Tag Archives: Quick Sand

Killing Time 9



I’ve generally considered extensive plans to be overrated. I’ve barely been keen on simple plans, though they are better than most. Just like with a machine, the fewer moving parts on a plan, the less chance it gets screwed up. The inevitable struggle between order and chaos.

If I had to say one came first, I’d think it was order. A nice orderly pile of all the energy in the universe and then…bang. Since then, chaos has been the great equalizer in any plan. Every independent actor has fed it.

But enough philosophical talk. It was a good enough distraction, but you probably wanted to hear about what predicament I’m in now, which conveniently undermines my point.

It started much the way my puberty began…surrounded by deformed beings while I planned how to get into a place. The place in question was the Foley building. At 725 feet tall, it wasn’t the tallest building in the city. I wouldn’t be climbing it anytime soon, though. Thanks to my own high profile crimes, the only service I knew that offered discreet flights for secretive clientele with lots of money was out of business. I was about as grounded as the mercenary pilots who had helped me.

That meant I needed to improvise a bit, which I’m none too shabby at. I ran into trouble getting the cooperation of my allies around my car. The Rejects, as a semi-official group, were being rather stubborn in their regard for conventional views on physics.

“You’re going to get us all killed.” Zane said as he pounded his fist on the hood of my car.

“Hey, watch it! I’ve got some explosives in there that are tempermental,” I berated the man with the giant version microencephaly.

“You almost killed us already, didn’t you?” Mika asked. She rubbed the bone spikes composing the lower half of her arms together. Her nervous tic irritated the rest of the group, I could tell. It sounded like bone rubbing over bone. But her flesh ended at her elbows and bone alone stuck out in conical points. There just wasn’t much she could do with that, nor could she help the similar spikes under her knees. She kept her balance with the last of her mutations, a pair of skin-colored tentacles that dangled out of her back.

I had been learning their names. Mika, Zane, Larry, Roberta, Steve, and…I glanced at the last of the Rejects, whose group identity warranted treating that as a proper noun now. The last member of the group had been nicknamed Tom by all the others in the group. In contrast to Zane, his head was perfectly normal in size. Yep, there was nothing wrong with it in circumference and so on.

It was just shriveled looking and a dark grey color, with deep, black pits where the eyes and mouth would normally be. We sometimes noticed something moving around inside the holes. He never spoke, but he chose to stick with us.

Tom had no particular objection to me getting him killed. Good man thing, that Tom. He was dependable and loyal. Possibly brainless, but dependable and loyal.

“It’s a very simple plan. Nobody needs to die, except for all the people we kill. They definitely need to die. Think of it this way, every person you scare off is someone I don’t have to mutilate. Y’all can spread out through the downstairs, cause some panic, and save lots of lives. Just leave this Prime guy to me.”

They bought that long enough for us to all get loaded up in the ice cream truck and ready to go. Moai and I sat in front, with the Rejects in back. Yeah, we saved the truck.

From the back, Larry cleared his throat and spoke up. “Psycho Man, why are we doing this in the truck?”

“Because it’s expendable.”

“Why are we riding in something expendable?”

I threw up my hands. “Look, there’s no reason to be worried. This is top of the line rocket technology like what the North Koreans use. You know, they have a very high survivability rate, or so they say through their state-controlled news service. If it’s good enough for their missile program, it’s good enough for my ice cream truck program.”

“That’s not what I asked, but I suddenly feel worse.”

I rolled my eyes inside my helmet. “Oh, you big baby. Just buckle up and grab a puke sack. It’ll all be over soon.”

I heard his belt click as he whined one last time, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

With that, I gunned the truck and flipped a switch to activate the jury-rigged rockets attached to the sides of it. They added to our acceleration but would never be enough to achieve liftoff. That’s why we were driving into a rubber band. Yep, a bigass rubber band stretched between two taller buildings. It caught us perfectly as we drove into it on top of a parking garage.

I adjusted the rear view on the driver’s side to catch a glimpse of the Foley building. We pushed against the taut rubber. As we drove off the garage, we were embedded in the band enough that it didn’t let us just fall. When I thought we had about the right angle, I killed the rockets.

The rubber band flung us at the building, leaving me feeling like my stomach had turned into a screaming killer frog. My frog stomach got worse as we flipped end over end, but I activated the rockets long enough to slow our rolling. That was hard with me smacking into the windshield like I did. Lucky Larry and his damn seatbelt!

Thinking of Larry reminded me of what he called me, Psycho Man. That put a little song into my head. “Psycho man, psycho man, does whatever a psycho can. Kills a group of any size, he’s got cybernetic eyes. Look out! Here comes the Psycho man.”

Still, I got a front row seat for my moment of triumph, or so I thought. Instead, I saw a figure step out onto the balcony facing us. The person raised a hand, and suddenly we shifted slightly downward. There was no loss of inertia, no glancing blow on a shield or anything. We were moving in one direction, and then it changed suddenly with no loss of speed.

“Cushion with the soft serve!” I called out to everyone. That too was part of the plan, back when it seemed more unpredictable. I didn’t get a chance to see how well they followed it because my head was spinning along with the truck.

We hit just below where we meant to, the truck cracking the glass windows and blasting a crater into the marble floor. I was first slammed back into my seat, then through the windshield. Some of my favorite body parts made wet thudding sounds as I flew end over end along the floor through some sort of aquarium and then into a water bed, which halted my movement but ruined the bed.

I curled up in a ball there for a good minute, nanites flooding into me from the busted quilted layers in my armor. I would have said the pain was excruciating, if I could have made that out. Really, it was like everything hurt so much at once that I couldn’t tell any one individual hurt nerve ending from any other.

Then I heard a voice call out, “You couldn’t direct him down to the street, Pivot? Really, you dropped him into my living space?”

I crawled out of the busted bed frame amongst leaking water tubes. When I felt like enough of my leg bones were solid again, I stood up and pointed a finger in the direction I hoped that voice had come from. “Listen here, Prime! It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, here to, to, to, to…” I got caught on that word for no particular reason that I can remember. Then, something stoney bonked me on the head and I realized I had more to say “…to put you on ice cream!”

I turned and high fived my rocky helper, who turned out to be Moai. He just stood there, facing off to the side. My addled brain figured out I should check that direction, but didn’t yet remember the 360 degree view on my helmet.

Pivot stood there, the Annihilation Eight stepping up to form a line in front of her from where they’d been scattered about the place. All eight. Wait, eight?

Yep. Gorilla Badass, Man-Opener, Motley Sue, Terrorjaw, the polka-dotted guy, and Rumble were there. So was a mass of shiny, shifting pieces of something metallic mixed with sand. Quick Sand, or more like Cyber Sand. And Dr. Typhoon, who wore some sort of new collar and helmet within that swirling localized tornado he had created around himself.

That shit just wasn’t right. I killed those guys. They were supposed to stay dead.

“Moai,” I whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, “bring me my red underwear.”

He didn’t respond to the bit of horribly-timed humor. Instead he looked to the second story landing of the penthouse we penetrated. There stood two familiar facies in suits. I recognized Pivot, who had ruined our landing with one wave of her hand.

I knew the other, a young man, as well. He had put on some muscle and height since the first time we crossed paths. Back then, he had been a sidekick who followed me to my hideout and was tortured hysterically for his trouble. I knocked him repeatedly with a frozen bratwurst. Holdout, who had taken the name Lone Gunman after I killed his mentor. I should have used a knockwurst.

“Going to try and run away again, Great and Devious one?” asked Pivot with a smug smirk as she leaned over the railing on the second story. “You didn’t think the heroes were the only ones who could reverse engineer the life-support systems of your armors or that handy surgical nanotech, did you?”

“Is there anybody else who wants to come back from the dead around here?” I asked, looking about. “My day would just about be complete now if Uncle Ben and the Wayne parents showed up looking to kick my ass too. Anybody?”

Shifting metal behind me provided a disappointing answer. Looking back through my helmet’s rear cameras, I saw the Rejects climb free of the totaled ice cream truck. They were each covered in cuts, bruises, and various flavors of ice cream, but they all looked like they would live. Even Larry, who stopped to throw up all over himself.

As I said, they were not a sight for sore eyes. On one side, you had a superhero and nine villains. On the other you had six untrained mutants with powers, my minion Moai, and me.

I didn’t know we were busting into this place while Prime, aka Lone Gunman, had the whole frickin’ team of Pivot’s here. Like I said before, I didn’t want these Rejects to die. I didn’t like the idea of anybody dying for me. I was more sure of that as the group stepped up behind me. They readied sharpened claws. Their powers made the air glow. I joined them, gathering energy in the sheaths surrounding my gloves.

With the tension so thick, the fight would start at any moment in a deadly dance of chaos and blood. I turned to Moai while I had a moment. “Well, Moai, you better promise me that no matter what, you’ll get these guys out of here alive.”

He turned his face toward me, just staring.

“Come on, man. If we’re separated, and if the odds look like they’re against me, you get these guys out, ok?”

Moai nodded reluctantly.

“Good,” I said, then I slammed both my fists into the ground just behind me. With a series of loud cracks, the otherwise ineffectual double punch unleashed too much energy into the marble for the floors to handle. A very confused mob of mutants fell through to the next floor. According to the blueprints I stole, that would put them in the executive offices. They could evacuate in comfort with the VIPs and VPs.

I looked to Moai, who stood dumbfounded beside me. Then I gestured toward the hole. “Well?”

With a slump of his stone shoulders, Moai jumped through after the Rejects.

Even before Pivot shouted “Get him!” Man-Opener rushed at me, with Dr. Typhoon and Quick Sand moving through the air to flank me.

“You dare come at me, bros?! I am the Great and Devious One!” I yelled, disappearing and making three holographic copies of myself. The holograms split up. Quick Sand cut through the one that headed for him and began to spread out as much as he could to find the real me.

Lightning crackled in Dr. Typhoon’s funnel before he struck out with it. It curved away from his ideal path toward my hologram and instead arced through Man-Opener’s armor. The other man’s armor shut down momentarily due to the electromagnetic pulse. I hopped up its knee and then to its shoulder, then leapt high into the air over Dr. Typhoon.

A sonic blast knocked me into the ceiling and against the glass window, but not before I dropped a headless rubber chicken grenade down the eye of Dr. Typhoon’s personal storm. The explosion flung him onto a leather loveseat. I couldn’t see if any bloody bits were sticking out because I had a rock villain to deal with.

Motley Sue rocked a rapid fire solo, shattering the windows behind me and slowly pushing me towards the edge. I gave my gloves a reduced charge and thrust my hand into the floor. It broke part of the way through and gave me a grip. Another punch with the other hand gave me another. I pulled myself along the floor.

Gorilla Badass threw himself in front of Motley Sue’s hair amps and let himself be hurled toward me by the same force pushing me back. I was still invisible, but that hardly mattered with the holes I was leaving behind.

Badass flew at me and instead of making another handhold, I threw my hand into his chest. Bones gave beneath my fist. I brought my helmet close enough to his ugly mug for him to hear me over the notes that pushed against us both. “I am the Prince of Pain.” I tossed him away.

Before I could make any more forward progress, Badass’s chain belt wrapped around my wrist and I was hauled back. I saw the gorilla clinging to the edge of the building. I held on tight as gravity took me down, figuring I could break through lower on the building and make my own escape. As I was swung against the glass, however, a yellow portal appeared and I was pulled through it by the man in the purple tights with the yellow polka dots. Portalmeister.

I was back in the penthouse, but when I threw a punch, another portal appeared in front of my hand and sent it somewhere. It was still attached, but just not occupying the space at the end of my arm. Portalmeister grinned under his headset gadgetry. “You’re the one who denied me a chance to prove my superiority.” He fell back, taking me with him through another portal.

We ended up somewhere dark and huge. I brought my knee up into Portalmeister’s gut. “I don’t know what rivalry you’re even talking about, but I’ll deny you a lot more in a second, for I am the Executioner’s Blade.”

I went to throttle the other man, but my hands warped somewhere else again, followed by the rest of me. This time, the area appeared like a kaleidoscope of bright colors. Reds, yellows, greens, purples. Whatever strange excuse for light suffused the place, it left me visible. I went ahead and shut off my stealth in that case.

Portalmeister followed me into this strange dimension that I hurtled through, falling with no bottom in sight. Portal after portal appeared beside me as he flew out of one and into another to keep me from catching him. “Sixgun was mine to kill! I was going to make him kill a civilian. I was going to make him shoot himself!” He babbled on about Lone Gunman’s mentor. Gunman, back when he went by Holdout, served as a sidekick to a Lone Ranger knockoff named Sixgun.

“So you thought you’d work for his fucking sidekick to get back at me?” I asked, throwing a kick at him as he zipped out of a portal.

The question hit him with more force than the kick had. “What?”

I spun around and caught him by the collar so I could address him face to face. “Lone Gunman is Holdout! You’re being ordered around by his old teenage sidekick with the short shorts. Geez, were you somehow deaf for the big press conference he held?” I projected images of Holdout and Lone Gunman overlaid on one another.

Portalmeister finally found his ability to speak again. “I was in prison when it happened…I didn’t know. The Lone Gunman hid this information from me…” He growled. Hey, if I could be cheesy by calling myself the Prince of Pain, Portalmeister was allowed to growl.

“Drop me off back there,” I proposed. “In all the chaos, I’m sure you’ll get a clear shot at him. Drag him into your freaky kaleidoscope chunks-blowing land here.”

Portalmeister summoned another yellow portal and pushed my grip loose to fly through it. I was lost in that shifting landless dimension for a few seconds until he swooped in from above me and hurled me into another of his portals. Then, I popped back to reality on the floor of the penthouse. I slid along the marble and knocked over a lamp.

Rumble jumped at me, trying to squash me like a bug. In his case, he could squash a Volkswagen Beetle without much effort. The downside was that I rolled forward. His foot broke through the marble and I launched myself into what would normally be a knockout blow. My fist caused a bit of testicular torture to the man, and then I grabbed them to swing between his legs and onto his back.

I put my arms around Rumble’s head and locked in a sleeper hold, putting pressure on the massive man’s massive arteries. “I am your pointless death,” I announced to him.

Rumble tried to grab at me, but his boxing gloves made that difficult. He had trouble gripping me with them on. He threw punches, but I slid from side to side and he beat himself instead.

I was pulled off when Terrorjaw hurtled Rumble, clamped his mouth down over my head, and yanked me off. It was less fun than being yanked off normally sounds. I could see down his gullet all the way to his stomach. I brought my left hand up and activated my Nasty Surprise. The miniature sawblade extended out from under my left wrist and chewed through Terrorjaw’s belly tissue. Terrorjaw’s resistance soon ended entirely. I plucked him off me and threw him into Rumble’s face. “I will bring you to your afterlife.”

I dodged another blow from Rumble that sent him down into the next floor and turned to a reactivated Man-Opener who charged with his blades brought to bear. I pulled out my laser potato peeler and aimed for the exposed helmet of the pilot. The peeler sparked and refused to fire.

Fucking ice cream truck crash.

He swung at me in a ponderous arc, but I was able to jump forward. I wrapped my arms and legs around the massive arm of the machine, too far along for his blade. He brought the other one up to chew me off with its sharp teeth, but I let go with my arms and hung upside down with my legs. The saw on the arm I held onto stopped as the other arm’s blade cut into the armor and wiring underneath.

I saw my opportunity. Man-Opener looked up at me. I chuckled as I looked down at him, then jumped high into the air, pulling energy from the core in my chest into the sheath around my fist. I would bring it down and crack the skull of my enemy. I yelled for all to hear, “I am Psychopomp Gecko!”

High in the air, I saw Portalmeister sneaking up on Lone Gunman. The Gunman whirled and pulled a scoped revolver, executing his mentor’s old rival with a single shot to the head that blew his headset to pieces. All of the yellow dots on the deceased villain’s costume disappeared as he dropped.

While I was focused on them, I wasn’t paying as much attention to Pivot. Right as the gun fired, she redirected my motion with a wave of her hand and conked me against the ceiling. Then the wall, the elevator door, through a hundred and twenty inch television, against the floor, through another wall into the kitchen, up into a light fixture, through the kitchen sink, into the bathroom, through the toilet, and then face down into the floor right in front of Man-Opener.

Before I could get to my feet or roll out of the way, a shot rang out. The Gunman had faced me before. He knew what it took to pierce my armor. I roared with pain as my kneecap burst apart.

Nearby, I heard Motley Sue playing. The notes raced higher and higher, as if trying to run up a sharp cliff. Then they sank downward, bringing with them a sharp stab that cracked the armor on my lower back and embedded some of the shards into my skin.

At least it took my mind off the knee pain.

Gorilla Badass flipped through the air and landed on my left arm before I could make further use of my Nasty Surprise. Quick Sand piled himself onto my right and pressed down hard enough to keep that one down.

“Cut him loose,” ordered Pivot.

“But only loose from his armor,” added Lone Gunman.

Pivot turned toward him, furious. “This again. You gave me this job and you’ve been countermanding my orders every step of the way. At New Orleans over and over again and at Three Mile Island. Now here. If you want him dead, why not kill him now? Why all the games?”

Another shot rang out and Pivot dropped as well from a hole to her head. “Thank you, Pivot, that will be all.” Gunman twirled his gun and then blew on the barrel. With a grin, he holstered the gun, then leaned on what was left of a railing. “You heard me, just his armor. He has a power source hidden in him. Pivot’s orders would have killed us all if you had cut into it.”

Man-Opener nodded and turned his remaining arm to the delicate task of slicing through my armor. Gorilla Badass pulled it loose from me, leaving my skin covered in blood as the connective nerves were torn loose prematurely. Once, on my chest, Man-Opener cut too close and opened me up about a half inch deep.

Soon I was dropped like a sack of potatoes. A naked sack of potatoes covered in blood, with more pouring out a chest wound.

“Gorilla Badass, would you be so kind as to hogtie him? We wouldn’t want him escaping like his friends, now would we?”

I tried to struggle, only to find my mouth filled with sand and what looked like small robots. Not nanites, but sand-sized mini machines. Quick Sand really was Cyber Sand, it seemed.

To add insult to injury, a security team arrived through the elevator. They didn’t even need to stay on alert around me. Hell, one squeeze of the trigger by an excited idiot and I could have died thanks to them.

Naked and bound before a hero who had every reason to want me dead, I didn’t have very high hopes for the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to try anything. That wasn’t what Lone Gunman had in mind, though. He walked calmly down the stairs and over to me, then knelt. He looked pristine in that damn business suit, with an obnoxiously charming smile to boot.

“I wanted you dead. It was the most pragmatic thing to do, but now I am so glad you could be taken alive. My new people here at Hephaestus can take apart that dangerous power source of yours. They can carve out those cybernetics, like those eyes there, and learn how to build them. Improve on them. Would you like to know we can make you obsolete? Do you want to hear how your dissection will let me build the world I want? That’ll have to wait. I have something more important in the works for you before I grant you the mercy of death.”

He patted me on the head, then stood and buttoned his suit jacket. His security detail parted to allow him access to the elevator. He got in, turned around, and smiled at me. “You once introduced me to your form of torture. I think I’ll show you mine. It is new and improved too. Boys, let’s find the ‘Prince of Pain’ a room of his own, with thick chains to keep his hands from roaming.”

I suppressed a groan. “Hey, you can’t call me the Prince of Pain. That phrase is only allowed if it makes me sound badass. Besides, torture? Oooh, scary. You think there’s a kind of pain I’m not familiar with? Here, have your guys check up my ass for any damns I may have smuggled in. Reach way down in there and see if I have one to give. Don’t worry. My ass won’t bite.”

Lone Gunman shrugged and spoke softly, but got his point across nonetheless. “I’ll go see if our surprise guest is ready for the big reunion.”


With the battle over and the adrenaline subsiding, pain that my body was able to ignore was visiting with the latest bunch of it settling all throughout my system. It was hard to force myself to talk loud enough like that, but I managed a glare at him as I said, “You know, Holdout, you used to be a little shithead, but you’ve grown up to be a real bastard.”

“I had a good teacher,” he said as the elevator door closed.



Ragin’ Against Cajuns 8




A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Tautology. That’s fancy philosophy speak for circular reasoning. Like I said before, you can charge extra for crap with a fancy French name and call it gourmet. When it comes to philosophy, it’s crap with a Greek name. And yet this crap is so considered wise, but the moment I start talking about critical butt sex failure, I’m deemed ridiculous and weird. Such people lack imagination, but I think we’re heading too much into sob story territory here, and this is not a sob story. This is a story about a whale. No!

This is a story about being happy!

Holly and Sam weren’t happy. We knew where Max was after your dimension was so kind as to hold the data for me, but the issue was about getting him out. Sam and Holly had this whole loyalty thing that was getting in the way. It would have been an admirable trait except they were heading into near-certain death.

They wanted to charge in with me. Upon finding out that I knew Max’s location, they gathered up their gear, whatever it was. Sam even took the time to hit up the bathroom. Good head on her shoulders.

I went ahead and gave my own self a similar bug to Max’s, right in the chest. Just had to slip off the armor, jab a knife in there, insert, have a shot of nanites, and by the time I had my armor on they were closing me up. Now that I knew that thing worked so well, I wanted one of my own. I figured I could write on the thing and send out the blog this way if I was ever too far away from my stuff.

Holly opened one of the kitchen cabinets and pulled out a bullet proof vest from somewhere, and started grabbing every knife in the place. I doubt she could have done much murder with some of them, but she was bound and determined to spread some Hephaestus butter.

I grabbed one of them away from her. At first, she didn’t react. After a second to think about it, she got angry and lunged for the knife, which I held away from her. “Hey, give that back!” she yelled, her voice going a little too high. I moved in front of the bathroom door to keep Sam from interfering as I played Keep Away with Holly. I heard Sam shuffling around in there in some sort of hurry. Probably the unpleasant kind of hurry, which is the standard hurry of the bathroom.

I ignored Sam’s attempts to open the door and addressed Holly, who was now tearing up as she jumped and tried to take the knife from me. “As much as you think killing someone with a butter knife is going to solve your problems, there is no margarine of error here!”

Holly pulled a knife and stabbed at me. It slid off the armor and clattered out of her hand, which then stuck a chest plate. She rubbed at her hand where it hit me. “See? You’re not cut out for hand to chest combat.”

“No one’s cut out to fight you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t kill a few of them.”

“Hey, what’s going on out there?!” Sam yelled out. She pushed harder now.

“Nothing, Sam. Don’t get your panties in a knot. And make sure to wipe!” I yelled back.

“Panties in a knot?” Holly repeated after me. “Why don’t you want me to go kill people? Is it because I’m a woman?”

I put my hands up, palms toward her, keeping the knife between two fingers. “I need you to listen to me, Holly. Do you trust me?”

“No,” she said, and tried to grab the butter knife again.

I dropped the knife in front of me with my right hand. She lunged to grab it, but I grabbed her throat with my left hand. I spun quickly, pressing her against the door, trapping Sam in again after she got her hopes up and the door part of the way open. From the flammable gas warning that popped up in my HUD, Sam’s attempt to escape might not have been just because I was doing something to Holly.

As for Holly, I held her up in the air by her throat while she kicked at me and the door. I wanted to tell her something, but it was hard with her whining so much. “Sh, sh, sh, calm down and listen to me. Listen to me!” I lightly popped her head against the door to make her pay attention. She moaned in pain, but it kept her from struggling so much, so I lowered her where she could barely touch the floor.

“Now then,” I said. “You’ve been a little bit on tilt lately. You know, upset, angry, sad, perhaps with some uncomfortable feminine itch or even some burning when you urinate courtesy a swarthy Latin lover named Esteban…not judging, and feel free to correct me on the details of your love life. That’s beside the point. Look at you. I don’t know what Max taught you, but you’ve never been a real part of the fighting before this. Before that night you got terrorized doggy style by a hellhound. Why do you want to do this?”

I lowered her a little more. “Please,” she whispered to me, “Please, I have to do something. I don’t want to be helpless again. I have to help save him. I have to.”

“You’re fodder, Holly. And you’re not quite right in the head. You go in there with me, you’ll die. Sam too, and she’s the stronger of you two. Cry and plead all you want, but I’ve heard a lot of it before.”

“Please,” she said again. She grabbed at her pocket and brought out a steak knife. She slashed futilely at my arm, sobbing. It was not a pretty sight, especially the snot draining out of her nose.

Here’s where not being a particularly good person proved advantageous. “Alright, let me make this simple for you.” I set her down, grabbed the wrist she was slashing at me with, and brought my other hand around, and snapped her ulna. Ignoring the scream of pain, I let her go then, and she stumbled over to the steps leading up to the bed. Sam slammed the door of the lavatory open and rushed out. She glared at me even as she checked on her friend.

“Take care of her. And don’t let her go fighting. I think she’s still in that maze with that demon dog a little bit, up here.” I pointed at my head.

As I turned to leave, Moai rotated and ducked through the door into the entryway. I caught up to him in there and patted him on the side of the head. “You look after them.”

His head tilted back, as if in shock.

“I just got you out. I’d rather you were in there backing me up. I’d prefer it to those two. But this might go bad for me. Plus, I’m leaving Sam and Holly out because they’re not so much prepared for all this wild fighting stuff. Not to this degree. But it’s dangerous out here, too. No matter what, I am getting Max out. Wouldn’t do to have him out and have his loyal assistants massacred. And move the trailer every once in awhile. They might have a way to find it.”

Moai nodded and turned to go back in.

When I stepped out the door, a dozen leisure-suited boogeymen greeted me, smiling from out of the darkness that held their lesser brethren.

I tipped my helmet to them. “Alright, folks, let’s go solve the world’s overpopulation problem.”

Half an hour later, I ran through the corridors of a base that was at times reminiscent of 1960s Cold War bunker and other times the leftover from a 1980s fantasy movie. I could turn a corner from parse, light brown walls and vinyl floors and wind up in a passageway of rock light with dripping torches. To think, it was all part of a compound underneath this epic plantation-looking mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Rather than try to fight me, guards and workers retreated, occasionally sealing heavy doors behind me that featured magical glyphs of some sort. There was always some way out, even if it involved blowing a hole into an adjacent room or widening some air ducts with a chicken grenade. There had been no guards up top, just a sense of paranoia as I approached the mansion, like I had things watching me from the dark.

Maybe I just have a go-getter attitude or maybe it was all the friendly things I had lurking in the dark, but I got past that mental mumbo jumbo and found my way down through a trap door in the basement.

Then began the running through the corridors part, which was quickly losing its luster because the guards were all leaving me alone. At some point, I noticed that only some of the corridors were sealed off and other doors were left wide open. I took a couple of them before figuring out they were leading me somewhere. I double checked Max’s last known location and saw they corralling me well away from it.

That wouldn’t do. I blew my way through a wall in the correct direction and stepped through. Directly into a toilet. A bathroom. As if to punctuate this realization, a cinderblock plopped into the toilet. I opened the door and stepped out to the stares of other men who had been washing their hands, using the urinals, or peeking out their doors. I pointed back to the charred hole in the wall. “Too much Burrito Bell for lunch, know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t go in there, though, because I blew it up. Shittin’ bricks, you know?”

They fled in terror. That’s some damn common courtesy for you, isn’t it? It was funny, too. Mages were depicted with robes often enough, but these guys looked like regular office drones in button-up shirts and slacks.

The bastards at Faustus had crushed all the fun out of magic with their boring corporate conformity. Or maybe that was just the IT pool.

Either way, I soon found my way past guards trying to flirt with me via rail gun and burst through a wall into the room Max was supposedly being held in.

Surprise, surprise, it was a really big room with a smaller observation room. Like the rest of the place, it had a bit of a schizophrenic design: fluorescent lit the middle of the room while the edges were illuminated by hovering orbs in sconces. It was a room with an odd fusion of modern and fantasy.

Oh, and enemies. Lots of enemies. Terrorjaw, Gorilla Badass, Motley Sue, and Quick Sand were all there from Pivot’s little Annihilation Eight team. Conventional Hephaestus guards held flanked me in a sort of crescent moon shape on either end of the Eight and their magical friends nearby. At the head of a group of men in camo who stood without guns in hand was something that looked like a floating iron maiden flanked by . Not the good kind, with the music and Eddie the Head. The pointy kind. Except the metal face on the outside had glowing eyes.

“Aha!” I exclaimed. “You’re all here! Right where I wanted you. Except Max, where’s he?”

The iron maiden answered with a digitally altered voice. “Your friend is within the testing chamber. Acolyte Samson, enlighten our guest as to the fate of his friend should he resist.”

A man stepped up beside him in urban grey, white, black camo and a hood over his face. He held something in his hand that engulfed it in magical flames without burning himself. I couldn’t see his face at all somehow, but his voice was clear enough. “Resist and your friend is thrown to the minotaur, who shall break his bones and devour him, leaving the head for last.”

“Sounds fun. I think I want to resist.”

“What?” Acolyte Samson asked.

“Well come on. Almost everyone in this room’s about to die and y’all went to all the effort to set that up. I mean, it sounds pretty cool. I’d like to see it since you guys actually found a minotaur. Or bred a minotaur. Hey, which one of you guys’ wives was picked for bull fucking duty? But seriously, all you guard guys, you don’t have too much longer to live. Don’t you want to be able to say you saw a supervillain fight a minotaur before your death?”

Silence reigned in the room as they contemplated my enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I spoke more softly into my helmet. “Alright, guys. The goal is getting Max out. Whatever you do, go for him, alright?”
I heard a chuckle that seemed indicative.

I put my hands up. “Alright, you convinced me. I’ll pretend to give up, then we can struggle and the minotaur can fight while and hopefully break out while we’re screwing around out here. Now, let me just get my helmet off…”

“You’re not getting anything off!” growled Terrorjaw.

“That’s not what your wife said,” I retorted with a smile as I removed my helmet and the shadowy beings hidden in my armor shot out like a fountain of black ink.

The boogeymen were scarcely out of my armor when the orbs around the room turned off. I slammed my armor back on my head and got low, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and then dodging again as rail rifles cracked. It didn’t help too much when one of them shattered my hip and another cracked the visor of my helmet. By then, the orbs were out, and with a wide smile from one of the disco-suited boogeymen, the fluorescents went all at once. We were plunged into darkness.

I had the suit though. My helmet allowed me to see with the ole night vision. That threw off most of the guys shooting at me, even some of the mages who hurled fireballs, icicles, lightning bolts, and magic blasts at the area where I stood. I was too busy closing in on the Eight. Motley Sue was my first target, though I soon saw tiny bits of sand whirling in my vision as Quick Sand got a sense of where I was. Eyes closed, Sue was strumming, trying to pay attention, trying to find me in everything that was going on. I briefly saw her eyes open in shock before teeth closed around me like a vice and I was slammed into the ground by Terrorjaw.

His teeth couldn’t get through, but he was pinning me in place. He gave me a nasty surprise. I thought it was only right to give him one back. The Nasty Surprise, my handy hidden mini-chainsaw, slid out and fired up, digging into the flesh at the corner of Terrorjaw’s predatory grin.

He howled even as he tried to dig his teeth into me. “Relax,” I said, “Everyone’s going to want to know how you got these scars.”

The bad news is I didn’t get to finish. The good news was that Motley Sue struck out blindly. Or she just didn’t give a shit about Terrorjaw. Her music caused something to slam into us, knocking Terrorjaw off of me. Unfortunately, it was Quick Sand’s time then. He gathered himself together and drove his sand into my visor, sandblasting it, then looped back around to keep up the pressure. Getting an idea, I called out to the various mages nearby. “Hey, wannabe Harry Potters! Your mommas turned tricks!”

From there, it was a matter of rolling as magical barrages flew into the area around me where Hephaestus’s pet supervillains had gathered. Quick Sand couldn’t keep up with me. He was mostly turned to glass after the first few lightning bolts hit, then melted, frozen, and finally shattered as everything else caught up. There weren’t many sand particles left after that.

It scattered the other villains, at least at first. Then they were on me. Something that vibrated to Sue’s tune held down my legs while Terrorjaw found me again and tried to bite off my Nasty Surprise arm. Even the muscle enhancers weren’t overcoming their determination. I still thought I had a good shot at them, right up until something sparked on the ceiling. One moment, there were just sparks that illuminated a pockmark-faced gorilla hard at work. Then some magical word reverberated through the room, and there was light. And I saw the light, and it was not good. There were parts of it that were good. Max was gone. Out of there thanks to the boogeymen, who have had an annoying ability to teleport when lights are turned on in any room they’re in. That was the first of the bad parts of all this.

The bad parts began when the iron maiden began to grow arms and legs, each one at least as long as I am. The iron maiden spoke, revealing it was the one to say whatever turned the lights back on. It began to chant something else, with its mages joining in. It was horrible. I couldn’t even bang my head to it.

Instead, I took one look at the situation and said “Fuck this shit.” The assassination part of the plan had gone FUBAR and I wasn’t in so much of a position to fight my way out as flee with as many body parts as possible.

I pulled a chicken grenade’s head off while it was slung through my belt, then pulled it out and went to throw it. Right when I tried, the floor opened up beneath me and I fell, grenade coming down with me. Everything looked like stars all around me as I fell, and I could see Gorilla Badass watch me from where he clung to the rafters above. I also saw the chicken grenade coming down right on me. Its explosion didn’t help my head any, but it helped throw me to wherever I was going. I heard my neck snap just before I blacked out.

That would be a great place for a cliffhanger if this was a story, or if I could just blog every single day. That’s not all or even the most important thing to happen to me in this time period. That was probably when I woke up to a room that was all white. There were no lights, but the light just came from somewhere. No doors, no windows, no sign of the hole I fell through.

The white didn’t much help my headache, but at least I hadn’t been out too long. Remember, knocking someone out for more than five minutes means they probably suffered brain damage. I could regrow the hardware, but I preferred not to lose the software, especially the hidden porn files. At least the spinal column regenerated thanks to the impact bursting some of the nanite quilting.

Since then, even though I’ve kept everything I had on me when I got in this place, it’s been…boring. Days straight in here. No word from the outside. No word from Max. No word from anybody. No radio, no TV, no satellite or wifi signals. Food was delivered to me, but it always just sort of appeared somewhere I wasn’t paying attention. Weird thing was, the peripheral cameras linked to my helmet never caught the delivery either. I would keep an eye out all around when it got to be a few hours since my last meal, and see nothing. Then I turned and there was food, sitting right on the ground. Sandwiches sometimes. Pizzas. Fast food burgers and fries. Wherever I was, I knew I was connected to the real world.

All the waste disappeared similarly, which nearly blew up in my face. After I’d noticed that trick being pulled on my droppings, I tried to hide a chicken grenade in the middle of a pile with a loose head, hoping, it might surprise my captor. Like I said, that one blew up in my face when just the crap disappeared.

I figured out a plan, though, and that’s why y’all have been able to read all this. The bug said I was still down there under that mansion. I just had to rig it send the message back through the other device with my computer to inform Max, Sam, Holly, and Moai where I am and hope they figure out something to get me out of here.

Fuck, this became a story about a man finding himself and having to depend on the power of friendship after all. Whatever happens, readers, don’t let them sell the movie rights to Disney.




Ragin’ Against Cajuns 6

Ok, ok, we didn’t leave immediately, but not entirely by choice. You expected more? I suppose I can see that. Why else would I lure my enemies to New Orleans while blowing up the Ziggurat? Well, readers, as you may have figured out by now, one of the traditional signs of a psychopath is poor long-term planning. And some people accuse me of being a psychopath. Psychopathic like a fox!

Much like a fox, I found out that Hephaestus had finally gotten up their fat asses while I was eating chicken eggs. Breakfast, to be precise. Not just any breakfast, though. It was a cheap Waffle House breakfast, with cheese eggs, grits, bacon, and a pair of waffles off to the side. Cheap food, crappy, not very nutritional. Delicious, it goes without saying. You know how they say “pick three?” about t-shirts or services? Cheap, good, or fast? When it comes to food, you have a spectrum from “tastes good” on one end to “healthy for you” on the other. The cheap part doesn’t matter too much. You could charge people a hundred dollars to eat a plate of dog shit if you call it something French and act snooty about it.

So there I was, sitting in my booth, nomming on food that was terrible for me. Moai had squeezed into the other side of the table by pushing that seat out of the way, which had greatly inconvenienced the person trying to sit on the other side of the seat. In the end, the old man had decided not to push the issue, perhaps because I was in my armor, save for the helmet I’d removed for eating, and Moai was Moai. Truly, he was a wise man. A little stinky, too. Smelled like cigarettes.

That was where we were when someone opened the door to leave and came back in, spitting and wiping at his eyes. There were always several reasons to act like, from certain news channels all the way to pop stars trying too hard to be edgy. In this case, it was due to sand. I found that out when the pieces of sand ricocheted off the glass windows of the Waffle House and came together in a solid mass that then shot at the windows in a solid stream. It was Quick Sand, the guy I covered in goo back at Newark. While he was busy sandblasting the window, I hopped over the counter and grabbed some drinks. He reformed in time for me to play catch with some coffee.

A couple pots of coffee made most of him plop to the floor in a muddy heap. “What’s that, Quick Sand? You like your coffee with milk?” I hopped on the counter and poured milk out of the jugs onto him. He let out a sound scraping glass and tried to punch me, but his muddy fist broke apart against me. He stumbled back, significantly smaller, trying to hold himself together and crumbling. I slid down off the counter and kicked him between the legs. And between the ribs too. Yeah, he didn’t stay together very well.

At that point, a gorilla entered the fight. I didn’t see much at first. He grabbed the building’s overhang and swung at me, catching me in the face with a balled-up foot and the brass knuckles he wore on it. That sent me spinning back without some of my teeth.

Bye bye, little Gecko teeth. Sniff. I knew you had to leave the nest some day. I’ll miss you!

He jumped on my back and grabbed at my hair with one foot, pulling my head back. My head was swimming a little, but I knew I’d be in trouble if I just stayed there on my knees and let him punch me all day. I had learned very early on that was a poor way to win a fight. Before he could, he was headbutted off me by Moai.

That’s why I love the guy. Statue. Whatever. If I knew he was capable of having sex, I’d have bought him a bushel of prostitutes by now so he could get his rocks off.

After that monumental save, I stumbled over to the table and slipped on my helmet. Instantly, a full 360 view came on for me. I could see that Quick Sand was still down, but the gorilla was back on his feet. He was not the strangest-looking primate I had ever seen, not with all the humans out there. He was lean, dressed in a leather vest, because apparently every badass has to wear leather. He had a chain around his waist and the aforementioned knuckleduster on one foot. His long, partially gray head fur was long and hung on either side of his face. The fur above his lip was unusually thick as well. Almost looked like a mustache. In the middle of his scarred and pockmarked face, he held a cigar in his mouth. It had a yellow band around the base. Banana flavored.

He roared at me, spewing cigar smoke into the air. He jumped up and grabbed the counter, dropkicking Moai to the side, then ran along the counter at me until leaping once more. He turned upside down in midair, feet at the ready, but I’ve never been insecure about taking a lesson from my favorite living minion. Rather than block or dodge, I headbutted him between the legs. “Hoomf!” he grunted as he fell at my feet, his momentum diverted by the force of the blow.

“I could have knocked open your skull with that,” I said as I bent over him. “But it looks like I cracked your nuts instead. You’re obviously not Gorilla Awesome. Who are you supposed to be, ‘Gorilla Eunuch’?”

He rolled over suddenly, whipping his chain belt up and around my throat. I leaned over to take the pressure off and he growled at me, “No, I’m Gorilla Badass.” He then pushed on my chest with both his legs so he could choke me with the chain.

He didn’t learn anything from the last time he had attacked me, though. I knew that in some sports you weren’t supposed to touch the ball with your hand, but I decided that monkey ball wasn’t one of them and brought my fist down. Ok, so he was an ape instead of a monkey. Sure. I just had trouble believing he was one of the great apes.

I grabbed his legs and started swinging him around. He tried to sandbag me, but the armor compensated. I tossed him back out the window prompting some scared woman clutching a child to yelp and run for better cover than the bench by the street.

“Here, choke this for me!” I called as I whipped out a chicken grenade, popped its head off, and threw it after him.

The chicken veered off course and exploded well away from him, which struck me as odd, but the rocking chord accompanying it also seemed odd.

“Huh. Weird. Alright, Moai, let’s bounce.” He nodded and I led the way out the door, bunny hopping out the door.

I was knocked off my stride by another chord ripping threw the air and slamming into me. It cracked against my armor and against Moai, actually chipping a little off him. It came from a woman in tattered, dark clothes. Boots, torn red and black plaid pants, a shirt that had been sewed together out of two different shirts, all topped with a face pale from makeup. She had Asian features and long black hair that she kept up in a pair of pigtails wrapped around round speakers. Presumably that was to help with the guitar she held, which had enough jagged edges on the body that it could have been wielded like a weapon.

To make matters worse, I saw Gorilla Badass was up and limping after us from the other direction. He stopped when she yelled at him, “Take a break, Gorilla. They’re mine now.”

I had to say something. “How about you two fight about it instead of standing any chance at all with teamwork? I’ll even let the victor have a break while they try and find me, how’s that?”

She made a scrunched up face at me, “Thanks, but no thanks. We settled on taking turns.”

I held up my hands, “Whoa, you’re all kinda interesting and all, but why would anyone hire a bunch of idiots who won’t even team up to take me on?”

She scoffed and rolled her eyes, sunlight glinting off the paperclip piercing her eyebrow. “You’re going to stop to criticize the people hunting you at a time like this?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you going to hold a question and answer session after I kick your hind end? How do you think I’d feel, knowing I was killed by a bunch of morons?”

“Look, we’re all paid to be part of this group, but only one of us can get the bounty from bringing in your head. Now shut up and die already before anyone else shows up.”

“Fine by me, little miss Harajuku.”

“My name is Motley Sue!” she yelled and began shredding. When I say shred, I mean that it literally shredded the pavement as a shockwave headed toward Moai and I, which seemed really strange considering the speed of sound moved faster than that. Moai and I dove to opposite sides. She kept aiming at me. Sound blast after sound blast followed, even after I hit the stealth, even after I projected more of myself. Hell, she was fighting me with her eyes closed, I saw. Echolo-fucking-cation.

“Free Bird!” I yelled to try and throw her off. I’ve heard that’s the easiest way to annoy a musician.

She snarled, but kept up the barrage of harmful music tearing into the street, sidewalk, and buildings around me.

Of course, she had mistaken fighting me alone with fighting me one-on-one. She couldn’t keep on after me with Moai rolling at her. Instead, she had to aim downward and strum her guitar, a burst of whatever she was does launching her into the air and sending a rolling Moai right at me.

Doubtless she thought she had me when she landed with a smirk. Then she saw me running toward her while Moai rolled me away. “Here’s some free birds for ya!” I called out, giving her a pair of middle fingers.

She nearly got me with a blast, but Moai was paying attention and turned down a side street.

Our fight was over for the day, but it disturbed everyone back at the trailer. They wanted to just go ahead and leave as soon as it got dark. That was a long wait, but finally we were all heading out, with Moai and I hanging out in the trailer to patch ourselves up. I was repairing parts of my armor that took a beating in the recent festivities; he had a can of crack filler quick-dry cement. I had been filling him in on what happened since his capture.

“And that’s another reason I’m glad to have you back. This bunch, the Annihilation Eight, have me a little outnumbered, at least in theory. If you count brains, I have them surrounded. Still, one of these days they’re going to fight me as a group and then we’ll have problems. They did a pretty good number on me back in Newark, even if that was mostly Dr. Typhoon’s power. Hey, whatcha doing? Did someone fall down a well?”

I asked because Moai had started gesturing with his head toward the front of the trailer. Then I figured out what he wanted to tell me. The car was stopped. I threw open the door and stuck my head out to find we were indeed stopped, with Max, Sam, and Holly out of the car and looking at the road. Or, to be more accurate, looking at where the road should have been.

“The fuck is this now?” I asked as I stepped out.

“It’s just gone!” said Sam, throwing her hands up. She was right. The road looked like it had collapsed in a huge sinkhole. We were on the highway heading out of there, at the head of a group that had stopped. Other people were confused and scared. The fellow next to us was on the phone and slipped back into his car. He began to try and turn the car around when we all saw headlights toward us in the other lane. Someone was heading into New Orleans and about to make one hell of a pit stop. A lot of people began to wave their arms and shout. Others flashed their lights. I climbed the trailer and waved the driver on in.

Somehow, his car just flew over the gap like nothing was wrong. The driver looked confused to see all of us but kept going, though a child’s arm waved back at me from the back of the car.

The guy trying to back up his car threw up his hands, then went back to his phone call as he drove straight at the hole, figuring it was an illusion or something. His car fell, traveling a short distance before bouncing off a barrier that briefly lit up to reveal various words in a swirly script I couldn’t read. This barrier disappeared as quickly as it appeared, but showed up again once I tried throwing a rock. There was both a hole and a forcefield of some sort.

We found out on our way to try another road out that people all over the city were reporting the roads all collapsed and a field of some sort keeping them in the city, though people had no problem driving into New Orleans. Even hearing that, we checked as many of them out as we could.

Faustus and Hephaestus had us trapped, but there was good news: they trapped themselves in with me.




The Jersey Score 7

The day of the attack, I looked at my costumes, glancing between the Missile Patriot tights and my power armor. Max, as in Mix N’Max, walked up behind me. He patted me on the shoulder and asked, “What are you going to wear? That could have a pretty big impact on things. You can’t use illusions outside your armor.”

“It’s all an illusion. That’s the basic trick of every illusion, especially the more mundane kinds. The key is to make someone trust in a false premise. I could do that with the Patriot suit too.”

“Well, whatever you decide, I hope you choose soon. It’s real hard to squeeze by you here while you’re standing around in the nude.”

He had a point. I was in the trailer and Holly couldn’t get to Sam or the door because I was blocking the little bit of available walking room.

I made my choice.

It was the day after I took down Terrorjaw. I decided that anymore delays would be dangerous. I didn’t know who all had signed on to take me out, but I knew Outlaw X had taken to calling the group the Annihilation Eight. Unfortunately, my old line about knowing how many they were going to use didn’t apply here, because they weren’t all likely to be here so soon.

The more time I took, the greater the chance they’d all be after my ass, minus Terrorjaw. If this group had been assembled due to some sort of willing teamwork or friendship, I could have used him as my toothy canary in the coal mine. They’d have broken him out. However, they were in it for money. As in, they didn’t care if a competitor for my head was in jail. So I didn’t know how many of them were here in all the time I took, though at least they lost one. I also knew that I had a way to cause infighting.

I had other assets as well. My car, Black Sunshine, was useful when I had Holly and Sam in it flipping out. Mix N’Max. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian, aka Generation Flex. Gastrolord. Me. That was a bit closer to even, though Max and Brian weren’t exactly in the know about being on my side or working with villains inadvertently.

To say this wasn’t a well-organized attack was not only an understatement, but the point. For years, people have said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I am that enemy.

Noon. Broad daylight. That was when the Super Snail charged the Hephaestus compound on my orders. It didn’t go in unsupported. It churned its way up the road toward the gate with Black Sunshine trailing behind it. Finally, Gastrolord attacked. You wouldn’t expect the guy who picked a gastropod gimmick would be impatient. Maybe he was overly eager to test out the new guns.

The air crackled with energy like lonely man making himself a bubble wrap condom. When it cracked against the shield, the thunder rolled. The shield appeared briefly as the electrical blast overwhelmed it, the white of the electricity seeming to fill in a bubble around the compound. Where it got past, it struck a light pole. The light blew up, but the electricity was diverted to the ground.

I think he should have listened to my last-minute idea on how to shore up his defenses on the Super Snail, but he didn’t see the strategic value in strapping people to the front and sides of the giant mecha snail. Some people don’t have an eye for strategy, I guess. Sure, Hephaestus haven’t seemed all that morally upstanding beforehand, but everybody has a breaking point. Everyone except your friendly, neighborhood Psycho Gecko, of course.

Plus, it’d make any potential allies of Hephaestus a bit squeamish if they’re spotted on the local news shooting up civilians. Even the police might look past their own gooey filling and discover a nougat-y core of morality.

Gastrolord refused, though, which left me to do everything myself.

While Gastrolord, Max, Sam, and Holly made their way up the road, I had wheeled a few barrels into a few back alleys nearby, my coat covering up my costume. While the slight brigade charged, I fiddled with the detonator. And, when the snail passed through the entrance despite the shield trying to resist the upper parts, I pressed the button.

The effects were not as drastic as they could have been had I spent more time preparing for this. Much like the people strapping idea, this one came to me later than I’d have liked. Why be selfish with my attack? I wanted to share it with the whole neighborhood! You know, really get lots of people involved. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that stuff I used back in Memphis, the BZ, laying around. No, this was all about blowing shit up, drawing attention, and possibly making sure that nearby tunnel entrances were hit in the crossfire. I was sure they had at least one tunnel.

That’s the kinda thinking I needed: putting the fun in murder. Er, the fun in kill. The fun in devastation? Oooh, that was close. The fun in fundamental threat to human life. Yeah, that got it. Ignore the linguists reading this disapprovingly over your shoulder. Why the fuck are you reading this in front of linguists?!

After all, linguists are only good when you use their noodle. Linguini, it’s called. I know, that cannibalism was a bit of a stretch, just like long pork.

Concluding our commercial interruption, we were back at the attack. A giant mechanized snail tank broke through the forcefield of Hephaestus and was shooting electro-beams from its stalks at anything that moved, aside from my car. I was on the outside, blowing up a buildings in a trench coat that hid my costume.

Gastrolord knocked on the door to the warehouse very gently. With lightning. While he did that, the laser carved out a human-sized hole in the loading bay’s garage doors.

“Part One of Operation Jehovah’s Witness is good. The door is open,” Sam relayed to me over the comms.

“Good,” I replied, “Let’s get in there and share the good news. Somebody’s about to die for my sins. And somebody save Dr. Typhoon for me.”

The mouth of the Super Snail opened and Gastrolord stepped out, aiming his goo gauntlets around at empty air. Max had his syringe gun in hand, and Sam actually joined him with her sprayer gun that looked like something off a hose.

I got a call from Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian. “Yo, dudes, ‘sup?” I asked.

“Shit is going down. Repeat, it’s hitting the fan.”

“Max, I thought fans were up in the air, and waving like they just don’t care?”

“Something big is happening.”

“I’m aware of that, good super citizen. I’m over here near our Hephaestus friends. Gastrolord just made his move, and he’s got friends. You had better get over here. I don’t think the regular guards are going to do the trick.”

That part was honest, at least. There weren’t many guards outside at all. I zoomed in with my eyes to watch what happened. Even the mundane resistance didn’t last long once Gastrolord gave them the goo. His gunk stuck to the two guards who tried to nab him, and they stuck to one another in turn. Why did I think it made them slip? Except then he doused them with gunk from just his left gauntlet. That made another pair of guards slip all over the ground and fall. He had slime for every occasion!

My villainous allies advanced cautiously. Sam and Max took up positions by one of the garage door holes. Max splashed something on himself, then offered a little spray bottle to Sam. Sam shook her head no. A lightning bolt struck by the hole from the inside, knocking Max down. Sam hadn’t been pressed against it, but she took a moment to cross herself as she checked on Max. He gave her a thumbs-up, then accepted her help getting to his feet.

Meanwhile, Gastrolord charged in the doorway. I kinda wondered if they even needed me. I couldn’t make things worse, that’s for sure. I found a secluded alleyway, threw off my coat, finished pulling my costume on, then jumped out, arms akimbo and chest up thrust toward the sky. Nearby a woman cried out and put her hands over her young daughters’ eyes. I looked down. Forgot the pants.

I jumped back into the alley, then out once more when I was in my full regalia.

The Missile Patriot was ready to have a blast. I launched into the sky and maneuvered for the guard gate. It was from there that I saw Max take another blast of lightning that sent him flying off the docking bay. Sam jumped down and ducked so she was out of sight from anyone on it. The garage door strained outward, then flew off as the spinning Dr. Typhoon floated through it in a vortex arcing with electricity. Out of the regular doorway came Gastrolord again, being forced back by something. Wind maybe? He covered his face with his hands as he stumbled back. A sort of weird fog came out as well. Another super was around.

As I flew in through the gate, I dipped down and a section of the broken guard gate arm. I tried to ease my landing on my feet, but stumbled. When I had a moment to regain my footing, I threw the gate piece like a javelin at Typhoon. The cyclone deflected it and the piece popped Gastrolord in the head. Gastrolord grabbed his head and yelled “Why?”

There was a weird sound, like if you imagined a snake chuckling. That fog thing came together into a vaguely humanoid shape that looked like sand suspended in the air. A quick search via the eye HUD turned up a villain named Quick Sand. Not much known about him…her…it. It was sand, though a mouth formed out of the head region in a big smile. I think it was laughing.

I wanted to join in, but I was in the bright and shiny costume now. I had to act like a hero. Ugh.

“Give yourselves up, foul fiends, and save yourselves some pain.”

Everybody laughed at that one, including Gastrolord.

“Let’s rocket,” I said. I flew at Dr. Typhoon and he pulled his arms together. As soon as I saw them move, I went low. I dodged lightning more thanks to his reflexes than any super speed. His cyclone churned up the air even stronger than before and I got sucked up into it, but I got sucked in the upward direction. I know what you’re thinking. Innuendo. Well I stuck my fist in Typhoon’s endo.

I spun around with him in the opposite direction he did, electricity crackling around us both. He wasn’t much used to hand-to-hand, though. He was the type to keep people at a distance but he couldn’t do that. That cyclone could try and toss me out all he wanted, but I had rockets pushing me right back in and throwing my fist into his stomach with a very satisfying feeling. He lifted us higher, then lower, trying to shake me that way, but that just threw off a punch. I tossed one across his face and broke his nose just for that.

The rest of the battle was hard to make out for obvious reasons. I caught glimpses. At one point, Max was sinking into a puddle of quicksand. Then Max Muscles was trying to hit on Sam. Then Holly was shooting Max with the car’s Gatling. Brian got stuck to the ground by Gastrolord. It was all a whir and it was beginning to make me nauseous.

I grabbed Dr. Typhoon by the face and blew chunks. Corn didn’t go well with his eyes. I laughed as I saw that, but then he puked on me right back. In the end, he dropped the vortex entirely and I flew right past him. When I turned to catch him again, he was heaving in the middle of a new cyclone.

I was running low on fuel and it occurred to me that my heroic costume didn’t have much in the way of weaponry. I cut the rockets and acted surprised. I screamed as I fell and tried to flap my wings. It was hard to concentrate on falling, too. If I forgot for a moment, I might have ended up flying instead, and that would have ruined everything. Instead, I angled for the Super Snail. I knew this was about to hurt, but not any worse than a lightning strike. I cut the rockets on just a little, as if I slowed my speed only with a last gasp. I still landed hard and bounced off the shiny metal between the stalks. It felt like my ass had tried to devour a rhino from the way my tailbone and other lower spinal bones felt. I think something was jiggling freely inside me. Probably my nuts from the feel of things.

As I knelt there, I checked on the others. Gone except for Holly, who was facing away from my fight along with the car, and Quick Sand, who was trapped in a giant pile of sticky slime. From the sound of things, the rest of the fighting had moved inside. Even with the hole in the wall that looked like Brian’s usual entrance, I couldn’t see anything.

But then, there was only so much I paid attention to that. Dr. Typhoon descended near enough to get a good shot at me. He didn’t drop below the level of the stalks, though. Didn’t want to get too close, I suppose. His loss.

I accessed the car with Holly in there and changed the radio. I had an idea how to tease Dr. Typhoon. Hulk Hogan’s old song, Real American.

“I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man. I am a real American. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!”

Dr. Typhoon scoffed. “Is that the song they’re going to play at your funeral, you hokey piece of crap?”

It took Holly a moment to get the hint, but then I saw her looking back at us.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, Dr. Typhoon.”

“I didn’t think they made heroes as cliché as you anymore. Big talk for someone on his knees.”

I forced myself to stand and look up at him defiantly. I wished I had a bald eagle on my shoulder. “Oh, I can stand alright. So long as I have Uncle Sam watching my back, I can stand up to any evildoer.”

Typhoon choked down a laugh and threw a bolt of lightning at me. Well, he threw it in my direction. It split instead and went for the stalks. The Tesla-based equipment there did the rest and protected me from everything but a little static electricity.

“The fuck?!” Typhoon yelled, then tried again. Once again, I was safe between the stalks.

Behind him came a whistle. When Dr. Typhoon turned, he found Holly and Black Sunshine turned around, facing him, with an array of weapons protruding from the car. He didn’t get to react before she flipped a lot of switches. Bullets roared, lasers seared, a duck quacked, rockets burst, and a hunk of smoking meat fell down in front of the Super Snail. I gave Holly a thumbs-up and slid down the side of the gimmick vehicle. I leaned in over the crispy remnants of Dr. Typhoon and said, “You’re grounded.”

I’m glad she figured that out and felt like helping me. I could have done all that on my own, but it meant something more for her to turn and pull my ass out of the fire. For one thing, it made her feel a bit closer to me emotionally and made her think I wasn’t quite such a bad guy when I acted all thankful and gave her a hug. She pushed me off, though. I couldn’t tell if it was her natural disgust for me or all the barf, but it was the thought that counted. I think.

In the end, the villains, or at least our group, won. Gastrolord got out of there with some weapons schematics and a bunch of launcher-fired sticky grenades. Quick Sand was relaxing in that gunk rather than chasing me down. Hephaestus didn’t lose many personnel this time, having decided they were mostly useless for fighting us. Bulletproof Brian and Max Muscles didn’t save the day. In fact, Brian was found running through the city naked save for his mask, under some odd impression that pants and shirts wanted to control humanity by moving people’s limbs. Sam got a good slap on Max Muscles before Mix N’Max shrunk the other Max’s head down to about one third its regular size. And, last but not least, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko got away with manifest records.

It was later that night, while Mix N’Max was busy dancing around a barrel fire with the man in the underwear and the trapper hat who lived next door and the women munched on s’mores, that I dragged myself out of a regenerative little nap and inserted a certain pointy body part into the servers we stole to check what they had to say about my good buddy Carl.

“Subject status: Liquidated.”

And so I threw open the door, naked but for a server tower hanging off my dick, yelling at the sky with arms outstretched, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

And I think that server gave me a virus.