Tag Archives: Victor Mender

Season’s Thievings 6

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“Ok, so when I’m done playing Santa, I pull a bomb out of the bag and yell, ‘Now let’s deal with that naughty list, shall we?’ and that’s when y’all pull out the guns and take down the guards,” I said to a group of shocked heroes.

I’d gotten somewhat bored with the meeting, where they put way too much emphasis on not being seen or hurting anyone at all. This bunch is completely risk averse and acts like having to put on a mask will make them all pariahs. And Venus has been gone from the meeting, so I can’t even tease her. Something about important hero business to deal with. This is important enough to stick me with, but somehow not important enough for her to call in all her various law enforcement friends. Which is odd, since they’d like to know about the nanites these goody-goodies are after, too.

And I don’t appreciate her not having time to threaten me or try and keep me in line. As if I’m less important just because I’m captured. Not like I need her to visit me all the time anyway. I’m just fine without her. I’m awesome. Just like I’ll be awesome when she’s dead and buried.

Anyway, these scrubs are under the impression my suggestions are completely ridiculous and will do nothing but get people caught, since the vault is the first thing to get locked down in any situation like that.

They didn’t take the first draft very well. They threw me out of the room. Eh, it gave me time to check on the armor. If they didn’t want me doing all that heisting business, I didn’t have to. They were the ones who decided they needed to liberate the nanites after all. If they’d just let me take them as payment, they’d at least have some by now.

As for the armor, it’s still going. The torso armor is almost finished. That’ll leave the legs for the machine, while I handle the other pieces I’ve been working on. The gloves and boots are done. I’ve been assembling an exoskeleton, testing some pieces of it, but the biggest challenge will be the helmet. Think a samurai, but jagged and straight, with a grinning fanged mouth. Ok, so very much like a samurai’s armor. They liked to add on stuff like fangs and mouths for intimidation value. Above that, the face is covered by metal, with a raised circle on it. On that circle, there are three formal “eyes” in an upside-down triangle shape. No armored jester hat this time. I’ve grown tired of bells lately.

With as much of the costume as there is now, I’ve relocated the reference section in front of it, and changed the sign up. Now, it announces to the world that it is an auto-castration machine that wakes up on touch.

These days, only the hardcore students dare enter, anyway. The system’s set up for self-checkout and students volunteer to put books back up, but word’s gotten around about the crazy librarian who charges the obstacle course like a drunk and strings up late returns by their intestines. The fear is nice. But it doesn’t sustain me.

Because, even as I assembled the optical display of my new helmet and built in non-digital controls to handle some of the functions I used to be able to pull off myself, I felt as though something was missing in my life. It flared up when I saw happy young couples walking around, wondering who stole their baby’s candy. I noticed it when I saw today’s youth running around, doing triple frontflips off walls and calling it parkour. It came to mind when I watched TV, where apparently the new President caused a stir by declaring “Hail HYDRA,” or something. With the wave of sentiment that caused people to protest and attack superheroes, I guess it just makes sense.

I hate people. That is one of the driving forces of my murderous impulses, along with just a general desire to kill stuff. I really hate people. Big people. Little people. People who are too dumb to know they’re dumb and people who are purposefully the worst. Bad people, of course, but also good people who let them do it and neutral people who think both sides are equal for some reason. I think the next time someone tells me that, I’ll dump gasoline on them and tell them that dying of old age and dying because I lit them on fire are both basically the same thing.

Not being able to do anything about that? It makes me angry with rage. And a little sick at times. Or it would have, I think, if I hadn’t been so busy. I’ve had shit to get done, no matter how sad the world gets without me being allowed to tear it apart. I am the dealer of death, the god-emperor of mankind, the harbinger of mankind’s well-deserved apocalypse… and they stuck a bell and cat ears on me to keep track of my comings and goings.

So, after a bit of work on the armor and another attempt at the obstacle course where I ALMOST got it while singing “Umbrella,” I headed back into the meeting, where the bunch were just getting done brewing a bunch of coffee. They looked pretty tired in there, with one costumed nobody sitting back in his chair asleep. Even brought my helmet with me and dropped it onto the table.

I sat down and took a look at what they came up with. Have someone pretend to be a janitor and loosen ventilation ducts. Someone else sneaks through the ducts and crawls down to the hallway in front of the vault. They somehow jam the vault door so it can’t swing closed. Meanwhile, janitor person lays down lots of thermite on the floor above the vault. Lots of thermite. This is covered up by the rest of the team caroling. When the floor is completely cut through into the vault, the problems with which I will have to ignore to discuss the errors in the rest of this strategy, then the person inside the vault can hook up cables that go up and out of the hole in the floor to where a helicopter or tank or something can haul it out.

Complete trash.

“Not going to work for so many reasons,” I told them all as I looked over it. “Too many problems. You’re focusing on brute force and architecture too much.”

“What would you focus on? Santa threatening to blow people up?” asked the guy who had been sleeping.

“You got a little drool on your shirt,” I told him. He actually looked. I smiled when he realized he’d been had. “I think most people would focus on Santa threatening to blow a place up. The part with the guns was a bit far fetched, but I was trying to have some fun while you guys play Mission: Impossible and scribble about crashing an APC into the wall.” And so I began to explain the entirety of my plan.

“We’re doing the best we know how,” said one of them, a woman with a muscular physique and small boobs. “We’re normally not on the planning side of this.”

“You’re not on the planning side of anything most of the time,” I responded, then quickly tried to deflect this from becoming an insult-fest. “A good villain has to plan things out better. I can do it, but I have to work with y’all, and nobody expects heroes to have much to do with breaking into a bank to steal something.”

“What can we do about that?” asked a cornrowed young man with skin as black as something dark brown in color. Wood, maybe? Coffee? Certain types of chocolate? Why does skin color so often turn into a discussion of food? One of his mayo-skinned colleagues chimed in as well.

“We have to keep from using our powers a lot too. Villains don’t have to worry about that, because you don’t care so much if you’re caught,” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Believe me, we care. We just don’t have to worry about publicity so much. But I think we can do something about it. I’ve had some time to think and get hit in the face by a metal piston. This may be a lingering head injury talking, but I think we can turn the weakness of this bunch into a strength. So here’s what we do…”

The next day, I filled in for Kris Kringle. It hadn’t been that hard. The heroes wanted to get all overly complicated and hack the bank’s security to figure out who they hired. I wanted to wait in the parking lot, where they tied up Santa, gagged him, and stuck him in the trunk of his car. I may have done a little dancing around in the parking lot as I adjusted the pillow under the coat of my costume. “Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him up real tight, throw away the key, and then turn off all the lights!”

“You don’t have to be so happy about this,” said one of my accomplices. I never bothered to learn his name. Let’s call him Thing 1.

“Listen, person I don’t care about, I’m the Santa now. Being jolly is part of the job. Now, don’t you have a bank to rob? Careful, I might have to put you on a list for that kind of behavior.”

He shook his head and adjusted his jumpsuit. I smiled to myself as I fixed my beard on nice and tight. I anticipated he’d run into a couple of hiccups with his addition to the plan. Mine originally only called for me to go in at this point. He felt they needed to have even more people in to really sell what I wanted to sell, so Thing 1 volunteered to dress up as a member of the cleaning staff. I just got to play Santa and take photos with little boys and girls.

“I wanna motorbike, and I want football pads, and I want a new NFL game, and I want…” the enthusiastic youngster in my lap was saying at the time.

I didn’t care for children, especially one wasting my time so much, but then I heard from the other guy. “So, it turns out the janitors come in after hours and don’t wear this kind of jumpsuit. We might have to abort.”

“Stop him!” someone yelled. I only heard it through the comms, so it was someone near the other guy. Not ten seconds later, a door to the rear of the bank flew open and out ran Thing 1, being chased by security.

I gave it another fifteen minutes, mainly because I figured the heroes had to be betting on me and I wanted to screw it up for at least one of them, before I grabbed the Santa sack I brought with me and pulled out a plastic ball pit ball with silly putty and wires stuck to it. That’s a tough fake bomb to make there. The silly putty was the tricky part. “Now let’s deal with that naughty list, shall we?”

Despite their misgivings from the plan, the heroes sure looked happy at how hurt I looked from a little security guard brutality. The one who smacked my nose with his baton went further than necessary, especially because my pretty face can’t heal as easily now. Security was all too eager to hand over the Mad Santa Bomber to this group of Master Academy heroes who had been out on patrol. I just laughed at them. “Look at this sorry bunch of spandex-wearing losers. Nothing says courage like bicycle shorts. By the way, miss, you need to tape those balls back down. They make an unseemly bulge.”

“Quiet, you!” said Thing 1, his face covered by a mask. I think he enjoyed punching me in the belly, even though it was not the kind of improvising I’d have preferred. I saw his eyes widen a little as the air whooshed out of me.

“You can take him now, unless there’s anything else you need,” said one of the Security guards holding me by a ziptied arm.

“Is there any chance we can get a copy of the camera footage?” asked one of the heroes.

“That’s not really necessary, is it? He pulled out the bomb, it’s a fake it turns out, and we stopped him. We’ll hand the footage over to the police if they ask for it.”

Thing 1 stepped forward. “Can we see the fake bomb at least?”

“Is something going on here?” A man in a suit asked as he stepped forward. “He’s caught, right? Take him and go.”

“Ha!” I said upon regaining the ability to speak. “You may have captured me, but my accomplice already did what he needed to the vault. Soon, Empyreal City will rue the day. You hear me? Get your ruing practice in early, because the day of ruining is nearly at hand!”

Cheesy? Yes. Something you’d expect from a dirty Santa standing by the freeway? Definitely. Probable cause for vigilantes to ask to examine the vault? Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

After being escorted out by part of the group, Thing 1 and another hero went back inside to see to that vault thing. The security tapes indeed showed someone fleeing who, according to witnesses, tried to pass as a janitor. He didn’t seem to have gone anywhere near the vault, but from what I heard on the comms they just claimed we’d looped the cameras. Anybody in with any real background in that would know that one stunk from being full of BS.

Then out came the gizmos. In this case, they pretended a tracking device attuned to the signal from the nanites was being used to track down the location of explosives. It was found to be in a special container on its own pallet in the vault. The bank had agreed to store said container for a client. It shouldn’t have been anything harmful.

“Then why is it sloshing?” asked Thing 1 as he opened a cap on the top and gave the container a push. The bank manager went into full-on panic mode, talking about calling in bomb squads and all that. The heroes assured him they could handle this without drawing quite so much public attention. They’d just have to carry it out and take it elsewhere to determine what it was and try to determine what had happened. The bank manager quickly agreed.

And so Master Academy robbed a bank, all under the guise of protecting it. So easy, it should be against the law. Oh wait, it is.

“Well done,” said Mender as he watched one of his students slow down. The lawn behind the school building opened up and he hovered down with the container. I tried to step over and peer down after him, but I didn’t get a real good look before the lawn closed up again on the hideout underneath the school.

“Hurray. Now instead of calling the cops on a mob boss having stolen goods, you can call them here instead. That’ll surely help me escape scrutiny,” I mentioned.

“It’s not that simple,” said Psychsaur as she stepped out of the back door of the school as well. “We’re not supposed to have those either. No one is allowed to have nanites after what you pulled.”

“Yeah,” I nodded, trying to emphasize with my tone the stupidity of her statement. “That’s what I said. They’re illegal, you took them from someone who had them illegally, now you can do your turning them over thing and let them go to waste.”

“They will not be put to waste. There are still too many hurt in this world who need your tainted gift to survive,” said Victor Mender. “You have helped us to achieve a Christmas Miracle, Psycho Gecko. You should feel proud of yourself. I fear we will need this soon. Until we do, it is safe in our protection, where no one of ill-intention can get to it.”

Why not rub it in my face some more? “Eh, not the first time I’ve pulled off a Christmas Miracle. Or New Years. At least the Hanukkah Zombie didn’t show up to request my help. Mayhap I’m finally done being the plaything of the universe…”

I pondered that to the point of ignoring as everyone finished getting things loaded and headed back into the building. Everyone but Mender, that is, whose digitized voice said, “Cough cough.”

So much for not being a plaything. “You were saying?” I turned to him again.

“You have had to be dragged kicking and screaming along with our plans. I do not hope to reform you like Venus. I think you can be a valuable wetwork asset for the school beyond when I deploy you against The Claw. That is why I have a request for you. A test.”

I felt Psychsaur step up behind me and root around in my head. “Stop that,” I said back to her.

“I am adjusting your parole. My people have investigated the men who attacked my school recently. They failed, but I have learned they are planning to try again. They have money, they have weapons, and they have an unknown source of information. I want you to deny them these things.” It was tough reading anything into Mender’s stare considering how he always looks now. The guy can’t exactly emote a lot.

I reached up and scratched the back of my head. Psychsaur’s telepathic intrusion tickled back there. “That’s going to be tough, considering what she put in my head.”

“I took something out, too,” she said from behind me.

I glanced back, but then Mender spoke and really got my attention. “This next robbery would be dangerous. You have to be able to hurt people.” I looked at him for a moment, then turned and tried to punch Psychsaur. I stopped nowhere near her, prompting Mender to continue: “The right people. More to the point, the wrong people.”

I pouted and turned back to him. “Fine, but no hero costume. I’m still a villain.”

“Sure you are,” Psychsaur said, patting my head.

Funny person, that Psychsaur. That’s why I’ll kill her second.

“Ok,” I told Mender. “This time, in the spirit of the season… I will crush your enemies, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of their women. It’s gonna be a red Christmas this year.”

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Season’s Thievings 5

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So there I was, flat on my back in the academy gymnasium, barely able to breath, with a face bound to bruise up as soon as it had time, the song “That’s Not My Name” playing through my head and into the gym. I was sweaty. I was hurt. My shorts had ridden up into my crack just enough to annoy me. I rolled over with a groan to fetch them out of the crack of Mt. Doom before they poked against my one ring.

As soon as I could, I rolled over and cut the volume on the song. I looked over at a stopped obstacle course that caused this. I’d wandered out of the library one of these days, well, been forced out. The official school year is closing up, and Master Academy is trying to be a normal school where possible. Parents are visiting the school a lot, and the heroes are trying their best to look responsible. Seeing as I’m officially dead, and the school would have every reason to toss me to the wolves if my identity got found out, I am reluctantly having to go along with it. So I wandered a bit and saw students using this thing. It beats getting dragged into some school concert by that pigtail-girl Chloe, or to a dance by Leah, or having Quincy ask for some combat tutoring.

This magnificent monstrosity rises from the floor in the gym if the proper settings are entered into a panel on the wall. It’s got rollers, pistons, swinging arms, and floors that seesaw. It’s a compressed Japanese obstacle course game show, with less padding. I just had to give it a go. I can’t use nanites to just whip my muscles and tendons into shape anymore. I used to have those things work on my body until I was as strong and flexible as Gumbie and Hercules combined.

The obstacle course had stopped when it felt a strong impact indicating it had potentially injured me. I know this because this wasn’t the first time. But then the floor opened back up and it began to lower. I looked up at the young boy who stood by the wall, looking at me with some concern. I stood up, coughed up some metallic-tasting spit, and told him, “No. Again!”

“You sure, mister?”

I nodded. He turned the knob, causing it to stop, then reverse until the entire course settled back into place. He stepped away from the controls and said, “Most people don’t sing while they’re trying to do it. And they start at an easier difficulty. You had it set to hard.”

“Make sure it’s still there. I want it hard.” Probably not the best thing to say to someone who might have made it to middle school at the most, but the heroes had already caught the predator in this case. And the added difficulty is why I once again started singing along to the song. My singing’s still horrible, but at least other people can tolerate being in the same room as me now. They threatened to use the fire hose on me when “Cotton-Eye Joe” came up on my playlist.

I didn’t wait to get all nice and comfy and be able to breathe perfectly again before circling around and diving in again. I rolled to my feet jumped over a swinging arm, ducked under a piston that shot out from my right, then heard the tell-tale sound of the machine swinging something at me from higher up and behind. I rolled forward again. They seemed to have a certain amount of time they kept going for, a distance limit. When I got to where it should have stopped, I launched myself into the air. The arm bopped me on the head and knocked me toward the mat, which shot upward as some sort of launcher. It should have splatted me into the ceiling of the course, but the ceiling opened up to let me fly out and land on the laminate floor of the gymnasium.

“It wasn’t necessarily smart of me to assume when the thingy would stop, but what really surprised me was the floor shooting me out. It never did that before,” I said to no one in particular, raising an arm up. I was about to bring it down to help me get some leverage when a large hand grabbed it. Minotaur dragged me squeaking along the floor.

“It changes a lot of things between tries. Now come on. You got a meeting with the Headmaster.”

“The Headmaster, Hagrid? Surely this won’t be yet another angsty adventure where I don’t do a lot of interesting tricks with my ability to warp the fabric of reality itself. Quick, get me a ginger and a hot nerd. Oooh, can we get Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton for this one?”

He didn’t have to be so rough about picking me up or pulling my shorts back up. He should have known the natural consequences of dragging someone in workout clothes along a floor. Didn’t have to pull them up quite so far, though. What is it with these Master Academy capes and my balls? I think it’s cover for them trying to vigilante a feel.

The way he tossed me down into a chair in front of Victor Mender and put his hands on my shoulder didn’t help matters. Made it much harder to squirm and free my balls from the tyranny of clothing.

“Gecko, we need to have a talk,” said Mender’s computer, digitizing the voice from the front of his wheelchair.

“Ok, ok… so when a man and a woman both love covering her face with baby-makin’ juice…” Minotaur’s thick fingers dug into my shoulders. I arched my back. “Ooh, a little lower?”

“Please stop provoking him and speak respectfully to me. We are owed this much for the liberties you have taken with your confinement,” Mender said. “By the way, I heard you found the obstacle course. How do you like it?”

“I’ll beat it yet, front and back. Then, I shall disembowel it, reach into its oily innards, and rip out its still-beating heart of steel and circuitry. After that, I shall consume it to gain its power. But since power has a lot of calories, I’ll probably stick a finger down my throat and purge it in the bathroom. I got some body issues I gotta work out. These thighs don’t need more fat on them.”

“It’s a machine, it doesn’t have fat,” Minotaur growled.

I rolled my eyes and, without looking at him, responded, “It’s got oil, right? Lipids, same as fat.” It should be noted that I don’t particularly care about the accuracy of some statements I make. “Now that you’ve led us off on a tangent, though, I think it’s about time we get back to the meeting at hand.” I looked to Mender. “I’m not meeting them.”

“Are you afraid?” he asked.

“Nah. But you just want me to go so you can raid the meeting and catch everyone red-handed. Except you already know the when, where, what, who, and even why. You could go all on your own, and I don’t feel like doing any extra work for my captors along these lines. You don’t need me there. If the only darn thing I can do to show my dislike for this course of action is to stay clear of it, then I will. It’s despicable the way you’re going after them just for a little bit of theft. I mean, come on, theft is what Christmas is all about!”

“I can not think of one single, solitary way in which Christmas is about theft.”

I didn’t even need to think. “Guy in a costume breaks into people’s houses all night and helps himself to their food. Plus, I think there’s a story of him having a helper who kidnapped naughty kids. Probably made them work as slaves in his secret fortress in the Arctic, where he spies on everyone and assembles a secret list based on whether he thinks people acted right. Ow, big guy.” Minotaur’s fingers had dug into my shoulders a bit there. Since I figured I was annoying him, I also threw in, “Also, this chick got knocked up by a dude who totally said he was a god, then used someone’s barn as a maternity ward without permission or payment. Like, ‘there’s not much room in my apartment, but I have a storage shed, just don’t get afterbirth, blood, poop, and placenta all over the place. Aww, Mary. You had ONE job.’”

“Stop,” Mender said to both myself and Minotaur, who had raised one hand and balled it up threateningly next to my head. I saw it, but I had kept on talking regardless. I was going to go into detail, too. A hologram would have worked even better. Watching a woman give birth is an easy way to promote abstinence, at least for anyone sexually attracted to women.

He went on. “We can not make you do this, but we hope to avoid violence while recovering the nanites you stole. You would be doing a lot of good for more than just us.”

“Blah blah, getting dangerous substances off the street. Save the speech for drug cops. I am a dangerous substance. I bleed dangerous substances. I do other things to produce dangerous substances. Wanna see?”

“There are always men, women, and children who will need the advanced medical aid your nanotechnology can provide. When you first told us the goal of your theft, I knew we could use it to provide several Christmas miracles for people you missed before you used them to take over the world. People do not trust them now, but we can still use them.”

“Appealing to my sense of goodness will never work. I want to be changed back from human. Human sucks. Human blows. Human works the shaft,” I told him.

“You will be human for the rest of your life if I have any say. Instead, your cooperation with us will prove we do not need to keep you on a psychic leash.” Now that got my attention. It’s not as good as turning back, but even turning back without getting rid of those compulsions would only do me so much good. Plus, it’d be harder to clear those out.

He knew he had me, I think, when I leaned forward and asked, “I do this, and you get Psychsaur to let me out of it?”

“Among other things,” he said. “I want you to listen to our plan. You will be surprised.”

Which is how I wound up in that office with a bunch of other nervous criminals, getting my pay. I think I was the only one without a gun or knife in the room. To try and set us all at ease, Butterfly had offered some wine, and I was even the only one to take that. I only pretended to drink it, though. I don’t trust him. I just don’t get that much of a say in how I react to him.

“I did what I did for a reason. You were going to betray me, so I betrayed you. Now, the Ukrainians are out of the import/export business thanks to the heroes, I have the goods, and you are all alive. It worked out for all of us, and I want it to keep working out.” He gave a sly smile and stood up from his comfy leather chair to indicate a table to the side of the room. It had five open cardboard boxes and five large thermal canisters. “Feel free to inspect them and make sure I am not shorting you.”

Nobody else jumped up to it, so I stepped over first. As expected nothing blew up in my face when I opened any of the boxes. Each one was the same: packed with $100,000 in cash. When I survived looking, Mr. Blue Sky hurried over to grab a box and head for the passageway out. Hail Mary, Billy Jean, and especially Sgt. Pepper took their sweet time. They checked the cash over themselves while I unscrewed one of the canisters and reached in.Yep, nanites. But, I figured I’d prove it.

I held my hand out. “Anyone got a knife on ’em? Just nick a finger for me.”

Billy Jean pulled out a switchblade. “You sure?”

I nodded. He shrugged and grabbed the middle of my pointer finger, opening up the tip with a slice. I put my thumb over it and applied pressure while reaching that hand into the fluid below that I knew consisted of harmless filler and useful nanomachines. It felt different, feeling them seek out the injury and close it off as a human would. I normally get more of a connection to some of them. When I pulled my hand out, the finger was healed back up, which confirmed that method of payment to the group. I held on to that canister as Hail Mary and Sgt. Pepper both went over to check on some of the others.

Billy Jean took the cash, nodded to us, and left. Hail Mary got herself some nanites. Pepper looked at the cash for a long time, then shook his head. He said something to himself that I couldn’t catch, then grabbed his own thing of the nanites. When I saw he’d done that, I palmed a pebble-sized tracker that wouldn’t show up as anything to consume or destroy to the nanites and dropped it in. I closed the lid and instead grabbed a box of cash before leaving.

Yeah, it actually went well. No double-crossing, at least on Butterfly’s side. And no raid by the heroes. That was explained to me by Mender when I agreed to listen to their plan. Because, instead of raiding the place and potentially not finding where the rest of the goods are, they want all of them. They did make me turn over the $50,000 I was paid for the job though, wink wink. But I have a great deal of leeway in helping them come up with the specific plan to manage the next step.

They used to have someone they could rely on to help with this sort of thing, but she’s out of the country on holiday at the moment. And while the Master Academy’s hero education is supposedly top-notch, they don’t necessarily train their people to be thieves and burglars.

So, in a turn of events, I get to plan a heist with some of the heroes as my crew. And this isn’t just some job stealing from a warehouse or meth lab or something. Uh uh. According to that tracker, I get to use heroes to break into a bank. Ha! Serves ’em right. They want to make me do good deeds, I get to make them rob a place. Something tells me this one’s going to get loud.

Hmm. And they’re going to have a Santa show up there. Time for a little ho-ho-hold up, I think.

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Season’s Thievings 4

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As befits the holiday season, I slept soundly, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Specifically, a couple of dancers at this one strip club, Sugar and Plum. Sugar had the kind of figure that only exists when a man designs a woman, which could mean a lot of plastic surgery in her past. Plum’s not so hourglass-shaped. She tends to fall under that “thicker, but bigger boobs” way of appealing to men. I’d been spending more time away from Master Academy, for reasons ranging from “I just don’t like them,” to “they have a telepath.”

Speaking of which, that’s where this strangely dream, strange in its normalcy, took an odd turn. Because soon, the very person I had been avoiding showed up there. A feminine figure, not so endowed as the strippers, with scales over her skin and feathers where her hair should be. Her face was somewhat warped in structure, more elongated, with the nose not standing out so much from the mouth. Psychsaur just stood there for a moment and I wondered at how she wasn’t dancing on a pole like the rest. All of a sudden, a third pole was there and she walked over to it. As she began to dance, she glared at me and said, “Enough!”

I woke up with a jerk, almost losing my balance on top of one of the bookshelves. Below me, I saw Psychsaur standing with a murderous look in her eyes.

“Aunti Em!” I said to her. “I just had a dream. It wasn’t all nice, but most of it was beautiful. And you were there!”

She tapped her foot on the floor. “Yeah. I was.”

I shot a finger gun at her. “By the way, nice.”

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously. You might be a bit self-conscious about it, being a bit different from the norm, but the scales look really pretty, and it doesn’t really matter if the boobs aren’t that-”

“STOP TALKING ABOUT MY BODY!”

I turned over onto my belly on top of the shelf.“Fine then. But it’s not like we’ve talked long enough for me to talk about your mind. Perhaps we can change all that over coffee sometime?”

She held a hand out and an invisible force shoved me off the top of the bookshelf. Luckily, I landed on a paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged, making the book useful for once in its existence by softening the landing of my tailbone on the floor.

A bunch of books flew out and started swatting me from all angles. I caught one, Catcher in the Rye, but then Choke smacked me in the throat. “Why did they even buy you? You aren’t educational!” I yelled at it.

“You’re stealing something,” said an angry-sounding Psychsaur as she stepped to the other end of the stack.

“Not at the moment,” I answered.

“You’ve been avoiding me, so I read your mind while you slept.”

Sadly, I can’t bring myself to hole in a motel away from Master Academy. I think it’s the escape clause. But I did point out that, “Have you ever considered that most people avoid you so you can’t read their minds?”

She blinked and her eye went wide. I think I touched a nerve. I know she touched mine when I felt something squeeze my balls out of nowhere, the pressure ramping up until I was sure they should have exploded by now. But what’s having balls of steel for, if not resisting the ball-crushing might of someone with psychic abilities? With a painful twist, I was pulled back to my feet by them. “You went from being the woman of my stripperific dreams to touching my balls with your mind. I sense a bit of sexual tension.” I turned my head and coughed due to the pain.

She let go and I grabbed the shelf to steady myself. “Shut your mouth and keep it shut. You’re in the middle of a heist.”

I raised a finger to tell her this was technically incorrect, but didn’t say anything. When I realized I wasn’t speaking, I raised a different finger to express my opinion on the matter. Instead, I thought it all out, explaining rapidly. “Heistkeepsmeoccupied, Iwantthenanitestohealandgetstrongagainandbemycorrectspecies, pluswe’regoingtobebetrayedbytheguycommissioningussowe’regoingtostiffhim.”

“You can talk, just talk more slowly. Explain everything or I’ll make a woman of you,” she said.

I flashed an image of myself as a woman fooling around with Wildflower. “That’s sweet of you to offer, but someone already made a woman out of me.” I explained what has led up to the current situation, though. Soon, I was sit down in a room with her, Venus, and Victor Mender, repeating that story to them and telling them our plan.

They were surprised. “Johnny Butterfly, notorious crime boss, met with a random thief off the street who pulled one job and put him in a group with a bunch of other people to do this? That sounds ridiculous,” Venus concluded.

Mender’s synthesized voice spoke up. “He will betray you.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, probably. That’s why we’re going to betray him first. We have a plan to swap it out.”

They came to the conclusion they’d like to be a part of it. And I wasn’t allowed to have nanites.

On the day in question, things went beautifully. The disguises and fake identification worked perfectly, as did my fit about recognizing that large container full of fluid that, strangely, the RadioShack people didn’t have paperwork for. I stared right at the nearest guard, almost burning a hole through his glasses with my glare. “You lost the paperwork on this government property?”

Needless to say, they became incredibly amenable to helping us load the contents of the container up. They just no longer had the equipment on site to lift the entire thing out. The lot behind the store opened up to allow such large items to be moved in and out, but that required coordination. This was spur of the moment, and forced us to quickly change our plans as well. Mr. Blue Sky and Billy Jean had to run off and swap out the trailer on the semi from the normal covered type to one of the ones that can hold liquids. It’s the difference between hauling cheese and milk.

That took a bit longer than we’d have liked, especially because we took up so much space in the parking lot. When we finally had sucked as many nanites as we could from the container, we made it a point to leave. The longer we stayed, the longer we could be found out, and the longer we made Johnny Butterfly’s people wait at the drop point.

Oh, we were still heading there. I took over driving the semi. Billy insisted on driving this nice SUV. All black, but a few stains on the interior that made me curious just what Butterfly used it for before handing it over to us.

Billy and I pulled up to a warehouse. When we asked through Butterfly’s manager where it needed to go, he directed us to this address. And this address turned out to be more than just a warehouse. It was a bonded warehouse: a place where imported goods can be stored, repackaged, cleaned, adulterated, misplaced, mislabeled, fall off the back of a truck, and manipulated until a better time to pay duties on the goods inside. It has legitimate business uses, too.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see one somehow owned by a criminal enterprise. I bet I even owned a few back with Double Cross. The surprising part was that the people at the gate weren’t expecting us. They made a call to the back and let us in, though. Told us to drive around right on in through the big door. There, one of the guards said he had been instructed to have us wait.

“Ok, I got ya. Let me just go let my colleague know that as well,” I told him, then exited the truck to go get in the SUV with Billy. To him, I said, “They want us to wait. You think this thing can crash the gate?”

He put it in gear. “Let’s find out.”

He wheeled us around and made for the door of the warehouse, leaving the semi truck and its large covered trailer to its fate. Before we could find out how good of a battering ram it made, we discovered it made a pretty decent moving target for small arms fire. Semi-automatic, but with enough volume to take out one tire. “You still got it?” I asked as we swerved. We no longer had our right front tire.

“Take more than that to stop us,” Billy said as he held us steady, heading for the gate. Then we heard a shotgun and lost even more control. The SUV swerved to the left suddenly, and flipped, with my side going on bottom. I looked to my right, saw the asphalt screeching by, and pushed the button to roll up my window. I did not want any of that.

When we came to a stop, I spat out pieces of a tooth and turned to check on Billy. “You still here?”

He said what I couldn’t due to censorship. I don’t even usually bother to slip into multiple languages, and that one about our unknown attacker and a goat whose parents weren’t married sounds fun to use myself someday.

“Sounds like you’re still here. Okily dokily. Now we just have to sneak out of here without them noticing, if possible,” I told him. He looked at me, his lip and nose bloody.

From outside, we heard a heavily accented voice. Ukrainian, actually. “We know you’re in there. Tell us who sent you and we will let you live. Was it the Butterfly?”

“Hornswoggling within hornswoggling,” I said. “Well, we were right about Butterfly then. But don’t worry. I got us a way out.” I still reached for my disposable phone and called to the others, as planned.

Sgt. Pepper picked up. “We heard gunshots.”

“Yeah, we’re stuck at the moment. This is a rival gang’s warehouse. Guy had a Ukrainian accent if that means anything. You get the tanker away?”

“Yeah, we got it. I’m waitin’ nearby. If you want me to go and save myself, just say the word.”

“Uh uh. You wait until we’re out of here,” I told him.

Billy spoke up. “Feelgood, they got assault rifles out there.”

“Pepper, did you know that the term ‘assault rifle’ was invented by the Nazis? They made this gun called the Sturmgewehr- hold on, they’re going full auto on us.” I had to cut it short because somebody had indeed opened up on us.

“How we gettin’ out of here, man? I don’t have a gun!” Billy panicked, trying to get himself untangled from his seat belt. “The car’s gonna explode!”

“Get a hold of yourself!” I wanted to slap him across the face, but couldn’t due to my constraints.

“What are you going to do then?!” he asked in a panic. I reached over and clicked to release his belt. He fell on top of me.

“Well, sadly, it’s not an option for me to insult one of them, hop out, and kill everyone armed with nothing but two handguns, a pair of swords, and maximum effort, but I’ll go one better. I’m going to put no effort in.”

“What are you even talkin’ man?”

“No effort!” I yelled.

From outside, I heard the Ukrainian yell. “Look, up in the sky!”

“It’s a drone!”

“It’s a plane!”

“It’s a distraction. Also a superhero, or at least one,” I told Billy.

“We’re gonna catch on fire. The car’s gonna explode!” He grabbed onto me, nails digging into my suit.

I just rolled my eyes. “Car’s don’t just explode most of the time, even when they’re shot. That’s not how it works. You can toss a grenade into one and it wouldn’t go blow up. The grenade would, but not the car.”

“They got grenades?!”

I shook my head. “You do not do well under pressure. They’re not even shooting at us. Now come on, move your rear. We gotta get the driver’s side doors open.

I had to shimmy past him to open the door, then sat straddling the side of the car above the door, reaching down to give Billy a hand up. Outside, we slid down and made a hasty exit for the gate and our waiting escape vehicle that’d be nearby while a number of Master Academy capes busied themselves fighting resistance and securing the warehouse. They didn’t pay much attention to me, except for one particularly scaly one I caught glaring at me. I blew her a kiss before we skedaddled.

Just as we got into the car, though, I held out my phone to Billy. “Here, press the call button.” I didn’t get this little idea until after the talk with Master Academy’s people.

He looked at it, looked at me, then looked at it again and pressed the button. Back in the warehouse, the semi and the trailer behind it blew. Billy freaked out when he heard it and realized what it was. “Jesus! You said cars didn’t just explode!”

“Nope, but trucks do, when you get the idea to stuff some C4 into them. Relax, that way no one can say for sure that we didn’t have the goods in it, and it could have been heroes or whoever was back there alike,” I smiled at him, and at Sgt. Pepper in the driver’s seat.

Sgt. Pepper chewed on a toothpick and told us, “Buckle your seatbelts,” before driving off.

Except when we went to meet Mary and Blue Sky in the parking lot of a defunct mall, we found no truck and trailer in sight. They were still there, of course, zip-tied in the back seat of the car.

“Heya,” said Blue Sky, ignoring a glaring Mary. “Turns out Butterfly planned to screw us.”

“He found us and took the tanker,” added Mary.

“He left a note, though,” said Billy, looking much calmer after a little drive. He pointed to an envelope underneath the windshield wiper.

After we got Mary and Blue loose, Pepper read the letter to us. “Dear team, if you’re reading this, congratulations. You have met my expectations. I know this looks bad, but I fully intend to honor my part of our deal. Please meet with me in the room this Friday if you wish to get your just rewards for such an excellent job. You can choose not to get paid if you want. Thank you for all of your hard work, J.”

We all looked at each other, and at the letter, contemplating the intelligence, or lack thereof, that would be involved in meeting that date.

Mary was the one who spoke up. “You know he’s going to betray us, right?”

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Gecko’s Sucky Sucky Good Time 1

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Yes, like it or not, I have allied myself with Master Academy due to pragmatism and the sight of my impaled chest. Not that everyone’s heard. Most of them don’t even know who I am, after all.

I half expected more people to recognize me, but it makes some sense. I mostly ever appeared in public wearing my armor. When I didn’t, I tended to change my physical appearance all the time. Even my bra size a time or two. Even when I adopted the face I currently wear, I used makeup. Subtract the makeup, some hair, and a little meat on my bones, then add in a bit of head trauma for an equation that justifies when people appear to be 80085.

That’s a good thing at the moment. There’s nothing but scab between the outside world and my chest cavity in spots, and I’ve been left physically diminished in my recovery. Plus, that little calculation I like to rely on clearly shows me at a disadvantage. The one that goes, “I don’t know how many of them it was gonna take to whoop my rear (cursed cuss censorship!) but I knew how many they were gonna use.” In this case, about seven billion people. Adjusted for inflation, I might give Hitler a run for his money as the World’s Most Hated Person, all without deliberately targeting a single Jew. Ironically, that probably means the Nazis over at Stormfront think I was secretly a Jew.

I miss the internet. Nothing reinforces the reasonableness of exterminating humanity quite like the internet.

I missed having armor, too, so I’m doing something about it while learning something interesting about my thought processes. Yep, just another man to learn new things about himself in the big city. Because that’s where I went. Set foot off campus and took a bus into the city proper. The people at the bus stop didn’t even blink when someone wanted to get on with a bell and cat ears on his head, but it is right by Master Academy. I wasn’t sure if the rules they imposed on me would let me, but it turned out my suspicion that it was worth a try turned out to be true.

I walked right off Master Academy’s campus, though not through trickery or bribery or resistance to mental compulsion. I was able to leave because I had been compelled not to escape. I wasn’t escaping. I was heading out to buy a few things, then coming back. I’ve also been known to borrow something important, like a diamond or the bullets out of a sleeping target’s gun, but I don’t always give those back. People don’t always like when I give things like that back, more because of little factors like how hard I give them back, and where.

When the bus dropped me off in an area I knew, I set off. Utilizing my completely non-violent ability to rob people blind, and at least one blind person, I soon amassed enough money to afford a shopping spree at a hardware store and electronics store. Finding a junkyard was harder, and I had enough trouble remembering where I was going. I’m used to GPS.

If I needed any help getting back to Master Academy with my purchases, you wouldn’t know it. I walked along, thinking of the best place to acquire armor plating, when Master Academy heroes descended upon me like a Biblical plague of Egypt. The lesser known Fourth-And-A-Half Plague, the plague of cameltoes. The Bible missed that part because of all the tunics and loincloths they wore back then instead. I’d where a loincloth too, if it wasn’t so impractical.

I get in too many fights for that. At least if I were completely nude, the sight of my towering manhood could dissuade any limp-wristed attempts to punch me in the crotch. Cover it with a loincloth, and people are less fussy about it. The things you learn in Bangkok, eh? There’s a reason Murray Head’s song brings back memories of swordfighting with a secret order of nationalists who hate foreigners and paying foreign hitmen. They called themselves the Kokblockers.

Since I’m horrible at foreshadowing, they didn’t have anything to do with my trip. Instead, some guy stepped out of an alley and tried to stick a knife against my throat. I blocked it with a bag and stared him down, the two of us eyeing each other. Him, some random mugger; me, a mass murdering serial killer super villain hiding in plain sight with some mind wammy on me stopping me from hurting people. Clearly, there was only one course left to me.

“Gimme your money!” the guy said, edging around.

I dropped my bags and tore at my shirt, screaming while revealing my nasty-looking chest. Then I reached down and yanked my pants open, letting my Lynyrd Skynyrd enjoy the brisk Fall air, free as a bird now. I pushed them down and kicked them off, then waved them around over my head by the leg, yelling all the while. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabugoffaaaaaaaahhhhh!”

“Pluck this,” he said, and turned to run back down the alley.

I stopped to take a breath, shoved my pants into a bag next to some of my purchases, and gathered them up to go. I didn’t go far.

Quicker than you can say “Watch out, that Thai hooker’s actually a woman!” I found myself surrounded by Master Academy capes. They were more than happy to escort me back, though they kept distracting me from my work afterword by bringing in Psychsaur and some other telepaths to examine me. I tried to ignore them rooting around my brain, but it wasn’t easy. I mean, at least I’m used to hearing other voices in my head from time to time. The little room we were all in was crowded, and not the best spot to build stuff, but I had bought tools of my own and could work off the floor if need be.

“It must be the computer somehow,” one of them said.

Another suggested, “Maybe it wore off. Sometimes compulsions can do that.”

A third voice spoke, “Has he been under any unusual stress?”

“Don’t talk about wearing off, and it wouldn’t have been that. The computer shouldn’t mess with anything. And finally, don’t you know who that is? Stress, really?” Psychsaur fielded all the questions in one burst.

I just stripped a little wiring that I’d worked into a glove. “Hey!” I said in my mind. “Y’all are the psychics, shouldn’t you have it figured out by now?”

“Stop talking about us in there,” said one of them. “We don’t speak that language.”

“That explains a few things,” I said. “But I figured y’all would have Occam’s Razored your way to a solution by now.” I brought up the list in my HUD, in English, and concentrated on it.

1. Cause no physical violence
2. Make no attempt to escape or convince others to help me escape
3. No bleeping cussing
4. Do not use poison, allergies, or medication in an attempt to cause physical harm.
5. Never oppose an OCP officer

“Who’s the OCP officer?” someone asked. “Is someone on duty?”

I pointed in the direction of that voice, behind my back. “Your lack of appreciation for the finer arts disgusts me. That is one of the classics of cyborg cinema. How dare you denigrate my people, you fleshist.”

“It’s a pop culture thing,” said a guy with three eyes.

I pointed at him next, “Right you are, Tien. You’ve won a Zeni, as soon as I find a way to counterfeit them. But what I meant before is that I didn’t violate the rule about attempting to escape because I wasn’t attempting to escape. Turns out, there really is a difference between, say, stealing and borrowing.”

“There’s a loophole?” asked Psychsaur. “I guess your intentions matter.”

I started running wires up a sleeve. “You know, your completely separate observation matches up perfectly with my ideas about morality through some odd coincidence. Good response time, too. Was getting chilly out there.”

Triclops said, “No one wants you loose. We’re taking a lot of risks as-is. Mender and Venus must have been crazy to think we could keep you a secret to the rest of the school.”

That reminded me. “By the way, there was a student here who I think is on hero duty sometimes. I haven’t seen her around, but I know she was here at one point. She’s an old friend. In a good way, not in that way that made y’all look at each other.” Keep in mind, I didn’t look up when I said this, so they were shocked I noticed. They’d have been shocked I knew they were shocked, too. “I’ve been chalking it up to timing, but with almost everybody dropping in on me today, I have to wonder where my old trainee Leah has gotten to.”

“That’s not for us to say,” said the person staying behind me. “Stop doing whatever you’re doing. That’s a weapon.”

“A weapon? No, no… it’s just a glove designed to channel energy to the fists to be discharged in a physical blow. There are a ton of civilian uses for it, like smashing watermelons and breaking cinderblocks. Besides, I can’t use it as a weapon. And I might be inclined to check for more loopholes if nobody wants to tell me what happened to her. She looks like this.” I remembered back to Leah as I last saw her without her mask. A misfit teen, or at least a runaway who feared for her life after a hero wound up killing a villain in a fight. She accidentally used her powers in a crime and fled, not being sure about the reasonableness of the people on the lawful good side of the D&D table.

“I told you, we can’t say,” said the one behind me. In retaliation, I remembered that Shia Lebouf meme where the actor stands around shouting stuff like “Do it!” and “Just do it!” in between yelling at people to follow their dreams. My brief stint as Emperor of the World gave me some insight into that; the CIA was testing an experimental mind control device on him that had to be primed with a chemical in LSD. The mindchanger didn’t work, but the added chemical led to a lingering high.

The door to our little room opened and Mender rolled in. “Well?” he asked.

Psychsaur looked at him for a moment. Mender then rolled around to observe what I was making. “This is a form of your armor.”

“Yepperoony. Figured it’ll come in handy if the safety gloves are ever taken off me. Kinda wishing that was the case since they’re all being evasive.” I nodded to Psychsaur and Triclops, then back in the general direction of the other voice.

Mender said, “That is not your concern. You should get better.”

I tossed the glove carelessly behind me, where I heard it slap someone. “Didn’t know you were there,” I said in way of explanation, then addressed Mender. “If you want me to give a dam about you and your school, it’d be a good idea to start by telling me what’s up with the only friendly person around here. Did you do something to her because of me? Did someone else? I think I’d have seen her around by now unless you sent her to the West Coast, in which case you’d have just told me she’s over there. I will ride your ass on this if you don’t. Level with me here.”

If he was put off by my mention of a method for blocking water and a domesticated animal, he didn’t show it. He couldn’t show much with his face. “We are handling the situation.”

I’ll take “Phrases that never end well for $800, Alex!”

“Unless the situation is a kitten, I don’t know that that’s true.”

Pyschsaur grabbed her ear, and I wondered if she had a normal earlobe. She turned to Mender and whispered something in his ear.

“Aha!” I pointed at him. Then, whoever in the room was a telepath lifted me up and I found myself floating upside down, probably giving some of them a view of my barely-clothed rectum to varying degrees of their enjoyability. I crossed my arms over my chest as I floated around like that, slowly rotating. “You know I’m right. Something went wrong, and I bet the person I was conveniently talking about is now in trouble. Am I right? The Law of Narrative Causality is a fickle mistress.”

“Yes it is,” Mender said, “But not for the reason you think.”

The door burst open and a spandexed-up Master Academy hero started to run in, but stopped abruptly. I couldn’t quite placer until she spoke. “Uh, hello,” she said and began to circle around.

“Speak of the devil!” I said. I tried to keep her in sight as I spoke. “Or should I say the girl who once had me as a devil on her shoulder. Hey there, Leah.”

“Oh my god, Gecko?! Is that Gecko?”

I felt her hug onto me from behind, putting her face somewhere near my other pair of cheeks. All at once, everyone started coughing. Mender’s computer-generated voice even said, “Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Cough cough.”

“Leah, I’m a little detained at the moment. Think you can get all your friends a lozenge? Also, stay away from my chest. It’s a little tender.”

“I thought you were dead!” She let go and I floated where I could see her again, smiling.

I couldn’t help but smile back. “As always, rumors of my death precede me to the grave. Apparently, Mender decided I was worth salvaging instead of letting me die. But I don’t think you came here for me. By the pricking of my thumbs, bad news this way comes.”

Her elation faded and she turned to Mender. “We have a problem.”

“There is its,” I said.

“That’s it, you shut up now,” said Psychsaur. She backed it up, too. Couldn’t say a thing after that, just keep rotating around in the air.

“Sir, we ran into problems. We were watching him like you said, and followed him to Vermont, to a town called Dartmoor. He holed up in Angerhorn Manor. It’s got a repuation for being haunted.”

“I received the updates. Please, what went wrong?” Mender asked.

Leah stopped and took a deep breath. “The observation team sent me out for groceries near dusk. By the time I got back, the hotel was overrun. They looked like vampires; pale with fangs and claws. They flew and had super strength. I watched for awhile and saw them carry the others off, then got back as soon as possible.”

“Why didn’t you call?” asked Triclops.

I raised a hand and waved it around.

“I left my phone in the room but it wouldn’t matter because the phones weren’t working anywhere I checked. It’s like the entire town was cut off,” she answered.

I pointed finger guns at her. She got it in one. Classic horror trope, phones not working, both because the vast majority of horror stories have taken place in pre-cell phone times, and because the ability to call for help with them renders it necessary for modern horror stories to find a way to screw up the phones.

“We will get them back. Thank you for letting us know. Go, write it up for everyone, then get some rest,” Mender said. Leah nodded and turned to wave at me before rushing out of the room. Mender looked to Psychsaur, “Let him down, and let him talk if he wants.”

Surprisingly, they didn’t just dump me on the ground. Probably because Psychsaur remembered that time she caught me and my chest popped open. I bet I’d smell good to vampires. And as I drifted gently to the floor, I finally got to say, “I’ll do it!”

“Do what?” asked Triclops.

“I’ll help! Spinetingler and vampires in rural New England, with a small town and a manor? Sounds like fun!”

Psychsaur had something to say about that. “This isn’t about your fun. These are our friends’ lives.”

I grabbed the glove I’d been working on. “Right, and I just so happen to owe people some lives here.”

“No way. You just want to kill and escape,” she argued.

Mender hadn’t spoken yet up to this point, so I ignored her and looked to him instead. “Come on, drop the idealism stuff. THIS is what you kept me around for.”

Mender just said, “Yes, it is, but you are not getting out yet. We have the resources to help ourselves. You have a glove and a hole in your chest. You stay here.”

With that, Mender and his retinue left me alone to work, though I did eventually find a decent spot in the library to keep at it while looking up that Dartmoor place.

Oh, I am going, no doubt about that. This has been too much of a disappointing October, and I deserve vampires! And a manor!

I don’t care what those heroes say, I’m going to save their lives whether they like it or not.

Wow, put that under “list of phrases I didn’t expect to say.”

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Fallen Devil 6

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Ok, so the awesome quotient seems to have dropped off a bit since I’ve been stuck here. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been bad. Though I think my little rebellion has come to somewhat of a less satisfying ending.

I didn’t immediately run to a phone or computer, but that’s because I have to get ready. The voicebox was one part. Getting these glam covers off my fingernails was another important thing I managed. They’ve banned me from the workshop. It’s downright impossible for me to throw together something to build nanites with them keeping a close eye on me, nor do they have those tools available in that little room, since that’s set up for students.

I’m pretty sure they’ve got better facilities for that and heroic activities somewhere on campus. I know certain doors that look like they go to basements are sealed up with multiple forms of access.

So nanites are out, which complicated things. And they keep an eye on me to keep me out of there, which isn’t helped by this bell around my neck. It isn’t just about annoying me with sounds, either. Either the ears or the bell has a tracking device in it of some sort. And while I have no reason to think this outside of what I would do if I wanted to be a jerk, I suspect the tracking device is also tied to the location of the ears and/or bell so that it’d be abundantly clear if I removed it. If it were me, I’d have it send out a very loud alarm if I so much as tampered with it. I could put up with them if it was just a bell to keep track of me, or trying to humiliate me by making me wear cat ears, but I really don’t like them tracking me.

So I decided to be a male genitalia as a way of getting myself treated less like a cat. First, I followed Venus around for a whole day. It’s easy, especially in a crowd and with someone who knows how to look innocuous. A little bit of stolen makeup, some hats, doing up my hair, a few stolen outfits, and I blended right in. At least until I noticed her going in circles while talking on the phone. She made a loop in this section of hallway that went around a janitorial closet several times until stopping and turning to look right at me. “I found him, nevermind.” She walked right up, patted me between the cat ears, and said, “Want to go get lunch, kitty?”

I’m beginning to understand why felines plot against the people they live with. I’m really getting in touch with my inner cat. “Stop all the cat jokes. Fine, I could eat. And no fish or milk or fluxing Meow Mix.”

So we had lunch. Made it easier to keep track of her for a bit, though she didn’t seem to care for the silent treatment from me. Or the constant glaring. I take my villainy very seriously, and that includes the ability to eat in a menacing manner. You don’t just wave an electric knife at someone when they bring up a subject. No, there’s an art to conveying evil intentions in mundane activities. Like when Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man movie even managed to drink like a villain.

Venus asked, “Anything you’ve been thinking of doing? You could sit in on some classes if you’re interested in anything. Drama club is rehearsing for a musical. You seem to like those.”

“What kind of musical?” I asked, slowly raising my glass to my lips.

She opened her mouth, then stopped before she could say anything.

I moved my glass just out of the way as I spoke, not yet having sipped. “Well?”

“Cats,” she said. My eyes drilled into hers like a pervert with a blowup doll as I took a shallow drink, then set the glass down. “How are you feeling, then? Any shakes? Withdrawal symptoms?”

“Still got a sore chest. Still a little under the weather. Definitely wish I could kill people, but things are somewhat better compared to being stuck in a tiny box underground. So thanks, I guess. Still wish I could get into the workshop… or anywhere better. You know, some nanites would be nice, too. Maybe get this bell off.”

She gave me the same bit about learning to trust each other while I’m in their custody. Just figured I’d give them a chance before going through with stuff.

I continued my plan later that night. Most of the school goes to sleep, but I’ve found there are a surprising number of night people. Some of them are the spandex brigade patrolling or staying ready in case something big happens. Others are students or faculty who don’t sleep well. Powers can do interesting things to brain chemistry.

Now, the main dorm building, aside from having rocks partially carved to fit as bricks while also providing a rock-climbing experience on the outer building, is one of those places where I suspect they’d keep a closer eye on me. I’m probably an extra bleep on someone’s security panel somewhere.

This evening, that beep would have led them to the adult floor, and to a nice little room occupied by a certain nemesis of mine. It took only five minutes before I heard footsteps come rushing. I left some trash out there, but nothing he’d likely slip on where it was. Just some boxers and an empty box of condoms. The footsteps stopped, and it took the person or people out there a couple seconds to knock on the door.

Now, here’s where my lack of preparation came up. I really wanted to get a recording from a porno to play when they came. Alas, it turns out that they had their actual super computer people lock them down. I tried everything. Porn sites, porn bulletin boards, even certain filesharing sites that don’t make it obvious in terms of names. Sadly, it appears someone here can match my encyclopedic knowledge of where to find naked people online. And, for some reason, they blocked any sites I reached from searching for “sexy thoroughbred horses.” As if I’d whack it to horses.

Anyway, without any big, beautiful horse rears to admire, It should be no surprise when people find some of my clothes left behind outside another person’s dorm room here. After the knocking didn’t get anything and calling out just made Venus snort and turn over in bed, they burst in. Light stabbed in and awoke the primal vampire within Venus. She hissed and threw her arms over her head. “What the Home For Infinite Losers are you doing in here?” And yes, that’s me covering for more cussing, for Puck’s sake.

“We tracked the Special Guest in here!” said a softer, lighter voice that could have been male or female.

Venus looked around, then dropped down into a crouching stance to check under her bed, which was one of the places I considered hiding. I even had this idea about my new voice box and any special toys I found down there. I call it “Star Wars: Episode Ungh!”

Mark my words, that’s coming to a dirty website near y’all soon, if it isn’t out already. I couldn’t doublecheck due to the aforementioned restrictions on my browsing habits.

Venus, along with a pair of the spandex brigade, then threw open the door to her closet, releasing a spring that launched a cream pie right into Venus’s face. There’s the money shot. It’s like comedic bukkake.

Thus humiliated, they stepped toward the middle of the room. The one who hadn’t spoken moved his hands around. My translation program recognized it as American Sign Language. “Did he sneak out?”

“Maybe,” Venus said before trying to Sign. Her lips said “Maybe,” but her hands said, “Ugh, why is there custard on my finger?” Maybe I got that mixed up with her trying to clean herself off, though.

The cat ears dropped down and landed right at Venus’s feet. Slowly, the three looked up, realizing they’d fallen into one of the classic blunders, along with going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line and starting a land war in Asia. Technically, I’ve done both, like when I set off that Mongolion invasion of Russia. I ain’t a nice drunk.

The heroes forgot to look up… and so they found me, clinging to the ceiling in a hospital gown. I “stood” up, the gown and my long black wig both fixed so they didn’t hang down according to gravity. Because why settle for thumbing my nose at only mortal law? My face and arms pale, I opened my mouth wide and let out a long, loud croak.

It freaked the freakin’ freaky out of all of them for a moment before Venus threw a glob of cream at me. “Get down here, Gecko!”

I stopped croaking to ask, “Or what, you’re going to call the physics police? You don’t have jurisdiction over gravity!”

She responded with some pie custard. Shame. It gave me something to plug my ears with when the bell sounded its loud alarm right there in the adult dorm hall in the middle of the night.

Needless to say, I got called into the Principal’s office the next morning. Well, more like dragged in at super-laser-blasting-fingerpoint. And by next morning, I meant right then, since it was technically morning. Victor Mender wasn’t in a good mood, but that happens when people interrupt your sleep. “We give you an inch and you attempt to take a mile,” his computer spoke for its disabled master, the offending cat ear headband and now-removed bell choker on desk between us. The choker didn’t have any clips or anything, just two ends that went together so smoothly, you’d think they had been cut apart.

I opened my mouth to speak, but a cannon popped out of the rear of his wheelchair and began to track me. He continued speaking, “We bent over backwards to give you the most lenient incarceration and saved your life in the process. Do you know we saved your life? Anyone else would have left you to die.” He stared at me with eyes desperately wishing they belonged to a man who could Force Choke people. “Everyone else left you to die.”

His computer screen rotated around to show me in the aftermath of the big fight against Mecha Gecko. There I was, floating in the water. Another picture, a forcefield surrounds me. Me being pulled out. A crowd aiming possibly every gun in Empyreal City at me. Not just civilians, but cops and soldiers too. And I didn’t look too good, either. Had metal sticking out of my chest and a big gash in my head. Master Academy covered me with a sheet, maybe even fought off some people trying to go all Benito Mussolini on my body.

He showed me photos and videos, even a news broadcast of a very hasty burial done form me. A fake burial, I shouldn’t have to point out. They didn’t bring helicopters and a platoon along for a twenty-one gun salute, I figured that much. Or if they did, they meant to wait until I showed myself to be alive before they commemorated and proved my death. The concrete poured on top of my body was a nice touch. The newscaster even stopped to point out that the restored United States Government refused to squirrel away my body for autopsy, burial at sea, or cremation because all three would lead to further rumors I had survived somehow, “like Tupac.”

I pointed at the screen for that point and looked around at the others in the room with me, “You know, some of those sightings were me. There was awhile where I was listening to his stuff a lot. Nobody rats on Tupac to the POPO.”

In all my thinking of escape, I’d glossed all over the part where being caught in an explosion would have left me on death’s door surrounded by people willing to kick me over the threshold. I crossed my arms in front of me, which got me a few more glowing heroic body parts waved at me. “That’s not necessarily something I thought about, except for the easy hard time. I got a bit caught up with someone trying to dress me up as a cat boy. But, as dishonorable and disreputable as I am, I owe you and yours my life. Blech, the words taste bad to say, but they’re true nonetheless. If you want me back in that cell, I’ll go, though I will try to find a way to get out. If you want me to behave, I will, but I’ll still want freedom. It’s just part of who I am. No genie wants to be stuck in a bottle.”

But I still reached out, reluctantly grabbed the bell collar, and put it on my own neck this time. The ends fitted together and the whole thing tightened up to hold the bell against my throat and prevent someone from slipping it off me. The ears went next, a little more quickly because the alarm really is that annoying.

Y’all think I liked that? No. But the Evil Overlord List has it right on this point: when someone saves your life, you should make it worth their while. A Lannister always pays his debts, and so on. Which is probably why Cersei and Jaime Lannister should have learned not to screw around with the other as kids.

The monitor swiveled back around. “I may have some wishes for you, genie. The Claw is on the move and Spinetingler may soon reach out. The world is primed for chaos.”

He must have stopped when he saw me smiling. I liked the bit about chaos, but I had to fight it back down as I considered the implications of what he said. “If you’re meaning to turn me into another member of the spandex brigade here, that is going to end poorly. Square peg in an ash hole. Hydroelectric dam I wish I could cuss right now.”

I tried to ignore the brightening of the glowing body parts to keep watching Mender as he spoke. “I am glad to inspire a generation of idealists. Sometimes we bow to pragmatism and opportunism. Everyone else, leave.”

“Sir!” several people said.

“This is not a request,” Mender said. The lighting in the office soon became much more palatable as it emptied out considerably. Only when we were absolutely alone, which involved a barrel popping out to shoot an invisible person with a paintball to get them to leave, did Mender continue, “I do not know where Spinetingler is, but consider consider the Academy your home until he is no longer a threat.”

“That’s a bit much…”

“I know where to find Technolutionary. I have friends who put him in North Korea, working with The Claw forces and your captive bee friend. They say he has taken an interest in your alleged heir.”

I nodded, “Sounds like fun… for a hitman, not a hero. Fixing things there is going to require handling a few supers with a permanent solution. But obviously I’m just assuming more than I should about the permanent thing. After all, you’re a hero. You’d never want even a rogue element like myself to make that judgment call in the field.”

See? This is why it’s not good to have friends. Then, even when you already owe someone your life, they can hold those friends over you as a bargaining chip.

I couldn’t let Mender have the last word though. I may owe him, but there’s always a potential dealbreaker: “I’ll help you, but if I find out Boobzilla messed with my head tonight to influence my thought process, everybody here dies. I’ll seriously tip you over in a bathtub somewhere, let you drown in a puddle of crotch wash.”

So I guess that makes me Psychpomp Gecko, Great and Devious assassin in temporary service to Master Academy, with a bell on. Which probably doesn’t mean much to them. They might not believe me. Y’all might not believe me. But a little thing like saving my life matters, and so does me deciding I’m going to try and not put up a fuss with my captors.

Besides, the sooner Mender ships me off to far-away North Korea, the better. Then my escape plans wouldn’t involve violating whatever piece of shriveled honor still remains in me like a senior citizen donkey show. Now there’s an idea for when I get my hands on Technolutionary… donkey sodomy! Just like the old commercials used to advertise. “Good ol’ fashioned donkey sodomy, just like Granny used to make.”

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Fallen Devil 4

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So here I am, stuffed away in my closet, valiantly recovering beep by bloody beep. I don’t use bloody enough in that context, which is a shame. And I am making it back, little by little. I just jumped the gun this time, along with the cafeteria.

After all that, the heroes could have justified a lot worse treatment for me, or even no treatment for me. Aside from increased guards during meals and visits from medical staff, they haven’t done much to me. They even went brought in some thick, clear cube to protect the therapist to get around the clearly non-existent doctor-patient confidentiality problems. They forced the guy on me; I somehow doubt they wouldn’t know what we talked about if I ever talked about anything real with him. Though, now that I think about it, a lot of what I would have to say could be shared anyway, on account of me wanting to keep committing crimes. Bummer. What if I wanted help? Somedays, it just seems like the system is rigged against cold-blooded killers like myself.

That thought popped into my head again one day when I woke up to the door opening and three of my least favorite people entering. Venus, because she’s always gotta be there for some reason. Victor Mender, who I suspected wanted a word about my little escape attempt, and Boobzilla. I don’t know her name, but she’s the reptilian one with mammaries, so it seemed appropriate. They spread out with Venus on my left and the other two at the foot of my bed.

I raised my fist toward Mender. “At last, we meet again. How bold of you to walk right into my lair. You should make peace with whatever god you didn’t give enough money to, for your doom is imminent. Guards, sieze them!” The first turned into a pointing finger as I yelled that last sentence. Boobzilla actually turned her head quickly before getting herself under control.

“Ha!” I said, pointing at her now. “Made you look. But seriously, people, what brings you to the United Dictatorship of Geckovania, as I’ve taken to calling the room? I’d provide more chairs, but the GDP’s a little low right now. I have an economic plan in the pipeline to boost my trade deficit with a combined amusement park and whorehouse. Which, if you think about it, really would make it an amusing park. Anyone want to ride Big Thunder Mountain?”

Turns out, she’s got a mouthful of really sharp teeth. She let me see them. I don’t think she meant it as a good thing.

Venus, as she’s increasingly getting used to, slapped me upside the head. I glared at her in turn. “You know y’all gave me brain surgery recently, right?”

“Gecko, Venus, enough,” said the computer-generated voice of Mender. “We need to have a discussion. How do you feel, Gecko?”

I shrugged. “A heck of a lot better since the Stockholm Syndrome started. Ever seen a guy suck a ping pong ball through a garden hose before?”

“Please speak honestly,” Mender said. “My student did not want to touch your mind. She may have done harm when she shut you down.”

“This time, I’ll be on the lookout if you fake it,” said Boobzilla. “And that is NOT my superhero name.”

Ha. Like she can make me change it. Anyway, Psychsaur screwed up her magnificent face, a mere glimpse of which was too good for me. I should be so lucky just to find myself worthy to be in her presence. Wait a minute… “Hey!” I yelled.

She opened her eyes and shook her head, then smirked. “Can too make you change it. What are you typing in your head, anyway?”

Banana hammock! She squinted. “Ew.”

Mender interrupted the telepathic lovefest going on. “Get out of his mind. Gecko, be honest with us.”

“Yes, sir,” said Psychsaur and I at once. I glared at her as I realized that.

“If you must know,” I said to Mender instead. “I don’t think I’ve had any particular medical problems related to what she did. The headaches I get predate that, and I don’t hold her personally accountable for reopening my chest wound.”

Mender looked at me for a moment without saying anything, so I looked to Venus and Psychsaur. For her part, Venus held her face as stony and emotionless as possible, even under the mask. Psychsaur just studied me and gritted her teeth. It didn’t take a psychic to realize how pissed I was at her.

“That is good. We do not want to keep putting you together again. I presume you do not want to be sick and hurt all the time. Your freedom is non-negotiable, but it has been suggested that you would be willing to behave if certain needs were provided for.”

Mender barely got the sentence out before Psychsaur blurted out, “Ew!”

I turned my head and looked Venus in the eye, catching her red-handed about to slap me. “Hey, he told her to get out of my head. And you,” I turned to Mender, “My lack of freedom is non-negotiable. We are at an impasse here. You might be humoring her,” I nodded toward Venus, “But you at least seem to realize that there’s nothing you can do that’ll get me to stop trying to escape and stop being the person I am.”

Psychsaur raised her hand to her forehead. I felt something get all cloudy in my mind, and offputting. Like nausea while sitting still and a burning wire strung in one ear and out the other. I turned to Venus and felt the urge to tell her how I felt about her, “In another life, we could have been great together, but I’ll never forgive you.”

“Stop,” Mender commanded, his machine apparently not managing an exclamation point. I looked at him, as did Psychsaur. “We have a way to enforce any deal between us. Venus?”

It’s weird that the program managed to imply a question mark like that. Venus exited the room, then reentered pushing a wheelchair. I looked between her and Mender, skeptical of what that was for, then added a bit of Evil Eye toward Pyschsaur because she jumped right up near the top of my “Will Fucking Kill” list. Yeah, there’s a list. I take the “Fuck, Marry, Kill,” game very seriously.

Mender drove on over beside it and said, “We are going to take a walk outside. Join us,” and then left the room along with Venus. Psychsaur added a glare to it, but she took her scaly ass out. As for me, I got into the wheelchair and found it motorized. As much as I didn’t want to trust anything of theirs, I also didn’t have much of a choice. Just walking around my room was a challenge.

The door, oddly enough, opened for me, and I followed the heroes out and down the hall. Venus slowed down enough for me to catch up even as the other heroine put distance between us. Venus took the handles on the chair and took over pushing. “Trust us.”

“That’s a lot to ask of me,” I said.

“We’re treating you remarkably well after all you’ve done. Reciprocate,” she whispered to me.

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not like I hurt anybody in my escape attempt. Except maybe that girl who cheated on her test, but that builds character. If she wants to make it to the big time, she’d going to have to learn to cheat better. Teachers aren’t doing cheaters any favors by coddling them like this. It’s an insult to crime, you see. We’ve come a long way from the days of random strangers asking to hold people’s pocket watches before stealing them all because people considered distrust to be rude. Herman Melville’s amazing in the field of confidence scams shouldn’t be discounted so readily.”

“You talk like you’re a native now,” Venus said.

I gave her the finger. “Go ahead. Keep on. I’m like a native to this world. I’m human now. Still almost escaped. Sisyphus, you see, is happy.”

“Why do you say he is happy?” asked Mender, who waited for us in the elevator.

“And who is Sisyphus?” asked Psychsaur.

Dammit. Lecture time. “Sisyphus was a devious and cruel man who committed the sorts of crimes against man and god alike. Murdering guests, stampeding people, and raping cattle; that kinda stuff. They were so determined to ensure his death that they sent Thanatos, like their grim reaper, after him in person with special chains to bind him. Sisyphus then tricked Thanatos into the chains, escaping death for some time and preventing other people around the world from dying in the process. Another version of the myth says it was Hades instead of Thanatos, but the rest is pretty much the same. Later, while dying, he set off a plot that culminated in him deceiving Persephone into being allowed to return to Earth. So then the gods decided that he got to spend his afterlife pushing a heavy boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll back down continuously.”

Truly, he was an inspiration.

“You think he was happy?” asked Psychsaur.

I winked at her. “Well, kinda. It’s more of an illustration of a point. His determination not to die, challenging even the Greek gods, who were total dicks, is a goal I understand. And in a way, he did somewhat win. He still existed in the story. Maybe he’d have been completely annihilated or something if he stopped, but he still went on and pushed that boulder. It’s a metaphor for how we all struggle for what we want most in a reality where it is impossible to succeed. An absurd task, especially once you realize it, but we can still make what we want of our unpleasant circumstances and spit in the face of a universe that doesn’t particularly care for us one way or the other.” I gathered a bit of spit for an illustration, but she looked into my eyes and I swallowed it.

“I hate telepaths,” I said.

Venus asked, “That’s how you view the world?”

I shrugged. “Eh, sometimes. Also important are themes of being myself in the face of a world adverse to that, but someone might say that’s a bad lesson. Then again, taking me as a role model or teacher would be an… interesting choice, to put it mildly. But no matter what, I gotta be true to myself, even if I change my mind, and especially if it’s fun. And every instinct tells me not to be a prisoner, no matter how much I may deserve to be one.”

“Sounds like you’re not exactly a man of conviction,” she responded.

I smiled. “I’m certainly not looking to get convicted. That means someone held onto me long enough to have a trial. Besides, I can’t go and be one of those gimmick villains who does stuff like steal donuts and blow up donut shops because of a rabid anti-donut agenda. For starters, donuts are fucking delicious, and anybody who says otherwise is either a communist or a fascist, depending on what the person hearing this statement hates more. Hating donuts is like if Hitler was also cancer. Who wants to have Hitler cancer? Not me. Do people who disagree with me do it because of Hitler cancer? I don’t know, I’m just asking questions.”

Mender started to speak until the ding cut him off and we all moved out into a familiar hallway, albeit to the opposite side I’d headed for. “You will learn to appreciate her. She is why we can afford to trust you so far. Here is my first offer: agree to let her input temporary changes in your behavior and you may travel freely on campus.”

My eyebrow raised. “How long is temporary?”

It was Psychsaur who answered me. “As long as you want. Before you ask, the rule we would make you follow are no physical violence, no attempting to escape, no cussing, and no attempting to convince people to help you break any of your rules.”

Venus spoke right into my ear, hoping to convince me with such an intimate approach, something she probably figured would work thanks to the blabberpath over there, “You can visit the library, watch TV, play some games, even cook for yourself.” Mouth still open from that, she jerked her head around toward Psychsaur, “Add something about no poisoning, using allergies, or messing with medicine to harm people.”

“Damn, y’all caught that one,” I said. “How do I know that’s all you’ll do to me? For all I know, she’ll make me impotent, or give me telepathic Alzheimer’s or something.”

Mender said, “There are risks on both sides of this agreement.”

Then Psychsaur butted in again, “What’s the matter, don’t think you’re strong enough to handle me? Afraid of what I’ll do in there?”

I rolled my eyes. “Pretty much anyone would dislike letting someone change their behavior through mind control. At least when I made people do things, I didn’t force them to like it.” Doesn’t help that my brain chemistry used to protect me from most telepaths but apparently doesn’t do Jack Squat with a ten foot dildo now. “Quite the conundrum. Either keep my mind clean,” That statement got a snicker and snort from Venus and Psychsaur, respectively, “And stay locked in a room, or consent to a bit of mindfuckery and obtain more freedom. I think y’all spent way too much time talking to Mecha Gecko.”

Psychsaur and Mender, who were ahead, stopped at a door. Mender rotated around to look me in the eye, his computer announcing. “This is the moment of choice. Do you take this door or return to your room?”

I stood. “Pretty big choice y’all ask of me. You’ve certainly tried presenting it to me in an honest and open way, considering you could have done this to me already. You even brought me out to what you claim is an exist. By the way…” I opened my mouth and went to blast the tone again, but I felt something heat up. The vocal cords screwed up and all I got was a whine that faded away.

I closed my mouth, mostly, except for an awkward smile and a shrug as Mender’s own chair hummed and began emitting a force field. Two arms unfolded from the back of it into some sort of weapon that trained on my chest with three laser dots each. Venus had adopted a fighting stance, while Psychsaur held one hand to her head. I put my hands up and slowly turned to sit back down in my chair, aware all the time of the fact that I had just lost one of my most valuable tools.

I went to speak, but everything came out distorted and unclear. Quieter than usual, with pitch and timbre off a bit, too. I stopped for a moment, then tried speaking slowly and clearly, which is two-thirds of how you make people understand languages other than your own. Just add loudness and you have instant linguistic comprehension in others. “Is. That. Deal. Still. On. The. Table?”

Psychsaur at least, didn’t try to make it too painful. Freakin’ headache, but I suppose that monkeyfighting telepath and telekine could have done worse to me. Venus was all giddy, like a schoolgirl finding out her uncle’s visiting with a van full of candy. Mender… doesn’t seem to have much in the way of facial expressions.

And then, for good measure, that frollickin’ gown was waaay too thin for the cold-ash weather outside. Luckily, they said they’d get me something to wear so I’m not bear asp around the many impressionable young minds in the school.

But I can get through this. There are plenty of psychic fish in the sea, you see. And plenty of loopholes. I’ll have to make sure they didn’t throw in anything they didn’t tell me about, but I’ll do my best to test it without making it obvious that they should have also added a bit about lying or obedience in there. Fix my voice, make a few phonecalls, access a few bank records, and then I’ll not make my grand escape. Nope, totally won’t. I’ll just sit right here for a bit, invite some people in with no intention of convincing them to help me escape, and if something should happen to the school around me so that there’s no longer a place or group of people to escape from, that’s just how things will go.

Soon, they’ll regret thinking a mere psychic compulsion could stop the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko! And soon, Boobzilla and all the others’ll find out what happens when they find a stranger in the Alps. Oh yes, and then it’ll be time for those fancy cows to get sluiced, right up their dam intakes.

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Fallen Devil 1

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-uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

Compared to the days prior to my stay at this facility, things have significantly relaxed. You just wouldn’t see that much in me. First off, I am still in the same place. I thought it was a hospital at first, but those “authorities” the doctor mentioned last time took their sweet time getting to me. I’m sure I left a big mess to clean up. When someone finally entered, it turned out to be Victor Mender. The crippled leader of Master Academy felt perfectly safe conversing with a prisoner despite only having the use of his eyes, a hand, and a wheelchair that could probably carve through a tank. How the mighty Gecko has fallen.

They gave me a whole ‘nother night, I assume. The lights turned out at one point and my “window” turned out to be some sort of video on a screen. Had trouble sleeping, too. The usual stuff. Explosions, violence, people trying to kill me. Pretty much the same thing I go through awake, only when I’m meant to be resting. I should have had my armor. Anyone could sneak up and get me in my sleep without it. I sleep better with it on. At least I didn’t have to struggle too far for the bathroom, though I thought people like me got bed pans?

Then again, what nurse would want to come and take crap off me, eh? They didn’t even deliver food, so it’s not like I had much to worry about from that end.

Then, as I mentioned, the head of Master Academy showed up and I started gathering the most important resource of all: Vespene Gas. I mean information. Information is often more important than any sword. Especially if you’re facing someone who has a sword and the information is where to find a cannon.

“So I’m at the Master Academy,” I said as soon as I saw him. I tried to keep my hand near the cuff still attached to the side of the bed. I’d given it the slip, but I couldn’t walk very easily. My injuries and surgeries enfeebled me. Then the damn door wouldn’t give. I don’t know what they got on that thing, but that’s no simple door. So I had to hobble my ass on back to bed and hide that I’d gotten my hand free.

“Correct. Please, don’t get up.” His computer’s monotone voice spoke without a hint of emotion. “You are in no shape to escape and would likely die in the attempt,” he fixed me with a look. I imagine he meant it to be some sort of stern parental or teacher thing, but the teachers I had growing up preferred feeding us to hungry dogs.

I tried to take a deep breath despite the incision on my chest. “I ain’t no proctologist, but I know I gotta get my ass outta here. Where am I, those rooms under the campus?”

“Yes. So if you do escape a room you can’t open the door to and walk up to ground level despite needing a wheelchair, you have to fight past the biggest collection of superhumans on the East Coast. Once you manage that, you need to find even one man or woman on Earth who would help you that is also qualified to treat you. The doctor tells me you have an infection and the flu. With all that and the sedative in your drip, you managed an impressive walk across the floor. Yes, we have surveillance in here.”

I looked around before settling on the window monitor and the little machine keeping track of my heartbeat.

“You won’t know where they are. You will find yourself much reduced in capability,” continued Victor. I whipped my head around at that, glaring at him. “I’m loathe to entertain the idea of removing anyone’s gift, but you left me no choice.”

“My ‘gift’ is a product of my birth. It’s in my genes. It’s my fucking species,” I growled.

“Yes,” he said.

I went on. “You changed my DNA. You don’t know how to do that. There aren’t many who would.”

“Correct.”

…You gotta be fucking kidding me. “Technolutionary.”

Victor locked eyes with me. “Yes.”

I wanted to throw the bed and Victor both through the wall, but I stood up too fast and had to lean against the bed, on the opposite side of it than my captor. I ended up sliding down to the floor, trying to catch my breath. Raising his voice, Victor explained, “He said that the adjustments to your phenotype will stay in place, at least until new skin and hair takes its place. Some of us were curious what your really look like. Also, anything connected to you at the time of his treatment is still connected. That is why your eyes function. I believe it would hurt you to pull them out and your body would no longer be able to bond with them once disconnected.”

“You cut into my head!” I yelled at him, panting. “My chest!”

“I used information obtained from your gestalt double and an anonymous surgical team to disable your remaining advantages.” His chair hummed as he moved around the bed, but didn’t approach. “You have been a menace to the world for too long and I took the steps necessary to keep you contained. You are now the first resident of this prison. You won’t receive a trial, but you will never be free again. If you try to escape, you will find worse things than my students waiting for you. This is what you deserve.”

I looked over and found him looking down on me with a softer expression than I expected for that statement. Or maybe I’m just imagining things in the midst of my poor health. “You also deserve food. I will have them send down a meal. The doctor left and didn’t inform us of your awakening, and I must discipline students for doing nothing but watch you through the cameras.”

Ha. It’s ok to lock me up in some unknown prison outside the justice system, perform all sorts of nonconsensual surgeries on me, and work with a supervillain to fucking alter my fucking DNA to remove my fucking powers…but someone’s going to get in trouble because they didn’t feed me? “Ha!” I started, and soon I couldn’t stop. Laughter poured from me, and soon I wrapped my arms around my own upper body to make sure my chest wouldn’t burst, all the while my lungs began to burn from the lack of oxygen.

I didn’t see whoever stopped to bring me a tray of food. It smelled fucking awesome. I contemplated not even eating. Ya know, just let myself waste away and force some sort of drastic measures. I mean, the gravy was bad enough that I probably should have. Not to mention, they put onions in the salisbury steak. Heathens! I swear, it’s like they’re trying to kill me in here.

It’s not fighting aliens or trying to hold onto the world, but it’s a dire challenge standing before me now. I’m going to need my strength. And a giant robot…no, that didn’t work out the best and it’d be wrecked by now. And I couldn’t pilot the damn thing anyway. Shit. I keep running into more and more tricks I can’t pull off without that now. But I’ll get out. Somehow. It was just time for my yearly incarceration, is all.

Even though this is no damn time for sulking, they sure wanted me to. They sent in a shrink. Another unnamed doctor, probably to protect them from legal or lethal consequences. They brought in a medical one as well, overseeing my continued recovery, but I figured out this one was different when he sat down to ask me, “I understand you’ve been having nightmares?”

“It’s the rape, doc,” I told him. “I’m just not getting enough of it. Used to be, I could walk out the door, get drunk at a bar, and wake up ass down in a pool of someone else’s bodily fluids. It really validates my existence, you know.”

“Really. It’s a little boring in here. Is there any sort of music you like? Maybe something that relaxes you or makes you feel contemplative?” he asked. “You’re in a bad enough state as-is due to your surgery. It’s understandable that you would be upset right now.”

“Upset?” I asked, grinning at him from my bed. If he put it any milder, it’d be a sauce at Burrito Bell. “I guess I am. I’m missing a concert by my favorite Israeli band, Final Solution. They play death metal.”

So it goes without saying that guy left a bit frustrated, and probably with even fewer psychological insights to share with the people already keeping me secretly imprisoned. Though I do have to question how much of a secret it could possibly be with everyone they’re letting in on it. Then again, I suppose that’s a secret you could shout on the streets in the middle of traffic every day and everyone would pretend they didn’t hear anything.

And then, after I’d already used my perfectly good rape joke, did they send in the person I least wanted to see. You know her, you hate her, ladies and gentlemen, it was Venus! And if that sounds like too much of an introduction, you should have seen the clapping that went along with it. “My hero! She’s finally arrived! Tell me, you set any more clones of me loose on the world while I was out of it?”

She crossed her arms. “I came to see if you were alright. I’m trying to show you I care.”

I rubbed at my head incision with my middle finger. “Pardon me if I don’t see it that way. You know how people like to say they’re fighting fire with fire? You went up to a burning house and decided, ‘You know what I should do? Whip out the flamethrower!’ But you’ve managed a fine end to my little tale, haven’t you?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, you know. Lock me up. Take away my powers. Forget about me in the sub-sub-sub basement. Let the world recover and forget about me. But I’m telling you now, I’ll get out of here. You haven’t seen the last of me! I’ll be free and then the world will fear me once more! Plus, I’m totally gonna get back at you. Kill ya you dead. D-E-D, dead.”

I went for the theatrical raised fist and everything. Venus just patted me on the head. “There, there.”

“Stop!” I tried brushing her hand away.

“I understand this is hard on you,” she said while continuing to pet me in the spot that doesn’t traditionally get hard on me upon physical contact with a woman. “Want a cookie?”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t want a damn cookie! I want to pull your heart out through your belly button and use it like a football. And maybe turn your tongue into a sextoy, that’s part optional. I’m not really a necrophiliac, you understand. Not that I’m judging. After all, I know one of your boyfriends IS dead.”

She shoved the cookie into my mouth and gave me a hug. A hug! Me! Shit like that is seriously overloading my monthly exclamation limit, and that’s sticking to only one per sentence.

After a rather unmanly scene where I most certainly did not cry unless I somehow get a chance at winning an award, she left. And while I don’t always understand my odd little nemesis, I have resolved one thing for sure. After I get out of here, I’m going to kill her. No, seriously, I mean it this time. Doesn’t matter how many damn cookies she gives me.

Because I came to this world to give people a piece of my mind and kick ass. And I’m all out of my mind.

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