Tag Archives: Psycho Gecko

Rein Of The Supermen 1

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“I’m thinking of doing a Secret Santa for the town,” Medusa told me over breakfast one morning. For my part, I was still in brainless zombie mode from being awakened in the AM. She kicked me out of bed. Me prime, I’ll point out. She’s still not ok sleeping with both of me. So when her pretty foot sent me tumbling off the side of the bed, a groan from me let her know I was awake. And she told me, “Get up. I’ll make us breakfast.”

By the time I shuffled down the hallway, she’d already started in on the cooking. I sat down at the little table we had in the guest house and set my glasses on the edge. I don’t have eyes of my own yet. I didn’t become more awake until she set a couple plates of food down and I saw she’d made the non-puffy scrambled eggs. And as I tasted them, I found she’d also overdone the pepper. And that’s where we were when the Secret Santa thing came up.

“Getting to know people?” I asked in as complete a thought as I could muster at the time. Don’t let the complete vocabulary I use now fool you, dear reader; at the time this was happening, the Hulk could have beaten me in a speech writing contest. I finally wrangled some hair out of my face and put my glasses on.

“Making people be nice,” she said with far too friendly of a wink at me.

I grabbed a fork and speared some egg, then tried to gesture toward her. “Too perky.” The egg fell off. I pointed down at it. “Not perky ‘nough.”

“What do you have against the holidays?” she asked.

I didn’t bother to answer until I got some food in me. Too much pepper, not enough salt. “Because ever since I saved Christmas, weird holiday spirits plague me this time of year. I’m almost afraid to find out what Hanukkah and Kwanzaa want to do to me, and I think the Muslims have something going on, too.” I waved a hand. “Lots of stuff can come get me now.”

“You’re going to let that stop you?” Medusa asked. “My bold villain’s scared of a few snowballs and giving presents. Maybe I should take it easy on you and make you find something nice to do for the town.” She got a thoughtful look on her face as she ate her eggs. “Maybe that’s what I should do. We need to get this place ready for more people. It’s a good segue to what I want to do next year.”

I raised an eyebrow, then hobbled over to the refrigerator for some orange juice. I held some up for her, but she shook her head. “Frozen coffee.” I checked back in there, saw her bottle of Starbucks stuff, and brought it over to her when I came back to my seat. She continued, “I know how to handle the people I’ve been fighting so far, but we need to do a lot more next year. We need to repair the Earth itself. I don’t know where to start. We need to do more than plant trees. We have to suck up incredible amounts of pollution.”

I set my chin on one hand in order to keep my head from hitting the table, my mind still a bit fuzzy. Thinking about sucking pollution up gave me an idea though. Once I finished realizing a thing that sucks al the air through it would cause major weather disruptions if it worked well enough to fix stuff quickly, I realized I needed to take a different tack.

Medusa noticed my vacant expression, probably because of my mouth hanging open, and slipped some egg into my mouth. I paused, before chewing and eating it. “Gross, ya know.”

“Gross? What, eating after me?” she asked, having a little laugh. “Think about where you put your tongue last night.”

“It’s not the same still,” I said, trying not to think about how gross the human body is. Even the sexy ones.

After a few seconds of eating, she told me, “Anyway, I remembered you need to fix your house. Don’t worry about the rest of the town. The insurance person came by and won’t accept that getting shot up by a helicopter with an anti-tank gun is normal crime. Did you know they don’t cover acts of war?”

I pretended to slam my fork down on the plate. “Insurance won’t cover that? This means war!” I stood up, pretending I was going to walk off. Medusa, perhaps because I very likely might go fight an insurance company, stood up as well.

“Easy there. You still need your health checkup after going to space. I know someone who can help,” I said.

“Eh, I don’t know. I’ve had a look with the nanites. If Max and I put our heads together, we’ll sort it all out,” I said.

“Hush. You’re going to go to a doctor,” she said. “I’ll get it set up today and let you know when.”

As it happens, my medical needs and my holiday misgivings would both come to the forefront rather quickly. It happened shortly after I stopped by the little house Medusa got for me and Qiang. The chopper had done a number on it, but I had kept the basement closed up and heated for my machines to do their thing. Soon, I had an army of nanomachines ready and willing to do my bidding. And do they did. With the insurance seen to and the cops having pulled up their tape, nothing stood in my way any more.

I raised my hands to the sky, then remembered the lumber I was carrying. I set it down, then raised the empty hands. “Come, my minions. Your work is not yet done!”

One problem with really small stuff is the effect extreme temperatures can have on them. With nanites, the most noticeable issue involves excessive heat. Cold isn’t’ always the best, either, so it was slower going to use them to repair the house. Commanding an army of robots to fix and clean my house may seem like a petty use of my powers and resources, but it’s really not that big a leap for a world that uses the Roomba. Besides, one of the most important thing about power is using it for the petty stuff. That’s why so many people with diplomatic immunity are constantly getting parking and speeding tickets.

With that out of the way, I thought I might go see what licenses I needed to build more around the town. I don’t know what sort of shop I’d settle on, but I still need a front for my ongoing criminal enterprises.

I was just about to go when I felt all woozy. And itchy. And things hurt. It felt like my body was squirming around. I collapsed when part of my foot moved without caring about the tendons and muscles there. I felt pulled in all directions at once as something happened to me, leaving me a coughing, bleating mess on the ground in front of my property. The nanites swarmed toward me, responding to an emergency message, but found themselves in error, not sure what to do.

After a moment, I couldn’t even communicate with them anymore. Then, in the midst of a feeling like my skull was pulling apart, I blacked out.

It’s a misconception that it’s easy to knock someone out by pain alone. That’s tough. You can knock someone out by hitting them, but that tends to risk brain injury. Sedating people also carries that risk, and others, which is why anesthesiologists are so important to the process of cutting people up to help them live.

So I knew some major shit had gone down when I woke up and found myself moving toward a bright light. Then I saw an old man with a wise, wrinkled face and long, white hair come into view and look down at me. He opened his mouth and said, “Move the light back, you’ll blind the thing. You sure you don’t want a super vet instead?”

Medusa was there. “I’m sure. She’s human… mostly.”

I tried blinking away the glare of the light, but realized I was blinking. No glasses on, but I could see. And I had a really big nose in my view, tipped with black but brown along the way.

“Easy, Gecko. How do you feel?” asked the older man, who I could see now was in a white coat and turtleneck sweater.

The pain was pretty much gone. “Hot and itchy.” It smelled terrible in there, and I felt like my pants were full more than they should have been. “Did I shit myself?” Probably ruined my stash of delicious chocolate pudding I usually keep back there. “Why is my nose so big?” I raised a hand to touch my nose and stopped. My hand was… something, that’s for sure. The fingernails were much bigger and a thick brown color. Aside from that, they mostly looked human still, if you ignored the brown fur and occasional bits of white spots. I pressed my hand to my nose and felt along my face, which had been stretched forward a bit.

Unusually, I felt a desire to get the fuck out of there, my ears flicking around to try and help me listen out for a safe space. That’s when I realized my ears don’t flick and move around. After a moment of animalistic freak-out, I lowered myself back down to the able. “Drugs.”

“Is that what did this?” asked the doctor.

“I don’t know if it did, but I’m pretty sure I need some right now. I don’t like to rely on them, but when I think I’m growing fur and a muzzle, I’m pretty sure the problem at some point is drugs,” I said.

“We don’t know. Her neighbor found her in front of her house. They called the cops, who called animal control, who found her fake ID on her and turfed her back to the deputies. I heard about it by then and showed up, then figured out it was Gecko,” Medusa explained.

“Doctor,” said a woman. “You should see this. It’s another one.” I noticed her eyes flick toward me. The doctor left me alone with Medusa for a few minutes to go see to what sounds like another case of whatever’s going on.

A blinking noise alerted Medusa to something, she picked up her phone. Then I heard the voice coming from it. “Ladies, non-binaries, and gentlemen, I am here to save your world. Those in Canada and the United States are just beginning to see my plan come to fruition. Look upon them and see your future, for the rest of the polluters in the First World are soon to follow. For with my brilliance, I devised a way to put an end to your ways by transforming half of mankind into… animals!”

“How’s that supposed to stop climate change?” Medusa asked.

“You’re probably asking yourselves, ‘who is this genius? What do they want?’ the voice on the phone continued, completely misjudging our reactions. “I am Verdant. And with so many of the wealthy, the powerful, the elite, and the bloodthirsty now reduced to man-animal hyrbids, you have me to thank for saving Gaia.”

“It’s kind of brilliant,” Medusa said. She looked at me. I hope I was glaring, but I don’t even know what I am right now. “Sorry. We’ll stop him, but I think this might raise awareness. I wonder how many assholes in the oil companies are becoming the animals they wrote off as acceptable losses.”

She kissed my cheek. “Don’t worry, dear.” The winked at that, then took a picture and showed me.

Son of a… “At least your boyfriend that time got to have claws as a sloth. And Psychsaur is part lizard. How the hell am I supposed to be threatening as a deer?!”

She cooed and scritched my ears and the fluff that my hair turned into. “Don’t worry about it. You just be a pretty little deer and let me hunt down the bad guys this time, ok?”

I snorted, unamused.

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Fighting At Thanksgiving

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With all the money I’ve stolen, I’m no longer down and out. But with my house chewed up by the lead teeth of an autocannon, I’m now up in the inn. Or the small guest house, as it were. Between the house getting shot up and me running off to resolve the whole thing, I haven’t had time to do what I needed to take part in the annual feast day of the United States. I hear its origins go back to this time some starving Europeans were helped out by the Native Americans they soon thereafter exterminated. Really puts into perspective how much I could have been seen as a hero if I wasn’t so often a pawn in the games of the powerful.

Little did they all know that, with the support of friends and family I could trust, this pawn would go on to be a queen.

Qiang has had a little experience with Thanksgiving, and more would help since this is her home now. Plus, who doesn’t like to have a day when you and your daughter can stuff lots of delicious food down your throats? But the turkey wasn’t thawed. The dressing wasn’t dressed. I hadn’t even cut the cheese!

Even the option of grabbing food from a Chinese place wasn’t available. They didn’t have one in Radium. So I really thought I was kinda screwed. I continued thinking so when Medusa showed up on my door, but that also involved the good kind of screwed. Especially when she smiled. I don’t know why she’s with me, but I do so love that smile. She could do so much better than me. I threw my arms around her and hugged. Qiang ran up and joined us, squealing all the way.

Medusa bent down to pick up Qiang and kiss her on the cheek. “How are you?”

“Good! Mama made pretzel snacks and I was watching She-Ra,” she responded. It’s true. Found a recipe for doing stuff with pretzel sticks, peanut butter, and dipping chocolate. Double the hands makes easier work, even if I lost a pair of arms and ended up replacing them with another body I control. I need to give her a name.

“You like She-Ra, huh? Are you a Princess of Power too?” Medusa asked.

Qiang nodded happily, then added, “I think I could beat She-Ra.”

I laughed at that. I’ve moved away from using the TV stuff as a lesson for my girl. She’s learned a lot, and she still does some of the exercises, but it occurred to me that I could just let her be a kid. Sometimes that means she wonders about fighting characters and we get a little fighting practice in that way. She doesn’t think it’s fair when I wear glasses with googly eyes for lenses though. She’s too busy laughing to fight back effectively.

Medusa let Qiang down, then looked to me. I raised an eyebrow and said, “Hey Adora.” When she cocked her head in confusion, I added, “It’s from the show. If you follow it, that was actually pretty flirty.”

I let her in and she walked with me to the tiny kitchen corner of the living room where I had a chicken in its packaging, along with a clove of garlic, a lemon, and an onion. “Looks like you’re making a go at it,” she said.

I shrugged. “You don’t just go to a place and declare it a home. And I got really lucky and remembered to grab that. It’s no turkey, but I can do amazing things when you let me shove object A inside orifice B. And we know what the B stands for.”

“It would make a good addition if you want to bring it by the school,” she said. “We’re having a get-together for people who don’t have a big family to spend the day with. A lot of new arrivals to the town have a troubled history without a lot of family in their life, for good or bad. Someone thought it would be a good idea to see if we can handle a meal together.”

“Sounds risky. What next, a hero falling in love with her villain?” I asked.

She grinned, then ran a finger down my forehead. “You fell in love with me first. Admit it, evil doer.”

“Yeah I did. Got away with stealing you, too,” I grabbed her hand. She started slightly when my other pair of arms wrapped around her from behind and started nuzzling the back of her neck.

“That’s not fair,” Medusa whined, not sounding at all like she meant it. “Neither is not having the time… or space.”

She had a point. This place was tiny, maybe Qiang shouldn’t be able to hear every single aspect of my sex life.

The redhead pulled the hair away from Medusa’s ear to whisper to her, “Fine. I would love to eat out with you. Later. For Thanksgiving.”

She’s so cute when she’s blushing that heavily. She stayed and we calmed down over cups of hot chocolate. She even, I noticed, made an effort to address my other self as me, too. See, and here I wanted to gradually try and see what I look like, but now this gives me ideas to do a twin thing. I don’t know if I’m overthinking this or not overthinking this enough, especially because a relationship is involved. That and my own weird issues about bodies. As soon as I get done questioning my own mental health due to a prolonged period without my medication and unknown alien medical treatment of my brain, I should probably see someone about that.

That little party she was talking about sounded like a good idea, except for the fact that she invited me to it. I have to wonder how many heroes, or even other villains, are going to be happy with me as a neighbor. But I went, sending just the one body and resolving to bring back a big plate for the other one. Chicken and mac and cheese for everyone! Albeit, that’s much less of a celebratory thing if you’re vegan and lactose intolerant. We all have our struggles with intolerance. Even my poor daughter has issues with dairy, which is why I used tiny machines to reprogram her body to be fine with dairy. And that’s how we’re finally going to solve issues of bigotry. Little robots that make people better.

As thankful as Medusa must be that I’m not in control of a country anymore, she seemed plenty happy to see me walk through the double doors to the school’s cafeteria, which was a pretty standard-looking cafeteria if you ignored the paper mache turkey statues everywhere. Kinda makes it worse in my view. Like those stories of Vlad the Impaler dining in the middle of a forest of his victims.

It was a diverse group, though. Pretty sure some were aliens, including at least one of those Visitors from the Hares. Medusa managed to escape from a couple of guys, one of whom was white but had these thick dreadlocks with neon lights integrated into them glowing purple and blue. “Hey! Glad you decided to come out of your shell for the holiday. More out of your shell.”

I blinked a few times and blew some red hair out of my face. That phrase tickled something in my brain, like there’s an revelation waiting to happen. I put it out of mind and smiled. “Interesting crowd you’ve got here.”

“Orphans, refugees, people who had to find a family, people kicked out of families… I do not know a lot about my own heritage as an orphan, but many have a good reason to be disgusted by a celebration of colonization. I choose to view it as a day when people who do not wish to do that can be together with family and remember their blessings,” she said.

“…Yeah, that’s one way to justify it,” I said. “Though blessings is a bit more religious than I’d care for.”

She rolled her eyes and kissed my cheek. “Good fortune then. Come on, let’s go set this food down. Qiang, let me help your mom and I’ll show you the kids section.”

“I see it!” said my daughter, running off. Another revelation tickled my mind, that even though I’d adopted that girl and then did a creepy thing where I replaced her father’s DNA with mine while giving her my “powers,” she was reminding me a lot of me.

She led me through a crowd that was half-milling, half sitting at big table. No one was eating yet, but many of those seated had the hungry look of the wolf in their eyes. One woman had the elongated muzzle and extensive body hair of the wolf. After a moment, she clutched a silver pendant around her neck, closed her eyes, and became more human. Hey, she’s more honest. Some of us monsters hide inside a regular human body.

Again, that weird tickling in my brain, like that fairy from Ocarina of Time.

I got plenty of looks, but I think most of them were aimed at the cock I set down on the table.

Then came the time I didn’t really want to do. Mingling. I can mingle. I have the capacity to mingle. I just don’t have much tolerance for it. It’s like Christmas music. You’re capable of enjoying it, but by the time the three months of holidays are over with, the last thing you want to do is mingle all the way. Luckily, this is one of those areas where Medusa complements me. “Hello everyone, this is my girlfriend Delilah.”

Between the Feds and the sheriffs, the name ended up sticking. If I’d been more serious about it, I still don’t know what I’d have gone with. Victoria, maybe? Open your eyes, Victoria… just something from a song that speaks to me.

So I got introduced around on Medusa’s arm, meeting people and trying to keep track of names. I even met an older fellow with a paunch named Dave who told me he’d called the cops on those guys breaking into my house. “Thank you,” I told him. “I could have handled it on my own, but thanks.”

He waved it off. “We’re building a community here. We all handle outside problems like that.”

And before long, it was time to sit down and eat, with folks welcome to give whatever blessings they wanted, to deities foreign, domestic, imported, and extraterrestrial.

We didn’t make it through before someone shouted, “Now I remember! You’re the bastard who stole my sidekick!” Someone threw a glass of water on someone else, who followed up by smashing a piece of pumpkin pie into the first person. Next thing I know, I’m shielding myself with a platter like Captain America and fending off some guy charging at me with a turkey for a helmet and wielding a meaty leg as a club.

I grabbed a ladle of mac and cheese and flung it into his face, causing him to skid on the tablecloth. He couldn’t stop his momentum as I smacked him with the platter and sent him flying. Lucky for him he had a helmet. It might have been a friend of his who dumped a bowl full of cranberry sauce on my head, though.

By the end of the night, Medusa, Qiang, and I all walked out of there covered in various foods. I had grabbed a bit of cheesecake before someone could fall in it and was nibbling on the piece. I reached over and offered some to Medusa. “No thanks. This was a horrible idea.”

“Are you kidding?!” Qiang and I both perked up.

“That was awesome!” My kid shouted.

“The food was good. The entertainment was fantastic. If more Thanksgiving arguments went like that, we’d all have a lot more fun,” I added.

“Aww, you guys,” Medusa said. “I could hug you, but I won’t.”

“Yeah, I got you good with the gravy!” Qiang giggled.

Medusa’s mouth dropped. She looked to me, “Can you believe that?”

I nodded. “I can. You smell delicious right now.”

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Making A Killing 5

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It’s kinda funny that by the time Medusa finally got back to me about the situation where my house got shot to pieces, I was on the road to Detroit. “Gecko, where are you?”

“I’m on the way to solve this entire misunderstanding,” I told her.

“This is more than a misunderstanding. You’re lucky it wasn’t a funeral.”

“Eh, that hand grew back, and it would have simplified things all around if the Legionnaire I stole was killed,” I suggested.

“That’s harsh. You left her and your daughter here while you go where?”

“I won’t be gone long. I’m limiting the length of my trips. This’ll all be resolved soon. I’m just paying a visit to some bankers in Detroit. Don’t worry, they did some illegal stuff too, so it’s all going to work out in the end.”

“Promise me something?” she asked. “I am not asking much, but promise me you will try not to kill everyone. I’m not asking for much except that if you think you’re a necessary evil, don’t be an indiscriminate one.”

I considered a moment, watching the scenery pass me by as rural nothing turned into suburbia. “One step at a time, eh?”

“I know there’s a good person in you. You just need help bringing her out,” Medusa told me.

“I don’t deserve you,” I told her.

She laughed. “Yeah, you don’t.” Wow, just slide the knife into my heart all casually. “But I want to make the effort for you. You annoying nuisance that stays under my skin and then jump in front of a rocket to save a little girl. You’re better than you think you are. Remember that, and get home soon.”

That explains why I was in a surprisingly happy mood when I walked into the lobby of the bank corporation’s building. I looked like just another woman in a dress. I could say I was being inconspicuous, but merely being a woman in public works against that often enough. Someone else got on with me, a young man. “What floor are you looking for, ma’am?”

“Seven,” I said. “Do you know Frank Morton?”

The man pushed the button for me. “I don’t think so.”

“Older guy. Piercing blue eyes. Dark hair that’s starting to turn grey,” I described the guy I’d looked up. The guys got a lot friendlier after I started shoving money in their hands. They worked for this guy who worked for the bank, but didn’t want the bank to know what they were doing. Morton was a clever one. He even had a way to trace money based on scents humans can’t detect. Hiding the helicopter, now that’s the part that seems tricky to me. He’d be a clever guy to have on my side, but I see how he treats his business partners here.

His was office 707. “Hello, how may I assist you?” asked the woman sitting at the desk in the waiting area to his office.

“I’m here for Morton,” I told her.

“What’s this regarding?” she asked.

I glanced down at the nametag on her desk. “Miss McBain, this is regarding a sensitive matter. Perhaps you’d like to tell him it’s about that helicopter rental he hired recently. Or a matter of some discrepancies in the amounts stolen recently. I have a feeling he knows how the details keep getting out to the press.”

She fired off a text using her computer. I could feel it racing off through cyberspace. “Mr. Morton is in a meeting right now, but I’m sure he would be happy to hear what you would like to talk to him about. If you’d like, you can wait in his office.”

I leaned in close. “Yeah, you know too, don’t you? Needed the money?”

She looked at me and stayed very still. And very quiet.

I nodded. “Not a lot you can do sometimes but take the money and look after your own. Will he be long?”

“I don’t know,” she mumbled.

I waited in the office. Five minutes later, two men who were not Frank Morton walked in. They found me lounging in his chair, behind his desk, tapping away at his computer. “Something I can help you boys with?”

They wore polos and khakis, but didn’t look like that was their normal attire. One adjusted a pair of gloves on his fists. The other looked around the office from behind a pair of thick glasses. The one with the gloves threw a fist at the air. A fiery fist flew from his gloves and in my direction A second one caught me from behind somehow. And I’m in my armor. I can see all around me, but the guy who threw the punch stayed in front of me.

I ducked to the side, but the one from behind caught me and spun me into the desk. Well that didn’t seem like much of a threat, until I saw a hole open up in front of me. I looked through it into the face of the guy with glasses, who dipped out of the way and let the guy with the gloves reach through. He tried to pull my head into the portal. He soon found why his punches were so ineffective. I tugged back, and grabbed his arms.

“I wonder what happens at the edge of the portal?” I asked, then yanked his arms down. I heard a cry from behind me as I looked down at two severed arms. The portal closed in front of me. I jumped to my feet and looked down from near the ceiling. I pulled my head back down just before the portal snapped shut.I kicked back and sent the fried remains of the computer monitor toward them, but caught it in the face thanks to the portal guy. Then he took the leg I was standing on off at the ankle.

I fell, adrenaline surging through me at the same time I suffered the mixture of sudden loss of feeling except for pain. There was also some phantom itching in my foot. I knew this guy was clever, and I didn’t have much time before my blood made it really obvious where I was, so I turned invisible and rolled to the side.

Glasses approached cautiously, trying to get a read on where I’d gone and how I’d gone. I hopped up and exploded his skull with my fist before he could finish me off. With no one left to consciously try and stop me but the punch guy, who looked to be in shock if he hadn’t bled out already, I took a moment to gather my body parts. That meant holding my ankle back to me while the nanomachines populating my armor realized they needed to put two and two together. And in the right direction.

A quick examination while I sat there healing showed that those metal gloves worn by the puncher were lined with circuitry. I didn’t get such a good look at the glasses of the teleporter because those were nearly in as many pieces as his skull. The frames were all bent and didn’t appear to be any higher technology than whenever this dimension invented eyeglasses.

Marvelous invention. Think how many geniuses or fearsome warriors were neglected throughout history for being too near-sighted to be seen as anything but a burden to this burden or that hamlet. I couldn’t see any way these were special, but I pocketed them along with the gloves. Regardless of how Medusa would feel about the bodycount, I felt she’d appreciate that I was keeping potential weapons out of people’s hands. So maybe I did it for her instead of for me.

I stepped out the door, calling, “Miss McBain…” She was gone, having skedaddled at some point while I waited or fought. “…when you get back from vacation, hold my calls.”

I took up her place at her computer, which had been left on and unlocked. I’d say that’s sloppy, but loose ends often worry more about being tied up. There was the program she used to text her boss.

“Would you like me to have lunch brought to you outside the conference- %&!(%,” said the corrupted message. There’s not a lot of room to work with, but there was enough for me to embed a tracer. It reached him, and then I knew where he was. The 12th floor, Meeting Room C. Ouch, not even important for the second-class meeting room. No wonder he’s been skimming.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” I yelled upon throwing open the door of the meeting room. They had the lights dimmed and were projecting a presentation off a laptop. I spotted Frank Morton near the front of the seating. I stayed near the back, just some bombastic woman. “Please, don’t get up. I am become Death, destroyer of worlds, and I’m here for one person in particular. Now, can anybody tell me who that person might be?”

People instead pulled out their phones and started to call. I dropped the holographic projection and let them see the armor. “I’ve already killed several goons in the personal employ of one of you. I doubt the rest of you have much better to offer. And, as I said, this is a special offer for Frank Morton alone.”

He was opening some sort of app. I sent his phone into airplane mode, then shut it down. “No, don’t bother calling in anymore of your friends. You oughta know after the first seven henchmen you sent to threaten and steal from me, and the helicopter with the autocannon, and then the two fellows with superpowers currently stinking up your office that I am a little more than you can handle. I am, in fact, an outside-context problem to your little scheme. Anyone know what I’m talking about, folks?”

“This is the criminal who has been robbing us!” Morton said, hopping to his feet and pointing the finger.

I bowed my head. “True, but lucky for the rest of you, I didn’t take nearly as much as Frank here says I did. Isn’t that right, Frank? Somehow, some fake money got into those armored trucks and into that vault? Then reports get out of more money stolen. I wonder which amount ended up being told to the insurance company, Frank.”

There was a murmur at that, but that could have been anything. They were panicked. I’m pretty sure one old lady shat herself.

I walked around the seats toward Frank, who tried to race around the other side. I lept the seats in a bound and caught him under my arm, giving him a noogie just because I could. “Not enough you used some thefts to cover up skimming, but you got greedy. You wanted the stolen money, too. And that, Frank, is where you met a problem. Me, specifically.”

“Why should they believe a thief like you?” Frank spat from under my arm, finding out it was tougher to pull out of my grip than he expected.

I rubbed my knuckles into this hair like he was a playful rogue. “That’s a great question. Could be some of these fine folks are in on it… in which case, you should know I’m recording all of this. And as much as they might hate losing this money to a turncoat, I expect they’d hate having such an open and shut case hand-delivered to banking regulators of all nations. Even the IRS would have to get off its ass and pull out the snappy latex gloves to dig up y’all’s asses and find those undeclared earnings.”

That seeped in. Truth is, after decades of being gutted, I’m not sure how many teeth the IRS has left when it comes to banks with lots of cash. But I know some people still fear them. Even worse, other countries have competent regulators. Banks really like doing business across borders.

I let out a faked chuckle, then lifted Morton up by his throat. “But, really, if I can’t trust the goodness of their hearts or their greed, I can trust you, Frank.”

And with that, I reached up his ass and felt around. He screamed, as most would do when given an unexpected fisting that tore right through a business suit. It stopped when I pulled down. I didn’t get the whole spine out of his asshole. I could have, but I felt it made a better image to leave it half-unfinished.

Maybe call it optimism. Maybe call it pessimism. Either way, it isn’t survivable, and I call it being done with this.

“And make sure everyone who wants to follow up on those thefts with violence toward me and mine gets that message,” I said, tossing the twitching form of Frank Morton up onto the table at the front of the room and disappearing.

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Making A Killing 4

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I tried to call Medusa about getting these cops to let these guys go, but she’s super busy right now. Something about a time-sensitive kidnapping and a rich guy trying to build anti-super robots. I’m pretty sure that project is doomed to failure, but she insists she needs to deal with it right now. I tried letting the sheriff who took my statement know instead, but he insisted they knew what they were doing and I didn’t need to worry.

Medusa’s not around as much as I’d like. I might have to start pulling some crimes that will draw her attention. Make her chase after me. Mmm. I’m beginning to understand why Catwoman teased Batman so much.

But that’s for later. I’ve had my armor checked over. There were some connective issues with the hood and the rest of it. I made sure to recolor the thing, and get rid of the symbol that resembled Mr. Omega’s. See, if you have a gimmick or a certain sort of name, it’s so much easier to have a symbol. Medusa can just go with an M stylized a certain way. Someone with fire powers or ice powers has any number of flame or snowflakes to go with. I favor smiley faces, but that’s pretty generic. Eh, generic might be a good look for me if I’m in hiding again. I went ahead and left the chest blank, but figured I could always project a symbol if I need it. I’m hoping to have more time to build up my resources before most people know I’m around.

Yep, the armor’s better off. My worktable is coming along. The green house is up, but not powered yet. And Qiang’s studying math. She’s got a study buddy. It’s cute. Also pretty meaningless, because I could just build her an internal calculator to figure all that up, but at least part of the problem later on is knowing enough about a situation to figure out which equations to apply. I dunno, might have to wait on that until her body’s stopped doing so much growing.

I thought we were doing just fine as far as the bank’s thugs, too. The ones who got caught posted bail soon after the judge set it. No big hassle or fuss. One of the sheriffs knocked on my door one morning to let me know the four who had been arrested had gotten out and were staying at the Flamingo. It’s this tiny motel by the highway. More the sort of place for people who need to stop for the night, from my evaluation using a drone. I’d call it crappy, but no more so than any other aging highway motel that doesn’t belong to one of the big chains.

I kept an eye on them. That was all I planned to keep on them. If I had any plans of murdering them, and I’m not saying I did, they involved waiting until the guys left. Less of a headache for people around the town that way. I know, it’s silly, but I might as well not be a complete ass to the people who looked after my daughter while I was hurled into the deepest reaches of space to contend with space Nazis and produce a space opera. That was fun, but I have a family to look after. That sometimes means not painting a couple of hotel rooms red with the blood of four hapless thugs who thought they could intimidate me.

I was actually cooking dinner when the attack came. I was frying porkchops when this roar started. I saw the wall above the stove tear open and I dropped to the floor. Oil and egg spilled everywhere, burning the crap out of my right leg before I crawled out of the splash zone. It just did not let up. Down in the basement, I had my puppet stand up and ready my suit. In the kitchen, I crawled for the basement door. It took me longer than normal to get there, maybe five seconds to scoot over and fling myself down the stairs. Longer than it should have. The sudden rush of adrenaline and the constant roar of what I realized had to be bullets cutting my house in half combined to make time feel slower than usual.

I got dressed about halfway up the stairs and crawled my way up. The nanites living in the suit were working on my burned leg when I went to pull myself up the stairs on while the gun made another pass in the opposite direction. One moment, I have my hand on a railing at the top of the basement stairs. The next, I no longer have a hand. This was disturbing in a couple of ways. Allow me to list them.

First, AAAAAAARGHGH! Fuck that fucking hurt like a son of a bitch.

It’s not much of a reason, but it is the one I fixated on for a minute before the nanomachines closed up the mess where my right hand had been. It wasn’t even taken cleanly at the wrist, instead having something of a tiny stump of a hand and a thumb still there.

Second, that meant the person was using a hellaciously powerful and expensive weapon. That’s like Warthog jet anti-tank cannon stuff. I ducked down into the basement, reaching out. It took some looking in the cameras outside before I found one that caught a glimpse of the helicopter out there. It was a bigger one, but not military. They had a really long autocannon sticking out of the doors of the passenger compartment.

I was going to see what I needed to do to crash it or throw them off long enough to get outside and take it down, but then I saw a sheriff’s truck pull up. It had one of those coverings on the bed that made it look like an SUV or something, but that split apart and a turret rocket launcher rose up.

This asks the classic question: explosions? Explosions!

The police fired first. In most circumstances, this might be an objectionably turn of events, but not when someone’s shooting at me with an anti-tank cannon from a helicopter. That same helicopter went up in a brilliant fireball, rising briefly before coming to a rest on my lawn. And then I had to realize I just got saved by the cops. Ugh. So, let’s add anti-aircraft defenses to the list of building projects. I’m thinking lawn gnomes with a flak cannon or a wind vane that doubles as a SAM launcher.

The sheriffs began to disembark, which is why I took the time to make my armor appear to be just normal clothing. When they opened the door, they found me holding a flip-flop and ready for war.

“Easy, ma’am. We got ’em,” said the lead deputy through the door. The one behind him had her gun out, showing off some unusual glowing parts for a revolver to have. He turned toward her. “Check around.” He turned to me again to add, “Now I know why your friend Medusa said you were the one we’d have trouble with. What have you got yourself into?”

I folded my arms across my chest. The illusion didn’t wince like I did, and seemed to have both hands. “Nothing. Maybe I just made a withdrawal from a bank that really doesn’t like losing my account.”

He looked at me, then back out to the street. By now, of course, a bunch of people were watching the helicopter’s fire die out. “Now you’re becoming a pain in my ass.”

“What’s up is something I didn’t think would follow me here,” I told him. “And when it did, I tried to take steps to make sure it wouldn’t come back here.”

He turned to look outside as the ambulance and fire truck pulled up. “You are making it hard for me to protect you as a member of this community, you know that? Do you need to see the paramedics?”

I shook my head. “Nah, not even just one. Listen, give me a few days to clear this up, nip the problem in the head, and you won’t have anymore awesome action sequences involving rockets and helicopters to worry about.”

“Or what?” he asked, looking back at me. “I wasn’t aiming to arrest you, not unless you’ve got anything you’d like to confess to.”

“I must confess, I’m perfectly innocent,” I said.

He snorted. “I doubt. I’ve seen your girlfriends. Not judging.” He held up a hand. “If they keep finding you, we might have to move you into protective custody is all. You can’t raise a little girl in a house that keeps getting shot up by miniguns!”

“In this case, a minigun would be smaller and less powerful,” I pointed out.

“My point is I’m not your enemy,” he said, “but we need to figure out some way to stop whoever this is from attacking our community. Do you know of anyone who might want to hurt you?”

“I do, but I’m invoking my Fifth Amendment Rights on who that is.”

Frustrated as the sheriffs were over this whole mess, they eventually left me, my backup body, and my daughter in peace when she got home. Having so far spent a lot of time around me, she was used to explosions and gunshots, and thus didn’t see a good reason to run toward them as so many other people did. But with our home currently a bit under the weather, we had to back up our things and move into a room for rent at this person’s guest house. At least they lived near the school. Unfortunately, there was no salvaging the fried pork chops.

No, I left the pigs well enough alone. And when, in the dead of night, four large guys snuck through the crime scene tape at my little house and started looking around, I circumvented the piggies yet again.

I appeared behind the last two, arms draped over their shoulders. “Now, this can go two ways. One of them involves violence, like I know y’all are instinctively wanting to do. Except, well, I doubt y’all are packing anything better than that autocannon in your trousers, no matter how happy you are to see me. Eh?”

The ones I grabbed froze. One of the ones in the lead jumped for cover and came up with an end table from Ikea as good at stopping violence as their meatballs. The other put his arms up and asked, “What do you want?”

“I want option number B. Letter two, you might say. You tell me some things that allows me to resolve this situation with a minimum of death for y’all. Because that’s what’s for sake with this bunch here. I won’t torture you, where you can hold out hope you’ll be saved. Nothing where the cops will burst in. Just death. Those you love never know what happens to you. Maybe they think you didn’t care and disappeared on them. Maybe a partner figures you really were cheating on them. Maybe your child grows up thinking you abandoned them and hated them. The party train keeps on rolling, but you’ve been tossed off.”

The guys with my arms around their shoulders seemed particularly aware of how close they were to me while I talked simply of their deaths. Just a matter of fact, like going out to the grocery store and picking up chicken feet for a meal.

The guy with his arms up looked at them, then glanced back at the guy holding up a nightstand. The nightstand fell apart. “In my defense, I didn’t put that together,” I said.

“What do you want to know?” asked the spokesman.

I grinned under my helmet and removed my arms from the two immediately in front of me. I rubbed them together and asked, “First, how’d you track me? Second, who do you work for? Third, where do I find them? Fourth, do you want the money I’m paying you as a bonus in big bills or small bills?”

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Making A Killing 3

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I had what I needed. Money, a home, pork loin marinating in the refrigerator, and the satisfaction of a crime well committed. I even got my Riccan homeopathic capsules, several of which I took, reprogrammed, and spat out. Others were used to give myself a diagnostic while I sat back and enjoyed No Fucks To Give. The show really has a lot better of a cynical comedic vibe to it ever since the actors all got told they’re out of a job at the beginning of the season. I don’t think the alcoholic doctor was even written to be an alcoholic, and the hooker he brought with him kept trying to hide her face from the cameras.

Now, I can explain what the nanites found in me in between a little bit of plastic surgery, but not why. My brain is a bit different. Could be the aliens, could be Omega. The same ambiguity goes for why I’m no longer infected by the parasite that enables super powers to be stripped away. That turned out to be something myself and the stolen power puppet have in common, but with her, it’s because she has very little of her original brain left. As a matter of fact, I took her out to run some errands while my own body stayed back at home.

Yeah, I kept her. Maybe there’s something to Medusa saying I have weird control issues. It wouldn’t be unheard of to see me walking her body around and using it for my own ends as ghoulish or jambalaya or some other Cajun meal. But getting rid of her also means, like with so many of those Legionnaires, letting some official agency euthanize them. Which is a problem because the people who made them were part of an official government agency, and the law here isn’t keen on even compassionate murder. In my mind, it’s not a big leap from “allowing someone to die because it’s better for everyone involved,” to “killing that asshole over there because it’s better for everyone involved,” but I understand most people’s morality is a bit different.

So despite Medusa frowning on it, me keeping this Legionnaire for myself fits right into an ethical and legal grey area that I can exploit the hell out of. I guess the question is if I want to. That’s always the question, right?

Like with this whole bank and money situation. It’s not really my business that the bank’s been lying. They technically used me to help cover something they’re doing, but I got millions of dollars in cash. I need to launder it, but I’m otherwise in the clear. Better than that, I’ve got a tub full of little robots digesting chowing down on a shitload of old computer parts and phones and spitting out more little robots. I’ve started on a multi-armed monstrosity of a worktable that can build things and maintain my armor for me.

All I need to do is find a way to explain why I have all this money. It looks odd for cash to suddenly appear, especially large amounts of it. Plus, I have to deposit some of it in the bank to handle things like online shopping. Banks have to report if you deposit $10,000 or more in one go. Hiding that by dropping off $4,000 one day and $8,000 the next won’t trigger the mandatory report, but banks still keep track of that. It’s part of a pattern of suspicious behavior that causes folks to look into a bank account and where the money is coming from.

I need a cash-based business of some sort. Unfortunately, Radium is a town in the middle of nowhere. It’s growing with all the money Medusa and her Exemplars are pouring into it, but it takes some time. For now, I’m trying to avert suspicions by claiming to be an artisanal pencil sharpener, but that’ll only last so long. That’s why I sent out my power puppet to try and look through the town, see what I could see. I figured I might run across a redneck trying to build a sawmill. I already have a couple of ideas about starting my own business, including one where I might get a greenhouse for the backyard and start growing some plants, but this is all in the opening stages. It’s not like the homeopathic nanite pill business is going to stand up to any scrutiny here in the ass end of nowhere.

My redheaded alter ego made her way around, bundled up more than she probably needed to be given her fire powers. I got her something to eat, finding out her body enjoys some different things than mine does, lik onions and walnuts. I got her some clothes, too, making small talk with some people at the store about people hiring and people starting businesses. And from there, we talked about what the area was known for in the past. There’s not a lot I can do with “sprung up along a rail line” though.

It was all fairly boring until I realized someone was following me. That was tough here, not because I’m remote-operating someone else’s body. It’s such a small town, it’s hard to walk far enough to find out someone’s following you. But I figured it out. I’m starting to actually get familiar with this town, and so far, nobody here has been a car full of tough, Robert Z’Dar-looking motherfuckers who look at me through binoculars while talking on phones. So I walked her out of town a bit, to a couple crosses on the side of the road next to a farm field. The car stopped and the everyone but the driver got out. One of them pulled a small revolver out of his jacket while two others popped the trunk and brought out a metal baseball bat and a crowbar.

“Something I can help you gentlemen with?” I called out to them.

“We seem to have misplaced some money,” said the one with the gun. “We were hoping you would be a Good Samaritan and help us find it. After all, it’s the holidays.”

“It’s not the holidays until you pry the calendar out of a Thanksgiving turkey’s warm, dead wings,” I responded. I turned the redhead around to face the bunch. For intimidation factor, the driver revved the car.

The one with the gun, the spokesman of the group, continued, “You better tell us or your kitchen’s going to get a bit hot under the collar. Maybe you haven’t heard what happened to your accomplices from the robbery.”

I checked real quick. Machete Jones, a local Detroit small-time theatre actor, was found dead in his apartment of an apparent break-in gone bad. I checked the cameras out front of the house and found a van parked out front. These looked less stereotypically intimidating, but they had a couple of hefty guys who could probably move bags to go along with the wiry fellow who paced back and forth looking over the house. I decided to head down to the basement and pull my armor off the worktable.

Back by the side of the road, I decided to butcher the metaphor. “You do that and you’ll find you’re out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

I sprayed fire and ducked to my left behind the wall of flame that obscured the view between myself and the thugs. Considering what they brought, they’d probably just leave, but I heard a few gunshots from the guy who brought he revolver. I came jumping through the flames, tossing a fireball at him, catching his coat on fire. He dropped the gun and tossed the coat off before his friends pulled him into the car to race out of there.

I let them and started walking the redhead back to the house.

The same house where I heard the sound of a window breaking just after pulling the hood of my armor on. My armor wrapped me in invisibility as I headed upstairs to find the crew that came for the money had busted a window on the door. The wiry guy stood checking out the door while the two bigger guys were coming in, looking at the layout of the house to figure out where they needed to go.

The smart speaker I kept on a side table came to life. “You should have known, the price of evil, and it hurts to know that you belong here, yeah…” sang Avenged Sevenfold.

The TV flickered on, paused a second, then flipped to a new channel. It repeated that, going from channel to channel.

Now, one of the big guys took a couple of seconds to realize something fucked up was going on and barreled out the door past the skinny guy. “You fucking scared of some weird smart device shit?” called the lookout. He turned around, asking, “You believe this?” of the third guy, who stood staring at him with a scared look on his face. A face that looked back at him from on top of his back, about 180 degrees out of place.

From all around the lookout who smashed my window came a growling voice. “GET OUT!” including from the TV and the speaker. He ran, leaving me to start taking my armor off and directing my redheaded puppet to stop by the hardware store to get a good price on a replacement window.

Ten minutes after the van peeled out of there, a couple of sheriffs stopped by. I didn’t know if they’d just barge in, so I met them at the door with my blind self, probably giving them some reason to be suspicious of me. “Hello out there, officers.”

One sheriff looked to his partner, who raised an eyebrow and stopped approaching. “Hello, ma’am. Neighbor called and said they heard the sound of breaking glass and saw suspicious individuals in the area. Is everything alright?”

“Just a break-in attempt. I guess they got scared off when they realized I was home,” I said.

“Right… if you don’t mind, we’d like to have our crime scene technicians out to take fingerprints.” I wasn’t a fan of the idea. I thought I did a good job hiding it, but the sheriff approached, voice lower. “I understand that we’re getting a lot of new citizens who have unusual lives, habits, even unusual… physiques. Might even be some folks with a past they aren’t proud of. It’s best for everyone if we don’t start upsetting apple carts, but I think everyone’s in agreement we don’t want anyone coming here to mess up our town and our people. Even new people. Even people with a past.”

I don’t know if this is some formal thing, but it sounds like these guys know I’m a supervillain. I wonder if they know who I actually am. But either way, these guys seem to see me as someone to serve and protect too. Weird. “Ok, they can come out and take fingerprints.”

“What about a statement?” asked the sheriff in front of me.

“If you think there’s any truth to be gained from it…” I said.

“A lawyer would say to stick to the relevant details only,” he said.

So I gave a statement and avoided showing the cops the compost bin out back that’s a little bigger than it used to be. And then, at the end, they revealed they fucked up. I had just shown them out when the one I hadn’t given the statement to came jogging up. “We think we have them. We’d like to bring you in and let you look at the lineup.”

I went. And was able to tell them, honestly, that none of the four Robert Z’Dars broke into my house. They pulled over the wrong guys. And even though I pointed out it wasn’t them, they’re still holding these guys because one of them had a recently-fired gun on him.

Crap. I wanted to scare them all off in part because I thought I could keep them away from this place. But whoever it is that sent these toughs just ended up with a pretty good reason to come to this town and make sure nobody’s going to talk. I better get that greenhouse and some planters built. I’m going to need a place to dump some bodies.

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Making A Killing 2

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Wake up, send Qiang off to school with a kiss and a lunch, and add some stuff to the compost pile. Bring in the morning paper, update a list on groceries we need, and catch the latest episode of the canceled hospital-based soap opera “No Fucks To Give.” Then, I move onto business.

It might have taken longer to figure out the bank I needed to go after, but he local papers made mention of it. Oddly enough, they reported more thefts than the two I pulled. Seemed like an odd thing to make public.

I’ve said it before, but most money is kept in computers, not in vaults. I could take more touching the right computer in the place than helping myself to the vault. As ridiculous as I get at times, I am a big proponent of being smart about all the chaos going on. So I scouted the place out. Put on my sunglasses, grabbed a walking stick, and walked in looking for donations.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” asked a polo-shirted employee, no doubt taking in the lovely face I wore. For the sake of the villain whose features I’d appropriated, I made a few alterations, like wearing a wig using subtle makeup to emphasize different features.

“Oh, hello shuge. I was just hoping to set this in here and collect donations for a friend. She’s going through a real bad time right now, what with the diabeetus and the cancer.” I held up the plastic coffee container I’d turned into a makeshift donation can. It wasn’t as deep on the inside as it looked. As hidden compartments go, this one’s pretty crappy. I mean, I’m not working against kickass spies here.

He looked me up and down, not being too subtle about it. He didn’t think I could see, after all. “Are you a member here?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I’m trying to leave these places where people have money. Like, muddin’ tires money,” I told him. He smiled at me playing up the accent and stereotypes. People love feeling superior. His problem is that I’m objectively superior, and he’s too caught up in an accent to realize he’s being played.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I really don’t think we can accommodate you,” the guy responded.

“Really?” I pouted.

He didn’t realize I could see him rolling his eyes at me. “I can speak with my supervisor, but I can’t promise you anything.”

“Oh thank you, that’d be mighty kind of you,” I said. I love plans that hinge on the enemy thinking they’re taking advantage of you. It’s all about knowing their weakness. What will they jump on? What are they compelled to do?

The man walked away into a side room that was kept closed. I caught a glimpse of a refrigerator and microwave, so probably the break room. After a couple of minutes, he came back. “Ma’am, I’ve spoken with my supervisor. I tried to make the case, but I don’t think we can let anyone leave that here. Maybe if you had an account with us, I could persuade him.”

I patted around in my pockets and pulled out some hundreds folded in a way to differentiate them from other currency. By now, y’all shouldn’t be surprised how well money greases the wheels. They got me set up with a bank account under a false name, completely understanding how I didn’t have a driver’s license.

The bank gives these guys an incentive to look good by creating accounts. It’s nothing so shady as the guy claiming I miscounted and was short a hundred or two, but he still decided to lie and take advantage of a blind woman trying to look after a friend. Sure, I can see, and sure, the donation can is just here to help me rob the place. He doesn’t know that. Honestly, he shouldn’t even think that. Therein lies the danger of Psycho Gecko. I can be anyone, anywhere, anywhen provided I hijack the Mobian’s time vessel.

With that taken care of, I didn’t need to stay close. I had chicken and dumplings to cook for my little dumpling. Helping Qiang research cultural heroes of the past is pretty mundane considering my life, but I’m done trying to save the world. The banks can have their incentives, the customers they screw over, the workers who frantically race around the maze looking for that cheese. I’m saving my help for the people who want it, and my give-a-damn for the people worth a damn.

Qiang was off playing in her room and I just finished cleaning up the kitchen when I figured it was time to make my play. The donation can vibrated and the top I’d cut a whole in swung open on a small hinge. The drone hidden in the bottom rose from it and began a circuit of the bank, taking it all in and mapping it for me. Whoopsie, and causing some problems with the cameras. Those darn laser lights are so common nowadays, and closed circuit tv cameras are so easy to zap and render useless.

The vault was a big, heavy piece of work. Nothing I’d want to be trapped inside or try to force open without a bit of help. It was a pretty good one for any bank considering going up against supers. A Vimes 9-7, to be exact. The Vimes series is basically dedicated to be a pain in the ass. Their philosophy seems to be to make themselves inconvenient pains in the ass. They’re dumb safes, too. No biometric scanners, no number pads, no electronics of any sort. Not even any way to wire them for live closed-circuit camera viewing, and the whole thing’s too full of lead and Q-metal for wireless signals to penetrate. Just a duo of combination locks on a rectangular door with a handle that requires a weightlifter to turn.

That’s the Vimes for you: too dumb to fool. So why did the hinges on the door look so different from the catalog?

Yeah, we get the catalogs, too. You know, for our own valuables and doomsday weapons. Makes a good place to trap a hero. And it helps us break into the vaults, which convinces banks to buy newer models of vault. Everybody wins, except the bank. To put that another way, everybody wins.

It was a mystery, but not a very important one. Weak hinges don’t matter a whole lot unless the door’s unlocked. I parked the little drone back in the bottom of the donation can. Then, it was time to get cooking.

The next day, I visited the bank again, once more in disguise as a harmless blind person. I had a box with me. Just a plain, ordinary cardboard box. “Excuse me, I need to rent a safe deposit box,” I said loudly upon entering.

The same guy who helped me before swooped in like a vulture. “I would love to help you with that. Mind the ladders. We suffered a minor electrical issue last night. Is that box what you would like to keep in our vault?”

“This? Oh no, it’s what’s inside the box,” I said. That’s right. Be annoyed by the country bumpkin.

He laughed. “Why don’t I show you to my desk and you show me what’s in the box?” His laugh turned into more of a nervous chuckle when he saw what it was. “A lava lamp?”

It was my turn to laugh, faking it this time. But since I’ve become a woman, I’ve gotten great at faking it. “No, no… well, yes, but not just any lava lamp. This is Andy Warhol’s prized Faberge lava lamp. There’s quite a story behind it.” I sat there quietly for a few seconds.

“I’m sorry, is that it?” he asked.

“No, but I don’t feel like telling the story,” I said. “How much would it cost to stick this valuable piece of pop culture history in your vault?” I rented a safe deposit box and he showed me back there to the vault, open now, and through the daygate. That’s what they call that interior gate that lets them lock the vault while not closing it. Ah, there’s nothing so lovely as seeing cash neatly piled up in a bank vault next to a pair of counting machines.

“Whoops!” I said, dropping my cane and “accidentally” kicking it back out of the vault when I bent down to retrieve it. After a moment’s focus on my bent-over rear, the guy helping me out pushed past me.

“Here, let me get that for you.”

I followed him out. “Oh, thank you.” When he turned back toward me, I took the cane from him and then smacked him over the head with the lava lamp I glued a bunch of broken stained glass onto. Some of it crunched as he dropped to the floor. I whipped around the vault door and broke the lava lamp on the top hinge, making sure to get as much of the goop on the inside on both of the hinges.

I don’t know what was up with their hinges in particular, but I know that vaults have to be opened for some business during the day. And I know that a door built to be inconvenient and hard to swing open or shut really has to hope nothing gums up the hinges and makes it impossible to open… or shut. Think of the mess I stuck in there as a reverse WD-40.

That’s when I signalled the interns. That was my name for the job opportunity I posted online. I could have recruited off VillaiNet, but I’m still lying low. Instead, I turned to the endless stream of out-of-work entertainers and poor interns who could always use some cash. Many of them were quite eager to toss on a balaclava and rush in. Even arming them didn’t cost so much with all the early Black Friday gun deals. One place even threw in a discounted five-pack of Colombian military surplus machetes. That explains why one of the first interns in wore a pirate tricorner hat on top of his ski mask and declared. “Yargh, the dread pirate Machete Jones is here for your booty!”

They had security guards, but the ones up front surrendered pretty easily. There were a pair back there near the vault who had advanced on me once they realized I was up to something, but they’d gotten distracted by the interns. I tripped one with my cane, knocking the wind out of him when he hit the floor. The other had been in the middle of radioing in the problem when I popped him in the crotch. I grabbed the radio away from him and spoke in his voice. “God dammit, it’s one of those stupid prank shows. We’re good here.”

“Really?” Came the response. “Is Ashton Kutcher there or is it the kid from Stranger Things?”

Huh. Ashton Kutcher’s still a thing? I actually felt like I was getting stuck in another mental loop pondering that one. Pretty sure pondering Ashton Kutcher’s career is how Buddhist monks reach enlightenment these days. Regardless, most of my work was done. The interns were eager to load a shitload of money up into bags they brought and daisy chain them out the door into a waiting van. They had the vault empty of cash in five minutes.

I let them go their own way with most of the money, keeping a healthy few bags for myself when they dropped me off at my car. It wasn’t entirely about the money, after all. Which is good, because it turned out that the money wasn’t entirely money either. And when the news announced the millions of dollars stolen in the heist, I realized there’s no way the numbers made sense. If a bank planted hundreds wrapped around fakes to fool robbers, that’d be one thing. But to then report that the fake money was real?

I’m not the only thief involved here, and I don’t mean the career debut of Machete Jones, Pirate of the Great Lakes.

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Making A Killing 1

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Despite the fact that Medusa is putting me up in a house and paying for my daughter to be educated, I’m still broke and in need of resources. A lot of stuff was tied up with Ricca, and I was always easy-come, easy-go with money and stuff before that. Now, this place already has a musty old basement, so that’ll probably do for a home mad science lab. I need more nanomachines, and the easiest way to get those is to have some in the first place. I have a plan for that, but I need some capital to start with.

There’s not much to the FDA, especially now that the President’s being impeached over that nasty scandal involving stealing soldiers’ corpses and using them as his own private, unaccountable wetwork team. Even before the more recent sudden collapse of the government, it wasn’t the most well-funded of agencies. I dunno, I guess Americans like spit in their food. One weakness is that they don’t give much of a crap about supplements. You could put anything in there. Just think about homeopathy. You want pills to treat lead poisoning? They take a little bit of lead, dilute it with so much water that it’s no longer considered there, and sell them in pills and stuff. Now available at your local CVS.

For all I know, just importing Riccan water might be ok. I don’t keep close enough track of all the regulations about food. But I bet I can get some water imported and sold as some sort of medicinal thing. This water actually would cure what ails people. More importantly, I can command them to break down other materials and create more of themselves, then have them do all the heavy lifting and moving to make some equipment I need. It would have been a whole lot simpler if I could just extract some from my armor… but I tried that. Apparently, after all the recent injuries, I was running on empty. Or if I wasn’t, I was close enough to it not to matter. So I need nanites to do refill this bad boy, too.

I suppose I could try to hunt them down elsewhere. I’m kinda liking my anonymity at the moment, though. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee any particular hospital’s going to have it. So, I dunno, just easier to go with my plan. Or maybe it’s just the first thing I came up with and I like it. Minimal risk of hurting or exposing me. Don’t worry, I’ll expose myself at some point.

See, they’re just the first step. I need a machine to repair and maintain my armor, even upgrade it as necessary. I need one of those for me, too. That talk with Medusa… I don’t know, I still want to steal Dame’s body for some weird reason, but I want to try wearing a different face.

Speaking of putting on a happy face, I finally heard back from Max. Something about switching up email accounts and then Sam had taken a short break from reading me, however she does that. He’s got some medicine in the mail, but he’d love to examine my head sometime. Now, I don’t know the guy to be particularly well-versed in human anatomy, so I’m not so sure about that. But he says it sounds like I’ve been relatively stable since I’ve been away and that maybe the aliens rooted around and fixed something in me. I responded that this can’t be true, because I was still crazy enough to come back to this damn planet.

With that on the way, I just had to find a nice spot for a quick day trip. Like Detroit. Big city, with banks and such there. The trip would have been quicker with a car, but I didn’t have that yet. I really should hunt down my old one, Black Sunshine. Or maybe see about hijacking one of my old Psycho Flyers. If anyone has a right to one, it’s me. Anyway, I waited on the interstate, keeping an eye out for some Monday deliveries. Oh look, a nice, juicy armored car. I hopped up from where I was sitting, invisible to the world, and then hopped on top of the heavy armored vehicle.

I didn’t make the stealthiest landing. There’s a limit to how you can manage that with something that weighs as much as myself in my armor, plus the bags I brought along. The people inside kept driving, probably radioing out that they had an emergency. I went ahead and set the first bag down. I’m not a fan of the encroachment of Christmas on other parts of the year, but this time I emulated that jolly old elf himself by bringing a bag full of goodies. I just had to stand back and light the magnesium fuse. It wasn’t long before the bag started burning a nice little hole in the roof of the armored car, big enough for me to drop in and hop out. This is another area where a car would be idea. Much easier to carry more bags, with additional space for loose bundles. Just like with so much women’s clothing, though, my armor doesn’t have pockets. So while this thing burned, I unfolded the duffel I brought and prepared.

When it looked all clear, I hopped down. A guard stood down there, back against the wall separating the rear of the armored car from the driver’s cabin. His eyes were fixed on the hole in the roof because I was still hidden behind my holographic invisibility. He was waiting to take his shot until he saw whoever it was meaning to come in. So, while he waited, I took one of my own. Right to his balls. I think I knocked at least one of them up inside his torso, which is none too pleasant of an experience. Then I grabbed the gun away, breaking some of his fingers in the process, and tossed it out through the hole.

After that, it was as simple as filling a bag with a bunch of cash and leaping free. The guard didn’t put up the biggest fight, but I guess he figured he’d taken enough of one that no one was going to accuse him of not doing his job. And I got away with enough money to place a down payment.

After that, it was time to do some shopping. As always, I frequented the little electronics store around Radium. I know places where I can get bucketfuls of spare cell phones for parts, but it’s a police auction website. I’d rather not pay the people who want to hunt me down if I can help it, so instead I paid some eager middle-aged guy who hadn’t seen this kind of business in his entire life.

After that, my nefarious plan involved getting a few new dresses, tights, pants, skirts, boots, blouses, coats, and the number of somebody who can do manicures and pedicures. What? A big part of being a villain is presentation and style. And apparently Medusa’s idea of a joke is to give me a wardrobe with, like, lumberjack shirts and superhero fan t-shirts. I’m not going to walk around with a new “Honky Tonk Hero is My Homie” shirt on any longer than I can. I used to be suicidal, after all. That kind of shirt is a health risk. And a real downer that he ever sank that low. Damn, Elvis being back must have put a damper on his career.

I also had enough money to get myself a car, and the pieces I needed to make a few upgrades to it. That would come in real handy for the next job. I said I had enough for a down payment. The costs of turning water into homeopathic cough syrup are a little higher than that. So I set out once again, parking well away from the interstate. This time, I set a second burn off, this one smaller and above the same area a guard was sat last time. I reached down and saw, yep, a guard there at the ready like last time. I think it was even the same guard. I poked him in the eyes, causing him to cover them up and fire widely.

I dropped through the other hole, arms loaded with bags, and tossed them onto the floor of the compartment. The guard dropped his magazine out of his pistol and went to put a fresh one in, looking out with one eye from behind his hand. He could see the bags, but not me. I made my presence felt by dropping to one knee and giving him a solid straight to the sack.

He doubled over, trying not to puke. “Oh god, the other one.”

“Hey, don’t throw up,” I said. “If you throw up, it’ll make me want to throw up.” I helped him upright. “Breath, ok. Just breath.” I turned visible again and raised a hand, holding up fingers. “Can you tell me how many fingers I’m holding up?”

“Three?” he said, looking at my hand, then looking me over.

I tossed him against the compartment wall. “Not the question I asked!”

With him disoriented, it was easy enough to grab some zip ties off his belt and hogtie him. Then I started filling the bags, even tossing one out with the top open to create a distraction. The cops will have a hell of a time getting the roads cleared with that many hundreds around.

I heaved several bags into my car and didn’t find out it was all Monopoly money until I got back to the house. Those… urgh! It’s more embarrassing than anything, but think of how mean that was to the guard. That’s two nuts I hit him in. I’m assuming that’s all he has, but you never know. The man might not have children, when he could have just sat around not trying to stop anything this time.

I know what y’all are thinking. The old me, the less secure, less stable Gecko, would have burned the bank that did this to the ground, hunted down the CEO, and impaled him on a pole. But I’m a changed woman. A caring mother. I don’t have time for all that when I have a child to take care of and feed. She’s got some sort of history project coming up she needs help on, after all. And I still have to see about getting my nails done.

So I’ll settle for everything in their vault and the satisfaction of knowing I’ve still got it.

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Return of the Living Gecko 7

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Qiang threw things at me. That hurt more than my nose. And I think I deserve it. I guess I didn’t really have to go running off. My contributions were minimal. I helped get some information out, and I was kidnapped by the supervillain.

I was the damn damsel. I’ve been captured before, but was I really all that necessary? If I’d stayed, would it have changed anything? My kid wouldn’t hate me. So.. yeah. Qiang’s not happy and locked herself in her room. I finally got to see the house through the eyes of my little puppet. A bit of a step down from having the world handed to her in a palace, with friends and family and an adoring populace.

I’m gonna have to talk to her about that. And so many other things. The birds and the bees, and how to kill them. Body parts and how to use them. And… what? I don’t get into any adventures that take me away too long? I’m not fond of the idea of settling down into some nothing job. The Exemplars appear to have their business well enough in hand.

I headed down the hallway in my own body, feeling my way along. There weren’t any pictures on the wall. I’d left her in an empty house. Shelter.

I sat down next to her door, wondering why the hell I thought I could take care of her. “Honey… I messed up.” I didn’t know if it’d matter to say sorry. I just got back from space and being possessed by Mr. Omega, and immediately run off. There’s some shit going on in that young mind that I don’t know how to fix. “I love you, but adults have problems. I have a lot of problems. That’s not your fault and it’s my job to be here for you anyway. I failed. I didn’t want to be left out. It was selfish. I’ve been failing a lot lately.”

She didn’t respond, but I heard her moving around in there. I realized, I haven’t even seen her room. Part of that’s because I have eyes, but my abilities don’t make that much of an excuse. Besides, I’ve got an extra pair now. One good thing about about having the second body to pilot around: I went shopping with that one while I stayed next to Qiang’s door, waiting. I eventually coaxed her out with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs that she ate without talking to me.

I didn’t end up seeing Medusa again until the day after I got back, while Qiang was away at school. I was disturbed by a ringing sound that made me think my ears had malfunctioned. It turns out we had a landline in the house. A landline, of all things. I picked it up and answered, “County morgue.”

“Psycho Gecko?” Medusa asked.

“She’s here alright. Victim of a broken heart.” If I could have sent an image of puppydog eyes, I would have.

“Alright, it’s time for us to talk for real. Meet me at the super school’s gym, with just your real body.”

I took a breathe, gauging her tone. “Sounds like I’m not going to be too happy about this.”

She sighed. “We need to talk. I have your costume, too.”

I knew this was going to suck, but she did have my armor. Away I went out bundled up against the cold and went to school. Could have gotten a camera, but I don’t have money. Just a little damn house, that I’m stuck in because she’s paying to take care of my kid. I go on some sort of rampage, that could end. Or I just couldn’t live with my daughter. Yeah, I began to get a bit pissed off. Some of it, I knew, was me stoking the anger to deal with what was coming. It also occurred to me that I might be on to something. She stayed after finding out I loved her. No, maybe she already knew. I began to wonder just how much of this was her using me. She even used my armor as leverage to get me to this little talk.

A part of me I was surprised to hear chimed in to point out she has a lot of good reasons not to trust me. And that the trust we would need to survive as a couple can’t come from ignoring problems and hiding them away. We need a good, long talk, maybe even a chance to punch each other in the face again. Damn, I think odd things without my medication. I need to get a hold of Max soon, see about him sending me even more.

I figured I’d be going in blind at the gym, but detected one of those little body cam things people like to wear on their heads, laying on a table by the door. I connected to it and saw a little note had been left in front of it. “For Gecko,” it read. I went ahead and put it on, then went inside.

It was a heck of a gym. They built it so the walls could open, probably for changing the circumstances. When I got there, it was empty of students or anybody else. Toasty, too. I shed layers to reveal some workout clothes underneath. Easy clothing to move in.

Now, there weren’t any students, but there was a sparing mat in the middle of the floor. I recognized the pile on it as my armor. Under ordinary circumstances, I’d say this smelled like a trap. I discovered upon walking closer to the armor that it also smelled a like cinnamon. I heard her swing down from the rafters upon me picking it up, dressed in some workout shorts and a top. No costume or power armor for her.

“You and me on a mat for fighting. Why do I get the feeling this talk involves some cathartic punching?” I asked.

“Because I’d like to, but that’s up to you,” Medusa answered. “You trusted this wasn’t a trap, right?”

I nodded, so she continued. “And if we fight, you trust me not to kill or seriously wound you?”

I nodded again. She ran at me and went for a flying kick. I ducked and tossed me armor into the air, where it smacked into her face. She tried to get her feet down in time, but she misjudged it without her sight and skidded on her ass. She laughed as she rose and I wrapped my arms around her waist. I picked her up and slammed her on the ground, which stopped the laughing, but she caught me with an elbow to the empty socket and nose. She wiggled around and got my neck in a hold, locking her feet around my waist. I stood back up, fingers digging into her shirt to keep her in place, then belly flopped on top of her. She loosened her grip, but it smacked my head against the mat, too. I twisted around to break out of the neck hold, which worked, but she adjusted and grabbed my arm for an armbar. I started to stand, but she kicked me in the face, hard. So I tickled her feet. She growled, probably to keep from laughing.

I stood up again to slam her again. She dropped out of the armbar and landed on her feet, still holding my arm. She pushed her hips into mine and threw me over her. I rolled and came up with both forearms ready to block her kick to my face. Turns out, she kicked from the other direction, with the other leg. The momentum left her open when I grabbed her other foot and yanked it out from under her, sending her to the mat with an undignified “Oomph!”

“Is this who we are? Opponents?” I asked, taking a moment to catch my breath. “Always fighting?”

Sensing this wasn’t just a trick, Medusa pushed up more slowly. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t part of the appeal.”

I stopped, tapping the air with one finger while I followed the negatives in that sentence to make sure of what she was saying. I settled back down onto my butt. “So there is some appeal?”

“Yeah,” she said, scooting around to sit beside me. “I know you think I’m a goody two-shoes. You think I’d sleep with you if I didn’t care about you?”

“I don’t know. It’s just… I have trust issues. One girlfriend turned on me and tried to kill me for good reason. You’ve got every reason to hate me. You cost me my throne, and it feels like you’re using Qiang to keep me in line.”

She put an arm around me. “I should have talked more with you about letting the Riccans have their country back. I love you and see you have your heart in the right place, but I think you’re still so independent. So if you’re in charge, you’re a dictator who runs off and has adventures while other people clean up messes for you. You don’t know what’s best for you.”

“I’m getting a little bit of a Dom/Sub vibe from all this,” I mentioned.

Medusa threw back her head and laughed. When she settled down, she looked at me. “Maybe some of that is in there. There’s something about fighting you, hating you, giving in to you. I just got my independence, it feels like. I’m finally breaking away from a strict, ordered life I didn’t have much say in. You know what that’s like. Maybe this is some kind of late-blooming rebelliousness, and every daddy hates you. And, god, I can fight you. You’re clever and a match for me. But then you talked about kids with me. I love Qiang, but you and I feel very new and experimental. We’re both still finding out who we are and what kind of future we want, right?”

I nodded along. “Yeah, that makes sense. I guess I should take it a little slower with you. Get to know you better.”

“You should get to know you better,” she insisted. “Don’t be an Empress because you feel you have to be. Why did you decide to become Qiang’s parent?” she asked.

“I saw a lot of myself in that kid, and I wanted better for her, and began to care for her,” I said.

She nodded along, hair bouncing. “I see that in her too. And you. We’re broken toys, looking for a new purpose. You want to give her the chance to be who she wants to be. You should do the same for yourself, as much as you can. You know you still have obligations to that girl.” She raised a finger toward me.

I kissed the tip of it. She booped me on the nose and smiled. I was smiling too, turns out. Don’t know how she turned me around after that mood I was in. “Hey, want to come over and have dinner tonight?”

“You’re not going to dress up your sex doll in a maid outfit, are you?” she asked.

I stuck my tongue out at her, then said, “She’s not a sex doll. She’s a one-up.”

“If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you have a dominant streak too,” she winked at me.

“I thought we didn’t know each other too well,” I responded.

She pulled me against her. “I know you have some issues with yourself, and that you make yourself look unnaturally beautiful when possible. You try to look like other people and take over their bodies.” She ran her fingers through my hair, a copy of Dame’s. “I want to see the real you some day, when you’re comfortable showing the world.”

I’ll show her. I’ll show them all the power of Psycho Gecko, supervillain single mother!

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Return of the Living Gecko 6

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“Who are you?” Technolutionary asked, stepping around me. I heard him moving, even if I couldn’t see him. Just circling around me

Things were hazy. My head didn’t feel right. These drugs they were giving me were utter shit. If they had any of the good stuff, they could get all the high without as many of the bad effects. It made it harder to concentrate on what I needed to be doing. I’d warned Medusa, I knew that. Thanks to the haze I was in, I kept repeating that part over and over again, trying to motivate myself to do something useful. It was like I was caught in a loop.

I finally broke out of it enough to reach out. I knew there had to be some kind of machinery around me, but I guess they didn’t use much bluetooth here, so I was just as blind about that. Either the whole facility was as good at locking down vulnerable devices, or they’d shielded the room I was in. I leaned toward the first because I had sent a text. There’s ways to do it, of course. Doesn’t even always involve lead. Fuck, Superman would be screwed if he went to Flint, Michigan. Perfect arena for Aquaman to take him down.

Someone was tapping me on the forehead. “Huh?”

“Who. Are. You?” I heard this guy ask. Technolutionary. I first ran into this guy on this seasteading settlement these guys were failing at. Technolutionary was taking advantage of the total lack of laws to kidnap people, remove their brains, and replace them with computers that could control their bodies in rudimentary ways. Shuffling, grabbing, biting. More than I could do then.

Anyway, this guy has a creepy crush on me because he sees me as a higher form of being and wanted to turn people into homo machina like me. Damn, I make stupid decisions. No wonder the only people who date me are messed up or of inferior intelligence, like Medusa. Stupid hero, with her stupid integrity and ethics and never giving up on me and her cute butt.

I tried to stick a hand up and point at the sky, but I was still stripped down. “I am the Great and Devious Empress Psychopomp Gecko! Wait, why did I not want to say that?”

“Gecko? Really. What are the odds?” I heard Technolutionary move closer. Mostly I smelled him though.

“Stop eating fish,” I told him. “It’s nasty and they’re lying to you.”

“Interesting. We don’t usually observe the effects of the anesthesia on a conscious subject. Interesting. They scanned you to find out how difficult it would be to replace your eyes and made a note of a number of unusual objects in you.”

“Was one of them a pencil in my wrist?” I said with a laugh.

“I can scarcely believe one of my creations caught you, but they said you lacked your armor. Still you survived the fight. I must pull rank and have you to myself,” he said.

“You don’t wanna do that. I’m a real bitch,” I said, then laughed.

He chuckled as well. “Not when I’m done with you. Let’s put you back to sleep though…”

“I better not wake up with you inside mmmmph,” is all I got out before a mask slipped over my mouth and I was out.

I’m really not sure I trust anesthesia from a bunch of people who don’t care if their patient survives. When I awoke this time, I was sure they hit me with some really good shit, because I could see. I shot up off of a cot I was on and found I looked really different, too. The loop started up again, thinking how weird that was. It was a nicer room than I expected, too. There was a bed nearby, with Dame on it.

Oh wait… that was me. I can tell, because she didn’t have eyes. Which meant I wasn’t me now. I briefly wondered if they scooped my whole damn brain out, but I had a bunch of red hair falling in front of my face. And my body still had my hair. Generally, they’d take that stuff off when removing a brain. Don’t ask how I know.

As I was shaking the hair out of my face, I noticed a mirror on the wall as well. I stepped over to it. My HUD tried to come up with a match on the face that looked back at me, pale but not as freckled as I expected. Weird, I even had heterochromia. One eye was blue and the other was so brown it nearly blended in with the black part you see through in the middle. I had no clue who this person was, though. I couldn’t even try to get an update on my files because I was completely blocked off… except for some weird connection that had automatically been made. I turned and checked my body to see an earpiece attached to the far side of my head.

Cool. I wonder if that means I can be more of these things. I looked down and felt my new self up, then I had a thought and checked this body’s pulse. Good, not groping a corpse. The thought of having a sexy body that’s, like, undead with a bunch of unnecessary guts torn out and stuff just seems creepy AF. Totally cuts down on the sexiness factor.

“I wonder what this was about?” I wondered. I said it a few more times because, again, loop. If I had to put a really accurate transcript of my thoughts at the time, this would be ten times longer and make a quarter as much sense as it does now. I don’t even want to go over how long I spent hopping up and down to look at this woman’s boobs. A little smaller than I preferred, but nice. Kinda weird to think of myself as sexy, too.

Finally, I heard a voice come through an intercom. “How are you adjusting to the extra body, Gecko?”

It was Technolutionary, pissing me right the fuck off. And that’s when my hands lit on fire. I looked down at them, wondering why they’d really be big enough buffoons to stick me in a body with superpowers, but then everything went black. Again. At least this time, I was still conscious, just blind again. Then I heard a hissing noise and went back to unconsciousness, telling myself I’m never sleeping again.

I awoke spitting up some stomach acid and being held upright with my arms tied over my head. I heard alarms off in the distance. Woowee, woowee, woowee, woowee. I started to turn the volume on my ears down, but then I heard a voice. “Let her go, Technolutionary!”

“Medusa?” I asked, trying to turn my head in the direction the voice was from. Hey, it’s that sexy lady who makes me feel hope. Wow, she sent me a LOT of text messages.

“It’s me! Did he hurt you?”

“Uh, he tried to beat me up with a super speeder and keeps giving me drugs. It’s terrible. They’re really cheap drugs.”

I heard a scoff nearby. “This President relied on my work, and still he cut corners. You were to be kept sedated until I trained you nice and properly not to try and kill me in any body I stuck you in.”

“That was a hot redhead,” I said.

I heard the crash of something metal hitting flesh. A gun went off, but didn’t hit me. Oh yeah, I can do that thing where I look through people’s cell phones. Before I could, the bond holding my left hand released. I reached over to the other one to tear and pull until it came loose, too. Bleh. First they give me crappy drugs, then they give me crappy copper? What happened to pride on one’s work?

I slapped myself before I could get stuck in a loop again and realized I had that thing on my ear still. Interesting. Bending over is when I realized that when I was put on display, I had also been dressed in a skimpy dress. While I did that, I tried to see how I could get that thing functional. What I found is it was dead. No battery, or power source of any sort. Instead, it had a wireless energy system.

Well, I can beat that. After all, I’m a power source. When it turned on, I found myself looking through a pair of eyes that were watching as I pummeled Core. I stopped. “Sorry about that. Don’t worry, change in ownership.” I hopped off him. He jumped up and tried to punch me a few times, but I backed off and deflected the blows. Then I reached up and removed that Freedom Legion helmet. I don’t think it was made to be unlocked from the inside, but I did so and turned to try and find me.

I was in a large hangar of some sort, with a control room overlooking it. There I was, up in the control room. Medusa was between me and Technolutionary, who had on purple and red power armor under his lab coat. He floated in the air on jets of flame from his calves and underneath the rear of his coat, outside the window while an armored Medusa looked between him and a guy in a shirt and tie who held a knife to my throat.

I hoped this puppet body resisted heat as well as she generated it. Even without knowing all the intricacies of her powers, seeing Technolutionary again helped me ignite that spark of anger the sedatives threatened to smother. I jumped her up into the air, shooting twin blazing jets of flame behind me from my hands, then tossing a couple handfuls of fire at Technolutionary and at the guy with the knife.

Inside the control room, the guy with the knife pushed me toward the fireball and tried to get out of the way. I dropped, caught his legs between mine, and tripped him. I had his knife away from him in a moment and, after some experimenting, found a place to put it in his chest I was satisfied with.

Through the other body’s eyes, I could see Technolutionary had dodged the fireball and moved closer to Medusa, who grabbed his leg. I jumper my firestarter again, aiming for the window, and landed inside just after Medusa finished smacking him around into stuff. He sprayed her with something that coated her in ice, then pulled free. Turning to reassess the situation, he saw me on one side of him in the skimpy red dress he’d stuck me in, and me on the other side of him in the Freedom Legion jumpsuit he’d stuck that other body in.

“Now, wait a second,” he said, turning to look at my original body. He turned toward the other and caught a fireball to the helmet. He flew up then, launching a rocket to blast a hole in the roof. He almost missed it, too, having damaged one of his calf rockets at some point. Guess that’ll teach him to use me as a damsel in distress, dammit.

That left me and Medusa, who was looking between me. Both of me ran over to her and hugged her. “Who are you?” she asked the Legion puppet.

“It’s me. I think Technolutionary wanted to do some freaky twin thing where he somehow connected me to just the one body,” I said with both voices.

“That is all kinds of creepy,” she responded.

“Can I keep her?” I asked, hugging my other self. I mean, they already took out her brain. Might as well…

“That’s also creepy,” Medusa said. I slumped with body bodies, but then Medusa started chatting into a radio. “Good, disable it Core. All of them.” She looked to the redhead, who didn’t fall over or anything, then stepped over to the broken window. I followed, unsteady between days of confinement and loads of drugs, until I helped myself out with my second body. Through her eyes, I saw a bunch of Freedom Legionnaires fall over. Just not mine.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Medusa was looking down at the skimpy outfit I was in. “Were you already in that when he caught you, or did he actually dress you for when he tied you up to distract me?”

“That was him, but it’s nice, right?” I asked, the redhead running her hand down my body.

I didn’t need eyes to tell that she was blushing under her visor.

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Return of the Living Gecko 5

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The drive to that Exemplar base from Radium is quite the distance. The agents hauled ass, though. They rented a car, so they didn’t have special lights or law enforcement plates. The only thing that kept us from being pulled over is the lack of anyone giving a crap. They didn’t need me to point the way. They weren’t supposed to know where the raid was taking place, and they originally didn’t want to get anywhere near that mess.

Speaking of messes, only two of them came with me. Ohanian wanted to bring Mazur along, but then Mazur tried to stand. He sent us along, said he’d get treated, then work on smoothing over things in Radium. That left me to arrange for a babysitter for Qiang, and reassurances that I would be back. She wasn’t happy and yelled at me to stay back.

She had a point.

With Mazur and my daughter seen to, I took up the backseat of the rental car while Daniels drove and Ohanian used his phone to try and keep up on what was happening.

I spent most of the trip working on my gizmos. More than one. It wasn’t ideal working conditions and I didn’t have time for everything. The phones were essential; they helped me turn a pair of sunglasses into a new set of eyes for me. I also put together a few flashbangs with some real kick to them.

“What are you doing?” Daniels asked at one point after I got the sunglasses put together and was doing some funny stuff with cell phone batteries and wires. “Try not to mess up this car.”

“Don’t bother. The shit hit the fan,” Ohanian added. “It’s turned into a siege and got out into the news.”

I chuckled. “So, here’s a question worth asking. Did Medusa get back into the base before the reporters got there, or was she still on her way by that time.”

Daniels looked to Ohanian, who shrugged and said, “It’s not out yet. They don’t realize it’s even a possibility at the Bureau.” Ohanian looked at Daniels, who glanced over to him in between keeping his eye on the road. “We have to,” Ohanian told him.

Daniels shook his head. “I know you’re sick of what they’re doing.”

“We took an oath!” Ohanian said.

“This is fulfilling that oath. I know you and Mazur don’t have the clout for this,” Daniels said. “I’ll take responsibility when they ask why we didn’t tell them.”

“Or you can just blame it on me,” I said. “I get blamed plenty. It’s usually true, though.”

Ohanian glanced back at me, then to Daniels, and shrugged. We all drifted into silence for awhile until, with Ohanian refreshing and texting for updates. Finally, he broke the silence by saying, “This is fucking stupid. Everything’s happening there and we’re stuck here!”

“Let’s try the radio then,” I said, reaching up between them to push it on the more conventional way. An ad was just going off the air, followed by a long silence, then the DJ.

“Uh, hey folks. I found the button to come back from break. Like I, like I said, it’s my first day here after the previous DJ was killed deader than disco in that suicide drone bombing. You know what isn’t dead like disco? Country music!”

Off it went.

We had to stop for gas along the way, and it was that rest stop where Ohanian rushed out of the bathroom faster than he rushed into it. “What happened?” I asked as he hopped into the passenger seat after saying something to Daniels “Literal shit hit a fan?”

Ding! I got news alerts. Medusa and some Exemplars had made contact with reporters outside the base and had allegedly provided them with documentation of a scandal that could bring down the President. And then… nothing. All live feeds and streams of the siege failed. And then I got no connection whatsoever.

Ohanian growled in frustration at his phone. “Stupid thing.” Despite the risk of contamination by Country music, he tried the radio. Nothing but static.

“Bad news,” I said. “They must have someone or something who can block all of those signals. Just all of them. Nothing in or out. Good news, though, we’re close enough to be blocked, too.”

It wasn’t ten minutes later we saw a commotion ahead of us on the road. A searing yellow burst of light shot out from something flying in the air and the road ahead of us started to smoke. Ohanian busted out the minibinoculars and took a closer look. When he dropped back down, he told us, “It’s the Legion. He just fried that news van. The people inside have to be dead.”

“Do you think their news org will be as passive as they usually are about that?” I mused. “Like ‘Reporter Dead In Connection With Villain, Legion Standoff?’”

“This isn’t a joke,” Daniels said as we got closer.

I tried to roll my eyes and ended up missing them when I failed. “As often as it happens, it’s more of a running gag.”

“How can you see that any-whoa!” Daniels said, putting on the brakes. It wasn’t one of those super-dangerous situations like on TV where someone slams on them with lots of squealing. The Freedom Legionnaire had landed far enough away that we could stop without dying. It looked feminine this time, and held a hand up as we slowed and stopped.

“Turn back! This is a dangerous situation,” the Legionnaire yelled.

Daniels stuck his head out of the window. “Hey, what’s going on up there?” He motioned to the van stopped, darkened from heat, having skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the oncoming lane. “Those people are waving for help! Why aren’t you saving them?”

The Legionnaire turned and fired another blast at the van. Daniels, acting fast, gunned it as soon as the Legionnaire turned. When it turned back to us, the ballsy agent put on his lights and high beams. The Legionnaire flew upward while shooting a beam at us. We all bent away from the middle of the car instinctively as it sent the top flying off. Ohanian turned his head to watch the roof fly off, and then me as I jumped. I didn’t have the same reach as with my armor, so I looked out like a poor, pathetic failure as the Legionnaire flew even higher than I could jump. But would a pathetic, lonely, self-doubting husk of a human being- no time, I threw one of my spicy flashbangs.

It exploded with a bright flash, an annoying high-pitched squeal, and a brief fireball that covered everything with copper dust from wiring. I don’t recommend trying to recreate it at home, or in a car when you don’t have eyes.

Now, thanks to some physics nonsense that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I landed back in the car, to the astonishment of a watching Ohanian. “How’d you know to duck? And jump? And throw that thing? What was that thing? You had a bomb in the car with us?!”

“Relax, it probably wouldn’t have killed you. It didn’t even kill that person back there. How good are y’all at defensive driving?”

Daniels kept speeding past the news van, and headed onward. Past that one, we could get a good look at more wreckage along the way, but also some people running alongside the road. Another Legionnaire was running, not with superspeed, just faster than humans do. As he closed in one of the people, big thorns popped out of his costume. He swiped at one person with an arm thorn, knocking them to the ground. A few more stabs and he was satisfied.

Behind us, the Legionnaire I’d left back there had oriented herself and flew back at us. This time, she got close overhead of and held out both hands. I punched her in the crotch hard enough to have technically cheated on Medusa. She kinda flailed a bit and peeled off at that. Then the flashbang I’d stuck in there went off and she collapsed onto the road, rolling end over and looking like she was pretty much out of condition. I don’t know if it’s a fatal blow, but it’s probably unpleasant enough to put her out of commission.

Daniels stuck a pair of powered ear plugs in his ears and pulled his gun free of his holster. “We have to save them.”

Ohanian nodded, put in his own plugs, and brought out his sidearm. He set it on top of the windshield, on a remaining section of the plastic up there. Supported, aiming with one hand, and bringing the binoculars to his eyes with the other, he aimed at the distant thorny Legionnaire. “Cover your ears,” he called back to me. I didn’t bother since my ears can adjust to that. Instead, I watched as he shot and managed to hit the Legionnaire, causing it stop in its pursuit of its next victim and look around. The woman in a red skirt and jacket that was next on the menu.

It didn’t penetrate. “Don’t you have more firepower?” I asked.

Ohanian called back to me. “They have armor! You’re lucky I can hit one at this distance.”

He used his shots to stagger the thorn guy, but that Legionnaire figured out what was going on, and Ohanian’s magazine ran dry. He swapped in a new one and the thorny bastard continued its chase of the woman in red. Daniels adjusted his course to come up beside her. She reached out in anticipation, though we were still a ways away. Then she began to fall, a thorn sticking through her belly. The Legionnaire was right behind her, pulling its thorn free. Daniels swerved and hit him. The Legionnaire bounced off the front of the car and along the ground, where he was run over by Daniels. The agent then skidded to a halt and backed over him. Then he got out and gave the limp form a couple shots to the chest just to make sure it wasn’t reacting.

Another man ran up to us, much less professionally-dressed, lugging a camera on his back. “You gotta help me! You gotta get me out of here! They’re killing everyone!”

Daniels put his hand on the man’s shoulder and tugged out his ear plug, the better to help him hear the distant sounds of gunfire and conflict. “Who is killing everyone?”

The man pointed down at the Legionnaire, then held up a file folder. “The Exemplars got copies of this to us. They took it from a lab. These things are prisoners and dead bodies. They cut out parts of the brain and replace them with computer chips, then bring them back to life under their control.”

Dead superheroes brought back to life? This has no place in my world.

Daniels took the file from the guy and glanced at it. He looked at the guy, then at Ohanian. Then he slipped the file into his jacket. “If you’ll come with me, I believe my superiors would like to debrief you in private.”

“What?” asked the man.

Ohanian rose in his seat, also looking a bit shocked. Daniels kept his gaze focused on the guy who gave us the file. “This is potentially explosive, stolen information that needs to be vetted for national security reasons. I work for the FBI and we can determine if this is even true, then pressure the President to do something.”

The man swung his arms back the way he ran from, the direction of the gunfire. “The President did this shit, man! If it was fucking fake, why are the fucking killing us?!”

Daniels reached for the man’s arm. “Please come with me, sir.” The man tore away and began running, now trying to escape us.

Daniels looked to Ohanian, who put his gun away and said, “I’m not going to shoot him to keep this quiet.”

“We took an oath,” Daniels said.

“That isn’t the oath we took,” Ohanian said.

They didn’t get much of a chance to argue about it because the guy who ran from us got splattered by a speedster Legionnaire who looked deathly thin. Might have even starved to death for all I know. Daniels rushed to the car, went to sit in, and a blur ran past that tore his head off. Ohanian brought his gun around to track the speedster as it turned. It straightened up, though, and he didn’t even get a shot off before he was suddenly flung through the air with a hole in his chest where the heart would be.

I hopped out and pulled out a pair of my flashbangs. I went ahead and activated them while the Legionnaire made the turn. Then I was crumpled on the ground, no longer next to the car. The air had been knocked out of me. I forced myself to at least sit up and saw the Legionnaire stalled in one place, his upper body swaying faster than I could really pick out. I hopped up and ran for him, aiming a kickoff kick right for his balls. He wasn’t there all of a sudden and I had to hop to keep from ending up like Charlie Brown.

Next thing I knew, I was embedded in the car door. And then I was being yanked out of there, getting the ultimate in whiplash as I flew across the landscape, pulled along by something gripping my neck. I reached back and grabbed what felt like a wrist, but then I heard a loud honking noise and got knocked the fuck out.

I woke up without my glasses. My GPS put me in Washington D.C. I could see anything, but when I tried to feel around, I found my arms and legs were strapped and clamped down hard enough to keep me down.

“The new super is awake,” I heard.

“She can wait. We need another disruptor,” someone else said. “The last one was blown up into too many pieces to sew back together.”

“Where am I? What’s going on?” I asked. While I did that, I realized I could access the internet. Sure, I didn’t have the password for their wifi, but I didn’t need that when I could go ahead and upload my own video to the internet, which I aimed to do no matter what Daniels and Ohanian decided to do with the file they got. I also fired off a text to Medusa with the details I did have of my location.

“You are going to make a contribution to the security of this great nation,” a cheery voice said. “You honor us with your sacrifice.”

“I’d rather not,” I said.

“Does the Technolutionary know she’ll need to be processed and given eyes?” someone asked.

Brief silence, then the response, “He’ll be by later to exam her himself and see what he needs to get through the skull.”

I smiled. “You are all so dead.”

“Shut up,” one of them said. I felt something slip onto my face, some funny smelling gas, and then I got real sleepy.

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