Tag Archives: Pivot

Killing Time 9

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I’ve generally considered extensive plans to be overrated. I’ve barely been keen on simple plans, though they are better than most. Just like with a machine, the fewer moving parts on a plan, the less chance it gets screwed up. The inevitable struggle between order and chaos.

If I had to say one came first, I’d think it was order. A nice orderly pile of all the energy in the universe and then…bang. Since then, chaos has been the great equalizer in any plan. Every independent actor has fed it.

But enough philosophical talk. It was a good enough distraction, but you probably wanted to hear about what predicament I’m in now, which conveniently undermines my point.

It started much the way my puberty began…surrounded by deformed beings while I planned how to get into a place. The place in question was the Foley building. At 725 feet tall, it wasn’t the tallest building in the city. I wouldn’t be climbing it anytime soon, though. Thanks to my own high profile crimes, the only service I knew that offered discreet flights for secretive clientele with lots of money was out of business. I was about as grounded as the mercenary pilots who had helped me.

That meant I needed to improvise a bit, which I’m none too shabby at. I ran into trouble getting the cooperation of my allies around my car. The Rejects, as a semi-official group, were being rather stubborn in their regard for conventional views on physics.

“You’re going to get us all killed.” Zane said as he pounded his fist on the hood of my car.

“Hey, watch it! I’ve got some explosives in there that are tempermental,” I berated the man with the giant version microencephaly.

“You almost killed us already, didn’t you?” Mika asked. She rubbed the bone spikes composing the lower half of her arms together. Her nervous tic irritated the rest of the group, I could tell. It sounded like bone rubbing over bone. But her flesh ended at her elbows and bone alone stuck out in conical points. There just wasn’t much she could do with that, nor could she help the similar spikes under her knees. She kept her balance with the last of her mutations, a pair of skin-colored tentacles that dangled out of her back.

I had been learning their names. Mika, Zane, Larry, Roberta, Steve, and…I glanced at the last of the Rejects, whose group identity warranted treating that as a proper noun now. The last member of the group had been nicknamed Tom by all the others in the group. In contrast to Zane, his head was perfectly normal in size. Yep, there was nothing wrong with it in circumference and so on.

It was just shriveled looking and a dark grey color, with deep, black pits where the eyes and mouth would normally be. We sometimes noticed something moving around inside the holes. He never spoke, but he chose to stick with us.

Tom had no particular objection to me getting him killed. Good man thing, that Tom. He was dependable and loyal. Possibly brainless, but dependable and loyal.

“It’s a very simple plan. Nobody needs to die, except for all the people we kill. They definitely need to die. Think of it this way, every person you scare off is someone I don’t have to mutilate. Y’all can spread out through the downstairs, cause some panic, and save lots of lives. Just leave this Prime guy to me.”

They bought that long enough for us to all get loaded up in the ice cream truck and ready to go. Moai and I sat in front, with the Rejects in back. Yeah, we saved the truck.

From the back, Larry cleared his throat and spoke up. “Psycho Man, why are we doing this in the truck?”

“Because it’s expendable.”

“Why are we riding in something expendable?”

I threw up my hands. “Look, there’s no reason to be worried. This is top of the line rocket technology like what the North Koreans use. You know, they have a very high survivability rate, or so they say through their state-controlled news service. If it’s good enough for their missile program, it’s good enough for my ice cream truck program.”

“That’s not what I asked, but I suddenly feel worse.”

I rolled my eyes inside my helmet. “Oh, you big baby. Just buckle up and grab a puke sack. It’ll all be over soon.”

I heard his belt click as he whined one last time, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

With that, I gunned the truck and flipped a switch to activate the jury-rigged rockets attached to the sides of it. They added to our acceleration but would never be enough to achieve liftoff. That’s why we were driving into a rubber band. Yep, a bigass rubber band stretched between two taller buildings. It caught us perfectly as we drove into it on top of a parking garage.

I adjusted the rear view on the driver’s side to catch a glimpse of the Foley building. We pushed against the taut rubber. As we drove off the garage, we were embedded in the band enough that it didn’t let us just fall. When I thought we had about the right angle, I killed the rockets.

The rubber band flung us at the building, leaving me feeling like my stomach had turned into a screaming killer frog. My frog stomach got worse as we flipped end over end, but I activated the rockets long enough to slow our rolling. That was hard with me smacking into the windshield like I did. Lucky Larry and his damn seatbelt!

Thinking of Larry reminded me of what he called me, Psycho Man. That put a little song into my head. “Psycho man, psycho man, does whatever a psycho can. Kills a group of any size, he’s got cybernetic eyes. Look out! Here comes the Psycho man.”

Still, I got a front row seat for my moment of triumph, or so I thought. Instead, I saw a figure step out onto the balcony facing us. The person raised a hand, and suddenly we shifted slightly downward. There was no loss of inertia, no glancing blow on a shield or anything. We were moving in one direction, and then it changed suddenly with no loss of speed.

“Cushion with the soft serve!” I called out to everyone. That too was part of the plan, back when it seemed more unpredictable. I didn’t get a chance to see how well they followed it because my head was spinning along with the truck.

We hit just below where we meant to, the truck cracking the glass windows and blasting a crater into the marble floor. I was first slammed back into my seat, then through the windshield. Some of my favorite body parts made wet thudding sounds as I flew end over end along the floor through some sort of aquarium and then into a water bed, which halted my movement but ruined the bed.

I curled up in a ball there for a good minute, nanites flooding into me from the busted quilted layers in my armor. I would have said the pain was excruciating, if I could have made that out. Really, it was like everything hurt so much at once that I couldn’t tell any one individual hurt nerve ending from any other.

Then I heard a voice call out, “You couldn’t direct him down to the street, Pivot? Really, you dropped him into my living space?”

I crawled out of the busted bed frame amongst leaking water tubes. When I felt like enough of my leg bones were solid again, I stood up and pointed a finger in the direction I hoped that voice had come from. “Listen here, Prime! It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, here to, to, to, to…” I got caught on that word for no particular reason that I can remember. Then, something stoney bonked me on the head and I realized I had more to say “…to put you on ice cream!”

I turned and high fived my rocky helper, who turned out to be Moai. He just stood there, facing off to the side. My addled brain figured out I should check that direction, but didn’t yet remember the 360 degree view on my helmet.

Pivot stood there, the Annihilation Eight stepping up to form a line in front of her from where they’d been scattered about the place. All eight. Wait, eight?

Yep. Gorilla Badass, Man-Opener, Motley Sue, Terrorjaw, the polka-dotted guy, and Rumble were there. So was a mass of shiny, shifting pieces of something metallic mixed with sand. Quick Sand, or more like Cyber Sand. And Dr. Typhoon, who wore some sort of new collar and helmet within that swirling localized tornado he had created around himself.

That shit just wasn’t right. I killed those guys. They were supposed to stay dead.

“Moai,” I whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, “bring me my red underwear.”

He didn’t respond to the bit of horribly-timed humor. Instead he looked to the second story landing of the penthouse we penetrated. There stood two familiar facies in suits. I recognized Pivot, who had ruined our landing with one wave of her hand.

I knew the other, a young man, as well. He had put on some muscle and height since the first time we crossed paths. Back then, he had been a sidekick who followed me to my hideout and was tortured hysterically for his trouble. I knocked him repeatedly with a frozen bratwurst. Holdout, who had taken the name Lone Gunman after I killed his mentor. I should have used a knockwurst.

“Going to try and run away again, Great and Devious one?” asked Pivot with a smug smirk as she leaned over the railing on the second story. “You didn’t think the heroes were the only ones who could reverse engineer the life-support systems of your armors or that handy surgical nanotech, did you?”

“Is there anybody else who wants to come back from the dead around here?” I asked, looking about. “My day would just about be complete now if Uncle Ben and the Wayne parents showed up looking to kick my ass too. Anybody?”

Shifting metal behind me provided a disappointing answer. Looking back through my helmet’s rear cameras, I saw the Rejects climb free of the totaled ice cream truck. They were each covered in cuts, bruises, and various flavors of ice cream, but they all looked like they would live. Even Larry, who stopped to throw up all over himself.

As I said, they were not a sight for sore eyes. On one side, you had a superhero and nine villains. On the other you had six untrained mutants with powers, my minion Moai, and me.

I didn’t know we were busting into this place while Prime, aka Lone Gunman, had the whole frickin’ team of Pivot’s here. Like I said before, I didn’t want these Rejects to die. I didn’t like the idea of anybody dying for me. I was more sure of that as the group stepped up behind me. They readied sharpened claws. Their powers made the air glow. I joined them, gathering energy in the sheaths surrounding my gloves.

With the tension so thick, the fight would start at any moment in a deadly dance of chaos and blood. I turned to Moai while I had a moment. “Well, Moai, you better promise me that no matter what, you’ll get these guys out of here alive.”

He turned his face toward me, just staring.

“Come on, man. If we’re separated, and if the odds look like they’re against me, you get these guys out, ok?”

Moai nodded reluctantly.

“Good,” I said, then I slammed both my fists into the ground just behind me. With a series of loud cracks, the otherwise ineffectual double punch unleashed too much energy into the marble for the floors to handle. A very confused mob of mutants fell through to the next floor. According to the blueprints I stole, that would put them in the executive offices. They could evacuate in comfort with the VIPs and VPs.

I looked to Moai, who stood dumbfounded beside me. Then I gestured toward the hole. “Well?”

With a slump of his stone shoulders, Moai jumped through after the Rejects.

Even before Pivot shouted “Get him!” Man-Opener rushed at me, with Dr. Typhoon and Quick Sand moving through the air to flank me.

“You dare come at me, bros?! I am the Great and Devious One!” I yelled, disappearing and making three holographic copies of myself. The holograms split up. Quick Sand cut through the one that headed for him and began to spread out as much as he could to find the real me.

Lightning crackled in Dr. Typhoon’s funnel before he struck out with it. It curved away from his ideal path toward my hologram and instead arced through Man-Opener’s armor. The other man’s armor shut down momentarily due to the electromagnetic pulse. I hopped up its knee and then to its shoulder, then leapt high into the air over Dr. Typhoon.

A sonic blast knocked me into the ceiling and against the glass window, but not before I dropped a headless rubber chicken grenade down the eye of Dr. Typhoon’s personal storm. The explosion flung him onto a leather loveseat. I couldn’t see if any bloody bits were sticking out because I had a rock villain to deal with.

Motley Sue rocked a rapid fire solo, shattering the windows behind me and slowly pushing me towards the edge. I gave my gloves a reduced charge and thrust my hand into the floor. It broke part of the way through and gave me a grip. Another punch with the other hand gave me another. I pulled myself along the floor.

Gorilla Badass threw himself in front of Motley Sue’s hair amps and let himself be hurled toward me by the same force pushing me back. I was still invisible, but that hardly mattered with the holes I was leaving behind.

Badass flew at me and instead of making another handhold, I threw my hand into his chest. Bones gave beneath my fist. I brought my helmet close enough to his ugly mug for him to hear me over the notes that pushed against us both. “I am the Prince of Pain.” I tossed him away.

Before I could make any more forward progress, Badass’s chain belt wrapped around my wrist and I was hauled back. I saw the gorilla clinging to the edge of the building. I held on tight as gravity took me down, figuring I could break through lower on the building and make my own escape. As I was swung against the glass, however, a yellow portal appeared and I was pulled through it by the man in the purple tights with the yellow polka dots. Portalmeister.

I was back in the penthouse, but when I threw a punch, another portal appeared in front of my hand and sent it somewhere. It was still attached, but just not occupying the space at the end of my arm. Portalmeister grinned under his headset gadgetry. “You’re the one who denied me a chance to prove my superiority.” He fell back, taking me with him through another portal.

We ended up somewhere dark and huge. I brought my knee up into Portalmeister’s gut. “I don’t know what rivalry you’re even talking about, but I’ll deny you a lot more in a second, for I am the Executioner’s Blade.”

I went to throttle the other man, but my hands warped somewhere else again, followed by the rest of me. This time, the area appeared like a kaleidoscope of bright colors. Reds, yellows, greens, purples. Whatever strange excuse for light suffused the place, it left me visible. I went ahead and shut off my stealth in that case.

Portalmeister followed me into this strange dimension that I hurtled through, falling with no bottom in sight. Portal after portal appeared beside me as he flew out of one and into another to keep me from catching him. “Sixgun was mine to kill! I was going to make him kill a civilian. I was going to make him shoot himself!” He babbled on about Lone Gunman’s mentor. Gunman, back when he went by Holdout, served as a sidekick to a Lone Ranger knockoff named Sixgun.

“So you thought you’d work for his fucking sidekick to get back at me?” I asked, throwing a kick at him as he zipped out of a portal.

The question hit him with more force than the kick had. “What?”

I spun around and caught him by the collar so I could address him face to face. “Lone Gunman is Holdout! You’re being ordered around by his old teenage sidekick with the short shorts. Geez, were you somehow deaf for the big press conference he held?” I projected images of Holdout and Lone Gunman overlaid on one another.

Portalmeister finally found his ability to speak again. “I was in prison when it happened…I didn’t know. The Lone Gunman hid this information from me…” He growled. Hey, if I could be cheesy by calling myself the Prince of Pain, Portalmeister was allowed to growl.

“Drop me off back there,” I proposed. “In all the chaos, I’m sure you’ll get a clear shot at him. Drag him into your freaky kaleidoscope chunks-blowing land here.”

Portalmeister summoned another yellow portal and pushed my grip loose to fly through it. I was lost in that shifting landless dimension for a few seconds until he swooped in from above me and hurled me into another of his portals. Then, I popped back to reality on the floor of the penthouse. I slid along the marble and knocked over a lamp.

Rumble jumped at me, trying to squash me like a bug. In his case, he could squash a Volkswagen Beetle without much effort. The downside was that I rolled forward. His foot broke through the marble and I launched myself into what would normally be a knockout blow. My fist caused a bit of testicular torture to the man, and then I grabbed them to swing between his legs and onto his back.

I put my arms around Rumble’s head and locked in a sleeper hold, putting pressure on the massive man’s massive arteries. “I am your pointless death,” I announced to him.

Rumble tried to grab at me, but his boxing gloves made that difficult. He had trouble gripping me with them on. He threw punches, but I slid from side to side and he beat himself instead.

I was pulled off when Terrorjaw hurtled Rumble, clamped his mouth down over my head, and yanked me off. It was less fun than being yanked off normally sounds. I could see down his gullet all the way to his stomach. I brought my left hand up and activated my Nasty Surprise. The miniature sawblade extended out from under my left wrist and chewed through Terrorjaw’s belly tissue. Terrorjaw’s resistance soon ended entirely. I plucked him off me and threw him into Rumble’s face. “I will bring you to your afterlife.”

I dodged another blow from Rumble that sent him down into the next floor and turned to a reactivated Man-Opener who charged with his blades brought to bear. I pulled out my laser potato peeler and aimed for the exposed helmet of the pilot. The peeler sparked and refused to fire.

Fucking ice cream truck crash.

He swung at me in a ponderous arc, but I was able to jump forward. I wrapped my arms and legs around the massive arm of the machine, too far along for his blade. He brought the other one up to chew me off with its sharp teeth, but I let go with my arms and hung upside down with my legs. The saw on the arm I held onto stopped as the other arm’s blade cut into the armor and wiring underneath.

I saw my opportunity. Man-Opener looked up at me. I chuckled as I looked down at him, then jumped high into the air, pulling energy from the core in my chest into the sheath around my fist. I would bring it down and crack the skull of my enemy. I yelled for all to hear, “I am Psychopomp Gecko!”

High in the air, I saw Portalmeister sneaking up on Lone Gunman. The Gunman whirled and pulled a scoped revolver, executing his mentor’s old rival with a single shot to the head that blew his headset to pieces. All of the yellow dots on the deceased villain’s costume disappeared as he dropped.

While I was focused on them, I wasn’t paying as much attention to Pivot. Right as the gun fired, she redirected my motion with a wave of her hand and conked me against the ceiling. Then the wall, the elevator door, through a hundred and twenty inch television, against the floor, through another wall into the kitchen, up into a light fixture, through the kitchen sink, into the bathroom, through the toilet, and then face down into the floor right in front of Man-Opener.

Before I could get to my feet or roll out of the way, a shot rang out. The Gunman had faced me before. He knew what it took to pierce my armor. I roared with pain as my kneecap burst apart.

Nearby, I heard Motley Sue playing. The notes raced higher and higher, as if trying to run up a sharp cliff. Then they sank downward, bringing with them a sharp stab that cracked the armor on my lower back and embedded some of the shards into my skin.

At least it took my mind off the knee pain.

Gorilla Badass flipped through the air and landed on my left arm before I could make further use of my Nasty Surprise. Quick Sand piled himself onto my right and pressed down hard enough to keep that one down.

“Cut him loose,” ordered Pivot.

“But only loose from his armor,” added Lone Gunman.

Pivot turned toward him, furious. “This again. You gave me this job and you’ve been countermanding my orders every step of the way. At New Orleans over and over again and at Three Mile Island. Now here. If you want him dead, why not kill him now? Why all the games?”

Another shot rang out and Pivot dropped as well from a hole to her head. “Thank you, Pivot, that will be all.” Gunman twirled his gun and then blew on the barrel. With a grin, he holstered the gun, then leaned on what was left of a railing. “You heard me, just his armor. He has a power source hidden in him. Pivot’s orders would have killed us all if you had cut into it.”

Man-Opener nodded and turned his remaining arm to the delicate task of slicing through my armor. Gorilla Badass pulled it loose from me, leaving my skin covered in blood as the connective nerves were torn loose prematurely. Once, on my chest, Man-Opener cut too close and opened me up about a half inch deep.

Soon I was dropped like a sack of potatoes. A naked sack of potatoes covered in blood, with more pouring out a chest wound.

“Gorilla Badass, would you be so kind as to hogtie him? We wouldn’t want him escaping like his friends, now would we?”

I tried to struggle, only to find my mouth filled with sand and what looked like small robots. Not nanites, but sand-sized mini machines. Quick Sand really was Cyber Sand, it seemed.

To add insult to injury, a security team arrived through the elevator. They didn’t even need to stay on alert around me. Hell, one squeeze of the trigger by an excited idiot and I could have died thanks to them.

Naked and bound before a hero who had every reason to want me dead, I didn’t have very high hopes for the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to try anything. That wasn’t what Lone Gunman had in mind, though. He walked calmly down the stairs and over to me, then knelt. He looked pristine in that damn business suit, with an obnoxiously charming smile to boot.

“I wanted you dead. It was the most pragmatic thing to do, but now I am so glad you could be taken alive. My new people here at Hephaestus can take apart that dangerous power source of yours. They can carve out those cybernetics, like those eyes there, and learn how to build them. Improve on them. Would you like to know we can make you obsolete? Do you want to hear how your dissection will let me build the world I want? That’ll have to wait. I have something more important in the works for you before I grant you the mercy of death.”

He patted me on the head, then stood and buttoned his suit jacket. His security detail parted to allow him access to the elevator. He got in, turned around, and smiled at me. “You once introduced me to your form of torture. I think I’ll show you mine. It is new and improved too. Boys, let’s find the ‘Prince of Pain’ a room of his own, with thick chains to keep his hands from roaming.”

I suppressed a groan. “Hey, you can’t call me the Prince of Pain. That phrase is only allowed if it makes me sound badass. Besides, torture? Oooh, scary. You think there’s a kind of pain I’m not familiar with? Here, have your guys check up my ass for any damns I may have smuggled in. Reach way down in there and see if I have one to give. Don’t worry. My ass won’t bite.”

Lone Gunman shrugged and spoke softly, but got his point across nonetheless. “I’ll go see if our surprise guest is ready for the big reunion.”

Leah.

With the battle over and the adrenaline subsiding, pain that my body was able to ignore was visiting with the latest bunch of it settling all throughout my system. It was hard to force myself to talk loud enough like that, but I managed a glare at him as I said, “You know, Holdout, you used to be a little shithead, but you’ve grown up to be a real bastard.”

“I had a good teacher,” he said as the elevator door closed.

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Killing Time 7

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All things considered, I expected my enemies would assemble to kick me out of their laboratory sooner than they did. The arrival of the Annihilation Eight was heralded by a call coming in live via the control room. Pivot, of course. I wondered what her angle was in all this. With the revelation that her new boss had a personal vendetta against me for some reason, maybe she was trying to move up in the organization. Maybe we had sex once and she wasn’t satisfied?

That was a joke. Ha ha. Fat chance. I haven’t had sex in a loooooooooooooong time. Some people have posited that this fact explains a lot about my behavior. They weren’t there the time I had a girlfriend and tried to destroy the world. Then she betrayed me and left me, battered, leaning against my own dimension bomb.

I guess you could say it worked out in the end. You might even say she dropped quite the relationship bomb on me.

But I digress.

Pivot called and I shushed the rejects around me before taking it. I had my armor on, though. I got to see her masked face and blonde bun, but all she saw of me was an eye filling her screen. “Hello,” I answered, “Kong residence. You calling for King?”

“I have someone with an animal name in mind.”

“You want Donkey then. He’s off getting smashed with his brothers. I swear, that guy’s practically off in his own little land half the time.”

“Cute,” she said, annoyance creeping into her voice like some sort of creepy creeping thing that creeped. Like an Aye-Aye with a pornstache shooting finger guns. She reached up and adjusted the corner of her domino mask.

“Alright, I’ll go easy on you, Pivot. What are you calling about? Is the master plan coming together? Is the masturbator coming? Or is this more of this little taunting thing you’re trying out?”

“I don’t need to taunt you. I just wanted to see the look on your face when you realized I have all my team at your gates.”

“All your team but the guys I already killed,” I reminded her.

“Even you can’t fight them all off. Rumble said you were so small you offended him.”

“Uh huh.” I nodded along as if I was listening. She couldn’t see the nod, so she noticed when my eye wandered off to the side. I was pulling up the exterior video feed, which showed six supervillains at the entrance gate. Rumble walked over it like it wasn’t even there.

“Well, we’ll see how your guys like it when I go medieval on their asses. Ready the catapult!” I called out to no one in particular. Improving on an idea from the Middle Ages, I decided to automate the catapult which you’ll remember fires cats. Irradiated and mutated leopards with three heads. I activated it from afar and watched as cages tumbled through the air. We only had three living ones, but I had them save some of the corpses too. More ammo.

I had been anticipating an attack for awhile.

Motley Sue blasted one crate out of the air with the power of rock. Gorilla Badass pulled the chain off his belt, but then he did something and a glowing blade grew from the end of it. Dextrous with both hand and foot, he whipped the chain around and carved through a cat carcass like it was nothing.

Geez, if I’d known friggin’ lightsabers were part of this struggle, I’d have cloned some troopers to fight these guys off with. I would also clone David Bowie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Andrej Pejic for personal reasons that should not be elaborated on at this time. Spoiler alert: the whipped cream would get eaten.

Rumble resorted to punching in order to solve all his problems, but that left him with a loose leopard. That wasn’t good. There were few enough situations where loose leopards were acceptable, and there was too little beastiality going on for this to be one of them.

Despite their best efforts, two of the leopards got loose and Terrorjaw got a mouth full of kitty carcass.

In the midst of all that, I caught a glimpse of the final members of my opposition. The first stalked forward in a suit of power armor that fell into the size range of a “walker”. It was about as tall as Rumble, headless, and bright white. Two thick legs that bent similarly to a human’s rose up into a wide torso. From the capabilities of the armor itself, it seemed a stylistic choice that the pilot’s helmet and armored arms extended out of the torso.

From the shoulders extended arms that were nearly long enough to reach the ground if fully extended. In place of a hand at the end of the limb, it had three heavy duty axe heads spinning around a central axis. The blade shaft in the middle was held between armored shafts that matched the same rectangular design as the rest all along the walker. These bright white plates ran diagonally with the interior corner at the lower end, on top of some sort of black underlayer that barely showed through at the corners. Where they met in the middle, they formed a “V” shape that protected everything but the exposed helmet and arms of the pilot. That was hardly a weak point; experience had shown that this suit could take a lot of punishment in that supposed weak spot.

“Huh, Man-Opener, eh? Interesting choice, Pivot. Tell me, is this one of those guys who has his own grudge against me?”

Man-Opener stomped straight through, not pausing at all even as he brought one arm forward and chewed through a leopard that put distance between itself and another member of the team. That guy was the final member of my opposition. He wore green boots, green gloves, and purple tights with yellow dots all over it in various sizes. The tights came up into a mask that covered his face, but there was something else on there I couldn’t make out. He was a let down after Man-Opener.

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Pivot’s reaction except to note that her voice had an edge to it, like she was tired of talking to me. That happened to most people who deal with me on a regular basis. “You’ve been doing some reading, I see. Frankly, I’m surprised you can sit still long enough.”

The Eight hacked their way through my stalling attempt relatively quickly, with Man-Opener in the lead. I closed the blast doors on the entire place.

“Trust me, Pivy baby, unlike some men, I know when it’s time to stay nice and still for a woman. Wait, that’s not what I meant to say. Damn! Anyway, looks like you have breached my outer defenses.” I switched to interior cameras in time to see the man in the purple step out through a yellow tinted portal. He turned to watch Man-Opener carve partially through the door before it was knocked against the opposite wall by Rumble. He and Man-Opener crouched to walk through halls designed for regular folk.

The group stayed somewhat close together as they made their way down the hall. Just to be an ass, I switched off the lights.

“Yep, they’re in. So much for the leopards. Should call them leopeasy instead. Of course, they still have to get all the way through the power plant, then through the corridor to the lab. If you’re recording this to see some shocked reaction of horror, you’re going to be disappointed. Or your boss is, since he’s probably the one making you call me up. Am I right? This thing where you get a taste of my reaction, it’s for the benefit of Prime’s video archive, isn’t it?”

Pivot smirked. “You act like you’re smart now that you have access to our internal documents. That doesn’t take a keen deductive mind, Sherlock. If it wasn’t for the sight of you finally laid out on a slab, I would love to see you react to more of our surprises. You still don’t see them even when they’re right in front of your face. Every time you talk, it gives it away.”

She smiled as she held her hands up, palms toward me, fingers spread. “You think you’re sharing these big revelations, but you provide a showcase for your own ignorance instead. You petty, pitiful man. Your personal touch of madness is that you think you’re free even though you keep playing to someone else’s script. Like how you want to gab with me instead of running or fighting. I taunt you, you can’t help but taunt back. Tell me more about your brilliant insights while my men come closer and closer.”

She grinned like a mustached stalker in the night who had me alone. “I hate our conversations, but if it keeps you too preoccupied trying to prove you’re smart, then I’ll at least use that.”

I detected some hypocrisy there, which would make the next knowledge bomb I meant to drop on her even more delicious and destructive. I checked the cameras.

Yep, her team was in the corridor to the lab. I took a seat on my trailer couch then, between Roberta and Larry. “You know, when I showed up and took over Three Mile Island, I implied that I could blow the place up with a few pushed buttons. Truth is, it takes a lot more than that to convert a radioactive core to a nuclear weapon. Plus, I had my hands full just keeping that core maintained by my lonesome. So I thought ‘Hey, why not start disabling some alarms?’ So when Moai and I hightailed it a couple days ago, I left the place with only automated maintenance and a program to force a meltdown from a distance. Which I activated.”

Looking like a deer caught in a pair of headlights, Pivot said, “We cut outside access. You shouldn’t have been able to get anything to or from that place by internet.”

“True, true. Perhaps this is a bad time to point out that your soul-sucking bureaucratic procedures involved faxing things. Why bother hunting down how you folks got internet service behind those thick walls when I had a fax landline right there to get me in?”

“That’s a nuclear power station, Gecko! You won’t get away with this!” She restrained herself from baring her teeth at me, but I could see she was grinding them.

“Pivot, do I look like the world’s most charitable pimp all of a sudden? I only ask because I wasn’t aware I gave a fuck. Hey, you think you can have your guys pick up a box of Hot Pockets we left back in there? They might be cooked in the middle this time. Did you know that if you pay close attention to a person’s hair, you can find out their astrological sign? Before long, it’ll be obvious they’re all cancers. Cancer? I don’t even know her! You know what’s a good cheer for small teams? The micro wave.”

Pivot quit the conversation in a rage, presumably to try and get a hold of her team. I took off my helmet and smiled at my various rejected companions hanging out in the trailer. I mentioned Larry and Roberta. There were others, like the pinhead guy, but I didn’t have their names quite down. Boring names like “Bob” and “Steve” were always harder for me to nail down than interesting ones like “Sunbright” or “Arctica Blitz”.

“Ooh, how did she take the meltdown?” asked Roberta, swiveling her eye stalk around to look me in the face.

“She did not care for it. But you know what they say: if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the meltdown,” I said.

Microencephalic Man, which was purely a placeholder name, nodded. “Most of us didn’t like that plan either.”

True. That was why I only had six rejects with me out of the thirty or so who had stayed at the place. The others went their own way. Of the six with me, the other two were in the car with Moai, driving us to our destination.

“Did you warn them where we’re going? Please say you didn’t tell them that,” whined Larry next to me. I think he didn’t really have anywhere to go.

I put an arm around his runny looking shoulders. “Nope. We’ll have the run of L.A. before they even know we’re there.”

Another reject, who I think was named Steve, spoke up then. “Just to be clear, I didn’t sign up to get killed in a hail of gunfire. I want to survive getting a little payback on them.” His skin, muscles, organs, and blood vessels were all clear. His skeleton wasn’t. Unlike many of the other rejects, he had regained his confidence fairly quickly by wearing a hoodie and long pants. I didn’t know how he could see things, but I knew I didn’t want to face him in a staring contest.

I started to answer, but then Roberta jumped up on my side excitedly. “And I want to go sight-seeing! Rodeo Drive, the movie studios,…um…the Hollywood sign?”

I put an arm around Roberta too. It didn’t fit well because of how her legs worked. She leaned back against my arm, so I think she appreciated the sentiment. I looked over at Steve seated at the breakfast table. “We’re going to play this smart. Hell, if y’all just want to sit back and watch the fireworks, that’s fine with me. I never planned to bring a team along and I’m not much of a leader. Just help me out how y’all can and remember to enjoy yourselves. Uncle Gecko’s going to take Prime out to the shed for a little game of hide the bacon. It’s a fun one, for me at least.”

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Ragin’ Against Cajuns 10

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I was not gifted with powers that would impress most people. If powers were swords, I got stuck with a stiletto. Good thing I had the legs for stilettos. In the whorehouse of the struggle between good and evil, I’ve never been a high-priced VIP escort, but I’m still known for getting down and dirty and bringing even the most stubborn to their knees. Like a badass sword-wielding prostitute who has trouble mixing metaphors, I was ready for revenge this Monday.

My first job of the night on Monday? Blow my way out of custody.

It wasn’t easy putting everything together with such limited equipment. What I call energy sheaths were a field of energy shaped around my fists and forearms by a specialized projection system inside of wiring shaped to function like barbed wire when not charged up. Barbed wire may have tamed the wild west, but it had a terrible form in regards to concentrating energy in a roughly-barrel shape and directing it outward.

The nanites helped with that. I reprogrammed them on the fly, having them form supports and other pieces to help aim and fire. The problem is, they were the reason the entire thing would only get one shot. Way back when I was first shrunk in the beginning of this big conflict with Hephaestus, I mentioned to y’all that changing size has some technical aspects to it that are dangerous. Well, one of the biggest problems for things that are small is that they are more sensitive to differences in temperature. They could put me back together, they could even have the secret program activated to form a grey goo blade, but they never could stand the heat, so I tend to keep them out of the kitchen.

This time, there was no getting them out of the kitchen. This time, escape was on the menue. Time to ladle on the pain.

I stood way on the other side of the wall I was going to shoot and began to cycle in the power to the coil I had mounted on my body. Except right where I was aiming, a man appeared.

It happened with a loud crack! Then, there stood one of those Faustus acolytes. He was wearing a loose-fitting white tunic with gold trim. Fancy schmancy, those Faustus uniforms. Gotta give them props for the tailoring. He didn’t look familiar, though because my memory showed them all in hoods. Usually people don’t look familiar to me because I don’t care, so that was thoughtful of Faustus. I wouldn’t feel guilty.

Feel free to snicker at that last sentence.

I considered blasting the hell out of that place anyway, but then I realized that a mage teleporting in could teleport me out pretty easily too, so I powered down my last-ditch weapon before any of the essential nanite parts were destroyed.

The acolyte got his bearings, then stared at me, head slowly tilting downward. Then he held his hand out, palm up. “I’m sorry, but why do you have a barbed wire dick?”

Did I forget to mention where on my armor I mounted this new weapon of mine?

“Oh this?” I leaned back, bringing my hips forward in the process. “This is just a little something I call the Obliterator. Oh, do you mean the new weapon? I have a different name for that, but I’m saving that surprise for when I finally shoot my load all over the wall there. Speaking of which, who are you and why shouldn’t I bukkake blast you too?”

“You can call me Samson. We spoke the other day.”

I shot him with finger guns. “Gotcha. Yeah, you were there for my capture too. Supposed to be enlightening me. Now, about why I shouldn’t blast you…care to enlighten me?”

He threw up his hands and all of a sudden there was a transparent yellow wall in front of him stretching the width of the room. It made it more likely my shot would kill me if I screwed up, plus it was yet another barrier out, so shooting at him was no longer a good option. I still wanted to, just to clarify. Just in case anyone had concerns.

Despite the murder cannon poised over my jibbly bits, I decided to negotiate. “Alright, you’re in here now. Can you get me out?”

Samson shook his head, face hidden within his hood despite the unforgiving light of my prison. “It’s significantly easier to get into this place than to escape, and things outside are…testy.”

I stepped forward and tested the wall of Samson’s with a few knocks. I had to turn to the side or my cock cannon would have bopped it before I could. The wall fizzled where I touched it, but otherwise seemed solid enough. As often as I piss people off, I’ve found it pays to get acquainted with some of this crap when I have the opportunity. “Testes, eh? Things went balls-up?”

Samson took a seat, leaning against the wall. I could see a continuous fizzle through my end where his back touched it. “I was placed in charge of quietly dusting off our contingency plans. It was difficult with all the chaos you caused. Then Pivot arrived with more manpower, wondering why you hadn’t been placed in her custody yet. Someone took a closer look, saw what I was doing. Magus Carter had to burn me to save the organization, but he gave me enough of an opening to hide. Now I’m in the egg with you.”

“Egg?”

“Yeah, an egg.”

“A motherucking egg? You guys captured me only to shrink me down another damn time, then stuck me inside an egg?!” I took another look around. “Where the fuck do you find a rectangular egg?”

Samson chuckled. “Would it make you feel better to learn it’s not a regular egg? It looks quite elaborate from the outside, and it has been enchanted many times over in order to make it suitable as a prison. Don’t let the idea wound your pride.”

“Huh…I guess the yolk is on me. What would happen if I scramble this egg, surprisingly tough though it may be?”

Samson helped himself shakily to his own feet and pulled a canteen out from under his tunic. He waited to answer until after he had a few gulps. “If you had somehow managed to crack the shell with that ridiculous getup, you would have been freed into the room where the egg is. It will release you if the shell is broken from the exterior, a piece of knowledge I’m glad I kept from our Hephaestus brethren. They’re greedy and always in a rush. They try to direct the flow of the universe instead of swim with the current. The new president of their company is all of this personified. Don’t be offended, but I dearly hope they try to kill you sooner rather than later. It won’t help me if we’re ejected into the middle of a Hephaestus base.”

“No offense taken. To know me is to wish for my untimely demise. To love me is the exception. To err is human. What’s this about a new company president?”

“I don’t know much. We don’t involve ourselves with Hephaestus company maneuverings. They say he had his predecessor shot.” He put away his canteen and rifled through his tunic.

I watched him pull a small sphere out from a nearly invisible opening. “That’s depressingly mundane.”

“Through two skyscrapers and his armored penthouse.”

“Kinky,” I said, giving him a thumbs up while posing with my hips thrust out. He glanced up and laughed in spite of himself. He turned back toward the sphere in his hand, which opened up to reveal something liquid. “Hey, whatcha doing over there?”

“Scrying. If you know as much about this egg as I do, it’s a relatively simple process. The problem is the difficulty in having enough calm water to see anything.”

“Well, let me know if there’s anything good on. I’ve been waiting on a new episode of the Joker Blogs for months now.”

“Sacrificing me bought us some time, but sooner or later Pivot will come for us. The only thing standing in her way is Mikey.” He sighed.

Getting tired of just standing around, I took a seat. I tried to sit with legs crossed, but my schlong blaster precluded that. I wound up laying down again. “Mikey. The terrifying Lord Mage Mikey. Or is he just another Acolyte Mikey?”

“Neonate Mikey has much to learn if he survives the next few days.”

A plate of food appeared in my field of vision when I next looked up. “Neonate Mikey needs to learn how to make a fucking meatloaf or we won’t survive the next few days.” I scooted over, grabbed the plate, and held it out for him. “You want this?”

So the escape didn’t happen that day, but Samson must have been right about how bad things got, because I awoke the next day to his knocking excitedly on the wall. “What’s that?! Where’s Leah?” I sat up and looked around, briefly confused by the sudden replacement of a dream world with the real one. It was a good thing I stopped myself before I bent far enough forward to bang my head into the dick-mounted destruction device I had on top of me. “What is it?” I asked Samson with a big of grump in my voice.

“Pivot and Magus Carter are in the egg room. She’s making her move!” I could almost hear the smile. I couldn’t see it because somehow that damn hood kept shadows over his face no matter what.

I scrambled to my feet. “Does she have the egg?”

“No, she’s arguing with the Magus.”

I got so excited I started hopping up and down. “Cut that out!” Samson whispered at me.

“Can they hear us?” I asked quietly.

“No, but,” he whispered, then caught himself and spoke normally. “No, but it’s distracting.”

“Just, come on, I’m excited!”

“She’s thrown him against the wall.”

“It’s like waking up on Christmas morning with a dead hooker in your bed!” I readied my secret weapon.

“She grabbed the egg!” I fed power to it quickly, as quickly as I needed to.

“And soon I’ll get to show everyone-“ Inside the barbed wire “barrel,” it began to glow brilliant orange, at first looking like a fog.

“She’s sque-!”

I popped into existence in a room, the power concentrating between my legs. There were secure cases holding artifacts all around, but most importantly was the woman in front of me. She wore a business suit and a domino mask, with her blonde hair up in a bun. Her eyes went wide at the sight of me, and I noticed as well that Samson had also appeared in the room nearby.

“This! Is! My! BoomDick!” I held out my hands, them pulled them back even as I threw my hips forward, the energy forced to the fore of the entire sheath setup and accelerated in a glowing ball of plasma even as it accelerated me in the opposite direction. The sheathing and projection scaffold was ripped off me and stayed where it was, save for it falling to the ground.

Pivot saw it coming and ducked far faster than I thought possible. I saw it pass overhead, singing her bun away, and continue on into the iron maiden with the robotic face that hovered against the far wall. The force melted and cracked the armor and he let out a distorted wail. Then I was clear out of the room, having cracked through the door and flown halfway down a corridor. Alarms sounded.

Back behind me, I could see flames and smoke along the opposite wall. I didn’t care to zoom in a lot; my priority was escape. A blast door began to lower to cut off travel to that room. I took a moment, now that I was free, to reach out to the systems surrounding me. Faustus was full of magic men, but that didn’t mean they eschewed all technology. There were plenty of computers, and even a mundane camera system that must have worked alongside a magical one.

Standing around was a no-no, though. It was better to figure out an escape route on the move. I allocated some power to my legs’ muscle enhancers and took long, bounding steps toward the end of the corridor up until a step somehow sent me sideways into the wall with some force. I looked back to see the business-suited woman standing there on my side of the blast door, arm outstretched, hand open, palm pointed in my direction. Some gravity power, maybe?

I slid to the ground, powered up the muscle enhancers even more, and went for a jump meant to power me through the door at the other end of this corridor. Instead, she altered my velocity and sent me into a thick steel ceiling occupying space only big enough for one of us. It having seniority, I wound up bouncing off lightly. Except instead of bouncing to the ground, I bounced back to the ceiling. The effects of gravity were altered on me, but it was normal gravity holding me to the ceiling instead of the ground. Below me, I noticed a couple of my knives had bounced loose and fallen to the ground instead of up against me.

That made me think of using exploding knives, chicken grenades, all that, but those were all weapons she would probably be able to redirect like she did to me. The fallen knives gave me an idea though. I stood up, hands up.

“Pivot, I presume?” I called out to her and bowed. I used the bow to reach for my potato peeler, though a hologram made it appear my hand stayed where it was. If she was capable of redirecting all of these photons, I’d be impressed. I activated it and went to take her head off. She threw me against the ground quickly as she used her power to throw herself hard against the wall, then slid up to the ceiling to avoid the beam that was cutting wildly.

She changed my velocity and the velocity of objects attached to me. Hell of a lot of photons to redirect in a laser. I swept after her and got bounced around the walls like the ball in a pinball machine as she made a complete circuit around the ceiling and wall to the floor again. She finally put a hand back and the blast door came up suddenly. It was yanked back down as she threw herself under it.

She must have figured that facing Samson was a better option. Maybe he’d get lucky and have a plan. My plan was to hit stealth mode and escape in the chaos of whatever was going on. I worked my way through the complex, using the cameras to find an elevator. The door opened and offloaded a squad of Faustus acolytes in combat gear. I slipped in behind them and hit the button for the first floor. I wasn’t lucky enough it would be the house, probably, but even the floor where I got captured was an improvement.

Gorilla Badass swung in from the ceiling before the door could close. He went to push the same button I had and stopped when he saw it lit up. He glanced around and up at the ceiling. Voices outside drew his attention and he peeked out while holding down the Door Close button. He relaxed once the elevator slid shut. Then the announcement was made.

It was Samson’s voice. “Attention all Faustus personnel. Pivot, the commander of the Hephaestus Task Force, has murdered the Magus and released Psycho Gecko. Defend yourselves! Protect the artifacts! Expel the intruders! If possible give Psycho Gecko a clear path to the outside so Hephaestus will follow!”

That was nice of Samson. Gorilla Badass didn’t think so. He stiffened as he heard the announcement. I thought I saw one of his eyes twitch back toward the rear of the elevator car where I stood, invisible.

“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” he said. “And you have explosives, am I correct?”

“Oh, so the moment you face near-certain death, that’s when you want to talk?” I asked, arms folded in front of me. I took a step to the side just in case he decided to whirl around and throw a fist.

Hearing my presence confirmed, he actually relaxed a little more. “I’m here to beat you, but that doesn’t mean I have to fight you every single time we meet. You’re not worth the price of my life.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m only the price of my death instead.”

Badass reached to his right and felt along the wall, then leaned his back against it. “It’s not about the money with you.”

“Really, now? What’d I do to piss you off, then. Was it beating up Gorilla Awesome? He’s family, right?”

He crossed his, uh, hands? Paws, maybe? What do you call them on a gorilla? I looked it up real quick while he spoke. “A cousin I don’t care for. My brother and I both don’t like him, but I thought if I beat you when he couldn’t, it’d humiliate that know-it-all. Hephaestus liked the idea too. Pivot said that she was told to consider recruiting me or my brother Imperious. I can see why Awesome had such a hard time with you. You’re like the rain. It doesn’t matter how many raindrops you punch, because that’s not how you stop a storm.” His hands, as I found out they were called, tugged at the base of his leather vest.

“That’s almost poetic. Can I get that as a blurb somewhere? Like a wiki entry? Do I have a wiki entry somewhere? I thought so, but I’ve been doing hard time lately. Egg prison changes a man. I had to make some tough decisions to survive in there. They say your first day in, you have to either punch the biggest guy in the yard, or become someone’s bitch. Damn my anus is sore.”

“You were in there alone.” I saw a grin start to form on Badass’s face.

“Yeah, that’s why my dick is sore too. Maybe if I put some ice on it, I’ll get it back to the right length. Can a dick get stretch marks? Am I going to need lotion for this?”

The elevator stopped at my floor, which was when the grinning gorilla made his move. He had been tugging at his vest with his hands, it seemed, but now he whipped out at the interior of the elevator with the chain he wore as a belt. I went to block with my forearm out of instinct and it wrapped around my arm.

I’m sure he was confident he had me. I was confident that a knee with some extra power behind it would knock his balls up near his tonsils, if gorillas have tonsils. Just checked, and gorillas have tonsils. I didn’t have time to check on the location of Badass’s balls after I drove my knee into them. Right about then, the doors opened to reveal a squad of Faustus security, who aimed at Badass and at whatever invisible thing had a chain around it.

I projected my helmet at the appropriate height of to the side a bit, in case anyone got any ideas. “It’s me, that’s him. You only want one of us, if I heard right.”

The leader of the squad nodded and they let me pass into the same floor I had wrecked the first time around. I could tell because the holes weren’t all fixed. Before I left Badass to whatever fate they meted out, I patted him down for a communications device and took that with me. Aside from a firefight that broke out between a Hephaestus soldier with a flamethrower and a Faustus mage with fireballs, the rest of my escape went smoothly.

I had to deactivate the device to keep it from being tracked, so it didn’t give me any clue as to the ultimate fate of Pivot’s force in the base, but that’s not why I stole it. I stole it because it lets me tap into their communications network. I stole it because Badass didn’t need to call in any reinforcements and help them out if they’re merely captured. Most of all, I stole it because it will lead me to the real heart and soul of Hephaestus.

But first, I’m going to need my car and pet rock back from Mix N’Max.

 

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The Jersey Score 8

I didn’t know the woman. Her history was unknown to me. I didn’t know why she bleached her hair. I didn’t know where the scar on her side just below her ribs came from. I didn’t know if she had a boyfriend or a lover or a kid. Never met her parents. So when I say that I tore her lungs out her ass, I would like you to know there was absolutely nothing personal in it for me other than joy and exhilaration. Maybe some gooey feelings in the lower regions from the sound of her various wet parts hitting the vinyl floor. No, no, not those wet parts. The other wet parts. The ones that had functions you never learned in school because you were too busy thinking of the first set of wet parts you were just thinking about. And as I sat down in that bloody diner, with handprints smeared over the windows and the chef face-down in his own fryer, I realized it just wasn’t enough.

A man hungers, you see. I hungered. I wanted to feel better, and I did at first. When I walked in and jammed that ball of spikes into the mouth of the waitress, then punched her mouth closed, it felt good. The world had to acknowledge my discontent, as it always does. I used my own two hands to leave my mark on the place. No armor between me and my entertainment.

Now, I felt some regret at my actions. I wish I had a joke for when I did that to the woman. “Did somebody spike the punch?” or something like that. Or with this last one I killed, I could have said, “We all have secrets, but it’s time to spill your guts.”

But I hadn’t said anything. Didn’t even laugh. Maybe that was the problem. I’ve been telling y’all out there that communication is important. Maybe that’s what I needed, to communicate with someone.

So…yeah…Carl. Kinda harsh thing to find out.

After I pulled that hardware off my dong the other day and got rid of the malware attempting to have its way with me, I figured I owed Carl more than a cuss word directed at the sky. I resolved to drop an F-bomb in Empyreal City in his honor as soon as this was all done. I realized that wouldn’t be a bad thing to drop on a good Hephaestus target either.

Fucking hell, you know how much fucking work it is to build a fucking F-bomb capable of fucking up a fucking city when I had nothing to fucking do with my time? For fuck’s sake, it’d be a fucking nightmare if I had fuck-all to build one with, like fucking nowadays. Not that you give a fuck, but if my life depending on it, I’d be fucked. Hephaestus shouldn’t have fucked up, though.

Oh, and don’t worry about the virus stuff either. On top of my top of the line protection against it, it had some compatibility errors. It was supposed to track anyone accessing the server. It wound up handy later on.

I tried to find his kids, or even his ex-wife. The CIA has been doing all sorts of spying, but they’re also the victims of casting too wide a net. Far more information out there than there are people to look at it unless you have someone special in mind. So they may have access to every email you’ve ever sent, but they might be too busy to actually read the stuff. And that’s why, right now, someone has been getting away with fucking poodles. And telling all his friends via email.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t me. This time. Anyone with poodles might want to tell them to stop yappin’ and crappin’ right about now, though.

Anyway, I didn’t have the CIA’s resources on this. I had certain tricks to link data together and find people, but trust me when I say it’s hard to find a certain pair of kids online. See? The pedophiles know what I’m talking about.

It meant I couldn’t inform Carl’s family, or do anything stupid like toss money at them. Liquidated, the file said. They could have meant all sorts of things. Fired. Shipped overseas. Shot out of a cannon. Anally raped, had his memories erased, and dumped in an alley somewhere. The possibilities were endless. Unfortunately, the most likely definition was simply killed. And, despite there being no good reason I should feel this way, I was bummed out over Carl’s death. That quite naturally led to me slaughtering a diner’s worth of people.

On top of that, Pivot called while I was at the diner. I knew she wanted to gloat, but of course I answered. I never needed my helmet to take calls, after all. I hit that call bareback. No protection for my head. Well, the usual protections. This time, the various potential target locations were all set up to lead back to another place. They were also receiving reports from what they thought was their virus showing them I was in that spot.

I went for a cheesy televangelist voice.

“Good eveninnguh! Welcome-uh! To the Brother Bishop Weekly Charity Countdown for Christ! Have you made your donation for the good of the Lord’s church on earth? Would you like a little payback from the King of Kings?”

“You never struck me as a religious man, Gecko.” Oh Pivot. If only you knew. I haven’t had a chance to strike you at all yet. I hear it’s a religious experience in that it gets people to their preferred afterlife quickly.

“And you never struck me as one to gloat when your precious booty is in the hands of so many law enforcement agencies it won’t see the light of day for a decade-uh! As the good book says in 1 Samuel 17: ‘And these are the golden hemorrhoids which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the Lord’! Can I get an amen?”

“You should know how this works. We’ll get it all back. It’s just a matter of writing big enough checks. This is just a minor setback. I was impressed to hear you managed it all without putting in a public appearance. You even took two of our pawns out of the match. Tell me, where is this temper tantrum leading you next?”

“Jeremiah 19:9 says ‘And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters. And all shall eat the flesh of their neighbors in the siege, and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’ I shake down Hephaestus vigorously like I’m holding the donation plate and feeling the spirit of the Lord babble made up words through me!”

“God you’re strange. It’s going to be entertaining to taunt you with how badly you fail even when you succeed, I’ll give you that.”

“I’ve been wondering if you’ve settled on a name for that cast of baby corpses you assembled called a supervillain team. To quote Psalm 137:9: ‘Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock.’”

“You should feel good that you’ve gotten a head start on religion now that we’ve recruited. The Annihilation Eight will help you to hell soon enough.”

“You’ll find I have been blessed with an ingenious mind, a homicidal temperament, and an amazing amount of personal slipperiness, much like in Mark 14:51, ‘A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.’ Also, you’ll have to change the name. By the latest count, it’s the Annihilation Six. Once the bodies start piling up and the asses start getting violated, you’ll find that some prefer life and dignity to money.”

“Some men prefer stupid dance jams to money, but that doesn’t make them irreplaceable. And…,” Pivot trailed off.

Off in another part of Newark, there was an explosion.

“…Gotcha,” Pivot finished. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

“Shame on you, Pivot. Shame! SHAME! Your aim was bad and you should feel bad!”

I heard a distant “Dammit!” and the sound of a phone receiver being tossed through something made of glass. Possibly a TV, judging by the sound. I’ve been part of a lot of annoying conversations in the past.

“Much as I enjoy our conversations, my favorite part has to be when you try to find me and then blow up where I made you think I was instead.”

“Just another minor setback Gecko, as always.”

“What’d you hit this time? The hospital? Orphanage? Local porn store?”

“No, this time we went deeper.”

“Oh, you certainly dug yourself in deeper then. Just how much of your equipment was in that evidence room after all?”

“What?”

“The evidence room of that police station. Right where your computers told you I would be. If you can get your stuff back from that then I will truly be surprised by the size of your check. Tell me, baby, you got a long line of rock hard zeroes waiting to blow my mind?”

“Even if I have to wear you down bit by bit, I’m going to come out on top of this.”

“That’s what she said.” I snickered.

“Stop that, this is serious! You don’t say ‘That’s what she said’ to a threatening supervillian!”

“Why?”

“Because it’s childish.”

“I know you are but what am I?”

She hung up. I think she liked me better when I was trying to sound like a preacher. At least there was an upside to the conversation.

Well, it was about time to leave that diner. The cops were pulling up and besides, I owed it to Carl to get off my ass and go wreck Hephaestus even more for all this.

When I stumbled out of the diner, covered in blood, the police told me to put my hands in the air. When I did, that’s when they could all see the blood flowing out of my mouth.

“Jesus!” I heard someone say.

Eyes wide, I kept pointing back inside urgently. Then, with a cough, I spat up my severed tongue. Not mine as in the one still attached in my mouth. It was mine in the sense that I took it off a guy and claimed it as my property. Also, I figured it would make hot fanservice for y’all if I had another guy’s tongue in my mouth. Did it work?

The officers stopped suspecting me and one of them guided me over to a pair of paramedics waiting by an ambulance. Thirty minutes later, I pulled up to the Skid Mark Trailer Park with a shiny new ambulance. I threw open the door, standing there with my bloody face and clothes, a few bits of gore still stuck to me. Sam and Holly were watching the news coming live from the diner.

They took one look at me, then Holly called out toward the bathroom, “You were right, he did it! I owe you five bucks, Max.”

It was a good precedent. It was time to stop betting on if I survive and start betting on how badly I made sure other people didn’t.

 

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The Jersey Score 5

You know, once when I was a wee lad, they decided to teach us the benefit of taunting opponents. We, as in myself and the rest of the boys, were already somewhat proficient at it. We were kids, after all. We were kidnapped kids being taught the art of murder and mayhem, sure, but that still didn’t stop the taunt war.

It began simply enough. There was an announcement that we’d soon begin the section on psychological warfare beginning with taunting. In anticipation, one of the other boys…Hart maybe?…anyway, one of them decided they’d get a head start by accusing the rest of us of doing all sorts of interesting things involving bodily fluids. We had sniffed this, gargled that, licked something else, at least according to Hart. I would prefer to save y’all a direct transcript because I don’t remember certain things that well, and because you would need a translator to understand who was what sort of wad. You people and your damn English. Go get your own language. Stop stealing from the Germans, French, Italians, Spanish, Romans, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Greeks, and whoever else I forgot!

Soon, others struck back. It all escalated and took on an art all its own. The program was watching, like they always do. I think the test they laid out for us really cemented the notion that we were all in it for ourselves, though. It was actually a pretty neat concept, I have to admit. I hate their guts and would murder any surviving family members of the people who put me through that, but they sure did know how to fuck with people.

They built a maze and certain sections of it were actually cages. Some of them would shut if anything set foot in them. Others, there was a button on the side. When pushed, we had a five second delay, then the cage would close. Empty cages would always reopen, though. They released some of us, maybe ten or twelve at a time, into that maze. They also released the hunting dogs. They were pretty good about keeping us from bringing weapons to the test, even whatever makeshift crap we’d put together by then. They didn’t want us killing each other or the dogs, not at that point. Nah, the end of the maze would only up if all the cages in the maze had been shut on something.

Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to figure out that the cages didn’t open if we were in them when they closed. No weapons, no way to sneak above or below the maze. We had to do what we could to trick dogs and each other into the cages so that whoever was left could escape and pass the test. That meant baiting a target, getting him mad enough to follow me anywhere, then close the trap on that mangy motherfucker. Sometimes I had to lead someone a good ways and that risked drawing outside attention. Sometimes I stayed quiet and snuck around until I where I needed to be. Or maybe I sneaked around. Sometimes, I had to lead one threat to another, like bringing a dog to another kid or one kid to another.

We were kids, though. We took that kind of stuff personally. Things have changed a lot since those days.

“I’m going to skull fuck your asshole and light it on fire!” I yelled, wearing my helmet with my civilian clothes. The Holly, Sam, and Max just tried to ignore me while they watched TV. I had gotten an email mentioning Hephaestus via my hidden website on the dark net. In it was a contact number in case I felt like surrendering and not hurting myself any further. The joke’s on them. I don’t like not hurting myself!

It was a woman’s voice that answered me. “That is exactly how I expected someone like you to start a call. Hello, Psycho Gecko.”

“What? Psycho Gecko? No, I’m calling from the Firefighters’ Veterans and Family Fund. They’ve got a very aggressive script for us this year because we really need the money. Now, if I may continue…ahem…I’m gonna gut you like a pig and fuck the hole, I’m gonna-“

“You’re still not taking this very seriously, I see.”

“Ma’am, if it would provide for the families of wounded firefighters, I would gladly fuck a thousand gutted stomach cavities. Now, where will I be sending our donation packet?”

“I heard we’re on the right track to stopping you. I’ll be the first to admit I thought it was stupid that the recommendation came down to stop responding to your threats. What’s one song nobody cares about but you? The orders came down anyway and that’s why I’m here as the leader of the task force with the goal of dealing with you.”

“Here at the Firefighters’ Veterans Fund, we don’t personally know this Psycho Gecko, strong and handsome as he must no doubt be. While we wish we could make the acquaintance of such a virile specimen of manhood, we have to concede that no organized group, whether firefighters or supervillains, stands a chance in hell of taking him down.”

“By all means think that. This time, you have to come to us and you can’t blow up all our buildings if you want your friends back, nor do we see any reason to negotiate with you.”

“The Firefighters’ Veterans and Families Fund would like to tell you to go fuck yourselves.”

She laughed at me.

“We’ll see if you can back all that talk up. By the way, did I tell you we never even evacuated Distribution Site Zero-Seven? We fixed the prank you pulled with our water, and you’ve already met some of your associates that came on board to help deal with you. They’re still there, along with whatever you were looking for.”

“Who should we here at the Firefuckers’ Fund make our donation packet out to?”

“My name is Pivot. Thank you for your time, Psycho Gecko. It really helped make this easier on all of us…” she trailed off. Over the city, I saw a missile streak through the sky before angling downward and flying out of view. There was an explosion, then smoke and screaming and all that boring stuff.

Faintly, I heard Pivot talking to someone else. “Do we have it confirmed? Where did it hit? We’re not calling anything off unless I see the body. I want to see a body.”

I broke in, “You and me both, sister. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone way too long without some sausage in my diet, you know what I’m sayin’?”

“What?” she asked me. Then she was talking to the other person on her side again. “Call off the search. We missed.”

Mumble mumble “y again?” mumble.

There was a shushing sound, then she was back to talking to me. “That had nothing to do with you. We didn’t like that place.”

“Understandable enough. Fucking pet shops, am I right?”

“What?”

“A guy’s got to be wary for traces, you hear me? I figured you would spy on the place and plant some bugs to see if that was where I am hiding. So now you’re the guys known for blowing up a store of cuddly baby puppies. Wow. Puppies, popped. Kitties, crushed. Bunnies, blown up. Just beautiful work on that one, really, I love what you did there. Making friends and influencing people. It’s obvious your people researched some of my recent fights, by the way. Y’all got me all figured out, don’t you? That’s alright. You can’t win them all, Pivot.”

I hung up on her and scrambled the number. I’ve got all cloned numbers to burn when it comes to contacting me, even though I also bounced that call through a few other choice targets. A hospital, an army recruiting office, a gun store. If that weapon was blatantly tied to Hephaestus and it had hit any of those, it would have been a PR disaster. PR was still important, especially if that PR involves the army wondering why somebody blew up their building in the middle of the day.

So I made a new enemy named Pivot. I also made a new ally.

That occurred after a couple more days. I researched the guy I was pulling in to all this. Gastrolord. Small time crook with a big time ego. I think he pretty much pawned or sold everything to build his first Super Snail tank. That’s what he named that thing he passed by the trailer park in. All his work was like that. Packed with defenses, slow, and not very offensive. Good stuff, in its own way, he had somehow managed to obtain more advanced results with less advanced technology.

With a little bit of trial and error, I found his hideout. The EZ Cargo Company. EZ Cargo. I have long had an appreciation for theme villains who know how to make it work for them like that. I didn’t know how he kept ahead of his debts, though. In a manner of speaking, that was my avenue of attack.

“So here’s the score. You, me, and a couple of others. We go back in. You might be thinking ‘But didn’t they kick you out of there?’ Yes, they did, back before we knew what they had in there. It was also back before Generation Flex got involved. My understanding is that they’ve got a hate boner for you, correct?”

I wasn’t there to intimidate much. I was in my civilian clothing. My helmet was ready, but the rest of my armor took longer, especially with all the added complexity since the redesign.

Across from me, a very nervous Gastrolord sat on a lumpy pink sofa that was propped up by a phone book in place of one of the legs. He was wearing his armor, the same shiny metallic look as his Super Snail. His helmet included a portion on top that resembled a crown made of metallic stalks like you see on the head of a slug or snail. The armor as a whole was rounded to account for Gastrolord not being the thinnest of fellows. Even worse, it didn’t look like power armor. It was probably fairly thin, save for the shell-shaped backpack portion. From the snail shell-looking backpack ran hoses that connected to his gauntlets. From what I had seen of news reports, the barrels on his gauntlets were how he fired off his slug slime. His hands were busy holding a nice cup of tea I had made him. He sipped at it, his brown mustache twitching as he tried the cold tea.

“A-aren’t you supposed to serve tea hot?”

“Not when it’s sweet tea, full of vitamins and minerals like tea, sugar, and ice. Now, sip your damn tea and pay attention. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian love to take you on. I think if you’re there with us at the warehouse, they will respond. They’ll provide an additional distraction for the supervillains and guards on the premises. At a minimum, we just need to get in and check their records. If this goes better than that, you can expect to walk away with loot that would be worth some serious dough. Weapons, armor, gadgetry, stuff people are looking to buy for more than you can steal from the local credit unions in a bag.”

I would rather not attack there again, but Pivot didn’t give me many options. She might have lied to me. There may be nothing there at all of use to me. Problem is, it’s difficult for me to tell for sure before we go in there. The first time around, I didn’t care as much about sneaking around the place, but I still didn’t find out where the records room was or what security they had. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Hephaestus had something there to find me when I was invisible. Caution wasn’t a bad idea, I figured, and I had already shot myself in the foot once.

“Generation Flex tends to do a lot of damage to my Super Snail. Max uses his strength and throws Brian right through the armor. Once when my booster rockets were recharging, he broke through the shell and stole back my loot. They’ll make mincemeat of me if I stay in one place too long.”

I stood up and grabbed onto him by the shoulder, lifting him up and causing the teacup to fall and shatter on the floor. I pulled him over to the window of this little den of his. Outside that window, in an underground hanger, was the Super Snail. It had a stalk off and the mouth ramp was torn off.

“I think with a few of my upgrades added to this Super Snail, they’ll be more concerned with getting the shell out of there.”

“You’re new to mollusk-based puns, aren’t you?” Gastrolord asked me.

“Slug and snail based-puns, yes.”

“If you can do what you say you can, then soon the world will cowry before us!”

Then the pair of us engaged in epic evil laughter.

“Mwahahahahahahahaha!”

“Bwahahahahahahahaahhahaha!”

For the record, I didn’t have a fucking clue what a cowry was.

 

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