Tag Archives: Shieldwall

Arete in Destruction 9, the Grand Finale

The end is nigh and here I am. But that’s getting ahead of myself. I’d better explain how I reached this apocalyptic time on the Empyre State Building staring down a pissed-off bunch of heroes without any way to fight back.

I had been mostly ready for this endgame when I said I would be. I didn’t intend to drag things out even though I wasn’t completely ready for them. For one thing, I hadn’t come up with some unique counter for Forcelight, Honky Tonk Hero, or Mecha Human Sloth. As the heavy hitters of the group, I’d wanted some specific way to take them down that didn’t involve revealing a certain built-in trump card I’ve been saving up. Never did get myself any allies. Just me, Moai, and Carl.

But that comes later. Let’s start at the beginning of the end.

First, I trashed the Museum of Modern Art. Stole a few valuable pieces for Michelangelo to sell through the improper channels, but I kept one or two with me. I figured it would coax Dame out at last.

I figured right. I woke up to her trying to steal my shit again. Yes, it was Marilyn Monroe on my wall, but it was done by Andy Warhol, not Playboy. The Playboy stuff would be worth more. At least she didn’t touch my Starry Night by Van Gogh the Earless Wonder. When she saw me sit upright, she phased and ran for the wall. I ran after her and sent the signal to her device to render her solid again but it didn’t work. “Found a way out of my reach, have you?”

She was running along the dance floor of the former club for the front door when she became solid again just to answer me. “I guess you aren’t the only one with a mind for gadgets. You should have had two contingency plans!”

There was a thud as she passed by a front counter near the coat check. Dame fell back on the ground with a groan. The canvas she was carrying slid along the floor before stopping.

“How about a man swinging a car battery?” I asked as Carl stepped over her and laid the battery down on her chest. Moai jumped out over the bar and rolled upright, wearing a black ninja outfit. I think he was trying to strike a pose.

“Hey, Moai, take that off. It looks ridiculous. Everyone knows ninjas would have worn something like dark blue to blend in at night if they wore that kind of thing. Damn glad to have you on the job, though.”

I gave him a thumbs up. Now, this was not, as some might suspect, an attempt to foster a rivalry. Moai serving as backup was indeed a legitimate necessity. I’m not sure if he has an ego, but that shit gets in the way of what’s necessary often enough. If I’m fighting a hero who knocks me on my ass, puts a pink tutu on me, dips me in horse manure, he can laugh all he wants as long as I’m the person who walks away from the fight without my head ripped off and shoved up the horse’s ass. Laugh it up, deadhead.

I had Dame in my company, though, so I had to keep the horse asses to a minimum with her around. She’s a lady, you know. She’s like a female knight to British people. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take her bracelet or bangle or whatever you call the mirrored doohickey with the phase technology hidden inside it.

I was hoping to get a hold of this.

For her, it’s a defensive measure. That could get…interesting…if I were to use it that way. Possibly suicidal as well. My physiology, which made me so easy to cling to when Dame was trapped in an ethereal state, wouldn’t react well to it, I think. I knew I could weaponize it, especially if I made copies. I just didn’t have time for that. A regrettable casualty of my need to expedite my plans. Still, it was a good idea for handling Forcelight or Honky Tonk Hero.

At least I’d had time to fix up the Heatflasher. Hell, I improved on it and found a nice way to handle my heat problem.

Moai and Carl got Dame chained down to a chair while I slipped into my armor. Good old chains. I like using them because they’re so much more difficult to get away from than ropes. Luckily, as skilled as she was, Dame wasn’t good enough to wiggle loose of these babies. And, since the Chastity5000 was buy one, get one when I tied up Venus, I had a spare for Dame. Still, she struggled, even tearing at her black bodysuit in places.

“Now calm down, Damey wamey,” I told her. “I’m not going to hurt you. In fact, I technically haven’t hurt you so far. That was Carl. Say hi, Carl.”

Carl raised his hand and gave her a small wave, “Hiya.”

“Thanks Carl. So, Dame, time for the explanation about what’s going on. I promised someone, made a deal actually, that I was going to drop my grudge against you, wouldn’t kill you, wouldn’t pursue you at all, even said you’d be untouchable to me. So far, I have not touched you, nor am I doing this because of a grudge. In fact, this wouldn’t have happened if you had decided to not find me once again to steal back stolen artwork once again. Predictability is not a good quality in thieves. There’s a reason for the phrase ‘thick as thieves’ and it doesn’t involve your bodily figure. Don’t worry. No matter what, you’re going to live. Or at least I have no plans on killing you. You’re just going to be my bait to get Venus and her friends to join the field of battle.”

“Why do you think that matters?”

I played a certain audio clip of Venus’s voice: “It was Dame. She told us all where you were hiding. She and I had some common ground and she gave me a picture of your latest face.”

“You really ought to pick better friends,” I told her, then leaned closer. “You know, you and I could be better friends sometime.”

She headbutted me. It hurt her more than it hurt me, but I think she was trying to make a point about my chances being less than or equal to a punitive flaming underworld afterlife reaching freezing point. I pointed my finger at her, “That was entirely on you and does not constitute me touching or hurting you.”

“Why does that matter?” she groaned.

I turned away from her as I spoke. “Because, so long as I make a deal and try to keep it, then I will try to keep it. At least until something more important comes up or the other party reneges on their part. I like the idea. You see it in fairy tales, you know? A neutral or good person makes a deal with a party, usually a darker force. A sea witch or a voodoo bocor…or is that houngan…either way, a voodoo guy. The hero gets stipulations, something he or she wanted or thought they wanted…good reason to read a contract, by the way…and if they dare break their end of it, there is hell to pay. But I feel I’m monologuing again and I should note that Moai may get a tad homicidal if you actually manage to escape.”

Moai hopped closer to Dame. Via my 360 degree view on the helmet, I could see she’d started to move an elbow further than it should go. Moai dropped a heavy gold chain with an old-fashioned ticking clock around her neck.

“Thanks, Moai, that ought to hold her,” I said with a nod. True, I was facing away, but Moai knew what I meant.

“Won’t matter to Venus. You haven’t been listening at the right doors.”

I didn’t turn. Instead, I raised my arm up so I could point a finger at her over my shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No one’s seen her ever since that bank was blown up, and the rumor is that she didn’t get out of there before the place was given a volatile redecoration. There’s been no word of her from the heroes and no sightings of her on patrol. Nothing in hospitals about someone matching her description. I think your unrequited love interest is dead.”

That didn’t seem right. It actually gave me pause for a moment.

“I doubt that. Heroes are pesky like that, and she’s peskier than normal. She’s got to be alive. Since when do chains and a bomb kill a superhero?”

“Maybe you should ask someone when you get back from sailing down denial.”

“Sailing up the Nile. Moai, right foot.”

Moai got in the way of my view of Dame as he slid a stiletto heel made of cement onto her foot and closed the iron manacle set into the top of it. She had had something metal gripped between her toes. Such a clingy suit allows greater articulation, like hiding tools in unusual places. In this case, hiding something around the foot, and bringing it to bear with the toes.

“Well, either way my dear Dame, they should be informed that you were their source for that raid on me. That means you still make a wonderful hostage for my plan.”

It was the next day when the plan went into action. The Heatflasher appeared once more in the skies over New York and circumcised the Empyre State Building. I crashed it into the observation deck and melted my way through supports in order to tip it to one side. The elevator dinged, then opened to reveal Carl and Moai carrying Dame, a TV camera, and some very important equipment for the ‘Flasher. They dumped Dame, who was now wearing quite a heavy outfit made up of cement shoes, hammer pants stapled together, balls and chains around her wrists, the heavy gold chain and clock around her neck, and a football helmet that wasn’t for a New York team.

Carl then turned and tossed something into the elevator he left, even as panicked civilians crowded past to escape. The doors closed and then a muffled blast blew up past them. The doors didn’t blow out, but they popped out toward us. The same went for other elevators. Might as well have a captive audience for what was about to happen.

With the floor and Dame secured and the guys setting up in what we figured were safe spots, I took to the air again. It wasn’t easy cutting through the building like that. I had to angle things just right so the upper floors, like 20 or something, slid off to crash on the streets and smaller buildings below.

The observatory level was finally open air. I settled the ‘Flasher at one corner of it and cooled my jets. Well, my rockets. And the barrel, too. I had to shut it down long enough for me to slip a little something onto the end of the barrel and tighten it up. Connect some hoses, that sort of thing. When I lit that mother up again, the new section on the end of the barrel glowed a brilliant yellow-white, like the sun.

An invisible heat ray may be one amazing, powerful thing, but I realized that if I was going to do this from atop a building, I’d need some way to keep it from dissipating to a warm breeze against the smaller buildings around. In fact, if I wanted to threaten the whole city, I’d need something like a miniature sun.

Well, the power source, a design from my own dimension, ought to be able to sustain it. If not, we’ll still see a lot of destruction and possibly a city rendered unlivable.

“For all those in attendance and the millions watching at home,” I spoke aloud and turned toward the assembled hostages, a number of whom had their phones out to record video of the occasion, “I have been hounded day after day, month after month, and this has gone on too long. Just think, without heroes coming after me, you’d have had a blown up Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, as opposed to that messy spectacle in the city. What a danger they’ve become to you, your saviors. I’m here today for two reasons. Reason one: I want to make it perfectly clear to everyone that if you escalate against the great and devious Psycho Gecko, then I will take you to a land of hurt that you will not enjoy. Ooh yeah, I’ll tear your soul out and cast it down to an Abaddon of anguish that will make the heavens weep blood in heartrending sympathy for your unending abomination of an existence, and you will know what it’s like to drown in my bloodlust, to starve, to thirst, to pray to whatever deities you hold dearest in life…and not die.”

You could hear a pin drop. Burn the city down? Hell, I just chewed half of it up.

I sat down at the Heatflasher.

“What’s the other reason?” said a shaky voice. I turned to him and cranked up the volume on my suit’s speakers.

“To end this feud of ours, once and for all. Ahahahahaha!”

And that’s when the firing began. The Heatflasher took longer to fire this time, with the extended barrel glowing more yellowish in color. Suddenly, a glowing orange-yellow beam shot was just there out the barrel and poking through several office buildings. When I shifted the aim around, it sliced through streets and cars like they weren’t even there. Fires spread and ash flew. Steam rose as well from flash boiled water. Admittedly, it didn’t spread the heat around quite as well, but as the guy sitting on the machine doing all this, I was grateful for the ingenious bit of gadgetry that was pumping plasma into the landscape rather than all around me.

Boom! There went a meth lab. Sizzle! A butcher’s shop. Scramble! A semi full of eggs. Pop! A popcorn packing plant! When you’re lighting up the cops, the fun never stops.

I stopped firing and turned back around. I saw Carl and Moai getting me on camera. There was a very lucky news show in the city who just realized that the camera stolen while reporting on a cockfighting ring was giving them one hell of an exclusive.

“Hello out there in TV land, viewers. A very special hello to our heroes. Without their constant pressure, I doubt I’d have ever found myself in this position,” I said genially. I was having a good time at least. I got up and held my hand out to the area I’d burned in the distance. “This is fun. This is what I do when a team of heroes chases me day in and day out.” I then guided the camera around toward the people, including the bound Dame. “And these are people who are going to die. Including this little lady here, she’s a thief who knows the heroes a little bit. I don’t know why I brought her along now that I realize it was a busy day, but I figured it would add that special touch and really drive it home that air strikes on the observation deck are not a good idea.”

Yeah, Dame’s value was diminished somewhat by the good turnout, but it was still better than having her free and joining up with the heroes who had an ass-whooping in mind. The more the merrier, anyway.

And while it seemed counterintuitive to make sure the heroes were needed elsewhere but had to come here, that was also nice. Tear them in half using their heroic intentions. Plus, other heroes who have no business interfering will probably be down there instead of up here dealing with the guy who keeps defacing landmarks. I took the whole head off; you can’t argue Lady Liberty wasn’t defaced.

Still, I waited for them. And waited. And got impatient. And jumped back onto the ‘Flasher to burn this city like a disco inferno but Forcelight was there in all her glory to try and catch it. See, this is where something invisible works better than something putting off light. But, to my great delight, even she could hold up only briefly under the onslaught. I saw her duck out of the way, unable to hold back the destructive beam of plasma any longer.

Instead, Honky Tonk Hero swooped down at me from the side and tried to give me an el kabong right to the skull. He got me some, but I rolled with it. Could have sworn I felt things shaking, actually.

Honky Tonk lowered himself right in front of me and grabbed me by the neck. “Someone should have put you down long ago. You should have been taken out back as a child and drowned.”

It’s not like I was going to feel bad about this anyway.

I raised a hand slowly and pointed down for him to see the diamond and mirror bangle of Dame stuck in his pocket. He didn’t know what it was, but he grabbed for it with his other hand. I headbutted him in the eye, then threw a classic Elvis pseudo-martial arts punch to his throat. It got me out of his grip long enough for me to remotely activate the phase device. He dropped it a moment later, but it was too late. With Honky Tonk suddenly insubstantial, the wind was quick to push him away from the building. With the device no longer touching his body, I brought it back, nice and solid.

There was that shaking again, though. I looked over the edge of the building and saw Mecha Human Sloth climbing his way up. Where’s a gorilla when you need one? Oh, wait. I realized he had Gorilla Awesome, Troubleshooter, Mechamoto Musashi, Apollo, and Paveman clinging to his back. He must have been on a sugar rush from marshmallow cleanup duty.

“Okay, I need a volunteer…” I said and drifted off as I turned around. Moai and Carl were filming everything, but the crowd of hostages was gone. In their place was Raggedy Man. He knelt beside Dame, trying to help her out of the chains. I didn’t know how the hell he got up there. I’d torn the roof off. Not for him, just for fun, but still. “Yo, dawgs. Seize him and stuff. You know, if it’s convenient.” Moai followed my finger and went after Raggedy Man, who dove behind a column and disappeared into the shadows cast behind it. Huh. A mystery solved.

Still one massive mystery left: how to take out the giant robot superhero boyfriend mutant human-sloth guy whose girlfriend I apparently killed. I was already behind, though. I almost died from adjective poisoning.

My solution was one I didn’t want to use, as I’ve said before. The grey goo protocol. Not completely grey goo, though. They build themselves like crazy, but they still break down fairly quickly and don’t self repair. There’s a limit, in other words. I pulled out syringes of nanites and jabbed them into myself. As many as I could, save for one last one. Just in case.

I sent a signal to the first ones to link to me. It activated a program that involved spreading the activation to the others inside me. They then forced themselves out of me any way they could. Nose, mouth, ears, skin pores. They moved under my suit toward my right hand. I unsealed the glove and slipped it off. Shimmery grey liquid covered my hand and bulked up as more nanites joined those assembled. My hand formed into a liquid metal claw.

I looked for Mecha Human Sloth again. He was right under the edge where the Heatflasher rested. He grabbed it with one claw and pulled himself up with the other, sending my machine of mass destruction plummeting. He jumped and did a forward flip, landing on his feet and letting the ground-based heroes off. Gorilla Awesome and Troubleshooter had separated from him when he was in midair. Awesome hovered, but Troubleshooter lowered herself to the ground.

Couldn’t let them all come after me at once. I gave Human Sloth the “come here” motion with my nanite-covered hand.

“Alright, big fellow, let’s have us a little revenge versus wrath, shall we?”

He roared and charged. I cackled and jumped. My claw dug into him like he wasn’t even there. There was no armor. There was no flesh underneath. Just me hanging onto his collar, elbow deep in his chest. “Wait a minute, spread to the sides, there’s something I want,” I said to myself. The nanites dispersed, eating through Mecha Human Sloth. I grabbed a souvenir. When I pulled my hand out, his giant, inhuman heart came with it.

As he fell, though, I was greeted by a pretty horrible sight. Carl was held above the floor by his pants and underwear by one of Troubleshooter’s backpack waldo arms at an angle that showed his ass. There was no sign of Moai, but Gorilla Awesome was braced against the edge holding something up by his grappling hook.

Oh, and there were more heroes standing there. Black Raptor. Bright Star. Miss Tycism. Venus. Well. Shit.

“Tricky tricky heroes. My compliments on it, but it’s my turn,” I told them all, then vanished. They just stood there, holding their line.

That didn’t seem right. I projected bursts of light and four more of me stepping out of the explosions, laughing and holding swords.

No reaction.

Invisible, I walked right up to Miss Tycism and poked my hand through her. Hologram. Raptor was right next to her, so I tested him too. Turns out Raptor was not right next to her. I looked up and saw Troubleshooter looking harried and trying to program something on a keyboard attached to her multi-purpose backpack that just sat there on its tripod legs, trying to make my own eyes lie to me.

When I reappeared, it was right behind her, tearing at what I thought looked like important cables. I was right. Her backpack’s various tools and arms and gadgets stopped their moving, their whirling, their whizzing, and even their whirring.

Troubleshooter gave me a look full of incredulous shit when she realized I had her figured and helpless within arms reach. I’d have acted on it, but something kicked me from behind and nearly sent me off the building.

The cameras revealed a most unwelcome sight. The holograms were gone alright. All except for Venus. She was too busy trying to axe kick my neck to worry about how someone said she was dead.

I was off balance from her initial surprise, but I blocked that. Vulnerable position to be in, and I don’t just mean her and the axe kick. Mechamoto and Apollo crowded in while Paveman held Carl in a bear hug. I grabbed Venus and held her between myself and Mechamoto. Apollo’s hands gripped me from behind. Rather than start some slashfic material here, they smashed in my visor and reached in. He tore my helmet off me. I instinctively cranked the jumper in my left leg up and drove my foot back at crotch level. My tibia snapped.

I grabbed a fish stink grenade hanging off my belt and swiped aside Mechamoto’s sword as he circled and tried to find a way to more easily strike me without Venus in our way. He was distracted as a hole in the floor opened up under Paveman, causing Carl and Paveman to fall to the next floor down.

While he wasn’t focused on me, I armed the fish and chucked it at his head. He noticed it at the last minute and brought his sword up. It burst just as it touched his blade, enveloping him in a horrible stink.

I dragged Venus by her still-raised leg back toward me and parallel to the edge of the skyscraper to give me room. With my free hand, she and I traded and blocked blows, at least until I charged it up. Then I took a step in her direction and dumped her on the ground.

This felt familiar to me. I stepped forward and released Venus to the ground, but she wasn’t Venus anymore.

She was the woman I’d gotten involved with back on my world. We had argued, and that turned into an actual, physical fight. She didn’t want me to blow up the Dimensional Bomb, of all things. I grabbed her by the throat. A blade came out at me from nowhere, but I backhanded it. The energy built up in my glove released through the impact and snapped the blade. I used that hand to pummel her face again and again. She couldn’t understand either. None of them could. For them, it was a fight to be first if humanity wouldn’t allow them to be equals. I just hated this stupid world for all it had done to me.

“There is no place for me. They made me and refused to take responsibility for me. I tried to get over what I did, but none of them ever let me leave it behind. I was the government’s mistake, the Justice Rangers’ foe, the people’s great fear of us writ large. I’m done with their system and all their pettiness.”

I stood and pointed behind me. “I’d rather have my own system that means using this D-Bomb and taking us all out than see these hypocrites live. It’s on a strict timer, too. As soon as it drops to 0, that’s it.”

She kipped up, jumped, wrapped her legs around my neck, then back flipped. Where the fuck did she learn to do that? I fell to the ground and something cracked in my neck with a great pain. I lost feeling in everything below my neck as I settled in an odd position. Didn’t know my head could turn that far under the rest of my body. Couldn’t see anything though. Where the hell was I?

People talked nearby, a pair of voices, male and female.

“You alright?”

“Yeah.”

“I saw his eyes. It’s like he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

“I know. There is no bomb, so he’s talking about things that aren’t there. He’s talking in a weird accent, too.”

Something rolled me over. A gorilla. It talked. “He’s still alive, but I would be careful of moving him. My initial prognosis, and I’m not a medical doctor mind you, is that he has broken a cervical vertebra,” he said.

“No, we’re not,” one of the voices, a female, said to nobody in particular. “I don’t care, Gunman. Don’t start that Lone Gunman crap with me either. He’s out of the fight. I don’t care how big a rifle it is, I’m not going to let you shoot his heart out and watch him die.”

More people seemed to be showing up as the gorilla examined me. I had some odd urge to tell him to get his paws off me because he was damned and dirty.

One of these strange people climbed out of the floor, “They’re down there somewhere. Waiting to try and save him, I reckon. What, we won this one?”

The gorilla was pushed aside by a man made of marble who hauled on my arm, got underneath it, and lifted me to my feet. I still didn’t have that good of a view because of how my head drooped over. “I’m with Lone Gunman on this one. Take the shot,” said my manhandler.

“No!” ordered a glowing woman in white and black tights as she landed. “We can’t do that.”

“Why, because we’re better than that? He killed your father!” Apollo said with voice raised. Sensitive to that sort of thing?

“Yes, I know there’s nothing most of us would love to do more right now than give him an execution, but we can’t just yet. You hear me, Gunman? Stand down.”

Venus spoke up. “You can’t be serious Aneta.” Right, Forcelight’s civilian name.

“I am.”

“About killing him?” Venus questioned the team’s powerhouse.

“Your boyfriend looks like a flock of vultures ate him for a buffet. He’s goo and bones! You were willing to stand there when that happened to stop him, but you won’t go the rest of the way? Venus, after everything he’s done, why wouldn’t you kill him?” Forcelight made her case for my death.

“Because as bad as this all is, as much as I want to set him on fire and beat his head in with a brick, I’m not going to start acting just like him! You really want to do things his way? If so, then he’s your future.”

There was silence. This was all good and dramatic, but I still couldn’t see shit.

“Moot point at the moment, anyway. Is he unconscious?”

“Paralyzed.”

Marble hands grabbed my head and nodded it for me.

“Good. You know I’ve been meeting with that Good Doctor man. I figured I’d at least hear what he has to claim about me. If it’s a trick, he tricked Gecko there too. He warned me about doing anything rash if we got our hands on him.”

The man holding me up, whose name was just on the tip of my tongue, gave an exasperated sigh. “Why?”

“Because whatever powered that laser, and I don’t know how stable it is, but whatever did that and didn’t show any signs of running low, he’s got one in his chest. The Doctor’s seen it in there. That’s why we never found a reactor or a battery. If Gunman puts holes in him, he might get it too. If we start doing things to him, that thing might go up and take this whole building with it, at least.”

“More like the whole block,” said Troubleshooter.

At least if Doc’s ratting me out, he’s saying things that are keeping these assholes from killing me. Trust me, the great and devious Psycho Gecko makes damn sure his personal reactor isn’t going up the first time I crack my head.

Yeah, I’m back from Lala land, aka the land that time forgot and would prefer to not think about, and activating the transmitter and receivers I’d set up for just this situation once upon a time. We’re up to that point I mentioned earlier, about facing off against heroes with no way to fight back. My present tense. So I can feel again and move again. The question is how do I move out of here?

“Y’all need to shut up already,” says Raggedy Man as he approaches with the phase bangle in his hand. “Someone’s got you on camera right now. Everyone watching the news just heard everything you said about executing a guy!”

Times like these, I love my minions.

Raggedy Man lifts my other arm to take the weight off Apollo. “And for God’s sake, he broke his neck and you’re dancing him around like a puppet? Do you know what people think of you right now?”

My arm shoots out, not quite as naturally as it normally would, and grabs the bangle while I stumble forward out of the grasp of the surprised heroes. “Yeah, they think the camera adds 10 lbs…in the testicles. Especially you, Venus.”

“Another trick,” one of them says accusingly. If only they knew. Hell, I’d rather they didn’t. I’d much rather I knew what I was about to do, because my options for escape look nonexistent. Except if I try the unthinkable. Ah hell, it’s worked for me so far.

I activate the phase mechanism and everything loses its color, its substance. It’s like a drawing that the artist hasn’t colored in. I look down to see what all it had done to my armor and find it warping as my body expands, pushing out against it. Adverse reaction to my current state and the power core in my chest that’s filling me with energy now. Fist-sized holes appear in my armor, but do nothing to hurt me or even move me. I glance back along their trajectories to a lower skyscraper. Lone Gunman, the lost lil Holdout. He finally gets his shot, but I’m immune to bullets when it happens.

Defiant, I tear at the holes, pulling the chest portion of my armor apart. Looking down at my chest, I see the reactor isn’t fully phased. It pumps energy along my bio-technological nerves. My brain, my cybernetic enhancements, my armor. They connect to everything my power works on.

I’m pretty much an energy being. The generator lost containment and is filling my ethereal form with energy, enough that I maintain cohesion and even tear through my own armor with ease. The heroes grow smaller and smaller. Forcelight raises her non-smoking arm, the one that isn’t hanging limp by her side, and starts concentrating light to try and hit me or shoot me. I throw a punch at her and she releases early to try and meet it.

She goes flying.

Cool as fuck.

Hey, that just halted my growth for a moment, but I’m back to expanding now. Anyone else got the image of a balloon filled to bursting in their heads right about now?

I hope Moai and Carl are running like hell by now. I turn and tiptoe to a support beam that I’d sheared off above my head. It’s now significantly below that. No need to pay attention to the puny heroes any more. They are no threat.

There’s a more important threat I have to deal with. I need to lose a lot of energy in a hurry, then deactivate this device. I raise my arm up and bring my fist down with everything I have on the support that runs deeper into the building.

The floor, and my size, fall sharply. So do the next floor and the next after that, and so on. There’s dust everywhere and I’m lost in the middle of the collapse, falling and landing and getting landed on. I can’t see or hear anyone else, but I feel like I’m about the right size.

No way am I changing back right now, but –

***Connection lost. Archiving transmission. Preparing transfer. Transfer complete.***

***Waiting for connection***

 

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Arete in Destruction 4

Life’s hard for a guy trying to share his love of pranks with the city. The love wasn’t the bombs that have gone off in a few places, either. The love, as you might call it, involved me making some changes to the window washer equipment and water system of the Trump International Hotel and Tower right off this bigass park here in the city.

It was by far the biggest order of squirrel and pigeon pheromone concentrate Michelangelo had ever had to fill, even if you include those guys that time with the crappy animal themes.

It also left every squirrel in Empyreal City hanging on to the outside of that over-compensation station called a hotel, jizzing their nutty little brains out. While the squirrels are busy busting their nuts, pigeons keep sexually assaulting the heads of tenants who are trying to mind their own business as they escape.

It was a big laugh all over the internet and late night comedian shows. It didn’t help matters that The Don tried to hire local heroes and Shieldwall to clear off the building. Shieldwall couldn’t do the job. Too busy trying to track me down. The heroes that did take the money didn’t fare very well on their own. You ever disturb a horde of horny squirrels? Furry little humpmongers jumping around, landing on eyes and ears and mouths and noses. Scratches and bites. Thrusts. PETA protestors clung to legs, arms, even backs.

In perhaps the most accurate use of the term ever, it was a clusterfuck.

I only learned after the events of the past day why Shieldwall didn’t feel like making an easy million bucks.

Moai and I were just hanging out back at my crime crib, minding our own business. Not doing anything wrong at all. I was busy working on the Heatflasher. There were melted foci in that thing. Melted foci are a bad thing. Trust me, you don’t want your foci melted on a sensitive machine of mass death. I could have fired the thing without one, maybe two of them, but it had burned through all the primaries and a couple of the redundant ones. The rockets still worked, but the damn thing was out of commission as a weapon until I got it fixed. So I was elbows deep in the ‘Flasher when there was an explosion at the front door of the warehouse.

“Coming!” I shouted. Having solicitors like that sucks, but it’s even worse when they get impatient enough to blow your door to pieces. I scrambled into my armor and grabbed my laser potato peeler. You know, in case someone really needed their potatoes peeled. It happens.

I had time for all that thanks to the traps. “Moai, you make sure nobody sneaks in and destroys the ‘Flasher. Try to take at least one alive if it’s convenient.” I tossed the electrified cage over the heat ray again as I made my way to check on the traps.

All was surprisingly quiet. Too quiet. The Spamocles Sword room was empty. Too empty. No, really, it was too empty. The spam that had been left on the plate had clearly been disturbed, but that’s no surprise. Spam’s very existence has disturbed me for some time. There’s something not right about that food. Still, it had been poked and prodded, I knew that much, as the sword had clearly fired from the crate it had been hidden within. Anyone messes with the mystery meat on the plate, and the pressure plate beneath, and they got a sword to the head. In theory, at least. Blood stains showed someone survived long enough to bleed as they were dragged out. That means more than one enemy, including one without the decency to die for me.

The flashlight room was a different story. I rounded the corner to enter that room from behind the flashing lights and found a large robot with a head in the shape of a furiously roaring sloth standing in the middle of it, completely unperturbed by the razor blade strips laid over the floor, walls, and table of that makeshift room.

The part I didn’t see until it was too late was Miss Tycism summoning up a bolt of lightning that threw me back what I assume was several feet. I didn’t have time to lay down an exact number of foot longs sub sandwiches. I did have time to wish that my strobe light idea hadn’t worked against me that way.

The pair didn’t follow, giving me time to recover. Now, the last thing I should have done was run right back into the room. It’s what a moron would do in this kind of fight. I’d be coming at them from the exact same route. With all my abilities and knowledge of the terrain, there were any number of possible attack paths I could take. I chose to run right back into the room, albeit invisible and with the aid of holographic doubles.

They were on guard and the first doppelganger caught a hot bolt of purple lightning for his troubles. Ah, purple lightning. Must happen during a purple rainstorm. Still better than trying the Batdance in order to pull off some Pussy Control. That’s how Prince scares off the women.

The second hologram was found to not be a threat when the Mecha Human Sloth ran and put its fist through the thing. His bulky body provided me with an excellent opportunity to show Miss Tycism that she’d made a Miss Take invading my base of operations. I grabbed the table with its many blades and held it in front of me as I ran up Sloth’s back. I soared through the air like a fat hungover buzzard and slammed the table into Miss Tycism, puncturing a few minor veins. As an added bonus, they were her veins this time, not mine. What really made her scream was how it pushed into her and then scraped against her as I fell.

Mecha Human Sloth put himself between us as Miss Tycism levitated toward the roof and threw a green energy blast that removed a clean circle in the roof for her to escape.

They were being cautious. That still left me with Sloth to deal with. He charged and I went invisible. I jumped to the side. Despite my stealthy state, he adjusted and slammed into me. I hit the metal container behind me and was pushed against it. I thought I’d go right through it but it slid out of the way with a line of sparks.

Instead, Sloth kept going against the windows of the break room built into the front of the warehouse and threw me through it. I landed hard on a shoddy metal table and felt it collapse around me. I coughed a few times as I stood up then yelled to him, “Hey, I’m the one who throws me through windows, not you! Bad touch. Stranger danger!”

A metal claw dug into the drywall and tore it away with two swipes, opening that side up. It left me exposed in a kitchen area. If I ran, I could go to one side and escape out the room’s door, or to another side and take a bathroom break. I grabbed the coffee pot, pulled a small cord from it, and threw it at Sloth. The cold liquid inside did nothing. The block of C4 hidden in it did significantly more. It stumbled him. Don’t you love fighting someone like that?

I threw open the door to the refrigerator and began to empty the contents at him. He was unperturbed by the stink grenade. The knockwurst was useless. He slipped a little on the sour milk. The year-old birthday cake that had been in there long before I moved in dented his armor a little, I think.

It almost made me proud to see my work stand up to all this, but I was too busy seeing what I could do to get him in a better position. Except just then, the man in the red, white, and blue costume ran up. Bright Star, I think. Generates fireworks explosions. “Remember, you don’t close with him,” instructed Mecha Human Sloth.

“I remember. We won’t need to anyway. Everything’s coming down, Gecko,” spoke the smug patriotic hero. A smug hero is one thing, but one wrapped in a flag is much more grating.

“Let me guess, this is the point where you ask me to surrender and make things easy on you?”

Bright Star shook his head. “No. We don’t trust you enough to let you surrender, but if you want to knock yourself out I promise you’ll wake up in a cell with a toilet lid.”

“Guess I’d better handle that before this goes any further then,” I said and rushed over to the bathroom door. I closed it behind me as explosions blasted apart the kitchen. One of them took the door off the hinges, the toilet paper rolling over it and past Bright Star as he approached. A faint mist glowed in his palms as he got a little too close for comfort to find me on the john. “Eek!” I screamed and tried to cover up.

“Your pants aren’t even down,” he stoically informed me.

“I’m going to have to clean this armor out then. Do me a favor and hand me the TP?” I pointed to the roll of toilet paper.

He started to look and caught himself, so my swing with the toilet lid didn’t catch him completely offguard. It knocked his hand up, where a red explosion brought down pink insulation on me as I swung again. The lid broke as it popped him on the side of his face. He staggered back near the toilet paper with the now-armed Claymore mine within.

I flushed the toilet, triggering the remote.

The blast, which involves some C4 and hundreds of steel balls, didn’t catch him full-on, but it got him enough to rip open the back of his costume and send him into my waiting arms, where I raised him over my head and dropped him headfirst into the toilet bowl.

“We need evac on Bright Star. Man down. No visual on primary target,” I heard in the electronic growl of Sloth.

There was a lot of dust in the air, obscuring the much of the view, but I could see how they trashed the kitchen. They even left the sink hanging half off. Hmm…

“Here’s your visual, Slothy!” I yelled as I flew out of the ruined break room with a pipe in my hands. The porcelain sink it was attached to smacked into the face of the robot and shattered. I landed and spun, avoiding a retaliatory kick. “Too slow, Three-Toe.” I used the pipe to keep him from bringing he leg back down. Unable to compensate, he fell. I circled around to the eyes of the machine with a very important question to ask. “Hey, does this look like a laser to you?”

I fired the potato peeler into Mecha Human Sloth’s mechanical eyes and saw them crack. His flailings failed to find or fling me, so I took the time to run off to the main room and workshop.

A disheveled Forcelight was there. As usual. Of course. She had gotten shocked by the electric cage as she tossed it away. I let out a loud “Oh shit!” and turned to run for the side door. Forcelight pursued. Instead of blasting me out of my pants, she was closing to melee. Works for me and the reverse punji. She caught up to me at the door and I ducked. She flew over the threshold and the welcome mat thrust up into the air. The spring-loaded mechanism threw her up to the spiked awning overhead that clamped around her as she bumped into it. Then the thrusters kicked in. The awning broke away from the building and flew straight off into the distance with its captive.

It was glorious. Too bad it probably didn’t kill her.

When I got back inside, I found a cracked Moai slowly rolling over to the HeatFlasher to guard it. “You’re looking beat up, Moai. I expect you did the best you could?”

He nodded, then tipped his head toward a hole in the wall shaped like a small woman wearing a giant backpack with waldos coming out of it.

“Good. Doesn’t look like they see have us completely surrounded anymore. Bright Star, Sloth, Forcelight, Miss Tycism, and Troubleshooter out of the way for now. I’ll call in the cavalry. You take the scooter. I’ll have to get the ‘Flasher and the car myself. Side door’s clear.”

Moai didn’t move.

“Now, go, go, go! We don’t have all day.”

Moai slowly nodded, then hopped towards the side door. I made my way to the big giant screen in the main room and tried to call up old friends via video call.

“Elita!” I proclaimed happily. Elita the Warrior Woman dropped her loofa and covered her wet body up with her arms, then the shower curtain. “Listen, amigo, I need some help with-“ She punched out her own screen. “Why the hell do you have one in the shower then?!”

Next call went through to a grey room. “Hello? Max, you there?” Holly flopped over into view, waving the smoke out of her face.

“Hey Gex. What’s up?”

“I’m in a pickle here. I need backup in Empyreal City.”

“Mmm..pickle. Pickles sounds good,” she said, then called out into the obscured room, “Hey guys, let’s go get some pickles!” Then she turned to me, “Hey, we’re all feeling kinda hungry here. We’re gonna take a snack brake from working on the bazhookah. You should stop by some time.” She then switched the screen off.

Who else do I have in my contacts…

Captain Flamebeard appeared on screen in a shower cap, steam rising off his beard. With a scream, he dropped his loofah and went to cover up his nipples. Water splashed against the screen as he frantically scrabbled to turn it off. All I got to say before the transmission ended was, “You know waxing is a thing now, right?”

That was more body hair than I hoped to see in one place.

It looked like help wasn’t on the way. There was just one last person left to call.

The next person to appear on screen was Ouroboros. He was taken aback by my appearance on his monitor. “Douche,” I said, and cut the feed.

“He really is,” said a familiar feminine voice from behind me. I turned to find a beauty in pink, gold, and white armored tights.

“Trying to take me on one-on-one again, Venus?” I spoke amiably. We were, after all, old enemies by now.

“Remember, one of us actually has friends. They’ll be here soon. And,” she pulled out one of their old EMP rods, “You’re not going anywhere anyway.” She activated it. Her hair lifted up briefly as the EMP hit.

I saw the lights on the Heatflasher go dark while my own armor went dead for a few moments. It rebooted and I approached the ‘Flasher and set a gloved hand down on it. Venus circled me, but kept her distance. “What’s a matter, your Caddy out of gas?” said a man in greased hair and a tiger-stripped jumpsuit glimmering with rhinestones in the shape of lightning bolts. The Honky Tonk Hero pointed his guitar at me. “Did you forget to remember to forget about me?”

A man trailing red and blue glowing lines dropped down on the other side of the Heatflasher. His armor was black metal and he brandished a high-tech katana. He didn’t say anything, as always. “Huh, you know I’d just about forgotten about you,” I told him.

“Mechamoto has been busy. I missed out on fighting the alien incursion thanks to you, but he got a lot of experience against warriors in power armor from it. By the way, sorry we’re late for the party. Someone blew up our ride,” said a marble teen in gold tights with yellow griffin designs.

“You got some valuable experience too, Apollo. Don’t forget that ass-whoopin’,” I chuckled and noticed a blinking red light on the console of the Heatflasher, “Well, I think we’ve waited long enough, lady and gentlemen.”

They all got in fighting stances. I got in the Heatflasher and fired up the rockets. I heard someone call out, “The fuck?” as I lifted off.

“Ahahahaha, it’s called redundancy, bitches. Ciao!” I called to them and slammed the ‘Flasher into the big giant screen. It crashed to the floor as I ascended and made for the hole in the roof. I caught a view of a white gleaming dot flying towards me and gave it the finger while hitting the stick to get my ass out of the line of fire.

And so I live to fight another day, like for getting my car back or setting this thing on a skyscraper and going to town on the town if I find a scratch on my car when I blow up the impound.

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 3

I am the master of your fucking universe, baby! No, I have not had crack!

I caught a thief. She’s far too good at finding me. She made it past a number of defenses. The reverse punji pit above the side door. The Spamocles Sword. She even made her way through the flashlight area. Took me awhile to set that one up. Setting up enough boxes and heavy metal crates to form rooms. That’s the problem, I guess. All that trouble to build something up, only to have someone come along and wreck all your hard work. Reminds me of a story…well, best to save that for another time.

Dame was back, my beautiful, black-suited thieving acquaintance with the shiny mask and armband. We don’t have a good track record as far as our encounters go. This time, Moai and I saw her sneak up to the Heatflasher. It looked like this was another of those bad encounters.

“Not so fast, you thieving, conniving, deceptive, traitorous, glamorous, agile, lithe woman in a skin-tight suit!” I said, then caught my breath. It was a mouthful.

Dame turned to face us. Her response didn’t indicate surprise. Then she saw that both Moai and I were in police uniforms. I was armed with a banana and a mustache, though Moai had on a fake mustache of his own that was large enough to fit his face. “Well, well, well, looks like it’s the rabbit here to try and steal all our Trix. Book em’, Moe,” I told my stony servant. I kept the banana trained on her.

“What’s in that?” Dame asked, “Another laser? Acid?”

“Not at all, Dame. Arms behind your back,” I said as Moai made his way behind her. She complied and he cuffed her out of my sight. “This sucker’s loaded with potassium. As you know, potassium has a hostile reaction in water.”

“You’re going to blow up the water supply?”

“No, my dear, I have something much more delicious in mind…” I grabbed the end of the banana…and peeled it. Then I was eating a banana.

Dame relaxed at that. She even laughed as the tension left her body. Bad move. While the simple banana is merely a delicious source of nutrition and dong jokes to everybody else, it’s also incredibly deadly in the wrong hands or orifice.

Moai hopped over to my side again. “Good job, partner. Now, then, little lady, just what were you doing sneaking in here. I don’t have any pictures for you to steal any more. The fire ate my birdy.”
She shook her head. “Actually, I already stole that from you just before you did all that. It’s safe and sound, just like we’ll all be when I disable this thing,” she revealed.

I turned to Moai, “I get in one colossal fight and Dame gets scared. She should move in with her aunty and uncle in Bel Air.”

She groaned.

I turned back to her, “See, that’s the problem with the non-violent ones. Weak stomachs. Too willing to join the side of the angels when you start destroying national monuments. Get the fuck out of here and don’t come back or I’ll be forced to do something I enjoy.”

Dame bent her legs just a bit and backflipped over the Heatflasher. Without any sign of the handcuffs anywhere, she knelt and opened a panel. Before she could grab any potentially valuable piece, she found herself incorporeal once again. She flailed, panicking, and looked around for anything she could latch on to. She dove for the light switch. Her mass suddenly increased when she became solid again and she dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes with a fine ass. Mmmm, dat spud.

“Ah, the dangers of ourtsourcing your IT and then ever getting into a conflict with that person,” I gloated. I walked over and knelt beside her. “I recognize that you’re very skilled at what you do, but conflict with other superhumans is what I do. So what you’re going to do now is get your ass out of here and don’t come back.” I jumped up and ran to the fridge, then pulled out a frozen bass. I rushed back and shoved it in her face. “Do you see this? Do you know what this is?”

Dame tried to get away from the slimy little stink critter, but I grabbed her head and held it close. “I will find a fun place to shove this fish if you come back here. Understand?”

She nodded through some nasty coughs.

Moai and I gently escorted her out, each of us grabbing a side and tossing her out the door. Then I pressed a button on the fish and tossed it out. It exploded just above her into a pink mist of disgusting fish smell. She wasn’t hurt, except in the smellular way.

I went back inside and set an electrified cage up around the Heatflasher. I needed to get out and deal with something. A certain target among the heroes that has been exceedingly helpful to them. The Heatflasher would be great to drag along for this, but drag would be the operative term. The fight and landing didn’t do it any favors, so I have some parts to replace. I plugged the cage right into it, though. That way, if Dame comes back then she won’t be snipping the power.

That doesn’t mean the Heatflasher had no influence on my next course of action. I called in a Psycho Gecko threat at Wall Street. “You better hurry. He’s talking about bolsheviking Mensheviks in the Kolyma.”

Time to get the armor on. And some more fish out of the fridge. And that air cannon.
Minutes later I soared through the air on a rocket, a heavy pack on my back. Replacements. I saw the Shieldwall jet ahead as the heroes deployed. They were searching, with the jet lagging behind to help coordinate things. And, of course, to help provide transport for those left on the ground.

When I saw it, I activated my payload. Five rockets activated and flew off my back. It was going to be iffy controlling them like this, all through the helmet, but worse comes to worse and they’ll just crash. No big deal. It’s not my city.

I overtook the jet easily and took my rocket upward. Black Raptor broke off from circling over a block to ascend after me. I armed my fish stink grenade and turned, firing it into Raptor’s chest. It slapped him right in the chest and caught him by surprise. The subsequent pink mist got him full on. Hacking and vomiting, he dropped. I directed a rocket into his chest on the way down and bopped him on the top of the jet before circling around.

Another smacked into a rudder. The rest were closer. All at once, my rocket and the other four nearby began a flip, cut engines, aimed downward, and hit the engines, with me jumping off my rocket. I loaded another fish into the air cannon as best as I could given all the wind while coordinating the attack on the jet. One by one the rockets smacked into the canopy glass. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. I saw it as I fell past. It was cracking.

The jet opened fire on them with lasers and scored a hit on one. The rest of its fuel went up at once and it exploded.

The same rocket that assaulted Raptor flew down and maneuvered underneath me. I landed with it between my legs, remembering very quickly how bad of an idea that was around the same time I gained a lovely high-pitched singing voice.

The other rockets cut their engines and dropped to join me. I leaned on another to the side of me as I got a better seat and pulled my sack out from under my taint.

Ok, one rocket down, one hero down, one jet not down. Of course I hadn’t thought this through. You’ve seen how my plans go. They bore people. I saw the side door open on the jet. Somebody’s about to join the party. Somebody also created a way in. I sent a rocket towards the door to try and catch whoever tried to rain on my parade. It poured gorilla instead.

Gorilla Awesome, the intelligent, talking, jet pack-wearing, laser using, grappling hooking gorilla himself jumped out, caught the rocket, and fired his own jetpack, directing it away.

I sent more after him, including my own. His moved horizontally in a circle as he messed with it between dodging my attacks. The others I directed into a vertical circle each time one missed. I even tried to slap fight him as I passed, but he drove one foot into my chest and nearly knocked me off the rocket. I grabbed onto it instead and dropped the air cannon in the process. There goes leaving my own special scent on the inside of the thing. I circled back around to slam my boots into Awesome’s midsection. He grabbed my calf with one foot and pulled me free. Content with me rather than a lowly rocket, he let go and began to fly us back to the jet with his own pack.

Raptor joined us. He looked a little worse for the wear, but he grabbed hold of my other leg. “If it’s not too much to ask, can we not do the wishbone thing?” I pleaded.

I could tell Raptor thought it was a good idea. He didn’t have too much time to enjoy the idea as a rocket got him in the flat of his back, and then another skimmed between his legs and probably did some quality manscaping close to the skin. The third one to hit him in this little barrage was playing holey war. Propelled by a rocket in his ass, Raptor bothered me no more.

Gorilla Awesome still had me in one foot and I got into a weak little kick fight against him, my boot to his prehensile foot. “Monkey see, monkey don’t!” I called out as I hit the jump enhancer for my leg. The subsequent blow would have been below the belt if apes wore belts. Or even tophats, I suppose. I don’t know where the line is drawn at including other primates into fair fights.

I got to see what a gorilla with bulging eyes looked like at least, but he still didn’t let go and I was getting closer and closer to the jet.

“Arrest moi? Not if I can make an ape escape!” I bantered again and called up my rockets. One of them didn’t respond. Probably the one Monsieur Mallah here was messing with.

That left me with three. I guess I should have done this at the start, when I had more, but that’s the way the bowling ball bounces. I aimed for the VTOL jets on the aircraft itself. The first rocket exploded as it flew within, but it wasn’t going down. Just wobbling. Damn their craftsmanship!

So rocket number dos had to go in and dosey-do. This time, there was a hoedown. No word on if any non-hos went down with the plane. It lost that jet and was falling in a spiral. That’s when Wannabe-Grodd let go and tried to stabilize the fall. I caught myself on my last free rocket before letting go. It slammed into Awesome’s jetpack and blew it. The burning gorilla fell, but I saw him fire off the grappling hook before too long. He lived. Damn.

That left only one way to save myself from a rather nasty-looking fall. I landed on a screaming Black Raptor as he flew beneath me and grabbed onto the rear half of the rocket. We went into a spin as I tried to shake Raptor loose a little, then went for the jump enhancers again as we sank closer to the ground. I planted my boots on Raptor’s buns and kicked off.

He went down in a tangle on a nearby rooftop, leaving me to fly back. Looks like poor little Shieldwall’s taking the bus from here on out.

No, don’t save Black Raptor a seat. I think he’d rather stand.

Suck it, Shieldwall, right in your jet engine.

 

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 2

The confrontation started innocently enough. I set fire to the shithole I’d been staying in for a long time. I’ve been sleeping and eating over at the warehouse I rented to work on the Heatflasher anyway, so this place was now more of a convenient way to draw one hell of a fly into my web. It’s an awesome web. A web…of DOOM!

“Doomy doomy doomy, doomy doomy doomy, doom,” I sang to myself as I opened up the side door to the semi and readied the ‘Flasher. I had already sent off Moai to get me a hot dog. Nothing like a tube of unidentifiable animal meat byproduct covered in sugar and tomato to brighten your mood and fill your stomach. I slid into a seat that sat further back from the machine, with cushions full of coolant. I had managed enough of a swivel that I turned it toward the low rent apartment complex from across the parking lot and aimed via helmet. Then I lit that motherfucker up. The heat tore through that old crappy drywall like a hot knife through old crappy drywall, only bigger. It caught and the blaze spread like wildfire, which seemed only natural to me. The whole place was going up and I barely got to use my heat ray. That’s when I spotted a familiar car from some guy with a little gang that tried to harass me. He was smart enough to leave me alone after I shot his dick and his friends, but he was too dumb to move. Tsk tsk.

The car started to glow after I hit it with the heat beam. That didn’t last long as it exploded pretty quickly as well. “Hey, that’s my car!” screamed someone with a high-pitched voice from the building in front of the car. I looked up and found that same asshole who tried to give me a hard time amongst all the people at their windows watching everything happen. I saw recognition strike him and he turned to run with an “Oh shit!”

“Sounding a little high-pitched there, I must have nailed a ball too. Better even that out. Hold still, let me see if I can get the other one!” I called out. No way he’d hear that, but I swept the beam along that floor, likewise sending it up in flames as rooms collapsed in on themselves. I think I got the other one this time. I don’t expect any complaints if I missed.

It took me back. Pulling my head back from spotting oculars and grabbing a light miner. The heft of the weapon, the feel of activating a continuous green beam that cuts through everything in front of it. Tearing through superheated metal that crumples, bends, smashes the target. Not caring about the target even, whoever he is, and just shooting, shooting, shooting, more buildings falling, cackling, supposed friends at my shoulder, trying to pull me away. Not caring as I destroy a world I can never fit into.

Except the thing at my shoulder was Moai hitting me over and over to get my attention. I looked around at a significantly clearer landscape. In my remembrance of the past, I’d annihilated every building around in the present. They just stood there, more in flames than in cheap brick veneer. I saw incandescent remains of fire trucks and police cruisers from misguided attempts to reign me in that I still have no recollection of. I was in the middle of a blaze.

“Damn, and I missed all that. Well, the helmet cam probably caught it. We did get everything important out of the apartment first, didn’t we?” I turned to Moai. As usual, he didn’t feel like answering verbally. Then I remembered. “Oh shit, the Cthulhu birdy! The Great Yith Avian! Well, I shall cherish what little time together we had, my chirpy little fluffy huggy snugga wuggawy-“

I was cut off as a tiny tremor I’d felt in the ground grew more powerful. Something was getting close. So close that a giant green foot stomped on the cab of the truck. That’s pretty damn close, actually.

By the way, thanks for ruining my truck, jackass! True, I didn’t pay for it, but I had the roof opening and the side doors and I had plans to install armor. Hell, the way things were going today, I had plans to include spiked wheels even. You know, for good skull traction. Don’t you hate it when your evil vehicle of doom and death slips on one too many skulls while cutting a swath through the innocent? For just one easy payment, you can be the proud owner of the Skull Shoes! Engineered to gain traction over even the slipperiest of head bones, Skull Shoes can save you the hassle and embarrassment of leaving home and having no way to run people down. Order now, only on the Home Slaughter Network!

Paveman, inhabiting the Statue of Liberty once again, dug his fingers in around the trailer, denting it inward. I held on tight as I was lifted up. Then started to lower again before something, then jostled side to side a bunch of times. You know, it’s possible this hero doesn’t like me very much. The Heatflasher skidded slightly, but the damage was negligible compared to when it dropped last time.

Suddenly, I was tipped up and the rear door was slid open. The giant face of Paveman, with power over materials he steps on, was frowning down at me. “What do you have to be upset about, I’m the one fighting a giant!” I yelled. Then I followed it up with, “Let’s put a smile on that face.”

I fired, moving it from right to left and back again. It melted out a smile, with orangish-yellowish liquid glowing as it splashed out onto the interior of the trailer. More dribbled over its own chin. The metal around the smile where it had been touched also glowed, though it was a darker reddish-orange.

You know how you sometimes can’t help but smile when you see someone else smile? That was me. That goofy grin made my day and soon had me laughing.

I heard something drop and crash, then the Statue’s other hand came up to block the rear door. I aimed for where the proximal phalanges met the metacarpals if this were a human body. I cut through the lowest of the fingers, in my sight, the index, and it dropped. I almost completely severed the middle finger, but before I could make the bird fly off, I was the one that needed wings. He dropped me, and not out of necessity either.

I mentioned last time that I needed a better way to lift this thing. Something involving fewer ropes and broken arms on my part. I reached down to a newly-installed secondary joystick made possible by being able to sit further away from the body of the weapon, which was made possible by the machine having its own power supply and not needing to tap into mine. I flipped two switches simultaneously next to the joystick and gave the upper trigger on the stick a good squeeze.

The switches initiated the launch. Eight of my riding rockets, four of them on the corners of the machine and the other four larger and under the machine, came online and lifted the Heatflasher and me barrel first out through the open rear of the machine.

Paveman recoiled in surprise as I floated before him in my flying heat ray. Of doom! Can’t forget the 20% more doom. “That’s right. Who’s saying ‘Up, up, and away’ now, motherfucker?”

With all that extra mass, the punch he tried to throw was telegraphed like the assassination of William McKinley. The four larger rockets were devoted to keeping me airborne and adjusting altitude, but the other four at the corners turned to match the direction I took the stick. I made a big show of laughing as I easily dodged the punch.

“Alright, we got ourselves an epic battle on our hands. Let’s get some epic battle music going!”

I activated the playlist in my helmet’s speaker system. It started with a drumroll. Then birds chirping. Then “Hiya Barbie!”

“Hi Ken!”

“Wanna go for a ride?”

“Sure Ken!”

“Jump in.”

There’s little more demeaning than getting your butt whooped to the tune of Barbie Girl.

The second punch he threw, I fired along that sucker and dropped half of the Statue’s left hand. I flitted, at least compared to him, down and around to his rear, where I sculpted out a pair of big, round butt cheeks. When he managed to turn around, I was waiting at the chest, trying to add breasts onto a Statue that was considerably more male-looking with Paveman in charge. He swiped at me with both hands, but I shot up to face level with him. It was there I discovered that he was no longer smiling. Not even a trace lingered. It puzzled me for a moment before I remembered how he restored the statue from my initial adjustments to it with a rocket launcher.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his right arm shoulder shifting the arm upward and shot past Paveman’s huge face just in time to avoid the slap. I floated over by his ear. “What did the…hold on,” I stopped to count the fingers. Five, with a smaller index finger, “What did the five fingers say to the face?” I swooped in and gave him some new eyebrows. “Zap!”

A huge copper blade speared out of his chest at an angle to slice through me, but I took it up higher, then around his body. I had to avoid more such thrusting blades, but I got an idea what I needed to do.

The limbs were smaller as they regrew, to the extent that a copper statue can regrow. He likely had to draw from elsewhere in his body to restore them, so enough damage, like a limb cut off, would put a big dent in him.

My next point of attack was the armpit. Standing up there all those years, salty ocean air all over the place, and no deodorant? I’m surprised the smell wasn’t so bad. It took longer than expected, dodging the blows of Paveman as he danced around and minded the buildings and cars below us. I saw the spikes on his crown bend to try and track me and then fire. They were almost a problem, but my wild aiming nicked a couple and threw them off course enough. I took the party behind Paveman after that and finished from there, with him just having to reach behind him as he turned to face me.

I took a moment to look over how my machine was doing. It was venting heat as much as it could with all my improvements, and it could stand plenty on its own. There were redundancies in place if some parts failed. Even so, I couldn’t keep up this game of flying evil cat and colossal mouse forever. If the ‘Flasher didn’t fail on me, the rockets would go before long. Those babies can only hold so much in the gas tank. Even my music could run out. I was on “A Little Respect” by Erasure now. If I reach “Hey Mickey” then I know I’m in trouble. I can’t fight Mickey. He’s too fine. He’s so fine he blows my mind.

Fighting Mickey wasn’t a problem, though. The arm fell off! Paveman had to catch himself and stepped on a bus to do so. It fell on a street and settled there, elbow pointed upward. I fired into the backs of the still-recovering Paveman’s knees and calves. He didn’t catch himself so easily this time. He stumbled back and I adjusted my aim to light up that jolly green buttocks. I hauled my own ass out of the way as he fell on his. Except his ass was rather soft and melty, with his fallen arm under it.

Lady Liberty is too big to 63, but why should that stop me from a creative use of a hand up an ass?

I took the Heatflasher in close while Paveman was busy standing and went for the most obvious point of weakness. The neck. I saw Paveman growl at me with features crossed with the Statue. He tried one last time to grab me, punch me, swipe me, anything, but it was the only arm he had to grab anything with and he fell back, missing me. I didn’t miss him, though, and the Statue went still once more as the head finally came off.

The head rolled off, then reformed into Paveman. He was larger than average, but down for the count. I fired an invisible burst or two at him and he fled.

I needed to get out of there myself, but first thing’s first. I drew “Psycho Gecko wuz X” along the Stomach of Liberty. The mighty Stomach of Liberty, below the Boobs of Liberty that were still shaped like the Manboobs of Liberty. That is where Psycho Gecko wuz, for all the world to see. Eat it, America. Eat it like candy.

“It was self defense! You all saw it!” I called out to whatever people were within earshot of the massive wreckage of a fallen Statue of Liberty on crumbling buildings near several others that were on fire that was still burning strong. Water shot fountained into the streets from destroyed hydrants. The image didn’t fit well with “Venus” by Bananarama. One song to go until “Hey Mickey”.

Ah hell. I sang along with it. It was my victory, after all. “Venus on the mountain top. Shining like a silver flame. A vision of beauty and love. And Venus was her na-.”

Three guesses who was behind me when I rotated around in the middle of all that. Well, Venus and the rest of Shieldwall, courtesy of the jet and their ability to fly. They floated there behind me. We just stared at each other. I was on one side. Forcelight and Black Raptor kept their altitude outside the jet, which had Gorilla Awesome and Venus in the cockpit. Then the fuel light came on.

Forcelight and Raptor dove after me as I took it down to the streets to evade and escape. The jet just wasn’t agile enough. I lost Forcelight when I blasted the water from a hydrant, throwing steam into the air. As a light manipulator, she can get rid of my holograms easily enough. Still can’t see through steam for shit. Raptor was more persistent, so I took us over the burning buildings. Nearly grilled my ass off again, but he blinked first and pulled away.

And so the day was mine. All mine! That day, I just couldn’t lose.

Except Moai dropped my hotdog on the way back to the warehouse. There was that. But otherwise, there’s no stopping me!

…and it was really good timing on Moai’s part. I needed a hand putting in the new door after the first one was destroyed by a skidding rocket heat ray.

You hear that, heroes? Not even door installation can slow me down!

Next

Previous

Breakout 6

Busy busy busy
Busybusybusybusy bootylicious biz-AY!

I’ve been busy.

First off, let me tell you folks, you are in LUCK. I had an inspiring inspiration. It was all inspirational and shit. It’s like everything I remember about my old world collides with all the shit I forgot to remember and squeezes itself though the lens of this primitive dimension and suddenly I see things I didn’t see before. I’d been hoping this would happen. I’ve seen things not yet put together from their most difficult moments. You can’t get there from A to B. No no no no no no no no no no no.

That got away from me, yes. You can’t get there from A to B because that’s a line. Some things only exist outside lines. They only make sense outside that path. You don’t clearly see the forest from on the path, little red riding hood. I’m off in the woods. All the better to smell you.

Times like this, Max gets scared. The girls got scared too. I think Max wanted to tell me he was done helping. That’s fine. Max is fine. I don’t need his help. I had a great idea. They’ll love it! It’ll be a big joke on the whole city and they’ll laugh and laugh and snort and choke and cry tears and collapse and oh they’ll remember it.

I think so much more clearly like this. This focusing for you, this writing, it holds me back to think put it clearly for you reader people. But you came here for a story and you deserve a story.

So I had my idea and I worked on my idea and then Max didn’t want to help me. That’s ok. Max is ok. I didn’t use his stuff for this so he can go hide now because hiding inside is what they always do in the end. All those people living their lives afraid to be who they are. Are you afraid to show people who you are? Do you only do this for someone who already knows you? How does anyone get to know you for who you aren’t? Honey has an antibacterial affect. Diseases have grown more resistant to other antibiotics. Bees are disappearing and people pretend not to know why. People trick themselves into killing themselves every day because what things aren’t is easier to live with. Even though I lie to people with every hologram, I do so because I am a liar. I mess with the world and the world changes to accommodate me. There’s room in the world to accommodate you too, no matter how different.

Trying to focus and clarify for you all. I worked on my idea, my new bomb. It isn’t ready yet, but I can get it there in short order. It will be ready. It wasn’t part of how I wanted things to go originally, but now it will be. Problem is, I needed it to be ready for what I did today. It wasn’t, but that’s ok.

I visited the Long Life tower today. I didn’t go in armor. I had my coat with me, but I entered disguised as a delivery man there to drop off some baked goods. I know what you’re thinking, boys and girls, but this cake was not a lie, and neither were those tasty treats hanging off one hand of mine in a plastic bag. The front desk wanted to hold me up, but the elevator was packed full and besides, cake. Who wants to be the bastard that holds up the arrival of cake?

One man wanted a peak at the warm, moist treat within. I warned him it was someone’s birthday cake. He got his face right up in it, though, looking down at the candles and the fluffy frosting. “I wish it was my birthday,” he said. So I pushed a button on the base of the cake box and the candles lit. Their flames shot out a few feet, catching the man’s lapel and hair on fire as he screamed, fire scorching his tongue and his mouth and his throat. He tried to drop and roll, but there was no room, even with his scared coworkers pressing against the sides of the elevator.

“Anybody else want to make a wish? Hehehe ha ha! Hey, hey, go ahead and blow him out if you want to try.”

There was a melody running through my head. I call it a melody because I’m not trained in music and I know fuck all what to call it. It was a sound that made me feel whole. Feel happy. Whatever you call it. A tune? A harmony? Chorus? “Chorus? I can’t even pare us off!” Oh, they were too scared to get the joke, of course, but that didn’t matter so much once I brought the knife out of the bottom of the cake’s box.

We had a screaming fun time in that elevator and the cake lasted. Believe me, everybody got a slice. And all the while the tune stayed with me. I felt complete again.

The alarms didn’t really sound until I got off at Research and Development. I know what you’re thinking, that I got off at R&D, but I assure you, I’m not that much of a technophile.

The man at the security desk tried to end the party, but he got a knife upside his face for his trouble. You may not have noticed, but there’s a reason I generally use knives that explode? The fact that the handle bonked him in the face should be a good indication, but I didn’t let it worry me.

Poor guard. Working 9 to 5, being kept down by the man, stuck guarding the scientists, and then a supervillain walks in and hits him in the face with a knife. The icing on the cake was, well, the icing on the cake. He was too blinded by it to notice me slip out my newest laser potato peeler and jam it into his gut. Every once in a blue moon I’m jealous of potatoes, you know. At least they get to hang out with their buds.

I didn’t spend forever on the guy. I just carved up the cake with his face still on it thanks to my newly-retrieved knife.

My culinary crusade wasn’t not yet over, however, as I hefted the two pie boxes out of the bag I had with me. The next two guards to rush out at me got pied. I know, I gave two guys a taste of my pie. You want to know what flavor of pie a guy has? Boys-enberry. I hear it’s a popular recipe with Catholics.

Ah, but I should have freshened up. I don’t always freshen up for potential suitors as the hissing reminded me. Their faces bubbling even where they weren’t embedded in pies, the guards dropped their guns and nightsticks and collapsed to the floor.

The good thing about an entrance like that is smart people, like those working in R&D realize pretty quickly not to stop you when you go dumpster diving through their computer systems. There was a researcher or something that tried to stop me from taking back the nanite synthesizer. With a few twists and then a violent snap, I promoted him to project head. Oh snap!

There were loud alarms at this point. It threw me off my humming. Shame, that was a good song. The noise put me in the mood for a more violent sound, but first I had to check out how their handling of the nanites was going. You know, you’d be surprised what a very minor change to the code can do, especially when it’s to the program copied onto each and every one they make from now on. Oh, I didn’t want to destroy them. No, I have something in mind that counts on them doing exactly what they want to do. They’ll make a lot of these and they’ll sell the crap out of them. Ship a million of those things? They’ll ship them out a whole new door.

The researchers were sadly unwilling to join me in an impromptu mosh pit but the guards at my next stop, that switchover floor, were all too ready to get moshed the fuck out. I set aside my synthesizer for the moment and jumped through a nearby glass divider into a conference room. I grabbed a chair, swung, and tossed it through the breaking wall and into the guard’s fire. That chair, sadly, did not make it. The next chair did, knocking him on his ass. I was on him before he could bring the gun up and signed my name in his throat with a piece of glass. Psycho Gecko was here. Then I turned him over on his back, yanked down his pants, and signed one ass cheek.

His friends showed up soon after. No helicopter this time, though. That’s a shame. I guess they left it be-Hind.

The other guards filled the air with bullets and pellets. Their friend provided a minor shield, but the human body is notoriously not bullet proof. Neither is just about anything you find in an office, in fact. I chucked the body at one of the teams of two and got in close, jamming broken glass into the lead guard’s eye. His buddy couldn’t fire around him well enough, but I could get my head past the first guard enough to rip out the second guard’s throat with my teeth. Hey, I didn’t get to have any cake earlier.

Three bodies were fairly bulletproof, that’s for sure. I propped up the bodies against a desk and dove over it to land next to a man hiding underneath, praying. I pocketed his stapler and post-its. They came in handy.

I crouched and moved past a wood wall backing up a larger desk between my position and the gunmen. Finally they realized I wasn’t behind their dead comrades and turned their attention elsewhere. One of them did check behind them. He was blinded. Blinded I tell you! Blinded…by post-it notes over his eyes. He went to fire but I grabbed the barrel and jammed it under his chin. He took the front half of his own face off.

His partner turned and had me dead to rights but for taking a stapler to the face. His hesitation and inability to follow me proved useful. I rolled toward him, grabbed the stapler where it fell, and stapled his nuts to his thigh. I held the gun barrel well clear of myself as I stood and used the stapler like a pair of chopsticks. His tongue was the rice. I only got it halfway clear before I lost my grip too, but he was in no mood to fight back at that rate.

They made me do this, too. They stole my stuff. Stuff like the nanite synthesizer I left near the elevator to the ground floor. If only they hadn’t taken it, I could have snuck past and made my way up. But no. They wanted my things and that means I couldn’t just leave it and go. When will they stop killing themselves with myself as their instrument? Why must they make me want to do this?!

They had an override on the elevator up. I overcame it easily overall with a press of my hand to the security controls and an over active imagination. I’m practically overkill to their machines, frying them so bad you’d think they were over easy. Next stop, penthouse floor. That’s the floor over 9,000. And that was terrible.

I strode out to where I figured Forcelight must live, my rightful property in hand, and found…nothing. Her stuff was there. Computers. Documents. Mail. A bed that’s barely been slept on. There was an open window as well. She’d be back soon, then, I knew. Unless they had to go out on a mission between when I walked in the door and when I got up here, she’s off seeing to what happened below.

New company policy. That’s how the email started. CC: everybody. Forcelight, come alone. Send.

You know what’s funny? All this plotting and planning, all this taking advantage of her father’s setup, and the board wanted someone else in control. Apparently it’s expensive trying to save the world. That’s a phrase that tells you a lot about humanity.

The ding of the elevator marked her arrival. Her costume was white and black in hard, jagged angles. She was beautiful, you know? It was a very stern and angry beauty, most definitely linked to the eye of this beholder. She didn’t attack right off.

“Good! Glad you didn’t want to come up here shooting or do anything stupid like sneak up behind me through that open window. And if anybody is there, I would advise them to back off.”

Forcelight shook her head. “Nobody else is up here. I’m more than enough for you, you know.”

“Yes, I remember from last time, when you arrested your daddy.”

“He isn’t. You’re keeping up your friends’ message, but it’s a lie.”

“Ah, so you think. I’d suggest a DNA test, but you’re built out of so many dead people’s parts, who knows who it would say you are?”

“You’re behind everything in the news about me lately too.”

“I’ll have you know that every bit of information they have found was not planted. Double check it if you like, if you dare.”

“Why shouldn’t I take you down right now?”

“Oooh, you guessed I had something in mind! Damn, I like being underestimated. Fine, spoilsport. I have a bomb ready to blow right in the middle of your fair city, one of nigh-nuclear proportions. I’m very proud of it, too.”

“You have friends here!”

“Friends? Your little campaign to isolate me was cute, but I don’t exactly have friends. Just people I’m not killing yet.”

“What do you want? Why come here?”

“I just wanted to get my stuff and make sure I got out nice and safely. You know me. I have a dozen different way set off a bomb even if you think you have me. Now, mostly I was here to get a little something back,” I lifted up the big canister. “This was only part of it. I believe you have a certain statue of mine?”

“You said you didn’t have friends.”

“I don’t, but I want my pet rock back. Got it? Good. The other thingy I wanted to talk to you about was to let you know that Doc, or Good Doctor as you know him, is trying to change. He had a good reason for everything he’s done, too.”

“What reason?”

“That’s his to tell. You shouldn’t be out fighting the likes of me. Look at you. Who are you? You own most of a corporation, you’ve been experimented on, your dad clearly loves you. You can’t deal with all that and fight me at every turn too.”

“I think I can. Not everything has to be dealt with.”

“Have you even been under the covers of that bed for an entire night’s sleep since you started all this?”

“Don’t talk to me about my sleeping habits.”

“I’m not talking about joining you in there. I’m just offering some very healthy advice. Get out of this before I do much worse than ensure my escape with a few bombs.”

“You can’t kill me, you know.”

“True at the moment. You’ll survive, surrounded by a city of dead. The question is, do you want to make me kill them?”

“You’re a bastard.”

“Bitch, please. PLEASE tell me this exchange ends with us grabbing each other and kissing.”

That’s the point where she punched me out the window. I kept my nanite maker too. No need to meet my maker though. Forcelight flew after me and caught me. That’s when I sent off the signal to detonate. The cake, left forgotten as it was, activated and took out the entire R&D floor. Fire rolled out through breaking glass as it blew. Chances are good that their servers weren’t on that floor.

Forcelight wanted to drop me at that point, but I looked her right in her glowing white eyes. “I’m sorry, do I look like I want to bluff with a bomb? How many people die because of you today?”

She was decent enough to set me on the ground at that point and get the cops to clear off as I waited in front of everyone. I was completely unmolested there, though I noted the flights of birds being chased by choppers, and the occasional explosion as one of the micro munitions went off. Still trying to trace my signals. They were more than a little worried when that sight prompted laughter from me.

Finally, they brought out my Moai, completely free of cement. I gave him a biiiiiig hug. I think he was happy to see me, but he’s got a hell of a poker face. Never seen him crack a smile. We took off down the city streets, proud and out in the open. To quote Teddy Roosevelt from when he time traveled to the Cold War, “Talk softly and carry a large arsenal.” Cue jokes about the size of his arse-enal and then a dead State Department official. Just because there’s a toy bear named after him doesn’t mean he’d gone soft.

How many more people died that day? No more by my hand. Hell, the city wasn’t at risk. As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, the bomb wasn’t complete when I got it in my head to do all this. Isn’t it a shame that a fellow can’t get proper service without threatening to kill everyone around? I still had to blow some fuckers up!

I’m hardly all that off-kilter though. They’re the ones doing the murdering. How many more people do I get to pick out of my teeth with a knife because they want to stop me?

Oh say it’s plenty. Say it’s plenty. They keep making me and I’m nothing if not what I’ve been made. Now then, all this has made me hungry. To the Minstrel cycle, my minion! Tonight I feast on the dreams of frightened children and the eggs of Waffle House!

 

Next

Previous

Breakout 3

The bad news, my leg was trying to rot off.

The good news, I was right about hygiene not being the cause of my wound not healing.

See, you just have to find the silver lining in things. Grandmother just died? More food for the starving kids in Africa. You killed her? It shows you’re a hands-on kind of worker. Killed her for her inheritance? You’d be a great corporate executive with that kind of attention to the profit motive. You then used her fortune to buy and consume extra food equivalent to how much she ate? Congratulations, you just made sure there were enough dead starved kids in Africa to feed the live starving kids in Africa.

So, back to the main point of all this, it looks like Ouroboros’s body double used a poison dagger back there in Paradise City. Even the girls had to admit it couldn’t be mere infection. Didn’t smell like gangrene. That leg is all funny, puffy colors with lots of goop coming out of it, and the initial effect has spread to my chest.

I think he wanted to slow me down. Hard to gauge, but I’m not dead yet and even my slightly different reactions to some chemicals wouldn’t account for all this. My powers don’t get shut off when I get put in anything that’s supposed to dampen them because they’re a part of my physiology. Like if there were a race of people with four arms, power dampening cuffs of any kind aren’t going to cause two of those to shrivel up. And because of both the upgrades I’ve made to myself and some aspects of my body chemistry that make those upgrades possible, things are slightly off from baseline humans.

Some of that was known by my old pal Harlon that I called up about this time. I was hoping for more time to sling mud, but I needed him to do a few things for me. He jumped at the idea of helping me out, like a puppy whose master just arrived home. Step 1, he digs into Forcelight and Bennett Long to uncover more proof about the adoption and the nature of the experiments that made her who she is today. Step 2, the news corporation he has influence at starts up some hard hitting pieces about Bennett Long’s schemes. The public will probably want to know, especially since his adoptive daughter has followed through on them in her own way. Nothing like a news network to fuel rampant speculation about the true intentions of a woman given powers by illegal experimentation and organ theft.

Thanks to Shieldwall’s disregard for my intellectual property, I can feel a fever under this armor. I’ve been sluggish too, in that the girl are accusing me of leaving a slime trail wherever I go. Harder to breath too. So naturally I assaulted the Long Life building. Ok, more like infiltrated it.

I needed to get to the flyer, you see, and that was located higher up on the building. This time, however, I figured I wouldn’t get myself locked down in the building. So I approached the security measures with a different technique.

I visited the circus and interrupted their human cannonball act. Some creative modifications later and I soared over Kingscrow, arms in front of me, invisible to the naked eye. And come on, naked eyes, have some dignity. Cover yourselves up!

I was slightly off on my math, however. I figured that out when I hit a corner of the building that was slightly higher up than my intended target and didn’t have the landing pad wing underneath it. My cat-like grace got me the rest of the way. Yes, my screaming, cussing, jumping, grabbing, pigeon holding, flagpole straddling grace. After a few minutes of recovering from my graceful ordeal, I stood up, untangled the flag from my armpits, and made my way to the flyer. I saw more automatic turrets around, but if they saw me they didn’t act like it. There was a lot of pigeon crap, though. Yep, high tech security system defeated by nothing but elbow grease and pigeon shit. Bird excrement: the other white meat.

I was there because I had to move my plan up. I thought up this wonderful little plan the other day on the toilet. That’s right, the toilet. That’s the spot where people have more of their ideas than ever before. It’s a fact. Just look at the rapid development of science and technology that occurs only after the invention of the toilet. You won’t see ancient Greeks and their tree leaves thinking up 3D printers. Nor will you get to the moon while sitting on an outhouse, no matter if one is carved on the door.

So I had this plan, and I saw it, and it was good. Problem was, I need Max’s help right now. Chances are good he knows how to fix me, which is the sentence that led to Holly suggesting I take some scissors for Max as well. Aside from that, they were helpful and went to go pick up the delivery from Phil the bombmaker while I was busy sabotaging the Shieldwall plane.

Nothing so drastic as making it crash or anything. I do something like that around this date and I’m bound to bring down even more heat. But they may find the things weapons just don’t work like they ought to if they get too close to me. I’ve got a way into all kinds of systems. I even found the remote start-up thanks to the VTOL jet turning on all on its own.

I went invisible and got out of there when that happened. No one would be able to tell anything had happened to it, which was a shame. It’s not that I’m an attention hog that wants to prove my brilliance over mere mortals. It’s just that I liked the idea of putting a car boot on it to indicate the heroes couldn’t use it.

I patched into whatever the big alert was through the flyer and found that the problem was the cell phones. The same kind as that heinous one I fought in Yabloo City and the robotic one that tried to drop Phil. The heroes walked right by me as they filed onboard. I almost thought Forcelight or Raggedy Man were going to pick up on something, but they didn’t stop. Raggedy Man did look at in my direction as he passed by, and hefted a mace in the shape of a jingle bell on a stick to his shoulder, but I guess he decided the rampaging cell phone robots starting up around the nation were a bigger concern.

As they flew off, I noted the ship’s computer searching for information on Miss Communication and Wrong Number. Whew. Glad there’s other villains being gangbanged by the heroes for once. I don’t think I should count the Paradise City gangs due to how that turned out. You know, with me offered on a silver platter with an apple in my mouth.

This is wonderful, though. The preparations for the jet were moot, but now they wouldn’t even be in town.

Rather than wear down Forcelight’s credibility and then stage a prison break, I had to break Max out of prison to cure me and focus on hurting Forcelight after that. Not my preferred order, but that’s the way the bowling ball bounces.

It still took a couple hours time before I could enact the breakout. I wasn’t moving as quick with all the aching and soreness. Cops didn’t even bother to stop us as we prepped. Reporters were noting that with all the attention paid to Empyreal City, other cities now had less chance to stop their incursions which were beginning as well. A few cops took pot shots at us from a distance though. I just said “Fuck It” and carved them up with the Nasty Surprise. “Where is your app for that, you cellular sons of bitches?” I said. Had to catch my breath afterward.
Now the breakout itself. Allow me to set the mood. I sped down the highway behind the wheel of a big rig, trailer in tow, with Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” blasting. It was a highway that connected with the street running next to the wall of Marscow Prison. A few cell phone bots ran around in the streets and I swerved to run them down.

Then the bombs blew. “What got blown up?” you might ask yourself.

The road. I blew it to smithereens in one section that I was just passing over, and the truck went airborne. I grabbed the CB radio, “Breaker breaker, this is Mad Dog 20/20, we have liftoff. Repeat, this is one spicy load of salsa I got behind me. All passengers, please put up your seat backs and tray tables. If you look out the left side of the cabin, you can see robots attacking a children’s hospital. The weather is partly cloudy with a 100% chance to rain a truck, 17% chance to rain men.” The cab barely cleared the high wall of the prison. The trailer didn’t. The trailer slid along the barbed wire at the top of the wall as the cab was tilted to hit the ground first.

And hit we most certainly did. I pulled myself out the broken window of the cab and saw that the trailer’s end was resting on top of the wall. I noticed I had the radio in hand still and held it up, ignoring the severed cord. “Thank you for flying Gecko airways. Anyone who wants to make use of our fine delivery of ladders may do so at this time. Have a pleasant stay in Kingscrow and I’m turning in my pilot wings.”

I dropped the radio, took a deep breath, cloaked, and made a break for the complex. The cell bots were a decent distraction at first, but Marscow was a dinosaur as far as prisons went. If they were too old, a lockdown caused by such an attack would be impossible to get around. My fears proved unfounded though. At some point, they’d discovered the wonders of electronic security measures. Door after door opened for me until I had made my way to the security office. Riot armor-clad prison guards found out the hard way that firing a shotgun at me just makes it burn more when the barrels are shoved up their asses.

Then it was time for my speech. “Prisoners of Marscow Prison. My name is Psycho Gecko. This is a jailbreak. I’ll need to see Mix N’Max as soon as possible.” I opened as many cell doors as I had access to, “I suggest leaving, either through the gate if possible or through a nice little semi parked in the yard with a trailer full of ladders. There should be a garbage truck full of pillows waiting on the other side of the wall.” I turned away from the mic to call up Holly and Sam, “You two dropped off the truck, right?”

“The package is in place and we’re out of there,” said Sam, “We’ll meet you and Max at the hideout, but we didn’t want to wait around for all the prisoners to join us out there.”

“Whatever floats your boat,” I told her, then turned back to my announcement, “Let’s see…anything else, oh, right. Shieldwall, that team led by Forcelight, is not in town presently, but I do ask that escapees take a moment to pay a visit to the nearby Hope Memorial Hospital which is swarming with attack robots. To reiterate, that’s the hospital full of kids. Unless you’re in here for child molestation, in which case the only ass you need to worry about is your own while you flee. Now the announcements. For lunch today, the cafeteria is serving freedom fries. Anyone interested in the work release program, please report to whatever door you want to leave by. Also, the warden has volunteered to help pick up soap in the showers today. Ta ta and have a pleasant escape.”

It’s amazing the amount of goodwill and credibility you get from criminals when you provide a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for them. Nobody bothered me as I made my way to the cell block that the computers say they dumped Max in. Along the way, though, I ran into another familiar face.

“I should have realized you would be back,” said a British accented voice from a cell. I turned to look. “You’re not looking so well, Gecko. Desperate times and measures?”

“Something like that, Doc. You’re welcome to come along too,” I held out my hand toward the open cell. Good Doctor shook his head.

“No. I won’t try to stop you, but I’m not going with you. You should learn when to stop.”

“It’s who I am, Doc. It’s like telling me to stop breathing. Any idea where Max is?”

“You might check the showers and hurry. God knows what’s happening in there right now.”

“Thanks Doc. See ya around.”

I waved and ran for the showers. It was there that I found a horrible sight. A naked Max, without makeup, burning a man’s face off with a chunk of soap. The other inmate had way too hairy an ass. I mean, bleh.

“Hey Max,” I called out, waving both hands.

“Gecko!” he said, dropping the soap and the man. Then we embraced under the warm showers. Just the two of us. Two guys. One of them naked. Nothing wrong with that.

We parted, “Alright, let’s get you out of here and to the hideout. I need you to whip up a cure for poison.”

“Can I get my jumpsuit, at least?”

“No time for that,” I turned and lowered my back. He hopped on and I carried him piggyback through the complex. Nothing wrong with that either. Outside, I found the old-fashioned giant gate still closed. Guards in the towers alongside it had gunned down any prisoners attempting to make their way out. As a result, they were all climbing the truck. “For fuck’s sake.” I limped closer to the wall near the truck.

“You sound tired, Gecko. Are you alright?”

“Just some deadly deadly poison. Nothing to worry about once I get you out of here.”

I jumped. My angle was off and my toes didn’t have enough purchase, so I went falling backwards in a roll. I managed to roll through to land on my face though.

I’m not sure if I mentioned already, but the closest thing there is to a safe way to fall is to land with as much of your surface area as possible so the impact is distributed across your body. Failing to do this can lead to broken bones. Doing this can still lead to broken bones, there’s just slightly less chance of it.

Max was kind enough to provide moral support by spanking me on the butt and yelling, “Hyaa! Giddyup!”

As soon as I could speak, I told him “You keep this up and I won’t take you by Hot Topic, Max.”

“Don’t lump me in with those posers. Come on, upsy daisy, let’s try this again.”

Groaning, I stood up, adjusted Max as much as I could, and jumped for it again. This time I landed on the top of the wall and ran along it to where the truck and pillows were.

“I’m not sure about this,” said one bald prisoner with glasses to another man.

“I know you’re ascared of heights, but it’s the only way out. I’ll hold your hand, how about that?” said prisoner number 2. He held his hand out for the other man. Before he prisoner number 1 could grab it, I shoved him out of the way and down to the truck.

“Hey!” prisoner number 2 started, before I kicked him in the back of the knee and sent him down as well. Then it was my turn. This time, I landed on Max. Too bad it was on pillows, but I do technically need him alive. Max and I stumbled out and slipped into the cab of the truck. I took off just as another prisoner took a leap of faith. Oh well, if enough of them fall, they’ll make a pile big enough for the last ones to make it safely. See? Silver linings.

Max and I passed by Hope Memorial too. It swarmed with prisoners now, some super and some mundane, who were giving the robots hell. I can’t blame them. After all, I just broke hell loose.

Next

Previous

Two Tickets to Paradise 11

I’m going to try and relay what happened after my capture to you and it’s going to take awhile. Asses were kicked and feelings were hurt, but keep calm and read on. And for now, we’ll put Polonius and his art behind a tapestry. I swear I use no art at all.

I spent a great deal of that night unwell. That I am mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity; and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. I am a foolish figure. Mad let us grant me then. The cell reminded me too much of my childhood. It was not a good childhood. There were whips and chains, but not the good kind. It had too many rooms like the one I was in, full of too many men like the ones keeping me in that cell. I was mad, and when I say mad, do not mistake me for being angry. Indeed, I was happy. Why wouldn’t I be? I knew the cause of this effect, or rather say, the cause of this defect, for this effect defective comes by cause. I had been worried when my enemies were the shadows of everyone around me. Knowing that the world was against me made things easier. I could deal with that. Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.

I knew who my enemies were and I knew a lot about what they could do. I realized in that moment that to break the Shieldwall, I would need to know not what they could do but who they were. Seeing as I was bound, that revelation would have to go on the backburner.

First is first, to put it my accustomed way. Escape. I was never a good hacker. Give me the physical touch of a computer and I can make it bend and stretch in ways its designer never meant, but programming language does not come so easily to me. That’s not how I handle things. If Ouroboros left everything as unsecured as your average criminal then that wouldn’t be an issue, but he’s smart and he’s been dealing with Yakuza and their otaku. End result, I couldn’t get out ahead of time.

I wanted to. I felt like a tiger in a cage, except with more imbeciles walking by to taunt me. At least tigers have a chance to get back at whatever drunk guy jumps into the enclosure.

Shokushu and Suishou stopped by when the Yakuza showed up. They looked tipsy. Shokushu had his tie around his head and pressed his ass against the door/window. I was able to figure that out from the files I could access.

No one bothered to pay a visit from the Columbians except for Terribilis, who chatted with a young man in tactical gear that I realized was the man Ouroboros had been talking to. I made the job easy on him. He didn’t have to hunt me down at all. I couldn’t match the guy up in the database. I checked for villains or mercenaries with the sort of wide-brimmed hat he tipped my way, but I had no luck. He had a bandana pulled up over the bottom half of his face.

All that and he didn’t realize the man next to him in the bright yellow power armor wasn’t the real Terribilis. I saw the heroes take him down. That armor put up a decent fight before Troubleshooter got the power drain net on him and Forcelight cracked it open at the entry seam.

When they were done whispering between themselves, the shooter knocked on the door and said, “You behave in that cage now or I’ll have to put you down,” he made a motion with his hand and suddenly his rifle appeared, like a prestidigitator’s trick, “I’d put you down for free, but I’d rather get paid for you.” He backed up a step, then pointed it through the glass at me.

He wouldn’t, unless he wanted to die. If the heroes walk in and see me dead, they know automatically they’ve been set up. That’s why they have all tolerated me to the degree that they have so far, save for the Cartel’s attempt to take me out when I was thought to be a turncoat. Or maybe that was part of a plan of theirs.

Either way, the shooter stowed his gun nowhere and they left me alone, leaving me with nothing to do but stare at the exceptional rear of the man who shot me as he walked away. In all seriousness, dat ass.

That was my night, being gawked at people who should have felt nothing but gratitude at surviving my presence. It took a long time to bring us to night. A long time that I spent worming my way through whatever I could find. Casino security was right out. Ouroboros had actually invested in decent network security. Damn Yakuza otakus. Or is it otaku for plural as well? It may be one of those words that doesn’t change between the singular and plural form, like The Last Samurai, that movie where that white guy rode into battle with the last of the samurai.

At 8 o’clock, a crowd of O-sec gathered outside my window which retracted into the ceiling. Two of them trained flamethrowers on me while more stepped forward to latch chains onto my restraints. Someone pulled ahead too far as we stepped onto the floor, causing me to fall. Real original, guys.

As soon as I saw the heroes assembled, I gave Venus a call and muted my exterior speakers. I saw her turn away before answering with a whisper that only the heroes and I could hear. “Not now, Gecko, we’re in the middle of capturing you.”

“Where are you, by the Burger King?”

“We’re at the casino.”

“This is no time for slot machines, hero. Wait a sec, the casino? There’s not some version of me in a crappy knockoff costume around, is there?”

“Yesss,” she drew the word out, glancing first at a wall where wind blew the leaves of a rubber plant as passed, then back to me.

“You know that’s a trap, right? They found out about our deal and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat. I-…hold up. Ok, cops are here, got to go, bye.”

I hung up, having been led to the middle of the casino’s floor. Table games and ropes had been cleared all around me.

“If it isn’t too much trouble, we’re taking your new fountain ornamentation as well,” said Forcelight as she stepped forward. “How do we know this,” she pointed at me, “is the real deal.”

Venus in particular looked expectant of the answer. Torrent stepped up behind me and kicked me in the back of the knee. I didn’t go down the first time. “Say something, Gecko.” The second time, I fell to my knees.

I turned around partially to look at him, then back to the heroes, then to the Cartel’s members specifically, then to Forcelight, and spoke, “Lo siento, pero no soy el hombre que busca. ¿Dónde estoy?”

“What is this, Ouroboros?”

“It’s a lie, that’s what it is!” said that pockmarked face man from the Columbians. “That’s Psycho Gecko, I know it.” He stuck one finger out and it began to glow purple. He thrust it toward me and the purple glow flew threw the air toward me to be stopped by Forcelight, who had taken to floating. The others in the Cartel didn’t take kindly to this. They drew their guns, prompting everybody else with guns or powers to get them ready to go.

“Shieldwall together!” Venus called as they began to move toward me. My heroes.

Forcelight and Ouroboros approached me ahead of everyone for an emergency negotiation. “¿Quiénes son estas personas?” I cut them off. I’m no expert in Spanish, but it was one of the languages I considered adopting when I landed in this universe. Learning new languages is somewhat like learning a new way to think. My trip to the South may be somewhat less stereotypical than I expected, but most people draw the line at speaking common language of the country.

What gave me away was a ringing noise coming out over the comms, the source of which was a cluster of Troubleshooter, Gorilla Awesome, and Venus, with the trio focusing on Venus’s earpiece.

You ever get that feeling like you created all your own demons and they’re about to tear you to pieces? Me neither. At the time, I hoped I wouldn’t die there because of what I’ve mentioned before, about awesome tombstones. I didn’t want mine to read “Psycho Gecko, in hell he’ll dine, thanks to *69”. Or to exist, really. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t want to die.

Forcelight put her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll take him. And the rest of you. Lay down your weapons and put your hands on your heads.”

Ouroboros was back in the midst of his men one enhanced strength backflip later. “I think not, Forcelight.” He began to speak into an earpiece when that gunman in tactical gear held a gun to his head.

“I think so,” he pulled off the mask, revealing the former Holdout, now the Lone Gunman. Ah ha! The ass never lies. Pockmark of the Columbians began to laugh and even that nameless guy from the Yakuza cracked a smile, at least until Terribilis trained his rifle and minigun on them, respectively. Those smiles died a quick death. One of them had to go: the smiles or their owners.

I had a chance to smile as the effects of Ouroboros’s few commands were followed by men in the security office. I broke the little standoff going on with my words, “By the way, whoever sets me free gets to survive.” I think everybody laughed at that.

The casino floor itself had little in the way of static defenses by its very design. Customers don’t want to see sentry turrets and mines and such defenses shouldn’t be within the range of stumbling drunks. Funny thing is, those networks stayed off most of the time. I felt them come online below me and found out they weren’t as well protected because of their rare use. It was that surprise Ouroboros mentioned if the fight came into the casino proper. Let this be a lesson to those who cross a man improper.

The floor shook beneath me, both indicating incoming firepower and sending pleasant vibrations through my crotch. The floor opened. Shieldwall was scattered around the room as the strongroom emerged. I fell right on top of it. The vault, complete with automated guns. They were set to recognize the security badges of casino staff and higher ups like Torrent and Ouroboros. I didn’t want to play favorites.

In control of their IFF, I closed my eyes and targeted anyone not me. When I fired, the fighting started. Heroes versus villains. Gangs versus gangs. Like a police raid on a NAMBLA meeting, this was where you separate the men from the boys.

They were leaving me alone in all the chaos, too. Everyone had better things to do than worry about me. I was all chained up and on my knees. I wasn’t eager to remain that way, though. Machine guns and lasers turned inward and took aim. While I don’t have a motif or a theme, which would be awesome you know, I felt this epic battle deserved some epic tunes. Trust me, you ever have a huge fight with four large groups of people who hate your guts, you’re going to want to have an awesome soundtrack too. Forget the imprisonment, it was more agonizing to pick out the song. I went with “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night.

Not as hard hitting as what I normally go for in battle, but a song I felt very fitting for my emergence into the fray. It sounded from the sound system and over the Shieldwall frequency, leaving my enemies barely able to hear their teammates or potential dangers in combat.

I threw off the blasted shackles and chains, then stood up, proclaiming, “Now it’s time to tear off your own asses and BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM!” Yep, it sounded much better with that emphasis on it. Right after that, a strong explosion hit the door of the vault, causing the forcefield over it to blink out for a moment before it was restored. I nearly fell on my ass but recovered my balance and figured I’d watch some of the festivities until somebody stepped up to get stepped on.

Shokushu’s tentacles whipped at the Honky Tonk Hero while Suishou threw his body in chunks at Paveman, knocking off pieces of the craggy bastard. The villainous pair fought well together. One would occasionally lend a tentacle or a few shards to keep their respective opponent off-balance. The Street Artist left swipes of paint in the air that he used to deflect bullets and knock enemies away. He spotted Troubleshooter and built up a large cloud, but she realized she was in danger and fired that kinetic weapon she introduced me to the other day. It dispersed the paint and left the Artist skidding along the floor on his back. With lights destroyed, Raggedy Man appeared in the shadows near the roof with an Ouroboros security officer in his hands. He disappeared again, leaving the guard to fall with a scream from on high. Torrent threw rival gang members at the giant Shieldwall robot, his body absorbing kinetic energy and increasing his strength. Forcelight flew into him and the pair stumbled into the empty all-you-can-eat buffet, trading blows beyond the ability of mortal men. Scythe-Skater and Gorilla Awesome traded blows. Her weapon of choice was her scythe. His was a slot machine. Pockmark dueled with Lone Gunman. He took his own men as human shields, but they were shot out from in front of him. Raggedy Man disappeared and reappeared throughout the scene. He drove steel-toed boots into the nameless Yakuza guy. The man with no name deflected the kick and drove his open palm into where Raggedy Man’s face was before he disappeared. Bright Star was bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the eye. Miss Tycism’s green shield deflected Cartel gunshots as she knelt beside him. Venus hurried over and jabbed Bright Star with something. A syringe full of familiar fluid. Seconds later, his bleeding had stopped and his eye was regrown.

My nanites. I was about to jump down and engage Venus for her supply of nanites, but checking my rear revealed the reappearance of the armor thief. He looked down at his hands. Must be power issues. I left an illusion behind that I was still watching the battle over the side. He approached, thinking he had the element of surprise. I circled around behind him. I jumped, locked my legs around his neck, and flipped backward to introduce him to the elements iron and carbon. The helmet rang as it hit the steel on top of the vault. I took advantage of his stunned state and unlocked the helmet. I pulled it off to reveal that the faker was… Old Man Wilkins?!

That’s right, and he’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this meddling supervillain and his Moai.

Actually, it was a teenager with lightning flashing in his eyes. Red White Blue Kid. I hit him in the head with the helmet. After a smack, he raised his hands, slowly charged the gloves and creating a sheathe of energy around them. I tossed the helmet into a melee below that was set ablaze by an O-Sec flamethrower guard. I charged my gloves all the way. I caught the Kid’s laughable attempts to strike back, overpowering his sheathe and causing to backfire. The bones of his hands and wrist snapped and burned, though much of the energy was dissipated into the steel around the vault as I pinned his wrists to it in the same move.

Before I could take advantage of that state, Ouroboros joined us on the vault. Bloodstained ivory daggers whirled through the air. I kicked at him, but he drove one into my leg. Normally a knife wouldn’t penetrate. Normally, I’m not being stabbed by a guy with twice human strength. I backed away and put pressure on my leg while hoping the last guy he stabbed with that didn’t have herpes. Come on, baby, I got it fighting a supervillain, I swear!

He approached over the Kid, who moaned and shifted. Ouroboros looked down and seemed shocked by the teen in my armor. It gave me an opening and time to start charging my gloves again. I grabbed for his wrist but he spun smoothly out of the way with his blades gliding over the metal of my torso armor impotently. So much for my opening. I raised an illusion of myself still standing there as I dropped to my knees. He learned it was fake when his blade found the illusion’s throat but I had opened up my hand like I was going for a karate chop. Except I drove it fingers first into his belly with all the strength of myself and my armor. His armor and skin gave way. I stood, reaching up inside his body until I found that traitorous heart and tore it out. Ouroboros gawked at me and his little knives fell from his hands. I wrapped my fingers around it and punched him in the mouth with that hand. I left his heart in among the broken teeth, grabbed the top of his head and under his chin, and mashed his mouth open and shut a few times. Finally, I activated the jump enhancers, bent my legs, and gave him a tremendous uppercut to the jaw knocked him over the crowd.

Undying dragon my ass.

I looked over to see the Kid crawling over the side of the vault to escape. Uh uh uh. I dragged him back by the foot and flipped him over. He leaned up. I popped him in the nose. “Now then, let’s have none of that nanite bullshit from you too. The lesson needs to be learned that I kill heroes dead. D-E-Eye of Horus-Squiggly line-Norse Rune-D. Dead!” I grabbed his tongue and his leg and tossed him high into the air. At least a Wookie in height. I jumped after him and, thanks to my closer proximity, got a good view of a rogue RPG blowing a hole in the roof. I caught the Kid with my feet on his armpits and rode his inverted body down on top of the vault. When he landed, it was on his head with all of his and my weight.

But hey, they can always put his brain back together once they’re finished scouring his colon for all the pieces.

I felt it was about time to get this baby opened and get myself some sweet immortality now that I had proven myself King of the Hill. I dropped my flat, propane-selling ass to the ground in front of the door to the thing. A computer panel nearby was active. Ahah! It only took a few minutes of contact to get at this thing. Hacking? No no no. This thing was part of my nervous system. The door’s forcefield deactivated, internal alarms turned off, and the door swung open, revealing the contents to me. Gold bars. Bricks of cash. Gadgets. It was all brightly lit by the fluorescent lighting making up the entirety of the ceiling.

I ran in and found my way to a glass case with what appeared to be an ordinary stick. I busted the case and snatched it up eagerly. “Ok, I wish that gold was chocolate milk. I wish the White House was pained pink. I wish to be…immortal!”

I expected something dramatic to happen, but I had nothing. “I wish this thing would give me a sign it is working.”

No such sign. I hit it. I tried looking for an On switch. I was holding it in the same hand I ungloved to get in the vault, so it wasn’t the skin contact. I tried magic words after that. Hocus Pocus. Aveda Kedavra. Magical source, mystic force! Klaatu barada nikto. Magic missile. Shazam! The door slamming shut interrupted my attempts. I couldn’t maintain the connection to anything outside the vault after that, not even whatever system controlled the vault itself.

And a half hour later, I still hadn’t gotten it open. I couldn’t wish it open. There was no interior panel to bond with. Even the weapons laying around were useless. They were broken or had no power cells. There was a missile launcher that could have done the job, but it was missing vital parts of ordinance and firing mechanisms. Also, I was in an enclosed space with it. I even tried throwing gold bars at it because why not? They broke apart. Fakes. At least I had time to dress the stab wound to my thigh from the fight where I’d killed Ouroboros.

“Well, well, it looks like you got in my vault after all, Gecko,” said Ouroboros over an intercom.

“Great, now I’m hearing voices again.”

“Not at all. I enjoyed watching your fights from my panic room. My double provided a lot of insight into how I should fight you. It shouldn’t come to that, Gecko. Not with the heroes having just wiped the floor with the Yakuza and Columbians. My men withdrew and it seems my contingency plan worked after all. I still have something the heroes want thanks to your blatant interest in my vault. Here, let me get them on the line. Heroes! Over here! I need you to find the intercom on the vault to speak to me. Actually, I don’t, Gecko, I just want you to hear us talk.”

“When I’m through with you, there won’t be a Paradise City to rule,” I yelled. I admit, it sounded ineffectual to say.

“What’s your angle, Ouroboros? How did you survive?” said Forcelight.

“I survived in the luxury of my panic room. Inside this particular room is someone else you are looking for. You’ve done me a good turn by putting my rivals down, but I still need an agreement. If you agree to leave tonight, you’ll get Psycho Gecko, who is conveniently trapped beyond this door.”

“Deal. We’ll get him to Marscow Prison in Kingscrow as soon as we get him out of here.”

“Hey! You can’t do that! I’m too important to myself to be sent to prison!”

“They can’t hear you, Gecko. Try your intercom.”

“Thank you, motherfucker,” I said, feeling all Samuel L. Jackson up in this beast. I pressed the button, “You can’t send me to jail! I’m too homicidal. There’ll be no survivors! Besides, don’t I get a trial?”

“The prison is better suited to hold you until we get to that trial.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Just drop me in jail with Max and Doc. By the way, do you visit your dad in prison any?”

“My dad is dead. It’s- stop. Just stop.”

“What? I hit a touchy subject.”

“Just shut up. There are no mind games left to play. We’re taking you in as soon as Ouroboros opens up.”

The O-man cut in himself now, “The system has been corrupted. I can’t control he door remotely anymore. I’m afraid you will have to find a way in on your own, heroes. Pardon me if I do not wish to come down there in person and provide assistance.”

“The panel has an axe embedded in it. We’ll find a way to get in. You just sit tight in your hidey hole and play nice,” Forcelight spoke with a note of irritation in her voice.

My plan was to get some of these weapons laying around to work right. Mix and match them to shoot my way out if needed. I started gathering up piles of the junk.

“You alright, Gecko? You’re not running out of air in there, are you?” said Venus over the intercom.

I considered not even answering her. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams, but it’s nice to hear you still care, Boopsie. What do you think, are you going to stop by and visit me in jail? Maybe we could arrange a conjugal visit.”

She responded with laughter that went on so long that she stopped holding down the button. When she next spoke to me, she had taken time to get herself under control, “Gecko, you are as appealing to me sexually as your name, and twice as slimy. I don’t care about being kind. Not to you and not after all you’ve done. I just want to see you locked up with nowhere to go for the rest of your natural life. I would actually prefer to see you bound in a nutshell, you nut, but you can find a way to be annoying while folding the prison laundry for all I care.”

These damn intercoms won’t let me interrupt, but eventually I get to have my say to play with her brain matter, “Then our monarchs and outstretched heroes are the beggars’ shadows. In court, I don’t expect you’ll look good having hunted me so maliciously. Your team either, but especially you, though. Is it justice when you hunt me just because of your boyfriend? How many greater threats have gone unattended to because of this obsession?”

It was Forcelight who spoke, “Venus has no conflict of interest. It’s not like you killed her boyfriend. Thanks to wonderful new life support and body repair technology that is soon to be patented by Long Life, he’s still alive and can’t wait till he’s put together completely and we can make him look less like a robot.”

“I held his shattered skull.”

A distorted electronic voice answered me next, “You had a few pieces. There was enough left of me to save. Thank you for the nanomachine technology, by the way. We adapted it to work on everyone if need be. Stealing from you is going to make the world a much better place when we begin mass production.” The giant robot, aka The Human Sloth. No. He’s Mecha Human Sloth now. He’s half the half-man he used to be.

“That’s not…well oh yeah? I thought your ass already had enough mass,” I wasn’t going to finish that sentence saying it wasn’t right.

Next up was Troubleshooter, “And your armor will provide great protection and strength enhancement for us and law enforcement as soon as I reverse engineer it.”

“Don’t come in here! I have a magical wishing stick! I’ll zap you to pieces if you try and get me!”

Raggedy Man responded, “I may have neglected to mention that only certain types of people can use that. I neglected it because it’s obvious you are a bad penny and no way would it allow you to wish for so much as a good penny. Thanks for getting it back for us, though.”

“I’m afraid he’s right on that one, Gecko. That thing was useless to me. That’s why I left it in the vault when I moved the rest of my valuables out. Thank you for making it obvious you wanted in there and then taking so long to come back,” said Ouroboros.

Next up was Black Raptor, “You’ve brought all your enemies together against you. You didn’t break us. You just made us even more committed to fighting people like you as a team. Even your plans here backfired on you. You can’t beat us. You can’t escape us. Your capekiller allies are in prison and your pet statue is on his way to Kingscrow now. We have your equipment. We ruined your reputation. You deserve everything you’re about to get. No, you deserve more. But you’ll settle for facing justice. When we swing this thing open, though, I hope you try to fight. We’ll try not to kill you, Psycho Gecko, but no matter what, you don’t walk away today.”

I really needed to get to work anyway so I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how long they’d be pounding away at the door and my full concentration was required on the broken pieces of scraps I’d been left with, that’s all. I could have had a brilliant response if I’d wanted to. Honestly.

It took them quite a long time, in fact. Despite all the pounding and tearing, I was able to accomplish about what I needed. I had to get this monstrosity into firing shape and scour the remains of broken gear for a power source, but I got it. I was not giving up the one I use for my suit. I need that one.

“Yo, anybody out there. Y’all almost in?” I questioned the intercom.

“Very nearly in, Gecko,” Forcelight said, “Are you going to make us this difficult on yourself?”

“I just had a few words to say,” spoke softly. It was at this point that I began to plagiarize a song called “If I Burn” because “I don’t care. Maybe I’m afraid, but still I swear. You could take my life with conscience clear, but you should still hear that if I burn, you will see the fire in your mind when you sleep and if I rise up in smoke around your eyes, you’ll know it’s mean. And the rain won’t wash away the ashes underneath your nails today. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, because if I burn, so will you.”

If I failed, I figured they’d be a badass note to go out on. If I succeeded, they’d be an integral part of the plan.

I took my position as they picked up the pace outside. I had a plan to go out in a blaze of glory, they’d think. After ten minutes, I heard the door give one last groan. Then it was yanked loose and tossed to the side by Forcelight and the robot that I realized was Mecha Human Sloth. The pair barely knew what almost hit them. It was, specifically, an old missile from the old missile launcher.

My rideable rocket lived again, just without any sorts of controls. I got up to speed quickly, zipping past heroes prepared for a fight or an escape on foot. Even Forcelight couldn’t keep up and losing track of me at that point meant escape. They would also find that their tricky little Wishing Stick was nothing but a pair of broken Wishing Twigs tossed in a corner at this point.

It was all a close call, but I was finally free.

I was so ecstatic that I shook a little on my scooter ride out of the city. I had to find where they towed my SUV to and raid it, but I got the blogging device back and my Minstrel Cycle. Let them search Paradise City a few more days. I have a new destination in mind.

Kingscrow, home of Marscow Prison, currently occupied by the Good Doctor, Mix N’ Max, and soon to have Moai in it as well. I think I’ll stop by, break out my acquaintances, and work on a more solid plan for tearing Shieldwall apart.

Don’t think that this is the last I’ve seen of Ouroboros, either. On my drive out, I noticed him calling in to the villain pirate radio station, Outlaw X. They played a request from him to me. Care to take a guess what he wanted in my honor? “The Show Must Go On,” by Three Dog Night.

Douche.

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Two Tickets to Paradise 10

Fuck me.

Before you get any ideas, readers, that’s not an invitation.

I’m supposed to be a bad guy. I’m supposed to be kicking asses and carving names onto tombstones. Problem is, my plans are getting their metaphorical asses kicked.

I put all this work into trying to kill these people, and you think they appreciate it? No! They hate it. This lack of gratitude is almost enough to make me go be a pacifist.

It’s not just been a bad few days. It’s been an entire bad trip. Is it me, do you think? Plans failing, people living. It’s hard to claim this is just a few unfortunate events.

The fuck am I talking about? This crap doesn’t belong here. Is this called “Saddy McSadpants in Retrospect?” I didn’t think so. You want to see me sit around and moan to myself about how awful it is that people hate me and try to make superpowers into some sort of curse? Power? Sounds good. Responsibility? I’ll wait for the other people to take it first.

I don’t go there. There’s a huge number of places you can go to if you want to see heroes moping about having the ability to save lives and make a difference in the world. If you want your tortured, brooding villains just trying to get by and do what they think is best for everyone, that’s not me either.

I’m here because some of you have recognized that it’s not just awesome to have superpowers, it’s fucking awesome! That’s right, it’s awesome on a level normally reserved for the stimulation of your genitalia by another human being. Or animal. I’m not judging, though I do suggest you at least use condoms. I hear there’s a chance diseases could jump across the genetic gap there. Congratulations, Billy and Mrs. Goat. You had a bouncing baby virus. It causes babies to bounce.

Now, where were we…oh, yeah, I was covering myself in awesome sauce and posing seductively on a polar bear fur rug, because icy you can’t help but stare.
What you would have been staring at over the past few days was my attempt to get my wits about me and finalize some deals. Now after awesoming myself back up, I have to go talk about everything that makes me sound like some pitiful depressed worm. I had to talk in person with the Yakuza and the Cartel. Problem was, the heroes made a big damn announcement.

I don’t get what’s with all the press conferences, but they sure know how to use them to screw me over. Their original plan to replace me was thwarted by my impressive ability to talk while someone drives a car into them. They figured out a different way to screw me over. Right there by the podium, Shieldwall welcomed their undercover villain into the fold.

Psycho Gecko had apparently had some big change of heart after Memphis and was trying to repay his debt to society, blah, blah, blahdiddly blah there neighboroony, something something probation and alert the cops if you see him walking around without a hero. They got my attention when they mentioned his aid in the capture of the notorious Mix N’Max before they arrived in Paradise City. “You didn’t think we just sat around doing nothing, did you?” Venus said into the camera and gave a wink.

I was minutes away from meeting with the Cartel. I saw the heroes, their pet robot, and the wannabe me on a TV screen of an electronics store and had Moai let me out to watch this. Chop my knees out from under me, why don’t you? Here, you want a butter knife to shove up the stumps?

I still went to meet the Cartel. They’re used to being a part of undercover operations and politics, I thought. Of course they wouldn’t be confused by some idiot like that in a stolen suit. They could clearly see I didn’t have my suit with me.

They welcomed me to the warehouse of their “cooking supply company.” Oh yeah, they’ll help you cook. Baking soda, sugar, flour, even that sugared powder for donuts, they have it all there. They showed me up some ramps to an office overlooking the place. The fellow who led me in was all smiles, motioned for me to sit, then offered to go look for that pockmarked guy I was supposed to be talking to.

Someday, I’d really like to learn more about all these people I run into. Guys like this, I’ll see a few times and that’s it. I haven’t even delved a whole lot into the lives of the people in Shieldwall. Then again, they haven’t delved too much into me either. Even when Venus and I chat, we can’t get too far into a conversation. I guess it’s like dealing with everybody else. You run into people every day. You even work with people every day. How many of them do you actually know, though?

I guess you could say I was trying to understand the stupidity of the man who shot me in the head.

I was just sitting back, maxing, relaxing all cool, thinking of playing the Cartel for a fool, when some armored guy who wants to be dead, started firing rounds at my head. I got right back up off the floor and the guy got scared and said, “Today Terribilis takes you out for the betrayal that you dared.”

Sadly, the resulting fight did not end in my becoming Prince of Bel-Air. I stood up, dropping the illusion that I was unarmored. Like I was really going to show up to another meeting without it. This man in a bulky suit of power armor dropped from the rafters from where he’d pumped a few rounds my way. There being a perfectly good window between myself and a drop to the floor, I took the obvious route down. I crashed through the window he’d shot holes in and I hit the stealth.

I know, you’re thinking this is all leading up to yet another fight. Once more into the breach.

It did, just not for me. It turns out that when you have an enormous crowd of people out for your blood, you also have some control over them. The heroes didn’t want to negotiate. That’s fine. They just wanted to catch me and they couldn’t just ignore me when I called up Venus, who really needs to change her number by now, and told Boopsie that I was in the middle of a Cartel warehouse full of cocaine. If I wasn’t stopped soon, I might grab a whole bunch of that powder and fumigate the city.

She hated me and she knew that I was using them. She also knew she had to bring the hammer down on that warehouse.

“We’ll see how fast we can zip in to save the day, but you’ll understand if we don’t hurry into a trap. Where are you?” her voice came over the phone, followed by a grunt of exertion. I was hiding against the wall, watching Terribilis march around firing off magnetic weights. They’d occasionally hit on something metal, like a knife or a colander, and smack it down good, but he had a way to draw it back in. He also had a rifle attachment and at least one minigun. Except a small minigun. A mini-minigun. Isn’t the name minigun one of the worst attempts at naming ever?

It must be one of those ironic nicknames, like if you called a basketball player “Shorty”.

“I’m over in the warehouse district. Big warehouse-looking building. I think Sunshine Baking is the front company. Oh how I so want to be captured and brought to justice so I can do good things for people. You busy?”

“We’re raiding a warehouse full of consumer electronics. Yakuza knock-offs and stolen merchandise.”

“Huh. It’s not at Binary Entertainment Distributors is it?” I asked while reviewing the footage of my approach to the place. A stray round, fired at random, punched through the wall next to me.

“What if it is?” queried Venus. I could almost imagine her piledriving some hapless thug with one hand while holding up her phone with the other. Isn’t she lovely?

“If it is, then you’re right across the street. See you in a few minutes,” I said and then hung up. I threw the frog-named power armor a bone to keep him interested before I got out of there. And by bone, I mean a pair of stink bombs. I hear they have catfish tosses around here, only without the exploding into a foul smelling cloud at the end.

Of course they didn’t catch the place with me in it. They barely caught Terribilis. I only stuck around at all to risk capture because I was hoping the thief would be in attendance. Sadly, he was tardy. The Red White Blue Kid-Boy-Guy-Dude-Whatever was with them though. Nice to see my enemies’ recruiting efforts are going much better than my own.

The twist that made this all the worse for me, though, was that they leaked edited portions of the call and praised me for helping them take down two such important criminal enterprises in one day.

That’s why I got some very dirty looks walking into the casino with Moai. Security was there, supers were there. There were even beat-up members of other gangs hanging around. Torrent stepped in front of me and tried to stop me. He started to say something about not being welcome. I was in no mood to not be welcome. One illusionary me ran around his left, one around his right. A third slid between his legs and one stood still in front of him. I jumped over him and headed for the bar. Moai went around him and wasn’t stopped because I was Torrent’s focus.

The security guy shot me a dirty look as I ordered a White Russian. I kept an eye on him as I turned my head away. I saw him in my 360 view as he mixed in some rat poison. Torrent gathered a squad of men and approached. I turned and went to grab my drink, then threw it back like I was drinking it, only I threw it behind me. Poison and all, it landed on Torrent’s face. While he was busy coughing, I grabbed the two nearest guards and brought them in close with my arms around their shoulders.

“I’m so glad to have friends like y’all, who are so kind and understanding when I get slandered by evil untrustworthy servants of public justice. I suppose if I didn’t have friends like you, I’d have to TEAR OFF YOUR OWN ASSES AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM!”

That reminds me, I like the move Warriors of Virtue. Komodo especially. Good role model if you like cheese. I do. It treats me well. I don’t know if it adds to my reputation, but it just feels right to me. Looking at it now, though, perhaps I should enunciate it a little differently. It loses something how that is. Something to work on next time I’m yelling at people, I guess.

I saw Ouroboros step out of the VIP section with some man in black with too many pouches who packed an unusual rife of unusual size. He whispered something to the man, reinforcements probably, and this new guy went back into the VIP room.

“You’ve betrayed us,” Torrent said, wiping his face with his sleeve.

“I’ve betrayed no one. The heroes are lying. You people deal with intrigue all the time and now you start believing your enemies are telling the truth?”

“Gecko, calm down. Everyone, calm down,” Ouroboros said, trying to defuse the situation, “I believe you. The heroes I’ve dealt with were little better than thugs in costumes, but you,” he smiled. A hole appeared in the wall of the VIP room. Something stung my neck through the costume.

As I fell, everything growing darker, I saw Moai began to kick ass.  Torrent threw off his coat and approached my faithful minion. Damn Ouroboros. Didn’t even drink and he roofied me.

I awoke to find myself in a very solid cell with one clear wall on it. I had a headache and cottonmouth and my costume still on, oddly enough. I sat up and began to get my strength under me to stand up. That’s when I found out I had steel gauntlets that enclosed my hands on, joined by heavy chains to shoulder pads and a thing around my waist, down to ones around my thighs and to some around the calves of my boots. My range of movement was severely restricted. I could still get up and walk around though, thanks to my armor. I paced the room, getting a sense of what I was dealing with as far as escaping. Maybe 5 minutes after I stood up, I had Ouroboros paying me a visit.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t my bargaining chip. You started to worry us. That sometimes happens. Powers can warp a person’s body and change their reactions to certain chemicals. You’re welcome for the armor. I took your toys, but you strike me as the kind of man to leave a surprise for anyone who would drag you out of that getup.”

I shook my head, still knocking away some fogginess. “Moai?”

“We have him in a pair of cement shoes. He’ll make a good fountain ornament.”

“Betraying me doesn’t end well for you, you know.”

“You betrayed me first. It was ok for a novice at this sort of game. I knew about the heroes and Columbians and Japanese. It wasn’t entirely a bad plan, though. You’re still the star. You’re just not cut out to handle wheeling and dealing with the rest of us.”

“When’s the ambush?”

“Tomorrow night, I think. We prefer the night around here and I need time to get my temporary allies prepared for battle.”

“This worked out well for you as far as the other gangs, didn’t it?”

“Oh yes, quite.”

“What if I survive that little battle?”

“Then we’ll dump you outside of town. I’m not a barbarian. I don’t hold any ill will toward you despite your laughable attempt to undermine me. I just want the heroes and my rivals gone. It would behoove you to aid those efforts in your current state lest the heroes get you after all. Though I suppose you could run for the city limits instead when all hell breaks loose.”

I raised my hands and brought them closer to my face. He tilted his head, “What?”

“You got a little something. Right there,”

He reached up to his face and rubbed at his mask. I shook my head and lifted my hands again, “A little higher.”

He rubbed again, then looked down at his palm. “Did I get it?”

“No, it’s sticky, I think. I think you got a booger. Here,” I raised my arms, “I can get it for you.”

He smiled a thin smile, “Of all the nuisances I’ve dealt with you’re one of the more amusing ones, Psycho Gecko. If you survive, don’t return. You will no longer be so amusing.”

He left then, leaving me to try and come up with new cuss words and figure out how to work some of those transmitters that were part of my brain, spine, and armor. I wanted to add the blogging device to my body as well, but the lack of nanites nixed that idea. Instead, I’ll just have to make do with having it set up in the ole SUV and connecting remotely.

In the meantime, I just have to fight my way past three criminal organizations, a group of heroes with military contractor support, all of whom do not like me at all right now, and free Moai from a horrible life of being a gaudy casino decoration. If you don’t hear from me again, then I want you to go bug some stories I read in my honor.

See you next time, folks.

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Two Tickets to Paradise 7

When we left off last, there had been a sudden knock at my door. I answered the door to find that there was a package for me. It was my ass! Then it was handed to me.

Ok, so it was more like I got hit with a big hammer, was surrounded by a group of powerful heroes, and had to escape the quick way down the side of a building, but you see how good you feel after your ass is hammered.

Thanks to Miss Tycism, I spent quite awhile in bad shape. Which reminds me, while I was being driven around, I had an idea. Receivers linked to nerves lower in my spine. That way, if I break a neck, I can just use a network to control my body. That’ll be perfect, once I get my stuff back.

Yeah…that’s another thing. Moai kept me on the move for about a day afterward while I mended. We tried checking the motel, but they were already there. Moai had to prop a door open so I could watch as those Peace agents crawled over it with a squad of Shieldwall capes nearby. They carried out my tools, my nanites, all of it. It was such a horrible sight and I just couldn’t stand it. I had to lay down because of the paralysis and broken spine.

I had more broken bones in me than the winner of the Miss Kegel Bodybuilding Competition.

I found a place to hide, though. Somewhere a man can lay down near a giant Moai with the lights too dim to make out his face. That place was the champagne room of a bar named Babes where the women are really friendly and like to dance on stage for money. It was win/win. I got a safe place to stay, and who doesn’t want to put young women through college?

Like Miranda here. She grew up in a state without a good education system, without clean water, and with too much fast food to eat. Sometimes she doesn’t even have enough clothes to keep herself covered. For just $80 a day, you can help Miranda pursue a college degree and make something of herself. Won’t you give to a needy stripper today?

Besides, the more women go into stripping, the less chance one of them will put on a costume and punch me in the face.

Thanks to Moai’s skills at breaking into electronics stores and the help of a couple of dancers’ nimble hands, I was able to get my suit in good enough working order. It helps that I get a better sense of its how its doing when I slip it on and get all melded to it. I lost some gear in the fall too. I still have some chicken grenades, my potato peeler, and my ballistic knife. We lost Mr. 2nd Degree Burns though. I sent Moai out to raid a seafood restaurant so I could put together some more stink bombs. I’ve made one out of catfish before, but that was my first time working with mullet. Yes, I said mullet. It’s not just the name of a hairstyle.

From there, Moai and I needed to get a sense of what was going on. The radio in the SUV provided a little context to our situation. Shieldwall arrived out of nowhere and began busting heads. They hammered away at illegal enterprises and even the police were starting to come around and assist. The city’s villains had gone silent and the few heroes had been emboldened, fighting alongside Shieldwall. Hell, it was daytime. That alone would make most people stop fighting around here.

I almost feel like somehow I created the monster that is Shieldwall. They’ve taken stalking to a new level. Now, like anyone who created a monster, the steps to go through are running from them, cockblocking them, becoming depressed, then chasing them around to kill them after they murder my wife who was also my sister. It’s a basic plan as laid out in that Frankenstein book by that guy, what’s his name, the scientist. Victor.

The radio didn’t have a whole lot to tell me and I was flying blind, so I went to pay Torrent a visit.

Had I been anyone other than myself, that would have been a bad idea. There were cars there, but no one to greet me. I let myself and Moai in to find the place unresponsive as well, up until we turned a corner into the kitchen. There I found a squad of Asian men in suits, except for one squat fellow without the shirt and jacket on. He and the taller, thinner man next to him were the only unarmed ones out of the bunch.

See, this is why you don’t leave old sake laying out. You forget about and go somewhere, next thing you know you’ve got a Yakuza infestation skittering around your kitchen.

The ones with the guns, Uzis this time as opposed to the mini versions, spread out behind cover to get firing arcs without their friends in them. Of the other two, the thinner guy raised his hands. The middle of his palms had what looked like giant blisters. They opened and a tentacle speared out of each. Moai threw himself in front of me. There was a fleshy twang as they impacted the hard stone and found no give at all.

A crystal flew at Moai and chipped a piece off him. It held itself there in midair, then flew back to join with the shoulder of the shirtless Yakuza. He launched another from his cheek. It broke off like he was a porcelain figure or something. The flesh-covered crystal was aimed right at Moai’s head, but I swatted it aside with a minimal charge to my glove. Instead of shatter, it curved and flew back to the Yakuza.

While I was busy with that, the tentacle guy had wrapped those fleshy lengths around my legs. The Yakuza guy broke into nothing but shards and flew at me, one at a time. I dodged some. Hitting them away didn’t work. They stuck there, jagged edges stabbing into the air or into my armor, then shifted slightly and reformed into the Yakuza. He smiled down at me as I was in a bent over position from trying to dodge.

I wiped that smile off his face by uppercutting him in the balls. He let out a groan. “Looks like those shatter.” Moai jumped and bellyflopped onto the tentacles against the ground. The tall gangster began to shriek. I didn’t think he could get louder but he proved me wrong as Moai began to roll along the length of the tentacles like rolling up a toothpaste tube. The tentacles’ grip around my calves and ankles let up and I drove my knee into this shard guy’s nut sack. I then threw him onto the countertop and slammed my elbow into his crotch. There was a nice chrome toaster nearby. Grabbed it, threw it into the guy’s nuts. I heard them open fire on Moai, but didn’t worry about it as I turned the Yakuza toward me, spread his legs, jumped, and landed a giant headbutt between them with a giant crack as the countertop underneath the Japanese gangster cracked. After that, all I heard was the gurgle of the man. When I looked up, tentacle dude was pulling himself and a broken leg over the sink to get away, dragging flattened tentacles behind him. A few of the Yakuza had bloody foreheads and scrambled to stand back up as others moved to help tentacle guy or just get out of the way.

“Whoa now, hold up guys,” I said, holding out my hands, “Before anyone gets too beat up to speak, I just want to ask something. Where can we find Torrent? If y’all don’t know the answer to that one, would any of you mind telling me where Ouroboros’s casino is?”

The unpowered gangsters glanced at their fallen members with superpowers and exchanged a look.

Twenty minutes later, Moai and I pulled up outside the casino, which was in the middle of some remodeling. Torrent drove up from another direction and stepped out of his hummer to look at the site before us. One of Shieldwall’s jets hovered overhead with a cable and hook which they must have used to transport the giant robot that tore the place apart. That show “This Old House” has gone hardcore. It was taller than the doors would permit, so at least 9 feet. It had the reverse-style legs to it, like a bird, and arms that ended in three-digit claws. Clumsy, hydraulic-based stuff, like a skeleton or an unarmored exoskeleton. Except for the torso, that is. The torso could have been something I had thrown together if all I cared about was size. Armor plates with bands of armor to help deflect and funnel attacks fitted to a torso shape with a little bend allowed in how the upper and lower torso fitted together. The head of the thing had eyes that glowed red and a fanged mouth open in a roar.

It was busy throwing things at Ouroboros’s security, who were abandoning rifles and pulling out the light machine guns. I saw a man run out with two RPGs, dodge a slot machine thrown at him, and toss one launcher to a friend. They both fired. One blew apart a slot machine and an explosion sent coins flying everywhere. The other hit underneath the thing’s left shoulder. When the smoke cleared, the armor was scorched, but still solid. The arm above it was locked.

“Hey Torrent, think your guys are going to need a hand?” I called to the guy I was planning on setting up later.

“You think you’ll get paid for Raptor if the boss is arrested?”

“I think you and your guys will stop him in anyway, but it’ll take longer.”

“I’ll talk to the boss about a bonus if you help kick them out. The heroes are 10 minutes out hitting the Cartel. Our reinforcements will be here in 10.”

Moai and I shut our doors at the same time and began to walk across the street toward the robot. It had good range of vision too. It picked us up about halfway across and turned to look right at me.

Then it charged, throwing plants and chairs all over the place. A doorframe crumpled underfoot as it ran for me. I hit the stealth and left a hologram in my place as I got out of its path. It threw a punch that Moai leapt in front of, but Torrent jumped even in front of Moai. The punch connected with Torrent’s chest and Torrent bulged. It was like a massive wave of excess mass ran over his body before concentrating in his fist. He didn’t go flying or land on his ass or anything. The only way he budged after taking something full-power from the robot was when he took a step forward and slammed his huge fist into its midsection. As he did so, it became normal size again. It was the robot’s turn to stumble back, which worked for me. I got behind its legs, grabbed one, and threw it up even higher as it attempted to catch its balance. It fell on its back.

I revealed myself then. The robot sat upright suddenly. They must have programmed me as a priority target. It reached for me. If it wanted me, then the robot got what it wanted. Moai had come up right behind me. I grabbed him and swung, knocking its arm away with the bottom of the statue. As he, or maybe she as I never bothered to ask, landed, I was then picked up and swung the same way. My boots knocked its head to the side.

Torrent stepped in front of us once again, ready for another round. That was good, because when Moai set me down, I was too busy stumbling and rubbing at my poor achy shins. Before we could break off another piece of the robot, the jet maneuvered closer. Aside from showing off the size of the pilot’s sack, it brought the hook just over the robot. It grabbed the hook and the jet lifted, pulling it off the ground and away from us.

Torrent immediately began ordering the security staff around.

When another jet flew in with Shieldwall’s heroes sliding on a cable to the ground or taking aerial positions, they found the casino’s entrance fortified with trashed games. Behind that were security staff in riot gear with machine guns and RPGs. Behind them were Torrent, Moai, Ouroboros, and myself. They may have risked it, but more people began to arrive. A woman in a white cloak and hood held a white scythe in one hand and skated along the street on ice she generated from her other hand. A man in sweatshirt and baggy jeans holding a pair of spray cans walked up from another street. His mask was a bandana with holes cut in it. As he came across a car blocking his path, he sprayed at the hood. The paint condensed into a cloud and flew at the car, knocking it around and out of his way.

We all waited, the heroes eyeing us. It was the mother of all staring contests, except I didn’t know whose glare to return. I killed Forcelight’s adopted father, I blew Venus’s boyfriend into chunky bits, I gassed Honky Tonk Hero’s city, and I pantsed Miss Tycism. I hurt the other heroes there, but those were the ones keeping their eyes on me.

After an intense few minutes, they began to withdraw down a street where the jet could drop a ladder to the non-flyers it was picking up.

I climbed up the barricade and hollered after them, “Yeah, that’s what I thought! Now you fucked up! You have fucked up now! You brought an awful lot of ugly people out here to do nothing but sit around looking pretty! You know what the difference between you and your momma is? When she sucks this hard, she expects me to pay her afterward. That’s right, all your mommas!”

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