“You made explosive devices and hid them on the Christmas tree!” Minotaur yelled.
I sat in the middle of Victor Mender’s office, and in the middle of a small inquest into what the fuck actually happened. Raising a finger to interject, I said, “I fail to see how y’all didn’t expect that from me.”
“There were children there. Children!” said Venus.
“They could only be armed biometrically,” I lied. No they fucking couldn’t. I didn’t even have to take my gloves off.
“I do not understand the nature of the device you say you used to destabilize the portal,” Victor Mender’s computer said for him.
I leaned forward, “Ok, so it shares some moving parts with the Dimension Bomb, but it’s more of an audio-vibratory-physio-molecular transport device. Basically, its primary purpose was to generally disrupt what you might call a wormhole or a portal. The source was magic, but I am familiar with the effects and have some knowledge on how to disrupt them.”
“What was your game?” asked Psychsaur. It was an astute question, coming from the only one of them to spend any time in my head, thinking my thoughts. “You always have some plan hidden behind everything.”
I held my hands out to my side like “What are you going to do?” I didn’t say that, however. Instead, I said, “I wanted to protect my daughter. What else could make me come here, ask y’all for help, prostate myself before you, and submit to patrolling as a hero?”
Minotaur came in again. “You crawled through a burning building to save a couple gerbils. I think you’d do whatever you needed to accomplish your goal.You don’t trust us so you probably didn’t tell us what you were doing.”
I leaned forward. “Look at it this way… I told y’all these things were real. They turned out to be real. I told y’all they wanted to take my daughter and I wanted to stop them. I fought them, my daughter is still here, and they are stopped. Nobody died. They didn’t snatch up anyone else. So even if I did have some other plan, it didn’t happen. I used up my explosives, and the little anti-portal device. I didn’t even get to fight Frostzilla because your stupid kids were running around without enough clothes on. They were having too much fun. How many more times are we going to go over this?”
“Why is this meeting kept from us?” asked a person with what could be mistaken for a Southern accent. I sat back in the chair and reached out with my mind to see what I had available to get me out of this situation. I’d come to this little inquest without armor on. So long as the Dimensional Rangers didn’t morph and the heroes didn’t join in, I could handle this.
“This is no concern of yours,” said Mender’s voice.
I heard the team shuffle in. Five rangers. There’s almost always a sixth, but I’d already killed that one. I saw the one with a red top step between myself and Victor Mender’s desk. He took a long look at me. “We find ourselves in odd circumstance. Your allies hide you well.”
“We are not her allies,” Venus said.
I nodded at that. “Merely enemies on good terms with one another.”
“Psycho Gecko is here under truce,” said Victor Mender.
The Red ranger looked to Mender. “You people must want to die. This man honors no truces and lives only for death and destruction.”
“Baba is in here?” asked Qiang from outside. The door creaked as she pushed her way in. I raised my hand to wave at her and she ran around to me for a hug. “Baba!”
“Hey there smooshylumpikins. I just had to answer a bunch of boring questions about all that stuff on Christmas Eve.”
“Who is this? Baba?” asked Red as he looked at Qiang.
She pressed closer to me to get away from him, her hand moving toward where she kept her knife on her. “Hello. My name is Qiang. This is my daddy.”
“Your daddy?” Red asked.
“Yep,” I said. “Bet you didn’t see that coming?”
“You’ve changed,” Red said.
“He has?” asked Venus.
Psychsaur interjected here. “Regardless, I believe we’re done with Gecko for now. She’s going to leave this room and we’re not going to fight about this, right?”
“You better hope not,” said Red. “Our people don’t want this relationship to sour, but hiding Psycho Gecko is a sure way to cause problems. We still want him.”
Venus crossed her arms. “We have our rules and we stick to them. Even Gecko doesn’t violate our truces.”
I nodded, and so did Qiang. “Ya know, I believe I was dismissed. Let me get right on that.” Red didn’t do anything, but neither he nor the rest of his color-coded costumed crimefighters tried to stop me.
Still, it was time to move on out. No interaction with those Rangers was going end well, and I had shit to do now that the Winter boogeymen had been put in their place. The break’s over, and I got a couple of important details to work out.
I ran into a problem. Qiang didn’t want to go. She hugged onto my leg and cried her little head off. “Daddy, I like it here!”
“I know you do, sweet, but we can’t stay. They don’t like me, and those people you saw in there will try to hurt me. I can’t stay here.”
Her crying didn’t stop, and reasoning with her just didn’t work. So I picked her up, threw her over my shoulder, and went about dividing up the things to take, things to leave, and things to burn in a fire to erase evidence. Excess panties went into the third pile. I’ve caught adolescent supers staring. On the plus side, interest in the library jumped way up. The way I’ve walked around here, lots of things jumped way up. I’m not a big believer in pants.
I stuffed Qiang into a suitcase with her head sticking out the top and slipped into my armor, getting ready to make a run for it.
Nobody made a big deal about the bonfire, surprisingly. A librarian burning a lot of stuff should be cause for concern, especially indoors. It’d have made a good Yule log if I ever cared to watch one of those.
I’d lost track of time, because Psychsaur interrupted me watching those beautiful flames. “You’re running again?”
I turned toward her swiftly, so as to make it look dramatic with my cape. “I ain’t looking to get deported back to that place and end up put on trial for war crimes. And y’all will. Cozying up to them like that. There’s always going to be friction between these two universes so long as I’m a refugee in one. It’s only a matter of time before I get handed over. And maybe y’all don’t shove me through a portal yourselves, but you stand by and let it happen.”
“What are you talking about, Baba?” asked Qiang.
I patted her on the head. “Sorry, just something about those people with the same uniform in different colors.” I stepped closer to Psychsaur.
“You don’t trust us,” she said.
I pointed a finger at her. “Stop that. That goes both ways. This isn’t trust. This is guilt. Fucking guilt. You talked a big game about trusting me so I’d trust y’all, but I needed you and the others. That’s why I came here: I needed you. Guess what, y’all didn’t help. I might as well have not been here. I had to trick y’all just to get some help, and I could have done that anywhere. Instead, I get people saying I need to reform. Go to jail or the loony bin. So this isn’t really about trust. This is about tolerating me until you can guilt me into going to jail without giving me any help I actually need.”
“We saved your life,” she started.
“THEY saved my life,” I pointed off into the air. “They being those idiots with all the jingle bells who came after Qiang. They saved my life without asking me first and decided I owed them a job. If I didn’t do it, they got Qiang.”
“You could have told-”
I put my hand over her mouth. “Master Academy saved my life without asking me first and decided I owed them a job dealing with The Claw. Now that’s done, but y’all think I should change the way y’all want. And I’m sure y’all will be more than happy to take in Qiang when I’m sent off to the funny farm where life is wonderful all the time.”
“You want Baba to go to prison?” asked Qiang, struggling to try and look at us. She squirmed until the suitcase fell over with her on her back. She hit her head a little, but didn’t cry. You know why? Because she’s a Gecko. And Geckos don’t cry over a little thing like traumatic brain injuries. Geckos don’t actually have a lot of defined things we do, since there’s only the two of us. But still, I respect her ability to get hurt without whining about it. Instead, she cried about all these people she thought were friends trying to put her female father in prison. And she’s got a very different idea of what prison is. She used to live under a dictatorship.
I unzipped the luggage to let little Qiang out. Meanwhile, Psychsaur tried to salvage things. “It’s not about prison. We just want him to go to a place full of people who will keep him away from people and give him drugs so he can get better.”
“My daddy’s already awesome!” she said. She picked up a book and threw it at Psychsaur. Now, I know what people are thinking: was the book ok? Good news, it was hardcover, so it didn’t take any damage. Bad news, it was young adult, so it didn’t hurt Psychsaur very much.
So I took my daughter and walked out to the front lawn. The Rangers all stood in front of the gate, unmorphed, as if challenging me to try and pass through. It was a dumb gesture. I could jump over, or go to the side.
They looked really stupid when a helicopter lowered down to the lawn for Qiang and I to get onboard.
“Where to, sir?” asked the pilot.
“We need to pick someone up while they’re in town. I’ve been meaning to stock up on scientists.”
After that, it’s time to finally use my position as emperor and supreme dictator of Ricca to make a change for the positive. Not everything the heroes said was nonsense, and seeing the Master Academy as this hub of heroes has given me an idea. I think it’s time the supervillains got organized.
But first, let’s go kidnap a geneticist!