Tag Archives: Psycho Gecko

Love And Villainy 8

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It… it… the, it… flames, flames on the sides of my face, breathing… breathless… heaving breaths…

It’s been difficult to talk and think since the big revelation the other day. My girlfriend ran off with the Pink Justice Ranger because the Pink Ranger was the chief suspect in my attempted murder. And Medusa wanted to find out more about my past from her, because the murder suspect was my ex. The same ex who had once been a devoted follower of mine in our home dimension until she learned I was going to destroy the world. She kicked my ass and left me laying against the Dimension Bomb in the middle of a force field that had its polarity reversed to hold the explosion inside it.

It’s how I got to this dimension, but it’s safe to say it left me with a bit of residual bad feeling. So much so that when I found out about it all, I disappeared and left. I didn’t run. I just couldn’t deal with it then. I know it’s ridiculous. I guess the whole scenario just left me with some unresolved issues. You know, because that’s the first time anything did.

So I got out of there and left a message for Venus before going silent. She and pretty much anyone else would have trouble contacting me, but I still let her know that she should still determine if Alyss did it. If she did, I want some form of justice for the attempt on my life. What I should want as a dictator is her life, actually. It’s what I aspire to as a person, actually. My mind started to go to excuses to let her go, but… why?

I took a bit of time to myself to get sorted out. Just me, a bottle of seashine, and the medication I take for my brain. I awoke the next day feeling like I’d deepthroated Godzilla. And on the island of Martinique. It took me awhile to figure out, because the language of the people around me seemed less familiar than usual before I realized they were speaking French. I was still wearing my power armor, and nobody had filled the pants with chocolate pudding this time. The health and recycling system of the armor would have gotten rid of any of that.

I checked my surroundings and found them mostly covered in sand. Indeed, I was almost completely covered up in sand. Some gifted sand sculptors had decided to use me as the base for a sphinx and pyramid complex. I stole a picture off someone’s phone. As bad as my head felt, I could still appreciate the work to do that. The artistry and skill, all that crap.

It shocked them when music started playing from my armor. Though somewhat muted by the sand, Iron Maiden began to serenade onlookers with their ballad “Powerslave” before I burst out of the sphinx. I gave a polite golf clap before heading out into the water to wash any clinging mud or sand off me.

I found my Psycho Flyer and a couple of soldiers hanging out at the airstrip. They directed me to a nearby bar for the rest of my bodyguards and the pilot. They’d just gotten their drinks when I pushed the door in. They took one look at me and the guard closest to the pilot stole his mug away. “Get it to go, boys,” I ordered.

I didn’t check my messages until I was in the air. I had a few texts from Medusa about calling her and talking and them not being that bad. Then I had checked the voicemail message, which was the latest and came early this morning. It wasn’t Medusa’s voice that greeted me. “Hello Gecko. This is Alyss. Medusa thinks we should talk. She thinks you changed, that you care now. That you have a real love for others in your heart. I remember how tempting you can be, poor, damaged thing. She’s so trusting, she doesn’t realize we can hold her as an accomplice to your continued freedom on our Earth. She thinks it’s a fun trip. Meet me at the portal on your side, alone. If you surrender to me, I will show her leniency.”

So there I was. Medusa, my longtime nemesis, stood up for me. Investigated my attempted murder. She’s had a huge change of heart about me, and thinks I’ve had a similar one. So foolish and naive and trusting. Why?! She should know better. All I really have to do to get rid of one of the few people on this world who can actually stand up to me is nothing. I can just let her go over there and be imprisoned or killed by people who see me as nothing but a genocidal madwoman. All I have to do is stay away. I mean, Medusa’s obviously planning something. She can’t really care about me that way. She’ll turn on me. And the alternative is surrendering.

I didn’t mention that message at all when I gave the pilot his sobriety test and then directions. I thought about what Alyss had to say as we flew. A poor, damaged thing. I’ve used my past as a hell of an excuse. There’s no disputing that I was wronged. And when I was cut loose, betrayed, I turned on them. They killed my humanity to give me a set of skills that I turned on them. I had been a killer for their order, then an agent of chaos who killed to tear it down. Always a monster. Always selfish.

They knew it too. Probably made it pretty damn hard to figure out then when I hopped out of the Flyer and stepped toward the barricaded portal in Canada. The staff went from gawking at the Psycho Flyer and watching it speed off to taking cover at my approach. They knew who I was, and from the way Alyss stepped forward in her costume, they had been warned shit was to go down.

“You’re here,” she said, twirling her Ranger energy blaster around in her hand.

“Wouldn’t be the first time you got me to come,” I said. “Just you out here waiting for me?”

She nodded. “Just you and I.”

“It was you who tried to knife me on that other world,” I said.

“I didn’t know about that fucked thing you did to that other woman, and who could predict you would stop the destruction of a world?” she commented. “Medusa made it sound like the most normal thing. You’re a selfish bitch that’s there when it counts. I thought I knew better, but you’re here. Or are you just here to kill me? The team isn’t here. It’s the perfect time for revenge if you want to sacrifice Medusa.” She held her hands out to either side, daring me to take a shot.

I stopped and looked at her. I’d been the devil in enough deals to see one. I could kill her easily enough. She hurt me. Not just physically, but bad enough I’ve had nightmares about the time someone I cared for turned on me and left me in a situation meant to kill me. And it’d be so easy to use it as an excuse for letting them win. Couldn’t help myself. Had to kill her, but at least I got revenge for Medusa, ha!

I pointed to the portal. “She through there?”

Alyss nodded. “Leave your armor here and go through. Medusa goes free and we bring you to justice.”

I snorted. “You wouldn’t know the first thing about justice, no more than you really know me. You were wrong about me then. You’re wrong about me now.” Big words, but they didn’t make it any easier when the armor snapped open and I stepped out. Ya know, I suspect that traitorous piece of dickcheese played a part in my paranoia about relationships, but I didn’t come here for her. I didn’t even come here for Medusa, not really.

I came here for me. I didn’t want to be a puppet, and I didn’t want to let those fuckers who turned me into a killer have a say in every action for the rest of my damn life. I wasn’t going to let this woman do that to me either.

The armor closed behind me as I walked toward the portal that led, if the past was any indication, to the old memorial in honor of my defeat. They’d left sensors intact there in case I ever showed up again the first time. After that, they left entrenched guards.

This time, they had a group of shocked-looking Justice Rangers in civvies standing around while Medusa ran up and hugged me. “What the fuck?” they asked.

“The fuck?” I asked.

“You’re so getting fucked,” Medusa whispered to me before kissing me and turning back to the Justice Rangers. “Told you.” Turning back to me, she looked down. “Let’s get you covered up, ok?”

She pulled me away from the portal, which glowed as Alyss stepped out of it and asked, “What the fuck?”

Finally, another appropriate reaction. I stopped going with Medusa. “This was a test?”

She beamed at me. “I’m sorry, yes.” She kissed me on the cheek this time. “I knew you were better than they thought.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t think it was the least bit risky to put me in such a risky position around people who really could have betrayed you and used this to catch me?” I looked over at Alyss as she walked over to join her team. “And you bunch. You’re supposed to be the defenders of your world. Everything’s safe, no problems need solving, so you can spend all your time on my Earth, bothering me, looking for a chance to kill me or play games with people’s lives?”

“Like you care,” said Blue.

“Lose that costume and let me take you into my custody, right now,” I said cocking my head toward the portal. He didn’t, just standing there. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re more than willing to see me as the monster every time, but someone had to fight for our people and show the humans they couldn’t do that to us. I know how many bodies your shining utopia used for a foundation. You were thankful I made them at the time. If you’re going to encourage monsters, don’t be surprised when they turn out to be monsters.”

“You feel better?” Alyss asked, arms crossed and gun holstered once more.

“I’ll feel better if you never set foot on my world again,” I told her. “None of you, or Ricca will consider it an official act of war.”

“Babe, isn’t that a bit much?” asked Medusa, looking up at me. “I wasn’t in any real danger.”

I admit, I was a bit mad at her. Making a game of it like that seemed mean. I knew I had done much worse, and used that to temper my anger toward her. “As much as I’d like to beat some people up, maybe even kill them, I’m taking the high road right now, hon. I’m showing how more evolved I am. As the superior being, it is my right.” Then I grabbed her, threw her over my shoulder, beat my chest while hooting, and ran off naked with my girlfriend through a portal to another dimension.

As highly-evolved beings do.

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Love And Villainy 7

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I’m pretty sure about half the words these Justice Rangers used while fiddling with some of our equipment was made up. The Blue Justice Ranger did most of the actual sciencing, along with the help of some voice talking to him through his helmet. It got through despite the Institute of Science’s hardening to outside signals. I tried to listen in, but it didn’t really work right. I tapped into the feed and there was a freaky power surge that stumbled me. I sniffed around a bit where I was in the lab while one of the assistants nearby reached for me. “Empress?”

I waved him away. “It’s ok. What smells like plants in here?”

He looked around. “Nothing. This is the time travel lab.”

I looked around at the room made of brilliant white tiles with glowing lines running in the cracks between each one. “I don’t remember a time travel lab.”

The assistant bowed. “Allow me to explain. You traveled here from the past, and when you leave, it will be the future.”

Another man stomped up and grabbed the assistant’s elbow. “I told you to stop saying that! I’m sorry, Empress, Brad here thinks it’s funny to pretend the doorway is a time machine.”

“Ah,” I said, eyeing the equipment here. “What do you do here then?”

The second guy pointed to a part where one of the tiles had been pulled out of the wall to reveal a drawer full of dirt someone else was checking through. “This is an ag lab. My project is cultivation of domesticated truffle species that don’t require trees. Brad here is helping with blight-resistant strains. It’s not flashy, but it needs doing.” He gave a little nod at that.

“Huh… fancy room for growing stuff,” I said, pointing to the cracks next to me where lights raced towards intersections.

Brad laughed. “That’s because the group who had this room before us were testing whether or not futuristic room design improved production and creativity in scientists. Doctor Creeper was pissed when he found out. It is pretty cool though. Makes me feel happy to come in and do the drudge work.”

“Yeah, makes my job feel cooler,” his truffle-loving companion said. “Anyway, is there something we can help you with, Empress?”

I shook my head. “No, was just wandering while I worked on something in my head. Got a bit of a headache there. I hope the results are good here. I’ve got plans to create our own centralized food complex to strengthen our food security, and I’m interested in anything we can do. Truffles could be a good revenue stream.” Especially if something were to happen to the world’s truffle supply, leaving me the biggest supplier of mass-produced mycelia around. I’ll save that idea for if the things actually work out, or maybe I’ll farm it out. Some of the schemes I come up with seem a little beneath me now, like I’m supposed to focus on world domination and stuff.

I was met at the door to the Rangers’ work space by an excitable Green Ranger. He seemed to be the awkward and jumpy one of the group. I’ve found certain archetypes appear again and again in Justice Ranger teams, and that sometimes involves a quirky one. “Good, there you are. Ranger Blue says we need a laser, a big one, the biggest you have. Do you have a giant laser?”

I put my head back and let out a dark, bellowing, “Mwahahahahahahaha!” Then I looked back at him. “Yeah, sure, let me show you. What kind of supervillain with my own lab would I be without a giant laser.”

Creeper butted in before we took more than a couple steps. I stopped and answered, catching his video call on my inner eye HUD. “Gecko! We have a hit!”

“Did we sink their patrol boat?” I asked.

He paused a moment, then scrolled on something with a mouse and typed a few characters. “We established a sort of crime-puter to monitor superhero and supervillain activity around the world via social media, law enforcement, and the news. We just received an alert that identified Medusa’s involvement in a crime. She had the Pink Ranger with her.”

“Yes!” I said.

“What?” asked the Green Ranger. “Why’d we stop?”

“My guys spotted Venus. No need to do all the bio force-whatever y’all are playing around with in there,” I informed him, pointing back at the lab he had come from.

He held a fist up in front of him triumphantly, then deflated a moment. “This means I won’t get to see the giant laser, doesn’t it?”

“Maybe another time,” I told him. “First, we hunt down our missing comrades. I’ll save the giant laser for when we have your pink friend in our grasp.” I started to walk away, grinning.

“Yeah!” the Green Ranger excitedly agreed. “…wait, what?”

The Justice Rangers weren’t happy that I had the Psycho Flyer loaded and ready to go without waiting for them. I read it in their body language, as they still haven’t taken their helmets off around me. It was just something about the anger and defiance in Red’s body language. They could probably tell I was smiling despite my helmet, too. “Finally. I thought we were going to have to leave without you.”

“Good thing we caught this flight. We wouldn’t want to be here without you,” Red said. Ya know, I think he meant that last part as a threat.

“Buckle up then, buttercup. We’re on our way to New Mexico.”

“What’s in New Mexico?” he asked me. The Rangers looked around and found some seats alongside my Dragon soldiers.

“New Mexicans,” I said by way of answer. “And a smoking crater that used to be some kind of detention facility nobody knew about. Lotta people swear they didn’t know it was there and that the state and the federal government both had nothing to do with it. It got blown up by a woman in power armor and another in pink spandex.”

“It’s. Not. Spandex,” growled the Blue Ranger. Ooh, testy.

It was a long flight, made worse by the hostile groups. I mean, it got old only playing against the Green Ranger. There’s only so long you can fight the same person in Smash Brothers before it gets boring, no matter how many times you beat them by growing a tree underneath them. What eventually drew the interest of the other Rangers enough to comment was the revelation we were playing Metal Gear Solid co-op.

“No you’re not,” Red said. “You’re taking turns.”

“He’s pretty good at some of the stealth. Lots of patience,” I said of the Green Ranger, while I was busy with the controller.

“Yeah,” Green said, turning and pointing to the screen. “And she’s sniping without using the diazepam.”

“You can’t play videogames with the enemy!” Blue said.

“He sure as shit can’t play them with the rest of y’a,” I said. I handed the controller back to Green. “There, everyone’s dead. I’m hitting up the bathroom before we land, get rid of at least one piece of shit on this aircraft.”

It’s safe to say tensions were high. The Flyer went in cloaked to avoid adding any more. There were federal agents watching over the scene. It took long enough to get there that we all had the official story. It was a militia camp of unusual size. They figure they’d been playing with something they shouldn’t have, like too much Tannerite. Unless they made an entire building out of the binary explosive, that doesn’t explain the size of the crater.

Video didn’t do it justice. Being there ourselves, we got a better sense not only of the size of the blast, but also of something else not being reported on. There was a trail leading away from the place. The explosion obscured its start at the site, but we caught a glimpse of brush and dirt that had been disturbed by a lot of folks walking in a line and decided to follow it.

It got a little harder to follow when we figured they spread out. They left a wider impression on the environment, but less of it showed because of how few had tread over the same spots. The journey they took avoided the closest town, to the east, instead heading further northwest on a journey punctuated by the occasional abandoned plastic jug.

Finally, we came to Six Shooter, New Mexico. We hovered over it, as many of myself and the Rangers packed into the cockpit as possible, looking for any groups of unusual size or if Medusa was just strolling along. Finally, Yellow pointed to a bar and grill. “I saw her. She’s there!”

I didn’t, but I quickly turned and tried to push past the Ranger team. They weren’t standing still either. They all ran, slid, and flipped past my soldiers to reach the drop hole before me. I cussed under my breath and activated my armor’s cloaking before jumping down. I landed in the middle of an intersection just in time to take a minivan to the face. It took me a minute to peel myself out of the engine block and sneak off, which was more time the Rangers had to move in on my Medusa without me there.

I brushed myself off and snuck off, leaving the befuddled driver and passengers to figure out what unseen thing they hit. I didn’t have the suit disguise me as a two-armed version of myself in regular clothes until I reached the sidewalk. That side had this porch area of the bar and grill that people were eating on. I didn’t see them around anywhere, but it was a busy place, full of New Mexicans and Tex-Mex. A gaggle of waiters appeared in front of me as if summoned by a malevolent force to keep me from my goal. Their rendition of Happy Birthday did nothing to dissuade me of this notion.

Before I could sidestep them, my voice picked out my name from off to the side. “Gecko?”

I turned and saw Medusa, out of costume and armor. She was smiling, glasses hanging over her face. “V-Medusa,” I said, rushing over to hug her. “What happened? Did they hurt you? Did you hurt them? Was there blood?”

She giggled. “Calm down. I’m fine. The militia was a bunch of pushovers.” She tried to run her fingers through my hair, then realized why I felt so weird. The armor. “Really, I’m ok. I came to deal with a problem a friend told me about and I brought Ranger Pink along. I figured I would measure her up and see if she was your killer. Even better, I thought I would pick her brain about your past with her.”

“What?” I asked.

The birthday singers parted and Medusa pointed. At the table they’d been singing at sat a group of old ladies, one of them wearing a big novelty sombrero. “Uh, Medusa, I don’t know what she told you, but…”

“No, there,” Medusa said. I followed her finger more closely and saw a booth against the wall past the birthday table. There stood four people who looked mostly normal except for shirts of bright red, blue, green, and yellow. And at the table sat… fuck… my ex. The one who turned on me when I tried to destroy the world. In a pink shirt. Because she was the Pink Justice Ranger.

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Love And Villainy 6

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Geez, it’s hot. Someone ought to turn out that sun for a bit. I took my daughter and the superkids to an amusement park and I actually began to miss being frozen in ice. My suit isn’t quite as good at regulating away heat as it is protecting me from the cold. That’s something I ought to work on and leaves me visible to thermal imaging.

Conventional cameras caught enough of a view of myself and all those kids, though. They didn’t make a huge deal about it in California, but I guess dreary, muggy Kingscrow really doesn’t like to see people enjoying themselves. I spotted vigilantes watching us. It worried the kids, too. In the end, they didn’t find a good time to come after us. Even messing with a ride was too likely to cause serious injury, but it still brought down the childrens’ mood.

Escape was as simple as a pair of Psycho Flyers dropping smoke grenades around us and loading us all up. Almost all of us. I had to stop and give Psychsaur a hug goodbye. “Good luck with whatever you do from now on,” I told her.

“Try to be good,” she told me. I think she actually meant it.

“Aww,” I said, then reached out and snatched a bola out of the air. I tossed it back through the smoke at where it’d been thrown and saw a shape skid on the ground. “Why be good when I can be great? You just let me know if you need a hand.”

She patted me on the helmet. “I wish you were this giving to people who weren’t your friends.”

I shrugged. “I tried, but they didn’t want me as their leader.”

“You’re not mine either,” she noted, then stepped back, just before a boomerang would have smacked into her. She raised a hand and the boomerang reversed course back to where it came from. Someone outside the smoke yelled. “I guess you better go.”

“I’ll be back!” I declared, throwing a fist up. “You haven’t seen the last of me!” I turned and jumped into the back of the waiting Psycho Flyer. The loading bay closed up behind me as we raised up and began to make a break for the Pacific.

The trip could have been an absolute nightmare. A dozen kids on a long road trip, but with the power to freeze stuff or create plants? It’s a good thing they were all tuckered out from the trip to the park. They slept a good chunk of the way there and saved me a huge headache.

I can’t have a huge welcoming party every time I come back from somewhere. I’m away too much for that. So instead, I disembarked with Qiang and called up leftover Directors from Housing and Education to see to the kids. I should create a Child Supers program while I’m at it. I need an agency to help care for and train children with superpowers on my island, as well as being able to identify them among the general populace and help aid families who have trouble caring for them. I sent Director Pagan and Dr. Creeper a message about working together to find someone reliable, educated, and caring to help me manage the situation. It wouldn’t do for children of Ricca to be snatched up and sold off to some underground fighting and sex ring right under my nose.

With all that handled as much as it can be for now, it was time to deal with other problems. That meant doing things like reviewing test results on interdimensional vehicles for the expedition back to Uranus. It seems the data I stole from that other universe included some nifty new designs for increasing efficiency and stability in the dimension-breaching process, including a way to build devices that craft the portals to allow sending people through without also sending through a device.

There have also been some rumblings from the Lost Continent of Mu. The people of the Bronze City have learned to accept my ambassador as if he’s one of their own, but they’d really like to see their own sometime. I technically married Citra to forge bonds with Ricca, though she looked like their princess in order to fool the Bronze City and forge a bond with them. I forwarded her the email to see if she might be willing to fool them in between semesters of college. I suppose I could hunt down the original, who was last spotted saving Pennsylvania from a rampaging extradimensional T-Rex with the help of Veloci-Raptor, but she’s probably still pissed at me.

There was also a court case that was an issue. People had been appealing to a higher power, meaning me. Then a vigilante broke the person out and it became a non-issue. Or, more accurately, it created a new issue. Someone caught selling info to foreign powers broken out by a superpowered person. I don’t know if this means a superhero or a supervillain. The way this island works, it’s not so clear. Security and the Military have both been put on alert, especially at the ports.

Finally, there’s Venus. I had plenty of time to work on those other issues because I was waiting for her to get back to me. Because, causing my paranoia no end of worry, she wasn’t on the island anymore. According to Max, she disappeared with the Pink Justice Ranger. They were last seen getting on some sort of pink hovercycle that probably belonged to the Justice Ranger. They always get cool toys like that out of nowhere. I even tried spying on her phone, but she left it behind at the residence.

So it was that I went to sleep one day, just myself cuddled up with my daughter. And the next, I woke up to four people in Ranger tights and helmets. I sat upright and screamed, throwing the nearest object at the one in red. He caught my daughter, at which point I pointed to her. “Bastard, give me back my kid!”

By now, Qiang awoke. She kicked him right in his crotch. It wasn’t a hard shot or else they’d have sparked, but it doesn’t take much of a hit to the balls to get someone’s attention. He dropped her. It was Blue who held up his hands. “Can we calm down please?”

I held a pillow up. “Not when you’re sneaking into my room to catch me sleeping!”

“We wanted to talk,” said the Red Justice Ranger.

I tore the pillow open and pulled out a meat tenderizer. I pointed it at the green one, “Then why’s he got duct tape?”

Qiang and the Rangers all looked at the duct tape the Green Ranger held, and watched as he dropped it. “Misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstand my foot up your ass,” I said, leaping to my feet.

“Let’s talk about this. We’re trying to find our missing teammate,” Blue said.

The door burst in and a smoke grenade rolled in, spewing pink mist. Mix N’Max came in, syringe gun in hand. Sam stood behind him with a water pistol. Holly held a wooden stool like a bat, ready to wing. Qiang hopped onto the bed with me and whirled on the Rangers, knife in hand.

The Green Ranger turned toward them, pulling a piece of tape taut in his hands. Yellow and Blue pulled guns, but Red raised a sword out of nowhere. Almost as an afterthought, a Dudebot stepped out of my closet.

“Seems we have ourselves a Riccan stand-off,” I said.

Red turned between me and Max. “This doesn’t have to go bad.”

“We’re prepared for bad,” Max said. He’s right. Villains are exactly the sort to jump in and make the first move in a stand-off like this. We usually don’t have as much to lose, or just don’t care about collateral damage.

“Believe me, I’d give a lot to see Psycho Gecko die,” Blue said.

Green stumbled. “I’d rather not if it’s all the same. We were supposed to be a force for defense and de-escalation.”

Red looked to Green, then lowered his sword. “Rangers, stand down.”

Green lowered his duct tape and Yellow her gun. Blue looked to Red, “This is our best chance.”

“Technically, your best chance was in the other universe, on Uranus,” I said. “Nice try, but it didn’t take.”

“If it was me, it would have,” Blue bragged.

Red grabbed Blue’s gun out of his hand. “How many people aren’t going to live if you die here today?”

“Kinda surprised you’re even bothering with talk of defense and saving lives the way you bunch spend all your time over here, dealing with our problems.” With the Rangers all off guard, we could have easily gone ahead and attacked them. Part of me ached to do so.

I lowered my tenderizer. “Get the fuck out of my room. Everyone. You want to talk, Red? Give me a minute to get indecent.”

Minutes later, with Qiang running to go change out of her pajamas, I walked into the living room. Sam was playing bartender for Holly while giving the Rangers some side eye. Max lounged on a chair, syringe gun in one hand, flask of glowing green goo in the other.

My armor on and arms crossed, I stood in front of the waiting Rangers. “Talk.”

“Ranger Pink has gone missing,” Red said. “We thought you knew something.”

“But you didn’t think it was me?” I asked.

Red shook his head. “We thought you might have evaded our surveillance when you went missing, but then you appeared in Kingscrow.”

“The Pink Ranger is no more special to me than the rest of y’all as far as I know,” I said. “I don’t like you, but I’m tolerating you for helping us in the past.”

Blue jumped in. “So you don’t know who she is?”

“I suspect she tried to kill me when we were all off fighting a war in another dimension,” I said.

Blue flinched, but Red sat up straighter and said, “What did you do with her?”

Wow. I think I might be right about Pink. “I didn’t do anything. A superhero was investigating the attempted murder. They were last seen together. I know when they left, but not where to. I would think you have some fancy ways to track each other.”

Yellow lowered her head. “That is at our command center. Nowhere on this whole planet has technology sophisticated enough to track the bio-force signature of a morphed Ranger.”

I smiled under my helmet. “Almost nowhere. I bet we have a few handy tricks around here.”

“What do you want?” Red asked. “You want us to help you find her so you can kill her?”

Hmm. Good point. They’d never go for it if I did that, but I really don’t feel like letting my potential murderer go free. “I want you and any other Rangers to leave my island alone forever. Don’t get close. And as for the Pink Ranger… we have courts here. Good folks, I want what ever victim wants. Justice.”

Yes, I got a kick out of saying that last word to the Justice Rangers. No, I didn’t have to change my underwear afterward. Wasn’t even wearing any.

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Love And Villainy 5

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Row, row, row your boat… oh, hello there. It’s me, Psycho Gecko, better known as the Great Empress Ice Pop. With that name, maybe I could get a cameo on She-Ra. I’d fit right in, except for all the cussing, murder, and torture.

I probably seem fairly calm, considering my situation. Being frozen in one spot wasn’t too fun, I’ll admit. Neither is the hunger, or peeing myself. The armor’s helpful like that. I designed it with some similarities to a biological body, including a circulatory system full of nanites. It’s a pretty handy tool that helps me be sure I can break out whenever I want.

That’s a big part of why I’m so calm. I have a lot of options for getting out of here. Here has changed, by the way. With the aid of their captive cryomancer, they managed to cut out a smaller ice block to keep me in and moved us. I think this whole production moves, but they sent myself and the kid to Kingscrow. Been awhile since I’ve been back there. I only have hijackable cameras to go off, but it’s still somehow as gloomy as ever, even in May. There were plenty of automated cars driving around whose systems were easily exploited if I wanted to use them to escape.

At the same time, I’ve been directing Dudebots to follow us. I put them into position around my new resting place: underneath the Museum of Natural And Unnatural History. I’m currently sharing a freezer with what looks like a Neanderthal and a giant clown head on a worm-like body, all of us in our own block. It makes sense to stick us here, since they already have the freezers for this sort of thing. Plus, I looked it up and found Meecer helped endow the place. There’s much less I can do with the security here, as it’s mostly passive defenses and manual security grates. I don’t know if they realized that was a hindrance for me, or if this is just a location they use for their Dark Bazaar business.

Whoever has to deal with this mess is going to have a lot of work on their hands.

Meecer flew in to join me on Friday evening. About time. Didn’t he know I had places to be? I got people back home complaining about some court case, and my guys are still in the middle of working out a mining deal with the people of that Uranus in another universe. Meecer’s kept me from drilling Uranus.

When he came, he came with guards. I should be flattered. The private detective I’ve been dealing with led the way, wearing his pokerface. His Lady Gaga impression contrasted with Colburn’s shark grin. The big guy pulled the teen who froze me along with him. The boy kept his face down, hair covering acne-ridden skin. They at least put him in more clothes this time. Then came a pair of big men in suits. One had a chrome ray gun, the other had a green hand. Only his hand was jade-colored. The dude must be awesome at growing plants.

Finally, after all that fanfare, Erin Meecer joined us. About time. He seemed like a pretty mediocre-looking white guy. Rounded jaw, but not fat. A strong nose like a triangle, but without being over-sized. Blue eyes like a tropical ocean. Short black hair that looked a little wet from the gel used on it. Unlike all but the captive boy, he had left his jacket behind. “Is she alive?” he asked his people.

Colburn nodded. “Thermal scans show she’s putting off a lot of heat.” He licked his lips afterward. Ugh. At least the guy didn’t use words like “moist” and “succulent” to describe me. Then he spoke again. “Mmm, a succulent breeder.”

Ew. Spoke too soon.

“Jeffrey, shut the hell up,” Meecer said. He turned to one of his guards, who handed him something bundled in white cloth. I could feel that something, actually. It was the bobblehead of me. How nice. The one with the signal jammer inside.

I poke up through is phone. “How nice. You brought me a gift.”

He pulled it off his belt and looked at it. “You’re awake?”

“Alive, awake, and a-waiting to get out. Won’t be long now, will it?”

He raised an eyebrow, looking at the chunk of ice I was stuck in. “I intended to take you out of there. You are a special piece to me. Now, I’ll admire you from afar until you’re… ripe.”

“Necrophilia? I hear ya. That way I can’t complain about what a terrible fuck you are.” I responded, then laughed through his phone.

He gritted his jaw. “I meant you would weaken.”

“Good luck,” I said, laughing again, this time through all the phones any of them had.

His face went red and he raised his voice as he addressed me this time, “Stupid whore. You will stay in there. If you’re lucky, I’ll let you out while you’re still strong enough to open your legs for your betters.”

“You misunderstand me, Mr. Meecer. I meant good luck escaping.” I set the laughter on repeat. My gauntlets began to glow. The energy began to melt the water, and turn some to steam. On the ground level of the museum, Dudebots grabbed a guard standing at the main entrance and tore his head off. Three headed inside. A fourth sat at the door and blocked it, which meant I didn’t have to walk that one around. It’s not easy controlling that many bodies directly.

Colburn grabbed the shoulder of the teen cryomancer, fingers digging into the boy. “Freeze her!”

I stopped laughing long enough to give him some advice. “Hey kid. Guess what it means that I can control the signal in their cell phones from here? Guess why the alarms aren’t going off in this museum now?”

The kid looked between me and Colburn, then reached up to his neck. Then he smiled. He grabbed Colburn’s hand and covered it in ice. He pulled away and ran for the door. The closest bodyguard reached for him with his green hand. The boy raised his arms and created a shield of ice in front of them, smacking through the man’s arms. The man put a hand up to stop the boy from pulling the door completely open.

I activated my helmet’s laser. Everyone out there, including the boy and the guard at the door, turned at the crackling. The detective reacted first, diving to the ground. The guard at the door raised his hand. It began to glow. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t stop the beam of coherent light that burned a hole through the ice and the door. He looked at the whole I left, so close to his chest, and realized the teenager was using the opportunity to slip away.

“Forget him, let’s go!” Meecer called. He ducked and headed for the door. His guard there opened it up and fell back on top of Meecer from a punch by a Dudebot. That one stepped in, firing its eye lasers lower down on the block of ice I was in.

The guard with the chrome ray gun raised it and fired. A glowing dart shot out of the end and shot a hole through the chest of the Dudebot. He fired again and again, the Dudebot advancing slowly. He wasn’t hitting anything serious, though he was penetrating the armor. It forced him to back up, ended up against my ice block. Then the man with the green hand raised it and shot some energy blast at the back of the Dudebot’s hips that sheared it in half. It toppled to the ground.

They might have felt safe for a second, until the other two Dudebots stepped in. One raised its boot and brought it down on the chest of the guard with the hand. He moaned as something cracked. Another stomp cracked even more, but he didn’t moan any longer.

The guard with the ray gun took careful aim, but that’s when I shattered the ice bock enough to pull him back against me. I popped the Nasty Surprise and a mini-chainsaw shot out from under one of my arms and through the man’s chest, throwing hot blood all over the place. I tossed the body aside and hopped out of the ice block. I turned to Colburn, as did the remaining two Dudebots. He raised his hands, going completely black. He disappeared into himself, is the best way I can describe it. It’s like he folded up into himself, leaving me alone with Meecer, who was finishing a yell with “…leave me! You’re finished, Black Hole! I’ll make sure of it!”

I and my robot doppelgangers turned to Meecer, who was still pinned underneath a dead bodyguard. Nearby, the private detective crawled behind the neanderthal for safety. I ignored him for the moment, as he seemed smart enough to leave me to my scheme. “You won’t be doing much of anything from now on, Meecer.”

He laughed and held up his hands. “Go ahead and arrest me. The evil Psycho Gecko is nothing but a law dog, isn’t she? Trying to go hero?”

I retracted the Nasty Surprise and walked over. Reaching down, I pulled him to his feet, then got a better grip on his collar and lifted him off the ground. “I’m no hero.”

I grabbed his arms with my spare ones, his legs with one of my Dudebots, and the last Dudebot wrapped its arms around his belly. “What are you doing? Don’t you know who I am?!” Meecer called, trying to kick and flail his way free.

“Yeah,” I said with no small amount of pleasure. “A dead man.” I pulled his arms off. The Dudebot yanked down and tore his legs off. Then the one hugging him pulled down while I still held him by the throat. His head more or less popped off and rolled away, mouth still moving and eyes rolling back.

As one, myself and the robots turned to the detective. He wet himself. “Please,” he whined. “I tried not to have anything to do with it. I didn’t touch the kids.”

The three of us cocked our heads to the side, staring at him silently. Up at the door, the Dudebot on guard held its arms out at the boy who escaped helping the girl he fought before along, a crowd of other children with them. That drone projected an image of the detective. “This man. Did he hurt you?”

The boy just stared, but the girl shook her head. “You could tell he never liked being there, an’ he never did anything with me.”

“Me neither,” said another kid. There was a general murmur of agreement. The Dudebot stepped aside and held the door open.

“Congratulations,” I told him. “The kids put in a good word for you. You’d better make sure they don’t disappear.”

The detective nodded his head enough I thought he might lose the thing. “Yeah, yes, sure. I won’t let you down.”

“I know. You’d let yourself down. About six feet!” I cackled at that one. He crossed himself and ran out of the room past my Dudebots.

I called out to the nearest cell of my agents. We had a couple of guys in Kingscrow. “Empress?”

“I’m going to need a place to lay low for a few days. Things got hot here. Hot, wet, and sticky.” I stepped over the corpses I left as I followed by Dudebots out, the drones each grabbing a half of the downed Dudebot to drag after. By the time we got to the first level, most of the kids had left, but not the girl or the boy.

“Can we come with you?” asked the girl.

I stopped. “Why?”

The boy looked at her. “Because our parents sold us. Some of the other ones, they got here the same way, but we don’t want to go back.”

“There’s a system for kids whose parents did that…” Yeah, and I bet some of those kids were sold by people in that system, too. Child Protective Services isn’t an area where I bribed any officials. “But if you want to come to Ricca while you figure out what to do next in your life, I will let you.”

We picked up an even smaller boy outside who had been waiting around. He ran up to the kids following me as I was calling my local agents back up. “Make that myself and a few children. We have extraction coming.”

I was antsy up until Psychsaur and Qiang arrived. My daughter rushed into my arms for as tight a hug as her armor could let her give. “Don’t do that!” she admonished me.

“What, get caught?” I asked.

She nodded. “I couldn’t hardly sleep!”

I chuckled and patted her on the helmet. “Don’t worry about it. I try to get caught as little as possible. Let’s go home, pumpkin.”

She looked past me to the superpowered kids lounging around. “Did you get me brothers and sisters?”

Psychsaur snorted. I laughed. “No, dear. I have plenty of my own already. I saved them. They wanted to come with us.”

“Kidnapping children?” Psychsaur asked, but the smile showed she didn’t think much of the illegality. Knowing what was going on, she knew I wouldn’t be as bad as them.

I spread my hands. “Hey, all’s fair in love and villainy.”

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Love And Villainy 4

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Psychsaur came along with me to Seattle. I wasn’t going to bring her as there wasn’t any real reason to and she has her own life to live, but she asked about what I’m doing. “Just infiltrating some rich douchecanoe’s party scene of trafficked girls and boys to confirm he’s doing what I think he’s doing, then killing him. No different than your average Catholic Church service.”

What, did Pope Francis think I forgot? A lot of priests should consider themselves lucky I wasn’t Pope long enough to make some decrees.

Psychsaur ignored the jab at the Catholics. “You’re going to take your daughter with you into that situation?”

I thought about it. “I guess I can leave her in the room.”

“Around a bunch of criminals known for trafficking girls, who you’re going to piss off when you kill someone and stuff starts blowing up?” she asked, raising a decent point.

“Right, I need explosives…” My hands went to my waist, where my more integrated design left me without a belt to hang rubber chicken grenades from.

Psychsaur crossed her arms over her chest. “You know what I mean.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine, you have a point. I probably should arrange for a safe house for her.”

“I know people. I’ll go with you,” the heroine said.

I thought it over. Having a known superhero with me has the potential to alert Meecer’s people, but I did just give Psychsaur a hell of a makeover. She didn’t look anything like she used to. As long as she doesn’t throw on a costume, they shouldn’t realize who she is. “As long as you don’t go acting or looking like a hero, we’ll be fine.”

She shrugged. “Deal. I’m getting out anyway.”

“Really?” I asked. “Wow. Just so we’re clear, you’re going to stop being a hero?”

She nodded. “I don’t want to spend my whole life fighting and risking my life. There’s a lot of pressure to make that your calling when you have powers, especially if you don’t look human. I just want a chance to live my own life.”

I smiled. “Good for you. In that case, thanks for helping me with my super business before you hang up the cape and tights for good.”

She smiled. The bathroom door opened as Qiang finished and stepped out. “Ok, I’m ready to go!”

I threw a fist in the air. “Ok, kiddo. Tonight, Seattle. Tomorrow… the world!”

“Really?” Qiang asked.

I motioned her on over toward the door and the car. “Of course not. You’re too young for a whole world. Start with a fish and we’ll see how you do from there.”

Getting to Seattle wasn’t the problem. I just walked into a private airstrip like I owned the place and stole a doctor killer. That’s the nickname of private planes with a tendency to crash when flown by amateur pilots with more money than know-how. Lucky for us, I’m no doctor. If I was, I probably could have diagnosed why Psychsaur was so quick to get out of the plane when we landed and rush to the bathroom.

“Huh. I wonder what her problem is,” I said, looking to Qiang.

My daughter had put her helmet on at some point during the flight. As she unbuckled her seatbelt, she said, “Maybe she doesn’t like flying upside down.”

“Could be,” I said as I slid out of the plane.

Meecer’s people found us that night to invite me to the evil kidnapping rape ring, but in a classy way. You know, with an understated white envelope slid under the door and a beautifully calligraphied invitation with embossing. I held it up for Psychsaur to see. “I have a location.” And an instruction to dress casual.

It turned out to be a movie theater. I looked like anybody else on the street with my armor altering how I appeared to others. Some of those others were just people going to see a movie. I was missing a prime chance to catch the new John Wick alongside these folks. Well, most of these folks. The women with the super-expensive earrings and the guy whose watch I stole weren’t the usual types to go to this theater. I saw them head down a separate wing after an older ticket taker directed them there.

He approached me. “You are a new face. Do you have a ticket?”

“This is something of a premiere for me,” I responded, holding up the invitation. He looked at it brifly, then stepped aside and motioned for me to head down that wing of the theater. It led to a short stairwell down, then a doorway. And from there, a lavish scene of chandeliers, red carpeting, and a waiter stepping up.

“Drink, ma’am?” he asked.

“Not this moment. Perhaps later,” I said.

Two men approached. One was the same private dick from the house, whose name I never caught. The other was a larger man, wider, fatter, but not obese. He had a devious, hungry smile without a matching gleam in his eyes. “There you are… our newest guest.” The private investigator broke off to speak privately to the waiter while the big guy reached a hand out for one of mine. He settled on upper right. “Colburn. Jeffrey Colburn. I will be your host tonight.”

I looked to the investigator, who kept turned away to look at other attendees. I turned back to Colburn. “I thought our ultimate host was Meecer. I thought I’d be meeting him.”

Colburn laughed, like if Santa Claus wanted to take a butcher’s knife to some kids. “He limits his attendance at the Dark Bazaar. He doesn’t like connections. Here, let me show you our attractions.”

It’s disappointing Meecer himself isn’t here for the sake of convenience, but on with the show. The tour started with a particularly noisy area, where a cage surrounded by a clear container held two people. On one side, teen boy in a cage stood in a pair of shorts. He was a skinny one, no real muscle to him, with long, black hair. Facing him was a chunky girl who could have been in middle school, in shorts and a shirt. Both had collars around their necks.

Something yellow flowed out of the girl’s eyes, like little motes that drifted in the air. She began to hover off the floor, then moved her hands toward the boy. The motes shot at him. The boy raised his arms to shield himself and ice blossomed outward from him. Spines stuck into the ice or bounced off it, flowers beginning to bloom off what had come from the girl’s eyes. The girl directed those seeds or pollen or whatever they were down to the floor where they began to grow together into a quartet of thick vines with snapping flower mouths on the ends. They rose above the lip of the boy’s ice wall. He created small shields in the air to stop their bites, then held his hands out. Ice formed in the air in front of him and kept spreading over the rest of the enclosed area, trapping the vines. It almost reached the girl when a light flashed above the arena and the ice stopped moving and the girl fell to the floor. Both combatants appeared fine, but it seemed the boy was much stronger.

“Disappointing fight, but he’s so powerful that it’s hardly fair,” Colburn said. “We normally fight even after they bleed, but he can freeze anyone. I’d like to break him of the habit with a death match, but he’s premium breeding stock.”

“And the girl?” I asked, watching as both combatants were dragged out by guards in riot gear with batons and tasers.

“She’s too young for breeding, but pleasure is another matter. I advise giving her room to grow,” the ringleader of the night’s events informed me.

“I don’t think this was all made clear to me,” I said. “What’s all this about breeding?”

The man led me away, putting his hand over my shoulder in an overly-familiar way. He looked puzzled for a moment as he touched the armor, then continued his imitation of a shark’s grin. “An impressive villain like yourself must know the value of superpowers. Magic, cybernetics, random mutation, natural training, unnatural physiology, mad science; the ways to obtain such power are legion and unreliable. Prominent families agree that the best way to insure superpowers in your legacy is the result of proper breeding.” He led me to a hallway next to a bar area.

I looked around but I couldn’t see that investigator anymore. Maybe he’d ducked out, if he was smart enough, if he had me figured out. I doubt it, which meant he probably thought I was like all of these things.

Colburn jostled my shoulder. “Penny for your thoughts? You’re more quiet than I was led to expect.”

I motioned to the whole place. “Oh, just wondering how I could possibly have gotten so far without having heard of this place.”

Colburn’s fingers came together, tip to tip in an apologetic gesture. “One does not obtain an invitation by threatening to blow up the world. As I said, this is about the importance of good breeding in families of leisure.”

“Do you have much of a selection?” I asked, wondering how I was going to shut all this down. Destroying it was one thing; rescuing kids was another.

“We have hundreds of fit stock for you to peruse,” he said, snapping his fingers in the direction of a waiter. The waiter brought over what appeared to be a menu at first. Instead of a wine selection, there were lists of features: sex, ethnicity, skin color, hair type, body type, powers.

I turned and went to put a fist through his chest and pull out his lungs. Colburn, suit and all, turned black with white specks dotting him. My fist bang into him, but couldn’t penetrate. “Attacking us, Empress Gecko? Our hospitality is not to be violated.”

I pulled my hand back, but it caught in midair and began to pull toward him, along with my body. The room seemed like it sped up, and my arm stretched unnaturally long before I fell into Colburn. I fell out in a bedroom with a selection of fetish gear laying around. Standing in front of me was the teen boy from the fight. A voice came out of nowhere. “Boy, freeze her.”

“I’m here to get you out,” I told him.

He shook his head and pointed to the collar around his neck. “There’s no getting out with this bomb strapped to my neck.” He held up his hands toward me.

I turned invisible by instinct and began to charge my gauntlets. The ice advanced on all sides, even freezing my feet and closing off the ceiling from me. I lashed out at the ice, but it was replaced faster than I could break it. It closed over me, thick, restricting, until I couldn’t move.

I reached out with my mind, looking for something to help me out of this situation. I ended up connecting to a call being made. “Mr. Meecer, she disappointed us. Yes, just as small-minded as to be expected of new blood. Mmm, but isn’t it delicious to know we have such fine new breeding stock? One of the most famous villains in the world, and an Empress.”

“A rare treat,” came the response. “No one touches her before I arrive,” said the man I’d been looking for to kill.

Well, looks like I may have found my target after all, just as soon as I get out of this ice. If anyone expects me to warm up to the idea of sex slavery, guess again. If there’s anything I am at the moment, it’s a major frigid bitch.

A thankful one as well. Psychsaur texted me an update an hour later. “Police raided your hotel room. We’re safe at a friend’s.”

“Good. Keep her safe. Am captured, will deal with target. Side note: good thing I no longer have testes to freeze.”

Now that I’ve got a couple days to think, time to run through possible bomb collar frequencies. Then, when Meecer shows, I either set things off or disable them before busting out. All according to my mysterious plan that totally involved me getting caught. Yep. That’s how it’ll look when the story gets out on this end, at least.

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Love And Villainy 3

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Some might reasonably ask how I can trust Venus, now Medusa, to run around on my island and elsewhere. I know this for a few reasons, one of which being Mix N’Max, my old amigo, has provided that perspective. He called me up while I waited for Meecer’s people to get back to me, video chatting with me while Qiang was zonked out. I sat there listening to my ASMR, getting an audio-only ear massage from a woman wearing dish gloves while I scrubbed away at my child’s armor. I put it on pause when I saw he was trying to talk to me.

“Hey there, Maxxy,” I greeted him.

“Hi Gecko. Are you having fun over there?” He asked. He was standing in my living room, in front of the giant monitor that doubled as a TV in his poofy white shirt. Without his jacket, it didn’t stand out so much from his pale skin, but at least his red lips broke up the image.

I shrugged to myself. He couldn’t see anything more from me than a floating head because the call was coming from INSIDE THE BRAIN. “Eh, could be better. This guy’s not very punctual. I as good as left him a note saying, ‘call me’ and he’s taking his sweet time getting around to it. It’s a very rude way to react to someone who stole his ego painting.”

“Do you know what Venus is up to?” he asked.

“She prefers Medusa now. She’s supposed to be figuring out who tried to kill me when we were on that other world.” Ugh, dried dog drool with food gravy still in it. Scrub, scrub, scrub.

“She’s talking with the Justice Rangers. A lot. I’m not sure you should be trusting her. I asked Sam and Holly if they’d keep an eye on her.” He crossed his arms. Behind him, Sam Hayne walked into the camera view briefly, eating a bowl of cereal. She’d gone spiky and bright orange with her hair now. Max’s punk assistant gave a little wave, then stepped back off screen.

“Oh yeah? Anything interesting happen?” How does a girl lose this much hair in her helmet and not go bald?

“They had a girls’ night out. Medusa invited the Pink Ranger along. Sam doesn’t trust them.”

Sam called from offscreen, “That’s right!”

I shrugged again. “Sam doesn’t trust me.”

“That’s also right!” Sam added.

“Guys, I get it, I do. You think I trust her? I have no idea what she sees in me, how she can actually have any feelings for me after all we’ve been through against one another. I’m half-convinced this is all an elaborate plan of hers to get back at me by making me paranoid while getting some good sex from me.”

Holly rose from the bottom of the image, eating popcorn from a bowl. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Tell me more!”

“I didn’t know you were that way, Holly.” I said, eyeing her. She had long blonde hair with pink highlights now.

Max shooed her out of the frame. “She’s not. She’s just a fan.”

“Mhm!” Holly said just before leaving the call to just Max and myself.

The image I projected showed my eyeroll. “I completely understand the concern and it isn’t without justification. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m choosing to take the W on this one and trust her. It’s good to know I’ve got a friend like you who is looking out for me, though, and I’m sure if she does try anything, you will be part of the way I pull through it.”

“Get a room, you two!” called Sam.

I pretended to narrow my eyes. “Max, just how attached are you to having two assistants?”

“It’s getting to be a hassle to feed both of them,” he smiled.

“I’ll eat Holly then,” Sam said.

I raised my eyebrows. “Wow, they’re both like that. And all this time I thought Max was taking his work home with him…”

He laughed it off. “Try to enjoy your vacation, your evil majesty.” He gave the last three words a cheesy emphasis. He’d have to be careful not to take that tone publicly. Lots of people take that Empress thing seriously.

His comment about vacationing gave me an idea. When I finished with Qiang’s armor, I set it aside and started poking her. “Hey, wake up. Wakey, wakey. It’s morning.”

My drowsy little pumpkin stirred. “Huh?”

“I’m tired of waiting. Let’s hit an amusement park.”

We had a load of fun. We went to the front of all the lines. They tried to keep Qiang off a few rides, but she had these extending stilt things in her boots to raise her up in case I thought she needed to reach stuff higher up. Then she found a water pistol and pretended it was a real weapon. The park people bought it.

Our trip back was just a hop and a skip back with our armors on. Well, a few more than just one hop and skip, but y’all get the point. When we reached the street our little house we were staying in was on, I noticed an extra car on the street. A real nice one. And a window shade was drawn that hadn’t been before. “You stay back,” I told Qiang. “And stay hidden. You notice anyone sneaking up on me, or on you, you let me know immediately, got it?”

She nodded and ducked behind a car.

It’s about time they found us. I wasn’t even subtle, renting it under the name Psycho Gecko. Maybe he thought I’d have gone for a hotel suite, but I wanted to change things up this time. A small two bedroom in a nice neighborhood lacked room service, but it had a certain charm, and an ability to sneak up on where you stay that’s better than a hotel. There, you don’t know until you’re either inside or in the confined hallway just outside. Here, I have a whole street, with cars to duck behind. I left Qiang ducking behind one.

When I stepped out, a ripple swept across my armor. The coloring of my chest was replaced by the landscape on the opposite side of me, adjusted to counteract distortions. Holographic emitters worked with the armor’s own color-changing abilities to render me invisible. I stepped lightly in the less cumbersome armor and made a circuit of the house before going in.

A man in an expensive dark blue suit waited in the living room, the sun glinting off his dusky, bald head. His backup laid in a pile by the back door. As a courtesy, I left them alive, with complimentary ball gags so they wouldn’t talk. I grabbed myself a drink from the kitchen and stepped up beside the guy, leaning on the chair and turning visible. He jumped as I appeared. “Hello there, visitor. May I interest you in a frosty beverage?”

I stuck the straw against he fanged “mouth” on the outside of the helmet and played a slurping sound.

The man stood up and backed off, hands coming up just a little. He covered by grabbing his suit jacket and buttoning it up. “I don’t believe I will, madam Gecko.”

I gave a little wave with one lower hand. “Oh, please. Just call me the Great and Devious Empress Psychopomp Gecko. Madam Gecko was my mother. Heck of a brothel owner, that one.”

The man looked at a loss as to how seriously to take this statement. I giggled and set the drink aside. “I take it you’re a decently-paid, if expendable, goon here on behalf of a certain wealthy client?”

“Actually, I’m a private investigator on retainer for that wealthy client. I suppose that makes me expendable enough.” He smiled at that. “Lucky for me, I’m not here for a fight. My employer asked me to see what we can do to persuade you to return a possession with sentimental value. We thought it best to simply ask, rather than go to all the trouble of a fight.” He flashed a winning smile.

“Aww, look at you, trying to lube me up like that. It’s a good thing you’re not looking to fight, though, because those guys you brought were a pushover. What was it, just five?” I pointed toward the backdoor, outside of which they were all incapacitated.

The man winced. “Will it help my chances if I say I didn’t want to bring them along?”

I held a hand up parallel to the ground and wobbled it. “Eh. You’re right, it’s a fortuitous day for you. I wasn’t hoping to get into a fight either. I fully intend to see about a deal with you and your boss about the possession in question, which you no doubt already tried to find.”

The man motioned to a couch nearby. “Please, may I sit?” I nodded; he sat. “If we’re both in agreement that this is a time to deal, not a time to kill, then please help me understand what my resourceful client may do for you?”

“I’m aware that your client takes human resources very seriously. You know, let’s stop beating around the bush. I know your boss beats around some trafficked bush.”

“This is about the drugs, then,” the man said.

I shook my head. “I actually meant the parties with special entertainment for those invited. Just men and women enjoying some company and some fucking.”

The man’s face went still, but the smile no longer reached his eyes. “Oh. That is a more complicated subject.”

“I’ll bet it is.”

“I will have to confer with my client before I can make this deal. I hope you understand, this isn’t something I can do from here.” He slowly reached into his pocket and produced a cheap flip phone that he tossed to me. I caught it. “I’ll contact you with his answer.”

“That’s fine. Go talk to whoever you need to in person. I’ll be here with the painting,” I waved him off.

He started to go, then sighed, and started for the backdoor. “Let me get them before I go.”

“Oh please, I’d hate to throw them in the recycling,” I said.

I didn’t get confirmation until the next day, via text. “You are in. Seattle. 5/20. We will find you.” I set the phone aside and went back to examining the day’s paper, where a section on local events showed a memento picture from a ride.

“Son of a… Qiang, dear, come look at this. They said they couldn’t give us the picture because of someone showing more than they were supposed to.” There we were, strapped into seats, our arms up in the air. With our helmets on, you couldn’t see our screaming faces. You could see those of the other riders, their eyes fixed on us as we plunged down a steep incline.

The headline read, “So Much Fun, It’s Criminal!”

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Love And Villainy 2

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A hero asked me a favor. Psychsaur arrived here on the island, direct from Los Angeles. The reptilian, feathered hero is one of the few I’m happy to see, and the feeling is mutual. She gets me a bit better than most, thanks to the telepathy and the mind reading. I worry sometimes that my positive outlook toward her may be the result of even more tampering she’s done to my mind. She’s messed around in there in the past. I don’t exactly like that she did it without asking, especially in regards to some problems I hadn’t been ready to address at the time, but it’s done. And she was one of the first heroes to really get me.

She walked into the tent that served as my temporary throne room while everything was being rebuilt. Two capital buildings and throne rooms since I’ve been Empress isn’t a good track record. I don’t like buying new furniture every year. I wouldn’t have even bothered with concept of a throne room just yet, but I need a way for things to come to me officially without letting everyone into the residence.

I was playing with my daughter, because she’s still not leaving me alone too much since I got back from the other dimension. Today’s lesson: chainsaw juggling. Just kidding. That’s one of the things I’m gonna get a tutor to handle. No lesson today, just videogames. The dastardly duo of PsychoGecko and Noobmaster69. I don’t know where she got the 69 part. I teach my daughter to use only the most refined language.

I sat there, my brain plugged in for voice chat. “I don’t care who the fuck you are, you’re talkin’ to mama bear now. You’re sore? Fly your ass on over here, we’ll see how sore you’ll be. I don’t care, I got an extra pair, and the only ass they’re going up is yours before I pull your tonsils out through your sphincter. Go cry to your mommy, you alcoholic asswipe.”

Next to me, Qiang giggled and kept shooting at someone.

“That’s one way to greet a guest,” I heard a feminine voice call out. Psychsaur walked in from the shadows on the outside of the room. Gotta get better lighting in here.

“Psychsaur!” I dropped my controller and hopped up. Qiang was too busy at the time with the game and pause buttons are incompatible with multiplayer.

The hero smiled as she approached. “You’re camping in style now.”

I rolled my eyes. “Just a temporary matter until we rebuild everything and then they spend half the time gilding it all. I’ve got ideas on where to take the gold from, actually, but that’s a whole other thing. What are you doing here? You know, so soon after we were all on the same flying ship together.”

“I had to stop elsewhere first. I’m here for a favor, but I brought money,” she checked around and found some place better to sit than the cushions my kid and I were using. We both took a seat at a nearby table brought in for formal business.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Before I say this, I want you to know I thought about this a lot. I see it as a way of improving myself and fixing a defect that impedes me and prevents me from doing what I want to do in life. There are a lot of complicated issues surrounding body issues and disabilities, and I see this as the latter. It doesn’t indicate I see my condition as a sign of immorality or that it makes me less of a person. But it doesn’t let me be the person I want to be.” She fixed me with a look. I got the feeling this preamble came from experience.

I could sympathize. I have an extra pair of arms and boobs I wasn’t born with. “You, like most people, were born with an unfortunate defect: you’re not me. It severely hampers how awesome you can be.”

She made a drawn out “Heh” sound and looked to the side. “I want you to make me look like a regular human.” She fixed her eyes on my face, watching.

My reaction was more like, “Kind of a shame. You’re so pretty.” The scales, the feathers, they work. Not in a sexual way, not since she really went and mind melded with me, but they’re pretty features. The fact that they aren’t human ones isn’t that big an issue for me. It obviously is for her. “Sure. Got any particular person you want to look like?”

She brightened up and smiled. “Sure!” We talked it over for a bit, before she confessed, “I didn’t know how you were going to react. Thank you for not giving me shit.”

“Who am I to tell you you can’t do what you think improves yourself?” I reached up and ran one of my lower pair of arms through my hair.

And so the three of us set out for my workshop. I’d gone ahead and taken part of the basement level under the old Palace Grounds for personal maker space. That way, I didn’t have more giant vats of nanites laying on the floor of the living room. There was a small armory as well, with remaining pieces of past armors, as well as a copy of my current iteration. On one wall was the armor closet, assembling an upgrade. It was partially visible.

“Is that a shell?” Psychsaur asked as we made our way to a nearby nanite submersion tank.

I nodded. “Of a sorts. It’s a bit of a departure from some of how I’ve done armor before now. Instead of modular armor or a bunch of layers, I’m building it all in. I’m aiming to create a fully integrated and sustainable suit of power armor. No nanoweave with armor plates on top of it or embedded in it, with nanite quilt or exoskeletal muscle layers below. For starters, having an exoskeleton underneath stuff is just bad grammar. But I think there’s reason to believe I can make armor that provides superior protection with no loss of dexterity. Aside from the damn rockets. Haven’t figured out a way to incorporate them.”

Sad, that. I like having elbow rockets. There’s nothing like opening up an intercontinental ballistic can of whoopass on someone’s face.

I directed her to a square tub on the floor with a hand scanner attached. I touched my hand to it and a hologram appeared overhead, showing what we were aiming for with her looks. She looked past it, to a much larger block taking up most of the back of the space. “Make the hair a little darker. Hey, what’s that?”

“Oh. Working on something bigger, with a very different philosophy than the other armor. I prefer the integrated version, but you never know when you’re going to need some power behind your punches.”

“Hulkbuster, got it. That’s good… do you think it’ll work?” she wondered, setting a hand on my shoulder.

I shrugged. “I’ll do my very best to make sure it does. If it doesn’t, we can always change it later.”

Feels nice to do something for a friend, and it gave me time to metaphorically pick her brain. She could hear me from inside the tank, unless she turned on the TV or sound system. “So… do you know anything about a man named Erin Meecer?”

“Who?” she asked. Qiang snuck up and nearly hit me with a hammer.

“What’s this do?” My adorable daughter asked.

“Anybody you hit with it is disintegrated into a pile of ash and never comes back,” I told her. I pulled the hammer away.

“Really?” she asked, unsure of herself and looking from the hammer to where she almost smacked me.

I tossed the hammer aside, “Nope. But you shouldn’t mess with whatever’s laying around in here. You keep doing it, you won’t go with me to America.”

She hopped up and down. “Yay, am I going back to the Academy?”

I looked to where Psychsaur was being changed. “What’s going on out there?”

“I’m trying to find out what you know before my daughter and I visit the U.S. To impart a little karma on someone.”

Sadly, she didn’t know anything about the guy. Erin Meecer. Rich. Part owner of various companies, including a car company. Probably done all the same bad things anybody does who gets paid thousands of times more than their employees do for less work. Not really the sort of thing to disgust Medusa when she was Venus. Nope, this one has to do with private parties with kidnapped people, boys and girls both, helping to entertain guests.

“Mommy, do you hate rich people?” Qiang asked me as we flew into the country.

Psychsaur, seated nearby, smiled. We were kinda on my, uh, private plane. And Psychsaur didn’t look too bad. Not quite as unique without the scales and feathers. She reached up and rubbed her nose, getting used to it still.

I stuck out my tongue at the heroine before I answered. “When someone poor or powerless gets into trouble, they have more than enough people ready to make them pay. Not always, but since they don’t usually do it just once, there’s always a chance. But sometimes bad people do bad things and people don’t stop them because they have a lot of money or are important. I’m one of those people, too.”

“No you’re not!” she squealed as she hugged me.

“D’aww… you wanna help me break into a place?”

But Gecko, why would you take your daughter to go break into the house of a sex trafficking pimp bastard? He was out of town. I figured we wouldn’t find anything here. A guy like that has a lot of properties I could waste time looking through, but I thought I’d go about this the direct way. That’s why I busted through the door of a mansion in rural California on a hill overlooking the vineyard. The alarm sounded and tried to put out a call. I stuck a Psycho Gecko bobblehead on a table by the door. They’re cute. A bobbing head, then a pair of arms in my older, more iconic armor holding bobbing, decapitated heads. I built in a signal jammer in the base to make sure nobody radioed or used that pesky internet to get a signal out. I even showed Qiang how to cut the phone lines.

“Doggies!” Qiang said when a pair of Dobermans came checking the door.

“Honeybun, is your armor on tight?” I asked.

She ran forward and squealed with delight as one of the dogs tried to bite her arm. She tugged her arm free easily and tried to pet it. “Yes, mommy!”

“Don’t let them hurt you, dear,” I told her. I started in, but paused to see how she handled the dogs. They went for her arms and tried to drag her down. The couldn’t get the best grip on her armor, which was designed to handle worse than dog bites, and it had the strength to help her get up. Plus, it had the same tight seal to allow it to survive a chemical attack as my own. The dogs can’t get through unless she lets them through.

So with the alarm being nothing but loud noises and the guard dogs thoroughly distracted, I headed in. I kicked in a few doors, grabbed a few small, valuable trinkets. I wasn’t here for major theft, or even burning it down like I would prefer. Qiang loves the flamethrower, but this was about sending a different sort of message. It required a slow burn, some might say. Like me. I’m saying it. I didn’t get to use a damn flamenwerffer. Instead, I tried to find anything that might have particular personal value. A trophy or plaque of some meaning, perhaps.

In his living room, I found an eleven foot by six foot painting of Meecer wearing a lion’s skin and wrestling with a dragon.

I was taking it down when a man in a suit arrived, swaggering around the corner. He wore a pair of glowing red glasses and knuckle dusters. “So you’re the asshole waking me up?” He clapped his hands and the light came on.

Where before my armor looked like power armor, this guard got a look at armor that looked like dark grey skin, with no gaps. On the chest, four tendrils, like two uppercase omega symbols, one inside the other, stretched downward, colored a dark orange against the grey, one not meant to show up as garish in the shadows. The same orange colored my fists, knees, and spine. The helmet featured a grinning maw of fangs underneath a triangle of eyes that contained lasers. The helmet had its own “hair” in the form of a pair of horns that cling to the helmet as one piece and curl downward along either side of the face, ending in a pair of spheres: my take on a jester’s cap. This armor lacked the cape of my prior version. But instead of metal plates or nanoweave, it appeared more like a thick skin or soft shell.

“Who the hell ARE you?” asked the man who stumbled up on me.

I let the helmet do the grinning and raised my lower pair of hands. Glowing orange nails extended from the fingertips. “I’m Psycho Gecko. Tell your boss I want to talk.”

He raised his fists in a boxer’s stance for a second. I took a step toward him and he lowered them. “What am I doing… you don’t look like that guy, but I don’t make enough. Take what you want… just make it look like I put up a fight?”

I nodded and walked over. His shirt ended up shredded and I tossed him through a wall, but I didn’t hit a stud on the way through. He’d survive, probably end up with a nice scar that, if leveraged well, could really help his reputation. He’d be one of the few to survive a fight with Psycho Gecko. I’d say he should pray I don’t find out he was a part of Meecer’s side business, but he wouldn’t want to bring gods into this. They’s so squishy.

I carried out a big ol’ painting past Qiang, who had picked up one of the dogs overhead and was spinning it around in a circle. The other one was hopping around, trying to reach for the spinning dog. “That thing’s gonna spew,” I warned as I stepped outside and out of the blast radius.

Her giggles turned to a gasp, then crying. “Momma! He puked on me!”

“Looks like we learned something tonight. Come on, kiddo, let’s get back to the hotel and get you cleaned up.” I giggled a little bit, with the sound turned off, as she walked out of the house covered in a disgusting tax mixture. Aww. “At least you don’t have to smell it or wear it.”

Now then, I just have to wait until I get a call from Meecer or one of his associates. Sure, a hero might have trouble infiltrating whatever he’s doing and getting some proof of what’s going on, but I’m no hero. He has absolutely no reason to fear me going to the police or the FBI with what I find. He just has to fear going to the grave.

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Love And Villainy 1

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When I first got home, Qiang, my dear daughter, clung to me. When I went to bed, she clung to me. When I woke up, she clung to me. When I took a shower, when I ate breakfast, when I set my machines to build a replacement armor. I had to enlist Buzzkill bodyguards to finally pull her away long enough to see to her schooling, though I didn’t want to. If every there was a learning curve to master, it’s the one that comes with her being the heir to a supervillain’s empire.

With the nation militarized and under alert to deal with the threats of extradimensional invaders, my government was able to limp along. They deferred to Qiang and Citra, my political wife, as much as possible, but we’re lucky no one cared that much to ask who was running the country while I wasn’t around and what authority their decisions rested on. They might have said Qiang, who was a vocal advocate of Ricca continuing to aid the heroes and other countries while I was away, but there should have been a regent with a better understanding of the circumstances.

A failing on my part. I already have an idea to rectify it, but after spending time sorting out an important piece of business.

“It wasn’t one thing. Maybe it should have been. It’s easy to know what’s right when you first start out. If there’s a hoodlum who snatches a purse, you stop them. A pedant would say there’s nuance there, but not really. You get experienced at it and you can handle bigger thefts and fights. I was so proud of the first headlines about arresting carjackers and robbers. One morning, I’m having my coffee to warm me up after a cold shower. I bumped a bruise on my arm and scatter the newspaper. I was on the front page for stopping the Privateers from stealing a microchip from a Defense Department lab in the city, but I was reading about murders and carjackings no one stopped.”

I reached out and put a hand on Medusa’s shoulder. We sat on a couch at the Riccan Institute of Science. We were waiting for the doctors to get done with Dame. I’d taken a huge risk the first time I messed with Dame’s brain because I didn’t care that much if she lived or died. Medusa would rather she live, so I had brain experts and nanosurgeons do the job right. The nanosurgeons use holograms and Homo Machina physiology to closely manipulate regenerative nanomachines to handle jobs that Riccan doctors think are too risky or delicate for machine thinking alone. I think it’s bollocks, but I handed the job over for them to do their way. They know a hell of a lot more about brains than I do.

Medusa wanted to wait on her. Dame had been her friend. I wanted to wait with Medusa, and we decided it was time for a talk.

My nemesis-turned-girlfriend continued, “I wondered how many people were going to be killed by the chip I saved. Maybe more than if the Privateers took it. That was a scary thought for me to have. Mercenaries and pirates might be more responsible with it than law-abiding companies and my own government. Law-abiding doesn’t mean they’re right. The Privateers were wrong and would hurt people with it, so why wasn’t it wrong when the private company does it?”

“We still keep criminals in those basement cells where we kept you. Mender wanted you to be our assassin off the books. And he was wrong to think that, but it means I’m not the only one seeing this.” She went quiet for awhile. “He used to tell me, sometimes, to drop investigations. I had reason to suspect this guy, a rich man, of things. He was a philanthropist. I wonder if the money he gave to charity eased the guilt of what he did or if he used it to fish for victims. I wanted to move in, stop it, capture him, and turn him over to the police. Mender…” She shook her head.

“He told you not to bother?” I suggested. I shifted so I was laying with my head next to her, running a hand absentmindedly down her leg. I like touching her just because. She shifted so her bare feet were over to the opposite side, so I just laid there.

She patted my head from behind. “He did, and he showed me an article from ten years ago. A woman was arrested for making false police reports. She was a private detective. Her business license was revoked. She was evicted. Then he showed me another, about a local superhero. Villains hunted her down and beat her to within an inch of her life. She once worked with the FBI. Mender wanted me to know there was no one who would legally do anything about it. The best result would be him threatening us.”

Her hands lazed over my back, her nails lightly scratching me through my dress. “I threatened to go after him off the books. Mender asked me what would happen to the academy once the FBI snoops on us in retaliation. He had to protect his students. He’s just as selective as the cops. That morning, years later, I think about how I’m not stopping the clear-cut crime. I never found the time to go after him. I’m not stopping the really big crime. I’m just doing enough to maintain the status quo and anyone it doesn’t work for is screwed. I had to get out, but I couldn’t do this on my own.”

“Mmm… I thought you had lots of hero friends.”

She sighed. “They all knew the Academy and I didn’t feel like I could trust them. I needed help.”

“Of all people, you trust me?” I asked, rolling over. I had to see he face on this one.

She laughed. “To let me be a villain so I can fight the good fight? Yeah, I can trust you for that.”

“I dunno… maybe I can’t trust you. After all, you’re so off your rocker, you picked me for a girlfriend.” I winked up at her.

“Stop it,” she leaned down and kissed my forehead. “You’re better than you think you are and you’re getting better. I think I’ve been a good influence on you.”

“You think you knocked sense into me so you’d try smacking it in a different way?” I asked.

She looked away from me with a smile on her face and lightly shook her head. “I think you’re fine and you can be endearing when you aren’t trying to drive someone away. I’ve watched a lot of Gecko because of my job.”

I scooted up to rest my head on her thigh, propping me up a little to look away from her. I didn’t say anything for about ten seconds, so she added, “Be honest with me, ok?”

“I just don’t see why anyone would love me unless they were in a fucked up situation. I killed your boyfriend that time. I’ve tried to kill you before. How do you forget that?”

She reached down and took my hand. “You don’t. Maybe you learn to forgive it.”

I held her hand, ran my fingers over her palm. “I dunno how you do it.”

“You dropped your attempted murder investigation quick.” She intertwined her fingers with mine.

“I wanted to come home and be with my family. That reminds me, Qiang and I made you a present.” I held out my hand and activated the little homing drone. About the size of a small flashlight, it zipped along toward me, carrying a small box. I untied the drone from it and held it up to Medusa.

I’d worked hard on it in my workshop, with Qiang at my side. If not for me forcing her to go to school (and assigning guards to make sure she stays), she’d still be with me. Can’t blame the rugrat. So she was there with me, both of us in power armor, as I swung a great hammer overhead, pounding out a hunk of metal Above me, robotic tendrils spread out and turned downward, great lasers refining my design. When I was done, I backed away. The tendrils grabbed a see-through case and set it up around my creation. An arm lowered itself, no thicker around than a pencil and opened up. Arms small enough to have an arm wrestling competition with a mosquito spread out and latched onto the gift, holding it up in midair. Qiang and I unleashed our barbaric yawps into a receiver that amplified the sound and the box reflected it inward on itself. The box shook as sound waves slammed into the metal and refined it further, helping to distribute the carbon and forge a strong piece.

Medusa held it up. “Is it a keychain?” she asked of the small piece of metal in her hand. “How sweet of Qiang.”

Hey, I put a lot of work into that bracelet. I said watched her reaction to it, the way her eyes shone looking at it. I think she was fucking with me. She slid it on and looked down at it, then smiled a brilliant smile up at me. “I love it.”

After a brief kiss, she had to point out, “I didn’t get anything for you in exchange.”

Lightbulb. Exchange… “You did a lot for me on the ship. The way you stood up to Warman really meant a lot to me. But if we’re talking exchanges, you just gave me an idea.”

“I’m not swapping bodies with you through a transceiver like Dame has,” Medusa said.

I grinned. “Way to ruin Christmas for me early, but no. I was just thinking about a fun time you could give me, involving your rich asshole and whatever nasty business he’s up to.”

“That’s my problem to deal with,” she said. “You’re already doing this for Dame even when you don’t want to.”

I grimaced. “I do have something you could do for me instead, but I don’t want to. You’re here to forge your own path and do your own thing, and it’s a little close to what you did before. What I… I don’t want us… I’m trying to figure out how to say this. I don’t want our relationship to be about what we do for one another like some kind of business deal. I want to help you, and I don’t want you to think it’s about getting things in return”

She bit her lower lip, then ordered me to “Sit up.” I did so and let her pull me onto her lap. “What are you thinking?”

The way I sat there, with her hands on me, what I was thinking isn’t fit to print. Mmm, the taut muscles under her skin… “I handle the bad guy who got away, you find the person who tried to murder me?”

She smiled and kissed me again.

The opening of the doors interrupted us. One of the surgeons walked in and bowed. “Empress, good news.”

It was a little blow to the ego how quickly Medusa set me aside to go run and check on her friend who, apparently, had made a full recovery. I didn’t care to interrupt. I’m the last person Dame ever wants to see in her life.

Instead, I sent off a message to Queen Beetrice, the bee-woman in charge of North Korea. I made sure it was a formal electronic invite. Perhaps it would have been less rude to call, but I knew the kind of high-pitched sounds she makes when she’s happy. It’s entirely possible that every dog in Asia heard her reaction to a formal invitation to brunch with me to discuss an important matter of state.

Like it or not, as childish as I see her quite often, she’s proven to be damn competent. If anything happens to me before Qiang comes of age, she’ll make a fine regent.

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War On Uranus 9

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Finally, the day we were to head back. I woke up, noticed I had an extra pair of arms in bed, and smiled at the thought of the body pressing against me from behind. I turned and pushed Venus’s brown hair out of the way before kissing her. She eventually woke up, returning my affection until she opened her eyes. She started and sat up onto her knees before smiling sheepishly. “Sorry, forgot who you were for a moment.”

I tugged the covers up over my chest. “Mmm, was a little longer than a moment.”

She smiled that lovely smile before she leaned in close. “No, I knew what I was doing then.” She kissed me once on the forehead.

I winked at her. “I’d say you did.”

She blushed, then bit her lip. She hugged a pillow to herself and looked over to where Dame had been propped up on a chair, still not waking. An earbud-like device rested on Dame’s thigh. “Trying that was wrong, though.”

I’d given her the gizmo for her as a surprise. It let her inhabit Dame the same way I could, but Venus wasn’t having anything in that situation. She got back out of Dame and we got into an argument. There was some light pushing, and I fell on the bed while dragging Venus with me. Before we knew it, the argument was over.

I rolled my eyes, then walked my fingers up Venus’s thigh. “If it’s so wrong, go grab some handcuffs and lock me up.” I started to kiss her knee, but she popped me with the pillow.

“I’m serious. What you’ve done to her is beyond the pale. And trying to get me in her?” She shook her head.

I pushed the pillow away and reached up to run my fingers through her hair. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I smiled at her, hoping temptation would override her morals again.

She got up and walked over to the other utilitarian chair by Dame, gathering her clothes up along the way and began pulling them on I slipped into Dame and sat on Venus’s lap. She held me for a moment but pushed me away when I moved in for the kiss. “No. And I don’t care what your nanites said about the damage. Fix her. Bring her back. Give her her brain back where neither of us can take it over again.”

It was more of a sad rebuke than angry. She followed it up by getting dressed and heading out to check on our departure details.

When the Buzzkills used some of our limited nanite supplies healing my stab wound up, I held onto a little bit. I reprogrammed them for diagnostic purposes, to tell me more about what was going on with Dame. They found damage throughout her lovely cybernetic brain. If anything, it’s a surprise it didn’t affect me more. Or maybe it did, like when I forgot who I was. After that, they focused on healing her injuries from the underground fight. You’d be surprised what organs can bruise, dear reader.

Either way, I figured I’d keep her fed and watered, make sure she goes to the bathroom in the right spot. I’ll get her fixed when we get back home. Probably. I’m tempted not to. It’s the kind of perverse transhumanist mayhem I so selfishly love. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she won’t be there when it’s fixed. Brain injuries are interesting like that, but doubt it’s the kind of thing that could kill her while leaving her intact enough for me to take over.

Speaking of taking her over, I can freely move back and forth again. Near as I can tell, something in my transceivers just… gave out. A power surge from the Domeship shouldn’t have affected me, so maybe it was residual damage left over from the mag-lev rails. I’d been dancing with those trains an awful lot. Fuckin’ magnets, how did they mess up my brain?

It took me longer to get ready for the day than usual, due to having to shower and dress two bodies. Maybe Venus wants to walk around smelling like stank, but I have some class. Travel looked to be more difficult, and I thought of grabbing some duct tape and doing a conjoined twin scenario. I remembered there was already someone who tried to kill me on the ship and figured that would probably add a few more enemies I didn’t need yet. Never know when you’re going to catch something bigger than a scalpel to the heart. I opted to tie her to my back, like a pack. I don’t actually want her hurt while she’s a backup body for me.

I still attracted dirty looks with Dame tied to my back by a bedsheet rope. Good thing I didn’t need to ask for directions. I got enough glares and “Fuck You”s from heroes I only cheerfully waved at.

We all met in the dome. We stood there among defectors and rebel crew to watch as the Senate renamed itself the Forum and appointed a three-person ruling Council to run things via the dome functioning like a giant round TV screen. Some of the rebels near me, who weren’t so much rebels anymore, muttered about how they thought the whole body should have been gotten away with and replaced by regular people.

I’m not sure what that said about the chances of this government standing up, but I felt a lot better when Warman met with the joint session of the Forum and Council to be presented with an armistice. I rolled my eyes at that one. We fought for peace and got a break. Now, we get to leave the peace treaty in the hands of some of the people who tried to sell us out and join the invaders. I sighed and texted Venus. “This is why I should have assassinated the Consuls. They’d be much more inclined to go ahead and accept a peace treaty if they knew how grave the situation was.”

“Bad gecko. Bhave.”

“We have to talk about your shortening problem.”

“L8r. Turning ship over 2 nu capn.”

“I may have to break up with you over the text speak.”

She didn’t reply for several minutes, either processing it or too busy with ceremony. After nearly ten minutes, I received he reply. “U! Break up w/ME after last nite?!!!”

What’s the point of all the shortcuts if you’re going to add so many extra exclamation points. Some believe more than three such pieces of punctuation are the sign of a diseased mine, and I can’t help but suspect it’s true after seeing it in action. “It is painful to read.”

“U tricked me n2 Dame.”

“She’ll never even know unless you tell her once she’s back to normal.”

“I no. That’s y its feels so bad.”

I frowned as I looked over the words in my HUD. I’m going to go ahead and take her at her word this really did make her feel bad once she stopped thinking with her vulva. I thought of all the confusing feelings and the way she used those. Her replacing her doppelganger and tricking me. Freeloading and getting close to my daughter. She tricked me into dates and cuddles and snuggles. Just talking and watching TV together. Dates. Her smile.

And even though she seems to have meshed well with her old friends, I still caught the clear disapproval about her being with me. I have no clue why she’s with me. And I realized that really mattered to me. Because if I knew why she stooped to slumming with me, it would give me an idea what I could do to keep her. It was truly an insidious plot.

“I don’t know what you see in me, Boopsie, but I wish I could live up to it enough to keep you around. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that to you,” I sent to her. Not exactly reminding her it takes two to make the beast with a billion backs, but she knows that part already. I’m giving her an out. A way to shift blame onto the villain.

They announced that the ship would be transitioning back to our world within one hour, pending the return of our delegation from the surface and the arrival of diplomats from the new government. I set my system to hold all incoming texts and calls for awhile. It seemed safer to stay out of the way. Instead, I stopped by the infirmary. They had taken good care of me, feeding me nutrients through IV. It could have been much worse. I chould have had to eat their shitty food.

The understaffed bunch who had been manning it were taking a well-deserved break. I stared at the bed where my body had lain. I’d already checked around it for anything to tell me what was going on, but they’d cleaned up already. It was a hygiene concern when you’re supposed to heal the sick and dying. The heroes signed off on it, said they checked the area over thoroughly.

There was no video surveillance of this hall of rest beds. It wasn’t expected to be a private area at all; it held seven beds. The report I cajoled out of Eschaton said they had hardly anyone else in the room with me. Of the two, one was zonked out on a sedative at the time and the other was in the bathroom. My paranoia wanted to tell me this was by design. My pragmatism said anyone waiting to kill me would have found that to be the perfect moment to go for it.

Still, I had to check.

The hero who’d gone to the bathroom had been identified in the quick report I’d been given. Almost two pages long, it didn’t have a lot of details, but it emphasized that Electrikitty had been cleared and had nothing to do with the attempt on my life. It took most of the hour to find out where she called her litter box. She didn’t have as good of quarters as Venus, which led me to briefly wonder why Venus got special treatment. Leftover goodwill, or a protective measure for being close to me? Probably just my paranoia acting up again. Either way, I walked into one of the eateries and sat down across from a superhero wearing an electric blue cat ear headband, and a white costume with blue electricity patterns over the chest, arms, and legs.

“Oh my god, is that a dead body?” she asked, looking at Dame on my back.

I glanced back, then shook my head. “She’s only sleeping. Say ‘hi’ Dame.” I inhabited Dame briefly to raise her head up. “Hi, Dame!” I jumped back into my body to look into the gawking, open-mouthed expression of Electrikitty. “Listen, do me a favor. I’m looking into that incident in the infirmary, the stabbing?”

“I already talked to the other heroes,” she said, squinting at me. “Have we met?”

She looked pretty convincing, not knowing who I am. I smiled at her, “Maybe in another nine lives.” I watched as she rolled her eyes at the comment, then I continued, “I was just wondering if there was anything you saw at all. Maybe something you remembered. Anyone you noticed between your bed and the restroom.”

She shook her head. “No. The only thing I can think of is to ask those guys in the colorful suits and the helmets. One of them had a crush on her or something. He was always watching.”

“But not that day?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Maybe?” Truly, Electrikitty was a font of knowledge. She legitimately seemed not to remember me the whole time. I dunno, maybe she was just that messed up at the time. Even her tipoff about the Justice Rangers was just pointing toward a direction I was already headed. I didn’t just suspect them of having something to do with it, but I did remember how often they liked to hover over me and watch me. They either almost certainly knew what happened, either by participation or observation.

I found them hanging out back under the dome itself. They mostly stuck together in a group and were all in costume. Justice Rangers inevitably stand out. They even usually wear their colors when out of costume.

I walked right up to the group, who were conversing with a group of Uranals in fancy dress and a few heroes, including Pinion and Warman. The group quieted as I approached, as if it’s unusual to see a four armed woman with a seemingly-lifeless woman tied to her back.

“Can I help you?” someone asked.

“Ricca Island Police. I need to ask someone a few questions about a murder,” I said. I dont know if my Security forces, the primary peacekeepers of the island, go by that, but it made for a good acronym: RIP. And I am in the chain of command, so it’s not really a lie. I’m at the top of the chain.

“Gecko,” Warman said, “May I have a word with you in private?” Warman’s shrewd party politicking caught me off-guard. I hadn’t taken him for the diplomatic type.

“No can do, Wardude. I need to have a chat with these guys, gals, and non-binary pals to see who tried to kill me.”

Warman pushed past the group, none of whom were smiling now. Or so I assume. You can’t really see into those Justice Ranger helmets. He caught me away from the group and put an arm on my shoulder. “This is the diplomatic entourage. We do not need any wild accusations flying now.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t have this peace if not for me and you know it. They’d have shattered Uranus. The food riots, the food relief, the Buzzkills coming to your aid during the protests; all me, baby. Hell, the Buzzkills would have been keeping a better eye on me, but I had them helping y’all out.” I poked him in the chest with one finger, staring him down.

“If you want to talk about all this after we get back to Earth and the diplomats are out of sight, have at it. Accuse whoever you want. Hell, accuse Elvis,” he gestured over in the direction of Honky Tonk Hero, who was having a picnic with Pinion. “But I’ll tell you now, you won’t find nothing. Nobody saw anything and nobody wanted to see anything because you’re a vile son of a bitch who half the people on this boat want to see knifed. To be quite honest, no hero here is going to throw their buddies under the bus over you.” He poked back, between the boobs.

He withdrew his hands as things got quiet. I was looking into his eyes, but thinking through the best ways to hurt him. He nodded behind me. “You want to give them a reason to put you down? Nobody here gives a damn about you but your bugs.”

Oh look. I just found out I CAN get even angrier. “You don’t call them that,” I told him.

“Hey Warman,” said a voice from the side. He turned to look and caught a fist to his jaw. It stumbled him, owing to the element of surprise and the enhanced strength of the woman behind the fist.

Venus stepped between us, rubbing the knuckles on her right hand. “Murder isn’t ok just because the victim is an asshole, asshole.”

Warman spat off to the side. “Look who’s talking. You seem pretty tolerant of murderers nowadays, Venus.” He projected his voice, making sure he was heard by those around us who were clearly following the action. I glanced around and saw many of my Buzzkills assembling in squads in case it came to it.

“My name’s Medusa,” she responded. “I for the people, not the law. There’s no one so wretched they don’t deserve to be saved.”

Whew. Terrible day for rain. Had to hold back and make sure none got on my face.

There was a bright flash, then a voice over the ship’s intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Earth, home universe.” I could even feel the familiar internet sync up with my brain, managing to spoil the entirety of the current season of Game of Thrones before I ever had a chance to watch it.

That got a cheer from the part of the crowd that wasn’t caught up in our drama, as well as the Justice Rangers and the Uranals.

Warman turned. “I have to go see to a lasting peace to a war that threatened billions. You go kiss that bitch who murdered your boyfriend,” he said by way of parting shot. He headed back over to the diplomatic entourage, who seemed to quickly forget the scuffle.

Medusa wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t worry. I got you.”

The absurdity of it got a laugh from me. I hugged her back, kissed the top of her head. After a couple of minutes, she looked up. “You want to round anybody up?”

I looked over her head at the Justice Rangers. The pink one stared at me. I raised one of Dame’s hands to give her the finger, then answered Medusa. “I want to go home to my family and hug my daughter.”

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War On Uranus 8

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There I was, a woman on a mission, deep in Uranus. It got a bit hairy, I’ll admit. Even a bit nutty at times, some might say.

The heroes wanted to wait, but the revolution wouldn’t listen to them. It had too much momentum. The heroes talked to whoever was supposedly leading this thing, only to find out they were trying to write up declarations and constitutions. They didn’t even realize the mob they supposedly led started a riot in front of the Chair and the Tower.

“At least we know where this weapon or bomb is,” Gorilla Awesome told me. He loaded a hefty backpack onto me. They’d stuck at least one of pretty much any tool not nailed down in this thing, and a couple that had been torn off of where they’d been fixed. Unless something goes really wrong, I don’t know what I’d need a vice for. I have too many already. The oxygen tank was probably a good idea, though.

I don’t know how Dame had this thing upgraded, but I was glad she figured out a way to remain in contact with people while still going intangible. When I first encountered her, the intangibility had an issue with electricity. My internal power source had a heck of an effect on it once. Nothing like that to worry about in Dame’s body, just a computer brain. That’s what prompted me to improve it. Er, her.

Still a bit of a mixup from time to time, what with me sharing her brain at the moment. You can’t really make this work without some feedback from the other direction.

I could have dropped from the Domeship and gone intangible for quicker results, but I thought it’d suck to overshoot and keep going. From what the brain trust of heroes told me, it’d be a really bad idea to go too deep into Uranus. Something about portions of the mantle consisting of liquid diamond. I really want to see that kind of shit, but without being subject to the kinds of pressures that would liquefy diamond.

They flew me down while some of the heroes deployed to try to slow down the rioting. I hopped off, went intangible, and did my best to swim down through everything. Someone, keeping track of everything, noted, “Dame is loose. Alpha, Beta, Gamma team are deploying.”

It didn’t take too long to sweep through sewers and foundations. I was blind below that. “Further down,” Gorilla Awesome urged in my ear. “Left. No, the direction to the left of how you just moved.”

I had to stop and think that one through, then shifted. “Ok, I’ve turned so that’s my left now. Let’s get going.”

“I hope the light works,” he said.

It took a good hour of “swimming” through a bunch of minerals and ice I couldn’t see in the first place. I felt uneven, jagged things passing through me painlessly. The texture changed when I reached the end of that half hour. Solid and dense, then a layer of solid and slightly porous. I followed that down to a floor of dense metal. Past that was air. I tried to trace it out and found enough room to at least turn solid. I’d been so long without real mass and wasn’t used to the weight of the backpack I’d been loaded down with, so I fell as soon as I turned solid, cussing.

Gorilla Awesome was alarmed. “Dame, are you hurt?”

“Just wasn’t used to so much sass in my mass after all that.” I breathed in through the oxygen mask and turned on my headlamp. It’d be a big room for a house, like a living room, but square, with these columns built into the wall. In the middle was a big, black egg on a stand. “Congratulations… their secret weapon was a dragon’s egg.”

“Really?” Awesome asked.

I rolled my eyes, “Probably not, but it looks like an egg.” I started to approach, but I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I looked down. Nope, hadn’t been stabbed. I didn’t smell anything if there was something in the air. “Ugh, that’s not good.”

“What?” Awesome asked.

“I hope there wasn’t some kind of poison or viral agent down here… feels like I just got knifed in the chest.” I felt something warm spray all over me. “It’s for real like someone really, 100% stabbed me.” I fell to my knees, trying to take a breath even though I was fine on my end.

“Dame, what’s wrong?”

“Check on Gecko!” I coughed up. I took a minute or two to gather myself. I felt cold in spite of being deep underground. I crawled over to the stand and reached up to adjust the device attached to my ear, setting it to Venus’s frequency. “Boopsie, talk to me. Something’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I think it might be my body, up there in the infirmary.”

“What? Gecko?” she asked. “Dame warmed me you could take over her. How long have you been in there?”

“The night I went into a coma. I don’t know how that happened. I just woke up in Dame when she had that head injury with you.” I took a second to remember her body didn’t have trouble keeping air in her lungs. “I don’t know why. I tried going back.”

“I’m on the ground. I can’t-, I’m nowhere near the infirmary. They’re checking on you. They’ll save you, alright. Stay with me.”

“Keep talking, Boopsie.” I focused on the sound of her voice as I forced my way to the stand and dropped the backpack. I fumbled around in there and pulled out a small blowtorch and a box of matches. When I looked up, I noticed a thin, vertical line of light cast on the stand that certainly didn’t match my head lamp. I turned to look and saw a column cracked open. Out stepped a nude, grey-skinned man. The column insides looked like a padded pod with some computers, wires, and tubes hanging up.

The clone looked at me. “You are here to activate the device?”

I nodded. “Yep. That’s completely why I’m here. I’ll handle the bomb. You go back to sleep and I’ll handle it from here.”

His eyes glowed red. Oh, well, if it’s a fight, that I might be able to handle. I whimpered as I stood up. Venus’s voice came through loud and clear in my ear, “You can’t fight. That’s Dame’s body. You’re already dying, please don’t take her with you. We’ll figure something out.”

With friends like this, it’s a wonder I’m even trying to stop this planet being blown up. I mean, I technically get everything I’d want anyway if I just kinda “Oops” the doomsday device into activation. I might have to sacrifice Dame’s body to do so, though, which would look like a lot better option if mine wasn’t dying. But then, if my body dies, my mind’s going with it anyway.

I started shaking my head from side to side, concentrating on a beat. “I got this feeling on a Summer day when you were gone. I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn. I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs. I crashed my car into the bridge.”

The grey man shifted so my back wasn’t to the egg, then flew at me. “I don’t care!” I yelled at him and activated Dame’s intangibility bracer. He flew through me and smacked into the hard metal walls. “I love it.”

Now, I managed to at least sway in time to the music. It helped me concentrate. I went solid and grabbed the goody bag they’d packed me. I tossed it into his arms and rushed him. He caught the bag and then had to put up with his attacker leaning on him. I pulled out a pair of pliers and squeezed his nose with them. “This’ll help with the smell. It can’t be pleasant this far down Uranus.”

He half groaned, half growled and grabbed my hand in an iron grip. Yep, definitely superpowers. He pulled my hand away and the pliers dropped. “You will diEEE!” he screamed and hopped up and down, dropping the bag. It hit my other hand that had caught the dropped pliers and knocked them loose, causing me the pliers’ hold on his exposed nut sack. He threw me at the opposite wall, hard. I phased through it.

He stepped away from the wall, looking around, then walked toward the doomsday device. My voice reverberated out from around him as I maneuvered through the solid exterior. “You’re on a different road, I’m in the Milky Way. You want me down on Earth, but I am up in space.” I poked my head out from above him. He looked up and zapped the ceiling with red lightning. I dropped down, only turning solid once I smacked into the floor, and scrabbled to grab the egg thing. Then the bracer went on again and I fell through the floor with it.

The next time I sang, it was from a corner. “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch.” He turned and tried to zap me again. He hit the egg, blowing a piece of it off and exposing circuitry.

He ran and slid on his knees to cup the egg against him, checking it over. I came out of the floor behind him and grabbed for that blow torch, then the matches. The flicking of matches got his attention and he turned in time to see fire. Glorious fire! He got an eye full, and practically screamed with joy at the sight. Or maybe that was pain. As happy as I was to hurt him, I still felt like someone was turning me into a sub sandwich, so the feelings were a bit confused in me as well. But I held him there, grabbing the back of his head to force his face against the torch. The first punch to Dame’s chest made my back pop. The second made something inside break. He didn’t finish the third, because by that point I’d burnt a hole through half his head. I was almost burning my hand, but I waited until his body stopped wiggling. I let drop to the side and I shut the torch off, falling to my knees.

I didn’t even have the decency to wheeze for as bad as I felt. I fell forward, over his feet and against the shell of the egg-shaped device. It sparked a bit, but zapped me. So, it still had power. I would have to handle this with delicacy. “Venus, I’m feeling kinda fucked. But not in the good way. I’m feeling like I got mounted by a horse and nobody bought me dinner first.” I began tugging stuff out, breaking shit. Truth be told, doomsday devices usually pretty sensitive. It began to whine at one point and I noticed vibrations, but then I got the blowtorch reignited. I held it up to the exposed portion and began to burn my way through it. It snapped, crackled, popped, and stopped vibrating.

I celebrated by tossing the torch aside and laying down for a nap.

When I awoke, it was to Venus’s voice in my ear. “Gecko? Are you still there?”

I groaned, putting a hand to my chest, by which I meant Dame’s chest. “Still here.” At this point, I couldn’t tell which body the pain was coming from, I just knew I was tired of it. “Tell the Buzzkills… have a syringe ready for me.”

I had been worried I was going to die there, next to some egg that someone buried in Uranus. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but neither was the thought of those dickweeds in the Justice Ranger outfits getting the last laugh, or being abandoned by heroes who loathed my presence, or the thought of what would happen to my daughter without me there. So I decided I wasn’t sleeping anymore until I clawed my way out of Uranus and into the light again. I vowed to rise again. Plus, coming back from the dead always gives a person serious cred for building their own cult.

Finding the way out was easy enough. I went up. It was all the time spent injured, even if it was made easier by phasing through crap. When I reached the surface, I left the radio sending an SOS and just laid there, trying not to breathe too hard.

I woke up this time and held myself with four arms in my own body, glad to be back. Fuck that whole “toppling the government” celebration the heroes were having with the resident Ewoks of the Butt Planet. I couldn’t get a good read on what exactly happened. There was talk of tarring and feathering, but also drawing and quartering.

Still no sign of Dame waking up on her own, though.

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