Tag Archives: Powder

Local Politics 14



On the off chance that I get offed, I have chanced to hide a statement in my computers roughly outlining what I know and what my plan is. It’s not much of a plan. Should be fairly clear by now that I’m not the planning type.

I’ve just gotten really paranoid with all these heroes around, but the natives are restless. The native heroes, I mean. When the other natives are restless, that’s when you see skeletons scalping people. It doesn’t happen often.

They’re all the problem, but Venus and Forcelight are the shiftiest. They obviously don’t trust me, despite my help. See, this is why it’s so hard out there for a pimp. I wonder if one of them knows. But if they know, you’d think Venus would have gotten frustrated to the point of letting me know she knows. I’m exceedingly frustrating. Perhaps I need to let her know that I know. Or, better yet, hint to her that I know that she knows, so that if she doesn’t know, she won’t know.

I don’t know, but see what I mean about Venus making me think all weird and sane?

Ok, ok, OK!

I don’t like her collaborating with Forcelight especially, with them knowing each other so well. But I can’t send them out. None of them. They have to stay in one place because I need to arrange things right.

I know, I could just have them all drop in on another meeting of The Order. We’re setting up shop at City Hall now. The Mayor’s former staff left it to us once Oligarch strode in with Man-Opener at his back. Unfortunately, they practiced a policy of scorched earth and took the coffeemaker with them, so we’re out of that at the meetings. It’s not a problem for me, since I really don’t care that much for coffee. But it’s the little things. You know, stuff that makes the people you’re hanging out with decide not to kill you in a pinch.

That’s important. I wouldn’t be surprised if manners improved some when you know knew that anyone around you could kill you at any time. You know, up until all the killing started. I imagine that part would be quite rude. A lot of amateurs don’t know the polite ways to kill someone. There’s even a specific way to tie a napkin at the dinner table so other victims will know you’re coming back. If you just leave it draped over the corpse’s face, the others will think you’re finished.

It’s called Deadiquette, people, and it’s becoming a lost art.

Anyway, I can’t just have the heroes attack any such meeting and round everyone up. That doesn’t work. It goes against the first point on my plan:

First, maximize the number of potential defenders against the alien attack. This doesn’t mean creating lots of conflict. Conflict doesn’t necessarily create more supers.

I’m trying to do that. I just have to come up with how. I need to keep the group in Empyreal City. I need villains. Hell, I need civilians with machineguns built into their prosthetic arms. And I need heroes. I can’t let them die off or run away, either. It’s not easy to need people, folks. I learned long ago that other people will either let you down or just make shit worse.

The thing is, I can hide. If Oligarch is around, he doesn’t strike me as the type to hide. He’s egotistical, and all about these grand plots to take over something. The sort of guy who could never spend a day just planning to make a really good sandwich instead. Busybodies like that can’t ever leave well enough alone.

Hmm, so I need to eliminate Oligarch…small hiccup, though. What are the odds the heroes would actually take him out? I mean, they didn’t even kill me. They thought about it, sure, but they decided against it. And I can’t do it as Banshee. That’s supposed to be the line that gets drawn. The other villains would give me up to the heroes, or at least refuse to help me out when the heroes come knockin’. I can’t even have people find him murdered with no witnesses around. Why? Because whenever I am forced to inevitably “come out” as Psycho Gecko, I’m going to get unsolved murders pinned on me left and right. Who knows, they might even write a book blaming me for JFK.

And they probably won’t give me any royalties either. I’m still a little nettled at O.J. Simpson for that little “If PG Did It” book he came out with. Not super nettled, but nettled.

Since I can’t make it look like an “accident,” I’ll just have to make it look like an accident. Whenever I arrange this big battle of epic proportions, I’m going to need Oligarch to accidentally die.

I knew ahead of time I didn’t want that to happen at the big dinner we had. It was some fancy Italian place, which was really going above and beyond for the crowd they catered to. Especially Powder, who had survived getting knocked around by The Saurus. Saurus is fine, by the way. Like the other heroes, he doesn’t like laying low and letting villains walk around doing whatever they want.

I think the worst we did at the restaurant was under-tip the waitstaff. Like I said, horribly rude individuals abound. Worse, because so many of them wore costumes, they didn’t have any wallets with them to pickpocket. Most costumes don’t even have room for a wallet, but most people who wear them would never think of putting that kind of personal information within easy reach of an enemy. Which is a shame, because nothing rubs it in quite like the villain beating a hero, then using the goody-goody’s card to pay for a victory meal.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Oligarch went on at the meal. “Congratulations are owed to each and every one of you. We have taken an amazing first step in building a truly better world.”

A better world? Sounds like someone’s buying their own propaganda. He’s unstable and delusional. Tsk, tsk. It’d be a favor, really. Gotta put folks like that down before they wind up hurting themselves and everyone around them.

“I have opened negotiations with organized crime and the unaffiliated criminals of our city to join our Order, as lesser partners, of course.” He smiled. The poor, hallucinating freak. It’d be so easy to put him out of his clear misery. I mean, just look at how pained he looked eating that penne? He’s clearly drunk on pasta and power. All it’d take is one or two good stabs to the throat with the fork I had in my hand.

But no. Too difficult to pass off as an accident. No one at the table, save for Powder getting her little fix, would likely believe I just happened to trip and fall twelve feet to jam my eating utensil into Oligarch’s jugular.

Besides, I’m having the alfredo tonight, and I hate mixing red and white sauces like that.

In a more subdued, conversationalist tone, Oligarch said to me, “By the way, your idea to fix cannon emplacements around the city is great. Please do so at your earliest convenience.”

I nodded. I already had a couple more in place, hidden. Military surplus, which is how I got them so quick. I still have to rig them so they’ll work remotely under my control or as automated systems. That means autoloaders. Most buildings are not made with that in mind.

See, that’s part of the second part of my plan: infrastructure. I don’t know why aliens would pick this planet to invade, or why they’d pick this country to invade, or why they’d pick this city. In fact, technically speaking, I don’t know for sure that they do. But I’m figuring they probably do for some reason. Urban environments are not an ideal battlefield for most confrontations. They can be made even less fun if a city has defensive weapon emplacements, hidden bunkers, underground tunnels, and the occasional explosive device.

He sipped his glass of wine, then looked around at all of us. “It will not be this easy every time, but days like today give me confidence in our ability to make this world into the utopia it deserves.” See, crazy talk. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, either.

“What are you on?” some guy called out in a general way, avoiding identification.

Oligarch smiled. “I think we are headed for utopia if we can make it happen. We have the tools, tools like advanced robotics, miniaturization, nanomachinery, and chemistry that goes beyond what mortal man is capable of. The pieces are there, but mankind is too enamored of the concept of independence. For the good of everyone, we must break their laws and drag them to utopia. They require a strong hand.”

This guy’s almost as bad as I am at monologuing. “If they’re so damn dumb they can’t fix their problems themselves, then why do they even deserve a paradise?” I asked.

“We give them paradise because we are their betters. Being better means granting mercy.”

Can’t say I’m big on mercy, and I doubt he would be too if he was at someone else’s mercy. Mercy is fine for the powerful, but not so much when you’ve been the bottom of the totem pole. And it’s more than humans show. Like with my nanites. Someone got a hold of them and figured out how to make more that’ll work for anybody. It’s a revolutionary invention that would drastically cut down on worldwide mortality. What do they do? They’re jumping through hoops so they can make people buy it instead. Explain how doling it out in proportion to money is merciful to a mother and father watching their son go blind from Robles disease, when it could have been given to them instead?

If you’re looking for some grand philosophical statement about how much better I am, that’s not what I’m saying here. I’m just explaining why I hate these people and want them to die.

And I need them to have any hope of surviving. Even Terrorjaw over there, whose maw smells like a skunk getting pegged by a string of garlic.

That brings us to the third part of my simple plan: cooperation. I need to get heroes working together and villains working together. Even heroes and villains working together. Under rule of law, criminals can still flourish. Under rule of Oligarch, he’s notably discriminatory against the whitey tighties of truth and justice.

So Oligarch has to go, but The Order has to stay.

“Oligarch, I have another idea in mind you might like. My company’s had something of an infestation at the docks. Giant bugs. I think it’s about time I was also seen with The Order, and we can clean out some pests. How about a show of power that lets the little people see how merciful we can be?”

Oligarch held his glass out in my direction. “Wonderful idea, my idea. You are a fine example of the cream rising to the top.”

Nope. That was just me resisting the urge to spit alfredo sauce back up in his direction.

I’ll tell y’all one thing. This invasion better be worth it, with ships and lots of enemies and huge explosions. If this turns out to be a bunch of alien bishounen pop stars trying to sleep with easy earth women, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

Hopefully that’ll be the only sorely I’ll be, too, seeing as I’m now an easy earth woman.

You hear me, horny aliens? This taco cart is closed!



Local Politics 12



On this episode of “World Domination in Retrospect,” I’m going to discuss important tips for pest control. Now, if you’re not careful with extra candy, it’s possible you could end up with a T-rex infestation. It’s horrible. You go to open the closet one day and there, scampering away, is a T-rex escaping through a T-rex hole.

Not everyone can identify a T-rex hole by sight, but I have a handy tip that can help even the amateurs figure out if the whole they’re dealing with could be a pest problem. First, take a look at the hole. Is it large? Does it appear to have been made by a dinosaur? Is it between your mother’s legs? If you answered yes to two of those questions, you’re probably looking at a T-rex hole. If you answered all three in the affirmative, your mother might be getting some Jurassic penis.

Now, if you find you have a T-rex infestation, the first thing you’re going to want to do is lay down some bait. Cows, pigs, and your mother in a nightie are all viable options for tempting the creature out into the open. Just make sure it can distinguish your mother from the cows and pigs.

For example, The Order used pigs for bait. Oligarch mapped out a rough area where The Saurus often patrolled, made all the more predictable by The Saurus’s size, and then led an attack on a police precinct. Once again, I served as an observer, except to keep other precincts from interfering. Word got out from assault, but any attempts to mobilize reinforcements failed when radio, phones, and even emails all stopped working for Empyreal City. Kind of a scorched earth way of cutting communications, but I didn’t have the time or give-a-damn to pinpoint each and every cop’s work and business phone.

A calm voice told callers “In the face of almost certain death, smooth jazz will be deployed in 3…2…1…” and then they got an earful of Judas Priest singing “Breaking The Law”. Why be honest about the smooth jazz? Plus, it was decent accompaniment as I watched Powder take a shotgun to the chest as if the cops were shooting spitballs at her. She took the hit, grabbed the gun away, and dug her fingernails into the skin around his mouth. He shook, then collapsed in the throes of overdose.

The other villains made quite the mess out of the cops there, though a Pinkerton detective managed to give them a bit of a scare. He had a bigger sidearm than anyone else, and it packed enough of a wallop to shoot Powder through a wall. Didn’t kill her, but it took the head off Patches when she ran to assist Powder. One moment, the scarecrow woman knelt down, face obscured by burlap sack and sewed-on button eyes.The next, that burlap sack is fluttering in the wind beside a gooey, blood-soaked hole in the wall. Which sounds like an intriguing beverage, now that I think about it.

Patches shouldn’t have bothered anyway, but she really liked sewing stuff. Problem is, this time she reaped what she had sewn.

Powder propped herself up and fixed her shoulder back into its socket, her flesh already closing up. Meanwhile, the Pinkerton ran out of there with all the motivation of a man whose life depends on it. To his credit, he managed to gather a couple other survivors in one of the back rooms and the three of them all made it out. While it wouldn’t have done them any good to die in some futile last stand, it would have entertained me. If only Oligarch gave him a shot, right? Nah, Oligarch floated in the front parking lot near Man-Opener and Terrorjaw.

I’m not amused that the two are seen as reliable heavy hitters nowadays thanks to helping to beat me up that time. I’ll do something about that.

Once the coast was clear and prisoners were rounded up, the three higher-ups took up positions in the area. Man-Opener laid in wait on the top floor of a parking garage. Terrorjaw concealed himself in a fountain out in front of the station. I didn’t see what Oligarch hid behind, but I have to assume he found some way to keep from being spotted.

See, this is one of those notorious gray areas. If I’d given up the safehouse The Saurus stayed at, I could have saved a lot more lives. I’d be a regular philanthropist, relatively speaking. See, The Saurus isn’t like most superheroes, who can just take off the mask and blend into a crowd. Mostly because he’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s such a distinctive feature that he pretty much has no secret identity. He could, but that’d probably involve standing around in a museum all day, trying not to chow down on vandals from the Institute for Creation Research.

The attack brought The Saurus running. More than that, it brought Saurus Jr., too. That smaller T-rex should have been doing my bidding, not running around at the side of the hero his genes came from. The traffic cameras showed Saurus nipping at Junior along the way, trying to get him to back off. That’s a fairly normal response to kids, actually. Annoying little brats. The Saurus tried to slow down and check the situation out tactically, or at least as tactically as possible for him. His young clone ran on regardless, perhaps thinking the whole outing was a race.

Say what you will about villains: we get the best lines, we’re allowed to wear horns and spikes on our outfits, and some of us look awesome in bikinis. However, we are not the most disciplined sort. I speak, of course, about villains beside myself. Of course. First to strike was Roadkill. He sped in behind the wheel of a semi doing 240 in a thirty-five. Junior overshot the crossroad he was stationed beside, but Roadkill managed to turn the truck and smack it into Junior’s rear. It smacked the young dino forward, then caught it on its grill and smashed into the front of a donut shop. And out the back. And through the back of the building behind that.

It was a little harder to make Oligarch out as he chastised the rogue villain, probably through clenched teeth. “Roadkill, I didn’t give the order to attack. That was not our target.”

Roadkill crawled his way out of the architectural and automobile damage to shrug. His earpiece survived, too. “Get me something else good to drive. I can go all day.”

He can. Roadkill is one of those few gifted with superspeed. Unlike the more conventional definition, though, his speed only activates when he’s on some sort of vehicle, in conjunction with it. He can see just fine and breathe just fine, all while trying to break the speed of sound with a golf cart. Well, he probably can’t go that fast, but who knows if he’s tried that in a car designed for speed? Personally, I’d like to see what he could do on a horse. I asked him about that once, and he actually revealed to me that what happens is, “Fuck off, bitch.”

Unfortunately, he also appears to be effectively immune to any crashes he’s involved in, and there have been numerous to test that. Roadkill likes to use cars as battering rams. And, as his maneuvering against Junior shows, it’d be a mistake to assume turns are his weakness. That’s another one of those speedster powers that he’s lucked into.

“Mini Cooper over here. No keys,” someone chimed in.

“Don’t need ’em,” Roadkill said, “Just tell me where ‘here’ is, dipshit.”

Speed was of the essence. Thanks to Roadkill’s premature acceleration, The Saurus knew this was a trap. With Junior now stuck firmly inside it, though, he knew he had to charge in anyway. He roared, and I swear I could see windows vibrate from an aerial view. “Correction: tell me where it is and keep that emu off me.”

I couldn’t tell from the angles if Saurus saw Roadkill, but he stomped right for the endpoint of the crash.

“I’ve got him!” Powder said, running out into the street with speed borne from superior strength and stamina rather than superspeed. The Saurus waited until they’d closed the distance between each other to skid on his foot claws and turn to the side. With one swipe of his tail, he knocked Powder for a home run.

Roadkill stopped to stare at that when he got out to the main street. “Anybody else want a go?” he asked. For a second, nobody answered. Then, everyone heard a clang, a whine of servos, and a whumping sound like helicoptor rotors starting up. Man-Opener’s gleaming white armor had dropped down onto its chicken walker legs behind The Saurus. His walker stood half the height of The Saurus, so the long arms on the side of the wide, headless body could easily reach the T-rex’s neck with its rotating axe-like blades.

Accompanying him, a pair of miniature helicopters descended. They opened up with their tiny guns and rockets, doing practically nothing to the tyrant lizard king. The Saurus took a moment to throw his dictionary at one of them, missing. Then he continued after the last known location of Junior, crunching a Mini Cooper on the street in the process.

“Roadkill, are you still there, or are you, ya know, Roadkill?” I asked.

He hurried out from behind a mailbox he’d hidden behind. “Momma said there’d be days like this.”

“Your mother said this kind of stuff would happen to you?” I asked.

“Momma did a lot of drugs,” he answered back.

The Saurus didn’t actually do much to confront any of them, even Roadkill. Instead, he smashed his head into the building to find Junior. Once he found the clone, he pulled him free. Then he worried about the approaching villains. Roadkill cranked up a mail truck. Man-Opener stomped forward, blades womping. Terrorjaw circled the fountain, then jumped out. Oligarch hovered on jets of flame under his feet and at the rear of his hips.

“Remember, guys, get him over to the area we set up in the street,” I reminded them. We dug, cut, and blasted away a portion under the street and in the sewers big enough to hold The Saurus. Get him over it, blow it, let him fall into our little canyon, then cover it over enough that he can’t get out. Then it’s just a matter of food and waste management. Or so we were told. If Oligarch’s going to blow the roof off the asylum, then I bet he never intended to merely capture The Saurus.

“The center cannot hold. Things fall apart. We shall improvise, Banshee.” Oligarch raised both arms. Panels opened along the bottoms and tops of the forearms, the shoulders, the thighs, and his calves. On his back, a circular panel pushed itself open. A seemingly endless number of bullet-sized micromissiles fired, trailing lines of smoke that weaved a tapestry in their targeting patterns. They closed in on The Saurus, who tossed Junior a neighborhood away for safety before they tore up the ground under his feet. He fell from lack of proper footing, at which point the micromissiles tore into the supports of the already-weakened buildings surrounding him. It was nowhere near as clean, painless, or deep a burial.

“I am afraid this one must die with our original plan for containment scattered to the winds,” Oligarch said.

I talked to him while shooting emails over to R&D. “Belay that. I’ve got room in a lab. It’ll mean public association, but I think we’re close enough to our goals that we don’t need to worry about that, eh?”

“Are you sure?” Oligarch asked.

I tried to sound as enthusiastic as Technolutionary. “Think of the research! With the right equipment, I could make an entire clone army of these guys to do our bidding…”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Cloning isn’t really that useful yet, especially accounting for aging.

Roadkill whooped at that, and even Terrorjaw got a chuckle out of the idea. “That sounds awesome!” Powder yelled into the comms.

“Powder, you’re alive?” I asked.

“I landed in a pond in Central Park with a bunch of bodies and a truck, if you can believe it.”

“I suppose I can. So, Ollie, what do you say to some dinosaur ranching?”

The trailer hauling the captured dino to one of my lab compounds made quite a scene. I answered Venus’s call before it finished the first ring.

“You traitorous bastard! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you!”

“I made a deal. He wanted one with me because SOMEHOW word got out that I was Banshee. Gee, I wonder if anyone had been spreading that rumor. So I finally agreed to save The Saurus for quote-unquote ‘research purposes’. You should be glad I did. Now, for once, can I get a little trust and respect from one of the alleged ‘good guys’ around here?”

“Are you going to release him to me, at least?” Venus asked, voice chilly.

I narrowed one eye incredulously. “You have a way to get him back to you safe house unnoticed, and the medical equipment to bring him back to 100%? He’s in bad shape right now.”

“I have regenerative nanites from Forcelight’s company. They’re a miracle in a bottle.”

“A miracle for humans. Do they work on dinosaurs?”

She paused for a long time after that, then answered, “I don’t know. I haven’t tried them on Kid Saurus here yet.”

“He’s with you?”

“Yeah, we got to him before any villains could. He’s shaken up and hurt, but I don’t think there’s any permanent damage.”

Damn. Son of a bitch tried to fellate a 200+ MPH semi and the worse they can say is “shaken up.”

“I know that we have doctors and veterinarians. We can do more for The Saurus than you can. You can let the little guy know that. But I have some bad news about Oligarch. He’s close to his endgame, and he’s not going to stop until you’re out of the picture. I have reason to believe he wants you dead. Good news is, I have a way to pull the rug out from under him.”

“How?” she asked, voice losing its angrier edge, but sounding a note of impatience.

“Well,” I told her, “first thing’s first: you’re going to have to die.”



Local Politics 11



When your superhero nemesis thinks you’re a businesswoman and minor villain of the opposite sex than she knows you to be, and then claims to need your help, you might expect she’d be Johnny on the Spot. Apparently, that’s how things work in your world. In this one, Venus took her sweet time getting around to me. Then again, that probably means my disguise is holding. She tends to give me top priority in our normal encounters, so it’s actually a good thing for her to ignore my womanly charms. My bosomy manners. My hiptastic entreaties, some might say.

I may not be IN lesbians with her, but I wouldn’t mind being lesbians with her. Wink, wink, nudge, nude, say no more, say no more. Actually, not sure there’s much else to say there unless I turn this into an erotic story. Then again, maybe it’d get me more of an audience.

So there I was, bosoms heaving, hair wild and untamed. I glanced at Venus from behind my apron, holding a full bottle of oil in one hand. “How do you like your…eggs?” I asked her.

She squinted. “I’m not hungry. Why did you ask me that way? Nevermind. I’m not staying for breakfast. I wanted to speak with you about what I mentioned the other night. Do you remember?”

I nodded and went back to fixing myself breakfast. A nice, balanced meal of eggs, grits, and country fried steak. My appetite’s been winding down a little bit without quite so much action going on, but I still like to pack it on. I burn a few more calories than most humans due to the cyborg parts, and it’s nice to build up a reserve anyway for the inevitable nanite regeneration. You wanna keep that mass, you better build up an ass.

“First, let me apologize for the delay. The Oligarch has a large group of villains at his beck and call, capturing my colleagues. They haven’t gotten me, not yet. So there’s a crime wave I have to handle without much help. Someone murdered a circus last night. We found six corpses this morning.” She hook her head as if to banish the thought.

I hoped she didn’t notice my snort. Six. They must not have looked in the clown car. I wanted to see how many clowns would fit.

Hey, I said I didn’t have as much action going on. Besides, they barely put up a fight. Ya know, if you call the snake lady trying to bite you a fight. Or something other than “kinda hot.” Too bad the dissection revealed her to be fake. Wish I could have seen the look on the face of whatever cop tried to use the restroom there at the crime scene. Once he looked up, I’m sure he didn’t have any trouble peeing, except stopping.

But enough reminiscing about fond times. “Sounds terrible,” I told Venus, checking on my gravy.

Venus paused a bit and I wondered if it was something I’d said. Then again, I hadn’t said anything that bad. After another couple seconds, I prompted her with, “You were saying you needed my help?”

“I should apologize for that. I shouldn’t frame it like I did. Oligarch, he threw me for a loop. Let’s drop the coercion. This isn’t about what I think I have on you. This is me sincerely asking for help from someone I hope and pray is unaffiliated. Plus turn around and look at me.”

I rolled my eyes, stopped stirring the gravy, and turned the heat down on it. When I did look, I found Venus down on her knees. Hey, maybe it’s not too late to turn this into an x-rated serial after all!

She actually got down and begged me. I mean, she didn’t know she was begging who she thought she was begging, but she was begging me. I took a picture and saved it. That one’s going on a Christmas card. Or into Photoshop.

“Please,” she said. “I’ll need help to stop whatever he’s doing.”

Huh. So it turns out I’m the undoing of The Order after all. Ok, yeah, I agreed. I think I have a weakness for Venus on her knees. Funny, I don’t usually give in when men or women are on their knees asking for stuff. Mercy. A little more time. A chance to make it right. Maybe Venus is just a special case like that. Or maybe it’s because I envisioned killing her and Oligarch off in one fell swoop.

I guess I’d somehow slipped into one of my little “Kill Venus” phases. I never can tell, day to day, what I feel about her. I’ve built her up in my mind, and a part of me knows that. She’s a hero; she’s my hero. But my hero can’t save me. Hell, now that I think about it, I know for a fact my hero fails to save me. Well, maybe the future invasion will go just fine with one fewer hero. Then again, that might also be why she doesn’t save me.

That’s it, I decided I’d go over to Fortune Cookie’s in person to ask her about that one. But first, I had to continue my mummer’s farce.

I turned back to my food, flipping eggs and breaded cube steak over. “Ok, ok…get up. You’re giving me too many ideas. First, no costuming. No being a hero.”


“But I might have safe houses, and few business ventures that could be useful for rearming. Maybe a communication network, unless Oligarch has randomly decided to intercept Double Cross emails.” I smiled to myself. I actually did have people at work building a bunker underneath Double Cross Headquarters, as well as a couple other sites. I’d say that you never know when you’re going to need a bunker that can withstand an alien invasion, but I actually do know. “You’re asking me to risk my life and livelihood. I have a lot of people to think of here. You go out and fight, you risk your life. If I go out and fight, I risk the life of every Double Cross employee, including their families.”

I glanced back at Venus, who now stood, arms crossed. She nodded. “That’s fair. I respect your dedication to your people’s safety. That’s not something I normally have to take into account with allies.”

I shrugged. “The mask isn’t my identity like it is with y’all. I wore it to get what I wanted.” I stopped, catching my tone. For a moment, I realized I sounded a bit like my usual self when talking to her. Not the voice, of course, but a certain condescension. I tried to cover it up. “That’s…sorry, I think I let these cook a little long..” I busied myself with the food some more. “I’ll talk to my assistant and arrange for what we talked about. Care for breakfast?”

I heard the terrace door open. “No thanks. I had a biscuit on the way here. There’s lots to be done.”

With her on her way gone, I couldn’t help but sing softly to myself, “You’re a tough little tadpole to love. Naughty lilies and lures; oh I was knocked to the floor. Never tasted as sweet a poison as you have. You’re an urge that can never be cured. You’re a bad little love and I’m yours. So trust me, trust me, darling dear. I’m so sincere; there’s no need to tear. Trust me, trust me, honeydew. Just like I trust you.”

I hummed the same tune when I attended the latest meeting of The Order. We’d graduated from a rundown community center to a hotel conference room. Lucky us! They even provided coffee for our band of nocturnal costumed criminals.

As for me, I scored major points with a few boxes of donuts. Well, except with a couple of villains. A tall, thin woman without a mask, in a barely-there tube top and short shorts said she couldn’t have any because of her diabetes. The razor blades dangling from earrings helped me identify her as Powder. Well, at least she’s not paranoid about “toxins” or “chemicals” being her food. I liked this little vein tattoo she had on the bend of her elbow.

The other guy, Roadkill, had plenty of tattoos of his own. I could only make out the ends of his sleeves under his jacket and the tattoos that climbed his neck. I pictured him as the sort to have them all over his head, too, but that was covered up by a metal mask that didn’t leave a clue about if he even had hair. He was a little husky, though, and his objection wasn’t diabetes so much as dieting. Good for him. Not easy to handle all that temptation in this day and age.

I distributed all but one box, which I kept to myself. Oh, come on, like that’s anywhere near the most evil thing I or anyone in the group had done.

Now, since I don’t like listening to Oligarch, I’ll skip past the boring stuff and just say that he wants to go public soon. According to him, Captain Lightning hasn’t been checking in as much lately. He’s had stuff to juggle in Syria. Oligarch wants The Saurus next, which is difficult because of how big the T-rex is. After that, he insisted Venus needs to go and we’ll be all set. The broad strokes are ready.

Two major heroes left to beat and imprison, and he wants to make a big announcement and declare the city his. I’m sorry, declare the city ours. I’m sure that little bit was just a Freudian slip.

Yeah, like I said, I had a whole lot of good reasons to barge in on Fortune Cookie, who had a nice little apartment above some New Age crystal shop. Fitting, I suppose. I knocked on the door for a solid twenty seconds with no answer. Maybe she wanted her privacy. Too bad for her, I climbed up the fire escape and crashed in through the kitchen window. She moved her bowl and kept on munching on cereal as I stood on the table and shouted. “Ta daaaaa!”

Fortune put down her spoon long enough to give me a polite golf clap. “Very good, Gecko.”

“Were you watching? Not easy to go through a window without getting hurt.”

“Very nice flip, Gecko.”

“Awww, you didn’t watch at all.” I hopped down and pulled out a chair, brushing off the glass. Sharp glass on a chair is a real pain in my ass. “Now, I haven’t been all up in your face this whole time. I know you don’t like me, what I do, how I do things, my body count, my company, and the people I’m working with. That’s obviously a bit of a barrier between us. But things are happening again. I need a bit of guidance, specifically about Venus. There are events happening, and I have to know the answer…does Venus die before the invasion? Or during it? Or, when I die, if I still die, is she alive?

Holy shit, now that I actually phrased it, I think I understand why Fortune Cookie’s clairvoyance powers are so complicated. Because, if I did things right, I no longer die. Or if I’m doing things right. And the answer to the question I’m asking Fortune depends entirely on the answer she gives.

Fortune put down her spoon and sighed. “There are so many reasons I can’t answer that.” She rubbed her forehead. “You are altering the future because you already know part of it. When everyone else acts, they act according to how they would have always acted. I can see them easily. Even you. Knowing the future upsets that. If I give you one answer, the future turns one way. If I give you another, it turns another. I can’t answer that question for you. I want to help you, but it’s hard to do that with you interfering.”

I picked up a piece of glass and tapped it around on the table. “Well that’s great. Everything I’m doing to keep that future from happening means I can’t keep tabs on it to find out how it’s going. I appreciate what you’ve tried to do, but is there actually anything else you can help me with?” After a second, I dropped the glass, trying to avoid any implied threats.

“Act like yourself, like you normally do. I will see clearly. But aside from that, there are still things I can tell you from time to time.” Fortune actually put her hand over mine.

“Broad strokes, then? Things I can know that won’t necessarily change?” I shook her hand off. “And you don’t have to worry about this false sympathy. What do you have for me?”

“I keep seeing an old insane asylum being blown up on Friday the 13th. Does this sound important?” She narrowed her eyes. Why do they call them almond eyes, anyway? It’s just nuts. Then again, terms like chocolate, mocha, coffee, and cocoa often get thrown around when describing non-Caucasians, so maybe it just goes back to the odd intersection of food and sex that some people have. Like sticking a cucumber inside an orifice somewhere. Yet another thing I don’t get about humans. I invented the dimensional bomb, but you sick sons of bitches invented analingus.

“When you say explode, do you mean a little bit, like survivable, or is this-?” I started, but she interrupted me.

“It’s big. Very big. Hard to survive.”

Great, so it looks like I have to save some damn heroes. Fortune Cookie is really right about me not acting like me. But it’d still help me to get those prisoners out of there. Speaking of analingus, what do you want to bet this asshole’s going to get a tongue-lashing?