“Listen, Carl, I know you’re worried. I’m just giving you all this time because I knew what I’d be doing to the city. Plus, I think it’s really much more healthy for Venus and I to work through our differences one-on-however many people she brings to catch me.” I grinned at Carl, resting my hand on his shoulder.
Brows furrowed, he shook my hand off, then reached past me to where the toilet paper hung in the cramped bathroom. “Boss, when I asked if there was a problem, I was asking why you were in my bathroom with me.”
“I understand that, Carl. Your bowels said one thing, but your eyes said something quite different. Anyway, let me just get a door between us now. It smells like somebody had chili last night.” With that, I quickly stepped outside the door and held it shut.
Carl started banging on it. “Aww, hell no. You can’t fart while I’m on the crapper and shut me up with it! What kind of chili did you eat, roadkill?””
Hehe. In a manner of speaking, that’s true. I drove through the wall of a store to get some of the ingredients. It took less time than killing the armed gang out front, which was already standing off with police. “You know what they say, Carl. When life gives you lemons, make lemon gas.”
“Ugh, I can taste them! I can taste the fucking lemons! I’m gonna be sick.” I stepped back and let him wrench open the bathroom door to breath in fresh air.
“So, now that I got you here, Carl, I just want you to know that I’ll be ok. I just have a little something going on right now where it’s best if y’all aren’t there. As soon as I’m done doing what I need to do, I’ll bring you and Moai in again for lots more fun and adventures,” I told him, knowing that my goals didn’t give that much chance of happening. “Where is Moai, anyway?”
Carl, having recovered from the smells I’d presented him, nodded further down the hallway to the kids’ rooms. “He’s looking after them. The ex barely trusts me here after all the help, but she likes having Moai around. Go figure. I get why you’re letting me have time. You really did a number on them, eh boss?”
“That I did, Carl. Something tells me it’ll be kinda hard to forget my impact after all this. Venus certainly will.”
Carl closed the door then, apparently having aired out the commode enough to his liking, but continued talking to me through the door. “I always sensed something about you two. You an’ her got something going on?”
I shook my head even though he couldn’t see it. “I killed her boyfriend twice and have been a pain in her ass now for more than a year. She’s all about law and order, I’m more of a power and chaos kinda guy. She refuses to kill. No need to elaborate there. There’s some sort of passion between us, but it’s safe to say she hates me. Anyway, man, I’m going to head out. I have things I need to do. Traps to finish setting up. That sort of thing. I’ll catch you later, ok?”
“Ok, boss. Stop by again. I’ll grill out if you give me a heads-up.”
I turned toward the end of the hall and called out, “Hey Moai!” The animate statue peeked out of one of the bedrooms, a tiny kid’s arm wrapped around him. I gave him a thumbs-up. “Take care. I’m heading out, but I’ll see y’all soon, I bet. We’ll be back on our feet in no time. Well, you know.”
Moai didn’t really have feet. He nodded slowly. I got the sense he didn’t want me to go, so I turned and left in short order. Carl’s ex-wife’s house was about fifteen minutes driving time away from my apartment building. Plenty of time to review the preparations I made. I couldn’t delay, or enough people would smell a health hazard and call down an investigation anyway.
So I made my way through the apartment building, ignoring the bodies and bloodstains. The spike plates were ready. The chainlaunchers oiled. Even the hooks hanging from the ceiling of the basement had been carefully set up. The one closest to this vintage electric chair even held a cooler full of drinks for me. There’s nothing like mixing a White Russian in a hellhouse, am I right?
There, surrounded by BDSM horror gear, I pulled on my armor, sat upon my executioner’s throne, and slid my helmet into place.
One short, scrambled phone call later, I let out a maniacal laugh. “Bwahahahaha! Hello there, my dear Venus.” I had dialed down the tone of my voice to sound deeper and more menacing just for the theme I adopted this time.
“Hello, this is the Master Academy operator. You’re calling for Venus?” The voice on the other end sounded far too cheery.
“Yes, she gave me this number in order to contact her. It’s very important. She may have mentioned it, perhaps?” I reached into the cooler on the chain next to me and pulled out a double chocolate oatmeal stout. I popped it open on the open mouth of the dead rat hanging above the cooler on the chain.
What? I couldn’t find a dead person in the building just the right size to serve as a bottle opener.
“Yes, you wouldn’t be calling in if that wasn’t the case, but Venus’s calls are being directed through the Master Academy because of the events in Empyreal City, where she’s currently active. Give me one moment and I’ll connect you. May I ask who’s calling?”
“The Great and Devious Psycho Gecko. Maybe you’ve heard of me from the news, movies, my work in porn, and as the name Venus calls out when she’s having wet dreams.” I tried for a drink of my stout, but the helmet got in the way. Still, any beer that doesn’t hit the tongue tastes better than any that does.
“Oh,” she spoke curtly. “I will get her on the phone for you. One moment. Burn in hell.” She spoke really that last sentence quickly enough I almost missed it.
After a few seconds, a familiar voice broke the silence. “Hello, Gecko.”
“Oh Boopsie, you knew you’d be hearing from me sooner or later…”
Venus arrived thirty minutes later. Her and a large group of agents cordoned off the area over the course of the next half hour while formulating some plan of attack. They even brought in a large black semi.
I hoped that when Venus came knocking, she’d share this same sense I had, that this was just between us. That’s what I got for being sentimental, I suppose. I’d even parked a lot of my gear in storage.
Hey, everyone has dumb moments. Mine just involve not having as many explosives at hand when surrounded by a city full of enemies. Yeah, that crossed my mind a lot as I felt the semi crash into a part of the building. Elsewhere, agents penetrated other rooms. They attempted to move both quickly and carefully. No doubt they had been warned about traps.
As I told Venus when I got her number, empathy can also be used to hurt. Or maim. Or kill. So when wary men with guns saw what looked like wounded people or crying babies in cribs, they attempted to render aid. And my cameras allowed me to see it all as it happened.
I peeked into one room in particular. The agents had come in through the fire escape and found themselves in a child’s room that featured a large clown statue in one corner, staring across at a baby’s crib. Crying noises issued from a lump under the blanket. One of the men reached out to touch it, prompting the clown statue to look up from the crib at him. Even as they opened fire on it, acid sprayed from its grinning mouth to fill the room.
In another apartment, kicking open the door to the hallway caused the previously-locked master bathroom door to slam open and a maniacally-grinning fox with very sharp teeth sprinted out toward the nearest agent.
Then there was the front entrance. That one tangled Venus up, briefly. A wrong step on a pressure plate shot a sharpened rod up through the floor and into the foot of the unfortunate agent. It didn’t go any better for them when they attempted to use the walls for leverage. Spike plates were versatile like that.
Just when they thought they were done with that, motion sensors activated the chainlaunchers. You know, just silently throwing chains with hooks in them at an area to try and pierce something and drag it in the direction the chains came from.
I couldn’t see anything where the semi crashed into the place, though. Whoever that was, they had to deal with a room full of pits and sharpened blades on pendulums.
To their credit, Venus and the FBI kept their heads about them. Once they encountered traps, they did their best to keep from being hit by the same type, usually with some very precise aiming. It also didn’t escape my notice that some of the agents stood out from the others.
Aside from Venus, others set themselves apart, usually by slipping ahead of the pack to spot traps for the others. Their outfits were tactical, too, but with less protection. It helped their mobility. I saw one of them on the roof pull out something that glowed crimson, then begin to transform into a bulky shellfish man. Hey, I remembered that guy! I whipped some loin at him the first time we met. Y’all know how much I love to whip some loin around.
Lobster Man wasn’t the only powered agent. Up on the fourth floor, wood tore off the furniture and walls around a woman and formed wings and sleek armor around her. In the main hall, an agent with a metal face mask and a maul smashed chains out of the air, causing electricity to arc between each struck chain and the floor.
Then another super upstaged them both. A transparent copy of himself ran down the hallway, triggering chains and spikes and even an exploding potted plant. I fought him before, too. None of the attacks hurt him; his transparent double snapped back to him having cleared a path.
The lack of information from the ground floor on the east wing, where the semi hit, worried me a little.
The traps did their job, though. They thinned the herd. That became important when they split up. Venus led one group to clear the rest of the first floor. The maul and doppelganger guy took a smaller group with them and came down to the basement.
I became invisible as doppelganger rushed ahead. When he didn’t trigger any traps, he snapped to the position of his translucent double. Imagine his surprise when I knocked his ass up through his teeth. Wait, no, that kind of punch would be a little on the impossible side to do literally. But I did drive my foot so hard up his ass that he’d be shitting up spinal column if he ever shit again. He crumpled to the ground, unable to pull off any more doppelganging.
His team only lost sight of him for a couple of seconds, then they were down amongst the swinging chains. Then, yes, I allowed them a glimpse of me. I sat in my electric chair, one hand on a switch.
“We need backup to the basement. He’s here and he’s armed!” The maul-wielding super agent spoke, alerting the others in the building. I grinned under my helmet and flipped the switch. A skinny, crooked finger of electricity arced between two chains in particular as they electrified…
Well, it was a bit awkward pulling off a similar trick as the guy with the maul, especially one he resisted. His squad, on the other hand, took defibrillation poorly. With them dead, I could shut down the chains and hit the invisibility again. I avoided the swift swings of the metal-faced man who tried to turn my chin into a home run and shoved a hook up his ass. When he turned to take my head off, I beat him upside his head with another hook. I’m glad I picked some heavy ones.
I went wild with them, knocking the agent’s mask off and making him look like quite the babyface. By that I mean ugly, deformed, and covered with blood.
That’s where Venus found me when she stepped through the door to the basement. Only I was ready for her. “Ah, Venus. I have such sights to show you!” I told her, raising my hands up. Over my armor, I projected bondage gear in homage to the horror series I had so emulated in this attack. In this case, I seemed to wear assless latex chaps and a chain between where the nipples would be on the metal chest of my armor. Oh, and my helmet appeared to be a gimp mask.
Looking back, perhaps Hellraiser may have been a bad choice to intimidate people.
“Gecko! Should I bother to ask you to surrender, or am I going to have to drag you out of here in chains?” She asked. She kept her eyes on me, but maneuvered around to keep the walls to her back as she approached.
“Chains? We’re a little beyond chains, Boopsie baby.” I backed off from the hamburger-looking remnants of the maul agent and took my place on the electric chair again.
“Save it. I’m not crossing that line with you. And you’re not crossing it with me.” Venus grabbed one chain, pulled herself up enough to make it to the next, and used them to rush me through the air. I grabbed for the switch but then was plunged into darkness when something roared from somewhere above us and the generator went out.
Venus hit me in the head with a glow stick. They were the sort that you bend and shake, but far more potent than normal. The green glow illuminated the entire basement. Only, I didn’t see Venus herself. I just heard chains rattle and the painful wheezing of agent metalface over there.
When I caught a glimpse of her, she stood out more for the motion. She dropped down on my from above, smacking the heels of her boots into the top of my head. The armor could only enhance the strength of my neck muscles so much. I stumbled forward, almost falling. She still didn’t land quite so gracefully herself, but hauled herself back to her feet using my own props.
Never taking her eyes off me, she tried to talk to me. “You really don’t have to do this, Gecko. There is help if you ask for it. It’s scary to put yourself at someone else’s mercy, but I’ll be there if you let me. You put me on a pedestal, right? You won’t kill me, because you want me to kill you. Maybe you can’t ever put on a costume to help people, but we, you and I, can get you started down forgiving yourself someday.”
At least she was smart enough not to relax around me. I rolled my eyes under my helmet. “Blah, blah, blah. I think I preferred you before you got me with that truth serum, you know. You were a self-righteous little do-gooding bitch, but at least you weren’t trying to be nice because there was some tragedy under the comedy of my life. Fuck you and your fair-weather offer. It doesn’t matter what you know now, I’m still the same guy who thinks slaughter is the best medicine.”
I went invisible again and charged her. Venus, clever girl that she was, swung from a chain to push me back with a kick. That’s when I realized another mistake I’d made in all this. These fucking chains. They made an intimidating prop, but I couldn’t move through them without having to push a couple out of the way and giving away my location.
“Alright, so that’ll save you for the moment,” I taunted. “You know, if you’re so adamant about sparing me, then I guess you aren’t the true hero I was looking for. You know what that makes you?”
“Someone who thinks you have more of a purpose in life than you do?” she asked, circling around.
“Expendable,” I answered. I released the Nasty Surprise mini chainsaw blade from under my left forearm and stabbed for her. She pulled a chain into the way and wrapped it around my wrist. She used the hook from another to help secure it there as I tried to twist and grab a hold of her. When that didn’t work, I braced myself for an attack. Nothing. She stepped over to check on the agent with the maul instead.
I pulled out my laser potato peeler, then, and went to work freeing myself.
“I’m not being nice to you because something bad happened to you, Gecko,” she said more quietly as she looked over the wounded man. “But you don’t even like what you’ve become, have you? Part of you thinks you need to be stopped. Let me stop you the right way.”
A combination of rage, enhanced strength, and weakened chains allowed me to pull free prematurely. I jumped, ready to slam my fist into the deluded Venus’s face. Y’all know how I often point out the value in getting to someone psychologically to force mistakes and gain an advantage over them?
Sincere or insincere, right or wrong, Venus had me on tilt again. I’ve had time to look back and see this as the turning point and as a goal she worked for. Venus grabbed the maul off the ground and swung for the fences. Even through my armor, I felt wind try to escape my lungs. Worse, the electrical effect of the giant hammer didn’t come from some power in the man’s body. It worked perfectly well with Venus hold it, and disrupted my armor just fine.
One, two, three strikes! Boom, another upside my head! I got an opening as she smashed the head into the back of my knee and forced me to kneel. Despite the blows loosening up my teeth and precious armor, I got a hold of a chicken grenade and beheaded the explosive poultry.
“Wait, Venus,” I said as I held up two empty hands. “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know, but you’re under arrest,” she said. Then the explosion from behind her and to her left hurled her into the wall behind me.
Sore, I stood and walked over. “Nope. Wrong answer. I would have accepted a lot of different ones, including ‘to help Gecko kill a hero’.” I tried to kick that damn hammer away from her, but it was heavy and my toe was not. So, after giving myself plenty more reason to cuss, I reach down and tossed it away. Then I grabbed the stunned Venus’s head. “I’m sorry you were such a failure, Venus. I could have saved us all so much more trouble.”
Then a blast of air knocked me into the wall right by Venus, loosening my grip on her. Before I could react, thin arms stretched out of pooled darkness where the glow stick couldn’t reach. They hauled me back from Venus where I could see a collection of characters that fit right in with the scary motif I set up.
Most men would have called them monsters. I used to call them allies. The Rejects. Headgame’s stretched limbs held me down. The air had come from Winsect. Plasma glowed under the clear skin of Ray X. Rattler, Bonedancer, Meltman, they were all there too.
“Wow, how are you guys? It’s been awhile.” I asked, a bit surprised to see them.
“We’re a little better,” Meltman said on the group’s behalf. “We just got a job capturing someone who betrayed us.”
“Yeah? Who did that?” I asked. Ray X pressed a hand to my chest, shorting out my armor with a crackling noise. I convulsed as well, the feeling of being zapped by him planting the suspicion that I may have crackled too.
Off to the side, Venus spoke up. “I can record things too, Gecko. You sent your friends into a trap and didn’t even try to warn them. You didn’t even try to help them. They’re not bad people, we found out. As much as you hate the society, we give people a chance if they want it.” She walked over, holding her ribs with one hand. “Gecko think about what I said here tonight. A part of you knows I’m right or you never would have put yourself in this situation.” Then, to the group of my former minions, “Thank you. Do you have him?”
Winsect almost sounded sad for someone betraying me. “I think we can get him, dear. You go get a medic.”
“Venus…” I started. She turned to me. “Come on, you may as well let me go. Nothing can hold me for long. Then I’ll be out all over again and the whole cycle will start over again. I think we’re destined to do again, you and I, because you won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness.”
She just shook her head. “Shut up, Gecko. If it saves at least one life then it wasn’t misplaced.”
So, yeah. There I was. Half-fried. My armor turned off by old allies I tried to help. My own ribs killing me, though I didn’t figure that one out until the adrenaline wore off.
Headgame and Rattler wrapped me up far too well for me to get away under my own strength. I struggled. I offered money. The full weight of what was happening didn’t really hit me until they tossed me into the back of the truck they’d arrived in over at the east wing, pieces of my broken armor coming off as they threw me in.
They just shut the incredibly thick door on me. I couldn’t feel a damn thing outside of that space they confined me in. No networks. No satellites. Nothing escaped those thick metal walls. Heck, I didn’t even have my gloves with me anymore. Headgame took those right off me. I could have popped off a chicken grenade, but I suspected it would do more to me than to this little cell of theirs.
That bitch had done it. She’d beaten me, just not in the way that even part of me had hoped for.
If I have any say in things, though, I’ll be out in no time. Somehow. Some way. Even if I have to hijack this extradimensional signal and find some way to crawl out through it. Hell, it’s a good thing I figured out how to send the information straight from myself well before now.
It’s my own fault. That’s what stings the worst. I wanted a nemesis and wouldn’t let it go. Well, now I’ve got one I really want to kill.
How will I get out? I’m sure I’ll think of something. They won’t keep me in this box too much longer, I’m sure of it. Maybe they’ll try to kill me, though I doubt it if Venus has any say in things. Maybe they’ll transfer me. Either way, they’ll slip up, and I will be free again.
Free, or die trying. Funny how that works.