Tag Archives: Platinum Hind

Freeze Tag

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The full moon, my true monthly visitor… I wasn’t sure if being on the actual moon would do something there and bring Reindeer out. Like what if I’d transformed into my weredeer form from simply seeing the whole moon on approach? Thanks to me, the entire were- community now knows more important things about the condition that various people were afflicted with after some magic environmentalists tried to hijack the Northern Hemisphere’s wintry time to make the Earth greener.

I don’t think the spirit of Winter is in bed with the oil companies, I just think he’s territorial and big on balance. It’s the season of death.

I had time to finish dinner and the dishes before my alarm went off. The moon was coming, and it’s been taking more time from me before and after. My body stayed behind while my mind took control of the Platinum Hind armor. I still don’t like power armor capable of opening this way or acting on its own, but it was a necessity in this case and Reindeer isn’t out long enough for people to take advantage.

The alarm was set thirty minutes before official moonrise. Twenty minutes before, Reindeer changed, and changed quickly. The hero deep inside bounded down the stairs. “I feel incredible! You think the moon did this?”

I shrugged. “I think lycanthropes and other such animal-thropes are the very definition of something that’s not a science.” Reindeer was bouncing, which I found funny enough. She recently discovered an ability to fly and fire beams of light from her antlers. “You sure that’s moondust you sniffed?”

“You’re getting drug names all mixed up,” she told me. She stopped bouncing up and down, though. “Are you ready? I can’t wait to go.”

I made sure my complement of non-lethal armament was still as ready to go as when I put the armor and Reindeer’s costume away, then tossed the costume to her. She had it on in no time, then went ahead and stepped into me, setting the helmet on her head. Instead of the stairs and the front entrance, she went right to the trashcan tunnel, shooting into the still-light sky. Below us, the trash can swung over from on its side to stand up over the hole again. That’s the power of science and magnets.

As heavy as the armor was, Reindeer wasn’t using the suit’s rockets at all. She flew quickly, and in an arc through the high atmosphere where she would have difficulty breathing. We came down in Minneapolis and soon picked up that something was wrong by the sight of a person on fire flying too close to an airplane trying to land.

“However good you feel, remember that jet turbines feel considerably less good,” I reminded her. She’s too buoyant and happy for my taste. It’s hard to trust a version of myself that isn’t at least partially miserable.

“I know,” she said. “Do you have to be such a backseat driver?”

“It’s my backseat that gets cut off if you take a shortcut through them there engine tubes,” I pointed out. I made sure to highlight the engines on the HUD as the “Danger Zone”. I also showed avenues that would likely get us sucked into the engines, dubbed the “Highways to the Danger Zone”.

“Who are we dealing with?” Reindeer asked.

“She’s a real Firecracker. That’s her name,” I explained. “Fireproof and able to fly using fire. Can project it out a bit as a result, of course, and I wouldn’t give her a hug.”

“You need to come up with more nonlethal gadgets,” Reindeer advised. “I’ll have to hoof her.”

Reindeer gave the armor’s rockets some juice on approach, trying to come in overhead Firecracker. “Might I remind you which direction heat travels?” I asked Reindeer. She responded by diving down and flipping around to plant her hooves hard in Firecracker’s upper back, sending the flaming super head over heels past the airplane. Reindeer directed herself away from the tumbling super and came around.

“Figure out how we intercept her to keep her from splatting,” Reindeer advised. I came up with a few plans for that based on how Firecracker fell. We kept close, but then Firecracker turned her flame off, flattened out, and flamed back on once she had her fall under control.

Firecracker turned to us and shouted, “Tag, you’re it!”

“Neat,” I told Reindeer. “Piggy radio says arson and other trouble in Minneapolis today. Looks lik the Fire Gang’s in town.”

I know I’ve mentioned them at least once. A group of supers with fire-related powers who hang out together. They’re a real niche group because if you can counter the strongest of them, you should be able to counter all of them, but the powers express themselves in different ways and with different quirks. Plus, they have numbers. Fire is a fairly common power.

Reindeer followed after Firecracker. Kind of easy to track of woman on fire as she flies across the sky. My better half came around the side of a building and bodychecked Firecracker. “Tag!” she called out.

Firecracker bounced back a ways before getting control again, but I could see she was smiling. She lowered down to the ground and Reindeer followed. When they were both safely grounded, she put her hands on her hips. “You’re playing?”

“What? Playing Tag?” Reindeer asked.

Firecracker smiled, her bright red lipstick going well with the all-red outfit she was in. “Yeah. If you can handle that, hero. You get to be It, but tag us and we stop doing whatever we’re doing. I’ll call it in to the others. Or you can do things the hard way.”

“Sounds fun,” I told Reindeer.

Reindeer nodded. “Sure, I’m in.”

Firecracker reached up to an earpiece. Her power definitely has some sort of area it works on other than just skin and hair-deep. “We have a player, Gang. Reindeer’s It and she’s already tagged me.” She looked around at where she was, focusing on a café nearby. “Anybody needs me, I’m going to get a smoothie. It’s hot out here.”

“Hey, who all’s playing?” Reindeer called out.

Firecracker didn’t say. She just held up a hand with all but her thumb out. “There were four, now there’s three,” she explained while folding her index finger in.

I checked around for more signs of distress. “Alright, good one, I’m picking up that someone’s leaving flaming trails at the Elko Speedway. Additionally, there’s a guy spouting flames at Capella University, and then there are little burning bipeds running around the Mall of America causing havoc. We are closest to that one.”

“Point me to it,” Reindeer said. I brought up path on the HUD showing her toward the Mall of America.

We found a man in burnt dark red robes inside the M&M store, cackling. Fire moved at his beckoning, fire in the shape of tail-less monkeys. They hopped all over the place, tossing M&Ms and trashing displays. The floor was becoming a mess of oozing melted chocolate. “Now you see the lie, Mall of America! This candy’s reputation is but a hill of lies. Lies!” When I had enough to identify him, I flashed his name onscreen: “Banisher.”

He turned around and jumped at Reindeer’s approach. With a wave of his hands, his smaller creations disappeared and a giant one appeared between Reindeer and Banisher. Reindeer pulled out one of the various helpful grenades I made her but didn’t activate it before tossing it in front of the sonic weapon on her forearm and firing it. The air it generated through the metal ball at Banisher’s robed chest and bonked him, knocking him over into the hot chocolate. Reindeer then ran and skidded between the large fire creature’s legs to grab hold of Banisher’s leg.

“Tag!”

Banisher huffed and dismissed the fire monster. “Help me up?” We did and let him walk off to drown his sorrows in the Cinnabon.

Next stop, Capella University. It was an online university, but a fellow out front was trying to make it live up to the name in person. A thick-set fellow stood out front in scaled armor, singing a capella. He had clawed gloves on his hands. Gouts of fire sprayed from devices he’d set up that provided backing sounds to his take on “Ring of Fire”. A hunk of metal around the man’s neck looked like a bear trap worn as decoration.

“That is Fafnir,” I informed Reindeer. “Big fan of pyrotechnic devices.”

Reindeer watched all this, then told me, “I have an idea.”

I landed the Platinum Hind armor in front of Fafnir just as he finished his song. Fafnir snapped his head toward me, the “bear trap” closing up and forming a fanged metal helmet around his head. The helmet spit fire at me, and it would have been fearsome for a being of flesh. It wasn’t too fun for someone relying on circuitry, but it didn’t kill me.

Fafnir turned at the touch of a hand tapping him to find Reindeer there saying “Tag. You’re out.”

The metal helmet unfolded back around his chest. “Damn. Spent too long setting things up.”

Reindeer patted him on the shoulder sympathetically and walked over to me. Before she could enter the armor, a large fireball knocked her into the building and knocked me down. Fafnir was unharmed, but scrambled to get away.

Standing before us was a man in a black leather motorcycle getup with a flame decal on the top rear of his jacket and a fireball on the helmet.

Reindeer’s furry hand-paw thing raised up out of the side of the building. “I’m ok!”

“Hello Nitro,” I said more for Reindeer’s benefit than mine. It wouldn’t help her much as she didn’t have access to the wiki page detailing Nitro’s enhanced durability and usage of firepowers to propel him in intense bursts, enough to count him as a speedster. Plus, the black leather outfit looked badass.

Reindeer threw herself out of the building and landed on her feet, firing off one of those air pulses real quick. Nitro turned to her, a fireball building up behind him. And as we’ve previously established, fire isn’t so bad for me when I’m possessing a suit of power armor. I wrapped the Platinum Hind’s arms around him from behind and turned my back toward Reindeer. I German suplexed Nitro in that direction and rolled with it, coming up in time for Reindeer to slide into the armor from behind and announce. “Tag!” We finished it up with a second suplex, then left Nitro there, the flame petering out like a fart.

He stood up, seemingly glowering, then pulled the helmet off. Guy had an overbite, a bit nose, and some really bushy eyebrows, so not nearly as hot as the costume would suggest. “That was pretty awesome, like a wrassler!” Also, he sounded like a Cajun. “Want to play again sometime?”

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The Vax and the Qurious

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“Ready… steady…” Reindeer said. My philanthropic deerthrope alter-ego said as she aimed a special rifle at the back of a man who was banging on the window of a restaurant. My mind inhabited her power armor, the pseudomuscles correcting for the natural sway of her arm and keeping it perfectly still. My helmet provided a helpful targeting cursor showing where she’d hit, even if the night was so nice and bright from the full moon. I’m even the kind of gal pal that anticipates an awkward trigger pull based off prior experience. The dart thwipped out and got him off to the right of his spine, right where she was aiming. He turned around, reaching for the dart as he went. He made it 180 degrees before the sedative went into effect.

Reindeer walked up, the Platinum Hind armor colored in urban camo. Reindeer slung the tranq rifle over her shoulder and walked up to the guy. She tugged his sleeve up, rubbed it with some alcohol, and put down one of those sticker thingies. Then came the vaccination. Then she pulled out a small printer attached to the utility belt around the waist of the armor. I had it plugged in and printing out a note she stuck to the guy letting him know what happened.

“I’m surprised you’re good with hunting the least intelligent game like this,” I told her right in her ear. As a supervillain, the weredeer who emerges from me brings out qualities I’m not proud of. Qualities like self-sacrifice, humility, and an insatiable desire to protect the innocent. I change and people get saved. It’s a dangerous side of mine.

She still shares everything I know, including history, ethics, and chili pepper farming. That’s why she responded, “I know. Vaccinating people against their will has some ethical issues after Tuskegee, but these are real vaccines and you checked the guy’s medical history.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I said. It was kind of easy compared to most people. These bellends can’t just go to normal doctors; they concentrate around quacks and pill mills who tell them what they want to hear. I found a few of those quack doctors and cross-checked their patient records with people whining about lockdowns and masks to find a few who’d be out during the Pink Full Moon for a relaxing hunt with my other half. I had other options, but Reindeer picked this one. So a-hunting we went. And this time, we’re not the ones being hunted!

“Who’s next?” I asked

“Let’s take a photo of this one for the mantle, then go after another one. Didn’t you spot a Karen in the wild?”

We snapped a photo and then tried the next person on the hunting list. So, as we jumped, I had to note, “Does this still count as heroism at this point?”

We landed on the side of a medium-sized building, hanging off the side to stare down at an older woman in workout tights who ran around screaming at skateboarders. No mask, naturally. She was a little tougher. The guy at the window mostly kept pounding and licking on it. He might end up sick from that alone. This woman just walked fast to try and knock off skateboarders, which made me wonder how smug she’d look getting sued if one of them fell off and hurt themselves. I knew what she had to lose. She drove forty-five minutes from the suburbs to get here just to run around and be a jackass. Kind of amazing, she came all the way out from the segregation of the suburbs to tell people in a city they shouldn’t wear masks to keep from getting a disease.

Well, one of the advantages of an AI assistant is having someone who can use the power of mathemagic to estimate where she’d be, but Reindeer lowered the rifle. “Make me look like a skater.”

Reindeer came jogging along, the armor projecting an illusion that she was a woman in red and green with horns on a helmet. Karen, called such by me due to her resemblance to the stereotype of the busybody white woman who likes to stick her nose in places it doesn’t belong and call the cops on Black people just for existing.

Karen tried to get in my face. Thwip! “Drop the illusion,” Reindeer said. I did, probably not even giving Karen a chance to see it before she flopped to the ground. Reindeer wasn’t in a hurry to break her fall so she wouldn’t land hard on the pavement the way she’d been trying to get others to. “Whoops, guess I was too slow there.” She went through the whole thing with giving her the first shot and I stuck a note on the fallen woman’s chest. She’ll be up after some relaxing sleep. The note even tells her where she can go to get an additional shot in a month, or places where she can schedule a second dose.

Reindeer raised her hand and caught a high five from a skater nearby. “She’ll be up in an hour, so you want to be gone by then!” she informed them. To me, she asked, “Isn’t the next guy the terrorist?”

“Correct!” I pulled up the target’s profile. “Mr. Cotton. A former member of the Question movement. They played a prominent role in the coup that was put down and a few kidnapping attempts, murders, and mass shootings. He’s the leader, or Quaestor as he fancies himself, of a breakaway group calling itself the Qlan.”

“Really not trying to hide it anymore,” Reindeer noted. “Where we going?”

The Qlan hideout was off in the suburbs, masquerading as a club at a golf course. It was night, so not an ideal time for golfing. We still found plenty of people’s cars in the parking lot. A teenager in a red vest stood watch over the parking lot and jogged over. “I’m sorry, whoever you are, but the course is closed except for an exclusive event.”

I noted the lack of a mask and zoomed in on his chest, where a red, white, and blue Q with a question mark inside stared back at me. I brought it up on the HUD for Reindeer to see.

“Hey kid, what are the fourteen words?” Reindeer asked.

“We must secure the existence of our pe- fuck!” That last bit was from when the dart got him in the chest. He reached up to take it out, then fell onto his face when he passed out.

Reindeer checked the ammo pouches. “This many cars, we’re going to need more ammo, and maybe a better rate of fire. I won’t be able to get them all. Can’t vaccinate them all, either. There’s no way we can check this many people for allergies, either.” She walked over to the boy and gave him a vaccination jab. I dropped off a note next to him. Reindeer fingered the question mark pin on his vest and found it had an edge that came up. The underlayer showed the red, white, and blue and the question mark symbol replaced with a red and black swastika.

“I mean, they barely count as people… but I have an idea on that. Something I cooked up on my own time for reasons.”

Reindeer nodded and stood up. “I know… better call in the big guns.”

Back at my hidden underground base back in Radium, machines whirred to life, making an adjustment to equipment and loading a backpack with both a power core and compact dart rounds made for rapid-fire. I started to hum along to myself, causing the computer system to start searching for appropriate music.

“There aren’t too many war songs about keeping people alive, you know,” Reindeer said.

“Yeah, you’d think there’d be some music about badass medics. Then again, you wouldn’t think I’d be involved in such an aggressive attempt to save people’s lives in spite of themselves. We could be giving these to those who want them and can’t get them.”

Reindeer waggled her hand. “Yeah, but those people are actually trying to get them and I feel confident they’re going to get vaccinated. These walking upperdeckers are putting a lot of other people at risk, people who can’t get it and rely on others around them not carrying the virus to stay safe. Stay frosty and let me know when you’re ready. I’m infiltratin’”

Reindeer hopped the fence and made for the clubhouse. The lights were on and golf carts surrounded it. Reindeer skidded to a stop next to it and pulled out a tube of recon drones. “Set these to get sneak in, stay out of the way, listen, and do a bodycount?”

“Boom, as requested. Versatile and handy little critters.” The drones flew around for a bit before finding some ways in. They’re small. They got in thanks to windows and doors left just open enough for them to zip inside and hold close tot he ceilings or hide in corners.

Quaestor Cotton stood in front of the room wearing his Q mask that members of the Question were known to wear instead of question mark masks. His had the Confederate Naval Jack design inside the Q that ringed the outside. The crowd of white men and women wore a mix of similar masks. Most were regular grey Question masks, with the Q design or question mark around the outside. Others were modified like the pin of the valet, meant to look like the flag of the United States, or the Confederacy, or the Third Reich.

A stir started in the crowd. Someone called out, “There’s an intruder on the property! Someone was spotted knocking out the boy who parks the cars!”

“Stay read,” I informed Reindeer. “We have launch, so you’re almost ready to rocket.”

Reindeer burst in through the door. “Hey everyone! Hope you’re ready to take your medicine!”

Quaestor Cotton pointed. “It’s one of those degenerate animal-people. Not even human, brothers and sisters!”

“And non-binaries!” said one Q-masker with trans flag colors.

“Shush, you’re just here so we don’t look like we hate you people,” Cotton responded. He pulled out an American Eagle large-caliber rail-handgun. Most of the crowd had guns, mostly conventional small arms, but I noticed some ICE-issue plasma rifles and pistols among the bunch.

“Some of those can actually hurt us,” I warned Reindeer, who already knew very well about how energy and heat transfers off plasma projectiles.

“Just say when,” Reindeer replied.

“When,” I told her.

I could tell Reindeer was living as she yelled at the crowd, “Eat shit and die, queefs!”

The top of the clubhouse blew open, shocking most people. There were a couple shots and the Qlan began to scatter. Into Reindeer’s armored hands dropped a minigun, the backpack landing on a cushion next to her.

She squeezed the trigger, the barrels winding up with a whir before reaching speeds where they began to rip a quiet thwipping fury of darts. She fanned the crowd from left to right, taking down people. Quaestor Cotton reached down and grabbed a screaming baby out of its mothers arms and held it up as a shield. Reindeer aimed low on him because there’s major artery in the crotch region. I sent in the drones to catch the baby and ease it to the ground as it fell.

Reindeer let the minigun spool down. “Looks like Jonestown in here,” she observed of all the bodies fallen all over each other. “Please don’t tell me you fixed up another one with vaccine doses, because that’s not going to work.”

“Better… I give you… bees!” A bit metal beehive coptered down on a rotor and settled in outside. Reindeer watched as little robotic bees swarmed out and began to land on various people. She started to move closer, then realized she was standing in a pile of the same note, over and over again, about getting a second shot, one for each person.

“You should call them vees,” she laughed.

“That pun would hurt too many people,” I observed from our position near a crowd of sedated and forcibly-vaccinated people, a minigun in-hand and robotic bee minions jabbing everyone. “And if there’s anything tonight’s taught me, it’s the value of helping people as aggressively as possible.”

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Reindeer and the Man Sanitizer

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“You want to test out some of those new powers?” I asked. My consciousness inhabited the Platinum Hind armor, freshly painted to look shinier and glossier. A look for a new name that doesn’t define myself in part based on someone else. I’d say nobody should define themselves based on someone else. Then, no matter how much you accomplish, you’ll still have to remember something you hate. And then, several years down the line, you’ll find yourself possessing a suit of power armor near your weredeer body while y’all inspect a scene below.

“Having superpowers is bullshit,” Reindeer said. Dressed in a costume of red, green, and gold, the heroic weredeer who takes over my body during every full moon had pulled new powers out of her ass last time. “I don’t trust these. But we better give them a go. What do you see?”

I leaned out to get a better view of the building below. I had remote access to the Flyer we were in and kept it nice and steady while zooming in on the site with both the armor’s and aircraft’s sensors. Below us was an old bottling plant, abandoned due to who knows how many potential economic factors. There were things wandering. Something clear I fired off some recon bots at a couple of them. “Let’s get a closer look.”

“Let me see,” Reindeer said, reaching up and tugging off my helmet. She slipped it over her own head, allowing her to see what I could see. These recon bots dropped in a convenient package and separated 50 feet overhead. They sank slowly after that until they hovered overhead and let us see these big masses of clear goo moving around. The bottoms were just a big pile of goop, but from the waist up was a melty chest and a pair of arms with a blob of a head up top.

“Slimy minions,” I commented. “That tip-off didn’t mention anything about these things.”

“Maybe they didn’t know,” Reindeer said. “Probably didn’t know for sure I’d even get that email.”

“Well, ’tis the season for people to tattle on people they know fucking around,” I noted.

“You handle the slimes, I’ll go inside.” Reindeer said. She took a breath, then jumped right out.

“Coulda given me back my head!” I called out. I set the Flyer on autopilot so it would keep itself up there without my brain being involved and jupmted out after Reindeer. I used the jets of the armor to try and catch up, but hung back when I saw Reindeer’s antlers light up with a glow of moonlight to them. Then, rather than fall, she flew forward, then downward. She tried to pull up when she got close to land, but misjudged her momentum. She landed harder than expected, hooves clapping off the asphalt and splaying beneath her. She shot back up for just a moment before coming to a stop and latching onto a handrail near the entrance hear her for support.

A slime noticed her and made its way toward Reindeer. It reached out with arms that formed into needle points. But unlike whatever inherent power let Reindeer fly, I knew how my jets and the armor worked. I came in for a three-point superhero landing right on top of the slime that splattered it everywhere but didn’t do anything to me.

As I stood, I saw Reindeer wiping goo off herself. She paused at one point, rubbing it back and forth in her hands. “Feels like…” she paused and sniffed. “That’s hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer slime people.”

The email didn’t mention the villain’s name. It was just an anonymous email forwarded to an address Reindeer set up from a throw-away account. I could have traced it back, but Reindeer thought it was more important to follow up on the contents. Just that a guy the sender knew had been moving a lot of weird equipment into an old bottling factor and had talked about “purifying” the Earth. That’s one of those instant red flags, along with terms like “cleansing,” or “degenerate,” or “adult human female.” And I’m against genocide these days. I guess. Technically.

“I wonder if we might have misinterpreted what was meant by purifying the world,” I suggested.

Reindeer shook her head. “It’s probably a gimmick.”

“You good?” I asked, gesturing toward her legs.

She nodded, the helmet of my armor still over her face. “Yeah. I’m going to keep the extra armor if you don’t mind.”

I shrugged. “Kinda wish I had a Jack o’lantern and a horse now, but fine.”

Reindeer started for the door, then jumped up into the air and floated toward a window on the second floor. I turned away and looked across the empty parking lot to see another slime working its way toward me. I pretended to be staring at my watch. “Anytime you want to slime your ass on over here…”

It stopped a ways away and turned into a gout of slime of that flowed into the empty armor. I’m glad I waterproofed, but it filled me up and tried to jerk the armor around. I didn’t expel it, but it couldn’t overpower everything I used to give me enough power to move the armor on its own. Fighting back as it did slowed me down, though, so I activated the jets to fly myself around. I repurposed the recon bots to spread our and spy on anything else moving nearby, catching sight of a pair of slimes oozing around the perimeter fence.

I dropped a concussion grenade, then dropped low and aimed for that fence. I had to time this just right, reversing jets and crashing into the fence that gave way a bit while the slime sloshed out. Or maybe threw itself out. I knocked the fence over stopping myself on it, but it slime went further and reformed. It reached out its arms and pulled up the splattered remains of the slimes I’d taken out. It got a lot larger as it sucked in the additional slime, and another pair of grenades courtesy of me.

I ran off with one arm over the empty hole where my helmet should go while the slime turned into a wave and flowed toward me. A jump helped me keep far enough ahead to avoid getting invaded by a more powerful slime minion before it exploded and flung sanitizer everywhere.

Clear for now, I checked indoors.

Reindeer had found someone. She was untying a teenage boy from a crane over a giant tank full of what looked like more sanitizer.

“You’re too late!” a voice called.

It was a man in a bright white hazmat suit that glowed light blue from the inside. He held a large remote in his left hand, and a block with a two-pronged claw in the right. “This is months in the making. My coherent sanitizer gel destroys all bacteria. And soon, it will cleanse the world of the human virus. The world will be clean. Nature will heal. Perhaps you would have time to stop me if you weren’t so worried about disgusting human life.”

“I kinda like this guy,” I told Reindeer through the helmet.

She didn’t hesitate to untie the hostage and pull him out of the way. A geyser of gel erupted from the tank below. It would have gotten the guy if Reindeer hadn’t pulled him out of the way and got her tail eaten off. “Gaaaahhh dammit fAAAAAck!” yelled the were-hero.

Reindeer limped away, pushing along the hostage to try and get him further away from the floating gel. The fluid formed into a larger slime body, but with a pair of legs where much of it congealed. The goo golem’s big, rounded fist was the size of Reindeer. I took flight and headed for them.

Reindeer fired sonic bursts that shook the body of the giant. She followed up with a stun grenade that erupted inside the giant monster with a bright flash and a hormonal teen’s fantasy’s worth of jiggling. “I could use some armor here,” Reindeer said. She added to the boy, “Move your ass!”

“My legs are asleep!” the boy yelled back. He lurched along toward a door. Reindeer glanced back to see the goo golem start on an slow swing. Reindeer turned to grab the boy and pulled him to the side, choosing to outrun something large by getting out of its way real quick. It was a good plan. Then the giant gel monster’s arm shifted to the side in a way that only a bunch of fluid could.

I burst through the wall and skidded to my feet, landing in front of the punch. The goop split along either side of me and shielded Reindeer the the hostage. Reindeer grabbed him and zipped through a window higher up.

“It doesn’t matter. You can’t stop the Purifier!” the man in the hazmat suit said.

“Why can’t I?” I asked, I flew right for him. He raised that box with the claw on it. The claw extended on an arm and reached out for my open neck hole. I landed and batted it aside, then grabbed the Purifier. I had him off the ground and anticipated an ironic end to the situation when the giant slime smashed its fist down on top of me and caught the Purifier in the blow as well. I was fine, but so was he. When the thing removes its fist, that just left me staring at Purifier. “What was the point of that?”

“It’s not the smartest creature,” he answered.

“Yeah, and if it was smart enough, you’d have to worry about it betraying you,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s why it’s so hard to get good help,” he commiserated with me. I adjusted my grip suddenly and opened the rear of the armor. Reindeer flew in, antlers glowing. A slice of lunar-white light shot from her antlers and separated the goo golem’s arm from its body. It tried to clothesline her but she dropped under it and skidded along the floor to slide into the armor. I hoped the sanitizer that got inside had dried up already. The helmet closed up around her and the antlers.

She grabbed the remote from Purifier. “A ‘Self Destruct’ button and an ‘Emergency Shutdown’ button? Whichever do I choose?” She pushed both. The goo golem fell away… and lights on support pillars lit up red.

“That didn’t mean my beautiful creation self-destructed,” Purifier said. “Please get me out of here! It’s hard to run in these pants.”

Reindeer laughed and tucked him under our shoulder. My jets and her newfound flight abilities pushed us out and right through a window. We landed near the hostage who was now resting out across the street, trying to wave down cars.

We all turned to look at the factory.

Nothing happened.

“I think you might have gotten ripped off on your self destruct explosives,” I mentioned. Then the factory blew the fuck up with some fireworks-style blossoms and blooms in the mix.

“I just wanted to be pure,” Purifier said in a sad voice.

“I just want my tail back, you flaccid ass,” Reindeer said. “There are ways to cut back on environmental damage. Unleashing a giant monster made of acidic slime that kills everything it touches isn’t the way.”

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Ice Cold Light Deer

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For some reason, the full moon has gotten marked down as a family bonding night. Which is kinda ironic, considering the importance of the night is that I’m a weredeer who transforms at the full moon into a heroic alter ego. I don’t have a lot of friends in the villain community these days, so I guess it’s not so much attacking my friends. I think Max decided to spend some time at Isla Tropica after spending some time with his sibling in the South, so that’s not an issue. I don’t have many friends period, but I guess the people I spend the most time hanging out with for awhile are Marianne and Adrian, and they used to be superheroes.

I was a little on edge the whole day leading up to it, even though I’d been making peace with Reindeer on an intellectual level. I guess that’s a part of me. One day a month, that deep-seated desire to help people doesn’t come out all twisted. It was still unusual to be so tense.

Tonight’s agenda was to fly into a city along with an Exemplar shipment. The Exemplars were helping with the official vaccination efforts. They had the manpower; transport was getting to them. And I just happened to have built my own flying machine to help get around.

“Are you sure this thing’s safe?” asked Davilo, my brother. He was already transformed into a Justice Ranger. I guess he had something of a break right now. Leah, my former ward and apprentice, didn’t hesitate before running into the side door of the vessel. It was a more compact version of one of my Psycho Flyers, with some of the upgrades to speed and stability of the new ones, sadly offset by it being a little less rounded an aerodynamic from the materials I used. It’s stable; I wouldn’t fly around if it was going to fall apart on me. Instead of three jets, it had four oriented on the sides but at a lower angle that reduces its profile a bit. Along with concentrating some weapons at the front, I dub this… the Pegacorn. It’s like if a unicorn and a Pegasus were mashed together. Still has the same cloaking capability as the other Flyers.

We had some Exemplar help loading up. They had on white power armor, scuffed or dirty in places, but there were prominent red crosses on them. Medics, in other words. They didn’t carry weapons, though the armor that helped them carry such heavy loads also meant they’d be more than capable in hand to hand against most people. In between using my shop as a stop-off for villains needing a place to lay low or seek medical attention, I also let the Exemplars stop over. Somehow, I’ve become neutral ground.

We were all ready and in the air when my internal alarms went off. I left my body behind a curtain with Reindeer’s costume. The Iron Deer power armor came online with me at the helm wondering if I might change the name. It seemed ok at the time, but now we’re bordering on tying my identity too much to that Marvel comics guy. I went to fly the Pegacorn while pondering such ponderous thoughts.

Leah, Davilo, and the Exemplar guys crowded into the cockpit. “It sounds weird back there,” Davilo offered. “What do you think?”

“Metal Deer? It sounds so generic. Metalbeast is better, but isn’t properly descriptive. Might be fun to mess with the fans of that sci fi movie, though.”

“What are you talking about?” One of the Exemplar medics asked.

“Thinking up new names. Iron Deer was a bit hasty of a moniker to take up. Means I picked a name too fast. Too many associations with a comic book character for my taste.”

“Maybe we should call you Psychopomp Deer?” Leah teased. At least I think it was teasing. She seemed happy with herself at that suggestion.

“No offense, but I’d rather not drag my good name through the mud by associating it with heroism,” I told them all.

“You actually like your reputation?” asked a medic.

“A lot of people died to make that reputation. Doesn’t really fit to know I can kill anyone in between helping save kittens from trees,” I said.

At least my brother had some sense. He asked, “What is wrong with cats on this Earth?”

“It’s an expression,” Leah said.

“It’s a waste of a perfectly good feline,” I answered. “Climb up onto stuff, then refuse to get themselves down even though they could just survive the fall.”

One of the medics peeked back. “I don’t hear anymore bones snapping. It might be safe to go back.”

“Golden hind!” called Reindeer from the rear of the Pegacorn.

“…An ass?” asked Leah after a moment of silence.

“No, a creature from Greek myth that Heracles had to capture. A hind is an old term for a female deer. I get tired of the Greek stuff.”

The medics filtered back as Reindeer made her way up, costume on. “It’s that or try to build a new name. Like Bronze Hind or,” she tried to snap her fingers, failing just as much as I always do. “Platinum Hind. Titanium Hind.”

“Ununbium Hind?” I asked.

Leah cleared her throat. “Titanium Hind would look like Tit Hind if shortened, if that makes a difference.”

“Platinum Hind it is then,” I said.

Reindeer tapped me on the head. “It needs a ‘The’.”

“The Platinum Hind… I feel like I should be shinier,” I said, glancing down at the metal body of the power armor that could move on its own.

“If people think you’re platinum, it might mess with their expectations,” Davilo said.

Leah clapped. “I could shine you up!”

Davilo blushed. “That must mean something different here.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s suggestive on this Earth, too.”

Reindeer laughed as Leah went red-faced and shouted, “Just get us there already!” before stomping off toward the back.

Our destination was St. Paul. The Exemplars were running it 24/7 to catch people who needed it but couldn’t come in regular business hours. I’m 99% sure they’re vaccinating everyone possible in-between the “appropriate” vaccinations. We off-loaded everything and then, I guess, Reindeer’s plan was to help with the vaccination. So I guess we were helping vaccinate folks. Reindeer and I had enough medical knowledge to aid the medics with the technical stuff. Leah and Davilo stuck around with us, Davilo sticking beside me.

“You should stop by First Earth and do stuff like this,” he said at one point. “But I understand if you want to avoid it.”

I didn’t get a chance to answer when the action started. Because it’s always going to fucking happen. I swear, my power is attracting useless conflict. The clinic we were operating in started to shake. The ceiling split apart, but a portion of it fell in toward us. I pulled the patient in the room toward me and opened up, protecting the guy in the inner cavity built to hold Reindeer.

After a few seconds of debris falling on us, everything seemed to quiet down. “Davilo, you ok?”

“I’m alive, sis,” he answered. “Doc?”

There was a muffled sound for a moment, then the doctor turned on the speakers of his power armor. “I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but I made it.”

“I’m going to push,” I said. I started standing up, creating enough room for Davilo to squirm around and get his feet underneath him. He helped me and the both of us got enough up for the Exemplar medic to untangle himself from around a chair.

The medic coughed, then asked, “Where’s the patient?”

“In here! I’m fine,” came the muffled reply from inside me.

“Good. Once we get you out of here, give the vaccine two weeks to reach full efficacy and you’ll be good to go.”

“Thanks!” he called out. “For all of this.”

We got out from under the debris. “I’m going to check on who did this, you want to dig people out, doc?”

The medic nodded. Davilo joined me as we jumped clear of the place. It was like the building had been pulled apart through the middle. Some parts of it were coming up at an angle, confused people wandering out or looking for each other. We happened to be in the large part of the middle that fell apart when it came down. My brother and I hopped clear to . I paused long enough to open back up and let the relieved patient run off.

“I knew it! Robots are trying to take control of us!” Davilo, the patient, and I all turned to see a man in a hoodie and cargo pants. Could have been anyone without some special costume. He didn’t even wear a mask. I got a great look at his face for later.

“Did you do this?” I called out.

“I don’t see a badge. Per the United States Naval Code, you have no right to detain me,” the man said, bowing up at me. I jumped over the building to land in front of him. Davilo made his own way involving kicking off the damaged building. Just before he landed, the man threw his hands up in front of me. I grabbed them and broke his thumbs.

“Agh! Fuck! You’re not allowed to do that!” He grabbed at his hands with, well, his hands.

“What about this?” I asked before kicking him in the crotch hard enough to lift him off the ground.

He landed and doubled over, sounding like he was trying to avoid a dry heave, “No! What kind of hero are you?”

I stepped behind him and grabbed him by the boxers, lifting him up in a wedgie. “The kind that doesn’t talk and let you do something. Now what’s your deal?”

He didn’t answer at first, the pain from the nutshot catching up to him. It wasn’t until I was spinning him around me by his boxers that he made some noises other than pain. “Stop! I’ll talk!” Meanwhile, my brother and the patient I’d saved were helping extricate others from the damaged building.

“Good,” I said, holding him up so I could look him eye to eye by the back of his pants. His boxers were a mess by this point. “What’s your deal?”

“I have to stop the global cabal of pedophile reptilians who operate out of a pizza place,” he said.

“What’s this have to do with vaccines?” I asked.

“They’re not vaccines, they’re microchips that keep track of you.”

“Are you aware you have your phone in your pocket and that its global positioning is activated?” I asked.

“That’s…different?” he asked. Then his head exploded and a dent appeared in my chestplate.

“Snipers!” Davilo called out. Suddenly, they went from getting people out of the building to trying to get people behind as stable of cover as possible. Dong! Another shot bounced off my head this time, but it gave me an idea what we were looking for. I pointed. “Thataway!” The sniper was in the back of a pickup truck down the road, more hoodie-dressed people back there. It was all a similar getup, but these were packing guns and had stayed less obvious. Some kind of fall guy bullshit, probably thought they were clever. The two guys in the truck still had their phones with them.

A silvery light shot into the sky. I stared as Reindeer floated into the air but not using the jets or the sonic equipment on her costume. They couldn’t have let her hover that way. They wouldn’t have lit up her eyes or antlers so they looked like they were filled with the light of the moon.

The sniper aimed at her. The others, realizing they’d been made, raised their rifles toward her. The truck’s engine roared to life, so the driver at least had enough sense to realize something was up. With a flash, twin silver beams of light shot from Reindeer’s antlers to knock them all back and scatter their weapons. The driver gunned it then, tires squealing as he tried to race out of there. I gave him a moment before I self-destructed his phone. He lost control then, probably concentrating on a pants pocket. The truck smashed into a postal box, then into a traffic light pole.

We had them all tied up by the time the cops finally rolled up. They rolled to a stop, rolling the window of their cruiser down to look agog at the weredeer and robotic deer sitting there with a truck that had a bunch of humans tied to the hood. “Sup,” Reindeer said with a nod.

“You got a hunting permit?” the cop behind the wheel asked as he stepped out.

“These fucks just attacked a bunch of people getting the vaccine. We better not hear any bullshit about letting them go because you think prosecutors won’t charge them,” Reindeer said.

That cop’s face got red at the implication he’d be biased.

I held up a hand. “Shove the indignation up your ass. You want to say there are good cops, prove it.”

“Yeah. Hunting season ain’t over yet,” Reindeer finished up for me.

Once the cops finally took those guys into custody and started taking witness statements, though, I pulled Reindeer aside. “What was that with the horns and the lightshow?”

Reindeer shook her head. “I don’t know. Something feels different. Maybe because it’s winter. Maybe I’m getting stronger the longer I stick around. You know you didn’t have to do all that to the first guy.”

I shrugged. “I know, but he annoyed me. I wanted to hurt him and somebody doesn’t like me casually murdering folks.”

“It’s not any better if you do it in a tuxedo, either,” Reindeer cut me off before I could joke about formally murdering people.

The night was ruined, but no one else died. And I found some evidence to suggest Reindeer is getting stronger. Found that out when I woke up around noon, wearing a towel in my bedroom with a note in hand that Reindeer had written explaining she’d woken up in Reindeer form the morning after the full moon.

I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m going a bit crazy and paranoid, but I’m fine.

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