“I’m thinking of doing a Secret Santa for the town,” Medusa told me over breakfast one morning. For my part, I was still in brainless zombie mode from being awakened in the AM. She kicked me out of bed. Me prime, I’ll point out. She’s still not ok sleeping with both of me. So when her pretty foot sent me tumbling off the side of the bed, a groan from me let her know I was awake. And she told me, “Get up. I’ll make us breakfast.”
By the time I shuffled down the hallway, she’d already started in on the cooking. I sat down at the little table we had in the guest house and set my glasses on the edge. I don’t have eyes of my own yet. I didn’t become more awake until she set a couple plates of food down and I saw she’d made the non-puffy scrambled eggs. And as I tasted them, I found she’d also overdone the pepper. And that’s where we were when the Secret Santa thing came up.
“Getting to know people?” I asked in as complete a thought as I could muster at the time. Don’t let the complete vocabulary I use now fool you, dear reader; at the time this was happening, the Hulk could have beaten me in a speech writing contest. I finally wrangled some hair out of my face and put my glasses on.
“Making people be nice,” she said with far too friendly of a wink at me.
I grabbed a fork and speared some egg, then tried to gesture toward her. “Too perky.” The egg fell off. I pointed down at it. “Not perky ‘nough.”
“What do you have against the holidays?” she asked.
I didn’t bother to answer until I got some food in me. Too much pepper, not enough salt. “Because ever since I saved Christmas, weird holiday spirits plague me this time of year. I’m almost afraid to find out what Hanukkah and Kwanzaa want to do to me, and I think the Muslims have something going on, too.” I waved a hand. “Lots of stuff can come get me now.”
“You’re going to let that stop you?” Medusa asked. “My bold villain’s scared of a few snowballs and giving presents. Maybe I should take it easy on you and make you find something nice to do for the town.” She got a thoughtful look on her face as she ate her eggs. “Maybe that’s what I should do. We need to get this place ready for more people. It’s a good segue to what I want to do next year.”
I raised an eyebrow, then hobbled over to the refrigerator for some orange juice. I held some up for her, but she shook her head. “Frozen coffee.” I checked back in there, saw her bottle of Starbucks stuff, and brought it over to her when I came back to my seat. She continued, “I know how to handle the people I’ve been fighting so far, but we need to do a lot more next year. We need to repair the Earth itself. I don’t know where to start. We need to do more than plant trees. We have to suck up incredible amounts of pollution.”
I set my chin on one hand in order to keep my head from hitting the table, my mind still a bit fuzzy. Thinking about sucking pollution up gave me an idea though. Once I finished realizing a thing that sucks al the air through it would cause major weather disruptions if it worked well enough to fix stuff quickly, I realized I needed to take a different tack.
Medusa noticed my vacant expression, probably because of my mouth hanging open, and slipped some egg into my mouth. I paused, before chewing and eating it. “Gross, ya know.”
“Gross? What, eating after me?” she asked, having a little laugh. “Think about where you put your tongue last night.”
“It’s not the same still,” I said, trying not to think about how gross the human body is. Even the sexy ones.
After a few seconds of eating, she told me, “Anyway, I remembered you need to fix your house. Don’t worry about the rest of the town. The insurance person came by and won’t accept that getting shot up by a helicopter with an anti-tank gun is normal crime. Did you know they don’t cover acts of war?”
I pretended to slam my fork down on the plate. “Insurance won’t cover that? This means war!” I stood up, pretending I was going to walk off. Medusa, perhaps because I very likely might go fight an insurance company, stood up as well.
“Easy there. You still need your health checkup after going to space. I know someone who can help,” I said.
“Eh, I don’t know. I’ve had a look with the nanites. If Max and I put our heads together, we’ll sort it all out,” I said.
“Hush. You’re going to go to a doctor,” she said. “I’ll get it set up today and let you know when.”
As it happens, my medical needs and my holiday misgivings would both come to the forefront rather quickly. It happened shortly after I stopped by the little house Medusa got for me and Qiang. The chopper had done a number on it, but I had kept the basement closed up and heated for my machines to do their thing. Soon, I had an army of nanomachines ready and willing to do my bidding. And do they did. With the insurance seen to and the cops having pulled up their tape, nothing stood in my way any more.
I raised my hands to the sky, then remembered the lumber I was carrying. I set it down, then raised the empty hands. “Come, my minions. Your work is not yet done!”
One problem with really small stuff is the effect extreme temperatures can have on them. With nanites, the most noticeable issue involves excessive heat. Cold isn’t’ always the best, either, so it was slower going to use them to repair the house. Commanding an army of robots to fix and clean my house may seem like a petty use of my powers and resources, but it’s really not that big a leap for a world that uses the Roomba. Besides, one of the most important thing about power is using it for the petty stuff. That’s why so many people with diplomatic immunity are constantly getting parking and speeding tickets.
With that out of the way, I thought I might go see what licenses I needed to build more around the town. I don’t know what sort of shop I’d settle on, but I still need a front for my ongoing criminal enterprises.
I was just about to go when I felt all woozy. And itchy. And things hurt. It felt like my body was squirming around. I collapsed when part of my foot moved without caring about the tendons and muscles there. I felt pulled in all directions at once as something happened to me, leaving me a coughing, bleating mess on the ground in front of my property. The nanites swarmed toward me, responding to an emergency message, but found themselves in error, not sure what to do.
After a moment, I couldn’t even communicate with them anymore. Then, in the midst of a feeling like my skull was pulling apart, I blacked out.
It’s a misconception that it’s easy to knock someone out by pain alone. That’s tough. You can knock someone out by hitting them, but that tends to risk brain injury. Sedating people also carries that risk, and others, which is why anesthesiologists are so important to the process of cutting people up to help them live.
So I knew some major shit had gone down when I woke up and found myself moving toward a bright light. Then I saw an old man with a wise, wrinkled face and long, white hair come into view and look down at me. He opened his mouth and said, “Move the light back, you’ll blind the thing. You sure you don’t want a super vet instead?”
Medusa was there. “I’m sure. She’s human… mostly.”
I tried blinking away the glare of the light, but realized I was blinking. No glasses on, but I could see. And I had a really big nose in my view, tipped with black but brown along the way.
“Easy, Gecko. How do you feel?” asked the older man, who I could see now was in a white coat and turtleneck sweater.
The pain was pretty much gone. “Hot and itchy.” It smelled terrible in there, and I felt like my pants were full more than they should have been. “Did I shit myself?” Probably ruined my stash of delicious chocolate pudding I usually keep back there. “Why is my nose so big?” I raised a hand to touch my nose and stopped. My hand was… something, that’s for sure. The fingernails were much bigger and a thick brown color. Aside from that, they mostly looked human still, if you ignored the brown fur and occasional bits of white spots. I pressed my hand to my nose and felt along my face, which had been stretched forward a bit.
Unusually, I felt a desire to get the fuck out of there, my ears flicking around to try and help me listen out for a safe space. That’s when I realized my ears don’t flick and move around. After a moment of animalistic freak-out, I lowered myself back down to the able. “Drugs.”
“Is that what did this?” asked the doctor.
“I don’t know if it did, but I’m pretty sure I need some right now. I don’t like to rely on them, but when I think I’m growing fur and a muzzle, I’m pretty sure the problem at some point is drugs,” I said.
“We don’t know. Her neighbor found her in front of her house. They called the cops, who called animal control, who found her fake ID on her and turfed her back to the deputies. I heard about it by then and showed up, then figured out it was Gecko,” Medusa explained.
“Doctor,” said a woman. “You should see this. It’s another one.” I noticed her eyes flick toward me. The doctor left me alone with Medusa for a few minutes to go see to what sounds like another case of whatever’s going on.
A blinking noise alerted Medusa to something, she picked up her phone. Then I heard the voice coming from it. “Ladies, non-binaries, and gentlemen, I am here to save your world. Those in Canada and the United States are just beginning to see my plan come to fruition. Look upon them and see your future, for the rest of the polluters in the First World are soon to follow. For with my brilliance, I devised a way to put an end to your ways by transforming half of mankind into… animals!”
“How’s that supposed to stop climate change?” Medusa asked.
“You’re probably asking yourselves, ‘who is this genius? What do they want?’ the voice on the phone continued, completely misjudging our reactions. “I am Verdant. And with so many of the wealthy, the powerful, the elite, and the bloodthirsty now reduced to man-animal hyrbids, you have me to thank for saving Gaia.”
“It’s kind of brilliant,” Medusa said. She looked at me. I hope I was glaring, but I don’t even know what I am right now. “Sorry. We’ll stop him, but I think this might raise awareness. I wonder how many assholes in the oil companies are becoming the animals they wrote off as acceptable losses.”
She kissed my cheek. “Don’t worry, dear.” The winked at that, then took a picture and showed me.
Son of a… “At least your boyfriend that time got to have claws as a sloth. And Psychsaur is part lizard. How the hell am I supposed to be threatening as a deer?!”
She cooed and scritched my ears and the fluff that my hair turned into. “Don’t worry about it. You just be a pretty little deer and let me hunt down the bad guys this time, ok?”
I snorted, unamused.