Tag Archives: Troubleshooter

Not The Size That Counts 7

My time as a pet Gecko wasn’t well spent.

You folks out there, you want to know why I’d rather make heroes choose between killing me and letting me go? This shit right here. Being locked in a dark little box, day after day. Shrunken. Powerless. Stuck in a tiny box at the mercy of a man who saw me as less than a person because that’s what made him feel good morally.

Some of you may see some hypocrisy there. I guess it’s important to understand that I didn’t say people weren’t people. I said they were babies. You should understand as well that I don’t actually care about people’s lives.

Well, perhaps I did have some exceptions to that caring thing, but Leah and Venus stuck me in this can and handed me over without so much as some whiskey in the jar-o.

I had tried to get out in some way, but Amplitude was smart. His phone was disabled when not being used. No battery power. He didn’t have a giant screen, but he did have computers that were secured, to my frustration. There was nothing in my immediate vicinity that I could worm my way into. Alone in the dark, laying on the floor of the giftbox I was handed over in, I did the only thing I could.

I sang. That, and I researched some fun ways to off people. I had no intention of staying stuck. I had Hephaestus to destroy. After that, it might be time to pay Kingscrow another visit, followed by a nice vacation on the west coast, I think.

Unfortunately, he must have found some way to resist the destructiveness of my singing. It’s not a special power, it’s just me sucking hard. It didn’t even phase him when he dropped off scraps of food for me. That part wasn’t quite so inhumane, though. At this size, scraps gave me leftovers.

Today was different. Today, my world got turned upside down. That’s not much of an accomplishment once you remember that I live in a small metal box. It got a bit messy though. Troubleshooter didn’t leave me with a toilet, or an outhouse, or even a hole in the floor. It didn’t help my mood to be lifted up in this thing and realize I was sliding toward my poop corner while getting tipped out. I pressed off from the wall and dove out instead.

I rolled as I hit the wood surface I had been tipped out on, but didn’t get far. Amplitude, now much smaller than a human, got me in one hand and tossed aside my box with the other. Being as small as I was made me nimble as a mouse. Problem was, Amplitude was more like a cat in size when he grabbed me. I almost got free before he grabbed one of my arms and pulled it out straight. He pulled out a black gadget, stuck my hand under one part of it, and then closed another part of it on me. Clever.

I hadn’t been able to see it at the time, but this blocky black device must have been what Leah handed over. Forcelight had explained that it was capable of making me compliant. You’d think they would have been wrong since other cuffs meant to neutralize supers had failed against me. This time, they were right. A shame they had to alter something so elegant. I calmed down even as Amplitude locked my other hand into the device.

There I was, a prisoner in old, stinky doll clothes facing a superpowered enemy in a fresh costume.

Amplitude kept an eye on me for any odd behavior as he grew back to his normal size. He carried me over toward a small table with metal cuffs on it. He must have interrogated small people regularly to have that built. He even had one of those rolling office chairs right in front of it as if torture was an everyday occurrence. “That relaxed you nicely. I can’t imagine what all this trouble was about, seeing you like this. You’re not even capable of shouting insults at me. Just standing there with that smartass smile on your face. Psycho Gecko, I hope you take it as compliment when I say I am completely disappointed in you.”

“Don’t be disappointed yet. It’s kinda hard to stop me.” I felt my nerves connect to the doohickey my hands were stuck in.

He shook me in his hand like I was an annoyance. “Hush. It was easy. Even someone like you can not take on the world alone.”

He didn’t have much of a grip on me, though. He was just about to put me in his tiny torture rack. He was so damn cool and collected, up until the moment I activated the anti-grav device stuck to my hands. Rather than render the person using it immune to the effects of gravity, it temporarily negated it for something else. This time the something else in question was Amplitude as he took a step.

Instead of merely moving forward, he went up into the air. I used his panicked confusion to slip free and fall to the ground. I landed safely on the ground while he banged into a truss, spun out, and slammed into the ceiling.

He grabbed hold of the rafters and got himself oriented, looking down at me. “Some trick you have here, Gecko. The heroes set this up?”

“Heroes? Set up a villain? Get used to it, Ass Man.”

He grit his teeth. “That is not my name.” Using the rafters, he flung himself at me. His size distorted in midair. His hand alone grew to be at least a couple feet from base to fingertips. Still, the agility provided by my size proved useful. I was Muhammad Ali dodging him there. A four inch Caucasian Muhammad Ali with blond hair and cybernetic eyes. Perfect metaphor. As he crumpled harmless against the cold concrete floor, I ran at him from the side. I swung both of my arms in a mighty double uppercut that, along with him bouncing off the floor, knocked him up to the ceiling again.

I immediately turned the uppercut into me spinning around and reaching for the sky in a dance move that would have been seductive if performed by a woman in a cat costume. “Oh, Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity, he’s a fiend in feline shape; he breaks the law of gravity.”

“Shut up and fight me like a man!” replied Amplitude. He was such a newbie.

He came for me again, but this time I knew what I needed to do. I turned to the table where he intended to torture me, and more specifically to the chair. I zapped it with the anti-gravity thingamabobber, grabbed it, and beat the shit out of Amplitude’s face with it in a blow that sent him through a door and into a showroom full of unusually large pants. That was the way out. The front to his hideout.

Obviously, I wasn’t there to look for a new way to escape. I was looking for Mix N’Max. I turned to survey the room I was in. There wasn’t much to it. A computer system, the table with the torture rack, another table with my box on it next to a TV and coffee maker. It didn’t look overly out of place as the breakroom of a clothing store. There was another door, though.

I slipped through the bottom of the door to survey the new room. It was more like what I expected. Black carpeting, black walls with the occasional white “A” around. Another computer on its own special desk in the middle of the room. It faced a wall that of various cages that had been screwed or nailed up. Rodent cages, I mean. The kind of things you stuck rats or hamsters in. Some were connected by the sorts of tubes those cages had, and I could make out some crowds in those cages. I only noticed ones or twos in the isolated cages. Escape didn’t appear to be much of an option, though. A long, open-top terrarium sat underneath the rodent cages. I couldn’t make out what was in that terrarium.

I approached the cages and yelled to them, “It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, here to save you!”

The people in the cages began to yell for me. I held up my hands. “Shut up you crazy, desperate fuckers! Before I can save everyone, I need to know where I can find someone who can reverse my size problem. Where is Mix N’Max?”

I thought it was a waste of time at first. They babbled and pounded on the side of their cage. Then I realized the pounding was an answer. I checked the other side of the room and saw a cart next to a set of shelves full of small devices meant to hold shrunken people. Only one of them was active: a cylinder that rotated end over end that sat next to a small pot.

Maybe it tested puke resistance.

I didn’t have long, I figured. I knew the anti-gravity effect was temporary, but not how temporary. Temporary is one of those phrases that’s more like a creepy uncle who likes to play “Fun Touchy Time” with you in the basement. It’s relative.

Firing on this cylinder wouldn’t do squat, except make it harder to work with Max. I really wish I had explosives. That wasn’t necessarily relevant to the situation, it’s just something I’ve often thought about lately. I figured that if Amplitude put Max in that thing, though, he probably had a means to get him out.

I was right. I made the anti-grav manacles let me go and dropped them so I could climb. I scrambled my ass up the cart and hopped on a shelf, then stacked some equipment up until I could jump to the next one. Just because I’m a supervillain doesn’t mean I’m not also a Super Mario.

So, how was I to free Mix N’Max? How was I to surmount such an insurmountable obstacle? Turns out, the thing was plugged in to make it rotate. Once that was out of the way, there was a release on the side. Max came tumbling out. I stopped him from rolling off the edge of the shelf, and I held his hair out of his face as he threw up over the side.

“There you go, Max. Let it all out. Remember, puke is just hunger leaving the body.”

“Wha?” he asked, then heaved some clear fluids up. He had run out of food at that point.

“Just going by the same logic as that ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’ phrase. Makes perfect sense like that.”

“It’s so good to see you, man,” Max said without even looking at me. He kept dealing with false starts on another heave.

“Yeah. I’m here to bust y’all out. I don’t suppose you know a way to make me grow so I can take out Amplitude, do you?”

He stood up and turned toward me. He didn’t look quite as pale, for some reason, which was odd on several levels. His hair was a mess, he was naked, and he had vomit in the corner of his lips and hanging down from his nostrils. Still, it’s not like there was any reason for me to push him away when he went to hug me.

“Not to rush you, man, but Amplitude could get back here any minute, and you need to find someway to make me big again. Preferably some way that also works on my inorganic components. You got something?”

It was a regrettable question. Max did indeed have a solution for my problem. The solution wound up involving some of what he’d just expelled and I was beginning to think his power was to give any fluid around any effect he wanted.

See, he had hopped onto the cart. There were some things there he could use. Chemicals mainly, but also some small bowls that he said were kept around in case a prisoner of Amplitude’s couldn’t eat solid food anymore. Max even made use of some of the cleaning supplies on there, using a bleach wipe as a filter.

I did not want to drink what he handed me in a bowl five minutes later.

“You have to drink some, then pour the rest on yourself,” Max explained.

“I don’t want to do either of those.”

“It’s as safe as anything else I make.”

“If I was worried about that, that still wouldn’t be comforting. More concerned about how gross it is.”

“You’ve done gross things before.”

“I don’t generally consume gross things.”

“Yeah right. Just because you don’t know what they do to your fast food…”

I heard a crash from the other room. A crash that sounded like a chair hitting the ground. Time was up.

“Ok, ok, I got this,” I said. I dropped to my knees and bashed my head against the metal cart, then swallowed some of the stuff before I could think. Then I splattered the rest all over myself.

“I feel…dirty, like I just poured baked beans on myself.” I shivered, then asked Max, “Hey, by the way, is this going to be uneven in any way? Like am I going to be big again but still have the same size dick or something? Because I’d like to go the other way on that if we could.”

Then I noticed I was looking down on my smiling friend-like person and hopped off the shopping cart.

The landing was a bit rougher.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be regular-sized in a minutes.”

I heard footsteps in the other room. By the time I was as tall as the cart, he was coming closer. I waited next to the door as I grew. Amplitude burst in, eyes glowing, having to duck to get inside the room. I was maybe half his height, so I ducked and rammed into the side of his left leg with my shoulder. He tried to catch himself and might have succeeded if didn’t try that on the other leg too. He spun his arms and tried to catch onto something, but it didn’t help. He fell slowly. Staying out of eyesight, I grabbed the metal cart. Max abandoned ship as I swung it overhand and caught Amplitude in the head. He slumped back with a sigh, but I didn’t stop until I’d gotten a few more swings in. I’m sure y’all would think that was reasonable, right? Just one or two…dozen…more hits to the man’s head.

Finally, when I was finished, I turned to look down at the miniscule smiling figure of Max, who walked over and gave Amplitude a kick in the side. “Hey, Max. Any idea where he keeps the sharp objects around here?”

He woke up, by the way. He wasn’t dead yet. Oh, no no no. It took some slapping, even Max throwing water on him, before Amplitude woke up.

“Huwha? What’s going on? Agh! My head! What’s going on?”

“Well, look who decided to join us. Wakey wakey, sleepyhead.”

He turned his head to try and look at me, but there were all sorts of problems with that. First was the blindfold. The second was the paralysis.

“I can’t move. I can’t see. What’s going on?”

“Relax, puppet. Here, let Uncle Gecko tell everyone the story.”

“Everyone? What’s going on? Help!”

I shifted in my chair, being real careful in how the giant Amplitude was seated on me. Had to keep my hand up his ass, you see. My other hand was too busy moving this wooden stick that had a length of rope fixed to it. The rope formed a loop that let me move Amplitude’s hand.

I ignored Amplitude’s desperate pleading and addressed the others I’d released who were slowly being treated by Max. He was still small. I saw some of the clubgoers in the crowd, as well as people I had never seen before. Maybe other prisoners of Amplitudes. Sam and Holly were there as well. People had kinda gotten over the lack of modesty seeing as nobody had any regular-sized clothes.

I started using a stupid, high pitched voice as I spoke to them as Amplitude, using the stick to help him gesture as I told the tale, “Howdy there folks! I’m Ass Man, the Human Ass! I work for Hephaestus. They hired me to pick on Psycho Gecko because he wanted to be paid with all the rights to a song. Why? None of your business! But he got mean with us. Yessiree, the mass murdering serial killer with the exploding chickens didn’t want to be treated like a simple car thief. That made Hephaestus angry, so we decided to waste lots of money attacking him!”

“Who are you talking to?” asked Amplitude. Sounded like he was crying. If I could have gotten around there easily, I’d have lapped up some of his tears.

“Shut up!” I told him in the same high pitched voice. Then I continued. “So I pretended I was better scum than Gecko by kidnapping a lot of people whose only crime was going to the wrong club. What does this make me, class?”

“A jerk!”

“Bullshit!”

“Asshole!”

“Dickbutt!”

“Wow, the class really thinks Ass Man is a jerk, huh? That’s good, because then I ran into Psycho Gecko again. He had been shrunk but got away. A hero was helping him to fight back, but then they decided they would turn on Gecko. Sure, they gave him a way to escape, but they didn’t bother to tell him. They just talked him into calming down long enough to turn him over to Amplitude. Why should they care if Amplitude dies? Why care if Gecko dies either? Nevermind that he’s in the right here and they are supposed to help people. Fuck people, they get to be heroes. Whiny little bitches whining about their own drama rather than getting out there and stopping the real assholes. So they shit on Psycho Gecko because he’s a mean, friendless, unloved, attention-grabbing asshole!”

“Why you-?” I said as I dropped the arm stick and punched him in the side. There was no reaction. “Right, forgot you couldn’t feel that.”

“Feel what?” he asked.

“Feel what?” I asked in the high-pitched voice.

“That’s right, Ass Man. After they handed me over, I got loose, broke Max out, and you got knocked the fuck out. That was fun by the way. So then I was standing there, thinking about how best to violate your sphincter with my fist, when I realized I needed to make sure you wouldn’t try anything. Step one was the blindfold.” I made him smack himself in the face.

“Step two, and maybe you’ll respect this one given all your little toys around here…well, getting technical would be difficult, but it turns out that a sharp, pointy object near the right cervical vertebra can let you do things like turn an asshole into a quadriplegic. Sure, you lost bladder control, but that’s not your biggest concern at this point. So you could, in theory, make yourself grow big. Problem is, you’re still not going to be able to walk…or crawl…hell, you may notice some difficult with your breathing right now, and that’s even with my help moving your diaphragm. By the way, you may be suffering some internal bleeding. Oh, stop your whining, you big baby. Did you really think this was going to end like it does with heroes? That we’d have some fifty foot tall fight in the middle of the city? Awesome as that would be, you’re in the wrong story if you think I’d give you a fair fight.”

“You did- fuck. HEEEEELP! Help me! Somebody help!”

“Shut up!” I said and clamped his hand down over his mouth. It muffled him until he figured out I wanted him quiet.

“I’ll do anything, I mean it. I’m sorry, you were just a job. Nothing personal.”

“That’s the problem with you types. It’s always personal. But I’m not so bad a guy. I’ll help you out a bit, ease some of that suffering of yours, provided you tell me a few things. Like what happened to everyone else? There’s a lot of people missing here, so I’m guessing some of them got turned over. Test subjects? Where’s Carl? Where’s Moai?” I growled at him, feeling the world react outside. Calls had been made from all the disturbances.

He thought it over while he caught his breath. “Yeah, test subjects. I didn’t hand over everyone because I wanted to study some, like your friend Mix N’Max. I don’t know where they all ended up by now, but they created me in house. I know they have these big distribution warehouses. Ship everything there, figure out where they need it, then send it off. They’ll have one near here, since it’s such an important area. I’m new to the city. I mostly worked in California. If you can get to their records, they’ll call it something innocuous. Some place no sane person would attack.”

I checked my memory for the list we obtained from the accounting office. There it was. It was so obvious, looking back on it now. They had a location in New Jersey listed as “Piñata Factory for Sick Children with Cleft Palates and Puppies with Amputated Legs.” It was my next target before the heroes found me.

“Yeah, I got it.”

“But that’s not where your statue is. You promise you’ll help me?”

A voice broke in behind us all. “You’ll get medical help, don’t worry.”

I turned see an unwelcome sight. Forcelight, Mechamoto Musashi, Troubleshooter, Venus, and Leah.

“Still with them, L?”

She looked away. “No. I just helped them with that plan.”

Venus shifted, moving part of the way between myself and Leah. “We figured it was only a matter of time before you got out. We had a sensor on the container we put you in.”

Troubleshooter jumped in, “Yeah, it uses magnets, just like some home alarms. It didn’t keep it closed, but it sent a signal every time it was opened. We just had to check whenever it opened, but most of the time nothing seemed to happen. If I had more time, I would have put in a temperature sensor, but we didn’t have a lot of time and we needed to worry about space, battery power, conspicuousness-.”

Forcelight cut her off. “We knew that if you got out, you would give us an opening. Now, put your hands in the air and step away from that man’s butt.”

“Seems bad for my health. I have no assurances you’ll just let me and my fellows here go. They’ve been hoping I’d kill this man. They’re right, you know. He deserves it for what he’s done to them.” I looked to Leah about that. It was a lesson, one which she should sympathize with. “Isn’t that right, people?”

“You guys suck.”

“Bullshit.”

“Assholes!”

“Dick butt!”

The goody-goodies weren’t used to public disapproval. I even heard Mechamoto’s digitally distorted voice as he muttered, “Dick butt?”

Forcelight, ever the person to be a leader making hard decisions, told them what’s what. “Too bad. For all of you.” She looked at the crowd of naked people whose stares bored into her. I saw her unable to keep looking at them, breaking that stoicism of hers.

“Alright, so here is how it’s going to go,” I dictated to the heroes. “We’ll go. All of us. Fuck you and your procedure. We go. You really want Amplitude here? Fine, you get him. I don’t recommend taking the blindfold off. And we all walk out of here, our righteous desire for revenge abated…so long as you don’t try to take anyone but Amplitude into custody.”

I slid my hand out of my puppet and dropped him to the floor, then wiped my hand off on the leg of his costume. I smiled then as I stood up and walked right over. I motioned for people to file out, but Forcelight grabbed me by my clean arm.

“Why do you think we should just let you go? We’re not your personal enforcers, Gecko.” Forcelight glared at me.

A few people gave me grateful pats on the shoulder as they left. No one tried to stop any other villains in the crowd. Max, Sam, and Holly waited for me, though.

“Because, my dear hero, you care about the life of that piece of shit on the floor over there. The one named Amplitude, not the drippings from my hand here. Do you think I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, would shove his hand up a man’s ass just to humiliate him? You’ll let me go because there’s a bomb in there waiting to go off if I give the signal.”

Forcelight took her hand off me. I’d just gotten on the heroes’ bad side again. I could even feel Mechamoto glaring at me, silent as always.

“This isn’t over,” Venus said to me.

I chuckled in her face. “No, it isn’t.” I looked her right in the eye. Looked Leah in the eye too, but I couldn’t stay mad at her.

Then I walked out, finally the right size. I snagged some clothes out of the store that fronted Amplitude’s hideout. They didn’t fit because it was a big and tall store, but it was enough to be my own size, clothed, and have my car back. It was waiting right where the heroes had parked it, if a little worse for the wear.

Holly, Max, and Sam were all waiting by it. Sam spoke up as they looked it over, “You do something with your car, Gecko?”

“Nah, but they did. I just took out their tracker, but they disabled my network access to it, so I didn’t even see it coming.” I grabbed the door’s handle, letting it recognize my DNA. “Doesn’t mean I can’t get in. Come on, let’s go.”

Don’t worry, readers. It’s definitely not over. Amplitude owes me, you see. He owes me Moai’s location. He owes me a death. That’s right, I didn’t turn around and blow him up just as soon as I left. That’s because I lied to Forcelight. I did indeed shove various objects up his ass, but none of them were bombs.

That should teach them never to underestimate my desire to shove my hand up a man’s ass.

 

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Not The Size That Counts 6

You know, I could have gone to any ole dimension. I could have even visited you readers out there. Instead, I wound up in this one. Let me tell you, they don’t treat me well. No parades in my honor, no people falling at my feet willing to serve. It’s enough to make a guy feel unwelcome.

Locking me up behind bars was a bad way for them to start. I arrived in this dimension originally at the epicenter of an explosion that destroyed some buildings and killed some people. Next thing I knew, they yanked my armor off me and had me all locked up. Can you believe that? Horrible way to treat some disoriented person who didn’t even know the language. Unlike most illegal aliens, though, they couldn’t exactly deport me. Instead, they were going to settle on leaving me in jail while they tried to bring in a linguist, a lawyer, and a psychiatrist to evaluate me.

I wish I could have thought up a bar joke about that back when it was happening, but I didn’t even know what a bar joke was.

I mention all this because this dimension has never let up on treating me bad, even regularly failing to comprehend my thought processes.

First off, they didn’t let me keep the robots. Not Venus, not Leah, not Forcelight or Troubleshooter or Mechamoto Musashi. I thought Mechamoto would at least have the stomach for the dead bodies, but no. When they caught up to me in the basement of a chemical plant, wrecking Hephaestus experiments, they wanted me to freeze as much as they wanted the Hephaestus scientists to. Ingrates.

That goes back to that whole “other people as a weakness” thing I’ve been recognizing. If I’d treated them like they deserved to be treated, as enemies, I wouldn’t have had this problem. This problem that started with Troubleshooter holding me up by the back of my kilt.

“Aww, who’s a cute evil little Mel Gibson?”

“Nae Mel Gibson! I’m Nac Mac Gecko! I willnae be handled by ye, boggin bigjob!”

“He’s like a real live Smurf…with a bodycount!” She poked me with a waldo. I tried to grab on and pull, but it backed out of my grasp.

“What were you doing here dressed like that, Gecko?” asked Forcelight as she stepped up. I glanced over my shoulder to see she’d covered her eyes to avoid looking down up my kilt. Fun fact: It’s called a kilt because that’s the fate of anyone who makes fun of the guy wearing one.

I answered her question by pointing to animal cages in the corner. “Ta’ coo beasties!”

She looked over at the cows, some of which had an unusual number of limbs and tiger-striped fur, but didn’t get the significance. “Crivens! Ta’ Hephaestus bigjobs cannae ha’ a lab for bogling ta’ coo beasties wi’ yon science, ye daftie.”

“And the blue body paint and kilt help because…?” she asked.

“Ach, ahm a wee free man. Nac Mac Gecko! Gimme back mah antigravity doohickey!” I worked hard on that antigravity doohickey. I had to pull the schematics from when Max and I stole it for Hephaestus.

It wasn’t easy building it in miniature, which was why I didn’t take it with me to the robot lab. As usual, killing people helped me figure out how to handle the problem of making such a small version, so I went back to the hotel room and grabbed it while they were out trying to track me down at the robot lab. Once I got it the hang of what I was doing and completed it, I found it was great for removing the effects of gravity from an object. Little as I was, I’d been able to throw mutated cows around at this place.

“Can I dress him up in something else? A little tux, maybe?” Troubleshooter asked Forcelight with a grin. At first I thought she knew where I was coming from, but something about her eyes when she smiled and the camera on her goggles made me think she wanted to embarrass me more than join in on the fun.

“No, but we’ll probably get better answers out of him if you clean him up,” suggested Venus from Leah’s shoulder. They were in costume alongside the heroes.

“Agreed. Now, into the box,” said Forcelight with a nod. It was returned by Troubleshooter, Mechamoto Musashi, and probably my other two companions if I wanted to be honest about their opinions of me.

I don’t want to be honest about that, though. They wept like babies as Troubleshooter’s waldo dropped me. It quickly reformed into a funnel that sucked me up like a vacuum and deposited me into a metal containers with air holes that decreased in frequency the lower down they went. I could still access networks outside the box. There wasn’t much I could do inside it. I had enough room to lie down and stand up, but I wouldn’t be pulling off any gymnastics routines in there.

While in there, I felt my robots getting destroyed. I pieced them together from the Hephaestus robotics lab I’d raided. I still had some of the little Roomba-looking disc bots, and I even got some of the torsos on wheels to work, but I couldn’t bring the big robot with me. I disconnected its line from the wall, figuring I could take it on battery power or on the power from my internal core. In no time flat, the battery screwed up and blew up, taking out half the robot.

That’s why the place I got them from was a lab and not a factory.

Anyway, after that, I was alone in my box for a good long time, listening in as they chatted away. None of it was about me, and it wasn’t much like a lot of conversations I have. Where were the insults, the lack of comprehension, the implied threats? Where were the fun and games with survivors of my little attack?

It’s stuff like that that fills me with the confusing combination of hatred and longing. Then that causes hatred of longing and longing for hatred, and before too long I’m humping the skull of a dead giraffe because necrophiliac bestiality is easier to deal with than thinking too much about those people and their friendships. Back me up, I can’t be the only one who is like that.

It was Venus who slid down and spoke to me from outside one of the air holes. “Hey, Gecko. We’ve come up with a plan and for some reason they think you’ll be more receptive to hearing it from me.”

As if I hadn’t overheard. They were all crowded into my car, after all. Heroes were driving around in my car while I was stuck in a box. Longing stopped being a contender for my emotional focus at that point.

I threw my kilt at the air hole.

I was supposed to be a building-jumping, dog-humping, donkey-punching, Cheetoes-munching, wheeling, dealing, plane-flying, supercar-riding son of a gun. Whooo! I beat on the box I wasn’t supposed to be locked in.

“Hey, hey, calm down! You’ll hurt yourself,” Venus said. Then she muttered something to herself. She probably wanted me to hurt myself.

Fuming, I sat down.

“You good?” she asked.

“I’m listening. Ready to tell me about how you’re going to Amplitude to give him me in exchange for making you big again.” That was as far as they got. Give me to Amplitude and let him re-biggerize Venus.

“How are you psychic now?”

I put the brakes on for the car. “This is my car. Even now. Even reduced to this. You should have made this plan with me, not made this plan about me.”

I heard Leah through cell phones. “It stopped on its own. The gas isn’t doing anything. I can’t move the wheel. The windows won’t even go down. What’s going on?”

The Alice in Chains song “Man In The Box” began to play to provide a hint and because I thought it was clever at the time. That’s how you’ll know if I ever become a god somehow, by the way. Any world I rule will come with its own soundtrack.

Somewhat chastened, Venus spoke to me through the holes. “Even if you wanted to trap us in here, Forcelight could tear her way out. Mechamoto’s can cut his way out. Troubleshooter could force the doors to unlock. I understand you want to be included in the process, but you need people like us if you want to be big again. We don’t need you. Besides, I think you might like this one?”

“Oh yeah?”

“You don’t think we’re going to just leave you in there and expect you to play nice for Amplitude, do you?”

That made a difference. It still didn’t excuse the hose. They took me to a house, possibly even a safehouse, and started prepping for the deal. Troubleshooter got me clean while Forcelight used a number from the Hephaestus paperwork to call Amplitude. They still didn’t bother letting me out of the box.

In between sprayings, I shouted out to them, “Whew, I’ve never spend so much time in a box as when I’m hanging out with Venus and Forcelight, eh?”

Troubleshooter sprayed me with the bubbles.

“Did I offend you, Troubleshooter? I’m really having fun in your wet box, you know.”

She hosed me again. “Pig.”

“Ok, I get it, I get it. It cleans the blue gunk off its skin or else it gets the hose again. Anyone ever tell you you have all the fuzzy sweetness of John Wayne Gacy?”

I got the hose again. She didn’t have to take that one as an insult, though. The guy was known for dressing up as a clown and entertaining children. You might say he put the fun in “functioning sociopath.” Or not, whatever floats your boat.

When my time playing a ship’s anchor was at an end and I was all prettied up according to the standards of four women and a cyber samurai, they took me to Amplitude. According to their plan, Troubleshooter broke off to set up something nasty to keep Amplitude honest in his dealings.

I was carried in a box, but I could still listen in on the phones and computer mics of the place.

“You are the superheroes who called? I’ve seen you bunch. You were Shieldwall.” That was Amplitude.

“That’s right.” That was Forcelight. The ever stoic asskicker. Strong. Flight capable. Durable. Never liked me much. I killed her adopted dad. She had me and my box in her hands. She continued, “I hope we won’t have a problem dealing with you. Psycho Gecko is erratic. He’d stab you as soon as look at you. I hope you’re more reasonable.”

“I am. It was the unreasonable threats of your little nemesis that forced my employers to send me after him. It’s a shame that those like him expect to be treated like kings. Me, I just hope to get by.”

“By stealing.”

“I do what I must. There is no chaos in what I do. No needless death.”

Venus spoke up and she sounded even angrier than most of the times we talked, “Medicine like what you stole in Seattle that time was meant for sick people. Those deaths were needless. That was chaotic enough for their families. ”

“You heroes are nitpicky, aren’t you? No, I think you are just mad because you’ve been shrunk. I am sorry for that. I was aiming for Psycho Gecko, not you. You have my gratitude for bringing him to me. I am at your service.”

“You took more people, too. Are you at their service?”

“They were bad people too. I have his friend, Mix N’Max. He is even worse than Psycho Gecko in some ways. He creates addicts and enslaves people to his drugs. They both have killed heroes, remember? We don’t owe this scum anything. I owe you, though.”

I have to assume that he kept his word. No fighting broke out. Troubleshooter didn’t blow up the building with a flaming ass-cannon. Instead, Venus sounded louder and happier when she asked, “How do I look?”

“About right. Maybe even taller than you were before,” said a digitally-altered voice. Mechamoto Musashi. I doubt he liked me, but he had always been so quiet. I wondered, and still wonder, if anyone ever told him he didn’t have to live up to the stereotype of being a silent samurai.

The box shifted and I lost my footing. The bottom was still slick. “Here you go, one boxed Gecko,” said Forcelight. The box changed hands. That part wasn’t according to plan. The top of my container opened and a masked face peeked in at me.

“Hello Psycho Gecko. You are mine now.”

I gave him the finger. He laughed and closed the top again.

According to the plan they told me, they would take down Amplitude after finding out if he had Max. That he bragged about it was even better, but they were changing things up.

“Don’t forget this,” Leah said. She never did pick out a name. A pretty teen who had gained confidence and learned to fight back against bullies under my tutelage. I had taken a non-romantic liking to her, though I suspected her of taking a more romantic liking to me.

I was wrong on that point.

“What’s this?” Amplitude wondered.

“It’s a power dampener,” answered Forcelight sternly. “It’s hard to shut him down, but that will make him compliant if you feel the need to take him out of the box. Trust me, we’ve put a lot of work into that.”

The top of my cell opened again. There was mirth in the eye of Amplitude as he looked in, but he didn’t address me. “I think it will be awhile before I need to take him out, but thank you, heroes. I don’t believe he is going to trouble you for a long time. He will be interesting to study before I turn him over.”

Like I said, this dimension has treated me badly. Now the heroes and the ungrateful Leah have delivered me to Amplitude like the world’s most foul-mouthed fucking collectable. At least he’s close enough that I bounced a signal to my laptop and got it to send up an update.

There’s no one else to call in to help me out of here. As the heroes have been so kind enough to remind me, all I have is myself.

Too bad for Amplitude and too bad for the heroes. Other people would ask me to be merciful when I get out of here. On my own? I don’t feel like it.

 

Next

Previous

Not The Size That Counts 3

Well, now that everyone’s got off their asses, looks like we actually got some stuff down around here.

Let’s start at the beginning. Not my preferred way, but past experience shows that it just confuses all of y’all if I talk about stuff out of order. Shit like that made me not want to be a prophet. Don’t believe me that I could have been a prophet? That just shows my natural prophecy talent. I predict that now, some of you are going to go, “Ha! I believe you are a prophet, therefore you’re not really one!”

Yeah? Well, I just made that prediction that you’d say that. Time to go pay a neurophysicist prostitute, because your minds have been blown.

But enough joking around.

So there I was dressed up in a tiny monkey costume on the sidewalk Thursday afternoon, dancing around while Leah stood behind me holding a hat out for some change. We didn’t need the money, but I just felt like dancing while we waited outside the police station for Venus to get done talking with Forcelight and Troubleshooter. Dancing seemed a good idea, mainly because Leah had this look in her eye like she wanted to cuddle the little psychotic monkey man.

I’m beginning to suspect she likes me as more than just the serial killer who took her in and trained her in the art of punching people in the right spot. Every time I thought about dissuading her of any of those sorts of feelings, it kept coming back to chasing after her with a meat cleaver, or her chasing me. I didn’t want either outcome to occur, at least not now. Maybe if I need to lose weight someday.

While I danced, I quizzed Leah on the subject of really, really, ridiculously powerful superbeings.

“Villains first. Name five of the big ones, guys nobody messes with. Individual villains, I mean.”

“The Claw, Polydeus, Spinetingler, the Oligarch, and Cercopagis Lysis. I know the Claw can change size and has super strength. Polydeus is immortal, along with unknown other powers. Spinetingler can shapeshift and knows people’s fears. Oligarch is a super genius with high tech weaponry. Cercopagis is some sort of alien conqueror who keeps threatening the planet every few years.”

“Pretty good, but the Claw is also immune to conventional weaponry and he he runs his own nation in the Pacific. That might as well count as a power. Oligarch seems to have some serious cash and that pretty much counts as a superpower as well. How about heroes?”

“Captain Lightning: Super strength, flying, lightning powers. He can do magic. Eschaton: flight, fire powers, energy manipulation. The Mobian: a regenerating genius with a ship that travels through other dimensions and time. Warman, the Man of War, who is a super strong soldier who can use any weapon ever created. For my last answer, I’ll go with Forcelight. Flight, light manipulation, and super strength.”

“Appropriate,” I said, finishing up doing the Worm.

“What kind of name is Forcelight anyway? Sounds like someone chose random nouns.”

It was a good question.

“Mommy, look at that fuzzy caterpillar!” said a boy in the single digits of age who walked by, pointing.

I stood up and chased after him, “No, I have now transformed from caterpillar to Killthra! Rawr!”

Leah held me back. A voice behind us said, “Easy now, you walking Napoleon complex. Go pick on something your size instead, like a rat.”

Leah and I both turned to find Forcelight holding Venus in the palm of her hand, with Troubleshooter standing behind her.

“You don’t have anything that works?” Leah asked.

Troubleshooter shook her head, her goggles drooping at an angle. One of the waldos attached to her omnipresent backpack/mobile lab reached forward and straightened it up. Then it sprayed them with some foam that was wiped off by another waldo. ”I needed to scan her for information, but I don’t have the materials here to build what I think will do the trick. If he promises to be good, I can scan Psycho Gecko.”

“Nope.”

Troubleshooter leaned forward, one waldo raising a magnifying glass so she could see me better. “More points of data would allow me to work on something with more confidence of a positive result. I could make you big again too.”

“Uh uh. Not giving y’all a look inside my chassis.”

“It would help Venus,” Forcelight spoke up. Venus glowered at that. Trouble between ex-teammates?

“I think not. Would you let me do a full body scan on you to let me uncover all your physiological secrets?”

Forcelight looked like she just ate some shit. It’s a distinctive facial expression. I’ve gotten used to seeing it. “No way in hell, but there’s a big difference between us and you. We’re the good guys.”

“Yes, yes. I distinctly remember the good guys having an argument over whether or not to kill me. Or maybe it was all a dream? I know you were there, and you were there, and you were there…” I pointed to the three heroines in turn. All three had that eat-shit expression on then. That’s how I’ve gotten used to seeing the expression.

So, after Troubleshooter and Forcelight left, it was time to get down to some serious business. But first, sleep. Zzzzzzzzz…go away…come back tomorrow…fine, ok, the next day we got down to some serious business. I had some things to take care of before said serious business could commence. Some calls to make, some people to pay off, that sort of thing. Then we made our move looking for the latest possible informants.

F-Uhaul. When Screwhaul got on my bad side and became a bunch of corpses, it was F-Uhaul who moved in to take over their business: supervillain movers. Hephaestus probably used them; if not, then F-Uhaul probably kept an eye out for where they set up out of spite and the possibility such information could make them look like a better service.

Only, when I called them up, a voice hastily answered, “Busy here. Try again later,” before hanging up on me.

I was tired of dead ends and I was running out of patience for people not giving me any damn help, so I back and made sure to trace the connection.

“We’re busy getting shot at right now. If you would like us to see to your moving needs, please call back at a better time, like when our asses aren’t on fire. Now get off the line.”

I didn’t even get a word in. I should have left them to their fate, but something needed to go my way for once in all this. If I had to drag them out of the fire just to hold them over it myself, I would do so.

The F-Uhaul workers were on the move. As soon as Leah, Venus, and I got our asses planted in the car, we were too. I uploaded our moving goal to the GPS in the car. A GPS is a perfectly legitimate tool when no one knew it was my car but that will have to change. Leah was too cautious a driver, though. “Lift me up so I can see!” I yelled, frustrated, as she stopped at a light.

I’ve been frustrated a lot lately. Everything’s been kicking my ass. If I don’t kill something soon, I might start to go nuts. Yeah. Just imagine what I would be like if I was mentally ill.

Leah picked me up…and then tied my little monkey suit’s tail to the rear view mirror to hold me up. I crossed my arms and glared at her smiling face while Venus guffawed from the passenger seat.

“Ha. Ha. Get your laughs out of the way, but there are people out there dying just because they handle deadly chemicals and torture equipment without a license or any knowledge about what they’re doing. And an America where a man can be killed for that is an America I don’t want to live in.” I flicked an imaginary tear away from my cheek.

“The light’s red and there’s a car in front of me. What do you expect me to do?”

“Ok, down below the radio is a series of buttons and toggles. I want you to push the one with some tiny writing above it that says ‘Traffic Jam’.”

“Leah, that might be a weapon,” said Venus from under the seat belt.

“Is it?” Leah looked to me as she asked the question.

“Nah. It’s not lethal at all. I promise.” I held a hand up like that “scout’s honor” salute, which is not a salute to trust from me.

Leah pushed the button. The front of the hood opened up and a nozzle with a clear hose attached to the end rose up out of the car. It gave a quick squirt of a thick purple fluid that dented the rear of the car ahead of us and sent it into traffic.

“Fuck! You said that wasn’t lethal! What was that?” Leah said with wild gesticulations of her hand.

“Traffic jam, exactly what it says it is. It’s a good, thick fluid people can use to push cars out of the way when fired at high pressure. It is nonlethal, and it’s made from one hundred percent pulped traffic, which means recycled, which means eco-friendly. If anybody was killed here, it was from the reckless driving of these other assholes. By the way, everyone’s stopped due to the accident, so do you mind going?”

Still cursing to herself, Leah drove on through the accident scene. She did her best to avoid stopping the rest of the way. Wanted to avoid more traffic jams, I guess. I could feel Venus’s glare on my ass the whole rest of the way. I gave it a little wiggle just for her. Almost made me wish I was in a baboon costume.

When we caught up to the F-Uhaul van after a tense nineteen minutes, they were being chased by an old, dusty muscle car. It had metal sawblades attached to the side, with a gnashing metal bear trap mouth in front that had a bumper stuck in one tooth. The van smoked and a softball-sized hole was blown out of the passenger door.

“Are those them?” Leah asked. One of the passengers of that muscle car pulled himself out of the window and worked his way onto the roof despite a sharp turn. He was a big man in a shredded leather jacket with a green Mohawk. His left sleeve was completely gone, and his arm on that side replaced with a rusty metal prosthetic. Once he got situated up there, he reached down by the window where one of the other passengers passed him a double barrel shotgun that had not one, but two ammo cylinders jury-rigged to feed it shells.

“Something tells me that might just be them, Leah.”

“Do you know those guys?”

“No. The minor leagues can be a real freakshow. It’s great.”

“Metal Heads,” I heard from higher up on the passenger side. I glanced underneath me and saw Venus had climbed up the seat belt so she could get a better view of things. “But what could movers have done to get on their bad side?”

“My guess, they dropped these guys’ favorite Michael Bolton album,” I suggested.

The big Mohawk guy fired at the van, knocking chunks out of it. He even attempted a shot at the back tires, but a direct hit didn’t deflate them.

Leah divided her time between the road and the panel of buttons and toggles. “Uh, what do I do? Do I ram them? What about the traffic jam?”

“You want to knock their car into the van? Not a good way to save them.”

Without asking what she should use, she tried a few switches. I swung around like the world’s worst air freshener, taking note of what she was doing. “That was the wheel spears. Looks like you tagged the minivan behind us with the license plate minigun. Poetic. Good thing you missed with the grappling hook or we’d have driven right into that playground. Don’t worry about that snap, that’s just the giant flyswatter on the roof of the car. Oh, and I just had to remote override the ejection seats, so you think you’re ready to listen to me yet?”

Leah looked like she was about ready to hyperventilate. After all she’d done, these punks that Venus called “Metal heads” had taken notice of us dogging them. The big guy had yelled something to the guys in the car. One of them, a skinnier man with screws piercing his eyebrows and shaved head, pulled out a bottle with a rag in it and light the thing. He threw it against the car. Leah jumped as it broke open and covered the windshield with flames. I compensated by switching to digital view and having the system filter out the flames.

With the road looking clear, I cleared my throat.

“Gecko, what do I push?”

“Leah…” Venus said, wanting to warn her off.

“I have to do something or they’ll kill them eventually.”

“Exactly, Leah, good choice. Now, toggle the thing that says ‘missile’.”

“Gecko, no.”

“Sometimes it’s kill or be killed.”

Leah gulped and did something very stupid under the circumstances. She closed her eyes as she pushed the toggle. A crosshair came up in the digital view that I had locked on to the muscle car.

“Leah, cancel it,” said Venus.

She reached out, but the car shuddered from missile launch before she could do so.

“Oh no, oh no, I killed someone…” Leah said, tears streaming down her face.

“You didn’t kill anything yet. Damn thing went up for some reason instead of straight forward. Oh, wait, is there a letter next to the word ‘missile’ down there?”

“Yeah,” Leah said with a nod, “There’s a ‘D’.”

“Ah, that explains it.” I folded my arms just in time to watch the missile that looked like a crash test mannequin streak out of the sky and bounce off the street and embed itself in the front windshield of the car. Reacting to its sudden stop, Leah swerved around, a hopeful smile playing at her lips.

“They didn’t blow up!”

“Yeah, turns out you fired a dummy missile. I was hoping for an incendiary one myself, but you seem happy with the result.”

Everybody went home happy that day. And alive. F-Uhaul thanked us profusely and gave us the location of a local Hephaestus office: the sort of place where they do paperwork and take calls. Venus and Leah were happy that they got to save the day without anyone dying. I was happy something finally went my way. And the Metal Heads were happy I paid them so much to flush F-Uhaul out of hiding so we’d look good in their eyes and get what we were there for.
Much like when a man gets to enjoy a donkey show in the company of a stripper and a sexy circus clown, that’s what we call a win-win-win-win-win.

 

Next

Previous

I Got Clubbed 8

I think I mentioned to Breakdown, and I’m sure you readers have noticed, I state things in a manner other people are not used to. My metaphorical stories, for instance. Well folks, let’s just say it’s my way of talking about how I feel before I have to go all obvious. “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!” to quote the Robot Devil. Problem is, I doubt y’all deal that well with the confusing mess of being in my head. And sometimes plainly getting your point across is more important than trying to be coy and intelligent. Look how many times people died in horror movies because some idiot wanted to play charades with all the pointing and shaking when he could have just said “There’s a man with a machete behind you. Run bitch, run!”

So let me start off saying that I’ve been somewhat contemplative about things.

It’s kinda like a maze.

When people talk about something being difficult to find a way through, it’s not uncommon to hear it being referred to as a maze. So many branches, so many possibilities, that someone is stunned by the possible reactions they can take. Of course, some paths have to be taken for a person to be who they are. A doctor needing to figure out what he wants to do with his career, for instance. There are so many paths to take, but his own past influences him and urges him toward one corridor or another. Sadly, this all too often leads to dead ends.

Is it any wonder that mazes are used as philosophical symbols in some pretentious way? It works about like how I’m doing now, where someone takes it and uses it as a simplistic metaphor of life.

If you want to look at things that way, then I do something special. I change the maze. Usually, it’s something dickish, like tossing a few extra dead ends into the mix, but I mess with lives. You could probably say the walls are relationships and society’s rules or the limits of nature, whatever it is that serves as a restriction on you in life.

I am, in fact, amazing. That is, if you take amazing as what the dictionary says, where it means something is stupefying or stunning. It comes from the word “maze” too, probably because of how people react to mazes that are hard. They freeze up and go “I don’t even…”.

What about mazes for people like myself? Good question. Bet you thought I was wishing someone didn’t ask that. Ha! See, Sun Tzu said all that crap about knowing thyself. Rather than a reference to masturbation, I think a lot of it meant knowing your own nature and living according to it. Even though I don’t know what I’m going to do, what tiny course I’m going to take toward my goal, I know who I am each step of the way. I know what I can do. I know that the walls between paths won’t stand in my way.

Cheaters are just going pull out bombs and blow open walls to get to the ends of the while the more noble people have to follow the maze around or use grappling hooks.

I just need to make sure that whatever makes up the walls for me doesn’t suddenly become solid. Part of the reason you all love me and would probably wear steel underwear if you ever got to meet me is that you know I will do all sorts of things other people wouldn’t. For one thing, I’d carry a welder if I met any of y’all. That’s not what I mean. A great deal of strength comes from people not having a clue what you’re going to say or do.

I like macaroni and cheese.

Now a maze is different form a labyrinth. Most people get them confused, but a labyrinth only has one path to and from its center. It’s made for meditation and art and crap. There’s supposed to be something meaningful about the journey in, where you let go of everything, and the time in the center, and then on the trip back out.

This section on the labyrinth was just a way to segue between the important topics of mac and cheese and having infiltrated the compound where the heroes were keeping Dr. Unity. They couldn’t just drop him in a normal lockup or prison population, after all. They were keeping him nice and separate at Empyreal City’s Special Detention Center. It was built with a modular design so they could quickly swap things out to meet different circumstances with people who couldn’t just be restrained, like Marscow Prison in Kingscrow. Where Marscow grew up out of a prison that had already been built, the SDF was built after the older Metropolitan Correctional Center was leveled during the attack on Empyreal City by a rogue Soviet telepath in 1981 where a modified aircraft carrier was used to fire giant squids into the city. Truly, that man had vision. It only holds superhumans for a short amount of time before they get sent somewhere permanent, like Supermax, but it’s got a good track record amongst law enforcement. The brilliant thing is that it’s an ode to ignorance. Most people would hate the idea of living so close to such a facility, but they’re ignorant of it so it’s fine to them.

Making security a little better in this case is that Forcelight and her crew were waiting around there at the time. Call it a hunch, but I think they were expecting me to visit. Now, I didn’t go in and visit Good Doctor or Mix N’Max at Marscow Prison because it’s pretty easy to detect me with a metal detector and because it was a hell of a lot more fun to bounce a truck up into the yard.

The truck idea wouldn’t work quite as well for what I’m planning this time. Besides, why should I only stick to something I’ve done before?

Nope, this time I came in the way a guard does. I figured they have some sort of scanner set up in there. Metal detector, full body scanner, something. That’s why I waited outside, invisibly, until a guard showed up. One did, a burly fellow with a mustache and curly hair. He had thick eyebrows from a lack of shaving, and the inside corner of one eyebrow turned up for some reason. He also had a scar running diagonally from the middle of his nose to his left cheek. That was important to note when I jumped him in the parking lot. It was necessary to steal his keys. It wasn’t necessary for when I shoved the peanut butter in his ears, but it did help for getting him in the purple bunny suit.

I could have skipped it all entirely if not for the keys. I could handle electronic locks, sneak past visuals, and I had an idea for how to fool the scanner to get in, but dammit if primitive key locks are tougher to fool. Break, sure, but hack? It isn’t happening.

When I rushed in the same door that guard left, I was confronted with a manned booth and a full body scanner. Made me smile under my armor.

“You forget something, Pete?” asked the man in the booth.

I nodded, then pointed to the scanner, “Do I have to?”

My voice must not have given the game away because he just told me, “Naw, man, go on through.”

That’s how I fooled equipment that would have shown I wasn’t who I said I was. Social engineering, the most useful sort of hacking. Every system has a weak point and it’s usually the people. You know, like a bunch of guards who have to go through a full body scanner every singly day. Either they get tired of it, or they resent their comrades getting a look at their junk. What a bunch of dicks. It’s even worse than if they didn’t have the scanner. At least then they’d realize there was a chance someone was getting through with something. This way, the people in charge probably don’t expect it.

First stop after that, the restroom. A quick check confirmed that my experiences in other situations were still applicable in this one. Staff bathrooms are like that. Cameras all over this place, little black half-spheres along the white ceiling. It’s like walking around a casino, but with fewer one-armed bandits.

I dropped the holographic disguise of being “Pete the Security Guard” and did my impression of The Invisible Man.

After that, finding Administration was as easy as sneaking into a guard station and peeking at a map hidden behind plastic. The guard was confused about the door, but not so confused after I snapped his neck and laid him down like he fell asleep.

Sacrifices, sacrifices. Butt slaughter was too conspicuous.

They compartmentalized their networks so a simple guard station computer couldn’t even find everyone. Those computers were better for little more than checking computers and catching up with people’s favorite shows. The dead guard’s favorite show? Survivor.

Administration, on the other hand, had information galore. And superheroes. Forcelight, Mechamoto Musashi, and Troubleshooter were hanging out there getting chewed out by some guy in a suit with a briefcase.

“I don’t care what you did before with the Master Academy kids. The truth will come out at trial and not a second before. You can present your testimony there. Did you think about what happens if you taint my trial? I’ll tell you what I told those “Catch a Predator” morons when that entrapment ruling came down and everyone they caught got off: you catch them the wrong way and it doesn’t matter if you have a pile of evidence.”

“Sir,” said Forcelight, speaking respectfully, but forcefully, “with all due respect, I’ve met individuals before who you do not want to pressure this way. I don’t know if Breakdown is that sort of person, but if he is, he will go out of his way to come after Dr. Unity and set the record straight. He might set the entire facility loose in the process. Besides, there may not be a trial.”

“You really think I’d let him go?”

“I don’t know, how many times have you struck deals? We know you have an election coming up. You need money, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people will pay to have Dr. Unity released just in time to take a quiet job in a research facility in a country without an extradition treaty.”

They continued bickering on and on like kids. I padded by them silently and knelt down under a desk to slip a glove off and merge with the tower. That got me the information, shut down the cameras on that floor, and caused a loop in the elevator cameras. I also scheduled a special email from the facility to the local and national news companies. Harlon got it first, of course, for a brief time period of exclusivity. Harlon’s this guy I once crossed paths with in the news. I kept him to help me keep my ear to the ground, and occasionally let me shove something in his ear to put on the news for me.

“And what’s this I heard about some supervillain in the UN besides Dr. Unity? Are you protecting someone else who was involved in this?”

Forcelight fixed him with a stare and told him firmly, “No.”

This guy, a District Attorney I think, turned to Troubleshooter. She wilted under his glare until one of her waldos accidentally fired a net all over her and caused her to struggle with it instead of answering. He tried Mechamoto next, who was propped up against the wall next to a water cooler with his arms crossed. The heroe’s voice was distorted as he snored.

The trip up to the floor they held Unity on was mostly uneventful. I did practice my singing though. Schizofrantic, a supervillain more by default than intent, was being hauled up in the same car accompanied by a trio of guards in riot gear when I began to belt out “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from that Disney ride. ‘Frantic ignored it as if he was in on it, but the guards got nervous, especially when I didn’t stop. They checked and rechecked these grey cylinders attached to their helmets. Finally one of them elbowed the dirty-looking telepathic homeless vet. “Hey, are you doing that? Make it stop.”

“Doing what?” he asked.

“That noise. The singing.”

“You mean the muzak? They don’t sing in elevator music. I should know, I used to write songs.”

“Cut it out. We can hear something.”

“I’m not doing anything. Maybe it’s the other person.”

“Other person?”

“You don’t see that man?”

“What man?”

“Oooooh. Just remember. It will only hurt for a second.”

The guard grabbed hold of Schizofrantic and shook him by the shoulders. “What are you talking about?! Stop doing this! Stop it!”

Since ‘Frantic was being such a good sport and playing along, I made it fun too.

I projected a molten landscape with islands of obsidian for land. I covered myself in the image of man in a bloodstained straightjacket with long black hair. My eyes were covered in a bandana that had spikes jammed through it at the eyes. My lower face was torn apart in an unnatural grin made up of torn skin, blood, and bones shaped into loose approximations of pointed teeth. A twisted version of a face.

“Don’t worry,” I gurgled, “this will only hurt…for an eternity.”

All three guards shit their pants all at once. I jammed my hand up one guy’s ass all the way so I could punch out of his mouth and grab his friend’s gun. I turned it on that second guard and shot him in the foot. I then dropped the gun, grabbed his head, and pulled it into the first guard’s mouth and down his throat. The third guard huddled up in the fetal position and cried, trying to hide from the horror. When he looked up he found me…in the form of a giant marshmallow peep.

He clutched at his chest then and fell to the side, struggling with his breathing. I think he had a heart attack. Oh well. Everything looked normal except for the dead bodies when it was time for my stop.

“Bye ‘Frantic. Have a nice time.” I told him, giving an invisible wave.

“Bye elevator demon. Say ‘hello’ to my mom for me next time you’re in hell.”

“Sure thing. It’ll make her head spin to hear from you.”

I found another pair of guards at the cell I wanted, right on the end of the hallway. Those were the easiest to isolate in this place.

They were standing at the door, holding a slot at eye level open, and one of them was taking potshots inside with his gun. His buddy tried to give him pointers, before smacking him on the ear and declaring, “That’s useless! It only works if you try to kill him with it. A flesh wound isn’t going to make him drop anybody. Here, let me show you how.”

They swapped positions and the guard giving the tips fired off a shot. I heard the familiar sound of Unity expelling someone immediately afterward. Got a running start, skidded on my knees, and stood up as I double uppercutting, punching through pants and puckers alike to raise them into the air, squirming like maniacs with barbed wire up their asses. Considering that they were maniacs with barbed wire up their asses, it was a highly appropriate response.

Dr. Unity ended their suffering before I could, however. They disappeared, leaving behind Unity’s hands reaching through the bars on that door opening.

I appeared, dressed as an unarmored Playboy bunny, chomping on a holographic carrot. “Eeeeeeh. What’s up doc?”

He grabbed my chin then and concentrated. Nothing happened. He needed skin contact, not armor contact. With a frustrated yell, he let me go.

“There, there. Not everyone wants to join your little Unity love fest in there.”

“You’re here to taunt me?”

“Yes.”

“Ha! I am the world’s preeminent chemist. I am the true peacemaker, not people like you and your violence. Lock me up and I will be freed in no time by people with more vision than you. Kill me, and I become a martyr for future generations to follow the lead of.”

“Right. It would look bad no matter what if either a villain or hero killed you while you’re all locked up.”

He smiled at me. You know, I don’t think that guy was all there. “You can’t stop my escape. I’ll tell everyone about it and they can’t stop it. My knowledge and abilities are too valuable. People will be lining up to set me loose.”

“No, I think not. Not in another few minutes when the videos I sent go public.”

He lost his crazed grin in an awful hurry at that.

“What video?”

“My helmet, my dear moron. Same one that got Breakdown’s very sincere admission that you were calling the shots and you at the UN actually calling the shots and explaining your motivations.”

“They’ll never convict me. You know how the system works for someone like me. I’m one of the greatest heroes the world ever saw. Generations have grown up looking up to me. I can be the smartest man in the world. I’ll be free in no time.

“No, actually it is perfectly allowable. If a cop or a hero had done that, then you’d have your chance to get out of jail free, but I’m neither. I’m the guy who screwed your little ‘system’ in the ass. Isn’t it convenient when someone like you actually has to face some consequences for his actions and has his dirty secrets dragged out for all to see in court? The hero to millions becomes the monster, and your little hero buddies in the know will realize who you are. When it comes to me and you, I’m the hero all your old friends will be thankful to. Why kill you when I can bend your legend over and fuck it in the ear?”

“You can’t do that. I’ll die a martyr. I was trying to save the world. I’m the hero. I’m not like you. This isn’t what people like you do to people like me. This isn’t what people like you do! Get back here and kill me you son of a bitch! I’m the hero. I’m the hero!”

I walked away laughing over his berserker screams.

That little bit taken care of, it was time to repeat my journey back to the outside and figure out the next adventure. I did so, visible for all to see, and encountered no further resistance until the first floor. I caught a figure in black with a shiny mask and bangle slinking after me. When I turned to confront her, Dame crossed her arms and shifted her weight most of the way to her left leg.

“I’m proud of you, Gecko. I don’t understand it, but I think it’s encouraging to see you using society to your benefit for once.”

“Hello Dame, you saucy spy. I’m just neatly undoing everyone’s expectations about what’s meant to happen. Shit’s going down that’s not supposed to happen if you know a damn thing about how your precious society works.”

I paused as the DA’s voice reached me us down the halls. “WHO THE FUCK SENT THAT OUT?!”

I chuckled at that, then continued. “How do you always know where to find me?”

“Skill. Oh, and you aren’t the first invisible person they have had to deal with here. Lucky for you I’m the only one who bothered to check those sensors.”

“Huh. Good point. ” Oops. It made sense and there I went forgetting about it. Yes. Forgetting. Or part of my master plan? Have some chocolate pudding and think that over. “What, do they have you spying on Unity, or just me? Going to alert the guards now, give me a fun time getting out of here?”

“Not at this point, no. The guards have gotten sleepy all of a sudden, so they won’t be responding to you on your way out,” she said, smiling, and stepped around me in a circle.

I didn’t know what the point of her little visit was. I also didn’t care. “Dame, I just gotta know. Who was it, you think, who alerted Forcelight, and told them to bring along those nanites, and who suggested they deliver it similar to how I did at the club? Who called the heroes to ‘help’ me for once?”

She stopped in front of me with a sly little smile on her pink lips. We both already knew the answer. The local thief that Forcelight had keeping tabs on me, that’s who. The one who had a direct line to her and a few other heroes. In other words, Dame. Did she think I’d be happy?

I threw my hand up as I walked out, giving her the finger. “Right there, bitch. Suck it hard, suck it long.”

Next

Previous

I Got Clubbed 7

I should have kept Breakdown around and made him deal with this mess.

Everything did eventually get settled once the puking was done. Getting that worked out took well into the morning, and there was almost an epic brawl over it.

Here is the brief rundown: everyone at the club was unhappy. The prevailing emotion was anger-based in some way, with scattered showers from the less angry people. Gave me a damn headache. Then there was the puke. It was all over my floor. Sadly, murder was an inconvenient option this time.

I didn’t so much calm things down as much as stand there as and threaten them into not fighting, not while I was the guy who saved their sorry asses. For people who are used to exercising more power than most people, having them stand off was quite an accomplishment. Unfortunately, I think they did it more because those who knew my name were passing it along. I was mainly concerned about being unable to pull off insurance fraud.

After laying down the law, a phrase which should never be used in relation to me, I let them work things out amongst themselves. The important points were that they didn’t fight amongst themselves, I was taking down Unity, and some people would be spending a lot of time at The Secret Lair. Some of the folks expressed concerns about being around a bunch of brainwashed friends and loved ones back home and around their jobs. I bet some of them were also afraid of what they’d do knowing that just about anyone in the city they were ever attracted to would be easily talked into bed.

Perhaps that’s why the heroes and villains that Breakdown tried to throw at me made it a point to stop by the throne and thank me. I just wanted them to leave and take the carpet with them at that point, but nope. The guys shuffled up embarrassed and quickly left. Even Paveman, despite our history. Seriously, the guy absorbs material from surfaces he stands on and it becomes part of his body. I didn’t think this Sexahol crap could affect him.

At least Nos and Hydroplane rushed through it. I don’t mind that bit of speedster rudeness. Elita gave me a bearhug. In her case, it’s a hug that could kill a bear. Dame was next and helped me pop my arm back into my shoulder. I asked her to find out where Dr. Unity was hiding and call me on the screen when she found out. The last one, teen girl, was a shy little thing. Same one who tried to sneak in with the fake ID and, after looking her up for info, I found out she was the same one from that school incident. The one with the color manipulation power. She said I smelled like shit.

All the cherry and strawberry smelling vomit around, I’m surprised anyone could tell.

I told them to get the hell out of there. Not in a particularly mean way. Just “Go on, get the hell out of here.” That kind of thing. I’m not a guy who spends a lot of time on a throne dealing with courtiers, as you may have noticed by now.

I had work to do. Starting with getting the suit cleaned out of what was clearly chocolate pudding. I mean, obviously that stuff was no good to eat with me sweating and all that, so it had to go.

The repairs took awhile too. The damage was a bit more extensive than just the cameras and projectors. I had a crack problem once I removed it. The armor, I mean, not me personally. I’d never do crack. Takes time away from my meth habit.

It took longer to get the armor fixed, though. My previous armor design didn’t have nearly the defensive or offensive capabilities of this one, and neither of them are the absolute best I could do. There’s a problem. As the armor gets higher in quality, everything about it becomes more complicated and harder to repair. A good example is the nanite quilt layer. Once I use a syringe, I can do whatever I want with it. Keep it, throw it away, stab it into someone’s eye, whatever. As long as I have more syringes and nanites, I can still use them to heal myself. The quilted portions are useless if they aren’t repaired and refilled before going into a fight. That problem would become worse in a hurry if I added flight boots, missile launchers, flak, drones with guns, and a fog machine. I would need my own logistics.

It took me a little bit of time, made worse by Carl moping around. He’d stop by occasionally to make sure I knew how sorry he was. I told him each time that I didn’t care about all the stuff he told Breakdown.

Finally, after he had taken yet another break from steam cleaning the carpet, I grabbed him by the shoulders. I then shook him repeatedly, yelling “Get a hold of yourself, man! If you keep coming around here like this, I’ll kill you out of annoyance!”

He grabbed hold of the catwalk rail to control himself, then bent over it and threw up.

“Damn, you know you’re cleaning that up too, right?”

He nodded and wiped his mouth.

“Good. Now stop being all sorry. If you want me to put it in certain words I’d rather not use, than fine, I forgive you. No need to crucify yourself looking for my approval.”

“Are you sure about that, boss?”

“Of course. When you forgive someone, you forgive them. No need to get sadistic about it or ask for a human sacrifice or something.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“I don’t know, let me go get my whoop-ass stick and we’ll discuss it over a funeral.”

“That’s alright, boss.”

“Good,” I said, patting him on the back. “Keep your head in the game. I want you ready to pilot the keg armor into battle. We’ve got a superhero to kill.”

“Sir, yes boss!” he said, giving a lighthearted salute.

“You call that a salute, maggot!” I stood up all stiff and held my face right in front of his. “That’s no proper salute. That’s the kind of salute I get from a company of prostitutes after I’ve put their brothel out of business armed with nothing but my dick and a six pack!”

Carl began to snicker and I joined him for a moment.

“Alright, alright, go get the rest of the puke up and we’ll see what we can yank out of Dr. Unity’s insides instead, you got it?”

“Oorah!” he exclaimed as he turned to jog back down to work.

I noticed a message on there from Dame wanting me to call her back, so I returned it and got a black screen as it rang. That kind of screen usually means a phone. It only occupied half the screen, though. The rest was reserved for my research on Dr. Unity. Quotations from a biography in the eighties. A wikiPowers page. His entry on a website called The Unofficial Superhuman Database. He didn’t have a TV Tropes page, though. He had one consistent power, too, but his other schemes and inventions always augmented his ability.

Dame picked up. “Hello?”

“Hey there 900 girl. My five free minutes started already? You’ve got a sexy voice. Mmmm, what are you wearing?”

“A gun. Why don’t you tell me your name so I can carve it on a bullet?”

“Oooh, sounds like somebody’s naughty. Just let me know when I start paying for the call you dirty, dirty girl.”

“This is Gecko, isn’t it?”

“That’s right, say my name. Jump on it, girl, let me take that thing through the car wash. I want to wax it down, rub down the leather interior, take out the floor mats, vacuum the sand off them, then leave a crappy pine tree air freshener behind.”

“I’m hanging up now, Gecko.”

There was a click. When I called her back, I got her almost immediately.

“Was it as good for you as it was for me, honeysuckle?” I asked with a groan.

“Figures. You’re out of gas leaving me unsatisfied and wishing you would put that mouth to better use.”

“Wow, my compliments on the comeback. Do I detect a hint of indifference blossoming?”

“I found Unity.”

“You make it sound like a cult.”

“You know what I mean. He’s actually using the UN complex as a base. He’s living there and keeps the diplomats coming back there even though their governments have all acknowledged that any agreements they make are not representative of their wishes.”

“I wonder if any oysters have cults?”

“Gecko, stop trying to lead into a Blue Oyster Cult joke. You’re supposed to be stopping the bad guy and saving the city.”

“Hey! That was uncalled for. I’m not saving anyone. I just got into a personal disagreement with Breakdown that turned into a personal disagreement with a superhero. A hero who believes in saving the world by spreading his own personal date rape drug, if you remember. I wouldn’t save anything. I am the pit stain under the world’s sleeve. I am the lint rabbit clogging society’s vacuum cleaner. I am the cold shower when you were expecting hot water.”

“Easy now. You megalomaniac types really love to monologue, don’t you?”

“Madam, I have not yet begun to monologue!”

“Don’t, not for too long. This city was just the beginning. He’s working out of the General Assembly Hall to arrange teams of people and superhumans to spread this stuff to other cities.”

“I’m cleaning my smiting codpiece as we speak.”

“By the way, I was wondering…” she just trailed off.

After she didn’t follow up on that, I said, “Ok. Good to know. Keep up the good wondering.”

“Oh, uh, alright. Yeah. You know, you surprise me, Gecko.”

“It’s kinda my thing.”

“I just wanted to say that you didn’t have to-“

I broke in while she was talking and yelled, “Surprise!” Then I hung up.

She was getting a little mushy for me. I meant too mushy. I doubt she was getting, you know, mushy anywhere that mush occurs. Not for me.

But enough of that shit. You’re probably wondering about the fight. Duh.

I snuck my way into the General Assembly Hall of the aptly named General Assembly building as soon as my armor was ready. It was easy to slip through a door into that famous room while hidden behind a holographic cloak of invisibility. He was training people to safely move and operate machines like the one I stole from him. The chemical distributors. Those who smelt it were being taught to dealt it. The joke only works phrased that way. He was growing frustrated though. All too often the trainees and diplomats tried some monkey business instead of what he wanted. You know, monkey business. They wanted to play with their bananas.

I saw the looks the Saudi and Israeli representatives were giving each other. The effects of the Sexahol made them want to feel each other up, not feel how to connect this hose or that hose.

Dr. Unity himself was a smaller man now that time had taken its toll. He had to be in his seventies, with all sorts of aches from his past fights, especially with giants and radiation and space aliens involved. Despite that, he moved easily around the room and didn’t show any sign of pain. He didn’t even use a cane.

I got in position behind the dais where Dr. Unity stood demonstrating the distributor. I charged up my fists, and then swung for his head. There was a flash of light and a blurring, then two people fell from where he had stood. The assembled trainees gawked at what happened before rushing over to check on the pair. Both were alive and unharmed. One was Dr. Unity, and the other was the Secretary General of the UN.

It must have been linked to that power of his. Dr. Unity didn’t just pick the name to go with his goals. As he demonstrated then, the ability that made him stand apart from regular humanity was to merge with people whose skin he touched. He sought out the faces and hands of people in the crowd which refused to listen as I yelled at them to “Get back!” They disappeared in twos, joining with Dr. Unity.

I called out over the comms, “Moai, Carl, get in here!” Then, I jumped up above the crowd and went to slam my boots into Dr. Unity where he laid, but he rolled out of the way and continued to take more people as I missed him.

He stood then, and did his best to dodge me. His movements were fluid and smart. As much as he knew and as good as he had been, merging with someone made him better. He gained each person’s strength, each person’s intelligence, and each person’s talents, even though his body looked as old as ever. The payoff, as was found out when I did manage to catch him across the face, was that people could also be expelled from him if he was hurt enough at one time. I caught his jaw with a glowing fist. He fell, as did three others. None of them were hurt, not even Unity, but he was at least weaker. Unity couldn’t reabsorb someone very quickly after having them expelled from his body.

In all my time mopping the floors with heroes, I have often noticed that they aren’t very absorbent.

Still, all but those four were quickly abducted and made a part of him for now. That left him with twenty people still inside. Dr. Unity stood there, looking around the room for me. I’d gone back into stealth mode by then. “You won’t ruin this. I’ve worked too hard. This is the right way, don’t you see?” he pleaded.

After a pregnant pause, I jumped up, wrapped my legs around his head, threw my weight toward the ground, and carried him over me in a flip that landed him right on the top of his head as I released him. Another person fell from Unity, dazed and possibly unconscious.

“You know where that’s falling? Deaf motherfucking ears, doc. With little motherfucking dicks of their own to fuck your motherfucking mother. I don’t exactly like your goal or your methods,” I said as I lunged for his throat. I figured he would lose even more of his human shields as I choked the life from his body. It didn’t happen. Instead, his kick sent me flying to where I crashed against the podium. He dusted himself off, but couldn’t advance to finish me off.

Why? Oh, just because Moai and Carl crashed through the door. Moai wore one of those hats with a pair of beer and hoses up top. Carl was seated safely behind the armor plating I’d added on to the cockpit of the keg armor. He looked over at them. Carl raised one arm of the keg armor, showing off the newly-installed spike.

“Hiya. Distracted enough yet?” asked Carl.

Unity took that as a cue and turned to look for my invisible ass, instinctively raising his arms to guard against an attack that wasn’t coming in a way he could stop. A rubber chicken’s head bounced off his arms. He caught it and looked it over, which is how he discovered the rest of the rubber chicken at his feet, laying on the floor but trying to push itself toward the nearest road.

It went off. He lost six people in the explosion.

“Bad hero, bad bad!” I taunted him. He took a moment to get up from that one. I connected with a blow that would have crushed his windpipe, but someone fell from his body instead. He traded me, sending me flying with the strength of what I think was around thirteen people at that point. Moai and Carl made him an asshole sandwich, though. They were the bread and he was the asshole. It cost him two people but the whole vibrating glowy thing he did kept him from being trapped between them.

Unity slipped loose and began to head for the door.

“Don’t go just yet, Dr. Daterape. The fun’s just begun.” I went to grab him but he flipped me overhead and into a desk.

He grabbed my armored head, trying to get a good hold. “How dare you ruin this? The world, man! My life’s dream! The world my baby girl should have grown up in! I was going to do it. I was going to save them all even if I had to do it by dishonest means. Don’t you try to turn that into something so dirty sounding as ‘Dr. Daterape.’”

“Think about the world you made instead. So disgusting that superheroes were willing to let me have you because of what you did to them, your old colleagues and friends.” I think he gasped even before I kneed him in the balls. Then a beam of light struck him. He fell right in front of me, losing two people.

Moai helped me up and I turned to Carl. “Good shot, Carl. Didn’t think I put a laser on there.”

“Wasn’t me boss. It was them.” He pointed with the arm of his walker.

There, at the entrance to the room, was a set of old friends. A floating young woman who glowed white light from whatever skin her simple white costume didn’t cover lowered her hand from where she had fired at Unity. A tech samurai whose armor glowed red and blue. Another young woman carrying a backpack that was a mess of various devices and gadgets larger than she was. Forcelight, Mechamoto Musashi, and Troubleshooter.

“Gecko,” said Forcelight without a hint of emotion.

“Forcelight! Didn’t expect to see you here. You know they said I could kill him, right?”

“That was a hasty decision made soon after you saved them,” she responded. Somebody had tattled to Forcelight. Maybe I pissed Dame off with that last little surprise.

“Yeah, they were upset after the Sexahol and you used that to rile them up,” added Troubleshooter.

I looked to Musashi for his two cents. He shrugged.

“Nothing from you? Huh. Ok. Well come on, guys. He deserves it, even more than a bad guy. Look at the asshole. You’d expect a villain doing this. We’re not nice people. Some of us aren’t even in control of our own actions. But this guy, a hero, one of you? This guy who always held himself up to higher morals than us just helped do some despicable stuff in this city, and he had more cities on his little list.”

“Our agreement is in jeopardy here, Gecko. I think it’s best if you leave the building,” said Forcelight. The deal she meant was where she and her buddies didn’t mess with me so long as I didn’t mess with them. As long as I didn’t do too much to show off I was still alive, they wouldn’t reveal that they knew for sure that I survived the destruction of the Empyre State Building. Considering recent events, that last point was already pretty iffy, unless people were going to just ignore the name that got passed around as their savior at the club.

I stared into her eyes even as I heard Dr. Unity stand behind me. A dish on Troubleshooter’s backpack whirled around and aimed right for him. I heard more bodies hit the ground. Forcelight wasn’t blinking. I had a visor on. She couldn’t see my eyes. I was considering getting into it, but I was also realizing, in a rare event, that some other people would lose out of all this even if I won. People I shouldn’t have been thinking about, especially because thinking of other people really sucks. It wasn’t a moment of weakness. It was just some chocolate pudding or something.

Finally, I turned toward my minions. Carl in his walker, Moai in his helmet, headbutting Dr. Unity to knock someone else free. “Let’s go. Leave this moron here for them, guys. He’s not worth having a turf war over.”

Outside, I saw the flyer that Forcelight’s team used to use rebuilt. Similar to the distributor back at the club, it was spraying down the city. Probably my stolen nanites that Forcelight’s company, Long Life, had figured out how reprogram and make more of.

“Damn. They are really using my shit against me today.”

“What was that, boss?” asked Carl as he exited the building with Moai.

“Nothing. Ah well. Let’s go rob a Victoria’s Secret on our way back to base, shall we?”

“Why Victoria’s Secret?”

“I’ll tell you why, boys. I’ve heard jokes about something called ‘edible underwear’ and they might be a good item to serve at the club.”

And so we walked off into a nanite rainbow.

Next

Previous

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***

 

Next

Previous

Arete in Destruction 8

Ah, Thanksgiving. Carl had it with his own family, I heard. Thanks to the bank job, he actually got to have one this year. A Thanksgiving dinner, I mean, not a family. I hear there are hookers you can pay for that sort of thing, though. Can you believe that guy had to make due with a ham sandwich a couple years back? Something about having his kids for the meal on a year when he didn’t have money for a big dinner. The kids got taken to dinner. Carl got a ham sandwich back at his apartment.

It’s a good thing crime pays. Compared to the regular economy, there’s a greater chance to climb the financial ladder and move into a new class.

So, yeah, he was off taking that break so soon after he decided he was working for me. I don’t mind, though. I like to keep things casual. The only thing more surprising about the attack on my prior base was that they didn’t catch me wearing nothing but boxer shorts.

Oh, while we’re on the subject of some recent history, I’ve got a few updates to make on people’s conditions. It’s been hard to get good information, especially with Shieldwall turtling after the attacks on Black Raptor and Miss Tycism. There’s been no sign of Venus, Raptor, Bright Star, or Miss Tycism. Even with the others coming out in groups and watching their hidey holes better than ever, those are out of the spotlight completely. I certainly hope I don’t see Miss Tycism floating around again after killing her.

I was sure they’d turtled when I tried going after the Honky Tonk Hero on Wednesday, but he had already high-tailed it to safer grounds. They’d been alerted by that time. I knew it was a possibility, but I was hesitant to go out immediately after that mindfuckeroonie by the late Miss Tycism. I was real close to calling up by buddy Max on the big video screen and asking him to prescribe me something to put me in my proper state of mind, like some LSD.

I didn’t do it. I decided the best way to confront a hero’s attempted disruption of my neurological makeup, or whatever she did, was to jump back on the horse before it was finished throwing me off. Like, maybe I grabbed the saddle, slid under its belly, hooked the stirrup, and then jumped up onto the saddle using impressive kung fu movie wire work. It’d have to be a horse not capable of having an erection, though.

So that is why I ran off to try and hunt down the singing superman, Honky Tonk Hero to my eventual disappointment. I considered blowing up the rooms he rented above a bar with a country music karaoke night, but instead I settled for ruining karaoke night. It was horrible. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. And that was just my attempt to sing “Friends in Low Places”. You should have heard what the poor bar patrons sounded like. The whole place got shut down after there was enough puke for authorities to claim the food was tainted. Perhaps I’ll go there again when they reopen it. Do a nice soliloquy. I hear that you can’t truly enjoy Hamlet until you’ve heard it in the original Klingon.

I took the day off from going out and blowing shit up and focused on the important things in life. Like the rocket-powered heat ray.

I had a dinner as well. Before the day itself I’d had Carl order, pick up, and refrigerate a turkey and ham from some place that prepares them for people. Reheating it all to eat was as easy as a low-power test of the Heatflasher. I had my share of it, then wheeled it on a cart with some whiskey to a group of homeless guys hanging around these barrel fires nearby.

Oh, and to those who think this story you’re reading is one of redemption just because I’m a bad guy who helps a few people, not only are you wrong, but you’re deliberately missing the point.

A good example of this would have to be the assault on the Shieldwall workshop on Black Friday. Black, for the color of mourning. Or the color of businesses turning a major profit instead of a loss.

In a manner quite unlike how I normally start such an attack, I brought nature’s fury to bear against this big zoo right there by the big park in the middle of Empyreal City. It all started innocently enough, with me using helpful brochure provided by the zoo to help me in my nefarious plan. Originally it was just a plan to attack the primate enclosure. The nefariousness of it came from the C4 being used to fire trees at the building and fences from outside the zoo. More nefariousness came from my use of the brochure’s map to aim.

Plus, you know, the kilt. I was in the kilt with the beret. I’d gotten golf shoes for the occasion. Moai held the golf bag full of C4 while Carl sat bundled up behind the wheel of the cart.

It wasn’t all fun and games.

I remember watching as the tree I’d just blown into the sky flew at a bad angle.

“Come on, turn, turn, turn…I think the wind got that one, boys,” I said and grabbed a hefty branch left behind near the crater. I tried to snap it over my knee, but all I managed was an intense ache in my leg. Instead, I had to settle for throwing my club.

Then I whipped out the brochure map and perused it to figure out where it might have gone. The camel pen. I turned toward my caddy and driver and informed them of the bad news, “It’s in the sand trap. I’m going to have to go for a mulligan.”

I got better. A couple tries later, I got a birdie! Probably a lot of birdies, actually, seeing as the tree was reported by the news as plowing into the penguin exhibit. It looked like some of the birds were going to make a break for it, but in the end they all got cold feet.

From there, the three of us made our way to the nearest Best Buy. We had abandoned the golf cart for Carl’s crappy car. Mine was still impounded as the police who still weren’t sure it was mine. Looking back, I guess I could have driven it out remotely, but that’s easier said than done when you’re being pursued.

Once there around back by a side entrance directly to the Geek Squad work area in the back of the store, I got out and popped the trunk. I tossed the clothes to Carl and Moai. Carl held up the shirt. “Boss, do I need to wear this?”

“Of course. It’s a disguise. They may think you’re some sort of thug if you just walk in there dressed as you are. This will confuse them. They would never expect an attack by these people. They’re normally such a gentle folk.”

So we were all suited up. Carl, who was about 6 foot and a thick combination of fat and muscle, was wearing a shirt with some My Little Pony on it. A purple one with a horn and streaks in her hair. He had a beard strapped to his neck as well.

Moai wore a white button-down shirt with a pocket protector, and an oversize pair of thick glasses.

I sported an orange shirt with the symbol of the Orange Lantern Corps. emphasized in the middle of a lineup of the various Lantern Corps. symbols. I also wore a fedora.

I rushed in with a sledgehammer and threw it into a monitor on the floor near a work table. Carl ran in behind me and knelt down by the door, wielding a supersoaker. He aimed at some towers lined up on shelves. Moai jumped burst in through the wall and tackled the work table.

After the high-pitched screaming was finished, the Nerd Squad techs we gathered up cowered before us as was only right and proper to ones dressed such as us. “What do you want?” asked one of them. I didn’t bother to remember which one. The one who looked like a Mormon.

“You have wiped and reset our systems instead of fixing the viruses for the last time, you code-crapping keyboard honkies!”

“Please, show mercy!”

At their pleading, I nodded to Carl. He fired the squirt gun at the towers, drenching them in Mountain Dew Code Red. The drink of Type 2 Diabetic champions. “Y’all look backed up around here. Can’t run a regular virus scan and then give up fast enough, eh?” I walked over to the monitor I’d destroyed earlier. It had skidded some when Moai crashed the place. I picked it up and faced the prisoners. “You know what’s good for helping you when you’re too backed up?” Carl began to laugh as I rubbed the head of the hammer on my shirt, shining it up. “An enema,” I told them with a wicked grin.

As I said before, those were clues. Clues about who I wanted to hit and clues to give me an idea where they were. To my surprise, the two I’d wanted were holed up together in their own little workshop.

Monkeywrench Mechanics. Nice touch for the building that Troubleshooter and Gorilla Awesome were working out of. I drove up on my pink scooter, the Minstrel, and scouted it out. Motion sensors, laser sensors, tripwires, pressure plates, and banana peels. Actually, the peels might have been because Gorilla Awesome was hungry.

I considered a plan of attack, then called Carl. “Yo, Carl.”

“Hey boss.”

“Can you fly a helicopter?”

“Uh, no.”

“Well then, this is about to get interesting.”

I had no idea what countermeasures those fiendishly clever hero minds were coming up with down there, but I knew one way to foil them. It involved Moai driving a truck full of marshmallows while Carl enjoyed a scenic tour of the city that passed right overhead. The pilot was paid not to ask why someone wanted an aerial tour in such a big chopper with so many marshmallows crammed in. From how Carl put it, even if you added a horse in there, it wasn’t the strangest request he’d ever gotten.

As for me, I got back to Monkeywrench Mechanics just after them. I had to get back to the base and grab the Heatflasher. Let’s get field testin’.

Moai’s presence drew Gorilla Awesome out to investigate, but a quick blast of invisible heat scoured him of fur and left him scrambling to get inside. Moai hopped out of the cab of the truck and around to the back and began to toss marshmallows to the roof of the building. I focused on opening a hole in the roof with the heat ray. The roof exploded outward and downward in flaming chunks as I overheated it to dangerous levels. Flaming, melted marshmallow goop from the few Moai had tossed up there fell in as well. I called Carl for the signal.

He dumped all the marshmallows over the building. I reduced the power to the Heatflasher so the test itself wouldn’t wreck it and fired away, liquefying and lighting aflame the falling gooey goodness.

Gorilla Awesome roared in pain as my hot white goo clung to him and burned him. Troubleshooter tried to light into the air, but something clogged in her backpack and she tumbled down into the building.

With my weapon working again and so many of the heroes off their game, it’s time to move into the endgame.

Next time, this city and Shieldwall all burn. Season’s greetings, motherfuckers.

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.

Next

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Two Tickets to Paradise 9

I tapped Moai on the shoulder and pointed to the park. There, on a bench under a gazebo, was Venus. “Alright, if it’s a trap, try to save me. If there’s too many or they have already knocked me out, save yourself, then save me later when their guard is down. I don’t trust this, Moai.” He turned back and nodded, chauffeur’s cap bouncing lightly on his head. I reached back and rubbed at the back of my neck before I stopped myself. He pulled stopped to let me out. I grabbed up my purse and opened the door, taking to the heels I was wearing well enough. It had been awhile since I’d last worn any.

I took a second to smooth out my skirt and put this larger pair of sunglasses on. The ones with larger lenses that make the wearer look like a wannabe primadonna. You may have gathered by now that I was cross-dressing. It was a disguise, kind of. Only thing is, it’s hard to make me look like a woman, at least without nanites. Passing as a woman wasn’t the goal, though.

I approached Venus from behind. I had to catch my hand from wandering back to my neck. Much easier to reach that spot than the ones lower down on my spine. Those thingamajiggers I told y’all about, transmitters and receivers I can work through in case I’m paralyzed again? They were a bitch to install without my nanites. Total female doggage all on my spine. The pain has been humping my brain to show dominance.

But back to creepily approaching a woman from behind. Not creepily, I mean. Just secretively. Just a perfectly normal cross-dressing supervillain sneaking up on a woman. Nothing wrong there.

“Hey there, Boopsie lady,” I said. She jumped slightly, then jumped even more noticeably upon turning and seeing my outfit.

“Whoa. That’s some disguise there, ‘ma’am’ but I think they’re going to see you as less feminine and more transsexual.”

“Damn,” I rifled through my purse, “I was going for transvestite instead. This ought to do it,” I finished and began smearing on even more lipstick. I’ve got to be showy if I’m disguised as a transvestite. A real hot dog. Maybe even a frankfurter.

I was hoping she’d giggle at that, but I guess I don’t make her feel very relaxed.

“You disguised yourself as a transvestite? Why?”

“You ask that so much lately. The why, I mean. I rarely get asked about why I look like a transvestite.”

“Again, why did you show up here looking like a transvestite?”

“Because people would expect me to do a good job of looking like a woman if I wanted to. If I did that, I’d be disguised as a transsexual. It just makes sense this way,” I sat down to her left, dropping my purse between us on the wood bench. Then I lifted my foot and began to massage the ankle. “Been awhile. These things are not fun.”

Venus was too busy trying to glance in my purse without giving herself away. I agreed to not bring my armor or any weapons to this rendezvous, but she didn’t trust me. I turned to her and held the purse out for her, “Here. You want to see if I brought anything with me? Go ahead. You just saw me reach in myself.”

She took it in her hands, looked down at it, thought for a second, then shoved it back toward me, “No, you open it.”

“Alright,” I told her as I grabbed it, “I’ll open it up myself. Should have known you’d do this to me.”

“Wait!” she said just as I was about to open it. “Hand it over.”

I did, again. “Are we just going to keep playing hot potato here because you don’t know if I’ve booby trapped the thing? Can’t you trust that the only boobies I thought about in this meeting were yours.”

She wonked me across the face with the purse. Face still turned off to the side from the blow, I said, “I ought to walk for that, but, ya know,” I pointed a finger at her, “I kind of like you.”

She held the purse away from her, “Purely as an enemy, of course,” she responded. She opened it.

“Of course.”

Confused, Venus dug through the contents of my purse, checking it over, then dumped it out. Makeup, a wallet, a tampon.

“You look confused, Venus.”

She set the purse down, “I told you not to bring weapons. We expected you would ignore that.”

I jumped up on the bench, left foot on the seat, right foot on the back of it, and pointed off in the distance, “Exactly! You can’t even expect the unexpected with Psycho Gecko! Even the expected is unexpected with me.” I glanced down at her. She had her face turned down and away, cheeks reddening.

“What’s wrong?”

“You’re not wearing any underwear!”

That’s when I became aware of the geometry involving my legs and skirt. I turned around and sat down, “Just wanted let the boys get some fresh air today, that’s all. I figured taking care of this business was a good time for that. Right? Business instead of just pleasure?”

Venus poked me in the man boob.

“Yo, hero, my eyes are up here.”

“You didn’t wear your armor either. Talk about a show of trust,” she looked up at me with her soft brown eyes. “Alright, Gecko, I’ll hear what you have to say.”

I know a lot that I did here was to throw her off from her immediate distrust of me and break the ice, but I don’t know if that counted as too easy. Because they’re all out to get me. Under every rock. That’s another reason why no underwear. They have a spy under a rock, he looks up, sees my junk, goes blind and screams, “Argh!” and I have time to get away.

“I don’t like them, and was going to work on giving them up. There’s a plan we’re working on to draw y’all on to the casino. Turns out that underneath it, there’s a nice big vault full of guardians and giant plasma cannons and so on. The rainy day stash of Ouroboros, probably with lots of stolen valuables tossed in. I can be your man on the inside. Disable some defenses and trip up some of their guys. Then, before they’re read, I call y’all in. I can even get you into the vault if y’all can get me to it in the midst of all the fighting. I just want to grab a few things out of there to compensate me for my trouble and then be on my merry way. Oh, I’d like a head start too. Don’t want you heroes turning on me that quickly.”

“We can’t do that. You’ve done horrible things and made a lot of enemies. We’re the heroes. It’s our duty to bring you in. If you come along nicely, we won’t have to hurt you in the process.”

“You sure do want to treat me gently, all things considered.”

“I don’t think even you are irredeemable. I’ve seen what you’ve built. You could revolutionize the world in a good way. And I think that if you were a little less angry at everything, you could stop this life of conflict.”

“That is a far more conciliatory attitude than I expect from someone whose boyfriend I killed,” I looked her in the eye. Clues fell in place. She didn’t want me running off too suddenly and she already stated they weren’t going to work with me. Grabbing my purse, I turned around and jumped onto the back of the bench. I balanced awkwardly due to my footwear. My paranoia was justified as I found we weren’t alone. I saw a figure in armor in my rightmost peripheral vision, but it was Troubleshooter and her massive backpack that had my attention the most. The tripod was down and a mechanical limb arched out of the pack and pointed a weapon at me. She had a gun of some sort in her arms as well. Her shots caught the bench and the rail of the gazebo, sending splinters of wood into the air.

She missed me because I dove forward and to my left. My beautiful dive and subsequent high score from the Olympics judges was ruined by Venus punching me in the back. I landed harder than I wanted to on my left arm and couldn’t quite roll with it, so I was slower getting back to me feet. Said feet were then blown from under me by another blast from Troubleshooter. They were still attached, but they have failed me. I ought to execute them for that.

They were on me quickly, Venus and the man in the armor. The man in a stolen suit of my armor. Here’s a promise, readers. He will die soon. I wanted to strangle him right there, but Venus was pinning my arms to the ground. That’s much easier to do without my own suit of armor on. The man in the armor put his weight on my legs. My struggles were fruitless. I couldn’t even twist around to break an arm and escape that way.

“Did you get enough of a sound sample?” Venus queried the asshole in my armor.

When he spoke, it was with a voice similar to mine if it was coming out of the suit’s comms, “Yes. I should be able to infiltrate them, no problem. Hey T.S., call in the flyer!”

Troubleshooter was walking towards us, her backpack tripod stepping along with her to help support the weight. “Already done. They’ll be here in five, and Forcelight in four.”

Venus looked down at me, “You wouldn’t believe what we had to go through to adapt your suit and the rest of your tech, but we’re finally going to put you to some good.”

The man in my suit shrugged, “Don’t bother. He doesn’t need help. He needs a bodybag.”

I saw Moai as he finished circling the park and turned onto the grass. He was coming up from behind Troubleshooter now. Now would be a good time to get and hold people’s attention.

“If I may interject, ladies and gentlemen, then I’d like to point out that there is some degree of intellectual dishonesty involved in stealing my things and using them in this way. Furthermore, a copyright lawyer may wish to have a word with you just as soon as I can perform the ancient rites and summon one from the nearest hell-like dimension. It would also be prudent to remember that there is at least one aspect of this scenario you have not accounted for that may come back to bite you in the rectum should you not be paying attention for a sufficiently long length of time, perhaps due to a distraction or somebody talking for a long time and saying what may or may not be very little, all things considered,” I spewed at them, speaking louder and louder as I went on.

“What are you talking abou- Watch out, T.S.!” the armor thief said as he just then noticed the SUV picking up speed and aiming for Troubleshooter. She had heard it approach but couldn’t turn around in that getup quickly enough. Moai hit the brakes just as he rammed into her, slowing down enough to not total the escape vehicle. Instead, the stop was sudden enough that he flew through the windshield and into Troubleshooter. The vehicle had unbalanced her. The flying Moai headbutt knocked her the rest of the way onto the ground, her giant super sciency robotic pack’s weight holding her down.

Moai rolled and stood up again, covered in dirt and grass stains. The despicable thief of my armor stood up and left my legs free. He advanced on my minion. Venus knelt behind me, pinning my wrists down with her knee, her hands on my arms. I threw my feet over me, kicking at her head. I felt the heels dig in to something and she fell back, freeing my arms. I turned and rolled to my knees, then stood. The despicable thief was charging up the gloves, but very slowly. I brought my purse down on the helmet and planted my heel-clad foot in his butt. I propelled him forward, where Moai stepped aside and let him pass. While he tried to get his bearings, Moai dipped over and tripped the man, then hopped onto one of his hands, crushing it.

I turned back to Venus, who had taken to her feet as well. She was wary of the various civilians gathered around to see a catfight, but she also had to know this could get very messy, very easily. I turned back to Moai and whispered. “I’ll go up. You roll under.”

As I turned back to face Venus, I launched myself into a flying kick. Her face went red again as this presented quite the view up my skirt, but she sidestepped. She sidestepped even more when Moai came rolling on his side to knock her down.

I managed to land on Moai, surprising even me, and we went right by Venus. “Hey, Moai, other way, we need to get back to the car,” I instructed him as I ran backwards in heels trying to stay on him. The only thing we were missing was Yakety Sax. We circled around past Venus, who was seeing to the faking mean faker of falsehoods who stole my armor, and past a Troubleshooter who was starting to angle up. Moai stopped there and I got off. Moai got in the driver’s side while I kicked one leg of the tripod out from under Troubleshooter.

I lost a shoe in the process. Those bastards.

So that’s how my Saturday went bad. My hair was a mess, my skirt torn, I lost my purse, and the heroes have been figuring out how to use my equipment. If I’d had the time to beat them, I’d love to have ripped that usurper from my armor, fed him the contents of his intestines, and then kicked his ass so hard he’d have to pry it open to see anything, but reinforcements were on their way. See, I give them slack and they put together something like this. Venus especially is going to be the death of me if I’m not the death of her.

And all this helps to highlight one other reason why I hate all this crap: I have to be careful about killing people. Like back there. If I’d snapped Troubleshooter’s neck, that’d make damn sure the heroes would target me above all others when our confrontation happens. All this manipulation better pay off, I know that much.

Speaking of paying, don’t they realize how much these shoes cost?

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Two Tickets to Paradise 6

Let me just say that these past few days hit me like a ton of bricks. Just wham!

By now you’ve already read about the seeds of this whole mess that were planted. I left Moai to guard Raggedy Man in his new room and figured I’d water them a bit. Or plant more. I was never into gardening, so the plant metaphor stretches kind of thin for me, like a rubber band that has to fit around the entire scope of an event. Metaphorical simile aside, I escalated things.

Say what you will, but I think the car bomb was perfectly justified. The target left the restaurant nice and sauced. I just turned desert into a flambé. I don’t know who the Yakuza guy was, what he did in the organization, or if he was any higher than some sort of middle manager. I don’t know much…but I know his car blew. And that may be all I need to know. Great tipper though, even if his guys were a bit paranoid and kept a close eye on me.

Obviously it’s the Cartel they have to watch out for. That’s who is meant when people mention the Columbians around here. They’re really not all Columbian once you get to the states. Still, they’re known for their car bombs.

Don’t think they got off easy though. Why, on the same night as their cowardly attack on some random Yakuza guy, several of their men who supplied drugs at the street level were gunned down by someone with a lot of those spare dinky Mini Uzis the extraction team tried to use. They’re like toys, I swear. It’s hard to take these little things seriously. I felt like the trigger was going to break off in my hand while it farted bullets into the guys.

I made it real easy for everyone to put the pieces together, too. I left all the clues out really obvious so anyone examining things would be like “Wow, this was pretty clearly a Yakuza hit and this was clearly a Cartel hit. It might as well be written all over the place.” Then they’ll laugh and laugh.

The next day, I visited our old friend Torrent. He was annoyed to say the least. I bet it’s because somebody painted the windows and windshield black and was sitting on the hood in full armor. I didn’t get a chance to deny the paint job, though. He was more concerned about the bomb I had in my hands that was spot on for what the Cartel straps to a car. “What are you doing here with that?” he spat at me.

“Oh, nothing. Had some time while I was blindfolding your car, figured I’d chain it to your toilet. Nice house by the way,” It was too. It was by the bay on Scenic Highway, very good land, even if the slopes make driving awkward. There aren’t beaches there, but it’s a fantastic spot if you have a boat. “Anyway, before I could send your pooper on parade, I found this sucker hanging on. Don’t worry, it’s disarmed. I wouldn’t want to hurt you. Here, catch!” I chucked it underhanded at Torrent. He caught it quickly and I saw his hand and forearm slightly bulge at the impact before it dissipated through his body.

“Did you stop by just to vandalize my humvee?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m here on official unofficial business. I know I’m not here officially, meaning you don’t have to act like you give a damn, but I’m here unofficially, meaning the other guys act like they give a damn. Just figured I’d point out that if I’m attacked by these guys again, with no allies of my own officially around, then I may be force to do some very violent things. There could be collateral damage. Have you ever seen a man ripped apart by an exploding port-a-potty rocket? Unofficially, between you and me, that may happen.”

Torrent was stoic in the face of extortion. “They attacked you? Do they know what you’re after?” he queried.

“They knew what room I was in on what floor I was on of what building I was keeping someone in. He’s a very important someone for this project. If you guys are antagonizing both sides, that’s fine, but a crossfire is a dangerous place for me to be for everyone concerned. All alone, lost in a strange city, looking for water to put my back against. Can you dig it?”

He dug it.

Thanks to another anonymous tip from the same source that had good information on where the out-of-towner was keeping someone hidden, one or two people with an eye out also caught a glimpse of said out-of-towner tossing a Cartel-style car bomb to Ouroboros’s #2 man. The #2 is about to hit the fan, man.

From there, I headed back to the hotel. The same one they raided. They obviously wouldn’t expect me to stay in the exact same hotel. I went right back to the first floor. Yes, the same floor too. Even if they thought I had the audacity to stay in the same hotel, they’d assume I would change floors. They’d be wrong. And I went to the same room door…and passed it up, heading two doors down. If anyone thought to check the same hotel and floor, they’re savvy enough to check the same room. Uh uh. Not gonna find me that easy.

Time for the video. I let myself into the room and handed a phone to Moai. Just something I picked up real quick. It and the axe. Some people looked at me funny when I was carrying that around, but I yelled something about Second Amendment Rights and that got them to back off.

I took the axe with me into the circle of floodlights. Raggedy wasn’t looking good. He was scraped up, with dried blood on his arms and legs where he’d tried to wriggle free. He had a cut on his head as well, probably from the lamp.

Making sure not to bridge the gap with a shadow, I stood close to him and tapped him on the head with the axe. “Wake up, sleeping beauty. I really don’t feel like true love’s kiss needs to be brought into this.”

He stirred, slowly getting his bearings. Then he saw the axe, his eyes going wide. He trembled a tiny bit. To his credit, he restored his composure after a few seconds. I patted him on the head. “Fear not, Raggedy Man. You and I are just going to make a video…something tasteful. Ok, Moai, roll it!”

I waved at the camera, axe in hand. “Hi there Raptor! Say hi, Raggedy Man.”

I waited. And waited. No response from Raggedy. I grabbed his hand with mine and began yanking it. “Now come on Raggedy, at least wave to the man.” With a crack, I was able to raise Raggedy’s hand up for a wave. His forearm remained firmly secured to his chair with a cuff having been forced high up along his arm. He screamed. I waited until he was finished before I spoke out the side of my mouth in a higher pitch than normal, “Hullo there Raptor, it’s me, Raggedy, practicing my ventriloquism.”

“Neat skill there, Raggedy Man. Anyway, Raptor, nice to finally talk to you. I’m Psycho Gecko and I’ve been spying on you. You’ve come out to your wife about your secret identity. The late nights, the costume with muscles molded into it, looking for strange men in dark alleyways. You’re a superhero. You probably think now you’re out that things get better. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they won’t. It gets worse.”

I set down my hostage’s hand and continued, “I have him at that crappy hotel by the civic center. First floor. You’ll want to get here and rescue him while you can. I know it’s the middle of the day, but you can drop the girls off at an aunt’s house or something and throw on the costume. Your wife won’t have to know because she’s working. Actually working at the bank this time. No stakeout. Raaaaptor, come out to plaaaaaay.”

I brought the axe more prominently into frame and gave it a couple partial spins. “Just you, me, and a new axehole. Ok, cut it there and let’s send it to him. Good job Raggedy, you’ll make it in showbiz yet. You should really show me how you do the trick with the broken arm sometime, I’d love to know how you fake that.”

“What are you going to do if he doesn’t show up?” wondered my prisoner.

“I’m going to leave you in the chair, that’s all. He’ll come.”

Moai sent Raptor the video to his phone and I left the disposable plugged in to charge and provide a handy bug for when Raptor came crashing in. The axe I left in the plastic ashtray outside the door of the hotel. Meanwhile, I headed to the bank. I had an important withdrawal to make.

When I walked into the bank, I appeared to be a civilian in a business suit, briefcase in hand. I’m glad I don’t have to wear an actual suit. Too morbid. Think about it. What do they dress dead bodies in for a funeral? Suits. And then there’s the noose people men tie around their own throats when they put them on. Not only are they dressing like they’re going to die, they’re wearing a means to kill them.

I bluffed my way through to the offices with various nonsense about loan originators and debt reconsolidation and so on. A badge and nametag appeared to match what I saw worn around me in the office, the title shifting as I weaved in and out of lies and higher up the corporate ladder. You can get more places with nonsense, a prop, and confidence than you can with just nonsense. Acting like you don’t belong somewhere is a sure sign that you don’t. Social engineering, I’ve heard it called. The weakest links in any security measure are the people themselves.

I found our Mrs. Robinson looking much more professional in the women’s version of a suit on her slender frame and hair done up. There were dark circles around her eyes. Knowing what hubby’s up to wasn’t helping her peace of mind. I just had to idle for a bit, so I stopped by the water cooler. Mmm, refreshing water. I don’t think anyone caught that it just ran off what seemed like my face and suit.

I made my move when I heard doors crashing in back at the hotel via my phone. The missus was chatting with a balding coworker when I stopped by her desk casually, apologized that I needed to pause and get something from my case, and pulled out my coffee blaster and a small board. Some people call their coffee makers a name like Mr. Coffee. I think I’ll call mine Mr. 2nd Degree Burns. Excellent.

I scalded the man with the thinning hair right on his exposed head. Mrs. Robinson had an inkling of my purpose and stumbled upright, knocking over her chair. I wrapped my arm around her as she turned to run, catching her around the midsection. I set Mr. 2nd Degree Burns aside then hit her at waist-height with the board. It let out a snap as it hit her and on my signal it curled around her waist. I got the idea from a wristband I saw once.

She struggled and threw her elbows against me. She tried to stomp on my foot with her heel. She stopped that once I whispered to her, “Mrs. Robinson, you can try and seduce me later. Right now, that’s a bomb I put on you. I have the detonator in my helmet and can set it off at any moment, so you might want to stop. Just saying.”

She did as I gently suggested and stood there, huffing, trying to catch her breath. Taking Mr. 2nd Degree Burns back in hand, the two of us made our way to the elevator. She got a confused look on her face as the door closed and turned to me. “Helmet?” she inquired. She got a good look at my armor as I dropped the businessman illusion and let out a piercing scream.

I tried muting her, but I was forced to do so without the aid of a remote by holding my hand over her mouth while I listened in on Raptor’s progress. He broke down the correct door this time. “Help is here, man. We got you. I don’t care what they said, I knew you’d turn up alive. You’re too tough a bastard to die.”

She screamed her pretty little face off up on the roof. I held her by the updo she had her long black hair in, holding her at arms length so that she leaned off the side of the building. I dialed up the phone I left back in the hotel room and interrupted the reunion of mentor and hero with a call carrying the shrill sound of Raptor’s wife in danger.

“Hey, pick up the phone already! I don’t have all day. My arm’s getting tired.”

“What do you want?” came a voice over the phone. There was rage, desperation, and hurt in his voice.

“It’s funny that nobody knows the answer to that, because I’m sure it would make a lot of things in the immediate future much clearer. I digress. Now, I wasn’t lying when I said your wife was at work. I’m with her now! Let me tell you, she knows how to work a business skirt, know what I mean? You’ve got two kids, so I guess you do. So here’s the deal, I’m going to drop her here in a few minutes. I don’t know, maybe five? I suppose I could try and make this a sadistic choice, but we both know you’ll grab her instead of trying to grab me. All you have to do is flap your little wings over here and keep your wife from falling to her doom.” I hung up.

I actually waited 7 minutes, but nothing beats having a loved one die in a hero’s arms. When it looked like he was close enough, I dropped Mrs. Robinson off the side of the building and adjusted my visor for binocular vision.

Black Raptor dove like a peregrine for the woman he loved. He came in dangerously close to the ground to catch her and the extra weight threw him down low enough that his wings struck something and the pair began to roll. When I caught up to them and got it focused enough I was disappointed by the sight that everyone lived. Raptor laid there on the ground, mechanical wings ruined, wife on top of him, the bomb strap in its board shape again nearby. The wife was going to make it, it seems. It put enough into it that it’ll blow through bones and organs where it’s wrapped, but with no real chance of collateral damage. It’s designed to do enough to kill just the one it’s wrapped around. Remember, if I kill Raptor, he won’t learn nuthin’.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t give the guy a hand for all his luck and determination. I sent the signal telling the strap to curl up. It wrapped around Raptor’s right arm at the bicep. From where I stood, it sounded more like a loud pop as it took his arm off.

I cut back to the visor’s normal vision mode as I turned and found myself face-to-face with a giant hammer that hit me out of nowhere. I fell to my right, more than a little dazed. “Hey Gecko!” Venus shouted as she got control of the beefed up sledgehammer she just bitchslapped me with.

“You did it out of order,” I said haltingly. I had to relearn how to speak as my teeth felt like they’d just been rearranged.

“Stay down, Psycho Gecko. The team has this building surrounded and our people inside. There’s only one way you get off this building and that’s in our custody. Don’t make us have to hurt you.”

I held up a finger, “Hold on a minute. I don’t know where you came from or how you and your identical triplet sisters learned to spin around in circles that way, but I think we’ve established by now that there are two ways off this building.”

With that, I threw myself off the side, hoping I was still facing good people.

I was. It was Forcelight who first tried to catch me, but she was too powerful for what I was trying to do. If she caught me, that would be it. I directed a blank white holographic image into her face as she got close. She pulled it away with her powers but had missed me. She couldn’t stop on a dime.

The next hero to interrupt my fall was Gorilla Awesome who swung through the air to catch me in one meaty paw. Too bad he can’t fly. I swung my fists into one of his eyes and kicked off his body.

I continued my descent until Troubleshooter floated by. She piloted a car-sized vehicle that looked like she got out of control while adding stuff to her backpack. Two large waldoes, shaped like squared-off “U”s, grabbed me from either side, pinning my arms to my waist as the ends of each side met at my front and back. A mechanical scorpion tail rose out of the back of her flying machine and aimed right at my head. “Go ahead, make a move. I dare you.”

I hooked my right foot against a sort of cuff that was part of the right waldo and pushed, activating the jump enhancer. A system designed to throw me into the air exerted pressure against it. The right waldo yielded, leaving me in only the left, which tried to close more and hold me. It tried, but I slipped out the bottom. Hey, at least it got me closer to the ground and slowed me down some.

I was beginning to think I should have stayed with her when the heroes made one last attempt at saving my life. Or they almost did. Miss Tycism stopped before she got close enough to grab me and just let me fall.

I bounced off an SUV when I landed, denting it before landing hard on the ground. I was in bad shape. Bones broken, head concussed, warm fluids in my helmet and crotch area. I couldn’t feel much below the neck. I heard the door of the SUV open. The armor and I were both a little messed up but I wrangled enough projectors working together to throw up the illusion that I wasn’t there. Nanites flooded my body, emptying the suit’s stores as they worked to mend me. That was the plan. Disappear, get well enough to walk, and find Moai if he was still close enough in the escape vehicle.

Except the driver that walked over to look at me happened to be a statue from Easter Island. He loaded me in the back of the crushed former Yabloo City Sheriff’s K9 unit SUV and took off with me before the heroes could track us.

Like I said, good to have someone dependable around.

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