over in the warehouse district. Big warehouse-looking building. I think Sunshine Baking is the front company. Oh how I so want to be captured and brought to justice so I can do good things for people. You busy?”

“We’re raiding a warehouse full of consumer electronics. Yakuza knock-offs and stolen merchandise.”

“Huh. It’s not at Binary Entertainment Distributors is it?” I asked while reviewing the footage of my approach to the place. A stray round, fired at random, punched through the wall next to me.

“What if it is?” queried Venus. I could almost imagine her piledriving some hapless thug with one hand while holding up her phone with the other. Isn’t she lovely?

“If it is, then you’re right across the street. See you in a few minutes,” I said and then hung up. I threw the frog-named power armor a bone to keep him interested before I got out of there. And by bone, I mean a pair of stink bombs. I hear they have catfish tosses around here, only without the exploding into a foul smelling cloud at the end.

Of course they didn’t catch the place with me in it. They barely caught Terribilis. I only stuck around at all to risk capture because I was hoping the thief would be in attendance. Sadly, he was tardy. The Red White Blue Kid-Boy-Guy-Dude-Whatever was with them though. Nice to see my enemies’ recruiting efforts are going much better than my own.

The twist that made this all the worse for me, though, was that they leaked edited portions of the call and praised me for helping them take down two such important criminal enterprises in one day.

That’s why I got some very dirty looks walking into the casino with Moai. Security was there, supers were there. There were even beat-up members of other gangs hanging around. Torrent stepped in front of me and tried to stop me. He started to say something about not being welcome. I was in no mood to not be welcome. One illusionary me ran around his left, one around his right. A third slid between his legs and one stood still in front of him. I jumped over him and headed for the bar. Moai went around him and wasn’t stopped because I was Torrent’s focus.

The security guy shot me a dirty look as I ordered a White Russian. I kept an eye on him as I turned my head away. I saw him in my 360 view as he mixed in some rat poison. Torrent gathered a squad of men and approached. I turned and went to grab my drink, then threw it back like I was drinking it, only I threw it behind me. Poison and all, it landed on Torrent’s face. While he was busy coughing, I grabbed the two nearest guards and brought them in close with my arms around their shoulders.

“I’m so glad to have friends like y’all, who are so kind and understanding when I get slandered by evil untrustworthy servants of public justice. I suppose if I didn’t have friends like you, I’d have to TEAR OFF YOUR OWN ASSES AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM!”

That reminds me, I like the move Warriors of Virtue. Komodo especially. Good role model if you like cheese. I do. It treats me well. I don’t know if it adds to my reputation, but it just feels right to me. Looking at it now, though, perhaps I should enunciate it a little differently. It loses something how that is. Something to work on next time I’m yelling at people, I guess.

I saw Ouroboros step out of the VIP section with some man in black with too many pouches who packed an unusual rife of unusual size. He whispered something to the man, reinforcements probably, and this new guy went back into the VIP room.

“You’ve betrayed us,” Torrent said, wiping his face with his sleeve.

“I’ve betrayed no one. The heroes are lying. You people deal with intrigue all the time and now you start believing your enemies are telling the truth?”

“Gecko, calm down. Everyone, calm down,” Ouroboros said, trying to defuse the situation, “I believe you. The heroes I’ve dealt with were little better than thugs in costumes, but you,” he smiled. A hole appeared in the wall of the VIP room. Something stung my neck through the costume.

As I fell, everything growing darker, I saw Moai began to kick ass.  Torrent threw off his coat and approached my faithful minion. Damn Ouroboros. Didn’t even drink and he roofied me.

I awoke to find myself in a very solid cell with one clear wall on it. I had a headache and cottonmouth and my costume still on, oddly enough. I sat up and began to get my strength under me to stand up. That’s when I found out I had steel gauntlets that enclosed my hands on, joined by heavy chains to shoulder pads and a thing around my waist, down to ones around my thighs and to some around the calves of my boots. My range of movement was severely restricted. I could still get up and walk around though, thanks to my armor. I paced the room, getting a sense of what I was dealing with as far as escaping. Maybe 5 minutes after I stood up, I had Ouroboros paying me a visit.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t my bargaining chip. You started to worry us. That sometimes happens. Powers can warp a person’s body and change their reactions to certain chemicals. You’re welcome for the armor. I took your toys, but you strike me as the kind of man to leave a surprise for anyone who would drag you out of that getup.”

I shook my head, still knocking away some fogginess. “Moai?”

“We have him in a pair of cement shoes. He’ll make a good fountain ornament.”

“Betraying me doesn’t end well for you, you know.”

“You betrayed me first. It was ok for a novice at this sort of game. I knew about the heroes and Columbians and Japanese. It wasn’t entirely a bad plan, though. You’re still the star. You’re just not cut out to handle wheeling and dealing with the rest of us.”

“When’s the ambush?”

“Tomorrow night, I think. We prefer the night around here and I need time to get my temporary allies prepared for battle.”

“This worked out well for you as far as the other gangs, didn’t it?”

“Oh yes, quite.”

“What if I survive that little battle?”

“Then we’ll dump you outside of town. I’m not a barbarian. I don’t hold any ill will toward you despite your laughable attempt to undermine me. I just want the heroes and my rivals gone. It would behoove you to aid those efforts in your current state lest the heroes get you after all. Though I suppose you could run for the city limits instead when all hell breaks loose.”

I raised my hands and brought them closer to my face. He tilted his head, “What?”

“You got a little something. Right there,”

He reached up to his face and rubbed at his mask. I shook my head and lifted my hands again, “A little higher.”

He rubbed again, then looked down at his palm. “Did I get it?”

“No, it’s sticky, I think. I think you got a booger. Here,” I raised my arms, “I can get it for you.”

He smiled a thin smile, “Of all the nuisances I’ve dealt with you’re one of the more amusing ones, Psycho Gecko. If you survive, don’t return. You will no longer be so amusing.”

He left then, leaving me to try and come up with new cuss words and figure out how to work some of those transmitters that were part of my brain, spine, and armor. I wanted to add the blogging device to my body as well, but the lack of nanites nixed that idea. Instead, I’ll just have to make do with having it set up in the ole SUV and connecting remotely.

In the meantime, I just have to fight my way past three criminal organizations, a group of heroes with military contractor support, all of whom do not like me at all right now, and free Moai from a horrible life of being a gaudy casino decoration. If you don’t hear from me again, then I want you to go bug some stories I read in my honor.

See you next time, folks.

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Two Tickets to Paradise 8

After the 5th time that I asked Torrent if they were done yet, I could tell he was ready to have me thrown out of the casino. “C’mon, man, if they aren’t going to let me in there, they at least can have the courtesy to talk less. I don’t see what all the negotiating has to be about. Heroes are here, they must be driven out. If not, they get to settle their differences in the prison showers for the rest of their lives.”

Torrent just shook his head.

I don’t feel bad about betraying him or the others. I know perfectly well what they’re doing behind closed doors. Ouroboros called a meeting of the gangs. Together, they’ve got the forces to drive the heroes out, but it will require cooperation. Problem is, they didn’t want to include me.

I’m something of an independent category as a hired killer from outside the city, but for some reason I wasn’t allowed a seat at the table. That’s because they’re going to debate throwing me at the enemy for a deal. With this crowd, if any of them are considering it, one of them is going to try it.

It’s inevitable. They think they’re so clever, but hiding and lying can be so predictable. At least the heroes are honest about things. They want us all beat, and any deal where I get traded is going to end with the villains betrayed and rounded up, I’m sure.

I stepped away to make my own deal. Even though the casino wasn’t doing any business right now, I cut the external comms so none of the gangsters or security guys would hear.

“Hello?” came a tired female voice.

“Boopsie!”

“Fuck.”

“I always bring out the best in you, don’t I?

She hung up.

How rude. I called her back. “Boopserina! Wait a second, don’t hang up on me. I have something very important to talk to you about.”

“I don’t see what that could possibly be.”

“Paradise City cleared of gangs.”

“That doesn’t sound like your kind of offer,” she paused, “Why?”

“Not asking after the price first?”

“I think the ‘why’ is more important where you’re concerned.”

“Aww, that’s sweet. Trying to get in my head,” I wasn’t going to say a thing about them almost certainly planning to betray me later, “I don’t really like them. All this drama. Villainy in suits. They have built this society of lies hoping to be the victors. The path to victory is easy to see and manipulate but the difficulty is in competing with others in the same shadowy battles. It’s like this story, about a girl and a boy and a medallion. Nevermind, you weren’t there for that. It would probably weird you out too. All these little societies seem to exist to keep those who are being wronged from taking the vengeance they are allowed.”

“They are a joke,” I continued, a part of me realizing I was venting, “and the punch line is when I rip them apart, those fragile little lies. I could tell you that I do it primarily to give everyone a better chance or to free the trod-upon masses, but it’s nothing so virtuous. I hate them. I destroy them. Piece by piece, if need be, with every superhuman killed and every time I get away. Every time I murder someone with a joke, I throw everything just a little more out of whack and give people a glimpse of a world that is, if not better, at least more fun.”

That was awkward. I went a little far there. I don’t get a chance to actually talk to people much, save for y’all, and I can’t exactly turn this into one big rant and expect you to stick around, can I? “You didn’t put this on speakerphone, did you?” I said to prompt a response from Venus.

“No. I don’t suppose you’ve ever had professional help, have you Gecko?”

I rolled my eyes. “Listen, I can help throw mess with these bozos, you guys swoop in, and all I ask is a chance to raid Ouroboros’s vault. If not a vault, then wherever he keeps all his stuff.”

“We’ll…consider it. No one’s going to want to take your word for anything, especially a deal like this.”

“As a show of good faith, I’ll point out that the Yakuza and Cartel leaders are in Ouroboros’s territory, along with some of their supers for bodyguards. Now would be the perfect time to start hitting condos and penthouses.”

“If it checks out, we’ll consider it. Keep in touch, Gecko.”

“Keep in touch? What’s that supposed to mean?” I waited a few seconds. “Hello? Did you hang up? Testing, one, two?”

Venus wants me calling her. Something’s going on. An alien invasion or dimensional doppelgangers. Clones, maybe? Pod people from outer space? What were you trying to tell me, Boopsie? What is going OOOONNNN?!

I was considering joining some of the Ouroboros Security guys for a few hands of poker, but the doors to the poker room opened up. The gangs hadn’t liked the suggestion of meeting in any formal meeting room prepared ahead of time by Ouroboros. Something about this time with a bear trap on a rope and a pet alligator.

I’d tell you the names of the leaders who stepped out, but I’d butcher them at best and at worst I’d arrive at something stereotypically wrong like “Jose Matsumoto” and as far as I know, neither guy is Peruvian. I gave a little wave as Shokushu and Suishou stepped out of the room. The names are apparently Japanese for Tentacle and Crystal, respectively. Because what I really needed was Japanese people finding this blog while looking for things involving tentacles. It was bad enough that “Domination” is in the name and I tie people up.

So the two Yakuza guys ignored me, as did a few other of their suits. One older man quietly said something to one of his guys who stepped over to me and told me that my presence was requested the next day.

Same sort of thing happened when the Cartel passed by, except I had no beaten supers to wave to. That’s just sad. I really ought to change that.

I approached Ouroboros after they had left, “Alright, how much did you get for my head on a platter?”

“You think I’d throw you under the bus?”

“I don’t know how Shieldwall found out I was here, but it’s screwing up everything for y’all. I wasn’t even let into this planning meeting. They don’t want to just throw me under the bus. They want to throw me under an exploding bus full of sharks. Giant sharks with huge balls and they’re going to teabag my corpse. I think Torrent already tried to, actually.”

It was hard to get a read on him with his eyes hidden behind that mask but I imagined an eyebrow was raised as he asked, “Why do you think that?”

“Somebody sent Yakuza after me while I was prepping for all that stuff at the bank. I even complained to Torrent about it. I show up at his house when I found out everything’s going down and I find a bunch of Yakuza in there, including two of the guys at this meeting. Torrent’s a threat, and the MPAA will back me up on that.”

“I’m in no hurry to have you handed to the heroes. You’ve done good work for me. I don’t think I congratulated you on a job well done against Black Raptor, by the way. I’m not in the mood for someone going over my head to superheroes when they don’t like what’s going on in my city, so don’t worry. But, incidentally, the plan we initially came up with was to offer you to them and then attack them at the exchange in one massive showdown.”

My first thoughts were that he was out to get me. He wants to hand me over. I know it. I know it! See why I hate all these conspiracies? See?! They’re out to get me. They’re all out to get me!

“Don’t you have any sorts of super weapons…anything at all you could commit a few war crimes with? I think something like that would be much better. Less risk of me finding a knife in my back,” I steered O away from the idea of giving me up.

“Anything like that, I keep here, in the basement vault.”

“I suppose you could part with one and still be feared. What do you have?”

“There’s the Nausea Transmitter, the Guardian of Gold, the Hunter-Spiders, this plasma cannon the size of a spot light from when those space marines attacked Empyreal City. I would even take the vault itself into battle against them if I could,” he grinned at that. That’s the grin of a proud owner of an AK-BFG right there.

“Always fun to smash someone over the head with an entire room.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. Let’s just say that if they ever break through to the floor here, they’ll be in for a surprise.”

“Yes, like a Rabbi finding out the prostitute he hired is a man who hasn’t been circumcised. It gives me an idea about your rivals, the other gangs. Bring them back here for a nice little celebration after the fight. That way, you can get them all drunk and then whip out some of those things real quick to cut off the heads,” I said. It’s off the cuff, like a lot of my work, but chances are good that this vault is the place he’s storing the Wish Stick. Some people want immortality by becoming legends. Screw that. I want to live forever. All I hear are people complaining about how it would suck, but no one who has said that was an immortal themselves. They’re rare group of people. Some have suggested there can be only one.

“They’ll never go for it.”

“I don’t suppose this could be where you hand me over, then? It was considered safe enough for the other gangs to show up.”

“I’ll take that under advisement. You’d be wise to prepare for everything. We’re all calling in markers and getting prepared. Each of the interests here has enough manpower that we could fight off the heroes together. Everyone’s main concern is to beat the others afterward. All of this hinges on having you as bait, though, so if it’s not too much trouble, try to force their hands. You have a reputation for being uncooperative with schedules, so it won’t be out of character for you. After all, they’re going to go behind my back and meet with you. We might as well use that to our advantage.”

Needless to say, Moai and I didn’t sleep at the casino’s hotel portion. I’d say something about it having a hotel, but at this point I don’t care as much about making fun of a secret casino that has an attached hotel. No, I’m more impressed by the balls it took to build the hotel too. That’s style. This guy really could get away with murder here. Well, yeah, he definitely could. He brought me in.

But seriously, he’s out to get me and I will feast on his traitorous entrails.

Over the next couple of days, I had all these damn meetings to juggle. First was the Yakuzas who actually had some nice things to say about me. We hung out in the VIP section of a bar they owned. Nice guys. Might do a little tech thievery work for them in the future if I don’t have to gut them like pigs. Forgive me for skipping over all that was said and done, but the business part was pretty much about helping them angle for supremacy. Yes, it would be a shame if something happened to Ouroboros during this crisis. I also may have namedropped some exceedingly powerful doohickeys in Ouroboros’s possession.

“We do not know of these, but if it is as you say, then it will be vital to secure this in order to maintain control of the city,” the lieutenant told me. Once again, his name slips my mind, but this guy was coordinating Yakuza activities with other groups in the city, so they had him entertaining me.

“The thrust of it is that you and I working together, we can get in there and we can get in there deep. There are enough toys in there to keep the city on its knees. Working together, we can get our hands on Ouroboros’s junk!”

“Our plan should reflect this change in priorities.”

“Yes, I think the handoff should occur in the casino itself. That’s the most likely place for the vault. Have people in reserve to move on it, that way we don’t have to split up and come at it from two different sides. The anticipation is great, but let’s not go off prematurely. I have some more groundwork I need to lay on my end.”

I had a hell of a time talking it up with them, and with the Cartel at dinner earlier tonight.

“The short and long of it is the stick is the only thing I care about. It may be hard, but I think we can penetrate his vault during all the fighting. If we can lead the whole group there, I think we can even bust in through the front. It’s the most difficult to get to open up for you, but there’s nothing like seeing it spread out, all inviting, right through the entrance. Now, let’s not go off half-cocked. I know y’all want to lay them out for the count, but I still need to ensure I have all the toys I need to bring this to a satisfying conclusion.”

Great. Now I just need to get the heroes on board.

Whole plot gave me a headache too. I asked the waitress to bring by a bottle of Vodka. She started to ask about being carded, but the pony-tailed man with the pock-marked face next to me glared at her and she brought it by without any trouble. Nothing relieves your headache and keeps a bunch of jovial drug dealers on your side quite like smashing a bottle into your own face and falling unconscious at the dinner table.

Sure, I woke up a few minutes later while they were tossing me in a dumpster behind the place wrapped in the tablecloth, but I felt more like myself than I had since the heroes showed up.

 

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Two Tickets to Paradise 7

When we left off last, there had been a sudden knock at my door. I answered the door to find that there was a package for me. It was my ass! Then it was handed to me.

Ok, so it was more like I got hit with a big hammer, was surrounded by a group of powerful heroes, and had to escape the quick way down the side of a building, but you see how good you feel after your ass is hammered.

Thanks to Miss Tycism, I spent quite awhile in bad shape. Which reminds me, while I was being driven around, I had an idea. Receivers linked to nerves lower in my spine. That way, if I break a neck, I can just use a network to control my body. That’ll be perfect, once I get my stuff back.

Yeah…that’s another thing. Moai kept me on the move for about a day afterward while I mended. We tried checking the motel, but they were already there. Moai had to prop a door open so I could watch as those Peace agents crawled over it with a squad of Shieldwall capes nearby. They carried out my tools, my nanites, all of it. It was such a horrible sight and I just couldn’t stand it. I had to lay down because of the paralysis and broken spine.

I had more broken bones in me than the winner of the Miss Kegel Bodybuilding Competition.

I found a place to hide, though. Somewhere a man can lay down near a giant Moai with the lights too dim to make out his face. That place was the champagne room of a bar named Babes where the women are really friendly and like to dance on stage for money. It was win/win. I got a safe place to stay, and who doesn’t want to put young women through college?

Like Miranda here. She grew up in a state without a good education system, without clean water, and with too much fast food to eat. Sometimes she doesn’t even have enough clothes to keep herself covered. For just $80 a day, you can help Miranda pursue a college degree and make something of herself. Won’t you give to a needy stripper today?

Besides, the more women go into stripping, the less chance one of them will put on a costume and punch me in the face.

Thanks to Moai’s skills at breaking into electronics stores and the help of a couple of dancers’ nimble hands, I was able to get my suit in good enough working order. It helps that I get a better sense of its how its doing when I slip it on and get all melded to it. I lost some gear in the fall too. I still have some chicken grenades, my potato peeler, and my ballistic knife. We lost Mr. 2nd Degree Burns though. I sent Moai out to raid a seafood restaurant so I could put together some more stink bombs. I’ve made one out of catfish before, but that was my first time working with mullet. Yes, I said mullet. It’s not just the name of a hairstyle.

From there, Moai and I needed to get a sense of what was going on. The radio in the SUV provided a little context to our situation. Shieldwall arrived out of nowhere and began busting heads. They hammered away at illegal enterprises and even the police were starting to come around and assist. The city’s villains had gone silent and the few heroes had been emboldened, fighting alongside Shieldwall. Hell, it was daytime. That alone would make most people stop fighting around here.

I almost feel like somehow I created the monster that is Shieldwall. They’ve taken stalking to a new level. Now, like anyone who created a monster, the steps to go through are running from them, cockblocking them, becoming depressed, then chasing them around to kill them after they murder my wife who was also my sister. It’s a basic plan as laid out in that Frankenstein book by that guy, what’s his name, the scientist. Victor.

The radio didn’t have a whole lot to tell me and I was flying blind, so I went to pay Torrent a visit.

Had I been anyone other than myself, that would have been a bad idea. There were cars there, but no one to greet me. I let myself and Moai in to find the place unresponsive as well, up until we turned a corner into the kitchen. There I found a squad of Asian men in suits, except for one squat fellow without the shirt and jacket on. He and the taller, thinner man next to him were the only unarmed ones out of the bunch.

See, this is why you don’t leave old sake laying out. You forget about and go somewhere, next thing you know you’ve got a Yakuza infestation skittering around your kitchen.

The ones with the guns, Uzis this time as opposed to the mini versions, spread out behind cover to get firing arcs without their friends in them. Of the other two, the thinner guy raised his hands. The middle of his palms had what looked like giant blisters. They opened and a tentacle speared out of each. Moai threw himself in front of me. There was a fleshy twang as they impacted the hard stone and found no give at all.

A crystal flew at Moai and chipped a piece off him. It held itself there in midair, then flew back to join with the shoulder of the shirtless Yakuza. He launched another from his cheek. It broke off like he was a porcelain figure or something. The flesh-covered crystal was aimed right at Moai’s head, but I swatted it aside with a minimal charge to my glove. Instead of shatter, it curved and flew back to the Yakuza.

While I was busy with that, the tentacle guy had wrapped those fleshy lengths around my legs. The Yakuza guy broke into nothing but shards and flew at me, one at a time. I dodged some. Hitting them away didn’t work. They stuck there, jagged edges stabbing into the air or into my armor, then shifted slightly and reformed into the Yakuza. He smiled down at me as I was in a bent over position from trying to dodge.

I wiped that smile off his face by uppercutting him in the balls. He let out a groan. “Looks like those shatter.” Moai jumped and bellyflopped onto the tentacles against the ground. The tall gangster began to shriek. I didn’t think he could get louder but he proved me wrong as Moai began to roll along the length of the tentacles like rolling up a toothpaste tube. The tentacles’ grip around my calves and ankles let up and I drove my knee into this shard guy’s nut sack. I then threw him onto the countertop and slammed my elbow into his crotch. There was a nice chrome toaster nearby. Grabbed it, threw it into the guy’s nuts. I heard them open fire on Moai, but didn’t worry about it as I turned the Yakuza toward me, spread his legs, jumped, and landed a giant headbutt between them with a giant crack as the countertop underneath the Japanese gangster cracked. After that, all I heard was the gurgle of the man. When I looked up, tentacle dude was pulling himself and a broken leg over the sink to get away, dragging flattened tentacles behind him. A few of the Yakuza had bloody foreheads and scrambled to stand back up as others moved to help tentacle guy or just get out of the way.

“Whoa now, hold up guys,” I said, holding out my hands, “Before anyone gets too beat up to speak, I just want to ask something. Where can we find Torrent? If y’all don’t know the answer to that one, would any of you mind telling me where Ouroboros’s casino is?”

The unpowered gangsters glanced at their fallen members with superpowers and exchanged a look.

Twenty minutes later, Moai and I pulled up outside the casino, which was in the middle of some remodeling. Torrent drove up from another direction and stepped out of his hummer to look at the site before us. One of Shieldwall’s jets hovered overhead with a cable and hook which they must have used to transport the giant robot that tore the place apart. That show “This Old House” has gone hardcore. It was taller than the doors would permit, so at least 9 feet. It had the reverse-style legs to it, like a bird, and arms that ended in three-digit claws. Clumsy, hydraulic-based stuff, like a skeleton or an unarmored exoskeleton. Except for the torso, that is. The torso could have been something I had thrown together if all I cared about was size. Armor plates with bands of armor to help deflect and funnel attacks fitted to a torso shape with a little bend allowed in how the upper and lower torso fitted together. The head of the thing had eyes that glowed red and a fanged mouth open in a roar.

It was busy throwing things at Ouroboros’s security, who were abandoning rifles and pulling out the light machine guns. I saw a man run out with two RPGs, dodge a slot machine thrown at him, and toss one launcher to a friend. They both fired. One blew apart a slot machine and an explosion sent coins flying everywhere. The other hit underneath the thing’s left shoulder. When the smoke cleared, the armor was scorched, but still solid. The arm above it was locked.

“Hey Torrent, think your guys are going to need a hand?” I called to the guy I was planning on setting up later.

“You think you’ll get paid for Raptor if the boss is arrested?”

“I think you and your guys will stop him in anyway, but it’ll take longer.”

“I’ll talk to the boss about a bonus if you help kick them out. The heroes are 10 minutes out hitting the Cartel. Our reinforcements will be here in 10.”

Moai and I shut our doors at the same time and began to walk across the street toward the robot. It had good range of vision too. It picked us up about halfway across and turned to look right at me.

Then it charged, throwing plants and chairs all over the place. A doorframe crumpled underfoot as it ran for me. I hit the stealth and left a hologram in my place as I got out of its path. It threw a punch that Moai leapt in front of, but Torrent jumped even in front of Moai. The punch connected with Torrent’s chest and Torrent bulged. It was like a massive wave of excess mass ran over his body before concentrating in his fist. He didn’t go flying or land on his ass or anything. The only way he budged after taking something full-power from the robot was when he took a step forward and slammed his huge fist into its midsection. As he did so, it became normal size again. It was the robot’s turn to stumble back, which worked for me. I got behind its legs, grabbed one, and threw it up even higher as it attempted to catch its balance. It fell on its back.

I revealed myself then. The robot sat upright suddenly. They must have programmed me as a priority target. It reached for me. If it wanted me, then the robot got what it wanted. Moai had come up right behind me. I grabbed him and swung, knocking its arm away with the bottom of the statue. As he, or maybe she as I never bothered to ask, landed, I was then picked up and swung the same way. My boots knocked its head to the side.

Torrent stepped in front of us once again, ready for another round. That was good, because when Moai set me down, I was too busy stumbling and rubbing at my poor achy shins. Before we could break off another piece of the robot, the jet maneuvered closer. Aside from showing off the size of the pilot’s sack, it brought the hook just over the robot. It grabbed the hook and the jet lifted, pulling it off the ground and away from us.

Torrent immediately began ordering the security staff around.

When another jet flew in with Shieldwall’s heroes sliding on a cable to the ground or taking aerial positions, they found the casino’s entrance fortified with trashed games. Behind that were security staff in riot gear with machine guns and RPGs. Behind them were Torrent, Moai, Ouroboros, and myself. They may have risked it, but more people began to arrive. A woman in a white cloak and hood held a white scythe in one hand and skated along the street on ice she generated from her other hand. A man in sweatshirt and baggy jeans holding a pair of spray cans walked up from another street. His mask was a bandana with holes cut in it. As he came across a car blocking his path, he sprayed at the hood. The paint condensed into a cloud and flew at the car, knocking it around and out of his way.

We all waited, the heroes eyeing us. It was the mother of all staring contests, except I didn’t know whose glare to return. I killed Forcelight’s adopted father, I blew Venus’s boyfriend into chunky bits, I gassed Honky Tonk Hero’s city, and I pantsed Miss Tycism. I hurt the other heroes there, but those were the ones keeping their eyes on me.

After an intense few minutes, they began to withdraw down a street where the jet could drop a ladder to the non-flyers it was picking up.

I climbed up the barricade and hollered after them, “Yeah, that’s what I thought! Now you fucked up! You have fucked up now! You brought an awful lot of ugly people out here to do nothing but sit around looking pretty! You know what the difference between you and your momma is? When she sucks this hard, she expects me to pay her afterward. That’s right, all your mommas!”

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Two Tickets to Paradise 2

I take it back. This town doesn’t know how to treat a bad guy. Know how I know? Because there was a very large guy of Asian ancestry waiting for me and Moai at our room. We walked in, Moai leading the way, when this guy came out of nowhere and hit Moai. His fist, forearm, and bicep all bulged impossibly large on impact and the went back to their normal size as Moai crashed through the wall. After Moai made a swift egress through the drywall, I pulled out the chair of the small folding table I’d brought into our motel room and seated myself. Of course I invited my guest to do so as well. There’s no reason we couldn’t be civilized for two people probably about to get into a fight.

After all, I had breakfast. Do you know how rarely that happens? Not only did I wake up in time to go get breakfast, but there’s another super up at the same time? This is a rare event. I was expecting a rainbow to burst out of my room there at any second. It would fly across the city and some guy who has been down on his luck would follow it to see this miracle occur.

Then he’d probably die a horrible death.

And my guest is superhuman, obviously. Moai is too tough of a sparring partner as I well know, but this is you, the reader, that has to be informed. Not me. At least I don’t think. Maybe?

The guy’s big. Weightlifter big. He’s not in a costume, but he’s cultivated a mean glare that lets you know he’s not here to save the day. Also, he’s got a mullet. Something about superhumans draws out the individuality of people. Costumes are a well-known side effect, but sometimes you get choices that other people don’t agree with. Like the mullet hairstyle. Now, before you go assuming it’s a racial thing that I don’t think he could just be a local redneck, you have to remember that he’s not wearing camo. Instead, he had a tight black shirt on that was tucked into black pants.

Another clear sign he’s not a baseline human. It’s summer outside, we’re in Florida, and this guy’s wearing all black?

So I munched on my biscuit and offered him one of the others I had with me. For those of you reading from the UK or from a world ruled by it, this is not your type of biscuit. This is like bread. It has cheap sausage and a thin, folded up grilled egg on it with something orange that can only legally be referred to as a “cheese product” on top. To add insult to injury, it still tastes better than your breakfast food.

You guys will probably like that he swatted my hand away. The offered biscuit splattered against the hole in the wall, flakes of drywall rendering it unsalvageable. Why, damn you? Why does my food keep getting destroyed by thoughtless meany poopyheads?!

I chewed and swallowed the piece of biscuit I had in my mouth and began to ask him, “To what do I owe this-?”

He was on me quickly for his size. I’m still not sure what happened to the table exactly. One moment was there, the next it was gone. I was more concerned with the man in black pinning me to the wall. I sensed some hostility there. When he spoke, I had trouble placing his accent, but his words were still clear, “Who do you think you are attacking my men?”

“Psycho Gecko,” I told him, “But sometimes I go by The Pitcher and dispense merciless bloody justice with my ability to throw things at people and sometimes hit them while pouring refreshing beverages for people. I have a meeting with Ouroboros later who will help me hunt down my dastardly nemesis, the Belly Itcher.”

Past him, I saw Moai at the hole in the wall, prepared to lend assistance should it become necessary. I saw his eyes twitch a little when I said my name, but he finally set me down when I mentioned the meeting with Ouroboros. I held out my hand, “And you are?”

He looked me in the eye, then took my hand in a firm shake. “You will call me Torrent. I work for Ouroboros. He sent me to bring you to him.” He tried to squeeze my hand in his grip but he was frustrated by what I’d held out with my hand. He squeezed my sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit in that meaty hand of his, getting all slick and greasy and once again ruining my food. He looked down at our hands and let go, finding himself holding the smooshed food as I stepped past him to hunt down some napkins or a papertowel or something.

“Well, Torrent, I was going to suggest we go have that meeting with your boss right after I finish breakfast, but I’m done early. Let’s go ahead now and meet him.” I gave Moai a thumbs up and a smile, then headed to the bathroom to wipe my hands off on a towel.

It wasn’t how I meant to let Ouroboros know I was in town, but I was more glad that talking it out kept this from escalating into more violence. That’s good. I didn’t feel like having two biscuits and my oh-so-expendable face ruined that day.

That doesn’t mean I disapproved when we left through the hole in the wall and Torrent stumbled over Moai, who was waiting for us to pass before following.

He tried to blindfold us as we were getting into his hummer for the drive, but he ran into a problem with Moai. Moai has a little bit larger head than most other magically-animated statues. I don’t try to point it out. It might hurt his feelings. Torrent didn’t have a blindfold big enough for Moai and was getting frustrated. “If he can’t be blindfolded, then we leave him behind,” he said.

“Don’t worry, we can just tie my shirt around that fat noggin of his. It’s like blindfolding a watermelon,” I said. Moai wrote that my ass was fat back when the cops stopped us at Yabloo City.

Shirtless and blindfolded, I sat in the back on the passenger side against Moai as we were driven to meet Ouroboros. Not the first paranoid client I’ve met. Unfortunately, my eyes don’t have an X-ray feature. They can’t swap to thermal imaging either, seeing as they’re positioned in my head, but that would have been useless anyway. Moai, however, is one sneaky devil with balls of stone. I haven’t had them carved on yet, but he’s got them. He can probably draw me a map if I need it.

“So, I thought you didn’t really have heroes to speak of around? That guy I fought didn’t look like one of us.”

“He’s a young hero. High school kid just starting out. That’s why he was dumb enough to be out during the day. He doesn’t matter.”

“So he’s not who I was asked to attend to?”

“No.”

I waited.

And waited.

“So, who was I called in for?”

“I’m not to say. The boss will tell you.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No, we’re not there yet.”

“I have to pee.”

“You should have used the bathroom before we left.”

“Can we stop and get icecream?”

“Don’t make me have to throw this truck at you.”

After that little exchange, I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride without fidgeting too much. That changed when we stopped and I heard someone on a megaphone preaching about hell and turning your life around. I think they were over right beside me, so I mashed my chest against the window and began to play with my nipples.

“They can’t see you. I have the windows tinted”

“Crap. Should I stop then?”

“Yes, you’re getting my window dirty and I don’t want to see that anyway.”

“Like these windows weren’t dirty and perverted before now,” I said, and sat back down.

Finally, after far too long, we stopped and Torrent got out. I got out as well, which prompted Moai to get out too. From the sound of things, he caught Torrent in the face with the door as he did so. I snickered as Torrent said something in another language under his breath.

“You’re going to look suspicious leading around a man and a walking Moai with blindfolds on, you know. Just how far away are we from where we’re going?”

“You can take them off. We’re in the right building,” I heard in response.

Moai and I slipped our blindfolds off. My shirt flew over the top of the hummer to land on my head, obscuring my vision of the rest of the garage we were in. I slipped it back on as I admired the gaudy cars around. They were a shiny bunch. There was a red Ferrari with “Schwing” on the license plate. There was one that was gold-colored, with a spoiler and spinner rims. There was even a plain black Cadillac town car. Clearly, every variety of wealthy person was well-represented here.

Well, not every variety…or so I thought. The sound of a helicopter landing on the roof proved me wrong on that count. “Lots of visitors to meet me?”

“No, this is our casino.”

“Ah, good show, blindfolding someone just to take them to a place lots of people are expected to find. I’m sure that had a purpose. While we’re at it, let’s have a Mexican standoff and I’ll drop my pants about halfway down my ass. Moai, think you can get a gold tooth and a fake scar over one eye?”

Torrent looked at me. He was in the right place, because he had one hell of a poker face. He walked to the door and opened it to reveal a well-dressed bouncer in a suit. They shared a few whispered words before he waved me over. Together, Torrent, Moai, and I walked in through the VIP section, which was a little apart from the rest of the casino thanks to ropes. And it was one hell of a casino. Slot machines, tables, bright lights, even a buffet off to the side. “Wow, nice secret location. Wouldn’t want anyone to find this place easily, would we?”

Torrent shot me a look. A look that said “My eyes are this close to pulling out a gun and shooting more than a look.” Cute. He’s upset because he realized he made a dumb mistake.

Up in the private box, we were led to Ouroboros, who was seated, in-costume, on a leather couch. It was a black bodysuit that hid everything under it. You couldn’t see if he was built, you couldn’t see if he needed a girdle. It looked scaled, with a black sheen. On the chest, that sheen went against the texture and formed an infinity sign. It hid his eyes, with no openings or different-colored spot to indicate that they were behind the two depressions in the mask at that point. On his face, a portion of the costume opened up to look like a mouth with fangs arching down, his real nose and mouth exposed in that opening. The corners of the costume mouth were pulled back and wrinkled like a real mouth. A pair of curved ivory daggers that more closely resembled claws hung on loops at his waist where a belt would be.

A small smile came to his face as he saw Torrent, Moai, and I. He nodded to us, “Ah, good job, you brought our guests. Did you blindfold them as I asked?”

Torrent nodded. I just looked at him, “Seriously, dude, I’ve been giving you a hard time about it and you did it because of orders? You couldn’t say something?”

“Torrent is a quiet guy most of the time, in deference to the people he used to work for. So you are Psycho Gecko? Have a seat,” Ouroboros indicated a seat nearby. I sat and Torrent left to go do whatever it is he does.

“Nice to meet you and all, but why blindfold me to bring me to a casino? It’s illegal, but you don’t seem too concerned about people finding it.”

He shrugged. “It’s intrigue, what can I say. I’ve got other interests trying to move in and take what I’ve got with back alley deals and turning people against me. It’s pretty much required I act like this. So after tonight, as far as anyone knows, I’ve never met you and I have nothing to do with why you’re here. You’ll be in my territory acting a certain way without my approval.”

“Like that’ll fool anyone. What’s the point of pretending to hide something that everyone’s going to find out about anyway?”

“That’s intrigue and politics for you. By the way, I’m going to need you to act angry when you leave this room. Make a big show of it, ok?”

I nodded.

“Now let’s talk business. Have you heard of Black Raptor?”

I ran back through my files, including this archive. There he was, back when I was going over some news. “Yeah, he’s a new hero around here. Problem?”

Ouroboros shook his head, “Not a big one. I want something done that will be symbolic more than anything else. That’s why I brought you in. You’re overkill for the situation. I could easily have someone kidnap his family, beat him to a pulp, or leak his name to every superpowered menace out there, but I’ve seen what you’ve done to that Holdout kid and to Venus. You didn’t kill them, but you did a great job of making their lives hell for awhile.”

“Hell, you say? Me, you say? I guess I didn’t notice that part,” I said. I did, actually. That was the point of that mess with Venus, but I was legitimately trying to kill Holdout.

“I want him humiliated and beaten. I want his personal life in shambles, but he will get to live knowing what his heroism cost him. I want to send a message about what happens when heroes try to get serious in my town. Think you can do it?”

“Yeah, sounds good. What about the boring details? Pay, information on him, account numbers, that stuff?”

Ouroboros motioned behind us to where Torrent stood, now with a folder in his hands, “Torrent will go over that with you on your way out.”

“Why can’t we just talk about it here?”

“I told you. Intrigue. Spy stuff. I have to at least pretend, otherwise the whole game I play with the organizations trying to take me on will fall apart.”

“You just said you were sending a message. Is all that transparent secrecy really that fucking important?”

“Oh, sure, totally. Right now, they’re predictable. They’re playing hide and seek like it matters that they’re trying to keep a secret. As long as I play along, they will keep acting like that. But if I blow the masquerade for them, I don’t know how they’ll react. My house might get stormed by a bunch of Colombians while the Triads or Yakuza sneak in a back window with a shotgun.”

I stood up and stretched my arms and legs a little. “Alright, alright, I’ll play along.

And that’s how I got dragged out of Ouroboros’s casino by security while yelling “I’m really angry now! You hear me?! I’m angry and loud! Next time I see you, I’ll kill you so dead, you’ll need a funeral!”

 

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