Tag Archives: Warman

Gecko: Omega 11

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Establish dominance then dictate terms. It’s a negotiating tactic. That’s why I stuck around.

They didn’t send the Freedom Legion after me at first, because I was in California. Master Academy didn’t really respond, either. They were busy seeing to the death and destruction I’d caused already. So I began to wonder who would be the first to accept the open invitation I presented. I made no effort to hide who I am.

Shockley wasn’t so fond of that idea. He had it in his head that we should just rush Ricca and finish the Telechamber. That, or I could use my power and knowledge to create it myself. The problem there is that I don’t know how to build it myself. The joys of handing off things to subordinates, especially subordinates who understand the physics behind breaching the universe. Even the part of me outside it knew more about brute forcing my way through, and that was only possible when the veil had been weakened.

Oddly, though, I feel like I’m forgetting something. I’m not even drawing a blank, oddly enough. It’s like whenever I feel I’m close, I start remembering a recipe for peanut butter no-bake cookies.

There was time enough. There weren’t many who could banish this partial amalgamation if they even knew how. That family, the Trust, are such gigantic screw-ups that even their benefactors won’t be able to stop me. Legba and Samedi have the competence, but I believe they’ve taken a liking to the Earthly part of me. They would have to banish all of me.

So it was that I didn’t feel threatened when I was shot out of the sky while flying along over the California countryside. The disadvantage of leaving my armor behind didn’t matter so much if I can get hit by an exploding shell and suffer nothing worse than a little tumble through the air. I saw a streak of fire pass over the farm fields below me before I righted myself. The fires spread around me as the man inside buned his way around the sky to encase me inside a flaming whirlwind in the sky.

I created a protective aura, then pushed the outer layer of the aura out to leave a void and make it even harder for the heat to reach me. A shot from Warman barely missed Eschaton and exploded against the aura surrounding me. Eschaton, meanwhile, spiraled around down below me and fired up, blasting white hot flames up at me.

I created a hole on the underside of my protective shield. The flames went in one end, and came out in the fields below me. I used another such hole to pull myself out a short distance away, letting me spot where Warman stood on the nearby highway. The guy held a gun that usually requires a tank underneath it. Eschaton stopped when he saw the fire down below, then turned and flew at me. This time, when Warman fired, a hole in the universe carried the round outside of everything to come out and explode against Warman. The fiery superhero fell, stunned by the concussion wave of the explosion even if the flames wouldn’t do anything to a being of his abilities.

Down on the ground, Warman soon found the cannon yanked out of his hands by one of mine reaching through another such hole. When he jumped and grabbed onto it to pull it back, another couple of fists of mine appeared just in front of him and used his nutsack for a speedbag. When he tried to cup them protectively, I pulled back and opened another pair of holes. One grabbed him by the back of the head and pulled his head back. The other popped him on the underside of the jaw, sending him flying. I decided to open one last portal for him, to dump him in the Potomac as an example.

Eschaton came for me again, all fire and hatred. I created a new aura, to absorb the heat. All the heat. Soon, it was me in a ball of icy mist that grew and stretched down along the flames coming from his outstretched hands. He broke and tried to flee before it could ensconce him.

I gathered the ice up and, with but a wave of my hand, broke it into sharpened shards that launched themselves after him like spears. He took evasive maneuvers while blasting those closest to where he was heading. He missed one, that got him in the back of his left thigh. He fell, clutching at the hole that his own heat opened up to the world. I dropped him on Warman as well.

Then, just because I felt like it, I laughed and created a hailstorm.

Shockley thought it was stupid thanks to his jealousy, but it was all in good fun for me. That, and all in the name of showing that I can’t be beaten. The sooner Earth gets that through their heads, the sooner they can give the fuck up.

Those two weren’t the only major heroes to gun for me. I stopped off in this one little town to enjoy the fruits of the local farmer’s market. The Gecko side of me had plenty of time to enjoy apples and other delights, but the part of me from the void, Omega, felt a great yawning hunger. Aside from an urge to devour the planet whole, it also urged me to devour some juicy, delicious produce.

I wasn’t even committing any crimes when, out of nowhere, this guy in a red and white outfit flies at me. Darker brown skin, a Latino fellow by my estimation, with a long, brown beard and long hair. I’d seen a suit like that before, with a white cape like that as well. This time, it golden runes covered every inch of the cape, and the suit seemed just slightly different, with golden lightning bolts along the forearm sleeves and the thighs. He had a lightning bolt buckle, I would say, but no belt for it.

I raised an eyebrow and caught the man’s left handed punch. The way the building next to us shuddered and baskets blew off the shelves, I realized that had all taken place in an incredibly short span of time. There might have been a sonic boom involved. I smiled and looked to this newcomer, holding him tight in my grip. “Who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m Captain Lightning, new and improved,” he said. Twin bolts of electricity arced from his eyes. I raised a hand, creating an iron pole to catch and ground them in the dirt. He tried to pull his hand away then, but couldn ‘t, so he resorted to punching me with his right. I grabbed that as well, then pulled him forward to bonk his head on the iron pole. It wouldn’t do much to him, other than make him look silly. So did my lower hands reaching forward to tickle just underneath the sides of his ribs.

“Stop that!” he yelled. “Unhand me, villain!”

“So many ways I could take that,” I said. I raised my lower hands, the fingers folding together as if to karate chop. Red crystal formed around them, forming blades as thin as an atom at their edges. I was just about to unhand him when some real lightning hit me in a huge blast out of nowhere. It numbed me momentarily and let the pretender get away. When I looked up, the sky was dark and rumbled with the anger of the man who descended, his more subdued cape flowing behind him in the breeze.

Even knowing the man behind that facade was an oldtimer who had fought in World War II, the original Captain Lightning’s superpowered form looked as young and as strong as ever. “I sense Psycho Gecko in you… and an incredible corruption of power that doesn’t belong here.”

“I have graduated from psychopomp to god. You’re outmatched now, Lightning,” I told him. I liked the guy, though I could feel a part of me getting pumped at the idea of going up against this guy.

“You face not one, but the many gods who empower myself and my apprentice,” Captain Lightning said. “But I saw that, for your faults and your outrages in days past, you sought no quarrel here. Can we avoid further destruction this day?”

“You can’t be serious!” Captain Lightning II yelled. I wondered vaguely how old this one was. He didn’t strike me as particularly mature, but it’s easy to see lots of guys running into a fight if they had those abilities at his disposal.

“Trust me, there’s no fight to be had here. Just a beating, if you want it,” I said, turning my back to them so I could look around for some more fresh fruit from the market. I grinned to myself, wondering if Lightning would be able to control Junior there enough to stop the inevitable attempt at a sneak attack.

“No,” I heard over the wind as the older original addressed what I assumed was his trainee. “This is a time for wisdom, not force.”

“Yes, run along before you soil those tights,” I called back, bending down to grab a peach. I waved a hand, magically knocking all dust and dirt off the thing and leaving it completely clean. I put it up to my mouth when a blow hit me from behind, knocking it clear. I whirled to find the new Lightning nowhere around, with the original standing back some. Quicker than lightning, I turned and found him as a speeding blur trying to get behind me for another punch. Faster even than him, I caught the peach I dropped and pitched it at his face. It hung in the air as soon as I released it, right in the path of Lightning II.

I returned to normal time and watched as Lightning II accelerated into the peach that exploded against his face as a flaming ball of fruit and knocked him off his feet. I bent down next to him and gestured. “Yeeeeeeer out!”

Then, I leaned down close to his face. “Hey, kid, just wondering. How’s your mom these days? She still hot? The boobs hanging in there? She got some MILF going on? I only ask because I’m newly single, and I think she’s the only person in your family who stands a chance getting her hands on this.”

He growled and headbutted me. Knocked me back slightly, but left him shaking his head, dazed.

“Are you done, Gecko?” asked the real Captain Lightning, watching close.

“Not going to intervene, Cap?” I asked.

“He’s learning a lesson about one of our powers: wisdom. And I hope watching you tells me what happened to you? Why did you give in to whatever did this to you?” he asked.

I looked at him, feeling my teeth grow sharper as I sized him up. “Like I need an excuse?”

“Venus, or Medusa, vouched for you being more than a mindless animal obsessed with killing and destroying. Was she wrong?” he asked.

“Maybe she doesn’t know me as well as she thinks. A friend like Mix N’Max would know I wouldn’t take that kind of treatment well. A person like me is betrayed, I’d go to all sorts of ends to bring down the people who thought they trapped me.” I nodded toward him, then reached down and patted his trainee on the cheek. “Come get your successor. I think he needs a bit more time on training wheels.”

Captain Lightning stepped forward and helped his apprentice up. “He’ll be ready soon. He has to be. But it won’t be you or whatever is attached to you that forces him to step up quite yet.”

They sped off, leaving me triumphant in front of a bunch of people who, if they hoped the pair of world-class heroes would defeat me, had to realize the day wasn’t saved just yet. Not as long as I was still on Earth.

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War On Uranus 9

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Finally, the day we were to head back. I woke up, noticed I had an extra pair of arms in bed, and smiled at the thought of the body pressing against me from behind. I turned and pushed Venus’s brown hair out of the way before kissing her. She eventually woke up, returning my affection until she opened her eyes. She started and sat up onto her knees before smiling sheepishly. “Sorry, forgot who you were for a moment.”

I tugged the covers up over my chest. “Mmm, was a little longer than a moment.”

She smiled that lovely smile before she leaned in close. “No, I knew what I was doing then.” She kissed me once on the forehead.

I winked at her. “I’d say you did.”

She blushed, then bit her lip. She hugged a pillow to herself and looked over to where Dame had been propped up on a chair, still not waking. An earbud-like device rested on Dame’s thigh. “Trying that was wrong, though.”

I’d given her the gizmo for her as a surprise. It let her inhabit Dame the same way I could, but Venus wasn’t having anything in that situation. She got back out of Dame and we got into an argument. There was some light pushing, and I fell on the bed while dragging Venus with me. Before we knew it, the argument was over.

I rolled my eyes, then walked my fingers up Venus’s thigh. “If it’s so wrong, go grab some handcuffs and lock me up.” I started to kiss her knee, but she popped me with the pillow.

“I’m serious. What you’ve done to her is beyond the pale. And trying to get me in her?” She shook her head.

I pushed the pillow away and reached up to run my fingers through her hair. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I smiled at her, hoping temptation would override her morals again.

She got up and walked over to the other utilitarian chair by Dame, gathering her clothes up along the way and began pulling them on I slipped into Dame and sat on Venus’s lap. She held me for a moment but pushed me away when I moved in for the kiss. “No. And I don’t care what your nanites said about the damage. Fix her. Bring her back. Give her her brain back where neither of us can take it over again.”

It was more of a sad rebuke than angry. She followed it up by getting dressed and heading out to check on our departure details.

When the Buzzkills used some of our limited nanite supplies healing my stab wound up, I held onto a little bit. I reprogrammed them for diagnostic purposes, to tell me more about what was going on with Dame. They found damage throughout her lovely cybernetic brain. If anything, it’s a surprise it didn’t affect me more. Or maybe it did, like when I forgot who I was. After that, they focused on healing her injuries from the underground fight. You’d be surprised what organs can bruise, dear reader.

Either way, I figured I’d keep her fed and watered, make sure she goes to the bathroom in the right spot. I’ll get her fixed when we get back home. Probably. I’m tempted not to. It’s the kind of perverse transhumanist mayhem I so selfishly love. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she won’t be there when it’s fixed. Brain injuries are interesting like that, but doubt it’s the kind of thing that could kill her while leaving her intact enough for me to take over.

Speaking of taking her over, I can freely move back and forth again. Near as I can tell, something in my transceivers just… gave out. A power surge from the Domeship shouldn’t have affected me, so maybe it was residual damage left over from the mag-lev rails. I’d been dancing with those trains an awful lot. Fuckin’ magnets, how did they mess up my brain?

It took me longer to get ready for the day than usual, due to having to shower and dress two bodies. Maybe Venus wants to walk around smelling like stank, but I have some class. Travel looked to be more difficult, and I thought of grabbing some duct tape and doing a conjoined twin scenario. I remembered there was already someone who tried to kill me on the ship and figured that would probably add a few more enemies I didn’t need yet. Never know when you’re going to catch something bigger than a scalpel to the heart. I opted to tie her to my back, like a pack. I don’t actually want her hurt while she’s a backup body for me.

I still attracted dirty looks with Dame tied to my back by a bedsheet rope. Good thing I didn’t need to ask for directions. I got enough glares and “Fuck You”s from heroes I only cheerfully waved at.

We all met in the dome. We stood there among defectors and rebel crew to watch as the Senate renamed itself the Forum and appointed a three-person ruling Council to run things via the dome functioning like a giant round TV screen. Some of the rebels near me, who weren’t so much rebels anymore, muttered about how they thought the whole body should have been gotten away with and replaced by regular people.

I’m not sure what that said about the chances of this government standing up, but I felt a lot better when Warman met with the joint session of the Forum and Council to be presented with an armistice. I rolled my eyes at that one. We fought for peace and got a break. Now, we get to leave the peace treaty in the hands of some of the people who tried to sell us out and join the invaders. I sighed and texted Venus. “This is why I should have assassinated the Consuls. They’d be much more inclined to go ahead and accept a peace treaty if they knew how grave the situation was.”

“Bad gecko. Bhave.”

“We have to talk about your shortening problem.”

“L8r. Turning ship over 2 nu capn.”

“I may have to break up with you over the text speak.”

She didn’t reply for several minutes, either processing it or too busy with ceremony. After nearly ten minutes, I received he reply. “U! Break up w/ME after last nite?!!!”

What’s the point of all the shortcuts if you’re going to add so many extra exclamation points. Some believe more than three such pieces of punctuation are the sign of a diseased mine, and I can’t help but suspect it’s true after seeing it in action. “It is painful to read.”

“U tricked me n2 Dame.”

“She’ll never even know unless you tell her once she’s back to normal.”

“I no. That’s y its feels so bad.”

I frowned as I looked over the words in my HUD. I’m going to go ahead and take her at her word this really did make her feel bad once she stopped thinking with her vulva. I thought of all the confusing feelings and the way she used those. Her replacing her doppelganger and tricking me. Freeloading and getting close to my daughter. She tricked me into dates and cuddles and snuggles. Just talking and watching TV together. Dates. Her smile.

And even though she seems to have meshed well with her old friends, I still caught the clear disapproval about her being with me. I have no clue why she’s with me. And I realized that really mattered to me. Because if I knew why she stooped to slumming with me, it would give me an idea what I could do to keep her. It was truly an insidious plot.

“I don’t know what you see in me, Boopsie, but I wish I could live up to it enough to keep you around. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that to you,” I sent to her. Not exactly reminding her it takes two to make the beast with a billion backs, but she knows that part already. I’m giving her an out. A way to shift blame onto the villain.

They announced that the ship would be transitioning back to our world within one hour, pending the return of our delegation from the surface and the arrival of diplomats from the new government. I set my system to hold all incoming texts and calls for awhile. It seemed safer to stay out of the way. Instead, I stopped by the infirmary. They had taken good care of me, feeding me nutrients through IV. It could have been much worse. I chould have had to eat their shitty food.

The understaffed bunch who had been manning it were taking a well-deserved break. I stared at the bed where my body had lain. I’d already checked around it for anything to tell me what was going on, but they’d cleaned up already. It was a hygiene concern when you’re supposed to heal the sick and dying. The heroes signed off on it, said they checked the area over thoroughly.

There was no video surveillance of this hall of rest beds. It wasn’t expected to be a private area at all; it held seven beds. The report I cajoled out of Eschaton said they had hardly anyone else in the room with me. Of the two, one was zonked out on a sedative at the time and the other was in the bathroom. My paranoia wanted to tell me this was by design. My pragmatism said anyone waiting to kill me would have found that to be the perfect moment to go for it.

Still, I had to check.

The hero who’d gone to the bathroom had been identified in the quick report I’d been given. Almost two pages long, it didn’t have a lot of details, but it emphasized that Electrikitty had been cleared and had nothing to do with the attempt on my life. It took most of the hour to find out where she called her litter box. She didn’t have as good of quarters as Venus, which led me to briefly wonder why Venus got special treatment. Leftover goodwill, or a protective measure for being close to me? Probably just my paranoia acting up again. Either way, I walked into one of the eateries and sat down across from a superhero wearing an electric blue cat ear headband, and a white costume with blue electricity patterns over the chest, arms, and legs.

“Oh my god, is that a dead body?” she asked, looking at Dame on my back.

I glanced back, then shook my head. “She’s only sleeping. Say ‘hi’ Dame.” I inhabited Dame briefly to raise her head up. “Hi, Dame!” I jumped back into my body to look into the gawking, open-mouthed expression of Electrikitty. “Listen, do me a favor. I’m looking into that incident in the infirmary, the stabbing?”

“I already talked to the other heroes,” she said, squinting at me. “Have we met?”

She looked pretty convincing, not knowing who I am. I smiled at her, “Maybe in another nine lives.” I watched as she rolled her eyes at the comment, then I continued, “I was just wondering if there was anything you saw at all. Maybe something you remembered. Anyone you noticed between your bed and the restroom.”

She shook her head. “No. The only thing I can think of is to ask those guys in the colorful suits and the helmets. One of them had a crush on her or something. He was always watching.”

“But not that day?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Maybe?” Truly, Electrikitty was a font of knowledge. She legitimately seemed not to remember me the whole time. I dunno, maybe she was just that messed up at the time. Even her tipoff about the Justice Rangers was just pointing toward a direction I was already headed. I didn’t just suspect them of having something to do with it, but I did remember how often they liked to hover over me and watch me. They either almost certainly knew what happened, either by participation or observation.

I found them hanging out back under the dome itself. They mostly stuck together in a group and were all in costume. Justice Rangers inevitably stand out. They even usually wear their colors when out of costume.

I walked right up to the group, who were conversing with a group of Uranals in fancy dress and a few heroes, including Pinion and Warman. The group quieted as I approached, as if it’s unusual to see a four armed woman with a seemingly-lifeless woman tied to her back.

“Can I help you?” someone asked.

“Ricca Island Police. I need to ask someone a few questions about a murder,” I said. I dont know if my Security forces, the primary peacekeepers of the island, go by that, but it made for a good acronym: RIP. And I am in the chain of command, so it’s not really a lie. I’m at the top of the chain.

“Gecko,” Warman said, “May I have a word with you in private?” Warman’s shrewd party politicking caught me off-guard. I hadn’t taken him for the diplomatic type.

“No can do, Wardude. I need to have a chat with these guys, gals, and non-binary pals to see who tried to kill me.”

Warman pushed past the group, none of whom were smiling now. Or so I assume. You can’t really see into those Justice Ranger helmets. He caught me away from the group and put an arm on my shoulder. “This is the diplomatic entourage. We do not need any wild accusations flying now.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t have this peace if not for me and you know it. They’d have shattered Uranus. The food riots, the food relief, the Buzzkills coming to your aid during the protests; all me, baby. Hell, the Buzzkills would have been keeping a better eye on me, but I had them helping y’all out.” I poked him in the chest with one finger, staring him down.

“If you want to talk about all this after we get back to Earth and the diplomats are out of sight, have at it. Accuse whoever you want. Hell, accuse Elvis,” he gestured over in the direction of Honky Tonk Hero, who was having a picnic with Pinion. “But I’ll tell you now, you won’t find nothing. Nobody saw anything and nobody wanted to see anything because you’re a vile son of a bitch who half the people on this boat want to see knifed. To be quite honest, no hero here is going to throw their buddies under the bus over you.” He poked back, between the boobs.

He withdrew his hands as things got quiet. I was looking into his eyes, but thinking through the best ways to hurt him. He nodded behind me. “You want to give them a reason to put you down? Nobody here gives a damn about you but your bugs.”

Oh look. I just found out I CAN get even angrier. “You don’t call them that,” I told him.

“Hey Warman,” said a voice from the side. He turned to look and caught a fist to his jaw. It stumbled him, owing to the element of surprise and the enhanced strength of the woman behind the fist.

Venus stepped between us, rubbing the knuckles on her right hand. “Murder isn’t ok just because the victim is an asshole, asshole.”

Warman spat off to the side. “Look who’s talking. You seem pretty tolerant of murderers nowadays, Venus.” He projected his voice, making sure he was heard by those around us who were clearly following the action. I glanced around and saw many of my Buzzkills assembling in squads in case it came to it.

“My name’s Medusa,” she responded. “I for the people, not the law. There’s no one so wretched they don’t deserve to be saved.”

Whew. Terrible day for rain. Had to hold back and make sure none got on my face.

There was a bright flash, then a voice over the ship’s intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Earth, home universe.” I could even feel the familiar internet sync up with my brain, managing to spoil the entirety of the current season of Game of Thrones before I ever had a chance to watch it.

That got a cheer from the part of the crowd that wasn’t caught up in our drama, as well as the Justice Rangers and the Uranals.

Warman turned. “I have to go see to a lasting peace to a war that threatened billions. You go kiss that bitch who murdered your boyfriend,” he said by way of parting shot. He headed back over to the diplomatic entourage, who seemed to quickly forget the scuffle.

Medusa wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t worry. I got you.”

The absurdity of it got a laugh from me. I hugged her back, kissed the top of her head. After a couple of minutes, she looked up. “You want to round anybody up?”

I looked over her head at the Justice Rangers. The pink one stared at me. I raised one of Dame’s hands to give her the finger, then answered Medusa. “I want to go home to my family and hug my daughter.”

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War On Uranus 5

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The heroes had a job for me. Venus called me up in the middle of pulling a little prank. “Are you busy right now?” she asked.

“I could normally work through it, but I’m about to lose you in a minute. Electromagnetic interference. You’re not riding the rails on the surface, are you?” I grit my teeth a little as I delicately bent some wires toward each other with the aid of some insulated tongs.

“We’ve been analyzing the situation over here using their version of the internet, knowledge from the defectors, and information we’ve all learned in our activities.”

“Our activities? I’m the one who interrogated hostages. What did y’all do?” I’ve been out here stealing shit. I haven’t seen these heroes out and about, helping me blow shit up.

“After we fought off the planes, we have been helping out. We’re healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and helping protect people from gangsters called the Kah. We’re trying to utilize all our abilities, which brings me back to why I called. We have a few anthropologists and sociologists among the secret identities. They think-”

“Hold that thought in your pretty little head, dear,” I said. The wires touched and I fell back as my cyborg parts rebelled all at once. It took a few seconds to shake everything off and try to stand up, which got harder when some trains and individual cars started to land all around me on the cold Uranal dirt. Others smacked into the rails above me, but none overcame the magnets. It was only a brief power surge all along a kilometer of track, but it disrupted the flow of people and goods between places.

While I waited on everything to stop falling and to explode if it was going to, I called Venus back. “Ok, I’m back.”

“Do people need our help?”

“Probably. There’s probably injured,” I said. I paused as a man screamed on his way down from the tracks. He landed with a thud, then cried out again. “Yeah, definitely going to need some medical help for collateral damage.” A metal groan drowned out the man’s screams, followed by a falling train car plowing into the man. “You know, nevermind. I think the casualties took care of themselves.”

“I’m sending them anyway. Do you need a ride?” she asked.

I looked over where I left my tread cycle. I stole it off a Kah courier. “I’m good.” It disappeared under another train car. “You know what? A ride would be nice. I’m out here kinda far. Transmitting coordinates now.”

She briefed me as I waited underneath the rails in case any-friggin-thing else decided to fall off. Annoyed me, too. I liked that cycle. I want another one, with built in rocket launchers and machine guns. I’ll paint it red and call it “Minstrel II: Electric Boogaloo.”

The info I’d picked up was puzzling. I hadn’t pieced it all together yet, but a picture was starting to form of a severe labor shortage and a highly nationalistic culture where only a minority of people bought into the ideology.

Venus explained. “At some point, their capital was Earth. We don’t know what happened. The Republic’s line is that it was destroyed in some way. We don’t know what that means. Now, it lives on with a colony on Uranus that has to rely heavily on resources from provinces, which seem to be other conquered worlds. It has been a long time since they heard any news of new conquests, so they think the provinces are having trouble and that’s where they keep the majority of their military.”

I tried connecting a few dots myself. “So Paldrin was a provincial leader, maybe with a world or part of a world under his control. He went after us with his own forces that were more like the provincial garrisons or auxiliaries. Then I took him out and the main military invaded us. If you’re right about the military situation, I wonder why they threw good money after bad?”

“We wondered about that. How did you kill Paldrin?” Venus asked.

“It was a super weapon. Kinda meant to destroy everything within a certain radius, but untested. I didn’t know how much it would destroy. It was derived from D-bomb technology, but the Dudebot I sent it with didn’t get shot back to our dimension until a week later or so.”

She was quiet for awhile after hearing that, probably coming to terms with the idea that I might have killed a planet. It was self defense, but still. Whatever I am to her, I don’t expect her to take genocide well. Though I suppose I think genocide has more to do with specifically targeting a certain ethnic group to wipe them out, including using methods like sterilization. An entire planet is really too indiscriminate to be genocide.

Regardless of all that, when Venus next spoke to me, she cut to the chase. The heroes have gaps in their knowledge, and they want to figure some things out. They want me to infiltrate the primary military command center, the Tower Perilous, located in the capital city. It looked like a tall, vaguely phallic cement building inside a number of smaller stone buildings that radiated out in a sunburst. I took a good long look before I left the Domeship. Venus didn’t see me off or have anything to do with the briefing. They had Honky Tonk Hero handle that, though I noticed. Odd choice, and I suspect he lost a bet from how happy he seemed over it.

The whole thing would have been much easier with the aid of my power armor. Too bad that got dissolved away by the Praetor, eh? On top of that, they don’t seem to really bother with women in their military, and most folks don’t just have an extra pair of arms. But, fuck it, I didn’t want to stick around on the ship while everyone but my half-insect daughters gave me dirty looks. The desire to kill me was palpable, and yet they need me. It’s all feels familiar.

As if to emphasize that point, I spotted my old nemeses, the Justice Rangers. I nodded toward the red and green ones, “How ya doin’? Enjoying the ride?” As one, they gave me a salute that would be an insult in our dimension of origin. I gave them the ol’ Spaceballs salute right back.

Clone stuff. It’s all clone stuff around here, not nearly enough cybernetics. They put so much work into building things because of that. It also made it more difficult for me to throw some armor together. Luckily, I had an idea on that front. I made a people suit. Before people start getting upset, I cloned a suit of grey skin to hide myself inside and some padding to disguise my milkmakers. Grey people are allowed to have extra arms on this planet. Pour one out for Buffalo Bill; truly an inspiration.

Their security is shit on this planet. I rode the train like anybody else, got into the capital like it was no one’s business. There were some delays when the trains had to divert around messed-up rails and underneath bomb scanners, but it’s not like anybody wanted me back with the heroes quickly. From there, I had to navigate the landscape of glass and local concrete that was the big city. People looked, but not twice. As someone with grey skin and a leotard, I was someone they didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.

The Tower Perilous was easy enough to find. That one had a security wall around it to keep people out, but any big wall like that has its weaknesses. Unless you have people watching it all over, it’s simple to hop the thing like I did. I checked some of the outer buildings on my way toward the jackpot in the middle. They looked like a combination of storage and trophy room. Golden statuettes full of precious gems looked a little fancy to be in a storage locker, but there they were, packed in with gold in all kinds of shapes and sizes. If every one of these buildings had that kind of stuff in it, they were fucking loaded.

Which, I realized with a smirk, is exactly the problem. You dump that much gold on the economy all at once and it becomes worthless.

They had soldiers in honor guard uniforms who nodded to me on my way through. I wouldn’t be surprised if their vents are big enough to walk through upright, these people. It was a bit tough navigating, but someone in a nice uniform smiled and approached. “May I help you?”

“Praetor M,” I introduced myself. “I have been sent to see to the Grand Executor’s files.”

His brow furrowed. “The new Grand Executor hasn’t been appointed yet.”

“The old Grand Executor. I must see to his files.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. I walked past him, toward the elevator. He followed along into there with me, not calling in security if that’s what he meant to do.

I looked to him. “We have discovered an existence of a technopath among the invaders. I need to harden the encryption on the Grand Executor’s system, whether there is a new one or not.” I held his gaze until the man punched a button on the elevator. At least this machine wasn’t too convenient for them to do away with.

The Grand Executor’s office was one nice piece of work. I think the guy had rugs on his rugs. All sorts gems, bottles of stuff, incense, bundles of scrolls, and odd little clockwork sculptures. This guy had weaponry bling all over the place, as well. A small, if ornamental, armory hung on one wall: rifles and handguns shared it with naginata, swords, and a large fang. This was not the office of a professional general, and his unfamiliarity with our world compared to Paldrin might mean I was barking up the wrong tree.

“Leave me in private,” I told the aide who showed me the way as I stepped around an ornate desk carved to resembled the base of a great redwood. The chair behnd it had the same touches, carved so that the legs looked like trunks and spread into roots at the bottom.

“Are you sure? What if the technopath attacks?” He asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Nothing you could do would stop them. Thank you for your help. I will handle it from here.”

Frowning, he left me in private. I ran my hand over the screen of the flowing shell material that made up the exterior of the computer on the man’s desk. Its curves encompassed the monitor and keyboard. I checked around for the tower. A cable ran down from the shell into the floor itself. I pulled back the rug under the desk and found the tower was the floor, hidden behind a layer of glass. I checked to make sure nobody had slipped in while I was preoccupied, then I pulled up the sleeve along one of my lower arms and dug my fingers into the skin around the wrist. A trail of blood circled the wrist where my fingernails cut it. I pulled the skin off like a glove and slipped it into a pocket. I dialed back my eye laser to cut through just the floor, just enough to get my hand into the oversized circuit boards below.

It was actually an older version of the same sort of software on their tanks and the Domeship, so it took a moment to orient myself. And then, worlds opened up to me. I established a link with the Domeship.

“Gecko here. Analyze this,” I started uploading key parts of the data. They were right. We were fighting something of a vestigial empire. Its provinces were other versions of Earth, and almost all were in rebellion or close to it after to much of their military power had been drawn off. One was successful, having almost completely routed their local Executor and Governor after all contact with other worlds had been lost for a week. “Oh wow. Turns out I didn’t kill that planet,” I said, putting that up on the screen for the heroes to see.

I thought about it. I had access to emergency overrides for Dimensional Relay Towers they used in the provinces and on Uranus to travel to other dimensions. I grabbed as many files on how they worked and began deleting the copies they had.

I had something to say to the heroes though. “I could end this right here and now. They have a force here… token, really… but I could shut down their vehicles. I could stop the trains. Cut off the cloning labs. Or I could turn them on each other. Clone soldiers loyal to us. Ram the trains into each other. I could render them helpless on all their worlds, and here. I could use their own relays to tear them apart. They’d never threaten anyone again.”

“Please, Gecko,” Venus said on the Domeship. “Shut them down. I don’t want that much death on our conscience.”

“If all we do is turn stuff off, there’ll still be plenty of death when we bring the fight here. You’re trading their lives for our lives. Lots of heroes there who may not like you speaking for them on that.”

Warman joined in. “That’s our decision, you son of a bitch.”

“We became heroes to shield the innocent,” Eschaton said.

I got flooded by hundreds of agreements. It was an overwhelming cacophony, but in the middle of it I could focus on Venus and her discussion with someone. I don’t think they knew I could hear. “Do you trust him?”

“I want to trust her,” Venus emphasized that last word. “I think she’s more than what you want her to be.”

I sighed. “Fine, emergency shutdown initiated. They’re wide open for you. Have a happy revolution doing things the hard way.”

“It’s the way that lets them live and doesn’t give them cause for reve-” Warman was saying before I cut the audio feed.

If the heroes want to kill themselves, who am I to argue? I’m getting sick of Uranus anyway. Though it did make me smile to realize my nemesis isn’t quite sick of mine yet.

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War On Uranus 2

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I’ve talked a bit about interrogations before. About how the preferred way to get information is through building a rapport with someone instead of beating it out of them or tearing stuff apart. Unfortunately, every time I try to personally demonstrate this, clueless people keep giving me accurate information during the torture part. There I am, trying to interrogate properly and save people the terrors of torture, and they fuck it up.

I thought of all this while I was taped to a chair while people took turns punching me in the face. It was a group of heavyset men and women working me over, members of a crime family called the Kah. I heard the name whispered in certain shadows, and by a bartender into a hidden microphone. They had escorted me to a back room for a talk, which I thought me useful even when they broke out the tape and the chair.

There were five of them, which seemed a bit excessive. We’d managed to get a lot of organizing done, and gotten a pretty good chunk of defectors. Most of the military guys didn’t stick with us, but they were pretty week from the cold and the lack of fresh air, so they didn’t put up much of a fight when we took their gear and left them in some little town next to the mag lev lines. I thought it was a highway of some sort, but they appear to be the main form of long distance ground transportation.

After that, we sat down and found out about the existence of groups who were, shall we say, enthusiastic about altering their government. I believe it has to do with the vote belonging only to people who own a certain amount of property and money.

Don’t worry about the ship. I left Gorilla Awesome at the controls. Unlike Venus and Warman, he didn’t head off to go find members of a resistance or rebel group while seemingly forgetting I even exist.

I’m not disappointed and bitter.

I found my way to the surface as well, because I have a bunch of daughters who are flying bee people. I had some of them drop me off and I decided to go looking for explosives. A day of wandering around the icy white and grey streets of the nearest urban stack of shit, I found a bar where the right word could get you a meeting with folks who know how to get stuff.

I don’t need explosives. There are still some on the ship, and stuff to make even more. The reason I went looking for bombs or bomb parts is because that would lead me to someone who sells them to people on this planet, in this dimension. There’s a fairly limited market for that sort of thing, involving religious fundamentalists, anti-government terrorists, and revolutionaries. Sometimes, there’s even a difference.

That brings me back to the little room in the back of a bar where four guys and a woman were taking turns hurting their fists on my face. “Who sent you? What agency are you with?” asked this one big guy with a receding hairline. He wound up and slugged me in the chin, then shook his hand. “Fuck’s sake, she’s a hard one.”

“Most be part of her powers,” said the woman with a ponytail of brown hair. She reached over and grabbed something that looked nearly like a wood baseball bat. It was shorter, with a more consistent thickness along its length. She spun it around to show me where straight razors were embedded in the wood, facing out. “Or she’s got a head full of metal instead of a brain. Did you think we were amateurs? Get her throat.”

Someone behind me put his hands around my throat and started squeezing. I kicked my legs against the tape holding me and arched my back, groaning and coughing. The woman hefted the razorbat, then noticed my mouth doing funny things. She stopped and nodded to the guy behind me, who let me go. “You have something to tell us?”

I nodded, coughed, then informed them. “Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m there.”

“There?” asked the guy behind me.

“It means I’m not coming anymore,” I said. He leaned forward to look between my legs. I snapped the tape the rest of the way through and grabbed his head, biting his ear and pulling him over me into my lap. That was in case the woman swung that bat, and she did. Her partner took the blow instead of me. What a nice guy!

When she swung again, I grabbed at the bat and ended up pinning it against him. Flexing, I managed to pull my legs free of their tape. I hadn’t been able to weaken it with really sharp nails like I had the ones on my arms, but legs are stronger. The bat got loose as I did.

I stood up and closed my eyes as a chain smacked me in the face. I flinched back, into a punch that got some fight bite from me. The chains came for me again and I raised a hand to cushion the blow. Another hand went downtown to grab his blowjob cushion. I picked that one up and threw him against the wall. He hit with a thunk and skidded down.

The asshole who punched me pulled out a knife and swiped at my face. I caught it in my teeth and raised my eyebrows toward him. I twisted his wrist to force him to let go of it, but the bat caught me in the back before I could do anything else. I spat the knife at him, where it grazed his cheek. Groaning, I did a split. The groan had more to do with taking a hard piece of wood from behind. I’m not opposed to that sort of thing with warning. I chose to show my displeasure by bending back and throwing a punch forward and back, catching a pair of differently-equipped crotches in each hand. I swept my leg around to trip the guy in front of me and spun to grab the woman by the clam and the arm. I tossed her over head, where she landed next to the chair and the guy who had slumped off it onto the ground.

That left one guy still standing and holding something in hand. It crackled with electricity as he stabbed it at me. I jumped back and kept jumping until I fell against someone. Looking back, I saw the dazed guy I’d tossed at a wall. He grabbed at me, but I pulled free and sidestepped, leaving him to get cattle prodded by his buddy. The guy with the prod turned around to look for me and got poked in both eyes like a cartoon. I grabbed the prod and gave him a little shock to each of his nipples in turn. Then I wound up and smacked him in the back of the head with the handle.

That left him, two more guys, and the woman all down in a close group near the chair. I got a pleasant little idea. I dropped the prod and instead grabbed the chair, jumped, and came down with all my weight on it. It cracked as it landed on them, but I just wasn’t massive enough to make it pop on four of them at once. I slid off and grabbed the chair, then smashed it to bits on their heads. All the Ikeas weren’t putting those four back together again.

Then I turned to the last one, and looked around. I found the cattle prod and checked to make sure it could still shock. Crackle crackle. Then I smiled at the guy leaning against the wall and informed him that, “You and I are gonna have a little chat about hospitality. Because I don’t really care if my questions get answered now, and this prod fits right here the sun doesn’t shine.”

“The Geetoh Valley?” he asked.

“Sure, buddy. Let me send it there through your wormhole.”

Proving me right, he did not provide any useful information.

I stepped out of the backroom, covered with blood, and made my way toward the bar. The bartender had signalled some people when I came in and started asking for things that go boom in the night. He seemed surprised to see me again. I pulled up a stool, because they even have stools on Uranus, and immediately sighed as a hand landed on my shoulder. “Everybody wants to get kicked in the Geetoh Valley ton- Boopsie!”

I’d spun around to find Venus there in heavy clothing like the local wore. Warman was with her, also out of costume, and they had some friends with them, one of whom had a barcode tattoo on his face.

“What have you been up to?” Venus asked.

I shrugged. “Just enjoying a Bloody Mary, but it spilled on me a bit.”

Warman turned to the barcode guy. “That’s who I meant.”

I stood up and held out my hand for a shake, but barcode guy spritzed me in the face with something. I grabbed for his arm, but felt myself falling forward…

…and off a sofa in a room somewhere, two hours later, drooling all over the place. I shook my head, but my face was numb. Standing up wasn’t so easy, either. The floor kept moving.

“Oh, you’re up!” I heard. Psychsaur’s scaled hands helped me stabilize myself. I hugged her, and she hugged back. “Been awhile.”

“You too,” I managed without biting through my tongue. “They tranqued me?”

“Tranquilizer spray,” Psychsaur said. She reached up to scratch the feathers she had in place of hair. “They did it to Venus and Warman when they found them. They call themselves The New Serviles. Bunch of assholes.”

I laughed at that, then almost fell over. She eased me down onto the sofa and sat down next to me. I slapped my face a few times, then looked to her. “Hey, sorry about you and Venus. You ok?”

She smiled without showing any fang. “We’re good. It was wonderful, but we had our reasons.” When she saw me trying to stand again, she put a hand on my arm. “Hey, rest a minute. They don’t want you out there anyway.”

I sighed. “Yeah, they’re leaving me out of stuff. Realized that one already. Who goes off to do shady clandestine stuff and leaves me out of it?”

“Did you find any resistance to the guys who attacked us?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Beat up some organized crime members. Members of the Kah.”

“You beat up some criminals, they found these guys. It worked out without you.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll level with you: they don’t want either of us out there while the Serviles are around. Their government takes every super they find and presses them into service or uses them for power clone material. They don’t trust supers, especially not supers who look super.” She motioned to me with my four arms and herself with her reptilian features.

I rested my chin on my hands, and my elbows on my knees. “Fine… but I still don’t like being left out just because the heroes don’t like me and Venus is ashamed of me.”

Psychsaur laughed. “I knew it! You two are together?”

I waved a hand. “It’s complicated, I think. I don’t know what we are, especially if she’s insecure enough to dump me in side rooms and leave me behind.”

“Well, I’m used to that,” the telepathic hero said. “I was never as good at fisticuffs as she was, so I’ve been left behind before. They don’t need you right now.”

“They never think they need me. They didn’t think they needed me when we first got on this ship, for instance,” I want to stand up, but Psychsaur stopped me again.

She looked up at me. “They need you to stay out of the way. Just for now. Take a minute to rest… get a shower.”

I looked down, at my outfit, the underlayer of my armor. I’d been wearing it all this time, having been used to it. Unfortunately, I no longer have the environmental seals that keep others from smelling me. And we were in some sort of small suite.

Psychsaur, clever girl, took my costume off to be laundered. I had nothing but a towel to wear out. Which turned out to not be so bad when Venus walked in with a smile and a dinner for two.

What happens in Uranus, stays in Uranus.

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War On Uranus 1

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Believe it or not, it takes more to end war with an expansionist foreign power than showing up with a single confiscated vessel full of people with no clue how to run it. We didn’t intend to bring it here, but we were immediately put at the mercy of the Consuls Exalted, as they called themselves. With Venus holding my hand, I made it to the command pedestal and slipped my hands free of their gloves to try and gain control over the system. If I hadn’t had all that time to practice with this army’s network defenses, I might have been kept out.

When I cracked that bad boy wide open, sections of the floor rose up to form stations and round seats in front of them. It was a circle, except for four gaps. The consoles unlocked for them as well. Quietly, not transmitting to the Consuls, I informed Venus, “I’m doing a diagnostic to figure out what this puppy can do.”

“Who put you in charge?” asked Warman. Eschaton stepped up next to him.

Venus had my back. “If you know anyone else who can fly this thing and learn what it does, be my guest.”

“What is your offer for clemency?” asked one of the Consuls.

“Y’all wanna talk?” I asked.

“Put us through,” Warman said.

“Putting you though,” I echoed, so he wouldn’t immediately start talking about having a wedgie or insulting me.

“Consuls, I’m Warman, the Man of War, and this is Eschaton. Earth’s mightiest heroes are on your doorstep. We hope you make the best choice for yourselves and your people.”

“What do you have to offer us?” asked one of the Consuls. I mentally designated him Lefty, because his image appeared on the Left on the dome around us.The one on the Right looked bored.

Eschaton spoke up. “He just told you, we have Earth’s mightiest heroes, here to stop you if you don’t.”

Righty asked, “How many armies?”

“Excuse me?” asked Eschaton, bristling.

Lefty leaned forward to his camera. “What my colleague means is what are you going to use to beat us? You come to our home, you demand things of us, and you didn’t even offer us anything to trade. If you don’t want to do this the civilized way, we wonder what you hope to accomplish against our armies.”

I got an idea what the sensors were and how they worked, and I set about figuring out what was up outside. I expected another Earth, probably another advanced one. Instead, I found myself poking around Uranus. We were on a whole different planet in the solar system, hanging over the world’s largest urban center. Environmental sensors on the vessel noted the hole and advised a quarantine, despite the presence of breathable atmosphere and decent temperature over the place.

I looked into the domeship to figure out what was up with it and all the way more urgent alerts. There was minor damage and break-ins all over, which made sense. I went ahead and unlocked everything except for an area noted to be the brig. Whatever else, I don’t think any of our people ended up there already. There was still some fighting going on at this one bay. Containers hadn’t been launched or something. I figured that meant things holding infantry, their vehicles, or the tanks. I locked that area back down and sealed it. No air in or out oughta fix things, along with dropping the temperature in that part of the ship. The problem should sort itself out in payroll.

With me in control of the intercom and these guiding lights, I could even better direct people around to any areas of other resistance. Just because almost all the soldiers were gone didn’t mean it was a simple thing to capture. This ship was big enough to house an entire army and support staff. We still had most of the support staff up here, and not nearly enough heroes or Buzzkills. We’d need to arrange a headcount to see who we have and what they can do if anything worse happens. I don’t trust these Consuls.

Some would say that they don’t trust people further than they can throw them, which always seemed like an odd saying to me. In my line of work, human pest control, I tended not to trust most people unless I could get my hands on them. I didn’t usually need to throw them to gain their compliance after that point. It’s not really a part of my fighting style. I suppose a more reasonable saying for me is that “I don’t trust them further than I can kill them.” On my new home, that’s pretty much the entire Earth. Here, it’s less than a room in distance.

I noticed a number of smaller aircraft gathering outside, not staying particularly far away. None tried to land on us, but I didn’t like the cut of their jibs.That’s when I discovered the Domeship had no weapons systems of its own. I checked over anything we could use and found that the same system that hopped dimensions could also move something within the same dimension, via wormhole. That’s interesting. With all those things gathering there, I might need something like that.

An angry statement from Righty the Consul got my attention. “Your destruction of an entire province is an affront to our republic. Your presence here signifies your need for our civilization.”

Warman folded his arms. “You attacked us out of nowhere. You don’t get to complain about your casualties.”

Venus spoke up to ask, “Why did you invade?”

“Chief Executor Paldrin saw an opportunity to add another province to our control. We would bring our civilizing presence and superb leadership to your world.”

“I’ve heard this before. Your idea of civilization means taking our resources and trying to reeducate awy our culture,” Eschaton said. He would know, given his Native American heritage.

“Our administration of the province would cost us. We only ask you pay your fair share of the expenses. It is better to surrender before the cost to you becomes too burdensome,” Lefty said.

I think pretty much all of us were ready to tell them where they could stick their civilization, though the fact that they were on Uranus killed the impact of the phrase.

On the intercom, I reached out. “If any of those Justice Rangers are onboard, we could use some city-wide offense here.”

I muted the Consuls. “We’ve got a bunch of aircraft outside and no weapons on this thing for some bizarre reason.”

“How much is a bunch?” Warman asked.

The ship was pretty good about sorting that out for me. “I’ve got 74 target locks on us currently. Don’t know how many friends you brought with you, but I don’t know what they’re packing.”

He went over to check a console. “Can you fly us over a city?”

“We are over one. Biggest one on the planet.”

“They wouldn’t,” Eschaton said.

I rolled my eyes. “I would.”

“We can take them,” Warman said, looking to Eschaton.

“I’d feel better if I knew what we had on our side,” I said. “There’s a saying I keep in mind, a joke I heard once. ‘I didn’t know how many of them it would take to whoop my ass, but I knew how many they were gonna use. That’s a handy piece of knowledge to have right there.’”

“Evasive maneuvers?” Warman asked.

“Dude, it’s basically a floating city. I think I can make it go faster than it traveled between. D.C. And E.C., but I couldn’t dodge whale dick in this thing.” I got an alert, but not much of one. The ship shook as explosions tore into it.

“What’s going on?” asked Venus.

Eschaton flamed on, but I called out, “Stop! I’ll get us out of here.”

“You said you couldn’t move that fast,” Warman growled, hefting his three-barreled cannon.

I spoke to them and over intercom at once, “Hold onto something, people. Prepare for starburst!”

A white aura surrounded the ship. It didn’t seem to last as long this time, and we didn’t catch a view o the universe divide. When it settled, we were no longer under attack, though the Consuls were still on our dome.

“Where are we?” Warman asked, stepping up close to me.

“The other side of the planet,” I told him. “It can do shorter jumps. I believe we should reopen talks with the Consuls.”

“Do it,” Eschaton said with a hard voice. Parts of him still burned.

I reopened the line and Venus is the one who stepped up. “You just opened fire on us while we parleyed.”

“There is nothing to parley,” Lefty said.

“Then we shall have to get medieval on Uranus,” I said.

“Is that supposed to be a threat? What’s that mean?” asked Righty.

“Oh, not much. Illuminated manuscript, the spread of crenallations, beating up Popes. Maybe grabbing a heavy chunk of metal and bashing in the heads of the half of your people who don’t die from plague.”

“How dare you?” asked Righty with righteous indignation.

“How dare you?!” countered Venus.

Warman came up next to me. “Cut these sister-kissing sons of bitches off, will you?”

I nodded and ended transmission. I also double-checked the network defenses of the ship and added some of my own improvements. “Done.”

“What do we do now?” Eschaton asked.

“We need to know who we have and what they can do,” Warman said. “We should get rid of their crew.”

“If I may,” a voice said from behind us. We all turned and saw a man in white coveralls who now had the stinger swords of my Buzzkill guards at his throat. “I am one of the officers. The Consuls really tried to kill us?”

“Looks like it,” Venus said.

“That is a violation of my rights as a member of a patrician family,” he said.

“What are you gonna do about it?” Eschaton said, approaching.

The man backed away from the heat coming off the hero. “My name is Sollis Raan, and I want to help you. I think many in my crew would, now.”

“You think?” Eschaton asked.

“Our leaders tried to kill all of us, from the highest patrician to the lowest plebian,” Sollis said. “I think I’m the highest-ranked officer aboard now.”

“I want a full census of your people,” Warman said. He lowered his cannon, but in a way that made it clear he’d have no issue raising it up again. Moot point, I think. If the man tried anything, I saw where at least three different stinges would be stabbed through him before Warman could twitch his trigger finger. “Eschaton here will go with you, make sure you’re an honest man. We already plan to deal with a couple of dishonest ones, so we don’t need any more.”

Sollis nodded. I nodded to the Buzzkills, who lowered their stinger swords. Eschaton damped down his flames a bit as he walked Sollis out to go see to their part.

I looked around to Venus and Warman. “I have good news and bad news.” I didn’t wait for the inevitable decision about which is first. “Good news, we are on the same planet as the Consuls. That was the capital we were just over. We can get there anytime we want, I think.”

“The bad news?” Venus asked.

“We are on Uranus. I’m going to make a lot of bad jokes.”

Warman grunted. “Keep your trap shut. This isn’t cops and robbers. This is war.”

I nodded. “You got it. I’m sure you’ll find there’s no one better suited to going to war on Uranus.”

And so began our efforts to tear Uranus a new one.

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Things Fall Apart 4

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If all this sounds like things have been a bit separated so far, good. The heroes still don’t like me or trust me. A lot of the villains don’t like or trust me either. Part of that’s because we’re generally less likely to play nice with others. Plenty of them are suspicious at how often I end up helping save the Earth and my close relationship with some of the heroes. Instead of trusting me to corrupt Venus, they worry she’s trying to redeem me. Laughable, right? She is trying, but the idea of her succeeding? Ha!

The division between hero and villain hasn’t just been because of personal feelings. I don’t know who thought it up, but Venus passed on to me an idea to make it look like the heroes and villains weren’t united. She explained it to me thusly, in a private meeting we had one night in a parking garage: “The villains need to look like they only care about themselves. The heroes will be front and center fighting. When the ship gets here, we’re certain they will send down more people and try to take us out. Don’t leave us hanging.”

That was when I got here, after I kinda wrecked Master Academy’s trap.

All this separation is good for me though. The infosphere, datanet, whatever you call the collective digital world surrounding the Earth, it’s loud as fuck right now. I have people spread out all over the world and it’s overwhelming me. If I don’t concentrate so much on what’s in front of me, I begin to lose track of myself. It’s easy to jump into a helicopter that needs support in Ghana or screw with a camera system in Belarus. Checking the road ahead of refugees in Costa Rica and redirecting a GPS. Setting off car alarms in Cairo to ruin an enemy ambush.

For a long time, one of the things that worried me about my archnemesis was her ability to get me to focus on her. To concentrate to deal with her, even if it was just screwing with her. Now, it helps to keep me back in myself. I suppose the fact that she was holding me in her arms as we laid on the roof, staring up at a sky covered by the 8-pointed body of the domeship above us. “I’m not good at romance, but it would have been good to see stars, right?”

We’d met halfway between Rothstein’s, where I’d taken rooms for my guys and myself, and whatever hospital she’d been helping at. The heroes have a makeshift command center, but they don’t rest that well. Sometimes, a villain with a handy skillset slips through. Harder to tell who it is in plainclothes unless they have four arms like I do. A lot of the people who risked staying were also willing to risk nanites.

“There’s too much light pollution anyway,” she said, stroking my hair. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“I think I’ll kill them all,” I said,yawning.

She shifted to look down at me. “There’s no reason for that.”

“I hate them. That’s a good enough reason,” I told her.

She took one of my hands. “I don’t hate them and I don’t think you should either. They’re soldiers, or they’re clones who believe they only have value as weapons. We want the boss sitting in his high chair who thinks it’s their business shooting at our homes.”

It was good to have her there and to be able to focus. What came next required a lot of focus.

They attacked just before first light.

I awoke to rumbling, alone on the rooftop. Even my internal HUD clock read “You fuckin’ serious?” I looked around and saw giant rectangular containers slowing down on jets before crushing buildings and cars. One landed nearby and opened up to reveal a trio of tanks. Jump infantry landed nearby. I rushed to get my armor back on and shot Venus and her friends a message. I don’t know if they noticed me before I got my invisibility going. Satellite coverage went wonky, but they weren’t headed back toward Rothstein’s like I was. I hopped up a skyscraper and saw them converging on the square the heroes were using.

It’s a new square. So much rebuilding around here, I didn’t even bother learning this one’s name. I don’t know if they gave it some legacy name, or went for something new. Based on the number of armored vehicles heading that direction, I knew it soon wouldn’t matter if I learned its name.

They were a silent bunch, aside from the grumbling engines and the marching boots. They didn’t really try to destroy everything in their path. If it was quicker to take the road, they took it. If it was easier to smash through a wall or a building, they did that. The enemy forces were moving in a circle, but half stopped short, where they would have cover. The rest kept going until they were in rage of the trailers and tents the heros were using. They opened fire, as if the heroes were another military force.

I understand the need for a nice, orderly bunch like superheroes to have themselves a centralized location to do all their heroing from. It’s a pretty good way to handle things before the digital age. You just gotta wonder at the invaders expecting nighttime vigilantes to have slept in such a place. I watched through traffic lights and other cameras as one group realized something was up.

The bunch that backed off prematurely did so to avoid getting hit by their compatriots’ fire. They were at least out of firing range and behind buildings. I assume they weren’t ready when the heroes’ illusionist made his move. Eschaton melted tanks. Honky Tonk Hero based one to bits with his enchanted guitar. Warman tried tearing off cannons to use for himself. The Justice Rangers kicked and flipped their way through grey-skinned infantry.

The rest of the enemy army advanced on them, and they weren’t alone. The ship disgorged more infantry. Many of them hung in the air and fired down on the heroes. It seemed like overkill. I was once again reminded of the phrase I stole from a comedian. I don’t know how many of them it was gonna take to kick the heroes’ asses, but I knew how many they were gonna use. The heroes couldn’t even finish off the separated division before the rest of the army met up with them. It would look to anyone else like a slaughter in progress. I could listen in by now. I cracked the code to their communications frequencies. The invaders had a plan where they could even warp in the remnants of the first wave.

I landed in the square at that army’s back, uncloaked, a pair of Roman candles in my hands that I set off. Every comms line the invaders used screeched loud enough to make a deaf man grit his teeth. I dumped the candles away. “I believe this is when the cavalry’s supposed to arrive?” A holographic bugle appeared in my hands. I pretended to play a charge as six grey men floated closer. One of them looked a bit different because of some burns on the side of its face.

“You are but one. You cannot save your friends,” said the one in charge. “Turn off this music and surrender.”

I cranked up “Free Your Hate” too loud for me to hear anything else they said even if they shouted and ran for them. I tripped though, when the ground rumbled even more. In front of me, a line of giant drills pierced the street. The group floating in front of me turned to look at the signature Drill tanks of the Drillers opened wide. Fire, ice, and sonic weaponry covering them, a menagerie of menaces were loosed onto the streets of Empyreal City, right against the backside of the invading army. Unicorn fired a spiral beam from his horn through a line of infantry. A squad of Drillers hopped on top of a tank and started cracking it open like a safe. Crankshaft rolled up into a ball of metal and flesh that Gearshift kicked toward a soldier who reloaded his grenade launcher. She waved her hand and Gearshift kept rolling and even accelerated, bowling over the soldier and smashing into the side of another skirted light turreted support vehicle.

The jump infantry took to the air to join the supporting fire from above. They wouldn’t find the air any more welcoming. Spring is the time for bees, and Buzzkills filled the air by the hundreds. Led by Queen Beetrice, the bee people fired spines and pierced armor with stinger swords. The sky was ours.

The six in front of me turned back to face me. “We will kill you,” said the lead one.

I let a hologram walk forward while I turned invisible. “You know how ‘try’ is a synonym for annoy? You may try.”

The lead one clapped his hands together. Where the hologram stood just exploded spontaneously.

The six turned back to the battle. The lead, with the spontaneous explosion powers, gurgled in surprise when the Nasty Surprise shot through his throat. Same for the one next to him. I jumped onto the next one and crushed his skull between two other hands. Blood fountained everywhere and negated the ability of my cameras to work or my projectors to project. I grabbed onto the next closest one, who instinctively flew upward. His eyes started glowing as he glared at me. I shoved thumbs into them, cackling and yelling, “Thou wouldst stare at me, mortal?”

It’s not so funny in writing, but I guess you had to be there, covered in blood, squishing a guy’s eyeballs. He didn’t find it funny. He screamed. Screaming has to be a product of being social animals. I can’t imagine a loan predator, surrounded by enemies and prey, screaming when it’s hurt. No, it’s a social thing, letting others in your pack, herd, or gang know you need help. Benevolent person that I am, I decided I would help end this Praetor’s misery. No problem whatsoever. It was a snap!

That left me a good distance up with some rockets to ease me back down. I reached up and found myself caught my a pair of Buzzkills. The remaining two must have figured it out. The one with the burn started off, but eased back and let his comrade come first. That one spouted metal spikes. He stayed back. The spikes shot off him. I wasn’t so much worried about myself as I was my two helpers. Unfortunately, there was only so much I could do. I raised arms and legs to try and block, but the Buzzkills still went slack and began to drop. I could even still survive the fall, as long as the spikes sticking through my armor and squishy bits didn’t kill me.

I fell toward the waiting arms of the spiky son of a pin cushion, trying to think how problems like this are usually solved. The idea of solving a puzzle box briefly came to mind. Ridiculous. Laser flashed out, and I fell through the two halves of the spiky son of a bitch and right to the burned man. He spread his arms and a green wall appeared in front of him and forged a wedge that flew at me. It smashed into me and plates melted off. I had nothing left but the armored undersuit I stole off a future version of my nemesis before I killed her. Even the spikes that somehow penetrated were gone.

I couldn’t see shit through my melting helmet, but I felt when he caught my throat and began to squeeze. “The others did not realize your power is not in your body. Your spine and heart will soon join it.”

The remains of my helmet fell away, showing that I at least still had both cybernetic eyes working. “Do I know you?” I gasped out.

“It is too late to surrender and see yourself spared. You will die when those my master answered to take your planet,” Praetor M said before punching his hand into my belly. You know how you get hit sometimes and it knocks the air out of your lungs? That, plus I think one of my kidneys exploded. It was like he tried to put his arm through me. I swear, my back fucking popped.

“Look in my eye while you kill me? Face me!” I pleaded. Praetor M obliged. It made it easier when my eye warmed up and another laser shot out, lobotomizing him. I grabbed his hand and pried it off my throat while he thrashed around. Then I reached into the hole, setting my thumb on the bridge of his nose, and pulling. One, two, and then I tore the front of his face off, trying to laugh at the pain and around the lack of air. “Face me!”

I fell, but someone caught me. I was kinda having trouble there, keeping conscious. I think it was the lack of air. I looked up at a Buzzkill, who jabbed me with a syringe of what I soon realized were regenerative nanomachines. I gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled. Mandibles make it hard to tell, but I have experience because of Beetrice. When I’d gotten a bit less aerated, I looked around because I swore we were going up, not down. I looked over and saw the Domeship next to us. We rose and she set me down on the deck. All around, I saw more joining us, flying under their own powers or being set down by more Buzzkills.

I didn’t have the full electronic suite of my armor anymore, but I still had the electronics in my body. I reached out to hear Warman giving orders. “-board, board! I’m tired of being on the defense. This time, we’re invading. We’ll take this ship and we’ll take it to their world.”

Aww. I missed most of the ground battle. Though, when I looked around, I noticed something. Aside from myself and the Buzzkills, all I saw were heroes up here. Next to me, a gorilla wearing a jetpack grunted as he landed.

I waved to him. “Gorilla Awesome? They really brought everyone along, didn’t they?”

A huge explosion below drew our attention. Awesome, the Buzzkill, and I both looked down at the flames. I hissed in pain from tenderness when I bent over and straightened up. “There goes the neighborhood.”

We swarmed the ship, though the “we” seemed to be pretty much only heroes and whatever Buzzkills decided to attach follow along with me. I don’t know if that’s because of any particular orders to that effect. We didn’t see much resistance. Someone jumped out with a pistol and got a stinger in his neck, one through the cheek, and another through the temple. A woman in unusual clothing stood next to him, screaming. Gorilla Awesome jumped ahead of us and picked her up. He shushed her, then politely asked, “I am truly sorry. Where is the command center of the ship, that we might minimize loss of life?”

She kept screaming, so he set her down. The Buzzkills raised their sting swords, but I held up my hands. “Leave her in peace. We’ll find someone else.”

Gorilla Awesome held out his arm as someone tried to scuttle past. He grabbed the fleeing man and pulled him in close. “You there. Where do the people in charge work?”

“Please don’t kill me,” he said.

“Deal,” Gorilla Awesome said, grabbing the man’s hand and shaking it.

The bridge, I suppose it could be called. Sounds of fighting were ever just out of reach as we approached. It was in the large dome, inside an inner dome at the center of that one. Because so many people can’t resist putting the spot all the important people hang out in somewhere central or where they can see things, without regard to how much of a target that makes them. The outer dome had a park paved in metal mosaic tiles and walls made up of warped pentagonal shapes. As we rushed along, the outer dome began to glow red hot in one spot. It melted open and Eschaton followed, heading toward the inner dome. Warman jumped through the opening, firing cannon that spat green fire from one of three rotating barrels. The green fireballs burst through the inner dome, and Eschaton flew through. Warman landed, then followed Eschaton in a single bound.

By the time we got in there, a man in pearl white armor with a trio of horns arching up. He wielded a three-pronged spear that he used to hold back the stream of blue flame pouring from Eschaton’s hands. Warman strode up next to Eschaton and raised his tri-cannon. Gorilla Awesome raised a meaty arm, a grappling hook shooting out to wrap around the spear.

The armored man muttered something and let the spear go as Gorilla Awesome yanked it away. He slapped something on a pedestal the moment before his face disintegrated and he fell, blackened skull cracking into pieces.

The ship shook, and through the holes I saw a blinding light. I felt more than saw the next part, where an infinite blackness stretched out containing expanding droplets full of lights. We passed through something red that felt like it scraped my nerves as we passed through. The light fell away, and my head was assaulted by new information. Data, in languages I don’t know. I managed some of the encryption, but others were merely familiar. The communications came through from all around, maybe through the dome itself, and through me.

“Grand Executor, why have you returned?” they asked. I saw a pair of faces. I saw signals flying all around us.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. It moved up along the back of my neck and over my hair. I raised my head, focusing again. I looked up to Venus in her black power armor. She looked down to me. “Put me through to them.”

I nodded and concentrated. “You’re on.”

She spoke, and I sent her words out. “Leaders of this invading world. I am Medusa, a hero of my world. We have defeated your army, taken your ship, and defeated your Grand Executor. I must stress that we want peace. Chief Executor Paldrin did not give us peace. The Grand Executor did not give us peace. We are here on your world and I ask you, will we have peace?”

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Deep Cover Mudskipper 4

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Ooooooohohohoh. Recovered and rebuilding, the possibilities open up before me. I’ve had to partially disassemble my armor to upgrade it so I have something to sync to. I built it to be less user friendly than my older armor precisely because of this. If the rebuilding process doesn’t go perfectly, it could compromise the increased protection. I’ve repurposed the nanites, the printer, my own handy skills, and some of the decor. They built this area strong, lots of reinforced supports and high-quality electronics. The nifty thing was that I could get some pretty advanced electronic from the bugs around, too.

I only had a short break to work on all this before my hosts reiterated their desire to see my side of the bargain come to fruition. They’d helped me, and I even got Technolutionary to change Qiang for me. She’s finding it strange, too. At least she’s unlikely to know the full extent of the changes made to her. Just a bit of messing around with an X chromosome, that’s all. Technolutionary’s statement about genetic relation is no longer true.

I’ve been teaching her a little about her new powers, like having her mess around on a computer with the paint feature. That went well until she found my porn stash. Hey, I know I just got the thing last week, but can’t a guy expect a little privacy for his 200 gigs of naked women?

To keep her out of trouble, I dragged her along to the labs with me. That, and I was leaving my suit behind to be worked on and didn’t want her potentially interfering from curiosity. She’s mostly been good about that, I think because I’m otherwise pretty lenient. One of these days, it’ll probably result in her blowing something up, but that being bad assumes I care about things that aren’t me blowing up.

My lab in the experimental whosy-whatsit lab is nice space, with blast walls set up in case they’d be needed. They had a full set of tools there, including a group of observers and assistants who really wanted to know what materials to bring me. They got them lickety split, even though I requested easily twice as many as necessary. I disguised that party because I gave them alternate materials to pick up. My plan, if it’s at all possible, is to find a way to trick them. I want to build a functional one, so they think they know how to make it work. Except it will be incomplete in some way, so their attempts to replicate it don’t quite work.

It sounds nice in theory. Not sure how I’ll pull it off in practice. Add to that, I’ve been distracted just trying to navigate the world infonet. There are all kinds of vulnerabilities in Russia, but I have to find the right one. It’s like looking for a needle in a corpse’s cerebellum.

On the plus side, this is one of those rare occasions when I have help. Unwitting help. Like the Master Academy. They oughta be willing to lend a hand. I peeked in on them to see how things are going and found them in the middle of a hostage situation on Capital Hill. In the House of Representatives, specifically. According to CSPAN, the House was introducing articles of impeachment when a bunch of armed people in bulletproof vests ran in, planted “Don’t Tread On Me” flags, and threatened to shoot anyone who voted to impeach.

…So it looks like they’re a bit busy with that. Saves me the trouble of hacking the Congressional agenda at least. And I couldn’t find Mix N’Max, either. My old friend with alchemically awesome abilities to make a potion inexplicably capable of anything from anything seems to have gone off the grid, too. I should have noticed that before now. Just like how some of the heroes have disappeared, only to reappear working for the Claw. Rather important I look into that while I’m here. You’d think they’d have some of them make an appearance to intimidate me.

Ok, then let’s see what Dr. Creeper’s up to. Last I checked, he was enjoying a nice start to his villainous career in Canada. Now when I checked in, the news finds him tossing giant robots at the Justice Rangers: Dimension Force, who still seemed to be based in Vancouver. That’s where the giant robots came from, and where they kept fighting crime. Must resist urge to go back and punch them in their helmeted faces and give them wedgies with their costumes. I should try to get him away from them. No, better, I need to get them away from him. I dropped him an email.

“Yo, Creeper, sup? This is your homeboy, Psycho Gecko. I been chillin’ over in Ricca for a little bit now, saw you had some trouble. If you can go quiet for a bit, I think your problem with those blasted rangers will go away. Lay low for a bit, and I’ll do something to draw their attention to me.

P.S. Nice turnaround on the new robots.”

That was just the spark I needed to reveal how I was going to throw together some bombs for these bums.

I worked frantically, but with purpose. All my recent practice and boning up on the theory stuck with me enough to come up with two working models. It wasn’t enough just to build the bombs. Ok, so that was a lot of it. But the programming was a whole ‘nother matter, and I had the benefit of an entire other culture with completely unrelated programming languages. I added several lines that limit the ability of the bomb to function if activated at certain times. There is only one second out of every minute when it can be safely activated. Otherwise, it acts more like a normal bomb in the immediate area.

That, and I might have used some stuff in the bombs that’ll break them after a little bit of time. Again, I won’t go into too many details. At least over here, you can get arrested just for laughing at the wrong people, let alone if you’re reading details on bombmaking. So I added a bit of coating at the right point. Caustic stuff, completely unnecessary to what I really need to do, but eats through some wiring that is needed for the whole thing to work. They might figure that one out, but I hold out hope for the programming.

Let’s keep in mind, I’m not just talking about one-off bombs, either. It takes two just for the delivery system. In addition to sabotaging the one-off dimensional bomb, I also put together the pair of delivery bombs in such a way as to screw it up. Once again, it has to be activated at a specific second, but failure to do so sends a signal to the second one to return to sender. For added fun, the second of the minute to activate the regular ones isn’t the same as these.

Now, if you’re someone like me, with a networked backdoor and full knowledge of how to use them, they’re no danger at all.

“Ta da!” I said, upon finishing a pair of dimensional bombs. I turned to see the various assistants all whirl away from staring intently to pretend they were talking and drinking coffee. One guy just got his cup, almost immediately spitting his coffee back out. One pair pretended they weren’t filming me, the one with the camera instead trying to look interested in filming the one with the microphone spank his own butt. I found one of them who looked wide-eyed and frozen, unable to avoid being caught.

“Y’all get all that?” I asked that one.

He nodded.

“Good. Now to test it.” I pulled up a satellite view of Toronto, Creeper’s current battlefield. After several frustrating minutes of trying to find some action, I realized I was an idiot for not aiming where I knew people from my universe would be keeping an eye on: my apartment/workshop.

I’d made them fairly small, so I couldn’t just take out the entire building. But a single floor? Yeah, I think I could pull that off. “Ok, folks, let’s focus on those colorful new heroes in Vancouver. Everyone got their phones?”

The group as a whole shook their heads.

“Really?” I asked.

The wide-eyed one from earlier raised his hand. “Mobiles are banned from the Institute of Science’s lower laboratories, on pain of imprisonment or even…” he took a dramatic pause here. “death.” They all jumped at the sound of lightning before we all turned to see Qiang playing with my phone, having put on a video of ambient storm noise. It’s very soothing. So are those videos where people roll ice cubes around their mouth.

I winked at her and reached out for it, feeling my hand merge with it. I sent a “Thanks, sweetie,” her way before slowly taking it away so as not to hurt her. Then I tapped in to the satellite view of the building and tried to let the rest of the bunch see. “This building is where these heroes came through. I happened to see it happen.”

I stepped over to the bomb and activated the main unit’s countdown at the proper time. I played a flighty version of myself as I played around, looking at their reactions, until I could punch the buttons for the delivery units.

While they did that, I searched for nearby accessible cameras that provided a better view. I soon found a traffic camera down a side street that could make out that floor from the side, albeit at a distance. The bomb disappeared from our universe. As an added bonus, we got to see some sort of squid or octopus fly through the wall into the street. It squirmed around, tossing a car and almost making us miss the moment when the floor it flew out of collapsed in on itself, bringing the floors above it down suddenly. The top of the building crashed down on the bottom portion.

“Aside from the stray octopus, a precision strike that eliminated one floor for certain, one entire building in its entirety. The rest of the city’s infrastructure is intact. This can be done to any bunker in any mountain. White House or Downing Street. Specific offices in the Pentagon. With this power, no one in the world is truly safe. I’m so tempted to just use the other one. At its maximum power, everyone can be killed. This smaller size demonstrates anyone can be killed. Mwahahahaha!”

I couldn’t help myself. With pressure off, thinking of the power in my hands was amazing. I could send the Claw’s palace into oblivion. I could send the oceans into the void. I could destabilize the sun. I could-. I reached down to grab Qiang’s hand as she reached out for the remaining bomb. “No, my darling. This is not for you to play with yet. Maybe when you’re older.”

She pouted up at me and looked back to the bomb, but ultimately acquiesced and stepped back toward me. I patted her on the head. “Good girl.”

One of the watchers went running, so I figured we were done for the day. Took my kid and was heading out, this time through the surface entrance. Qiang and I were skipping along on out when some guards tried to stop me and pat us down. “I am sorry, sir, but it is our duty,” said one of the guards.

“Danshaku is my formal title. Danshaku Psycho Gecko. My profession is murderer. My bra size is A. My shoe size is eleven and a half. Would you like proof of some of these things?”

They looked between themselves. I raised my foot. They bowed and backed away, leaving Qiang and I free to walk out.

“Please wait!” someone called behind us. I sighed and turned around. “Am I going to have to tell somebody my cup size?”

An elderly man, yet another person in a damn suit, approached, bowing. Suit this, suit that. If they’re going to dress for a funeral, why should I hold myself back from making corpses?

“What is it now?” I asked, tempted to ask Qiang for her knife for a more practical lesson.

“I am Director Medekhgui of the Institute. The Emperor was truly wise to bring you to us. You have done a great service, this day and in the days to come, for our people.”

Qiang tugged on the side of my long coat. I looked down at her, then back behind us where she was looking. There, I saw Warman, the so-called patriotic hero who I last saw executing prisoners for Ricca. He walked right by the guards despite the machine gun under his arm. He looked at me, but otherwise didn’t show any recognition. He nodded to the doctor as he headed deeper into the complex.

I nodded toward him as I asked the Director. “What is with him?”

He looked back to him, then nodded to me. “I am not at liberty to share those details with you, though I believe associated knowledge will be brought to your attention. We have high hopes for your project to synergize with others.”

“Sure. I don’t like being left in the dark. Could go badly. I have to custom build these things to fit the mission, after all.”

He smiled. “Our duty guides us, and at times, constrains us. Please, I would not detain you any longer.”

I nodded and took Qiang’s hand to lead her out and hopefully find a nice ice cream parlor, wondering how long it would take before they try to use the bomb I left behind or make their own copy.

Over in the United States, a few of my old captors at Master Academy received emails without a From listed. Victor Mender, the head of the group, as well as Venus and Psychsaur. “Gecko here. The belligerents must be declawed. I’m working on Ricca, y’all take the States. I don’t have anything in mind for Russia, but we’ll see what I can whip up. And before you think I’m alarmist for thinking I’m stopping a potential cataclysm, let’s remember that time I thought the aliens were coming, eh?”

Yes, information, like emails, can travel through the dimensional breach as well. Sure is difficult to find a secure and unmonitored line of communication out of here.

I smiled and led Qiang down the street. “Come on, let’s go learn about superpowers.”

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Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 11

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Finally, the last fight. I had it all planned out, regardless of how Cercopagis wanted to do things. That’s the important thing. Can’t let him have act like he had too much power or he might start believing it. Plus, I got back to thinking about how poorly I marketed the entire thing. Sure, I pitched as an epic struggle between us versus them, but the follow-up’s been horrendous! If I had PR people, they’d have been all over this. Anyone wanna guess why I put off getting them?

So, anyway, I rented out the big Olympic stadium in Rio this time. And by rented, I stole. Admittedly, that’s a lot less badass of a thing to do as dictator of the world. On the plus side, it’s somewhat made up for due to residual badassity of having taken over the world.

See, my problem was the spectacle. This could have been so much better if we’d publicized it more. Actually put our team memberships out there, done some opposition research, run out some dossiers, come up with customized theme songs. Then again, that would have been a lot of build up with little results to show with a few of those. It’s like those MMA fights where they make a big deal about it, then it’s over in a few seconds. At least I wouldn’t have forced people to pay to see them.

But that would have required for us to collaborate instead of compete. And that’s kinda tough when it could go either way. But it’s time I stopped caring. Not caring works out much better for me. After all, I rule Earth. If Cercopagis wants this planet, he can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Or, at least make it clear he could kill me and give me an option to give it up while still living. I’m open to negotiation, particularly when it comes to certain death versus a chance of life.

I know I gave up the ability to pick the site of our final conflict to Cercopagis Lysis, but cheating has worked out well for me so far. With Mix N’Max still not taking my calls and Max Muscles too busy doing oiled-up superhero things, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And since I, the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, am not supposed to fight…I chose to bring back The Missile Patriot! Clad in Kevlar, with tactical straps on my chest, I once more masqueraded as the red, white, and blue defender of Truth, Explosives, and solving problems the American Way: mindlessly beating people up. It’s a shame that of all the extra stuff laying around, most of it’s related to not being me. Still, the eagle-beak helmet hides my face very well beind the visor. Just a shame how much the rockets on the forearms resemble those on almost all of my Electric Eyes.

Oh, yeah. Them. Kinda got a status update there. So it turns out that someone might be working against me there. I know who I suspect, but the actual list of people who might want to destroy them is about the same as the number of folks on Earth.

Near as I can tell, Electric Eye Berlin was just walking along, patrolling, trying to keep the streets quiet when BAM! Piano landed on it. I might have put it down as a simple accident, except the camera phone of an onlooker showed the piano had a safe strapped to it with an anvil welded on top of the safe. And when I got Electric Eye to turn its head, one of those baby pianos for kids fell on it, with sandbags tied to its legs.

I suppose somewhere out there could be a world where weighted pianos fall on people all the time, but this is sadly not one of them. And it’s an extremely unusual way to assassinate someone. It’s the kind of method I’d use, which also shows why it worked. I mean, important people have counter snipes and guards with submachine guns, but I’ve yet to see the Secret Service work out how to stop a mad piano bomber, and I’ve seen the plans. They had a contingency for nuclear bombs hidden in vaginas, a contingency for an android sent back from the past, and even a contingency for aliens that turn into giant monkeys. Granted, that last one involved lots of screaming, but they still planned for it. I can respect that, actually.

What I can’t respect is someone dropping pianos on EE Berlin, sniping EE Los Angeles, and EE Tokyo getting eaten by what I assume was a squid. Except I’m pretty sure squids don’t often come above water, even if he was inspecting one of the damaged nuclear plants around there. Rio is showy, but there’s something to be said for a battlefield that makes Geiger counters tick. So either that one got eaten by a mutant squid when I wasn’t looking, or Cthulhu got up for a midnight snack.

At least the sniped one made it obvious who was to blame. I should have just killed Lone Gunman back at the United Nations or the last time he was after me. That’s what I was taught. Don’t taunt too much, don’t explain an evil plan, just shove the grenade up their colon and pull out faster than the Flash if he was Catholic. Next time I see him, I’m going to hit him so hard, it’ll knock his ass off his genome. We’re talking slapping the rectum off his DNA.

So that turned out to be more to deal with after everything else. The most important thing, before all of that, would be the fight.

I didn’t make attendance mandatory or anything like that. I just set up food vendors and cameras and drew attention to myself with a small parade in my armor. I left the armor sitting up there on the throne, attended to as if it was me by three hanger-ons and Moai, who I kept around and ordered to keep a close eye on the few people I’d attached to my government. I needed to delegate and I knew I could trust Moai.

So this was the state of the Imperial Gecko Regime as of the final fight. I lost three Electric Eyes, had Moai as my Prime Minister, disguised myself to fight, and otherwise had cheated my way to victory. Overall, I’d say things were looking up and I decided to have the history books write that I had won with style instead of using a word like “cheat.”

When my final challenge went out to Cercopagis, it came in the form of a Missile Patriot dancing in an empty Olympic stadium to the song “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. I meant it as a taunt and because I felt like dancing. As the old saying goes, “Dance like you’re threatening the entire world with death if anyone laughs.” I kept satellites overhead to make sure nobody flew overhead with any pianos, too. Or at all. They might go after the armor, but I’m not a fan of being collateral damage, especially where flying machines are concerned. Just my luck, somebody’d build a lead zeppelin just to land on my head.

This time, the gold and purple flying saucer arrived and hovered over one of the VIP boxes. Luckily, I doubt he had any pianos on board. Heh. I remember wondering if he’d send out a piano monster. And thinking how weird it is I didn’t catch any sight of the squid from other sources nearby. And thinking how tired I’d become trying to be everywhere at once. It was nice to be just one person, one body, about to punch some serious dick.

Then the saucer blared a noise like a zombie bear’s fart and their champion entered the arena. It came as something of a pleasant surprise when the man entered, wearing all black, duster and wide-brimmed hat included. He twirled his revolvers and I caught sight of a rifle barrel over his shoulder.

Lone Gunman, who used to be the sidekick known as Holdout to the hero called Sixgun. He’d been a rather nubile teen at the time and known for wearing short shorts. He’d vowed vengeance upon me when I permanently disarmed and deheaded his boss. Kidnapping him and torturing didn’t help matters. Though Holdout proved surprisingly resistant to assassination at that time, his attempted vengeance hasn’t amounted to much. There was this time he took over a criminal organization to kill me, but that worked itself out in the end. That is, I killed enough people to make it right. That’s generally how the world works.

And here I was, all hyped up to kill the lad for everything he’d attempted to do to me.

He didn’t make a good first impression on the fight by ending the twirling of his guns with a pair of shots at the armor on my throne. One went right through the head, the other where my heart would be. Then he looked to me and smirked. “The fight’s over.”

“You’re not worried about the killswitch?” I asked. Cercopagis already attempted to hijack everything to claim victory. Every time he tried, it suddenly swapped away from his gilded mug back myself and Gunman on opposite sides of a large arena.

“It’s worh killing billions to get rid of him. He’s a monster. You can’t compromise with something like him. You kill them, even if good people sometimes die in the crossfire.”

“That may be, but the agreement he made hasn’t been fulfilled. The alien scum who seeks to control this great nation has not won three fights. Until this is so,” I posed here, legs spread and arms flexing, “Then he cannot control the planet. And as a red-blooded American hero, I do not cede control of the Earth so easily! As George Washinton once said ‘My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, alien domination, banished from the Earth!’”

It’s more realistic than the real quote, where he wanted to get rid of war.

“You can’t be serious,” Lone Gunman said. He casually fired a shot at me. The moment I saw the gun barrel pointed at me, I activated my rockets. And the fight soundtrack for the television broadcast started up. I made sure to focus in really well on my leaping into action, t-shirts, lunchboxes, and the still on the back of the DVD case. The only question remaining is…bed sheets?

He only tried another shot from his revolvers before dropping them. He ignored his rifle in favor of a gun pulled seemingly from nowhere. Holdout’s power had been his ability to store weapons, and probably other objects, so that he was almost never disarmed. It didn’t necessarily matter if he was tied up properly. But as a slug whizzed past my ear, I smiled at the thought of not tying him up at all.

I’ve been dodging bullets my whole life, figuratively and literally. So many people have pointed guns at me, I have a pretty good idea of where they’re putting the bullet (excluding a whole host of other factors). And I could move. There’s not usually much else you use rockets for, after all. I jerked all over the place, heading for him. I led shots only to stop suddenly and dive in another direction. I even reached inside one of the many pouches on my armor and whipped out a flashbang. Though I’ve thought up an alternate version involving a projector showing extremely bright porn while high-pitched moans and grunts play, this was the conventional one. I caught more of the bang, but Lone Gunman took the flash.

Blinded, he pulled out everything he had and just unloaded on the air. The firestorm of lead grew from just in front of him to spread around both sides and his rear as he took potshots in all those directions. Unfortunately for him, like most humans, he neglected a very important one. One that, ironically, a hunter would have been more likely to catch. I dove at him from above.

I landed on his shoulders. He collapsed under the weight and dropped the submachine guns he had at the time, a pair of those crappy little Russian types unrelated to the AK family that everyone hates. I fired my rockets to keep my balance with my feet now sitting on his arms. I then raised my right foot and brought it down, swinging my arms down to get a little extra oomph from the rockets. Crack! Went the bone of Lone Gunman’s right arm. I almost laughed and gave myself away, too. I can’t help it. It was humerus.

A second stomp broke the left one. For added measure, I ground on his fingers with my heels while he screamed and tried to crawl away. “Yeah, writhe little man. Still feel like supporting the death sentence before anyone gets a trial?”

His answer consisted of several syllables of vowels but nothing substantive in a philosophical or legal sense, which was just fine with me.

I looked up toward Cercopagis’s saucer and announced. “Psycho Gecko wins! You have no claim to Earth.” Remembering who I was supposed to be, I put my left hand on my hip and pointed with my right. “Now get off America’s planet, alien scum!”

The bottom of the saucer slid open and a dish descended. It swiveled to aim at me as electricity danced along the dish to gather in the middle. I grabbed Lone Gunman and held him up, figuring on throwing him one direction and bolting in another as a way to confuse any targeting systems.

Before I could, I heard metal tear, which is completely different from the sound of most weapons firing. Dropping, Gunman and kicking a bit of dirt in his eyes, I looked up to find Warman standing in the stadium, a torn-off dish in his hands. Eschaton and Captain Lightning were there as well, blasting at the saucer.

It rocked back and forth before Lightning flew right up to it, pulled his fist back, and punched the saucer hard enough to send it flying into escape velocity with a hole in its side. Eschaton and Captain Lightning flew up after it.

“Good going, kid,” Warman said. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder with one hand. “That would have been harder if you hadn’t kept him here.”

“What’s going on? You all were working for him,” I asked. I got the feeling I’d mised a few trees for the forest.

“We worked with him. The whole fight was our idea. If he won, they knew they could kick him off Earth like they’re doing now. They did it before. If he lost, it bought us time for the Master Academy to finish their project to take the Psycho out.”

I cocked my head to the side. “You put an awful lot of trust in Psycho Gecko adhering to his agreement. Do you even care about all the people dying now to his nanites?”

“I’m not responsible for what bad people do to each other,” he gestured to Lone Gunman and the dish in his own hands. “And for what it’s worth, Gecko has been known to stick to an agreement in the past. Doesn’t matter now…but let’s go make sure.”

He dropped the dish then, pinning Lone Gunman under it. I don’t think he agreed much with the younger hero. “We’ll settle up with you for what you’ve done after we go check his vital signs.”

Warman and I jumped up to the throne where the Koreans and Saki cried over my still armor.

I could almost hear Venus in the back of my head. She told me I didn’t have to pull off the helmet. I could find a way to bury empty armor and an entire identity. I could leave that darkness behind and start over fresh, like I always claimed nobody gave me the chance. Like I always said I couldn’t. I could even be a hero instead of some killer. I felt oddly sure that she’d help me.

“Why are you waving?” asked Warman.

“Just saying goodbye to a passing thought.” I stepped up to the armor. I unsealed the helmet and pulled it off.

“What the hell? Oh no, where did he go?” Warman put his finger to his ear. “Priority One is not dead. Repeat, Priority One Target is still alive and unaccounted for.”

“He’s not unaccounted for,” I said. I pulled off my eagle helmet and smiled at the hero. “It was me, Warman! It was me the whole time!”

He glared at me and raised a fist. I spat in his face. “Five people for each of you. You, Eschaton, Captain Lightning. For what you’ve done, five others will die. Other heroes’ family members. Sons and daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Maybe I’ll even pick some related to former world leaders.”

“Why? Isn’t that like shooting the person who didn’t fail you?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I just had the idea that you hero types are just the type to not care about sacrificing yourselves or your friends. Even your good names, for a time. But are you willing to sacrifice each other’s families? Are you willing to let another person oppose me if it means your child might die as a result? Or, in your case, your old friends and their families? Maybe that woman you wanted to marry that time but didn’t because she was a spy and you were a soldier? Did I mention I did my reading on you?”

Warman lowered his fist. “You bastard.”

“Count on it,” I said and pulled my own helmet over my head. Right there, I changed out of Missile Patriot’s armor and into my own. I clapped Warman on the shoulder as I passed him by. “And good going, kid. I probably would have been blindsided if you hadn’t told me so much. By the way, I want Victor Mender and Venus of Master Academy brought before me. Don’t worry, I’ll let your little trio of superstrong mofos know, too. Be a shame if Capain Lightning let them go and your childhood friend had to pay for it, eh?”

I lept down to where Gunman struggled to tip the dish off.

Hide who I am? Pretend to be people like this who sometimes look so barely different from me except that they’re on the “right” side. Maybe I just don’t want to let them all win. Maybe I want revenge. Hell, it could be as simple as knowing there’s still no way I’d ever be able to truly integrate into society. Or even want to. I’d just end up as some hero who kills, and heroes don’t kill.

“You hear that?” I asked Gunman, who hadn’t been privy to the conversation in my head.

“Please, you won, let me up,” he groaned. I stepped around in front of him and dialed up the strength on my leg’s muscle enhancers.

“Heroes don’t kill.” I brought my foot down on his head, hard. Then I stepped out of what used to be a human head and wiped my boot off on his sleeve.

I won’t be the hero the Earth wants. No. I’m the villain the Earth deserves. I am Emperor Gecko. All hail the man-emperor of mankind.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 9

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Needless to say, Tuesday did not leave me a happy camper. Then again, no campers are happy. They’re camping. They don’t have internet, indoor plumbing, or air conditioning. It also makes them incredibly easy to kill without witnesses around. Don’t expect some sort of denial like “Not that I’d know that,” around here. Yeah, I’ve killed campers. Just cram them in the sleeping bag, knock them against a tree a few…dozen…times, then throw that shrimp on the barbie.

After my recent loss in this contest I shouldn’t have agreed to, Cercopagis and I agreed that the winner of a match chooses the champ and venue. That way, he tips his hand first. And tip he did. He tipped like a-… ya know, I don’t know of any particular demographic that tips really well. Still, he gave me tips like a horny but deeply conflicted teenager with his hot cousin. There we go. A+ work as always, Gecko.

While I tried to reach out to Eschaton or any other Earth supers I might persuade onto my side, Cercopagis called me up to let me know. “The instrument of your doom is on its way.”

Yeah, yeah, who hasn’t heard that one before? I even said it to Wildflower in bed a few times back before she dumped me for abandoning her in the middle of an alien invasion. Well, not to her face. I aimed a bit lower. Moving on.

The next fighter descended from the sky like a brilliant shooting star and landed stopped in midair over Fort Rogers, Warman’s home turf. The figure shone bright white all across his body. He looked like a star and could easily generate a huge amount of thermal energy. His name was Eschaton, and that explained why I couldn’t reach him to offer him a spot with me. That, and I’m not sure he actually wore anything under all the white light. It’s not impossible to hold onto a cell phone in that condition, but it’s a bit difficult. You certainly wouldn’t want to press it up to your ear immediately after sliding it out.

Eschaton floated up there like a shy, even more Caucasian version of Dr. Manhattan, waiting for us to make the choice he wanted us to make. In the teleconference, I knew immediately I couldn’t send Moai or Beetrice out after him. Moai can’t fly, and Beetrice would be a bug going against a bug zapper. Mix N’Max was technically on the team, but that was supposed to be a backup situation; I still don’t have enough people for him to backup!

I mean, of course I had ideas to cheat and compete anyway, but that’s a bit more iffy than I’d want. If we’d won the first time around, I’d feel more like losing this one. To bring up a more understandable comparison to y’all’s world, it’s like the story of Sun Bin and the horse race. This Chinese king invited one of his top generals, Tian Ji, to a horse race. They each had a first, second, and third fastest horse to race against one and the horses in each category were similarly matched. The fastest from each guy being about even to each other, I mean. Since they were betting on the races, too, Tian Ji asked Sun Bin, a noted strategist, for some help coming out ahead. Sun Bin had him race his third fastest against the king’s fastest, his fastest against the king’s second fastest, and his second against the king’s third.

Nice story. I originally hoped to use that strategy, except I thought I could take the Mendes Configuration. Because of that loss, the second fight forced me out of that strategy. On the plus side, Warman chomped at the bit to fight Eschaton. “I can take him! I’ve always wanted to prove it.”

“You sure?” I asked. If I had to, I could send someone weaker out there to immediately surrender. I really, really, really didn’t want to do that and risk a third round knockout, but at least I’d have my strongest pawn there. “You better be damn sure.”

“Me and him have wanted to see who is stronger for a long time. Now we have an excuse and I came with a full load.” The image panned back to show Warman strapped with a jetpack and holding his double minigun in one hand, looking an 80s Saturday morning cartoon come to life. I don’t know who thought that gun up, but they were simultaneously childish and awesome. Its destructive capabilities and usefulness still paled in comparison to the weapon slung over his shoulder. Davy fucking Crockett. “Fucking” isn’t part of the nickname for the mobile nuke launcher, but few would argue. And in fewer fights would it be considered appropriate weaponry.

I looked at it and said to Warman, “Ya know what, sure. Blast your load all over him. Have fun out there. Tell ya what, I’ll even DJ the fight. How do you like Fallout Boy?”

“Don’t call me boy, boy,” he growled and walked offscreen.

Satellite images showed he stepped out and waved to Eschaton, who lowered himself down. They stared at each other dramatically. It was a seen sadly bereft of tumbleweed, a camera angle showing high noon, or Clint Eastwood wearing a blanket. Moments like this were made to be stretched out like the chords accompanying them. A clash of titans deserves no less than the world to stop and take notice. And afterward, anyone watching a replay would turn to a friend and go, “You gotta see this. You won’t believe what’s gonna happen.”

With their eyes locked upon one another, Warman nodded his head. He stood there as Eschaton rushed forward, flames trailing and rising in the air behind him. But then he slowed. And stopped. And reached out with one finger to gentle poke Warman’s chest. Warman dropped like a shot; he landed on his back faster than if he’d been playing dildo dodge ball.

“Ooh, he got me!” Warman called out. “I’m too hurt to go on. I will surely have to forfeit.”

Eschaton landed, turning his flames off to reveal a tight-fitting outfit, and helped Warman up. The pair headed for the base’s cantina, talking and smiling.

Over in China, I sat in my office nestled in the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, part of the Forbidden City Complex. I called out to the Koreans and Saki. “Ladies, would you please come here?”

They walked in, the twins and Saki shooting each other annoyed glances. I slapped my hand down on my desk to get them to focus on me. “Ahem! Good, now that everyone’s paying attention, I would like for y’all to pile everything you can lift in this office onto my desk. Except that, that’s my armor. I’ll need that.”

I stepped over to wear my armor stood on a mannequin as if it belonged as one of the Palace Museum’s displays. This place is a museum nowadays, ya see. I slid into it and felt my nerves connect, power flowing through me to activate the armor and allow me to feel the strength I’d sadly not exercised on a personal level as much as I should have lately. Meanwhile, my groupies piled decorations, my chair, and other small items onto the desk. When the finished, I waved them back, “Please, make plenty of room.”

They lowered their heads and pressed against a wall. I stepped up, grabbed the edge of the desk, and flipped it. “What the shit was that? Motherfucker! I will rain down blood, semen, and a foul vengeance upon him for this! Raaaa, angry sounds!” I stomped around a bit, put my fist through a wall, then tossed the desk up until it got stuck in the ceiling. It was much less satisfying than just offing a person, but I didn’t want to get rid of the womenfolk yet. I liked them. Their boobs too.

Women’s fun body parts aside, venting my anger on Warman himself wasn’t much of an option. Not unless I had a way to take down Eschaton as well. No, I couldn’t do that without facing a hell of a lot of threats classifiable under “Extreme bodily injury,” and “Please, my arm. Give it back. No, not in there.” As the person who usually constitutes those threats, it gave even me pause.

Plus, I could worry about that after I lost. Until that happened, I needed to make sure that didn’t happen.

Would have been great if I’d had time for that. Pouncing like some sort of belligerent, pouncing, hunting thing, Cercopagis sent out his next challenger immediately afterward in one of his little flying saucers. It headed straight for Tokyo, because it’s like the Empyreal City of shit happening in Asia.

The competitor tore the vessel apart from the inside with a pair of telescoping limbs. They slid back into place behind her as the metal unfolded to present her to the world and explained why she landed in Tokyo. The humanoid had feminine curves that stood on set of four legs. One looked to be black and ended with a chitinous heel that clashed with three metal ones that resembled sharp stilettos. The arms closest to her shoulders looked normal, for her, but a pair under that were stumps. Instead, the arms that had torn open the saucer were attached to her back.

A hot cyborg spider lady. My identification program figured out her identity from when I spent time in Japan, working for a group of bug-based villains fighting bug-based superheroes called Nature Force. Her name is Ashidaka, and she looked pissed.

Figures, though. Somehow, those damn villains always pop back up. It’s hard to keep a bad guy down.

I called up Beetrice directly. “Gecko? Sorry to hear you lost the other fight. Do you want to stop by and have some sweet time?”

“I’d love to later tonight, but I got something I need you to do. Remember how I talked about fighting someone for me?”

“I heard that glowey guy touched down…”

“No, he’s not the fighter. I need you to get to Japan, honeybee. You know how you were a royal grub all corrupted by spider DNA because a spider lady wanted your people subservient to hers?”

“…no?”

“Good. She’s back, she looks pissed, and she’s in Japan. She’s not Godzilla, she’s just goddammit. If you’ll get on a plane there, I’ll send you everything I know about her to read up, and you’ll have the best selection of ass-kicking weaponry available to you, understand?”

“I’m not sure about this. Can’t you just give up? You won’t have to do anything with me…”

“I promise you, Beetrice, I will be all over you the second this fight’s finished. It’ll be Emperor Gecko and Queen Bee right in the streets of Tokyo. They’ll have to replace me with a tentacle monster in local news, it’ll be so hot. You can do this. And afterward, I will tear your pussy a-fucking-sunder. In fact, put the phone down between your legs.”

A second later, I heard her voice distantly say, “Now what?”

“The instrument of your doom is on its way,” I whispered to her crotch over the phone. Then, louder, I said, “Ok, you can take it away from there if you want. Just…listen, I think you can do it. They didn’t send out someone like Captain Lightning or another Eschaton or another Mendes Configuration. I think he used up his big names to get to this point and-”

“Ok, I’m in Tokyo.”

I blinked and checked her phone’s GPS. She had managed to get to Tokyo. More than that, local cameras showed her there with a huge stinger spear, towering over Cyber Ashidaka. I did not know she could fly that fast. In fact, I checked Empyreal City in case she’d left some sort of warp trail or wormhole or something. “Did you get a hyperdrive installed?”

“Can’t talk, must fight! See you tonight.”

Through electronic eyes and ears, I saw Beetrice the large queen bee woman toss her phone away and bring her spear up to deflect lunging strikes from Ashidaka. The spider tried to impale her immediately, but Beetrice spun the spear like a cheerleader’s baton and knocked the blows aside. Ash supported herself on two legs to throw the other two forward as well, but Beetrice spun to the side. Her back stinger whipped through the air and glanced off a metal chestplate of Ash’s, further infuriating the arachnid.

Ash screamed in frustration, then reached onto a dial sticking out of her side. She turned it, and I suddenly remembered the other problem with those sorts of enemies from Japan. Ashidaka cut right to the chase and grew big enough to kick over a nearby office building. That…certainly explains why he didn’t mind sending he to bat cleanup. She didn’t even wait until they were in the uninhabited skyscraper section! That fiend!

Eh, maybe I could get Beetrice to goad her over to that Gangnam area in Korea. These assholes named NC Soft could use a good giant spider ass kicking.

Beetrice flew into the air and immeditaly dodged a strand of webbing shot right at her. She retaliated by throwing her spear into one of Ashidaka’s eyes, then dodging around a nearby building taller than the gargantuan arachnid.

Ashidaka hissed, her legs stabbing into the glass windows as they sought out Beetrice. They failed, and soon a rumbling sound made both myself and her stop and wonder if the building was coming down.

Instead, a pair of giant robots stepped into view. Does everyone have a giant fucking robot but me around here?!

One bore scars over parts made to resemble insects. From its back rose a pole with a flag bearing the Nature Force Rangers’ logo on it. Next to it, the other robot had more of a general animal theme and looked like a knight, complete with a lance that had formed out of a giraffe robot.

Damn rangers and their cursed teamups!

Oh, wait, they fight giant monsters. In this case, that’s a good thing. Go go damn rangers and your cursed teamup!

As the pair and Beetrice went to town on the spider lady, Cercopagis called me up. “This is an outrage! How dare you cheat?”

“Cheat?” I asked. “I haven’t done a thing. Whoever is in those robots, they aren’t on my team at all. They’re just citizens of Earth. A feature of the environment, you could say, and who was it that picked the battlefield?”

“This reeks of dishonesty!” Ooh, count those panties as twisted. The cameras showed Ashidaka get lanced from behind, lose one of her replacement upper limbs to the Nature Force bot, and have her cry of anguish cut off by Beetrice throwing her spear into the giant woman’s mouth.

Even as Ash’s remaining bug eyes bugged out, I rolled mine at Cercopagis’s attitude. “And what do you call Eschaton versus Warman? That fingerpoke of doom was no legitimate fight.” Ash collapsed to her knees. Her remaining hands pawed futilely at her throat. The Nature Force bot stepped back and raised its sword to the sky. The sword glowed and grew; first gaining half again its length, then another half, then another half. A tornado grew around the blade just before the rangers brought it down for one last finishing strike that carved their former enemy in half.

Beetrice flitted up to kiss the robot on its cheek before disappearing in a cloud of pollen.

I smiled to myself. “Listen, Cercopagis, if it means that much to you, how about a deal? If I lose anymore fights, you win, but I have to win two more in a row to win. That sound good?”

“That’s not a deal, that’s-!”

I didn’t get to finish hearing what it was. I hung up on him. I didn’t have all day to sit around and yap on the phone. I had a date to prepare for, and I knew for a fact she’d love to receive some flowers.

And she did.

And afterward, I had to get some nanites to heal my pelvis.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 8

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I remained hard at work at Argentina’s Pink House. “Work, work, work, work, work, work,” I turned toward the Korean girl near me whose boobs tried to fight back against being shoved into a tube top, “Hello boys, did you sleep well? I missed you.” The Korean, whose name I’d never bothered to learn, giggled and patted me on the head. Maybe I should call her Kim? I dunno, I’ll leave that one to the philosophers.

“Emperor Gecko, it is time,” my newest assistant, the Japanese girl, added. Ya know, I’m beginning to suspect that way of referring to people might be a bit degrading and/or dehumanizing. She hasn’t complained, just like she hasn’t said a thing about my inability to find any clothes her size other than Catholic schoolgirl outfits.

I turned to her as she slid into my lap I may have encouraged her to sit there. I mean, Japanese people don’t have the same hang-ups as sitting on the lap of someone the same gender, but they also don’t get along well with Koreans. It’d be as out of place as casting a Caucasian woman as a Japanese character in a setting where a refugee crisis is causing racial tensions to flare up in Asia. “Thank you. And I see you put your hair up in the pigtails like I asked. Good…uh…what’s your name again?

She smiled at me, “Saki.”

I didn’t have anything to do with that one, I swear. She looked all confused, too, as I snorted and sat my head down on my desk for a moment. “Ok, Saki it is. You said it’s time?”

She nodded and handed over a tablet showing Times Square. Where else? Where the fuck else? Always Times Square? I’ve done it too. It’s just one of those places. It’s iconic, like how a spaceship trying to blow shit up will always gravitate over the White House, or how revived Romans somehow always end up learning English with one specific British accent. If Mobian was still around, I’d ask him what they really sound like back then. We’re all going to feel real stupid when it turns out the Romans were some Cockney-sounding bastards. Or, hell, maybe they had a Southern accent like me?

I’d tracked Cercopagis Lysis’s ship as it approached the Earth, but he took his sweet time on showing up, nor did he and I ever work out how this whole thing would start off. Except for the whole “I’ll show up, and if you don’t show up, everyone will think you lost,” thing. Perception is a well-known battlefield.

I had other things to do besides stare at him all day, waiting for him to make a move. He could play that game with people who didn’t have to coordinate shit around the world. Sometimes literaly, given some areas with a lack of plumbing and my attempts to rectify that for the good of people’s rectums. That doesn’t even count time spent kidnapping a team.

Not that it’s all kidnapping. Moai came around when I gave him a direct order, and I left Carl out of it. Then I swung over and told Beetrice, the queen of the bee people Buzzkills, that I’d rock her fucking world if she fought for me or provided a kickass champion for my team. She thought I meant right then, which caused a bit of a problem. The Korean girls got the wrong idea, see, and then Saki had to go out and buy a crowbar.

By the time she got back, I’d been manhandled enough in a literal sense that it was more a matter of avoiding death by sex with a giant bee woman than missing pointy booty call in the first place. Beetrice thought the choking was just my kink, too. She didn’t realize I still have a few issues about that sort of thing going back to when I was a kid.

So that’s Warman, Moai, and Beetrice accounted for. I also called up Mix N’ Max and asked him to be a part of the team, as both a backup and to supervise another project. I wanted him to create a monster for me. Let me briefly go back to before Saki brought me the news so things aren’t a huge surprise to y’all.

“If you want me to revive someone as a strong reanimated being, I can do that. They don’t have a lot of powers and retain their own minds, though. That’s mostly chemical, with some electrical work to pull it all together,” Max said, pointing with a pointer wand to a screen against the wall with sketches projected onto it. His assistants worked the projector and the laptop set up by it. Holly looked all bright and fashionable, like a blonde Valley Girl, in contrast to her friend Sam with the nose stud and the purple hair. Sam looked more like what you’d expect the pale, goth-looking Mix N’Max in his red coat and poofy shirt to keep around. The chemical- and drug-minded super was no stranger to odd people, and had remained something of an ally and friend of mine for years due to the both of us having some history killing other supers. In my case, it tends to solve problems. More often in Max’s case, you can’t make a few omelets without injecting a few eggs.

The Electric Eye I inhabited shook its head. I’d sent the one in Los Angeles to meet up with Max at Salt Lake City, where he’d been working on methods of changing skin tone and sexuality. Wish I could have been there for that one. “I want something with a lot of power.”

Smiling, always smiling, Max nodded toward Holly. She pressed a button and the image of a large, pieced-together human body disappeared. The next screen looked a blank lime green until an imagine flipped into the screen from the side. After a couple of rotations, it stopped to reveal a picture of a large, hulking brute of a man. No, wait, a woman. I think. One of the boobs was big and droopy, and the hair was a bit on the long side, though that technically didn’t rule out being a man. Either way, it was large, and while that size isn’t beyond the realm of humans with gigantism, the wide, heavily muscled chest.

“I present to you the ‘Mutant’ permutation of unsafe super-empowerment. Chemicals are handy, but sometimes we can manage the same results with enough radiation, but those are unstable. Strangely, the most stable variants arise with lower levels of mutation and a few generations of living out in a desert. We don’t know why that is, but if you want power, we can just grab someone, inject them, zap them with a lot of microwaves, and have you a mutant in no time.” As he spoke, bullet points shot out of the bottom of the screen, one character at a time, giving some of the same information.

“Powers?” I asked.

“Generally, strength and toughness. They are not easy to kill once you’ve made them, except they die on their own easily. The stable ones are a little stronger than people despite the radiation poisoning, but the bigger ones surpass your standard ‘Reanimated’ type and can go toe to toe with a flying brick, except for the flying part. If you can hit one with a nuke, sometimes they come out able to shoot radiation or heat vision.”

I considered it for a moment before going, “I need bigger, stronger. Do you have anything that could take out a city?”

Max pointed back to Holly. Getting no response, he threw his pointer at the sleeping assistant. She snapped to attention and pushed a button, moving us onto the next screen where the words “Tokyo-Class” appeared up top.

“If you have a candidate in mind, don’t expect them to survive this,” Max said.

I shrugged. “That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Max cocked his head to the side, “You?”

I shook my head. “No, I meant someone else’s life is a sacrifice I am fully committed to. Just give me something that’ll work on anybody I happen to grab off the street, alright?”

And that’s how Team Gecko recruited Mystery Monster, aka Albert. Al liked to think of himself as a nice guy with some flaws. Just a normal, average, everyday working stiff. Just someone who drives a little fast from time to time. How could he know that keeping someone from merging onto the freeway would lead, several cars back, to someone hitting a pedestrian?

The butterflies know, of course. I am, I’ve said, an agent of Chaos. And the thing about Chaos is that it has this Theory. In that Theory lays omniscience and the means by which to show that even someone who does nothing more than speed and shag the occasional neighbor’s pet Shiba Inu is still capable of murder through such simple and otherwise accepted forms of injustice. Besides, the Shiba was asking for it, running around with no pants on.

Now, back to the present day. Lysis’s ship sent down a gold and purple colored saucer that landed. Out of which stepped a thin being in golden armor, because Cercopagis buys armor for the look of it. I can’t entirely complain. I do a lot for the look of things. Armor made to look good and armor made to look fortified both come out about the same as armor with any joints big enough to slide a blade. Still didn’t stop me thinking how gaudy the guy looked, with his gold armor and his staff.

He stepped well away from his craft, earning dozens of honks from annoyed drivers, then raised his staff. A minor shockwave pushed all the cars just slightly. If he thought it’d get him fewer honks, he sadly misinterpreted the Empyreal City rush hour traffic.

“I am the Herald of Cercopagis Lysis, the Galactic Conqueror!” he announced, giving Cercopagis a title we couldn’t easily fact check. If someone can conquer anywhere in the galaxy, why go after Earth? At least the Fluidics had a good reason. They needed brainwashed bodies to serve as fodder in their wars. This guy just keeps getting beaten and comes back for second chances. Any similarity to any other supervillians y’all know is clearly unintentional, wrong, and in no way me.

Anyway, that’s not all the guy said. “I am here to announce the first fight of this contest between our respective leaders. My master now gives you his first champion, secured from our daring raid upon the Hiveworld of Sathe during the Eternal Culling: The Mendes Configuration!” He turned to his ship and raised the staff. From the top of his craft, an orb rose.

I began to wonder if we’d have yet another enemy more concerned with being completely alien to humanity when the exterior of the orb broke and shifted around. In the process, it grew. It grew big. The Mendes Configuration, whatever hunk of space junk it seemed to be at first, was clearly a grower, not a shower. It grew in pulses, pushing out evenly at first, then less evenly as it took shape.

In the form of a giant robot with one eye. I frantically sent out my consciousness to the Robot Room, as I wish I officially named where I had people putting together my robot. The PA systems startled everyone as I said, “Please tell me it’s ready, please tell me it’s ready, it’s gotta be fucking ready, come on!”

Unfortunately, the camera showed that what they’d assembled looked more like a stickman with boxing gloves and boobs than a proper giant robot, leaving me thoroughly disappointed.

So I put in a conference call to Team Gecko. Warman started to say he’d take Mendes but I muted him and said, “Max, it’s time.”

“It’s time?”

“Yeah. I wanted to say that in a dramatic way. And it is time. Send in…dun dun dun!…the Mystery Monster!”

After a second, he asked, “Is that what we’re calling the guy we…?”

“Yeah, him. Stick him in the microwave, give him his shots, do whatever you need to do, preferably on a plane ride over to EC.

In order to fill the time, I brought in Electric Eye. “In the name of the Ruler of Earth, the Emperor of Awesome, the Immaculate Man-Machine, his Lordship the King of Kings, the Master of Disaster…” Now, I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t just have it rattle off titles the entire time, “while Team Gecko’s champion is arriving, I would like you all to enjoy the musical event of the…week, let’s go with week. Ladies and Gentlemen of Earth, your planetary anthem will now be performed by its original singer, Sir Mix-A-Lot.”

Because Earth enjoys big butts, even if I can lie. It wasn’t just that, I really did bring in various one-hit wonder artists to sing and otherwise earn the first musical paychecks they’ve seen in twenty to thirty years. It was a thing. Got some goodwill going.

And then Max texted me, “Bombs away!” and Electric Eye had to carry Sir Mix-A-Lot to safety as a giant-sized man-thing crashed into Times Square opposite the Mendes Configuration. That was a good enough way to describe it, because longer ways involve words like “bulbous, club-armed, tentacle-headed” and other odd things that normally don’t describe anything derived from a human. Except bulbous, I suppose, but I don’t like to see anything bulbous on people. You wouldn’t call a big, beautiful butt bulbous, now would you?

The Mystery Monster didn’t really have a head, or a neck. More of a lump on top of its torso, with a mouth that opened to roar. At the pincered, one-eyed alien robot made out of round bent pieces of metal. What is it with the lack of eyes? Then again, the monster over there didn’t have any visible eyes. Had a big lump in place of an arm, looked like a club. And the other arm ended in five very wet-looking fingers. I certainly wouldn’t shake it. I wholeheartedly approved of the other weapon it packed, though. It looked like a giant blotchy pink and wet naked humanoid except for the bony drill poking out between its legs. Some men are hung like a horse; this one was hung like it could build a house.

They both stood tall at thirty feet, but I think Mystery Monster had the reach on the robot.

All over the news broadcasts, I interrupted to provide some voiceover work of my own. “Fight Numero Uno: The Mendes Configuration versus Team Gecko’s Mystery Monster. Begin!”

Before I even finished, the Mystery Monster started on its own…by turning around and smashing its club into a car that finally learned to stop honking. I decided to hijack the scroll at the bottom of the broadcast. “Fun Fact: Mystery Monster hates obnoxious drivers. The owners of that building were probably assholes anyway. Technically, there’s nothing in city ordinances against tearing up the road with a drill dick.”

I had to stop due to the call coming in. The Imperial Hotline, aka the phone line for anyone who really, really, really needs to call me but doesn’t know me well enough to get my private number, lit up with a call from an unknown number. “Hello?”

“Greetings, soon-to-be former ruler of Earth!” See what I mean about needing better names for these titles? Cercopagis went on with his gloating and laughing, “Does your champion ever intend to actually fight?”

“Oh, he’ll fight. See? He’s fighting right now.”

“I believe that’s mating, though I believe your species doesn’t typically do that to architecture.”

“Any moment now, he’ll be doing it to your random space robot’s face! Then you’ll see.” I told him all that, but I began to have my doubts. Max warned me that making a monster bigger and more powerful, especially in such a short amount of time, left them rebellious and prone to turn on their masters. Like teenagers. And like a teenager, Mystery Monster had started sticking its parts into strange things not meant to hold it. In public, again like a teenager.

I decided to send in the Electric Eye, setting Sir Mix-A-Lot down in the hopes he could find his way back to his fiefdom without my help. Electric Eye rocketed up onto the building that was a-rockin’ because Mystery Monster came a-knockin’ and called down to it, “You stop humping this and go hump that other thing this instant, or you are ground! You’ll be turned into Mystery Meat when I’m done with you!”

Turns out he’s a lot faster with that club than I anticipated, but still not fast enough to smash Electric Eye. Eye threw it to the side and missed the domestic abuse visited upon the poor building that been drilled by MM. Figuring Eye finally had its attention, I sent the smaller robot zipping around toward the bigger one.

“You cannot have two champions in a single fight! We agreed to one-on-one battles!” Cercopagis yelled at me over the Hotline.

“Don’t worry your golden panties off. Electric Eye won’t fight.” The Mendes Configuration tracked it anyway, a red laser light appearing and growing larger as if considering an attack as the smaller robot approached, then stopped right in front of the single orb that made up its combined eye and head. Except while Mendes paid attention to Electric Eye, Electric Eye paid attention to Mystery Monster and cut its rockets, ending this dance of alliteration.

Fancy souvenir snow globe from a space knickknack store or not, the Mendes Configuration didn’t take that laying down. Unfortunately, it didn’t even take it kneeling down or losing oil control. It unloaded some sort of beam onto Mystery Monster that scorched the flesh of its chest, bring a wail out of the monsterized human. MM responded by bringing its club down on the robot’s head. That forced the robot into a squat. That turned out to be a bad position when facing an opponent with a biological drill in place of its private parts.

Right about then, the news censored the fight with black bars. It didn’t help that I inserted sounds from some porno. Debbie Does Space, anyone? Is that a thing? Wouldn’t be the first time some shit I made up to be funny turned out to be real.

Things seemed to be going well. And, as Sir Mix-A-Lot’s cameo appearance early indicates, that clearly foreshadows a but. But, the Mendes Configuration reached down and grabbed the drill with its pincers. It squeezed. It tore. It simultaneously caused billions of men around the world to reach for their crotches in sympathetic pain. And then it shoved that drill right into the middle of Mystery Monster’s fleshy torso.

Mystery Monster stumbled back, pumping a different sort of troubling fluid onto the street below. At which point, its screaming mouth filled the air with an emasculated cacophony until the Mendes Configuration shut it up with a blast of whatever laser, plasma, or heat vision constituted the red stream coming from its eye.

Between the internal burns and the loss of what may be blood (usually, it’s not green), Mystery Monster collapsed and curled up in the fetal position. From there, the fight was purely academic, if academics often beat each other to death with their own severed cocks. Which, to be honest, would make debates a hell of a lot more interesting. It’s probably the only way I’d pay attention to philosophy. Because, let’s be honest, there’s only so many times people can go around with circle jerks about wondering if the world is nothing but a computer simulation. As a dude who has crossed dimensions, that means either I disproved it, or the entirety of existence is centered on me.

Sounds about right.

Unfortunately, the Matrix fucked me over and left Mystery Monster so smashed up by the alien robot that I could have renamed it Ground Beef. Except I don’t know what you call human meat. Pigs are pork, cattle are beef, but long pork is just a euphemism.

“That is one in my favor. I will let you start the next fight, Psycho Gecko. Consider it an act of mercy,” Cercopagis Lysis said over the Imperial Hotline.

“Go eat a mystery meat dick,” I told him.

Some days, you think you get a chance to use a giant robot. Other days, you see a thirty-foot tall monster get its weaponized penis torn off and then stabbed in the chest with said penis. Unfortunately, today was dick-stabbing day in the worst way.

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