Tag Archives: Psychsaur

The Empyreal March 7

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And I thought this was going to be hard. No, I really thought it’d take more to get the military to back the fuck off. Thing was, it wasn’t the reporter showing that the soldiers were rescued and being taken care of, nor that innocent people were hurt or killed in the attack. It wasn’t the illegality of the soldiers being in the city in the first place. It wasn’t the lack of reinforcements. It wasn’t all sorts of things that were so easy to predict.

Nope, it was the incompetency of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s amazing. I’m not meaning to make all this political, but he’s the one inserting himself into everything and failing. Apparently the idiot went and watched the clip of the video in the middle of some hotel restaurant and it leaked out. I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they can’t even. They chose this over me. They fucking chose THIS over me.

Worse, it totally stopped me from being able to hold out. I just… seriously? I had it all planned out. I’d let things deteriorate, push to get my connectivity restored, and push for having my recovery improved with nanites. Maybe have something dramatic happen, wake up to an attack so I can singlehandedly save the day. It would have made a great music video.

Seriously, though, this just seems like stupid way for things that to end. I mean, the military’s still around. When the school’s scouts came back, they just burst into the cafeteria talking about how the military’s pulled back to Central Park. A cheer went up among everyone.

Well, almost everyone. I caught a distinct glare from Good Doctor, who sat beside Elita the Warrior Woman. She didn’t look too friendly either at that moment. I checked my food, a plate of some of the worst meat loaf I’ve ever stuffed into any hole on my body. It probably wasn’t poisoned, but just because neither Elita nor Good Doctor tend to use it.

Good Doctor’s power makes him deviously competent at finding weak points. Armor, both natural and artificial, as well as all the various weaknesses of a human body. Got an old knee injury that acts up? He’s your guy.

Elita’s the muscle. Big, strong, and with the ability to level a building if she’s mad. Unlike me, that’s without using explosives. There are ways to work around that, but it’d be a very bad thing to let her get her hands on you. There are multiple parts of her body she could use to snap me like a twig, some of them more fun than the rest. Then again, no body part’s that fun if it’s breaking you in half. I’ve never had my spine snapped in an amusing and entertaining way. That’ll have to go on the bucket list.

It’s entirely possible they’ve decided my usefulness is at an end. The same thought crossed my mind when I passed by Psychsaur walking with Victor Mender. Minotaur stepped behind them, holding a clipboard and chewing on the eraser of a pencil.

This was a bad time to have things so readily on my mind. I walked away briskly, wondering if it made any difference at this point. But am I just paranoid and schizophrenic, or did Psychsaur watch me leave?

Down in my little prison cell room, I started packing what I could carry. I slid into my armor and wished the place had a few more exits. They might kill me. It’s really the only option left. If they try and hold me, I’ll keep trying to escape. Things will get worse. That, or they’ll have to stick me in a situation that’ll cause a major deterioration of my mental state. And considering my brain at the moment, that also means they’ll never let me go. Or if they do, I’ll be some shambling old Alzheimer’s victim threatening people while pissing myself.

So I put on my armor. I strapped my chickens onto my belt. I packed my half-rebuilt laser potato peeler, its single blade with a gap in the middle still not sharpened enough to my liking. I wrecked my armor-printing machine. I loaded up spare materials and tools in a handy little bag and opened the door.

“Going somewhere?” asked Good Doctor from behind Elita the Warrior Woman, who did a great job of blocking off the hall.

“Ah, my old buddy. Now, I know what you’re thinking: should I kill Gecko? I can point you to a website with several answers to that question that may surprise you.”

“Why do you persist, even now, in claiming I am your friend?” He shook his head, glaring at me from under slicked-back hair. He liked to do that before “operating,” if he had a choice. In one hand, he held one of his scalpels. In the other, his mask, a sort of leather helmet that encompassed a visor area and a lower face covering.

I sighed. “It’s how I’ve thought of you. A wayward friend. You were ashamed of what you were, but you were still a friend.”

“You know why I did it. She meant the world to me. Then you…” He looked down, then lifted his mask over his face.

I nodded. “Yeah, I did. Maybe someone else would have eventually. You knew what she was. There are many risks, and you used to be one of them. I did what I chose to do, but so did she. She could have walked away at any point.”

“Could you?” he asked, his voice somewhat muffled now.

I pondered the question for a moment. “Huh. Point to you then. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise how it all ended. I hate that I did that to you, but I have to think about my life. I don’t have the luxury of imagining that my death serves some greater purpose to the world than long-overdue justice.”

“That works for me,” Elita finally spoke up. “You did so much to the world, I don’t know why the Academy left you alive.”

I shrugged. “I owe them a debt for saving me, I guess. A debt they intend to call in. But yeah, bad things goes down when I start believing in higher causes. That’s part of why I miss just going around doing my own random shit.”

She clenched a very painful-looking fist. “Got any fancy websites for me before I pound you?”

Under my helmet, my eyebrow rose. So many things I could do with that one. I just had to settle with. “Yeah. Www.gofuckyourself.com.” I opened my mouth and let loose a piercing banshee scream in a tony designed to paralyze the human body upon being heard. A gift from my time in the Cube. They used it to keep inmates under control when being handled or moved. I replicated it.

Both former villains went down, allowing my to hop over them and head up into the school itself.

There, I actually found another group headed by my way. Minotaur, Mender, Venus, and Psychsaur. Venus was even in her power armor, all shiny with its heavy plates. I didn’t know how many of them it would take to whoop my ass, but I knew how many they were gonna use.

“Please,” I thought. I turned to head down the opposite direction of the hallway but felt my body lock up

“Sorry,” I felt in my mind. “Why?”

“I must be made whole,” I thought back. I tried speaking and told the approaching heroes. “I’ll go. I’ll leave.”

“I am afraid I cannot let you do that,” said Mender’s computerized voice. “You brought an attack down on my children. You have been a menace to us despite our leniency. Remove your armor now. It is not as though you can leave.”

Someone must not have found out Psychsaur cozied up to me.

I screamed again. Psychsaur tried to cut me off, and it stopped me for a moment, but that was a moment when her own body became like jelly. It actually worked. I could move again, while Minotaur and Psychsaur crumbled. That just left Venus and Mender. Easy.

A pair of cannons rose from the back of Mender’s wheelchair even as Venus stepped forward. “You can’t win.”

“Ya know, I didn’t even want to fight right now. Can’t you just let me go? Are your morals that set in stone?” I asked.

“Some things can’t be compromised,” she responded. She jumped forward, over the downed bodies of her colleagues. She punched with enough force to break bones. I caught it easily. The left hand came forward in another punch, and I caught it as well. A metal spike shot forward but didn’t penetrate my gauntlet. My HUD reported a power surge. My gauntlets fed incoming excess energy to my suit’s batteries. “Lets get you out of that armor and back in your cell.”

“Oh, look, that ECM trick.” I jumped up kicked her in the chest, letting go of her fists to send her stumbling back to fall over her stirring friends. I turned and ran, dodging a lightning bolt and catching another with my gauntlet.

This time, there was no telekinetic force catching me, and the rest of the students didn’t get involved as I fled the school and into the city. I found a building that’s unoccupied above the first floor due to damage. Hell, I escaped at all! I guess I should have realized it when Psychsaur had to lock me down on her own. Or maybe I should have realized sooner that I even could make myself escape. It’s confusing. What did I know and when did I know it? It must have been when she gave me the ability to cuss and hurt people again.

That’s it, Psychsaur doesn’t die even if she was the one behind Mecha Gecko!

So now I rebuild. Get myself a proper lab going again, build up my own supply of nanites. Maybe take over the city. The Ukrainians had to run and hide, so that probably put a damper on their big money-makers. The military’s going to be on its way out. The Master Academy is a bit defensive, and I already know these newbie heroes couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

And I do have an agenda. I was serious about owing the Master Academy a debt. Despite my actions, I still hold to that. So first, I make Empyreal City great again. That includes making it a bit safer for them. And I kinda like this place. I think I’ll keep it around, and that means finding a way to encourage people to not completely abandon this city, blown up and disaster-prone as it is. I mean, it’s really been hammered a lot lately.

I’m not quite sure how to do that as a villain. I’m sure as shit not doing it as a hero. But I have a feeling I’m going to have one hell of a fun time figuring it out. I mean, that’s just a given when one of your first decisions is whether or not to assassinate multiple world leaders. I guess it depends on how big a bounty they’ll put on my head when I expose myself to the world.

Now, do I shave the pubes completely, or maybe leave it in some sort of heart shape?

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The Empyreal March 6

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Believe it or not, I did think this through. I feel the need to clarify that, considering the school is now under a siege. This current President doesn’t understand subtlety. At this point, I suspect he doesn’t know the meaning of most words in the dictionary. There’s a rumor going around that he can’t actually read, which is at least somewhat consistent with reports that he often just ignores the speeches written out for him.

It didn’t start as a siege so much, actually. The early morning following Valentine’s Day, alarms started going off all over the place, even as I was taking a post-intimacy walk. The Walk of Shame, some call it. I don’t know why they call it that, anyway. I just got laid. Should be the Walk of Standing Ovations. The Academy Award for Best Supporting Fucker for his work in the documentary “Against The Wall: A Deeper Exploration of Her Pink Floyd.”

Or, if the audience isn’t so lucky, the walk of pelting people with rocks. Some people really don’t like to be reminded that other people have someone else.

Nevertheless, I was on the stairwell down when the alarms started going off. I rushed down to find a window and check out what was happening when I heard the discharge of firearms. They tend to have a fiery discharge and leave someone with a sharp burning sensation, quite unlike myself. That doesn’t mean someone outside wasn’t getting fucked, and I was trying to make sense of who it was.

Some of our refugees were trading shots with a group of soldiers. Not a full-on war front, but a group like you’d send in to assassinate someone. Which was stupid. A compound this large, you don’t just send in one team. At the very least, you’d have multiple helicopters to provide support.

That’s when the choppers flew up. I didn’t get a good look in the darkness, but they thumped closer and provided cover fire that sounded like it killed a lot of unarmed civilians. They weren’t all armed, but some naturally felt the need to go around with weapons in case they needed to murder each other. In this case, it worked out a bit and gave us an early warning sign.

So much of an early warning sign, in fact, that somebody activated the school’s defenses. I noticed something rise out of the top of a stone pillar off in the darkness. There were several in the wall around the school. It must have been a rocket launcher of some sort based on the rocket it launched that shot into one of the choppers. It actually took a couple of hits before it crashed, landing on campus. The other one tried to pull out, and then crashed outside school grounds after taking multiple shots from multiple pillars.

Supers were rushing all over the place, and not necessarily in the best state of dress, either. But they were up and running. And I had an idea. I grabbed a couple of them who I didn’t recognize. “Come here, we need medics and doctors and shit.”

“But we aren’t-!” They didn’t answer so much as I pulled them out and we headed out through a door into the back. We ran toward the downed chopper.

“I’m not killing any soldiers!” shouted one of the ones following me.

“That’s the point!” I said. Yes, we were running to help them. We made it to the wreckage. It’s dangerous to just pull stuff off people or pull them out of vehicles in that kind of situation unless you’re a trained emergency responder. On the plus side, I’ve been the cause of so many similar injuries and crashes that I have a pretty good knowledge of what to watch for. And, it turns out, these guys have some basic training for handling all that.

Between the three of us, we managed to pull a few soldiers free and alive. Others had been thrown clear and were knocked out or otherwise so easily injured to be subdued without much problem. In the end, we had a half dozen of them in various stages of distress laid out nearby. I was watching over them as well while the others rushed in to get more manpower to see to the wounded. There was a lot of need for it, though by the time I had a moment to rest on it, I no longer heard gunshots. That could mean something bad, but what I knew of the school’s size and the student body’s capabilities suggested otherwise.

They all just groaned as I searched them over for any information, weapons, or hidden equipment. That included headsets with camera linkups. A quick glance in one showed they had drones and satellite views of the school. The night was alight with chatter, too. They were in retreat, wondering if reinforcements were coming in from the city so they could get their lost guys. Navy guys, from the jargon they used. Not all branches of the military call the same things the same things. Some people get to the choppa; others get to the helo.

When the guys showed up with some stretchers and a few of the more battle-ready supers, I held out one of the headsets for them. “Here ya go. Let’s just get these guys inside to a nice, warm, difficult to penetrate infirmary where they can heal up for awhile.” I looked down to the soldiers, though they might not have liked being called such. Again, more military terminology stuff. “Now remember, you’re patients, not prisoners. Because we’re not at war with you or anybody. So even though you attacked us for some reason, we’ll patch you up to the best of our ability.”

Yeah, that’s the plan. Officially, we didn’t take anyone prisoner. We’re not hostile, here. Some guy just ordered a death squad in to kill certain people, apparently without adequate intelligence, and now they’re convalescing as patients. It’s simple, really. Just a failed death squad with me watching them sleep at all hours. With my knowledge of all kinds of ways to kill people, not that they know about that. They don’t know who I am. All they know is they were sent in to secure the school, somehow.

Mender had a pretty good idea what happened, though. “They were after me,” he said to the assembled heroes and myself. “If I were eliminated, this school would fall into disarray,” his digitally-crafted voice spoke. “You would have surrendered with a gun to my head.”

I opened my mouth but about three different people elbowed me in the stomach at the same time. I don’t see what the big deal is. I was just going to say, “Speak for yourselves.” Weird thing is, Venus wasn’t anywhere near me. She was standing off by Psychsaur, holding hands. Psychsaur shot me a look. Was that sheepish, I wondered? I mean, the scales and all made it harder to tell. With the reptile features coming into play, she’s got inhuman lips and a face that extends out a bit.

My line of thought was interrupted by a burst of thoughts into my head, most of which amounted to “Sorry,” in various ways that all talked over each other. I caught a wave of embarrassment from her, which oddly caused my own face to flush.

On the plus side, I totally got a sneak peek at some memories that flashed through her head. So that was fun. Irrelevant to the conversation at hand, but fun.

“Do we know why they attacked now as opposed to any other time?” I asked, leaning over the back of a chair in front of me.

“We have ways of determining that,” Mender said. “You are not included in that for a reason.”

I looked around for Good Doctor, but didn’t see him there.

Mender continued on, “I see no reason why you are included in this meeting at all.”

“Maybe because I took charge and got the prisoners… I mean, patients… out of their wreck and arranged for them to be brought in here. Not the first-”

I didn’t think I could be thrown out a door that fast without taking the door with it. It was all a blur. I don’t know if it was telekinesis, super speed, force fields, super strength, or some combination of it all. It’s impressive, actually. No matter how strong an individual villain, there’s something a little awesome about being so thoroughly smacked around by a combination of strong superpowers. Then you snap to attention in a prison cell with a lot of unexplained bruises in unusual places. Tonsils, for instance. We’ve all been there, whether it’s supervillainy or a trip to Mexico on a drunken bender.

So I didn’t get to find out more about these methods, but they probably involve the psychics of the group. And while they dealt with the soldiers and other wounded from the attack, the bunch in Central Park sent a detachment to guard the main entrance of the school. Considering the size of the school, it would have taken probably the entire bunch to encircle the campus, and they weren’t going to advance with the force they sent. Too few men for the job.

Curious about that, I checked the internet for various things. Reporters, news, all that. The legal problems associated with the initial deployment has held up reinforcements, especially now that this President is having some legal problems. And some scandals related to him and officials in his administration having unusually close ties to Russia. The whole thing’s a mess: Ukrainians mobsters, Russians, the President of the United States, domestic militia superheroes, and the Claw. The fuck is going on here?

To answer that question, I decided to kidnap someone who might have the answer. I knew her as Tricia Tijuana, my ex-fake-wife. She once helped me out of prison on behalf of a guy I know in the media who may or may not still like me. He was under alien control when he turned on me. The kidnapping went easy, too. Just a matter of rolling over in the morning and asking her, “Hey, you want a Pulitzer?” She was freaked out, naturally. She didn’t know who I was, but that’s not the first time I’ve put a bag over a woman’s head in bed. Like most kidnapping victims, she warmed up to me once I dragged her back to my place of residence and explained why she should want to be there. Don’t try it at home. I had lots of hurt teenagers there, too. Made it a lot easier.

So now the news gets a nice view of wounded soldiers being tended to by the dutiful nurses, right alongside the wounded refugees and heroic teenagers who were so brutally attacked by members of the military just like the ones now parked outside a school, threatening displaced refugees from the recent bombings.

It’s made such a wonderful narrative, and all the better when soldiers began to die in small groups in their movements around the city. On patrol, while responding to criminal activity, even when just hanging out trying to get lunch at Hibachi Yum Yum.

I had to avoid fancy knifework at that last one. The place is barely staying open as-is; it doesn’t need criminal suspicions on top of it.

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The Empyreal March 5

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A little sleep goes a long way, as does good nutrition. Good nutrition injected straight into my veins, just like the Psychopomp Project used to make. Well, it tried it for a bit. Back in the early days of it, before the guys running it really went off their rockers, they tried weaning us off food for a bit in the hopes it would make us more efficient. There were some failures, which then led to teaching us the basics of cooking, including which recipes made the best use of people. Just in case. As long as you have a corpse, you have food. Hell, as long as you don’t mind losing a limb or two, you still have food in desperate situations.

I may have deleted some of those recipes from my memory.

After a little rest and a long shower, it was time to get to work setting upon my enemies and scouring them from the face of the Earth. Which, admittedly, involves getting a video from my brain. Hitting my head against a desk in the library, sadly, didn’t help ideas for that come any quicker. I stopped when I realized I had enough other people around willing to slam my head into things that I didn’t need to resort to it myself lest they get in on the act. And that reminded me of the person who most liked bashing my head against things. Or at least the most prominent person to get away with it: Venus.

And she gave me ideas. Many fun ideas.

Problem was, where to find her? I looked all over that school. I failed to find her, but Good Doctor found me while I was checking the gym. He had normal clothes on, presumably happy to be out of his gear, but I noticed a belt of scalpels around his waist as he stepped in there and walked quite purposefully toward me.

“Hello there, fellow escapee,” I said, smiling. He popped me in the throat with his fist. I held a hand up toward him and put the other one to my throat. I bent over, not wanting to fight him. Just because he didn’t think he was a friend didn’t mean he stopped being one. He took advantage of the position with a kidney punch. Fucker would know how to hit there. And he kept hitting there, which hurt a hell of a lot. I let myself drop, hoping he’d just start kicking instead, at least until he kicked me there a few times.

He left me laying there, and probably with plenty more bruises ready to join the leftovers from my beating. I rolled over. “Gonna be pissing blood for a month now. You happy?”

He was on top of me in a flash, holding a scalpel to my throat. “You took away the only happy thing in my life, you bastard!” He raised the scalpel.

“Stand down!” yelled Venus. I recognized the voice.

Good Doctor heard it too and looked up, then back down to me. I could see the struggle written on his face. “Why?” he growled. “What excuse is there this time? What lies has he told to make you believe his continued existence is necessary?!”

I almost said something, but it occurred to me that pretty much anything I said might force his hand. Plus, I wasn’t sure if Venus had an answer for that. I was curious.

She might have been, too. I looked up and she paused briefly before continuing to walk. “You’re not the courts. You don’t have the right.”

“The right?” His eyes widened in disbelief. “I don’t have the right? He killed my daughter. I have every right. He doesn’t get to hide behind rights and courts after all he’s done.”

“That’s what he says to justify why he kills. I know it’s hard to hear, but you’re a smart man. He killed your daughter and you are compromised by emotion. ” She stood over me. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever looked up between her legs while she’s worn jeans before.

I looked back up to Doc’s face, and I could tell he was learning why I hated her so much. He wasn’t going to do it. I thought he’d slam the scalpel into the floor next to my face. Instead, he clenched his fist and lowered the scalpel to his belt where it slipped into place among a few of its brethren. Taking deep breaths, he stood up and backed away from me.

I just looked up to Venus, who held her hand out to help me up out of instinct, then pulled it back before the offer got all the way out there. I put my hands under my head. “Heya there, Venus. You know, you look good in casual clothes. Also, I need your help with something.”

“I don’t want to know, do I?” she asked, standing well away from my head.

Huh. She looked a lot better in jeans and a shirt than she did in skintight costumes. I could give or take the mask, but the body makes me want to go “Oh yeah, baby, I’m gonna disappoint you so hard.”

“Well, you would need to be closer than that,” I explained. “See, I have this video I took on my eye. Sadly, y’all disabled wifi and cellular connectivity, which means I can’t call it an eye-phone, nor can I upload it in any way myself. And since you teamed up with a supervillain to strip me of my powers, I can’t just connect to something else to get it out there. So I’m sitting on some really useful knowledge, some video that could really help the situation, with no way to get it out there. So I got to thinking maybe you would be able to connect to me and transfer some data.”

“This is some kind of trick,” Good Doctor said. Venus nodded her agreement with his assessment.

“Look,” I leaned up on my elbows. “I’m serious. I didn’t stay in there that long just to get my ass kicked. I don’t entirely know why I went in there, aside from a bad experience with a flashbang and a bunch of soldiers. But I have something useful. Something that could lead your pansy asses to a less violent means of victory. I got my ass kicked for this. An old woman with some serious balls got shot in the face for this, and not by me. Other supers died in that fucking explosion. Look past me and think of the sunk cost fallacy, people.”

They didn’t know what to say to that, possibly because I seemed to give a damn and possibly because my last sentence took the piss out of the whole rest of it. I rolled my eyes then and raised a scalpel I’d stolen off Doc’s belt to my temple. “Ok, so I’ll cut in there, find whatever hole or patch y’all left from when y’all went in the first time, and open the way.” I held a finger from that hand out to dig into my hair, looking for an irregular spot close to where I knew the brain-based hard drive to be. “Venus, you need to stick a finger in, but I’m probably not going to be able to guide you. Come to think of it, that’s a bit of a setback I haven’t thought about. Just look through this last week, particularly my time in captivity. Good stuff. You’ll love the part when I’m on the chair.”

I didn’t give her a chance to respond to all that before I dug the scalpel into my scalp in what I figured was the correct spot. I gritted my teeth. She rushed forward and grabbed my hand, yanking it away. I winced up at her. “Ow. Pull out, not to the side. That hurt.”

Laughter broke her shocked expression. I didn’t laugh with her, just pulled up a small flap of skin and hair. “If you’re doing acting like I’m Patton Oswalt or something, there’s the matter of the data I still need to get to so you can get to it.”

She didn’t let me take the scalpel to my own head again. “No. I don’t even know how to do that if you could get to it!”

I sighed and let her take the scalpel. “What the fuck have you been doing with those powers, huh?”

She stood up and held the scalpel out to Good Doctor who took it. Couldn’t make out much of his thoughts on the matter, but maybe he was glad at least one of his tools got a taste of my blood.

I stood up. “Dammit. The needle and thread’s going to itch like hell now, too.”

“Needle and thread?” asked Good Doctor.

Venus answered back. “He doesn’t get access to nanites, even though he’s just a human now.” I just shook my head, once again being reminded of my horrible and disfiguring medical condition: being human. I headed to the door, keeping a hand on my scalp. Wasting my damn time, that’s all that was.

“Doc, can you tell some moron not talk about me like I’m not even here? Nevermind, give me a few seconds.” I didn’t let the door hit me on my way out and walked to the infirmary for a little bit of self-stitching. They had a couple nurses there working on students, so I just handled myself. Though, I did expect more. They managed to bring in more specialized staff for myself, unless they also have healers. And in this case, it wouldn’t even matter.

Venus caught up after a couple minutes while I was putting my head back together. She stuck her head through the door. “Don’t close up just yet!.”

I sighed and shook the needle at her, the thread still running back to my scalp. “Why the fuck not?”

“What if we plug something in that you could download the information to it?”

“It’s not like I built in USB connections.”

“Well there has to be some way,” she said, exasperation filling her voice.

“Some way other than restoring just one capability to me. This city is dying while we sit around, you know.” I crossed my arms as I looked up at her.

She glared at me. “You don’t get to pull that. It was never that simple with you. Now I’m about to go and have a good time. If I hear you caused any trouble while I was gone, I’ll let the Good Doctor have his with with you and NOT how you want. I’ll tell him it would be more fun to leave you an armless and legless.”

“Geez, Boopsie, a little high strung?”

She messed with her dark hair with one hand. “I have a Valentine’s Date.”

I raised an eyebrow and let my eyes wander in the direction of the city.

She added, “In another state. If you mess up anything, you will be back in that cell. Maybe you’ll keep your legs.”

“T’would be but a flesh wound, m’lady. But fine. I’ll sit here. What am I going to do, email my brain to someone?” I waved her off. “Now go on with your life. Go ahead. I’m just the nemesis you don’t have anymore time for. Shoo, shoo.”

Well, Venus left to go get ready for her date. Which she went on. With Psychsaur. Bit of a surprise there. Psychsaur picked up my attractions, but I thought Venus was Catholic. They weren’t the only ones doing couple stuff, which just further rubbed in that I was likely to be left rubbing one out alone. I had options, but that wasn’t the main thing on my mind. No, before I grabbed a box of wine and a pair of hoses to drink it with, I had to build myself a small transdimensional receiver.

It’s one of those capable of picking up a signal I bounce out of another dimension. Venus gave me ideas, sure, but not just the ones Psychsaur got to share. Ideas like “how about I trick the heroes into fixing me a little?” And it didn’t quite work yet, but I think I know how to make it work. So I fixed a receiver and prepared a small section for broadcast into another dimension, at which time it will be bounced back to the receiver, ready to be attached to a secured and untraceable email pointing out that Master Academy is in possession of an extremely damaging video. Sure, the White House has filters and all sorts of ways to track people down, but I know full well just how secure they are and aren’t. It comes with being emperor and doing interesting things in the Lincoln bedroom with a pair of Korean twins and a Japanese schoolgirl. We got so wild, they could have renamed it the Kennedy bedroom or the Clinton office.

And then it was off to MY date. Because I can totally get one, and not just with hookers. I know it’s not polite to call them that, but the chances of them ending up dead with me are pretty high, and they’re hookers when they’re dead in the trunk of your car.

On that note, Happy Surviving Valentine’s Day.

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New Year’s Retribution 8

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This city has gone to hell in a handbasket. And don’t just take that from me! It’s all over the news.

I found out after tinkering with my gauntlets some more. It was partially about upgrading the energy sheathes and partially about making sure they were clean after where I stuck one. The day seemed unusually quiet around the library. Even that couple who uses the study room weren’t showing up, which was really rude of them. What if I’d been hosting a webcam show, only for my main attractions to no-show?

When I headed out to the refectory to grab something to eat, I came across the first real confirmation of something unusual: a bigass cake. For those picture a cake in the shape of a butt, sorry to disappoint. Though it’d be awesome if one of those had a stripper pop out of it, right between the cheeks. A black stripper.

That probably comes across as racist, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than finding a pale green stripper.

I didn’t know what the celebration was about, but that’s no excuse for skipping over cake. I even ignored an alert from my phone about the motion sensors. There hadn’t been any significant movement from visitors other than check-ups, so I felt confident in ignoring it for the time being. I ended up getting three pieces. Fighting uses a lot of energy, so I was going to get two anyway, but then I just felt like getting an extra one for another person. It wasn’t consideration or anything. I just knew I’d need another for another person. I kept it to the side until Psychsaur walked in and sat down next to me, taking her piece without a word.

I looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and took the extra fork I’d brought over and ate. I squinted and looked back at the cake and the line for it. She pulled out her phone and looked up a video, then handed it over.

The video was of a local news broadcast announcing a complete lack of major or super crimes the night before. Muggings, attempted murders, and so on, but nothing big was pulled off. I mean, attempted murder sounds bad, but they were stopped before it became a completed murder. Nobody robbed a bank or stole a shipment of computers or anything like that. Crime in Empyreal City had dropped to a record low as part of a trend since the chaos immediately after I was supposedly killed. Empyreal City always had its heroes. In addition to them, the city now had Master Academy, reformed villains, and even these newbies. The poor criminals just couldn’t keep up for very long, even with me adding in a little bit of hijinx.

Darn thing must have been on auto-play, though. It loaded up another video right after that of the new President threatening to send the military into Empyreal City if it doesn’t clean up all the carnage. Turns out that one was from after the announcement about low crime, too.

“I doubt he’s heard of Posse Comitatus,” Psychsaur said, reading my mind. Not practically reading my mind, just literally reading my mind. It was a bit weird with how easily we seemed to be thinking each other’s thoughts, especially because I couldn’t really feel her in my head anymore. And yeah, we both thought it was odd, though apparently she suspected it might happen. She’d been trying to avoid me because of it, but slipped in out of habit sometimes when she was close enough. She wasn’t used to having such a long range, either, but she could keep up with me much further than anyone else.

I didn’t put a sympathetic arm around her, but it’s the thought that counts. It did weird me out having some sort of weird two-way telepathic communication where we simply thought each other’s thoughts. I’d prefer hearing voices in my head. That one made her laugh, though she quickly stifled it. I’d noticed we were drawing looks, and the thought went through her mind as well.

It wasn’t just those kinds of thoughts passing between us. I realized that soon after when I looked through and found myself feeling like I could really go for some Chinese. Or maybe he was Japanese. Regardless, he was a bit more on the buff and overly-muscled side for my normal preferences. I shot Psychsaur a look, but she was staring at the ass of this girl in tight leggings. We agreed the trade went both ways there.

So it was a teensy bit weird, and oddly calming, to sit beside her. Just enjoying a snack and another person’s presence, and not in a romantic way. She was perfectly attractive, but I didn’t feel any urge whatsoever to do to her what I’d dreamed about a few times, even if it would have been a perfect time to bender her over a table and be all like “Oh yeah, baby, I’m about to disappoint you so HARD!”

Then Venus stormed in, an irate expression upon her brown face. Psychsaur, being such a perv, really liked what she looked like angry.

“Have you seen the news?” My nemesis asked in a huff.

I cocked my head. “I thought it was news you liked. Crime down, heroes helping build schools and so on… that kind of crap.”

She held up her phone, where a news show on the most-watched news network in America was saying, “Unlike the biased mainstream media, we’re showing you the facts, and the facts are that monkeys have been causing chaos and panic in Empyreal City.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Geez, they’re not even hiding the racism anymore, are they?”

Cut to a picture of a baboon on a motorcycle with a pirate hat on, then another few pictures of a baboon fighting someone’s excuse for a superhero. They even repurposed the photos I’d staged to make the heroes look bad, only now they claimed the newbies were putting down a riot. Any idiot with a working memory would know it’s a lie… which meant this channel’s viewers were buying this hook, line, and sinker.

I looked between Venus and the screen, then settled on Venus. “I mean, I think it’s awesome that Animal Planet revamped Law and Order. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Because,” she said loudly, then noticed plenty of people paying attention to the argument. She lowered her voice and leaned forward over the table. I maintained eye contact. Psychsaur looked down her shirt. “You know what, just keep on listening.”

“That is why the new President of the United States has declared in a press release today that, in addition to his inauguration clearly being the largest in U.S. History, he will send in the Feds if anything else happens in Empyreal City. This is a direct quote from him, he said, ‘Does the President care about Americans? Of course I do. I love Americans, especially Real Americans. Nobody loves Real America more than I do, but we cannot allow all these explosions and gang violence to continue in Empyreal City. If they don’t fix the carnage in their city, I will send in the Feds. It will be the biggest and quickest cleanup of crime in an American city in history. Nobody cleans up crime like I do. Nobody.’”

I rolled my eyes. “Put that away, Venus, you’re killing people’s appetites. Psychsaur over here keeps imagining having to call him the Commander in-” I held up a finger and took a moment to gag before continuing. “Not going to finish that sentence. Besides, I don’t know what anyone’s talking about with gang violence and explosions. I’m one person, and I’ve kept a firm hand on all my cocks. They don’t just explode all over everything, willy-nilly.”

A fireball erupted out of the corner of my eyes, off into the city, followed quickly by a half dozen more and a lot of rumbling. I also noticed a beeping from my phone, but that wasn’t so important at the moment. I held up my hands, “It wasn’t me this time.”

Venus grabbed me by the scruff of my shirt and started leading me to Mender. Psychsaur started to follow, then stopped and turned toward the students. “Everyone, stay calm and eat your cake. We’re going to assess and handle the situation.”

I couldn’t keep up with her so well once Venus and I got out of range, but I knew Psychsaur’s mind was racing. She didn’t seem that worried though, so we had that in common.

Venus and I didn’t have to go far to find Mender. We spotted him roll down from the next floor up, drift around that little middle landing of the stairs, then roll down the next flight. He looked like his wheels were being pulled against the floor, his descent was so controlled.

“Sir,” said Venus.

“What she said,” I said.

“What is going on?” he asked.

“Explosions in the city,” I answered. “I’m going to go out on a limb and guess car bombs, but a lot of them. It’s gotta be something big that they managed to get into place. Or something really, really big in the sewers. I know a few recipes, but I was saving them for my guest lecture in Chemistry.”

A voice spoke up from Mender’s computer. Psychsaur’s voice. “He’s remarkably calm, but he didn’t have anything to do with it. He’s got a lot of explosives experience, though.”

“Psycho Puss, stay on campus. Venus, with me,” Mender said. Venus nodded and away they went, leaving me to fend for myself in a harsh new world of exploding buildings.

“Anybody else feel like s’mores?” I asked no one in particular as I wandered off back to the library. I actually had a few students cowering in there with me, including Quincy, the skinny guy with the glasses and glass powers, and Chloe, the girl with pigtails, thick glasses and hair powers. The couple from the study room were out, hopefully after the guy had the decency to ask her, “Did the Earth move for you too?” after the explosions.

“Are you going to do anything?” asked Quincy while I walked over to turn on a giant TV I’d put in.

“I was going to put on Labyrinth, maybe, but if you’re going to whine about it…” I’m not a hero, and a bunch of people hurt in explosions doesn’t faze me. I’ve caused a lot of them myself. And while I could probably be a lot of use helping rescue people from the rubble, I just didn’t care that much. I slipped on my armor just in case. I felt itchy, and not in an addict’s way. More like a good time to be cautious.

I did put on the news for the students while slipping on my suit. The youngsters were old enough to be kept abreast of it. I thought it was on mute at first, but the people trying to talk were stunned into silence as they showed helicopter footage of several damaged buildings, with heroes from all over the city now rushing out to help. I even picked out Master Academy capes already out there, scrambling over the blast sites, including a familiar hospital. I whipped out my phone. One alert when the bombs went off, which makes sense. Both movement and that the bug was shutting down. Fifteen minutes prior, an alert came in of several individuals moving in and out of the mauled speedster’s room.

Huh. They’d tried to evacuate. I briefly wondered if they managed to get him out, or if he had something to do with this. One explosion could be some delusional asshole’s plan, like McVeigh in Oklahoma City. More than one stinks of a plot, and the smelliest of plots are the product of supervillains. That, or just a whole bunch more extremist Christian fundamentalists, like the militia guys.

The TV cut in on my investigation with an urgent message, though. “Alert! Breaking news. Preempting an announcement of a state of emergency, the President has ordered the United States Army deployed to Empyreal City.”

“Well, that’s a fucking beautiful sight,” I said. “Better buckle up, little people. We’re in for a bumpy ride. Something tells me things are about to get messy.”

Ukrainians, militia, new heroes, and a president who talks about sending in the military if any more explosions happen before any explosions happen. This is turning into a really-fucked up Twelve Days of Chinese New Year. No wonder it’s the year of the flaming cock now.

I looked at my little group, who certainly hadn’t steeled themselves. “What’s wrong with you? This isn’t the first time something this bad has happened. Have you even seen last year? You got through that. I know that it just adds up and up. You feel like you’ve reached your limit as bad shit piles on you, and every little cut the world makes against you feels like you can’t take another. But you got through every cut before. You survived that same crap a thousand times. Don’t let just one be the end of you. Especially not when you’re all tougher than this.”

They hesitated. No breaking out into applause. Oh well. So I went on, “Now go get more students. I’ve been told to stay here, but there’s reason it just has to be us. We’re going to need food, water, blankets, tents, and all that. Get those gates open. A lot of people just lost their homes.”

Chloe asked, “What if the people who did all that,” here she motioned in the direction of the city, “get in here and do it too?”

“Then the baddest man on Earth will fuck them up,” I said. “It’s not courage if you only got it when times are good. Besides, there’s no damn excuse for a bunch of so-called heroes to turn away the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. Now, what the hell movies are popular with little kids who need their minds taken off giant explosions?”

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New Year’s Retribution 2

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I do so hate these heroes and their drama. I’m back in my cell again, for now. They brought in one of the other meddlesome mindflayers to play with me. It’s all rough, not quite as lubricated as when Psychsaur would slip into my head. The one who looked into me while I worked on my armor machine and designs for a cape did not have it easy just because it was his first time there. That’s how I wound up back in the cell.

Venus is arguing to Mender that helping out and loosening my restrictions is screwing up any chance of rehabilitating me or otherwise containing the danger I represent. Before they tossed me back down here, I let Mender know what I found out. That’ll help. I’m like his own personal CIA, but without the better dental plan than the FBI. Eh, it has given me time to heal up somewhat. They don’t want me touching nanites.

Besides, they need me. Making myself indispensable, or the lesser of two evils, has always been a good way to avoid getting dispensed with for good. I expected to hear something about all that when the door opened and Mender rolled in. I glimpsed Minotaur and Triclops outside at the door.

Heh. It just then struck me. Minotaur, Triclops, and Venus. Plus, a scaly reptilian woman who can paralyze people with a look, though it’s telepathic or telekinetic instead.

“Hey there, Vicky. Who puts you in those suits, by the way? Is there a student who you have bathe and dress you or-” I didn’t get a chance to finish. A barrel on a swivel mount arose as I mentioned a student and then it felt like getting hit by lightning. Not many people can personally vouch for that, but I’m one of them. I sat there, having inexplicably landed in some sort of puddle, head bobbing a bit even after my sight returned to me.

Mender’s digitized voice maintained its usual calm monotone despite what he said next. “You do not talk about my students like that. Do not suggest anything. They are the only reason you don’t sit in this tiny room with a thousand pounds of weights strapped to you while you eat and excrete through a tube. I would make a deal with the devil to protect them. I have captured one in you.” He paused, the lack of inflection not making it clear at first that he’d finished.

I raised a finger. “So… just to clarify… the same tube, or-”

And again with the electricity! By the time I got my senses again, he’d left. They didn’t put me in those weights. That was a good sign.

Some hours later, another visitor showed up. I don’t know if it was the middle of the night or not, but Psychsaur looked like she had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Her feathers were ruffled and messed up. And she appeared to be alone.

I raised an eyebrow but stayed seated against the wall. I felt her in my head again, so much better of a fit than the others at the academy. It didn’t even itch anymore. “Please don’t say anything,” she said. Tough request. I instantly felt the urge to go ahead and make a stupid comment. Which would be predictable, and I’ve also been getting hit a lot lately. I was in my little isolated cell in part because I’d been making no concessions to basic niceties. And I’d gone out of my way to murder a gangster’s wife. I think it sent a good message, but apparently I’m the bad guy. Then again, I am the bad guy.

I nodded and leaned my head back against the wall. She closed the door and sat down against the wall next to it, across from me. We sat like that for a couple minutes. I was curious, but just waited. She finally obliged. “It’s not easy touching your mind. I mean, it’s easy now. It gets easier and easier. I started feeling your thoughts without really trying that much.”

I considered that for a moment and concentrated on myself for a moment. The one I’d been forced to tap into all too often over the past couple of years as I moved from entropy to order. The me underneath. Don’t act surprised. That time with the truth serum forced that bit of me into the light without my say-so, but it was there. I looked her in the eye. “I’m sorry. Nobody should have to put up with this but me.”

“No one should at all,” she said.

“Aww, how sweet of you. Do they teach a course on those platitudes here?” I asked, legitimately. All of me wondered that one. “I only ask because I know what I’ve been like and I know how much you have to hate me. There’s no need to pretend you don’t for my sake.”

“I do, but I understand you too. You dream about it,” she said. She shifted a bit.

I winced. “You shouldn’t be here. They should give you a break from me. But I suppose that’s on me, too. I haven’t played very nicely. Thing is, I can’t even remember those dreams. Most people don’t remember most dreams. I even had a dream about… well, you don’t need that image in your head. It was definitely something you wouldn’t like.” I imagined Scooby Doo and Shaggy instead of giving her the heads-up on that one.

She was quiet again for a moment. I put a hand to my head as I spoke, “You shouldn’t have had me inflicted on you. Another poor corrupted soul, to verge into religious language. I push and I keep at it relentlessly. That’s the key. It’s so hard for people to resist forever. There’s always some give. It’s even a philosophical concept, that it’s better to bend than to break. I bend. I bent. Or did I break? Can you be both broken and bent at the same time? No, I think I bent. Regardless, there are some things worth breaking for instead. I am not one of them. Do not break for me. And pardon all the overly loquacious vocabulary. Deep down, I’m a bit of a wordy douche.”

It’s like there’s two of me. The “public” me with all the chaos, rebelliousness, and juvenile jokes, and the inner me that calculates and thinks and actually has a concept of shame. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. God and Dog, for fans of Fallout. “I couldn’t handle what was going on around me. I did something to make it work instead.” I smiled at her. “I don’t recommend it.”

“This is a better you. You’re the version that didn’t like finding out you weren’t really a good guy,” she said. What can I say? She knows me. “Can’t you stay like this?” Or maybe not.

I shook my head. “It takes a lot of effort to keep myself this way.”

“How can I avoid that?”

“I dunno. I’m not exactly the expert. Just the victim. If I knew how to avoid being a victim, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Then she said a curious thing. “I can fix you.”

I winced. “Oooh, that’s almost certainly not going to end well. I suppose I don’t have a well-thought-out reason why, given the conventional solution being mind-altering drugs or therapy that involves zapping my grey matter. I guess probably the most pragmatic reason is that you’d be touching more of what I am than ever before. You don’t want that, and I just don’t think it can be done.”

“You don’t want to believe you can change like this,” she observed, sounding way too much like Venus.

“Why exactly did you come down here?” Subject change powers, activate! Form of an elephant in the room! “You’re here and it’s not just ot wax poetic. You wanted to let me know what I’m doing to you. I’m sorry about that.”

“I wanted to know for sure that you knew who and what you were. I thought I’d give you a chance. I know you better than anyone else now. Tonight, I’m going to take the first step in giving you a chance to be a better person.”

“You’re going to do something stupid,” I said. I felt her get a grip on something in my brain. “Don’t fix me. It’ll end badly, and that’s from both sides of me. You won’t like me when I’m of one mind about something. The Fluidics certainly didn’t. Real fucking bad idea…” My eyes widened and I smiled. I jumped up. “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits!”

Except I got a thought. I turned to Psychsaur. “Fuck, you’re locking me in this room again, aren’t you?”

She stood up and brushed her head feathers. Her smile was much sharper, but surprisingly warm. “I’m not. Come on, there’s still food up in the refectory. Just be careful eating. You wouldn’t want to hurt someone accidentally.” She opened up the door.

Hearing that I even could accidentally hurt these people made me so happy, I thought about that dream I had of Psychsaur. She closed her eyes and raised her hands to massage her temples. “Please, no. No, no, no.”

“Can’t blame a guy for being happy.”

And happy I was. Because there’s my own personal stupidity. When limits were imposed on me from without, I took every opportunity to fight, no matter how big or how small. Sure, now I can slaughter everyone around, but it’s my choice not to. That means so much.

After a refreshing dinner, I gathered up my armor and disabled the machine I used to help build it. I had everything I needed to run off, right with the heroes gathered in the common room to figure out patrols and so on.

Yep, just leave them all to their own inevitable fate, with this whole back-and-forth with militias and protestors and so on. And I was of two minds again. The “fun” part of me figured it would sure be a shame to leave without confirming for sure who it was who put me into this situation in the first place, by using a copy of my mind in a giant robot to nearly kill me. The other part of me remembered that some of these students and heroes had sheltered me. They may have done it for the wrong reasons, but they did it all the same. It would be a shame if I didn’t at least do a little bit for them.

So instead of jumping out of the grounds, I turned around and walked back in. I headed toward the common room in my armor and tried to make my voice sound as nonthreatening as possible.

“I’m going out of my frelling mind without being able to help,” I told the assembled masked faces, who all turned in my direction. Mender shifted his chair to look at Psychsaur in what I figured was supposed to be a glare. I wondered if he knew what she did to me. If any of them knew, actually. “Please,” I followed up with, “let me help. Some of it’s the mystery of the thing. I want to know what’s going on and how everything fits together. And part of it is that I owe a debt. Every little bit helps, so give me a shot again. Something big, something little. And trust me, even the smallest, most insignificant events can have a huge impact.”

So let’s clear out those objectives I had in there before about not cussing, poisoning, physical violence. Wipe them all away.

1. Finish my work and figure out how the fuck these Ukrainians are involved with the people targetting Master Academy, and maybe find out what happened to Michelangelo in the process.
2. Figure out who kept the copy of me around and sent them after me.
3. Get revenge.

Think of it as a good New Year’s Resolution. Cue the cheesy inspirational music!

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Season’s Thievings 11

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The heroes are a bunch of Grinches. That’s the only excuse for the way they reacted when they found out about the stolen computer. Psychsaur passed by and stuck her brain where it didn’t belong. It feels dirty to say this, but I’m starting to get used to the feel of her reaching in there like that. Sadly, my tinfoil cap didn’t do a thing to keep her out. I’m at least willing to check out some of those crazy theories on avoiding mind control. Just don’t ask the scientologists for any help with that. They charge you thousands of dollars and all you get is inducted into a cult centered around alien ghost possession.

On the plus side, anyone who keeps on after finding out all that is almost guaranteed to be left alone by telepaths. Who would want to look into that mind?

Like I should talk, ha!

Shortly after Psychsaur read my mind and promptly ignored my mental image of better ways for her to spend her time than reading my mind, I got a small horde of heroes in the library, and they were curious. I’m curious too. What do you call a horde of heroes? Like, the actual collective noun? A herd of heroes? A cacophony of capes? A den of do-gooders? A pod of party-poopers?

So this veritable bellowing of heroes descended upon the library like bullfinches while I sat with a drink and read through the thing. Like bullfinches, they sounded loud and too annoying to pay attention to. Some yelled at me, some yelled at each other about preferring if Venus was here to handle me, and some shushed the others so no students would come running. Little did they know the only students they had to worry about coming were this couple in the study room. Bless ’em. They’re teenagers. This is the only time in their lives they’re legally allowed to screw underage partners. Who am I to deny them that opportunity when it doesn’t risk flying all over the books?

Finally, the flock of freakin’ felon fighters calmed down by the appearance of Victor Mender in his handy-dandy assisted living wheelchair thingy. That quieted them down as if he stormed in glaring, though he doesn’t really do much with his face these days. “Bring me up to speed,” his computer said. Psychsaur put a hand on his shoulder, the feather, scaled dino-girl’s eyes going glazed and distant for a moment. And I was back there all of a sudden. Relived the whole thing like a flashback. Neat. The blood, the gore, the disappointing lack of endorphins over the blood and gore, everything.

I blinked as everything came back into focus. According to my HUD clock, one second had passed. Psychsaur removed her hand from Mender’s shoulder and glared at me. Or I assume so. It’s safe to assume that’s the default facial expression from most people around here who know I’m me.

“Is this computer going to compromise my children?” asked Mender.

I shook my head. “I checked it over. No tracking devices. It isn’t connected to any networks of any sort, and I know some places to check. It just took me longer than usual to get in courtesy of your horrible human genetic experimentation, but that’s none of my business.” I helped myself to a sip of tea.

“Everyone except Psychsaur leave.” Mender’s commanded. The heroes listened to the digitized voice of their master, and I stood up to get while the getting was good until he added, “Not you. You do not operate without my approval.”

I raised an eyebrow and looked over to Psychsaur.

Mender spoke up again. “I will have her make it official if you push the issue.”

I do so hate giving them what they want without a fight, but I raised my hands. “Fine. Just thought I’d help. You know, handle some of that dirty work you guys don’t bother with. After all, they didn’t shoot any of you with the gun. They shot me. That kind of impudence deserves some revenge.”

“You are a prisoner. I have been lenient because I want something and because I can control you. Do not get on my bad side unless you enjoy that form of control,” he said. “If you had asked for my permission to hunt down the individuals responsible for harming the student you found, I may have given it freely.”

“Student?” I cocked my head to the side.

“From before the purge over nanites. I have extended invitations to those who would come back now that you are incapable of controlling them, but some have not accepted or responded. This boy was one such student. The evil that men do lives on and on.” After making his little point, Mender rolled on over to look at the screen of the computer. I pulled up a program that looked like it came from the Nineties. It was present on the computer and showed an inventory with coded references in place of the sources. If connected to the internet, it could be instructed to synchronize and update its information.

“This is shows me a little bit. A couple of sources handle heavier weapons and ammunition. Surplus military vehicles and equipment. Another seems to have your more specialized materials for building stuff. There’s a couple here that are chop shops for just regular stuff, and even some drug dealers in case that’s needed. I had an idea along those lines before, actually. I might make it happen now.”

“Psychsaur,” he said. I felt her probe my mind again.

“He’s telling the truth. He has a translator.” She walked over and leaned down over the table. “How do you know what the codes mean about the sources?”

I shrugged and opened another document, a simple note the owner of the computer made. “The greatest flaw of any computer system, of course.” I felt her in my head again, seeing my understanding of the note’s contents that laid out which code equaled what. I turned to Victor. “They will be scrambling to change as much of this as they care to. This is a big undertaking. People will be moving stuff all over the place. We must strike while the iron is hot, lest it be used to brand our asses.”

“He’s imagining a donkey,” Psychsaur mentioned offhandedly to explain the cuss word.

“I know you’re enjoying the mental donkey show, but let’s focus on the important stuff here. Like squeezing these guys until they decide it’s more profitable to give us the information we want. Honestly, if they hadn’t been so zealous to protect it in the first place, I’d have passed them right over and been able to do nothing but twiddle my thumbs. And if they’re just overreacting, then they’ll pay for their stupidity. That should be its own reward, truth be told. Also, they’re a criminal conspiracy, so technically this could be seen as a good deed.”

That’s how, less than two hours later, I crashed in the door of an apartment building riding the body of a whale of a guard who stood at the door. “Hi kids, do you like violence?!” I asked the lounging gangmembers.

They were fun, and good for letting me finally put some ideas into motion. I figured the drug dealers wouldn’t be high on the Ukrainians’ list of people to warn and evacuate, but what they lacked in importance, they made up for by giving me certain unique tools so I could deliver a chalice full of whoop-ass to everyone in attendance.

An hour after making short work of the least important part of the network, I paid that specialized materials warehouse a visit. They were in the middle of packing everything up, with armed guards and everything. Like almost all humans, however, they don’t usually look up as a first instinct. Jumping the fence into the compound wasn’t tough, and from there it was easy to make a vertical leap to grab the edge of the building and pull myself up. It’s probably safe to assume by now that I wore my armor.

I announced my presence on that cold December day by making the snowy day just a little whiter. I punched a hole in the roof and pulled it wide. I tossed out bags I’d taken off the dead dealers and hit a remote, causing them to burst with a minimum of explosive goodness to fill the air with falling white powder. Cocaine rained down. Tony Montana would have had a heart attack, and for so many different reasons. I’d have used pot smoke grenades, but they took too long to whip up. A little treat for another time.

I dropped down onto a shelf, sadly without a cool Batman glide. Think Batman at Ace Chemicals, except I dropped down into something that clearly wasn’t smoke to beat people up. And no cape, either. I’m considering a cape. I think it’d be cool, and it’s not as impractical as people make it seem. At least program one into the rear holodisc.

Also unlike Batman, I know how to have a good time. I put on a nice little song called “Why So Serious,” by Badministrator.

I dropped down and immediately gave someone a joyous Kwanzaa by gifting him with my boot to the back of his neck. Stuck the landing, too.

My laughter echoed through the air like falling yayo, accompanying the joyous sound of necks snapping, bones breaking, and gunfire hitting anything but my soft tissues. Music to my ears, and the reason why some of my soft tissues were temporarily hard tissues. But it just wasn’t the same. Normally, shoving my fists through a man’s belly and lower back until they meet makes me happy.

Any guards or workers who got in my way while I was in there, I took down. One of them dodged over fallen boxes while carrying a case of his own, only for me to slam him against the metal support at the end of the row and grind his face against it until his jaw popped off.

I heard some of the trucks rev up to get out of there with whatever they had. I noticed a contingent of bigger guys near the door, including one fellow with a gun I recognized as a M249 Para SAW. The SAW part stands for either Squad Automatic Weapon, or a literal saw depending on if you’re firing it full-auto at a tree or not. It wouldn’t do much to me, I thought. Then he fired a burst of fireballs from it in my general direction. I disappeared quickly enough, but not before tossing a knife in his direction.

As I believe I’ve stated before, I could be better with throwing weapons. My aim is not the best. My ability to utilize explosives is pretty good though. The grenade-knife exploded, taking the heavy gunner out before he could spit more hot fire than Dr. Dre on Speed.

By the time heroes showed up, tipped off by the destruction and a call from me to the Master Academy, I was gone with my own truck, a trail of bodies in my rear view mirrors. I got some good stuff, including several things on my wishlist, but I had more stops to make. I still had Christmas shopping to do. Just because I’m sticking it to these guys doesn’t mean I can’t get equipped.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s group of storage units full of future dead bodies and military-grade hardware that’s going to go in my library lair and maybe my armor. I’m thinking a nice mobile SAM will be a great Geckomobile against flying heroes. And, ya know what? I think I found a box of nanofiber that’d make a great cape.

Because it’s getting to be a new year. And I’m a new man in many respects. A new man who conveniently didn’t think about how much of this stuff I can put to use on myself when anyone thought to question my motives.

2016 had its highs and lows. Looking on how it ended, a lot of lows. The wrong people died. Someone other than myself is in control. I got turned human. Worst of all, too many people survived.

Time to go out there, nut up, and try to make 2017 a killer year, no matter how many people have to die to make it better.

Happy New Year.

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Season’s Thievings 7

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I jumped out the back of the obstacle course, untouched, singing a nice little tune to myself. “Shovel and Bone,” from a musical about Hell invading Heaven, not that that’s relevant to any of this. Though it did time up perfectly for when I smacked my hand on the floor and yelled out, “Again!” Then I got up and headed right back into it from the rear.

If only my armor was finished by the time I’d gotten through there. If not for the fact that I’d like to keep some secrets from the heroes, this new little quest of mine offers a fine opportunity to test it out. Of course, the best opportunity I’ve been given is the opportunity to crack some skulls, break some necks, and bust me some arms and legs. Preferably not my own, though I’ve got an idea or two about if I get hurt.

At least this time they didn’t stick me with some crew of unmentionables. Sadly, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot to deal with. A member of a crime syndicate might have a front of some sort. Maybe a surreptitiously-fortified compound or penthouse. Supervillain would have a lair; a hero a hideout or home. My point is that different groups set up in different places, partially due to means and partially because they’re all drawn to different things. Those can each present unique challenges. One of the depressing things about militias, aside from their tendency to want to save their country by destroying the government and citizens that make up said country, is that they don’t have an awesome base location. It’s a camp out in the wilderness northwest of the city. A stretch of woods with tents and a cheap chain link fence. The chain link is how you know they’re in for the long haul. Odd how improving their country never involves building things.

Ah, but that’s just my particular way of turning the knife. I hate all people equally, but according to their unique quirks. If I had one of those animal liberation people in front of me, I’d probably shove the impossibility of applying a vague concept like humanity to non-sapient animals in their face, just before slathering them in jelly and tossing them into a pit of starving raccoons. Which is something I technically could use in court. Oh, wait. Not inhuman anymore. Oh the humanity!

This bunch is equipped for raccoons, though. They have plenty of rifles, even if their beer supplies threatening any marksmanship that wormed its way into their brains by now. Hell, they’re probably hoping to take a shot at the racial meaning of that term, the way they fly the Confederate flag. And before anyone gets started, Cornerstone Speech.

They’re only showing small arms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a few big guns stores away. Something that goes boom. Well-documented history of that, especially in their fetishization of that Waco bunch. This cult leader got it into his head that his god told him to build a religious army and prepare to wage war on the unrighteous of the United States, so the guy started prepping in his compound. The kids of the cult didn’t know what warm food was, but the group had more than 2,000,000 rounds of ammunition, grenades, and automatic weapons. Priorities. This bunch here doesn’t have a proper toilet, unless they’re hiding something in those big toilets or that prefabicated shed, but I bet someone’s got an RPG laying around.

I could always recon the place more, but it’s so limited I might as well just kill them all when I’m there. Assuming I can kill them. Psychsaur’s skirting around that. I decided to stop somewhere and test things out on my way back. If they’re hoping my own personal definition of “the wrong people” are my only allowable targets, they’re going to quickly find out how low an opinion I have of people. Hint: they are like unto ants, and I am their destroyer, mwahaha!

So I headed back into the city proper, riding around in my new Geckomobile! Sadly, I lost track of my lovely car, Black Sunshine, in everything. Instead, one of those Uber driver guys brought me back and graciously allowed me to pay him to take me around to certain neighborhoods.

“Are you supposed to be a superhero, or do you really like wearing those cat ears?” the driver asked.

“Just call me Behemoth. I’m no hero. Just a guy who likes kicking evil in the crotch. Save your thanks, citizen. I need to make a call.”

Sadly, the reduction in my networking capabilities left me unable to hear all the voices in my head that I needed to. I had to dial up Master Academy on this number I had. I’m sure Psychsaur just loves the thought of me having her number, but that’s what she gets for being stuck as my handler. “Hello Gecko.”

She wasn’t supposed to be calling me that, though I’m pretty sure the driver couldn’t hear. I could be lots of people with a name like that. I could be that Gordon guy who believes greed is good, or an insurance salesman, or even a videogame character whose levels were TV channels he entered. “Y’all are pretty crappy about keeping identities secret for a bunch of superheroes. This is a cellphone. They keep records. They won’t let you see the records, but they keep them. Also, they’re probably lying to you about any deal where you get a free device, so keep that in mind. I imagine y’all buy in bulk.”

“What do you want, Puss?”

“I’m looking for any crimes coming over the police radios. I don’t have one with me. I just need a heads up,” I looked out the window. Gun store, liquor store, pawn shop, liquor store. This looked like a decent spot. “Especially if they’re anywhere near… let’s see… looks like we’re on… seriously, Rotten Road? They’re not even trying with these street names anymore. Must have been destroyed a lot of times.”

“I hear they’re trying to rename this area after a kid’s show,” my driver volunteered.

“Right, kid’s show name. While we’re at it, maybe I can get a section of the city renamed ‘Angel Grove,’ but until then, I need some crime to fight.”

“Oh, are you talking to me again?” Psychsaur asked.

“Yes, sugar lumps, I most certainly am. Before I go through with Operation Fire Cobra Claw, I need to know all my bits and pieces function just fine.” I adjusted the crotch of my pants at that. I needed to do that anyway. My boxers were trying to turn into a reverse thong on me. Don’t split the wishbone.

“You want to make sure we’re not sending you in to get beat up,” she said.

“You know me so well. It’s like you can read my thoughts. Now find me someone I’m allowed to beat up.”

“Sure. Hold please.”

“Son of a Biz Markie!” I yelled, almost throwing the phone. When the driver looked at me, I told him, “She put me on hold. And she said he’s just a friend. She says he’s just a friend.”

“She your sidekick?” he asked, no doubt hoping to preempt my singing.

I nodded. “Yeah. She’s like my Robin the Boy Wonder, except with shorter shorts, and slightly less sexual tension. Probably because we’re banging. Hard. It’s part of her endurance training.”

“I’ll make you completely asexual if you keep this up. Worse, how would you like to puke every time you had a sexual thought?” Psychsaur spoke, having apparently taken me off hold.

“There are hookers who specialize in that sort of thing, I assume. If not, I can corner the market. But before we put you to work making people puke for a living, do you have a crime for me to stop yet?”

“Sure thing, I’ll send you the address now in text.”

And so I got my chance to once again inflict violence upon the hapless citizens of Empyreal City, starting with… Busy Bee Bookkeepers. I’d gotten out, paid the driver, and sent him on his way before checking in on the specifics of the place. I expected a robbery, a trespassing, or even beating the snot out of a jaywalker. Instead, I got a relatively peaceful-looking accountant’s office.

I called up Psychsaur again. “What, exactly, is the problem at this place now?”

“Embezzlement and fraud,” she answered. “The cops got the call to bring in Mr. Rick Faircloth. I thought you would like to start off easy as a superhero.”

“Not a hero.”

She kept up her teasing. “Were you wanting your own individual spandex, or can we stick you in a Master Academy uniform? Those are usually reserved for graduates. You might be able to get into a remedial course.”

“I’ll die first,” I said. I probably wouldn’t. I have to leave myself open to possibly infiltrating the place in the future, but why tell her that? “Is there a magic word I need to use or some special dance? Or can I just go in there and start busting heads?”

“You can just go on in, but there are some conditions to your ability to fight people now.” I kept listening, waiting for her to go on as I entered the place.

“Can I help you sir?” asked the secretary behind a window. Middle-aged, but not bad looking. A bit on the pale side, with a brunette bob.

“I’m here to see Rick Faircloth… and bring him to injustice!” I pointed my hand up in the sky. With my other hand, I held my phone to my ear.

Through the phone, Psychsaur mentioned, “Good luck. You can only use violence in response to violence right now, and deadly violence only if you are threatened at that moment by lethal force. Try not to chip a nail with the beancounter.”

The secretary ignored the dramatic pose and my conversation, looking down instead. “I’ll let him know someone’s here to speak to him. Do you have an account with us?”

“I’m here to bring in your boss on charges of embezzlement and fraud. I suspect your boss won’t go easy. I might have to punch him a few dozen times. Does he have any handy facial hair? I only ask because you never know when you’re going to need to swing someone around by the mustache and-”

I was cut off by the sound of a shotgun firing and blasting the air between myself and the secretary. I dove through the window on top of her. She turned out to have at least a little curve to her, enough that me landing on her probably didn’t break anything. My hands on her chest, I looked down at her. “Are you ok?”

“Let me up!” she said, trying to knock my hands off her boobs while sitting up.

I pushed her back down. “No, I can’t. It’s too dangerous. You stay here and, uh…” I raised one hand up to my chin as if to think, then put it back down, running my thumb over her shirt to feel her bra status. “Wait for safety. And to keep from fainting due to the trauma, take off your bra. I’ll be back to check on you momentarily.”

“You’ll never take me alive!” yelled Faircloth from down the hall.

“Fine by me!” I yelled back. Another shot rang out, then I heard the gun opening up. Figuring it was a two-shotter, I stood up and launched myself feet-first back through the window. Back in the reception area, a look down the hall showed Faircloth reloading an over-under shotgun. He must not have been well-practiced since it took him so long. I was more than happy to take advantage of the time it took and ran for him. By the time he raised the shotgun up, it was almost in my face, except for the part where I ducked under it and threw myself forward with my fist held out in front of me like Superman.

I aimed a bit lower than Superman, though. The big blue boy scout doesn’t normally use a flying punch on his opponents’ balls and grab onto one of their nuts while they both fall in the same direction. I did, though. I think I got Mr. Faircloth’s lefty in hand, too. He didn’t enjoy it. Unfortunately, he dropped the shotgun. Even though I had him down and moved up to straddle and pin him down, I couldn’t bring myself to punch the unarmed man.

Until he reached inside his suit coat and pulled out a papier-mâché knife. He sliced downward, opening me up on my left brow and cheek. Probably gave me an awesome scar. I grabbed his wrist in one hand and his nose in the other, twisting it hard. His head tried to twist with it, but in the end he laid there, screaming. What finally shut him up was when I yanked his head forward by the twisted nose and then slammed the back of it into the floor, albeit weaker than I think I’d have normally done. It just dazed him, not killed him, so that’s why I think Psychsaur’s work had me pull my punches. Same goes for my hesitation in jumping up and landing knee first between his legs.

A SWAT team burst through the door a moment later. They took one look at me over the downed and pacified accountant before the one in the lead held up his fist. “It’s clear! Good job, citizen. You’re a real hero. These accountants are always a feisty bunch.” I got an ovation from the SWAT team, which surprised me. There’s usually an entirely different situation going on when there’s me, a SWAT team, and the sound of hands hitting flesh.

They lead him out in cuffs, while patting me on the back. Psychsaur hung up on me sometime in the middle of all that to call in and advise them all that I was to be called Puss in Boots. The leader of the SWAT team thanked me again, especially since I’d come so lightly armed and armored. “That’s crazy. These accountants are the quiet ones. You always have to beware the quiet ones. They get caught, they try to take people with them. It’s a mess ever time. A major headache to deal with.”

“Really?” I asked. “Didn’t seem that tough to me. But then again, it takes a little more to beat me than strength in numbers.”

At least we know my ability to inflict pun damage is unrestricted. I think I’m ready.

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Season’s Thievings 6

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“Ok, so when I’m done playing Santa, I pull a bomb out of the bag and yell, ‘Now let’s deal with that naughty list, shall we?’ and that’s when y’all pull out the guns and take down the guards,” I said to a group of shocked heroes.

I’d gotten somewhat bored with the meeting, where they put way too much emphasis on not being seen or hurting anyone at all. This bunch is completely risk averse and acts like having to put on a mask will make them all pariahs. And Venus has been gone from the meeting, so I can’t even tease her. Something about important hero business to deal with. This is important enough to stick me with, but somehow not important enough for her to call in all her various law enforcement friends. Which is odd, since they’d like to know about the nanites these goody-goodies are after, too.

And I don’t appreciate her not having time to threaten me or try and keep me in line. As if I’m less important just because I’m captured. Not like I need her to visit me all the time anyway. I’m just fine without her. I’m awesome. Just like I’ll be awesome when she’s dead and buried.

Anyway, these scrubs are under the impression my suggestions are completely ridiculous and will do nothing but get people caught, since the vault is the first thing to get locked down in any situation like that.

They didn’t take the first draft very well. They threw me out of the room. Eh, it gave me time to check on the armor. If they didn’t want me doing all that heisting business, I didn’t have to. They were the ones who decided they needed to liberate the nanites after all. If they’d just let me take them as payment, they’d at least have some by now.

As for the armor, it’s still going. The torso armor is almost finished. That’ll leave the legs for the machine, while I handle the other pieces I’ve been working on. The gloves and boots are done. I’ve been assembling an exoskeleton, testing some pieces of it, but the biggest challenge will be the helmet. Think a samurai, but jagged and straight, with a grinning fanged mouth. Ok, so very much like a samurai’s armor. They liked to add on stuff like fangs and mouths for intimidation value. Above that, the face is covered by metal, with a raised circle on it. On that circle, there are three formal “eyes” in an upside-down triangle shape. No armored jester hat this time. I’ve grown tired of bells lately.

With as much of the costume as there is now, I’ve relocated the reference section in front of it, and changed the sign up. Now, it announces to the world that it is an auto-castration machine that wakes up on touch.

These days, only the hardcore students dare enter, anyway. The system’s set up for self-checkout and students volunteer to put books back up, but word’s gotten around about the crazy librarian who charges the obstacle course like a drunk and strings up late returns by their intestines. The fear is nice. But it doesn’t sustain me.

Because, even as I assembled the optical display of my new helmet and built in non-digital controls to handle some of the functions I used to be able to pull off myself, I felt as though something was missing in my life. It flared up when I saw happy young couples walking around, wondering who stole their baby’s candy. I noticed it when I saw today’s youth running around, doing triple frontflips off walls and calling it parkour. It came to mind when I watched TV, where apparently the new President caused a stir by declaring “Hail HYDRA,” or something. With the wave of sentiment that caused people to protest and attack superheroes, I guess it just makes sense.

I hate people. That is one of the driving forces of my murderous impulses, along with just a general desire to kill stuff. I really hate people. Big people. Little people. People who are too dumb to know they’re dumb and people who are purposefully the worst. Bad people, of course, but also good people who let them do it and neutral people who think both sides are equal for some reason. I think the next time someone tells me that, I’ll dump gasoline on them and tell them that dying of old age and dying because I lit them on fire are both basically the same thing.

Not being able to do anything about that? It makes me angry with rage. And a little sick at times. Or it would have, I think, if I hadn’t been so busy. I’ve had shit to get done, no matter how sad the world gets without me being allowed to tear it apart. I am the dealer of death, the god-emperor of mankind, the harbinger of mankind’s well-deserved apocalypse… and they stuck a bell and cat ears on me to keep track of my comings and goings.

So, after a bit of work on the armor and another attempt at the obstacle course where I ALMOST got it while singing “Umbrella,” I headed back into the meeting, where the bunch were just getting done brewing a bunch of coffee. They looked pretty tired in there, with one costumed nobody sitting back in his chair asleep. Even brought my helmet with me and dropped it onto the table.

I sat down and took a look at what they came up with. Have someone pretend to be a janitor and loosen ventilation ducts. Someone else sneaks through the ducts and crawls down to the hallway in front of the vault. They somehow jam the vault door so it can’t swing closed. Meanwhile, janitor person lays down lots of thermite on the floor above the vault. Lots of thermite. This is covered up by the rest of the team caroling. When the floor is completely cut through into the vault, the problems with which I will have to ignore to discuss the errors in the rest of this strategy, then the person inside the vault can hook up cables that go up and out of the hole in the floor to where a helicopter or tank or something can haul it out.

Complete trash.

“Not going to work for so many reasons,” I told them all as I looked over it. “Too many problems. You’re focusing on brute force and architecture too much.”

“What would you focus on? Santa threatening to blow people up?” asked the guy who had been sleeping.

“You got a little drool on your shirt,” I told him. He actually looked. I smiled when he realized he’d been had. “I think most people would focus on Santa threatening to blow a place up. The part with the guns was a bit far fetched, but I was trying to have some fun while you guys play Mission: Impossible and scribble about crashing an APC into the wall.” And so I began to explain the entirety of my plan.

“We’re doing the best we know how,” said one of them, a woman with a muscular physique and small boobs. “We’re normally not on the planning side of this.”

“You’re not on the planning side of anything most of the time,” I responded, then quickly tried to deflect this from becoming an insult-fest. “A good villain has to plan things out better. I can do it, but I have to work with y’all, and nobody expects heroes to have much to do with breaking into a bank to steal something.”

“What can we do about that?” asked a cornrowed young man with skin as black as something dark brown in color. Wood, maybe? Coffee? Certain types of chocolate? Why does skin color so often turn into a discussion of food? One of his mayo-skinned colleagues chimed in as well.

“We have to keep from using our powers a lot too. Villains don’t have to worry about that, because you don’t care so much if you’re caught,” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Believe me, we care. We just don’t have to worry about publicity so much. But I think we can do something about it. I’ve had some time to think and get hit in the face by a metal piston. This may be a lingering head injury talking, but I think we can turn the weakness of this bunch into a strength. So here’s what we do…”

The next day, I filled in for Kris Kringle. It hadn’t been that hard. The heroes wanted to get all overly complicated and hack the bank’s security to figure out who they hired. I wanted to wait in the parking lot, where they tied up Santa, gagged him, and stuck him in the trunk of his car. I may have done a little dancing around in the parking lot as I adjusted the pillow under the coat of my costume. “Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him up real tight, throw away the key, and then turn off all the lights!”

“You don’t have to be so happy about this,” said one of my accomplices. I never bothered to learn his name. Let’s call him Thing 1.

“Listen, person I don’t care about, I’m the Santa now. Being jolly is part of the job. Now, don’t you have a bank to rob? Careful, I might have to put you on a list for that kind of behavior.”

He shook his head and adjusted his jumpsuit. I smiled to myself as I fixed my beard on nice and tight. I anticipated he’d run into a couple of hiccups with his addition to the plan. Mine originally only called for me to go in at this point. He felt they needed to have even more people in to really sell what I wanted to sell, so Thing 1 volunteered to dress up as a member of the cleaning staff. I just got to play Santa and take photos with little boys and girls.

“I wanna motorbike, and I want football pads, and I want a new NFL game, and I want…” the enthusiastic youngster in my lap was saying at the time.

I didn’t care for children, especially one wasting my time so much, but then I heard from the other guy. “So, it turns out the janitors come in after hours and don’t wear this kind of jumpsuit. We might have to abort.”

“Stop him!” someone yelled. I only heard it through the comms, so it was someone near the other guy. Not ten seconds later, a door to the rear of the bank flew open and out ran Thing 1, being chased by security.

I gave it another fifteen minutes, mainly because I figured the heroes had to be betting on me and I wanted to screw it up for at least one of them, before I grabbed the Santa sack I brought with me and pulled out a plastic ball pit ball with silly putty and wires stuck to it. That’s a tough fake bomb to make there. The silly putty was the tricky part. “Now let’s deal with that naughty list, shall we?”

Despite their misgivings from the plan, the heroes sure looked happy at how hurt I looked from a little security guard brutality. The one who smacked my nose with his baton went further than necessary, especially because my pretty face can’t heal as easily now. Security was all too eager to hand over the Mad Santa Bomber to this group of Master Academy heroes who had been out on patrol. I just laughed at them. “Look at this sorry bunch of spandex-wearing losers. Nothing says courage like bicycle shorts. By the way, miss, you need to tape those balls back down. They make an unseemly bulge.”

“Quiet, you!” said Thing 1, his face covered by a mask. I think he enjoyed punching me in the belly, even though it was not the kind of improvising I’d have preferred. I saw his eyes widen a little as the air whooshed out of me.

“You can take him now, unless there’s anything else you need,” said one of the Security guards holding me by a ziptied arm.

“Is there any chance we can get a copy of the camera footage?” asked one of the heroes.

“That’s not really necessary, is it? He pulled out the bomb, it’s a fake it turns out, and we stopped him. We’ll hand the footage over to the police if they ask for it.”

Thing 1 stepped forward. “Can we see the fake bomb at least?”

“Is something going on here?” A man in a suit asked as he stepped forward. “He’s caught, right? Take him and go.”

“Ha!” I said upon regaining the ability to speak. “You may have captured me, but my accomplice already did what he needed to the vault. Soon, Empyreal City will rue the day. You hear me? Get your ruing practice in early, because the day of ruining is nearly at hand!”

Cheesy? Yes. Something you’d expect from a dirty Santa standing by the freeway? Definitely. Probable cause for vigilantes to ask to examine the vault? Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

After being escorted out by part of the group, Thing 1 and another hero went back inside to see to that vault thing. The security tapes indeed showed someone fleeing who, according to witnesses, tried to pass as a janitor. He didn’t seem to have gone anywhere near the vault, but from what I heard on the comms they just claimed we’d looped the cameras. Anybody in with any real background in that would know that one stunk from being full of BS.

Then out came the gizmos. In this case, they pretended a tracking device attuned to the signal from the nanites was being used to track down the location of explosives. It was found to be in a special container on its own pallet in the vault. The bank had agreed to store said container for a client. It shouldn’t have been anything harmful.

“Then why is it sloshing?” asked Thing 1 as he opened a cap on the top and gave the container a push. The bank manager went into full-on panic mode, talking about calling in bomb squads and all that. The heroes assured him they could handle this without drawing quite so much public attention. They’d just have to carry it out and take it elsewhere to determine what it was and try to determine what had happened. The bank manager quickly agreed.

And so Master Academy robbed a bank, all under the guise of protecting it. So easy, it should be against the law. Oh wait, it is.

“Well done,” said Mender as he watched one of his students slow down. The lawn behind the school building opened up and he hovered down with the container. I tried to step over and peer down after him, but I didn’t get a real good look before the lawn closed up again on the hideout underneath the school.

“Hurray. Now instead of calling the cops on a mob boss having stolen goods, you can call them here instead. That’ll surely help me escape scrutiny,” I mentioned.

“It’s not that simple,” said Psychsaur as she stepped out of the back door of the school as well. “We’re not supposed to have those either. No one is allowed to have nanites after what you pulled.”

“Yeah,” I nodded, trying to emphasize with my tone the stupidity of her statement. “That’s what I said. They’re illegal, you took them from someone who had them illegally, now you can do your turning them over thing and let them go to waste.”

“They will not be put to waste. There are still too many hurt in this world who need your tainted gift to survive,” said Victor Mender. “You have helped us to achieve a Christmas Miracle, Psycho Gecko. You should feel proud of yourself. I fear we will need this soon. Until we do, it is safe in our protection, where no one of ill-intention can get to it.”

Why not rub it in my face some more? “Eh, not the first time I’ve pulled off a Christmas Miracle. Or New Years. At least the Hanukkah Zombie didn’t show up to request my help. Mayhap I’m finally done being the plaything of the universe…”

I pondered that to the point of ignoring as everyone finished getting things loaded and headed back into the building. Everyone but Mender, that is, whose digitized voice said, “Cough cough.”

So much for not being a plaything. “You were saying?” I turned to him again.

“You have had to be dragged kicking and screaming along with our plans. I do not hope to reform you like Venus. I think you can be a valuable wetwork asset for the school beyond when I deploy you against The Claw. That is why I have a request for you. A test.”

I felt Psychsaur step up behind me and root around in my head. “Stop that,” I said back to her.

“I am adjusting your parole. My people have investigated the men who attacked my school recently. They failed, but I have learned they are planning to try again. They have money, they have weapons, and they have an unknown source of information. I want you to deny them these things.” It was tough reading anything into Mender’s stare considering how he always looks now. The guy can’t exactly emote a lot.

I reached up and scratched the back of my head. Psychsaur’s telepathic intrusion tickled back there. “That’s going to be tough, considering what she put in my head.”

“I took something out, too,” she said from behind me.

I glanced back, but then Mender spoke and really got my attention. “This next robbery would be dangerous. You have to be able to hurt people.” I looked at him for a moment, then turned and tried to punch Psychsaur. I stopped nowhere near her, prompting Mender to continue: “The right people. More to the point, the wrong people.”

I pouted and turned back to him. “Fine, but no hero costume. I’m still a villain.”

“Sure you are,” Psychsaur said, patting my head.

Funny person, that Psychsaur. That’s why I’ll kill her second.

“Ok,” I told Mender. “This time, in the spirit of the season… I will crush your enemies, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of their women. It’s gonna be a red Christmas this year.”

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Season’s Thievings 4

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As befits the holiday season, I slept soundly, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Specifically, a couple of dancers at this one strip club, Sugar and Plum. Sugar had the kind of figure that only exists when a man designs a woman, which could mean a lot of plastic surgery in her past. Plum’s not so hourglass-shaped. She tends to fall under that “thicker, but bigger boobs” way of appealing to men. I’d been spending more time away from Master Academy, for reasons ranging from “I just don’t like them,” to “they have a telepath.”

Speaking of which, that’s where this strangely dream, strange in its normalcy, took an odd turn. Because soon, the very person I had been avoiding showed up there. A feminine figure, not so endowed as the strippers, with scales over her skin and feathers where her hair should be. Her face was somewhat warped in structure, more elongated, with the nose not standing out so much from the mouth. Psychsaur just stood there for a moment and I wondered at how she wasn’t dancing on a pole like the rest. All of a sudden, a third pole was there and she walked over to it. As she began to dance, she glared at me and said, “Enough!”

I woke up with a jerk, almost losing my balance on top of one of the bookshelves. Below me, I saw Psychsaur standing with a murderous look in her eyes.

“Aunti Em!” I said to her. “I just had a dream. It wasn’t all nice, but most of it was beautiful. And you were there!”

She tapped her foot on the floor. “Yeah. I was.”

I shot a finger gun at her. “By the way, nice.”

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously. You might be a bit self-conscious about it, being a bit different from the norm, but the scales look really pretty, and it doesn’t really matter if the boobs aren’t that-”

“STOP TALKING ABOUT MY BODY!”

I turned over onto my belly on top of the shelf.“Fine then. But it’s not like we’ve talked long enough for me to talk about your mind. Perhaps we can change all that over coffee sometime?”

She held a hand out and an invisible force shoved me off the top of the bookshelf. Luckily, I landed on a paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged, making the book useful for once in its existence by softening the landing of my tailbone on the floor.

A bunch of books flew out and started swatting me from all angles. I caught one, Catcher in the Rye, but then Choke smacked me in the throat. “Why did they even buy you? You aren’t educational!” I yelled at it.

“You’re stealing something,” said an angry-sounding Psychsaur as she stepped to the other end of the stack.

“Not at the moment,” I answered.

“You’ve been avoiding me, so I read your mind while you slept.”

Sadly, I can’t bring myself to hole in a motel away from Master Academy. I think it’s the escape clause. But I did point out that, “Have you ever considered that most people avoid you so you can’t read their minds?”

She blinked and her eye went wide. I think I touched a nerve. I know she touched mine when I felt something squeeze my balls out of nowhere, the pressure ramping up until I was sure they should have exploded by now. But what’s having balls of steel for, if not resisting the ball-crushing might of someone with psychic abilities? With a painful twist, I was pulled back to my feet by them. “You went from being the woman of my stripperific dreams to touching my balls with your mind. I sense a bit of sexual tension.” I turned my head and coughed due to the pain.

She let go and I grabbed the shelf to steady myself. “Shut your mouth and keep it shut. You’re in the middle of a heist.”

I raised a finger to tell her this was technically incorrect, but didn’t say anything. When I realized I wasn’t speaking, I raised a different finger to express my opinion on the matter. Instead, I thought it all out, explaining rapidly. “Heistkeepsmeoccupied, Iwantthenanitestohealandgetstrongagainandbemycorrectspecies, pluswe’regoingtobebetrayedbytheguycommissioningussowe’regoingtostiffhim.”

“You can talk, just talk more slowly. Explain everything or I’ll make a woman of you,” she said.

I flashed an image of myself as a woman fooling around with Wildflower. “That’s sweet of you to offer, but someone already made a woman out of me.” I explained what has led up to the current situation, though. Soon, I was sit down in a room with her, Venus, and Victor Mender, repeating that story to them and telling them our plan.

They were surprised. “Johnny Butterfly, notorious crime boss, met with a random thief off the street who pulled one job and put him in a group with a bunch of other people to do this? That sounds ridiculous,” Venus concluded.

Mender’s synthesized voice spoke up. “He will betray you.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, probably. That’s why we’re going to betray him first. We have a plan to swap it out.”

They came to the conclusion they’d like to be a part of it. And I wasn’t allowed to have nanites.

On the day in question, things went beautifully. The disguises and fake identification worked perfectly, as did my fit about recognizing that large container full of fluid that, strangely, the RadioShack people didn’t have paperwork for. I stared right at the nearest guard, almost burning a hole through his glasses with my glare. “You lost the paperwork on this government property?”

Needless to say, they became incredibly amenable to helping us load the contents of the container up. They just no longer had the equipment on site to lift the entire thing out. The lot behind the store opened up to allow such large items to be moved in and out, but that required coordination. This was spur of the moment, and forced us to quickly change our plans as well. Mr. Blue Sky and Billy Jean had to run off and swap out the trailer on the semi from the normal covered type to one of the ones that can hold liquids. It’s the difference between hauling cheese and milk.

That took a bit longer than we’d have liked, especially because we took up so much space in the parking lot. When we finally had sucked as many nanites as we could from the container, we made it a point to leave. The longer we stayed, the longer we could be found out, and the longer we made Johnny Butterfly’s people wait at the drop point.

Oh, we were still heading there. I took over driving the semi. Billy insisted on driving this nice SUV. All black, but a few stains on the interior that made me curious just what Butterfly used it for before handing it over to us.

Billy and I pulled up to a warehouse. When we asked through Butterfly’s manager where it needed to go, he directed us to this address. And this address turned out to be more than just a warehouse. It was a bonded warehouse: a place where imported goods can be stored, repackaged, cleaned, adulterated, misplaced, mislabeled, fall off the back of a truck, and manipulated until a better time to pay duties on the goods inside. It has legitimate business uses, too.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see one somehow owned by a criminal enterprise. I bet I even owned a few back with Double Cross. The surprising part was that the people at the gate weren’t expecting us. They made a call to the back and let us in, though. Told us to drive around right on in through the big door. There, one of the guards said he had been instructed to have us wait.

“Ok, I got ya. Let me just go let my colleague know that as well,” I told him, then exited the truck to go get in the SUV with Billy. To him, I said, “They want us to wait. You think this thing can crash the gate?”

He put it in gear. “Let’s find out.”

He wheeled us around and made for the door of the warehouse, leaving the semi truck and its large covered trailer to its fate. Before we could find out how good of a battering ram it made, we discovered it made a pretty decent moving target for small arms fire. Semi-automatic, but with enough volume to take out one tire. “You still got it?” I asked as we swerved. We no longer had our right front tire.

“Take more than that to stop us,” Billy said as he held us steady, heading for the gate. Then we heard a shotgun and lost even more control. The SUV swerved to the left suddenly, and flipped, with my side going on bottom. I looked to my right, saw the asphalt screeching by, and pushed the button to roll up my window. I did not want any of that.

When we came to a stop, I spat out pieces of a tooth and turned to check on Billy. “You still here?”

He said what I couldn’t due to censorship. I don’t even usually bother to slip into multiple languages, and that one about our unknown attacker and a goat whose parents weren’t married sounds fun to use myself someday.

“Sounds like you’re still here. Okily dokily. Now we just have to sneak out of here without them noticing, if possible,” I told him. He looked at me, his lip and nose bloody.

From outside, we heard a heavily accented voice. Ukrainian, actually. “We know you’re in there. Tell us who sent you and we will let you live. Was it the Butterfly?”

“Hornswoggling within hornswoggling,” I said. “Well, we were right about Butterfly then. But don’t worry. I got us a way out.” I still reached for my disposable phone and called to the others, as planned.

Sgt. Pepper picked up. “We heard gunshots.”

“Yeah, we’re stuck at the moment. This is a rival gang’s warehouse. Guy had a Ukrainian accent if that means anything. You get the tanker away?”

“Yeah, we got it. I’m waitin’ nearby. If you want me to go and save myself, just say the word.”

“Uh uh. You wait until we’re out of here,” I told him.

Billy spoke up. “Feelgood, they got assault rifles out there.”

“Pepper, did you know that the term ‘assault rifle’ was invented by the Nazis? They made this gun called the Sturmgewehr- hold on, they’re going full auto on us.” I had to cut it short because somebody had indeed opened up on us.

“How we gettin’ out of here, man? I don’t have a gun!” Billy panicked, trying to get himself untangled from his seat belt. “The car’s gonna explode!”

“Get a hold of yourself!” I wanted to slap him across the face, but couldn’t due to my constraints.

“What are you going to do then?!” he asked in a panic. I reached over and clicked to release his belt. He fell on top of me.

“Well, sadly, it’s not an option for me to insult one of them, hop out, and kill everyone armed with nothing but two handguns, a pair of swords, and maximum effort, but I’ll go one better. I’m going to put no effort in.”

“What are you even talkin’ man?”

“No effort!” I yelled.

From outside, I heard the Ukrainian yell. “Look, up in the sky!”

“It’s a drone!”

“It’s a plane!”

“It’s a distraction. Also a superhero, or at least one,” I told Billy.

“We’re gonna catch on fire. The car’s gonna explode!” He grabbed onto me, nails digging into my suit.

I just rolled my eyes. “Car’s don’t just explode most of the time, even when they’re shot. That’s not how it works. You can toss a grenade into one and it wouldn’t go blow up. The grenade would, but not the car.”

“They got grenades?!”

I shook my head. “You do not do well under pressure. They’re not even shooting at us. Now come on, move your rear. We gotta get the driver’s side doors open.

I had to shimmy past him to open the door, then sat straddling the side of the car above the door, reaching down to give Billy a hand up. Outside, we slid down and made a hasty exit for the gate and our waiting escape vehicle that’d be nearby while a number of Master Academy capes busied themselves fighting resistance and securing the warehouse. They didn’t pay much attention to me, except for one particularly scaly one I caught glaring at me. I blew her a kiss before we skedaddled.

Just as we got into the car, though, I held out my phone to Billy. “Here, press the call button.” I didn’t get this little idea until after the talk with Master Academy’s people.

He looked at it, looked at me, then looked at it again and pressed the button. Back in the warehouse, the semi and the trailer behind it blew. Billy freaked out when he heard it and realized what it was. “Jesus! You said cars didn’t just explode!”

“Nope, but trucks do, when you get the idea to stuff some C4 into them. Relax, that way no one can say for sure that we didn’t have the goods in it, and it could have been heroes or whoever was back there alike,” I smiled at him, and at Sgt. Pepper in the driver’s seat.

Sgt. Pepper chewed on a toothpick and told us, “Buckle your seatbelts,” before driving off.

Except when we went to meet Mary and Blue Sky in the parking lot of a defunct mall, we found no truck and trailer in sight. They were still there, of course, zip-tied in the back seat of the car.

“Heya,” said Blue Sky, ignoring a glaring Mary. “Turns out Butterfly planned to screw us.”

“He found us and took the tanker,” added Mary.

“He left a note, though,” said Billy, looking much calmer after a little drive. He pointed to an envelope underneath the windshield wiper.

After we got Mary and Blue loose, Pepper read the letter to us. “Dear team, if you’re reading this, congratulations. You have met my expectations. I know this looks bad, but I fully intend to honor my part of our deal. Please meet with me in the room this Friday if you wish to get your just rewards for such an excellent job. You can choose not to get paid if you want. Thank you for all of your hard work, J.”

We all looked at each other, and at the letter, contemplating the intelligence, or lack thereof, that would be involved in meeting that date.

Mary was the one who spoke up. “You know he’s going to betray us, right?”

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Season’s Thievings 2

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“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” These were the words of Johnny Butterfly, who deigned to speak with me personally. A most unusual way of doing business. “These are desperate times for many people. That desperation breeds opportunity. Let’s change the phrase around then: opportunistic times call for opportunistic people.”

“These must be unusual times to be giving us this speech like this,” said one of the others in the room. An older man, with grey hair and plenty of lines. “We’re here for work.”

“He wants to pay us to sit around and listen, that’s fine with me,” said a pot-bellied fellow in the grips of middle-age. He almost had a mullet the way his curly black hair hung down the back of his head. He smelled like he’d been drinking, though this was ten in the morning. A bit early for me to be up, let alone drunk.

Butterfly took it in stride. He sat, a thin man in a pinstripe suit, clean shaven, with hair just a little gelled up. Late twenties. His tie was deep purple purple, almost black. For all his boldness, that was the extent of his unusual visual affectations. It was more than enough, especially meeting us like this. Basement or not, secret passage to the neighboring buildings or not, it’s not normal for a crimeboss to meet with some random collection of independent contracting thieves in person.

I’m all for someone doing things in unusual ways, and that’s also why I’m paying attention. I think we all are, except for the drunk. It’s me, old guy, drunk guy, a Hispanic teen trying in vain to grow a mustache, and a husky black woman with her hair dyed bright red and pulled back in a ponytail. A regular bunch of reservoir dogs are we. And utterly expendable.

“This is an unusual meeting because this is an unusual job. I am not tasking my usual men for this because the situation is so unorthodox, but at the same time I am not paying in the usual way. I wanted you to believe this is serious, because it will sound like a joke.”

“What’s the punchline?” asked our dark-skinned double-minority. She counts for double for our affirmative criminal action. Actually, she almost balances out, the way crime works. Her being black, she’d normally draw far more heat than the rest of us. But she’s a woman. Part of that whole storyline about women being fragile things that can’t work and must stay in the kitchen while the men do manly things also says women are weaker than men and therefore cannot compete. Not as fast, strong, nor can they dare to best the mighty menfolk. It tends to mean that women don’t get picked up as often, and they get shorter sentences. When men say they want women in that damn kitchen, they damn well mean they want them there instead of prison.

That means the only person we can rely on dumping all the blame on is the Hispanic guy. And I hear this latest president-elect guy’s trying to get rid of them. It just isn’t right. If they get rid of all the Hispanic criminals, white people might start getting arrested instead!

“The punchline is that this city has the biggest hidden reserve of medical nanotechnology in black storage,” he said.

“Excuse me?” the black lady butted in.

Butterfly held up his hand. “It is a secret repository for sensitive materials being used as part of black projects for the military or the intelligence agencies. This one is a private facility. Privatization is the future, so they hired a private military company to maintain and guard a site for them. These honest capitalists love to make money on the side and someone lost the paperwork for a large shipment of medical nanotech purchased by the government and so secret that this was the only set of paperwork in existence. The person who knew all this and informed me of it has passed away, meaning the company does not even know what it has in storage.”

I raised a hand. Butterfly pointed over at me. “Yes?”

“Ok, so I’m getting something of an understanding here. You want us to break into a private black site hidden somewhere in this city, guarded by mercenaries, and somehow escape with the entire thing. Because I was told my part in this would be non-violent.” Oh how I regretted not being allowed to hurt people outside of name-calling. Sticks and stones break their bones, but words aren’t a very good response to a squad full of mercs going Rambo ape-titties on me. I can do amazing things with all sorts of everyday stuff and a human body, but it’s harder to talk someone to death. Not impossible, but I’m not a little kid.

“You’re right, that plan would never work,” he said. I wouldn’t say never, but I’d have to be myself again to make it work. “Instead, we need to find a way to alter the shipping information so that the container is transported. We quietly divert that shipment and everyone goes home a winner.” Butterfly finished and flashed a smile I could almost hear ding.

“Not everyone,” said the Hispanic youth, looking around at us. “Not the people expecting that shipment.”

The older fellow guffawed. “Cocky little guy, aren’t you?”

Butterfly showed us to one of his other properties through one of the basement tunnels. We came out in the back room of a bar. It looked like the sort of worn old room they’d use for private functions, with more than an ample table for our little party. “Everything you want will be provided for here. Maps, computers, equipment. Inform Lindon the manager and he will get it for you on my tab. After this, you have no more contact with me in any way, but you also do not discuss this with any of my men. Lindon is here to provide you space and equipment. I will have everything my people know complied and sent over in the morning. Until then, enjoy your new book club or anonymous group. Whatever you call yourselves to the public.”

He shot us another sharp smile that belonged in a dentist’s commercial and pulled the wall closed behind us, leaving us milling around there. “That’s not a bad idea about the anonymous. We could pretend we’re an AA group,” said the black woman.

“Yeah right,” said the drunk. “I am not quitting for this.”

“You think you would for the sake of… this,” responded the older guy, trying to beat around the bush.

The youngest man of our bunch still preferred being open about what he did to the bush. “This isn’t right. He’s going to set us up or something.”

“Watch too many movies, kid?” asked the lush.

“Kid,” the elderly crook raised a hand. “I’m not saying anyone’s setting anyone up, but even if someone was, I wouldn’t talk about it in the man’s own bar, in a room he has a secret door to, where we’re probably being listened to.”

“Retarded.” Our token woman shook her head, looking at the youth.

I just rolled my eyes. “Whatever. Our little Foot Fetish Support Group can call itself whatever we want, even meet where we want. But there’s nothing to worry about unless we’re successful. Let’s focus on that first. And figure out why what we can all do so we can make this happen.”

Right off the bat, though, I figured myself, the young guy, and the old one definitely knew our odds of an easy walk-away on this one. Two of us just weren’t dumb enough to talk about it in a room so full of ears, the walls might as well be made of corn. This situation stank, and not just because the last group in this room loved their lutefisk.

The folks back at Master Academy didn’t even ask where I’d been this time. They were busy, and had a way to track me. Besides, they’ve gotten used to my wandering about without causing too much trouble or exposing myself. I don’t think it’s stupidity so much as the problem with constant vigilance. People always lapse.

Instead, I was just heading to the cafeteria when Venus stepped out of a side room, dressed for working out. “Hey!” she said. “You’re just in time!”

“For what? Taco Tuesday?” Like Fried-Chicken Friday, Spaghetti Saturday, and Sundae Monday, it’s one of the special meal days staggered so that they aren’t every week.

She grabbed my arm and started walking me back down the hallway toward the gym. “Nope. I need a partner for a demonstration. You’re volunteering.

I turned and walked with her. “Ah, I was wondering if y’all taught Sex Ed.”

“Keep wondering. This is for Phys Ed.”

“Right. Instead of doggy style, we’ll go downward-facing dog style, right?”

“This is going to be fun.”

What turned out to be so fun was us walking into a gym with several students of all ages sitting around on the bench. Mats were laid out on the floor, and Psychsaur stood holding some gloves. I kicked off my shoes, then pulled off my Behemoth jacket and t-shirt, the latter of which had “Harder!” written on its back.

Venus smiled up at them. “I found someone who agreed to my demonstration. Maybe you’ve seen our guest here, Puss in Boots.”

“Remember to keep the pants on,” Psychsaur said, holding out some gloves.

I took them and slipped them on. “Remember to let me fight back.”

She rolled her eyes and stepped aside, a smirk across her scaley face.

Venus called out to me as she circled around to the opposite side of the mat. “You’re fit, right? I don’t have to handle you with baby gloves?”

I pointed to the scar on my chest. Just a scar. I’m not entirely familiar with the amount of time it takes to heal from everything they’d done to me, but a trip through the arcade machine did me some good in that regard. I doubt I’m quite as fit as when all the muscle would be repaired and maintained by nanites, but there’s no need to let Venus in on that one. “When it comes to me, we aren’t talking baby anything. But if you’re ever looking for baby gloves, I might know a guy who can get them nice and authentic. None of that faux-baby pleather.”

I pounded away at my chest, making sure I didn’t have anything loose on the inside. Body by arcade machine doesn’t normally mean good health, so it’s best to check that sort of thing before strenuous activity with my nemesis. I smiled at Venus as I did it, who returned one that had less good humor in it. “And there’s the dead baby joke. It’s going to feel good shutting you up again, even just like this.”

Based on the calls coming from the stands, some of the students clearly enjoyed out back and forth. I saw money pulled out for bets. I also saw Venus stretching. She noticed me watching. “Are you going to stare and get your butt kicked, or are you going to limber up too?”

“I think a part of me’s already lumber… I mean limber… but okily dokily.” I began a kata, which I knew she’d know was unusual for me. I even through in a couple of ridiculous spin kicks just to play around. When I saw she’d finished and stepped onto the mat, I stopped, got my feet under me, and attempted a backflip. I landed on my face and stumbled up and onto the mat, apparently still unbalanced.

I heard Venus approaching by her laughter and running. I whipped around and caught a leg that she tried to put through my back. I dropped her to the ground and got a couple of good punches in before she slid loose and rolled back. I kept throwing punches, hitting the mat as she evaded each time. Still not quite balanced, I brought both hands down where I hoped to catch the back of her head, but she got onto her knees. So I leaned toward her and put my weight on my forearms. I brought my bare feet up to kick at her face with the bottoms. That time I made contact, though the constant attacking left me in an awkward position. Probably something you’d see in yoga, actually.

We both had to take a moment, though. After the impact, I swung my feet forward and twisted around into a crouch. A few feet out of reach, I saw Venus rubbing her cheek. “That’s why you never underestimate an opponent, even one who doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing.”

I stood up and smiled at her. “If I don’t know what I’m doing, how are you going to figure it out?”

“Maybe I’ll brute force it,” she said. She moved closer and threw a couple punches toward my head to scout my reaction. Not too fast. She wanted me to dodge them. When she tried it a third time and I dodged, she brought her leg up and caught me in the side with her shin. I grabbed the leg with both hands, though. Not a good position for her to be in. So she just jumped up and caught me under the chin with her other foot while doing a backflip.

It’d been awhile since I tasted blood. Can’t say I prefer my own flavor. I like my bodily fluids either where they belong or where I put them. “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood,” I said as I got to my feet. I saw she hadn’t completed her little flip either. Rather than wait for either of us to get up, I threw my weight forward and straightened up by thrusting my knee upward about where her face was. She moved her head to the side just enough, grabbed my thigh, and lifted. I went down with her on top of me and an audience of eager schoolchildren. I still wished this as Sex Ed, but she grabbed my arm and shifted to try and put my in an armbar.

She tried to extend my arm, but I grabbed hold of it and got my feet under me. When I pulled up, she let go and stayed on the ground. I, meanwhile, shot right up and off balance. Then someone, presumably Venus, decided I needed to be back on the ground. She grabbed my ankles out from under me, sending me back to the ground but with a bit less air. Instead of my arm, she went for my leg, wrapping hers around my right leg and twisting it at the knee and ankle.

I just growled and kicked at her, trying to find a face or boob or anywhere painful to hit. “Tap out!” she called to me, followed quickly by, “Ugh!” since I found her face from the sound. She didn’t let go, though. I sat up to throw a fist into her face, but found she beat me to the punch.

Things got a bit fuzzy there for a few minutes until the nice doctor lady gave me something that made me feel real nice and started putting me through all kinds of tests. Not an MRI, but there was an x-ray machine and several needles involved. It’s like they had it all ready. When I got out of the school infirmary an hour later, Venus was even there to help give me a hand, and my clothes. “How was it?” she asked.

“I’m surprised at the rapidididity of the response,” I answered. “And why did she give me a colonoscopy?” I saw her offered arm and grudgingly took her up on the offer. The drugs were wearing off, and I’d acquired a limp. Not the sort of limp a little blue pill could fix, either.

“After all the fuss you gave the other doctors, we thought it would work better to do a work-up while you were otherwise preoccupied.” She sounded all nice and cheerful.

I’d have stopped, but at that point I wanted to get back to the library and find a nice pile of paperbacks to lay down on. “Did you just beat me up to make me go to the doctor?”

“Congratulations, your colon is clean,” she said.

“Oh? Got your foot out of there already, you unethical bastige?” So going to kill her. Gonna kill her dead.

“You can always ask for a rematch.”

I tried to take one right there, but my hand stopped in midair. She pushed it away and said, “Ask for one, with a please and a thank you.”

Screw it. Set-up or not, I’m gonna crime so hard, everything’s gonna be stolen. I’m gonna be walking around with three watches on my arm, and another two in my pocket, all stolen. Next time I see a baby with candy? Better give it over. And they better not ask me to be in some sort of school baseball team. Never mind the danger, it’s time to rip some people off like they’re Band-Aids.

The first step was finding a nice place in the library for all these lovely medical supplies I seem to have tripped over and found. I can sell the pain pills at least, but I’m not yet sure what I can use this X-ray for. Maybe reheating leftovers.

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