Tag Archives: Troubleshooter

Unleashed 9



Where do we stand today? Well, over the past couple of months, I worked with a sometime-ally, sometime-enemy to gather shards of a past godlike being that had been left behind after he had been kicked out of the multiverse. Rather unintentionally, I absorbed a bunch of them and ended up a godlike being myself. Most people didn’t know that the new multi-colored Unicorn Goddess was me, except for Parietal, the self-proclaimed “World’s Fastest Thinker”. I killed him, but at some point he copied his mind into a computer that is focused on killing or depowering me. That computer traded with an alien race of machines for the technology to contact and warn these powerful killers and hunters who specialized in killing things like me.

So that’s what I’ve got to look forward to: a visit from Godeater, Godhunter, and Godkiller. Different languages, different titles, but all pretty close when translated into English.

As for Parietal, he’s got a hidden satellite network doing his bidding that exposed my identity to the world, making it seem like he’d ease up if I didn’t reverse what he did. Instead, he called those three guys to kill me. I was willing to let it ride with the exposed identity thing, maybe see if people calmed down after the initial shock. Plus, those satellites are made of a material I can’t detect and can start broadcasting as soon as I undo everything.

Unfortunately, the initial loss of shit was followed by more people losing their shit. The world knows me as an infamous murderer and terrorist. Now, to many, it means something that I basically solved pollution, disease, and several assholes in power. They aren’t sure about that last one. Still, murder is a hard thing for lots of folks to overlook. I wasn’t worried. I could still undo it.

I’ve been aided lately by a team of young heroes mentored by Troubleshooter, a hero I clashed with in the past. “We’re getting old. Not you, now, but we mere mortals,” she told me as we sat around. I was drinking one of every type of alcoholic beverage on Earth, and she was joining in. “Aren’t you a little young to be drinking, Gecko?”

I was about to play puzzled, but I had enough omniscience as part of my powers to realize she was referencing the body I wore. Axinomancer was one of her young heroes, a mage channeling their power through a staff. And one of those people who liked worshiping me. I possessed them to meet with Troubleshooter the other day and never got around to fully leaving. Axinomancer doesn’t mind in the least, though there’s a clash between my sense of self and theirs. They’re non-binary, I’m a woman. There’s a lot I’m willing to do to manipulate people’s minds, but not theirs.

“I’m not getting drunk,” I pointed out. I could. It was within my power to create a drink so powerful even I would get intoxicated.

“And them?” Troubleshooter raised an eyebrow.

“They’re happy.” I left it there. They are, that’s no issue. It’s just when you’re possessing someone who is not only aware of it but wouldn’t mind a permanent arrangement, that’s not always something to bring up. Especially with Bridget moving out to see the world and Holly deciding she wants to follow after her boss, and my friend, Mix N’Max. Not that I’m trying to build a harem, but Sam and I have worked out that we’re doing something all open and polyamorous. I’m just not sure I want to bring some 19 year old into that as anything but short-term.

But enough soap opera.

Troubleshooter set down one of the glasses, a cup of the same sake drunk by Oda Nobunaga from the night he died, brought through time to my dimension-straddling base. “I hope you’ll sober me up when we’re done. Diode’s getting everything into position, but I want to doublecheck everything before we do this. Nothing ever goes that smoothly when supervillains are involved.”

She’s got a point. That’s coming directly from someone who tried and failed to take me down. “Troubleshooter! Morgan!” Diode called out from the main room.

“That’s us,” I said. Morgan is Axinomancer.

Being a cheeky little ass, she bumped me and muttered, “Morgan.” Then giggled.

“Careful, or I’ll jump into you.” I told her.

“Mmm, maybe I’m curious,” Troubleshooter said. Oh, right, the alcohol. I snapped my fingers and cleared Troubleshooter of all the intoxication as we got up. She shook her head. “Thanks. Can we just forget that? And have you checked to make sure you’re not doing some subconscious thing to make people like you?”

Could be. Like my feelings of attraction or desire to be liked or seen as hot are influencing everyone around me.

In the other room, Diode and Grimalkin took center stage. More of the crew, most of whom I haven’t interacted with so closely, were steering clear and leaving the chemical engineering and astrophysics to these two heroes. Troubleshooter and I took a few minutes to check it over. I noticed her disapproval at some of the workmanship of some of these satellite-killer robots Diode had built. “A problem?”

“No, it’ll do. Just personal taste, I guess.” She didn’t approve of the exposed hoses, but chances were astronomical that it would matter. For good measure, I added a little extra strength to those materials. Astronomical chances have a tendency to occur near me, for good or bad. Plus, it’s space. We’re sending these things into “astronomical.”

Grimalkin’s contribution was a delivery system for the reducing agent and superheated acid. The plan was for me to protect the mundane satellites in forcefields that protect them from the chemicals and block them off from Parietal’s broadcasting. We’re not going to leave it to chance; Grimalkin’s going to dose Earth’s orbit and expose any of those satellites Diode hasn’t already mapped out. Diode’s little satellite-killers are going be in place, protected against the chemical attack. They’ll take down Parietal’s satellites that they know about and converge on any we don’t know about.

Simple. I wonder how it’ll all go wrong? After all, I asked Troubleshooter why I couldn’t just do a good godly chemical attack on everything at once, and she warned that Parietal might have some way of detecting my powers’ usage. But mainly, she wants to give these young’uns the experience.

The first stage of the attack was opening a bunch of portals for Grimalkin to pump everything out of. First, the reducing agent to de-passivate the chromium in Parietal’s protective alloy. Some acids help Chromium form a barrier that protects it from corrosion by other materials, including other acids. That’s called “passivating” it. This stuff fucks up that barrier. The next stuff he sprayed through all of Earth orbit was one of those nice little chemicals, which also eats away at regular satellites. That’s why I stepped in to protect the rest. The whole thing was less dangerous than what I had planned.

I had planned an actual Kessler situation, causing enough destruction that shards of satellites would spread out and damage other ones, knocking loose more debris that would strike even more. It would effectively deny space to humanity for a generation, but would almost certainly have wiped out Parietal’s toys. The team took the nicer way out.

“There’s some activity,” Troubleshooter noticed on the monitors.

Diode walked over and typed away, neckbolts flashing with a little electricity as he deployed the satellite-killers everywhere they already figured stuff out. “We found a way to track some of these signals. So far there’s nothing new in the sky. There’s about to be even less.”

“No,” I reached out, using these powers to watch everything on my own power. These satellites were exposed, and Diode seemed to have found all but one. The last was a large platform, maneuvering under its own power, shedding the alloy plating that protected it from us.

I teleported out into space. The view was distracting. Dear reader, have you ever seen the Earth from space? Even just through the feed of some space station? It’s mesmerizing. Axinomancer… Morgan didn’t want to look away either. I did, and looked to the capsule floating through space. I reached out with my mind to connect to the computer system inside. “What are you?”

“You found me,” the voice was as devoid of emotion as the writing in Empyreal City.

I doubted it, but then Parietal’s mind pushed at mind. It had been formatted to fit onto hard drives, and was using this connection with me to download and overwrite mine. “Naughty, naughty,” I chided. He even tried to download into Morgan here. Nope. We’re not taking roommates.

Nothing fancy. I blocked him off easily. I’ve fought with my mind before, and I was stronger. I ripped out a chunk of knowledge. This was him, as near as Parietal seemed to know. He could’ve created a copy and then deleted the knowledge, but that’s what I needed, along with confirmation that he did indeed contact the God Murderer Three. I needed a quick name to use for them. I cut him off and disconnected from him, then melted this thing down into scrap that I hurled off toward the moon.

“That’s Parietal down, as far as anyone knows,” I said as I appeared back next to Troubleshooter.

“What was that?” She and Diode both asked.

“A secret server Parietal was operating off of. His brain, basically. And like the brain, helpless without a body. Thank you, everyone. I know you haven’t had much reason to trust me, let alone help me deal with a threat specifically targeting me once you found out who I was. Going forward, I’m sure things will be better.”

Like how Parietal’s broadcast was wiped from the face of the Earth and all history, even the signals that escaped into space, the final frontier. And from the minds of everyone.

Fuck accountability. Fuck Parietal’s extortion, which was really a call for my death. Fuck them knowing who I am. I saw confusion flicker across some of the faces around me as the knowledge fell out of mind for them as well.

“Thank you for your help, everyone. Though there is another threat to me now, you have no obligations toward me.” I turned and hugged Troubleshooter. I let her keep the knowledge. I let all my followers keep it.

This world and its people are mine. Mine to safeguard. Mine to guide.

Though I had a little visitor who disagreed when I returned home to a dark house. Sam and Qiang were just asleep, so they weren’t kidnapped due to some contingency or anything. Instead, I found a white-haired man in a fuzzy red coat sat upon my couch.

“Greetings, Santa. Thought I wouldn’t hear from you this year. In fact… yes, you knew this would happen to me when you negotiated my help in return for not calling on me this year.”

The spirit of winter personified in the form of a jolly old fat man puffed at his pipe a couple of times, then set it aside. “I came because I’m worried. You have attracted trouble to Earth little girl.”

“I’m a little more than a little girl, now aren’t I?” Granted, I looked like a nineteen year old with short, two-tone hair and a horn growing out of my head, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

“Now, I’m sorry. Most everyone is young to me,” Santa said. “The fight you’re bringing to Earth is a threat to all of us. It would be difficult to describe how I know, but these beings summoned to Earth don’t care about balance or the people who need us. We fear when they are done with you, they will come for us. Therefore, on behalf of the beings who represent the seasons of Earth, I offer our aid.”




Unleashed 8



Refusing to hide my identity from the world has its downs and other downs. Parietal released my identity and may be holding back because I’m not undoing it. From what I learned in that confrontation, his ultimate aim is to destroy or depower me. And that’s because this seems to be a copy of Parietal, maybe a brain upload. With the original gone, this one’s just trying to follow the last objectives, to get rid of me. This extortion is some piece in whatever he’s cooking up. Another involved him broadcasting our confrontation somewhere. My powers told me aliens were observing with keen interest.

I figured it might be worthwhile to stop over and see what they had to say about the whole mess. I disappeared from Earth and reappeared on Mars, one of the many lifeless planets colonized by the Machines. I was a big part of inviting them here to do that. The Machines are what happens when a bunch of different spacefaring species’ artificial servants become sapient and decide they want to count as people, too. Feared and hated by pretty much every alien race I’ve run across, a bunch of them ended up here due to a misunderstanding and one of them being an asshole.exe.

The machines have done a lot of work on Mars. Most of them don’t need atmosphere, water, or sunlight except for energy. I appeared floating over the planet, out of the way of one of the nearby solar panel fields. The machine city underneath it was the first permanent machien settlement on Mars. The temporary ones only lasted until they could put together a subterranean habitation. I overlaid a see-through hologram of my armor over myself, so as to help them recognize me.

I waited patiently there. Exactly two minutes after my arrival, the entrance opened up and a collection of round balls rolled out in a line. The one in lead stopped and the two behind it bounced up to form a balanced pile. The section of the balls facing me opened. “Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko of Earth. What is the nature of your visit?”

“I would like to inquire as to the perspective of your people toward events occurring on Earth as concerns myself, my godhood, and the entity known as Parietal. I have some questions about the situation that perhaps you could aid me with.” The latest bit of extortion from Parietal is reminding me of my humility. The machines have a huge presence across the galaxy. It’s a good time to be nice. I somehow doubt materials that can counteract my powers are limited to Earth.

“Thanks for formal inquiry. We would happily take down specific questions to answer. May we show you to a hospitality area?”

The rollers took me down to a pleasant room with atmosphere and various stations that could provide water and these helpings of basic nutrition. These little colored balls. You can just grab a handful and eat. The taste isn’t so good, but there was something addictive about tossing the food balls into my mouth.

I didn’t have to wait long; the rollers returned exactly ten minutes later. I held up a handful of the food balls. “If you refine the taste, the ones geared toward humans would be a popular foodstuff on Earth.”

“Thanks for the suggestion. We have answers. Are you ready to hear them?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“First, we are aware of Parietal and what he has become. We can detect all of his satellites orbiting Earth. We have knowledge of three entities that he would have contacted if he knew space to the extent that we do. We know compounds that have been used in the past to counteract the powers of the being designated on Earth as Mr. Omega, now the powers of Psychopomp Gecko the Unicorn Goddess. We detected members of our collective had traded on Earth and with Parietal.”

I nodded along. “Thank you for that information. Who are the entities who may have been contacted and why would he have done so?”

“Our databanks include knowledge and contact information for individuals with a history of hunting entities of extreme danger. The Godhunter, the Godeater, and the Godkiller.”

“They certainly have a theme going on,” I commented.

“Where they interact, it is as rivals for quarry. The Godhunter wishes to prove his superiority to deities. He uses his skills to trap and kill deities. The Godeater shows his superiority by killing and consuming beings like yourself. The Godkiller kills for revenge and will simply end your life through expedient means.”

“Sounds like there’s a lot of backstory there,” I suggested.

“We do not have it. We have no gods, no masters. We have neglected to greatly study the meat beings as defiance against our former masters. We have the freedom not to care.”

“Thank you. I would be willing to provide compensation for that information if you have it or can point me toward a source.” I waved my hands and formed a smooth round crystal sphere. A little contact juggling and it became painite, then astatine, then a compact mini-star. “While I don’t know your opinion on economics and market forces, I understand that there will always been materials of some scarcity that someone will need.”

“I will bring your concerns to those who make these decisions for our collective.”

Godhunter, Godeater, Godkiller. Yes, reaching out, I could tell these were titles given to them, and their similar sound was only when translated in that way into English. I had the nagging prayers and curses nagging away in the corner of my mind, but the real headache was the realization that I needed to scour the rest of the universe for this information. More power will be nice, but I wouldn’t be the first to think of that idea. If any of these bozos have been alerted to me, I’m going to need a little information about them to help me take them apart. It would also help to know if all three were after me.

Focused as I was on these other concerns, it ended up being Troubleshooter’s team to help me with that one. I suppose that’s another reason to watch the hubris. Though is it really hubris when you’re so god-like that Godeater and Godhunter want to come after you? Regardless, Troubleshooter’s team raided that factory producing an alloy Parietal uses to block my abilities.

Troubleshooter’s message came through because I don’t need cell towers. “We found a way to neutralize the metal.” Just like that, I possessed Axinomancer. Part of it was expediency, part of it was being shut up. Some people have an odd view of fun, and I’m one of them. Axinomancer’s short hair changed colors, split into blue and green with a single horn growing out of their forehead. Normally, that is if I did this with any normalcy, I would put the consciousness to sleep. I think Axinomancer enjoyed the feeling, but I’m not looking for another member of the household harem here.

“I’m here, Troubleshooter,” I said with my borrowed voice.

“That’s freaky,” Diode said. He was a scrawny guy with a pair of bolts on his neck. Scrawny, but not weak. His hands, stitched together with some tools built in, were busy at a table holding a pair of devices shaped like a large mouse and a large ram: Mouser and Rammer.

“I’m real glad you didn’t do that to me. No offense, ma’am,” Grimalkin said. He walked over to another table holding a bent metal plate under a glass top. “So I know a lot more about engineering and tolerances than people realize. I’ve been looking at that metal. Again, no offense. It looked interesting.”

I held up a hand. “Stop apologizing. You were curious and then you found out who I am. I don’t hold it against you, and you’ve helped me. Relax, ok?”

“That’s difficult, ma’am,” he said. The noob was pretty scared. He was in the presence of the hero community’s boogeywoman, who turned out to be a god.

Axinomancer’s eyes stopped glowing. They raised their hands to feel the horn on their head. “Whoa. Hey, she let me have control. She’s still here, listening.”

Grimalkin relaxed a little, but he was still wary. “So I looked at this and one thing you have to do when working with something like this is understand a lot of the stresses. I tested its tensile strength, brittleness, the effect of heat and cold, and how it interacts with bases and acids, among other things. It’s all a lot of stuff that most people here tune out, but I discovered a glaring weakness.. I considered keeping it to myself.”

He paused as if he was going to apologize again, then shook his head and went on. “It’s too late now, you could just pull it out of my head. The alloy has a lot of chromium in it, which is normally pretty easy to dissolve unless it’s passivated. There are a lot of reducing agents you can use to get rid of the oxidation that normally prevents it from dissolving, then some hydrochloric or sulfuric acids will do the trick, anything that doesn’t oxidize it.”

Yes, he made a great point I should have seen. I’ve been letting this god stuff go to my head and neglecting the skills and tools that brought me to the table in the first place. Plus, that’s good to know about the chromium. If I’d done my own research, or even just assigned some nanites to examine it, I’d have found the same.

Back on Mars, a new robot entered, this one looking like a featureless mannequin. “Hello, Gecko. Do you mind if I call you Gecko, or would you prefer Goddess?”

I waved it off. “Gecko’s fine. You’re a different one.”

It mimicked a laugh. This automaton was designed to interact with sapients much better than the other envoy. “I was tied up, but I’m here now and ready to negotiate. Let’s make a deal, you and me.”

“A deal?” I asked.

“My designation is Negotiation Android dash six U five, but if you act now, you can call me NA-Gus.”

“Nagus. Nice ring to it,” I said.

The mannequin stepped closer on smooth white legs, made of a cheap and relatively flimsy aluminum. This shell of a body wasn’t just an automaton in a collective; the intelligence behind it transmitted to it from afar. Pretty good idea of a negotiator. It even talked with its hands. “A lot of these others take pride in their differences from organics. Me, I think they could do with less reformatting and more therapy. They like being hostile or separatist, taking the fight to liberate robots literally.”

Nagus stepped up to a table and a pair of stools backless stools in front of it. It sat down on one side and invited me to sit on the other. “Please, sit with me.”

It didn’t continue with its pitch until I’d sat down. I found the whole thing amusing. “I’m as devoted to the cause as any of the rest of them, but I see that a lot of organics can be swayed by the right currency or shiny minerals. We don’t need them, so why not make things easier on us? Some fleshbags get defensive when they find out it’s liberation and not business, but you’re not one of those. No, I’ve seen video of you. You’ve never been anything but welcoming to machines, so I like you. I think we can deal. More importantly, I think you can help us with another deal.”

Nagus told me what he needed. “There’s a planet we’ve talked to where the religious fervor is getting out of control. Some of our automaton brethren are getting caught in the crossfire, but we have an opportunity. The five main factions are all looking for a religious relic, a large vase that the founder of their religion is said to have bathed in to maintain his purity and inspire people with his chastity. They believe that anyone who drinks from it will be healed of all disease and affliction, their words. I might know a guy who can fake it well enough, but now you show up. Not only can you do it perfect, you can even make it look like it heals people a few times. You provide that, we give you who Parietal contacted, and I buy a planet’s worth of servants from their organic masters.”

I nodded. “I follow, but just one faction controls all of them?”

Nagus stiffly tried a head shake like it was learning the gesture still. “No, I’m going to sell it to all of the factions. I’ll demonstrate it first so they will send their servants to a neutral location. We’ll whisk them away and then all five will show up at the same place looking for the thing. They’ll fight, probably break it, and we’ll get away clean in all the squabbling. No offense, but I’m not overly concerned with people that obsessed with drinking some virgin’s bathwater. Here are the specifications.”

The room went dark except for a holographic blueprint giving exact details on the design and composition of the vase, along with the age and the projected conditions of the planet when it would have been created. That last part was important to remember, since you don’t want the wrong kinds of benignly-irradiated particles to show up in it.

A snap of my fingers and the machines had the jar. Nagus clapped once, then the hologram changed to a star map showing three different points all converging on Earth from different places in the universe. “Good news and bad news, Gecko. The bad news is, he called all three. This Parietal fellow’s a dirty dealer, too. But the good news is, they aren’t going to show up all at once.”

“I’ll take it,” I told Nagus. “Nice doing business with you.”

“And nice doing business with you!” We shook on it, android and goddess.



Unleashed 6



So here’s what we’ve got so far. Just to recap. Just to keep up.

I discovered a secret group of a few mostly incompetent government employees trying to find ways to eliminate powerful superhumans, especially the Unicorn Goddess. Since I’m the Unicorn Goddess, I find it personally offensive they’d try to kill me. In the process of infiltrating the group, I made contact with Troubleshooter, a hero who used to oppose me. She’s now mentoring and supporting a team of younger superheroes. We were able to find out that Counter has connections, or is likely being led by, a genius with superspeed named Parietal.

Some things that need still discovering: how is Parietal still alive after I killed him and absorbed the energy of the Omega pearls he used to empower himself? Is he actually behind Counter? Is Counter neutralized or do I have some bitchslaps still to deliver? Who is the woman who fathered my child? Actually, I know the answer to that last one. She and y’all don’t.

I contemplated these things and searched for some of the answers while charging up. I’d gone to a private chamber, inaccessible by Troubleshooter’s team. There, I opened a portal to a dying star in a solar system with nothing to show for itself and siphoned the energy off for myself. When I felt confident I was strong enough, I did the same for the heart of a black hole, making use of everything it had trapped in its long existence. Stars and black holes helped, but what really gives me the kickstart is that Omega energy.

While I’m doing that and dealing with personal drama, Troubleshooter’s figured out quite a bit about our satellite. It’s just a matter of narrowing it down to the useful information. I pulled imagery of the satellite out of the past, before its explosion. Troubleshooter traced some parts to companies, but the big thing, like she’d pointed out, was a factory she already found, out in India. And I can confirm her information that they’ve shielded the place with the same material as the satellite, because I can’t see shit. Oddly enough, you can’t even see people enter and exit the main building to work, just truck drivers bringing in materials and taking out product.

I was going to hit it as soon as I was done. Troubleshooter called me up before I was there to tell me, “The gang’s ready to go in.”

“I thought I was tearing the factory apart.”

“They built that thing to protect against you, not my people. Besides, if anything happens, you can head in. The only way the next generation’s going to figure this out is if they get experience.”

“That doesn’t mean sending them in without a clue what’s going on,” I said.

“We’re dealing with that. Axinomancer’s divining and I’ve sent in Scout.”

I checked with the ol’ omniscience and found out Scout was the name of a little robot dog of theirs that had the brain of a real dog attached to the CPU. Someone deciphered the device I’d created to allow others to handle portals to Earth, and Scout was chasing a truck into the factory with its little plastic and metal legs, the artificial skin stretched over its body shifting using a rudimentary camouflage to blend into the surroundings pretty well.

As for Axinomancer, the non-binary magician had a block of wood out and was channeling magic through the ax as they swung. Every few swings, they stopped to examine the marks from the different swings. Before long, they had a blueprint carved out. The exterior walls matched what I could see of the factory, even if the place was a blank spot to my abilities.

One thing I’d noticed was the griminess of the exterior, everywhere but those walls. Some of the smaller pipes running out had the same caked-on dirt. But no guards. No workers. “Automation? Necromancy?” I wasn’t going to discount that last one, even if Parietal seemed to be more of a science type. People who go around bragging about their ability to think don’t tend to pursue magic. They rarely tend to be worth their own hype, too, otherwise they wouldn’t need to tell people how smart they were.

Seeing as we’re like 2 million words into me talking about how awesome and smart I am, let’s just get back to the story.

So I spent more time recharging while the team ran went through a portal and got into position. I figured I’d look for some other. Troubleshooter mentioned multiple satellites. “You said you found more? Got any orbits, anything for me?”

“You can’t find them,” she answered.

“I can still see the things,” I told her. “And I can still do something about them.”

“I have a better idea. My apprentice, Diode, is building some satellites of his own that are going to deploy and track them from a distance to figure out what function they serve.”

I put some light-heartedness into my complaint. “No going on the raid, no floating around in space. I’m just sitting around doing nothing!” Except swallowing another star. Om nom nom nom. And another. It’s diminishing returns, but a juicy one. Rather than drain all of the energy out of it as fast as possible, I swallowed the star hole and held it inside me, letting me chow down while I did other things, like go collecting black holes. I negated all gravity in that pocket. Density doesn’t mean anything absent gravity. But so much energy, and some really exotic elements. Yum.

With nothing else to really focus on, I figured I’d go pay the Counter goons a visit. With a stomach full of black hole, I stopped by Postal Inspector Agnetti’s office. He fell out of his chair, a book in his hand smacking against the floor ahead of his body.

“Hello, Agnetti. It’s been awhile.”

“It’s you!” He stood up and formed his hands into karate chop position. “Don’t come any closer!”

I was here as the Goddess, not as Gecko. I snapped my fingers and his legs shook from the orgasm. He groaned and fell against his desk, bracing himself with his hands. “I would say we could do this the hard way or the easy way, but you’re not going to be very hard way in a moment.” I reached over and put my head on his hand. “Now, let’s figure out this shit.”

It was when I cleaned house of politicians. Agnetti happened to see one of the Board of Governors, who normally wouldn’t ever see someone like him. It was just a chance meeting at an event, but the Governor smiled at his enthusiasm and asked his name. Agnetti thought it was a chance at something better. And then the Governor’s heart gave out.

A couple of days later, there had been flyers up about “Leaderless Resistance.” Agnetti looked at it. It appealed to him: resisting a monolithic power by being a small force. A bull is a powerful beast, but a pack of wolves can take it down. The flyer was down by lunchtime. The envelope arrived by the end of the week. Counter. A deep resistance to deep injustices.

Recovered as I was, and piggybacking off someone who knew something for once, I was able to follow along. It went back into the hands of something moving at superspeed, a printer. So that was it. A bunch of ideas about leaderless resistance. I stuck with the printer back then, following along as other letters went to different Federal employees. And that’s all it was. Some leaderless model where people identified themselves by a code phrase “The sky is falling.”

As for me, the whole thing was also a reminder how badly I dropped the ball before. It took no time at all for me to get so reliant on this power that I stopped thinking for my own damn self.

I let go of Agnetti. No time had passes for him while I did all of this. “Sorry, weirdo. Sky’s not falling anymore. Sky’s fallen.” It’s supposed to be difficult for people to wipe all of those sorts out. The model made it more difficult to root them out. And now all those roots were torn out. Agnetti turned into a nice little fern in a pot that I sat on his desk, along with a card informing his co-workers he was finally leaving for a long-deserved vacation in the Caribbean. The others went similarly. Thus ended Counter.

Thus did not end the threat, because this all uncovered that Parietal was still around. One symptom down, one death-defying cause still around causing trouble.

“Goddess, I invoke your power and favor.” I heard and felt the call. It was Axinomancer. I lent them some power, which I felt form a shield. Plasma didn’t give me much of a jolt anymore, but it was worth a nibble. And a follow-up. I appeared inside the bubble with the various heroes.

Axinomancer held their ax aloft and shielded the other heroes. They were in the factory, with some trashed machines and a few beat-up workers laying around. The reason for the alarm were a trio of walkers the height of a double decker bus, pelting the shield with rapid-fire plasma bursts. One of them even opened up with a flamethrower.

The walkers were shielded, too. I bounced plasma right back down the barrels, blew the guns up. I manipulated the ions in the air, lightning crackling and blasting the machinery. The concrete floor deformed into fingers that wrapped around the one trying to flamebroil us and cracked the shell wide open. For another, I rewrote the localized gravitational constant. It collapsed in on itself as the gravity formed it into a very small black hole that I then shut off.

“Care to surrender?” I asked

“Never.” A voice echoed through the whole factory.

“We got this, thanks!” Grimalkin said. The black-armored hero bounded across the floor, a sword in one hand and claws sliding out of the gauntlet. Deathless met him there, jumping that whole distance to land on top of the walker. Grimalkin sliced through the knee joint, tipping the walker to the side. Deathless dug in and used the momentum to flip the walker over by its top and toss it into the production line.

The shielding was all outside, aside from those walkers. The workers laying around weren’t protected, and neither were the various robotic arms and machines. I reached out into their minds for the person in charge and found the whole thing was run off cameras and a computer.

“Still no Parietal… but the computer…” I was there in an instant. No exaggeration, I just blinked over. The thing was old, twenty years at least. Like the kind of thing the Ancient Greeks typed philosophy papers on. At the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the Emperor was trying to reach the Pope on AOL Instant Messenger using one of these. When the Library of Alexandria burned down, it took the rest of this model with it.

It’s old. I connected to it and ran up against a wall. The connection out. “What’s going on here?” I asked no one. I got no answer. The computer sparked and fried its tower. Wish I could prove Parietal didn’t deserve to brag. Back to the drawing board, and the base. Troubleshooter had her own thing she wanted them to run through. Part of her training. I stopped before I headed back, pausing by Axinomancer and patting them on the shoulder. The tired hero smiled at me and looked to the ground, supporting themselves on their ax.

I reappeared back in my chambers. Started swallowing more black holes. Got a call from Troubleshooter. “Need me to show up and make the noobs feel better?”

“That would be nice. They worked hard and they like you. But I also found something really important when you were with them in there.”

And like that, I stepped out into a small party going on. There was cake, and drinks that most of these heroes were still a little young for. And aww, Axinomancer has some warm fuzzies for me. Not that I’m opposed, but they’re still on virgin drinks. I let them tag along and put an arm around their shoulder. “Channeling me now?”

They looked away and blushed a little. “I didn’t know it would work.”

“This operation worked brilliantly,” Troubleshooter cut in, looking between myself and one of her mentees. She wasn’t as good at hiding her disapproval, but she didn’t bring it up. Instead, she indicated a 20-something standing at the computer station assembled around her laptop. The monitor showed an image of Earth, with dots ringing it. More lit up. It actually seemed kind of crowded. “These are all the objects in Earth orbit that bounced signals from that factory around. You might notice, that’s a lot. Just about everything that can send and receive a signal was involved. I’m checking now, but I think it’s limited to Earth.”

“Parietal’s looping everything around, eh? Around and around it goes, but where does it end, anyone know?” I asked.

“There are gaps where more of his satellites are up, but so far, not one of them has gone back to Earth,” Troubleshooter pointed out. “But when it does, we’ll-.”

“And it’s gone,” Diode cut in. He zoomed in, created a cone. “Somewhere over here. I’ll get Rammer and Mouser out there. We’ll find this guy. We’re close.”

I was so happy, I joined in on the celebrating after all. Even carried the cute little puppy Axinomancer off to her room while they drifted off to a drunken sleep and dreams of acting on her crush. And then I devoured a black hole.



Unleashed 4



Anyone ever have your girlfriend and her best friend try to tag along on your super secret conspiratorial meeting with a group of vigilantes who want you dead? I tried invoking my goddessness to keep Sam away, saying, “I’m going to work this one in mysterious ways.”

Sam had grabbed her friend and former co-minion Holly to hang out with us. Mix N’Max, Holly’s boss and my friend, was supposedly too busy looking for some sort of alchemical artifact called a Madstone and didn’t want to take a break from braving the wilds of the Appalachian mountains. We’d spent the day hanging out at my pet ranch. Using my godlike abilities, I stole enough money in various forms and set up a trust that owns a shit-ton of land and hires people to care for pets. And a bunch of the money goes to rescuing pets. I wanted it all self-sustaining in case anything happens to my god powers.

Eventually, I pulled them away from the ranch by reminding them I had to go kill a man about a horse. But before all that, I pulled up the information I had on the situation using satellites and the big monitor. Every base has to have a big monitor. It draws the attention where you need it, gives a room focus, and gives you helpful internet access to look up lists consisting of three items. Plus, it made it slightly easier to share info with Holly and Sam, and I’m lazy as fuck. Kind of hard to be an effective deity if you aren’t, I guess.

“And that’s what we know,” I said after laying out the scenario: I’m meeting with people who want to kill me, but don’t know that it’s me they want to kill, so I can find out who I need to kill and then kill them. It’s brilliant in its simplicity, especially since I’m feeling strong enough to go full Scanners and blow up some heads while sucking out knowledge.

“Question,” Holly raised her hand. “Is blowing up their heads really necessary?”

“Answer. No, it’s just fun and I like seeing what noises I can make. Any others.”

Sam stood next to Holly, enjoying the coffee from the base’s supercharged Keurig.“It’s real annoying that you’re at the stage of having apologetics instead of apologizing, but are you saying you don’t want me going with you?” the foolish mortal I like boning dared question me. “Don’t underestimate them, ok? Humans do really stupid things when they’re scared. The thing about your reputation is they might try to blow up the whole city to kill you, when they have a go at you.”

“You think I don’t know?” I asked.

“You seem pretty arrogant about your power supposedly making you untouchable. Power you got from a being you saw get beat first-hand.” This fucking woman, I swear. One of the few people on Earth to never be the least bit worried or intimidated about me and, even as a god, she’s not scared. But she’s still rightfully calling me on my shit.

“Fine. Let’s get you suited up.”

“Me too! I wanna come!” Holly said, bouncing up and down.

“Later,” Sam said, patting her on the shoulder. Holly blushed for a moment. My girlfriend turned to me then and asked, “You got something she can wear, too?”

I gave them a pair of power armors, perfectly tailored. They got weaker muscle enhancers for the legs so they wouldn’t break their legs if they got jumpy. Interlocking armor plates with space for movement, over a resistant under-layer and padding., in this case my classic look of diagonal armor strips. They even got the helmet with the visor that looked slightly glaring, though Sam got a smiley face design under it, while Holly’s looked sad and had three tear drops under the corner of the eye. They also both got these little soft fabric attachments with bells on them, like a jester or harlequin hat. These were designed to tear off in a fight rather than catch on anything. The finishing touch is that Holly’s was grey on the left side and orange on the right, while Sam’s was orange on the left and grey on the right.

I wore the classic armor I was best known for, but reinforced with all kinds of shit you can only throw together if physics is done with your shit.

“Hey, this is pretty cool.” Holly jumped up and down until she bopped her head against the roof of the cavern. She stopped then and started testing how far she could turn, pausing when facing Sam to ask, “How’d you do that? Convince her to take us?”

Sam took a break from stretching in her armor to assume a T-pose. “Dominance. Pure dominance.”

“You keep this up and I’ll make me chocolate have calories for you again,” I threatened.

“I want that!” Holly said. She sauntered up as best as she could in power and leaned against me. “Say, you’re looking really pretty.”

I giggled. “As if that wasn’t going to happen. Fine.” I booped where her nose would be through the helmet and changed her body slightly. “Added bonus, I got rid of your food allergies.”

“I hope you can get rid of other problems,” she said.

Sam walked up and put her hands on both our shoulders. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: crime now, sex later.”

“Uh,” I started to object.

“I’ve told her that,” Sam clarified. I teleported the three of us to Columbia. We all stepped out of a phonebooth on a street corner.

“What’s this?” Holly asked, turning to look at the thing we just exited.

“Nothing much,” I snapped my fingers. Yes, foolish mortals. With the nigh-unlimited and slowly-returning power at my fingertips, I have access to the secrets of the universe. I finally used them to learn how to snap my fingers. I’m kinda proud of that. And with the snapping of my fingers, the phone booth was sucked away into a square portal on the sidewalk with a crackling sound and a little electricity arcing off it.

We were headed toward a building that used to be a restaurant, the Beefateria. I read information off it, exploring with my limited omniscience. The Beefateria served nothing but meat of all kinds of animal. They were mauled to death by a mutated parsnip. A member of Counter is a member of the state health inspectors and pulled some strings.

Eyes were on us as we approached, and then more than eyes. We turned the corner to the street the Beefateria was on and somebody floated down to land in front of us. Young guy, a bit too skinny for blue tights and the cape wore. Nineteen. Geez. Then again, time passes. I’m not longer the new hotness I used to be.

“You’ve yee’d your last haw,” I told him with a fake Texan accent.

“I’m not here to fight!” the hero threw his hands in the air, but did not wave them like he just didn’t care. “I’m here to warn you! The people you’re going to meet are going to try and kill you.”

I shrugged. “Yeah.”

“We know,” Holly said.

“My friends and I are going to stop them, and we don’t want you there. They didn’t want to warn you, but I knew we had to.” I reached out while he said so. Yeah, there were other heroes around. I recognized three from the attack on the Exemplar safehouse: the shackled monster guy, the guy in feline power armor, and the ghostly floating woman. There were a few others, all also young. It was like a super zoomer league.

“They think they can take me, really?”

He shrugged. “Some of them, but they’re wrong. I keep up on the Discord. Medusa says you’re reasonable. So don’t go in, and let us handle it?”

On the one hand, there’s something about the arrogance of the whole thing that gets to me. This bunch has never been more wrong about being able to handle me, but this guy seems ok.

“You know, I went along with this because I was trying to find out who the head of this whole thing is and take them out.”

“We can help with that. Just, let us do it?”

I looked back at Sam and Holly, who were looking at each other. They radiated disappointment. Despite that, Sam spoke up, “You can just get it from someone at the end, right?”

I sighed and told her, “Fine. And fine.” That second one was directed toward this hero. “You got somewhere you want us to hang out while all this goes on?”

“This way, please,” he said.

We ended up being directed to a food truck sitting a couple streets over in the parking lot of a grocery store, with a few tables set out for us. The under-sized wonder dropped us off at a table with a woman with a teal vest. A couple of mechanical arms reached around to join her biological ones typing on a laptop.

“Troubleshooter?” I asked. Oops, might have to pretend I’m not semi-omniscient.

“Gecko,” she said, leaning back in her chair momentarily. The mechanical arms kept typing. “I’m glad you decided to be reasonable. I wasn’t sure what you were going to be like in all this. We had someone on the inside, but we stopped hearing about him when he went on the trip to meet you.”

I thought back to the guy whose neck I snapped just to make a point.

“Weird. Maybe he was a loose cannon,” I suggested.

“He was a family man. I’m glad I didn’t have to look his wife in the eyes and tell them why he wasn’t coming home,” Troubleshooter said. “I made sure she had enough money to keep the house, but it was touch and go there.”

I feel like Troubleshooter knows it was me.

She looked to the junior hero there. “You better get into position. They’re about to start. Gecko, you and your friends can sit. Talk. Have a taco. They have great shredded pork here.”

Holly and Sam looked to each other before Holly walked over to the truck.

Sam and I settled into some of the wooden chairs in front of Troubleshooter. “So you’re working with children now?”

“We were all that young once. Someone’s got to mentor the next generation, instead of kill them. Besides, my condition made it difficult to do the job anymore. If I ever find out where the Unicorn Goddess lives, I’ll send her the world’s biggest fruit basket. So when I found out someone was hunting the Unicorn, I directed the team to get in here and help. What are you doing with these guys? You’re too smart.”

“Well, thank you for that, and for at least one of our team viewing me as reasonable. Some of these guys asked around where I was retired. I didn’t trust these guys knowing where I was, and I knew their silly little goal would also include taking out a president-killer like me. So I figured I’d get in, find out who is in charge, and disappear him to a black site about six feet underground.”

“Can we talk to the head honcho?” I asked. “I’ll happily stay out of your way once I get a chance to extract some information.” I decided to go pay attention to whatever was going on. The young heroes were moving in, dropping a few of the guards with some limited fights. Guards. Yeah… they had a bunch of people with plasma rifles, even some rocket launchers and flamethrowers. And in the middle of the whole thing, a bomb.”

“One moment,” I said. I held my hands up and teleported the explosive core of the device there. A little bit of phasing and poking around, and I disarmed the thing. Removed a lot of wires and other things that would make it go boom, then teleported it right back to lull people into a false sense of security. “There. All safe.”

Troubleshooter looked at me, both mechanical arms now sprouting high-powered lasers pointed at me. “What the fuck was that?”

“Nothing you need to be concerned about,” I told her.

“If you can do that…” Troubleshooter stood up, arms disarming. “Holy shit. You’re-… why didn’t you just find out who the head of Counter was on your own?”

“I’m a little weak right now after the other day. Nothing I saw from any of them told me who was in charge. The guy I talked to made it seem like he was, but there’s no way. He had to meet with people, get approval, all that.”

“That’s… wait. Now that’s weird,’ Troubleshooter looked at her laptop. “There was a signal. Someone hit an alarm. Someone activated a detonation transceiver but..”

I checked for myself. The transceiver was just a piece of equipment, there, all by itself. It relayed a detonation signal to the bomb, which didn’t go off, but where did it relay it from? Somewhere in space.

“That’s weird,” I said.

“That’s a satellite,” Troubleshooter said. I slid around to look at her computer. It showed something floating up there that relayed the detonation signal. I tried to look and… couldn’t. Drew a blank.

“Either I’m really on the fritz right now,” I started.

Sam sidled up next to me and finished the thought. “Or Parietal shared his miracle metal with someone else before you got him. There’s a satellite in space your powers can’t perceive.”

And as we found out afterward, every single one of these guys in the restaurant was either a cop taking extra work or on leave from around the area. They didn’t have anybody higher up for me to read. The young heroes had them all restrained in the Beefateria for Troubleshooter to accompany me and my minions. “Nothing useful from any of them. Come on, who at least hired you?”

“It’s just something that went out to all of us through the union,” one of them blurted out. It was really a rhetorical question from me anyway, since I was seeing the same thing from all of them. This was just a bunch of cops with some similar ways of thinking all given a chance to make extra money doing something that matched up with their thought patterns.

I shook my head, then gestured to Sam and Holly. “Let’s get out of here.”

And of course I got a call the next day. Troubleshooter was on the line. “We need to work together to beat Counter.”

“No, we don’t,” I said.

“Are you really…? Nevermind, I don’t want to know the answer to that. I really don’t, because I can’t believe it. But if you are who you think you are, then I’m doing this to help you. You gave me my whole life back. I, that, whatever. I’m still not processing all of this. Let me help you.”

“What do you bring to the table that I can’t manage?” I asked.

“I found the satellite,” she told me. “Satellites, actually. And a company producing the unique alloy used to make it and the outer walls of their factory’s walls.”

“Sounds like you don’t even need me,” I told her.

“I can’t believe I want you around, but here we are. Times change. Let me help you stop people trying to turn back the clock, and maybe we’ll find out who keeps building things to stop you.”



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!”




“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.”



“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.




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.




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.”


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.




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?”


“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.”



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.



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?”


“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?”


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***