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.