Tag Archives: Wildflower

Enlightening Strikes 4

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So there I was, Valentine’s Day, walking beside Wildflower down the street after seeing a movie together, my head resting on her shoulder. And I told her, in that romantic way only I can pull off, “Admit it, you just talked all that shit because you didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s.”

The fact that she laughed? Good sign. She’s got a good laugh and smile, for an alien.

In the days since Wildflower and I came to our understanding, I decided to introduce her to Moai, Carl, and the horde of bee people hidden underneath my tower. Beetrice, the queen bee who wanted my man-gravy so she could have a few thousand kids by me, seemed a bit jealous at first until I revealed my continued lack of dong. She turned her nose up at that, saying that if I wanted to play hard to get, she’d find someone else to see to her needs.

I might send down Festus, my young head of HR. The guy could stand to blow off some steam.

Then, I took her back up to the penthouse for a serious discussion. Admitting that aliens are going to invade and try to kill you isn’t something most people say that early on into a relationship. In fact, it’s usually said just before the end of the relationship, right around the time the men with the snuggly, self-hugging jacket come to take you away, ha ha. I had to trust her. Time was essential. A long time prior to her unfortunate demise, I asked Fortune Cookie about when the aliens would show up, and she said March of this year. It’s currently February of this year. They’re coming to take me away, ha ha!

Wildflower went out on a limb and showed off her little Master Academy dorm. To hear her tell it, Venus is too active to bother teaching any sort of Master Academy branch over here, so it hasn’t been properly set up yet except for a couple of dorm buildings.

Quick recap time: Master Academy is this California-based school for powered youngsters that trains them up to be crimefighters and fully functioning members of society. Venus just happened to get in because he was orphaned or something, I think. She lacks powers, but she’s kinda been their spokeswoman because of her ability to kick serious villain ass. Including my own, a couple of times. She’s still alive, after all. Anyway, after awhile, she decided to stay with a batch of Master Academy trainees and set up a branch over here. Apparently it hasn’t gone too well, but at least there’s a bit of property north of the city that could one day be a school if she stopped, and it gives people a place to stay.

When I stepped into the Girls’ Dorm and saw that most of the students were decidedly on the nubile and statutory side of things, I gave Wildflower a look. She looked at me, then looked at them, then leaned in and whispered, “I’m over eighteen.”

“Are you sure? You might be an early bloomer.”

She took my hand, right in front of a few “Oohing” teens and led me to her room. She shared it with a roommate who appeared to be mentally deficient based on the number of posters featuring untalented singers. I think one of them was a boy band. Do boy bands still exist? I thought they went extinct.

Anyway, Wildflower’s side of the room featured a little different decor. I expected something like the poster from Cats, though. I pointed to it. “Fan of people dressed in really tight cat costumes?”

“I haven’t seen it. The others got that for me. I don’t know if they were trying to be mean. That inspired me to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, then Frankenstein. I’m up to Stoker and Lovecraft now.” She rifled through her nightstand for something.

“Hmm. Never messed with them. I keep meaning to pick up some stuff by Albert Camus. Seems like my kinda guy. You picking up those books? Don’t know how things work for you here.”

She abruptly stood up and handed me a broken piece of plastic. It looked like about half a driver’s license, with a good chunk of the picture and number gone, along with the real name. “Wow, you’re twenty-four. And they have you rooming with teens.”

She shrugged and took the broken license back. “I have a lot to relearn, and a lot to learn about my powers. I want to do this if they open a proper campus.” She almost said something else, which I got the sense was questioning if I was ok with that. In my own way, I was just wondering if an amnesiac, even one who’d been around for a few months, was a little on the dirty side.

Maybe it was all the teenagers.

She led me around, even introduced me to a couple of costumed capes I didn’t recognize. Then again, I can barely keep their names straight enough as it is. I remember once fighting a Master Academy super with some sort of ball powers. Energy balls, maybe? Then I remember someone using various ball-like devices to fight The Oligarch and The Order just before I killed Oligarch. I don’t know how many ballers we got around here. Perhaps I should ask someone in the hood.

Now, if only I could figure out where da hood, where da hood, where da hood at?

Still weird, though. It wasn’t a date. It was just Wildflower showing me a part of her life. Right after I showed her part of mine. Like, I know what I did, but the reciprocity threw me for a small loop. I’m usually more self-centered than all that. Luckily, a call from Captain Lightning precluded further introspection.

“Hey, Lightning just told me he’s going to stop by in a couple hours with the communication pod-thing. Want to stop somewhere beforehand? Maybe grab some hibachi?”

On the way out, we caught a passing glare from Venus on our way out. It was the sort of evil eye that normally includes ominous Latin chanting and ends when a car passes by and the person glaring abruptly disappears. A nudging on my arm interrupted my mental choir.

“You should talk to her,” Wildflower suggested in a whisper.

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t want to see you killed by aliens. Hey, Venus!” Obviously, she didn’t direct that last part at me, but instead to the civilian-clothed heroine. “Gecko has something to tell you!”

A pair of girls passing nearby whipped their heads around to stare at me. Well, at least she’s not ashamed to be seen with me, nor is she ashamed to be seen dragging me by the arm over to Venus.

Venus took a long swig of a water bottle, enough that I wondered if she had vodka instead of water in there. She raised a finger to ward off any talk until she finished, then began the conversation her own way. “What are you doing bringing her here? Shut up, Gecko, I’m not talking to you.”

With that in mind, I’m happy to say Wildflower improvised. “We wanted to invite you to dinner to clear the air. We’re going to meet at the Double Cross tower.”

“I’m not sure I want to go. It’s hard to forget what I saw last time.” Venus looked between Wildflower and me, no doubt meaning her inadvertent discovery that we weren’t a chaste couple, and the subsequent incident where we threw the bed at her. When I raised an interested eyebrow, she looked me dead in the eye and told me. “Not in a thousand years to whatever you were about to say.”

“How about if Captain Lightning is there? He’s bringing something by, so you can just meet us in a, where would it be, babe, a meeting room?” Wildflower looked to me. I nodded. She turned back to Venus. “A meeting room. We can compare notes about it and have a meal.”

Venus capped her water bottle before crossing her arms and looking me over. Normally, this is where I’d work the puppy dog eyes, but I had to do without since I haven’t killed any puppies lately. Instead, I laid my head back down on Wildflower’s shoulder and put my arm around her, trying to look all cute and sweet for Venus while subtly hunching over enough to emphasize my awesome boobage. That’s right. It’s my turn to shake some tits at you, Venus. But just to really give her something hot to think about, I mean to really lube up this deal so she’d take it and take it hard, I added. “You can bring along anyone you want as a plus one.”

She looked at me, her eyes flicking down to my milk makers, then quickly back to my face. “I’ll think about it.”

Imagine our surprise when Forcelight landed in front of Double Cross Tower two hours later, meeting Captain Lightning on his way up. I think they got in contact and coordinated their arrival. Well, I did a little of my own coordinating and had a giant screen set up to give Technolutionary a view of the meeting.

Lightning held the door for the ladies, staring at them. Old perv. He must have noticed me noticing, because he quickly explained himself. “They’re clear.”

“What is this about, now?” Forcelight asked. She stood tall in her white and black tights, the adoptive daughter of the former owner of Long Life. The medical corporation’s last owner died at my hands, but not before using a variety of illegal experiments involving organ theft to transform her into a superhero while forcing her biological dad to play the role of said villainous organ thief. I still miss the Good Doctor sometimes. When he got going, he really knew where to stab those scalpels. Unfortunately, he turned himself in to atone and try to heal things with his daughter. Just goes to show that being a surgeon doesn’t make someone smart.

I sat back in my chair, setting my half-eaten pork egg roll aside. “I have invited this delightful bunch here to discuss a matter of grave importance to all of us. If you don’t already know, Forcelight, I’m Psycho Gecko. Yes, I’m aware I have boobs now, thank you for noticing. Y’all are here for one of three reasons: you are already aware of what’s going on, you are a leader in your community who can help prepare them for the upcoming battle, or I’ve had sex with you.”

Forcelight immediately turned to Venus. “What did you do?!”

“He means her!” Venus jabbed her finger toward Wildflower, who smiled around a mouthful of chow mein.

“Enough playing around, Gecko.” Captain Lightning produced a small box, too large to pretend he was proposing to me. Opening it revealed the little fleshy communications device. It looked like a small walnut made out of warped skin and muscle, perhaps because it was so much easier for the body to grow those tissues compared to some others. He set it on the table past three stacks of papers roughly outlining what little I knew of the upcoming catastrophe.

They all took a seat while Technolutionary and I looked it over. Tech spoke first through his monitor. “Did the medical examiner think to perform a DNA test?”

Lightning nodded toward the screen. “Yes. It matches the person we found it in. They are still testing the one found in Mary Malady, but we should extract the one from the other man, Mack.”

“Max,” I corrected. “Max Muscles. I advised him to come to this city when he left, in case I needed to look after him for one thing or another. He’s the one who first clued me in that something spoke to him and made him attack Washington D.C.“

“It stands to reason someone they would make this device compatible with the physiology of individual humans. Remember our recent bout with organ rejection?” Technolutionary asked, inclining his head more toward me out of the rest of the group at the table.

When everyone looked at me, I mentioned, “Last Christmas, he gave me his heart. The very next day, I gave it away. This organ was part of Senator Powers, who worded a situation very similarly to other suspicious individuals. We haven’t had them tested yet. There’s not even enough left of one to test. It appears to be a method of communication we can’t listen in on. I have extremely trustworthy intelligence that points to an alien invasion force getting involved. Now we know they have infiltrated some of us, us meaning Earth in this context, so it stands to reason there are more to check.”

Wildflower didn’t help my suspicions any by asking, “What if they try to come in peace? Maybe you do something.” Her prickly tail stroked my back gently, hoping to let me know she didn’t mean any hard feelings by the question. It’s technically a good point. I am exactly the sort of person who would screw up human-alien first contacts.

“I don’t know their goal, but so far there haven’t been very many good-natured alien contacts with Earth that involve them showing up en masse. What reason would they have for peaceful contact? Needing medical help? They’re advanced enough to fly to Earth from the ass-end of wherever. Same for maintenance.”

“Whatever they use for fuel, Earth cannot or will not hand over,” Technolutionary provided.

I nodded toward the screen. “And then there’s the possibility we get the intergalactic equivalent of the Jehovah’s fucking Wit-”

Captain Lightning cut me off there. “Psycho Gecko has a point. Most first contacts between foreign cultures with such a disproportionate difference in technology are hostile in some form or another. Earth’s experience with aliens provides ample evidence in favor of this viewpoint. We should be be prepared to talk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Technolutionary spoke up, “If you want peace, prepare for war. It makes sense why you would reverse your stance now, Gecko.”

I tried to make sure no one delved into that conversation too far. I doubted any of the heroes, even my Wildflower, had the moral flexibility to see the bigger picture in what we’ve done, especially given mine and Technolutionary’s lack of restraint in terms of collateral damage. “A big, throbbing stick capable of wiping them all out, preferably preemptively.”

“A show of force would work,” said Forcelight, looking over the information I’d provided on the table. “Not everyone treats every conflict as a fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “If worst comes to worst, we need to prepare a very final method of dealing with them.”

Venus scoffed. “A Final Solution?”

“Don’t go knocking genocide just because some racist Germans used it once. That’s slander on the good name of that perfectly viable tactic by associating it solely with the Nazis. Which is falacious, I might add. Call it something nicer or loftier, like Manifest Destiny. Besides, I’d use it against everyone, not just members of one race or another.”

Venus shook her head and looked to Wildflower. “And you’re fine with this? This is who you want?”

I don’t know if I sense legitimate jealousy there, but I’ll even take hot fantasy lesbian threesome jealousy, only this time I wear a skimpy nurse’s outfit with red high heels, and Wildflower’s the one I call Dr. Feelgood.

“Do you want me to tell him not to kill people? Alright.” Wildflower leaned close guided my face around so I was looking right at her. “Baby, please don’t kill people.”

“Aww, how could I ever say ‘no’ to you…” I leaned my head close, our foreheads touching. “Oh yeah, now I remember! No.”

She stepped back, an amused smile on her face. I don’t believe it surprised her. Then she looked to Venus. “I tried.”

“You’re going to let him or her talk to you like that?”

Wildflower crossed her arms. “You should ask him. Everyone knows you two have some special bond.”

Perturbed, Venus leaned in close, squishing her twin milk cannons for best effect. “Hey, Gecko. Please, for me, try not to kill so many people, alright?”

I pretended to think. “Gee, when you put it that way, there’s probably only one thing I can say. That’s that you should back up, stick your tongue out, flap your arms, jump off the roof, and give a flying fuck. Because I don’t. Pussy.”

And she was concerned about how I talked to Wildflower.

“Since you want to pretend you are a woman now, you might watch out for that sort of sexist talk.” Venus flipped me the bird.

I held a hand to my chest. “I like to think of myself as a skeleton trapped in a woman’s body.”

“Gecko, please shut up for five minutes.” Lightning butted in, trying to stop the talk from breaking down.

“A moment, oh Captain my captain. I have just one thing to say.” I let silence fall for a moment as everyone prepared themselves for my incoming remark. To Venus, I finally said, “Suck my coccyx.”

Captain Lightning reached over with one finger and zapped with a small arc of electricity. “I’m afraid we have gone off-task in our discussion. Reign this in, stay on point. Aliens.”

I nodded. “If you’ll all avoid getting too much soy sauce on the papers there, I’ve vaguely described some of the measures I’ve taken to secure the city a little better. I don’t care about the nanites, either, Forcelight. They’ll help. But if I come out of the blue to discuss this with the heroes when E.T. Decides to pwn home, most won’t believe me. We need to get people ready for this, and we don’t have long.”

“Why do you care this much?” Venus glared at me some more. You’d think she’d have a little less anger after flashing me with her headlights the other day and punching me into a ceiling.

“It doesn’t matter why he cares. It just matters that he’s helping.” Lightning answered for me, exasperated with the arguing. “We need to find those we can trust and prepare quietly. Organize.” I noticed Venus’s eye twitch as she watched Lightning. “Anyone with an x-ray vision power can find it where the neck meets the skull.”

“A knife and visual inspection works, too.” I added. Wildflower rubbed at the back of her neck.

Lightning glanced at her neck briefly, then pulled over a carton of fried rice. In the midst of all our arguing, we’d mostly forgotten the food. I returned to chowing down on my egg roll. “Seems it does,” he confirmed.

“Gentlemen, ladies…don’t just stand there looking surprised. Let’s eat some food and plan how to take over…sorry, wrong crowd…save the world!”

Lightning and Wildflower nodded. On the screen, a doorbell got Technolutionary’s attention. Forcelight joined us in our meal, but Venus didn’t lower her guard until Technolutionary returned and lifted up his helmet enough to start chowing down on a box of Chinese delivery.

Of course, convincing some heroes to get to work on this was the easy part, if it works at all. Now I’ve got to find some way to present myself as trustworthy to a bunch of supervillains. Clearly, this will require copious amounts of lying. And more chicken teriyaki.

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Enlightening Strikes 3

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For the late Fortune Cookie to have been picked up by a killer looking for someone else, she must have been somewhere he’d be. She had that power, but it must not have been enough. I don’t know why she even bothered going herself; she’s tends…tended…to take a hands-off approach. I’ve looked over graffiti and anything else from the crime scene again and again and again, trying to tell if somehow, some way she meant to get a message to me by her death.

But that’s not how her power worked, I think. So I figured going after the killer would be the best use of my time. And maybe she knew I’d do that, too.

Regardless, once I got ready, I went all private eye up in this bitch. Looked over the other victims to see what was meant about the serial killer hunting outside their usual preference. He likes his women like he likes his coffee: tall with a pale head. Likes to go after of blondes that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Someone’s not a fan of Nazi playboy bunnies. A dark-haired Asian woman stands out in that group, but it also meant I knew what to look for while retracing Cookie’s steps.

He got distracted from his usual routine. She knew who he was after, but got in the way, or walked into his trap and made herself irresistible. So I needed to keep an eye out for tall blondes along that last route Cookie ever took. Though I narrowed it down a great deal by figuring out when she went from walking to being driven. Because I doubt the killer carried her on his back to that house.

I walked made it a part of my daily routine to pass by there several times, always in armor that projected a slightly different take on the ideal victim. Then I spotted a van with the back doors open. Someone pushed something in and the van was a rockin’. When I walked around, a woman looked back at me. The short brunette looked nice and all, nothing like a potential victim. Checking her out, I saw where she even had a fake leg. A cheap one, not one of my superior products. She’d been pushing a small couch into the back of the van. “Need a hand there?”

She smiled at me and reached over to adjust a sheet on top of the couch. “No thanks. I got it.”

My projection smiled. “No, I got this.” I pushed her aside to help finish getting that couch in there. In the process, the sheet bucked a little and I saw a few blonde hairs uncovered. Behind me, my armor’s 360-degree HUD showed the woman reaching down to undo her false leg below the knee. She raised it to overhead and smacked it over my head. It thunked off harmlessly.

“Stop,” I said, lifting the couch more to finish getting it in there.

Confused, she tried once more, whapping it horizontally across the back of my head.

“You’re just embarassing yourself at this point,” I told her, then turned around and clocked her. The blow sent her head against the van’s back door window, cracking it and knocking her out cold.

When the van drove off this time, the blonde was left on the ground and our little killer, a woman it turns out, rode in the back. And instead of some cheap little house, we were headed to a bright and shining tower. I ditched the van and carried her up the back private elevator, wondering which of the various heroes would inevitably interrupt the dispersal of justice.

Will it be Venus, with her annoying insistence that even someone as bad as me shouldn’t be killed for reasons? Perhaps World War II veteran Captain Lightning will fly in, angry that a lying killer would lie to him and try to kill someone. I suppose Wildflower could pick this time to show up, bringing naive relationship drama just in time to see the real me. But why stop there? There’s always room for more random people to throw themselves into the middle of my life. More random alien people, that is. I’ve got my eyes on them.

The peg leg killer woke up in my arms on the ride up and got a good view of me in my armor. Then she wet herself. Profusely. This did not get her on my good side, since I was carrying her at the time.

Up in the penthouse, I tossed her out onto the floor like yesterday’s salad and locked down the elevator. She stood up and hopped up and down, absent her leg and weapon, not that it would have done her any good. She hopped over toward the kitchen and grabbed for a pair of knives to hold out in front of me. I calmly approached the elevator. “Oh no. Please. Knives. Perhaps I can find something in here that can disarm you safely without risking any harm to myself.”

I threw the refrigerator at her. She folded up on the ground, avoiding most of the fridge’s impact against the counter, then crawling out from underneath it before it could slide down on her.

She’d dropped a knife in all the hubbub. I stalked toward her while she headed into the living room area. It’s an art, ya know. Good stalking, as it is used in this context, is about projecting unstoppable menace and getting really close while appearing to never move faster than a walk. Good stalking in other contexts usually involves uncomfortable levels of obsession, and I usually reserve that for Venus, but only because we’re meant to be together.

That was a joke, ha ha, fat chance. Anyway, this cake is great, it’s so delicious and moist. So I threw it and the cake dish at Pegleg Patsy! While she cussed, it appears she didn’t concuss. Holding onto the knife, she regained her footing enough to stand. “You’re not going to kill me, fucker! I’ll beat you!”

She jabbed the knife toward her throat, but found it wouldn’t go all the way with my hand on her wrist. Instead, the breaking of her wristbone convinced her that dropping the knife was her most physically possible course of action. A kick sent it skidding along the floor. A punch in the gut doubled her over. Is it singling someone over when they only have one leg?

“Why did you kill the Asian woman?” I asked. “Is this about me? Are you one of them?”

“Fuck them, fuck you, fuck her! She wasn’t even my type!” I grabbed her head and lifted her up to look her in the eyes, squeezing her face in my fingers. She spat on my helmet’s visor. I wiped it off, slapped her with the spitty glove, and then brought her back up to look into her face again.

“Then why did you kill her?”

“She got in my way! I wanted the tall bitch, with her long legs. She’s the only one that matters, whether she likes it or not. Especially if not!” I shut her up with a gentle chop to the throat, just enough to send her into a coughing fit.

“You need some serious help, you know that?” I asked, watching her hold her throat and try to recover. “So you have a grudge against a certain type, and she just got in your way?”

Ole Peggy there nodded despite the coughing. “She started to help me with the sofa before I was ready. Tried to tell me I’d be sorry if I killed her.”

I nodded. “Yes, you will be. By the way, did you know it’s actually possible to skullfuck someone while keeping them alive? The things you learn in this lifetime. And I mean it. The things you will learn.”

It was then that the glass leading to the balcony shattered from Wildflower tearing through it her claws. The green-skinned herione stepped over the broken glass and glared at me with narrow slitted eyes, vine-like green tail swaying behind her barely-clothed body. Her tight shorts, bikini-like top, and scowl full of pointy teeth all left little to the imagination. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. Pegleg yelled out, “Help, this man kidnapped me!”

“Is that true?” Wildflower asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, but only because I was going to torture and kill her.”

“See?! Help me, please. He’s crazy. He threw a refrigerator at me,” my victim whined, clearly trying to lie to garner sympathy.

“Shut up,” I said while stomping on her ankle. Something snapped and she fell to floor, screaming and crying. To Wildflower, I added, “You know, this is a really bad time for you to stop in. Can we do this later?”

“Why?” She asked, nodding her chin toward the downed killer.

“She’s the serial killer, and she killed an ally of mine. I won’t stand for that.” A moan from the floor emphasized that point. “She won’t stand for it, either.”

A metal rod speared into my floor. The cable it trailed stayed taught while a zipping noise grew louder. Venus appeared in her patrol exoskeleton; it lacked the protection of full power armor, but still gave her armor plates and extra equipment to supplement her fighting skills; all in her signature gold, white, and pink. While the metal rod rewound into her armor’s left forearm, I quietly texted Moai to grab a rocket launcher and standby.

“Et tu, Venus?” I asked the plucky heroine who always stood ready to save society from me. “This one’s owed me.”

“Funny, I don’t see you wearing a judge’s robes,” she said from behind a mirrored facemask that protected her upper face.

“Truth doesn’t change just because a jury says something. She’s our serial killer. I’ll deal with. Go ahead, ask the average man on the street if they feel safer leaving it to me.” I shooed her away.

“It’s the principle of the thing. It’s not my place to give up on her.”

“The world would be better if you di-fucking hell!” We now interrupt this message to bring you a flashbang! Both happened too soon for me to stop, as a pair of lights on either side of Venus’s helmet lit up and then a piercing noise rang in my ears. A second later, an uppercut embedded me halfway up into my bedroom’s floor above the living room area. Instinctively, I activated my cybernetic vocal chords’ banshee scream. The note once used by a prison to paralyze me instead came from my own lips while my helmet prevented me from seeing it.

My eyes weren’t blinded for long, though. Sure, the original flash got through, but they weren’t as sensitive as organic eyes, so I recovered more quickly. I’d embedded in the ceiling with my hands caught in one room with my lower body, so I took to pressing them up against the ceiling. When that didn’t give me enough leverage, I broke through the ceiling with my hands enough to push myself down onto the floor. I found Venus holding the killer under one arm and Wildflower under another, seemingly unaffected herself. I shut my yap, trying not to incur any more maintenance time on my voicebox than necessary.

Venus took one look at me and turned to run. As she ran, Wildflower pushed away from her and stopped. Venus tried to turn and reach for her, but my nemesis hit the edge of the roof and fell. I pursued, only to be stopped when the Wildflower’s mutated human/plant/animal form tackled me. As I went down, I heard another zipping go from loud to quiet, followed by the whoosh of a rocket and an explosion coupled with more glass shattering.

“I missed.” Moai’s text appeared in the lower left corner of my HUD while I roll with Wildflower and threw her off me. She landed on kitchen counter with a graceful backflip, her elongated toenails clicking on the countertop.

I looked to the balcony, but saw no chance of pursuit. “So now what. You try to beat me up as some scorned woman, fail, and I kill you? Or is this yet another escape?” I turned back to Wildflower, who slid down to the floor.

“We may as well talk since I don’t intend to arrest you. Like I could, right?.” She lowered har arms by her side and relaxed. Even the hair on her head seemed to relax. Probably some sort of response it had to make her look bigger in a fight.

I held out my arms. “Well then, let’s start with the obvious. This is the real me. Deal with it.”

“You were manipulating me the entire time?”

I nodded.

“Even when you stayed the night with me in the asylum?” Geez, what’s with everyone referencing that? The villain group I had joined captured her and held her in an old asylum. I was bringing her stuff to get on her good side and influence her. I brought stuff for her to sleep, but she insisted I watch over her so the guards didn’t try anything. So what if I didn’t intend to stay?

I nodded again. “Duh.”

“And all the dates?” She asked with a smirk.

Well, I had an image, I guess. Besides, who doesn’t like spending some occasional time with a good-looking person who hangs on your every word? “Don’t tell me you’re an adrenaline junkie or one of those women who thinks she can change someone. I always got the sense you were smarter than that.”

“Smart enough to fool you.” She walked close, looking into my visor. I kept monitoring her arms, her legs, even the surrounding area in case she smuggled plants up here for a sneak attack. “You wanted to use me. I wanted to use you.”

“For what?” I tilted my head to clue her in to my curiosity.

“I was already out of my cell before you showed up that last day, but I couldn’t have escaped without you. You wined and dined me. Bought me things. Gave me money. You have a unique charm, and who doesn’t like spending time with an attractive woman like you?”

Jamie Foxx sang the titular lyric of the song “Gold Digger” from my helmet’s speakers as I looked at her. “So that’s all you are?”

Wildflower slapped me across the helmet, then roiled in disgust at the spittle and plaster she got on herself.

“Ha! The heroine wants a sugar mama to take care of her and her bills.”

She hissed at me. “I wanted a rich, successful, evil little girlfriend who would step on anyone to get what she wanted. If she owned the lab that took everything from me, all the more poetic.” I didn’t own Sigma when their experiments turned her into the life form that stood before me, but I understand the symmetry of that situation. “Look at what you do when a friend dies? Venus wouldn’t do that. No hero would.”

I grabbed her by the neck. “You thought I’d die for you?”

“I knew you’d kill for me.” She didn’t budge one inch.

I looked her over. “Before this goes any further, I need to check something out. A bit of a physical.”

Yep, she’s almost definitely a plant. Well, partly a plant, but almost definitely sent by aliens.

She smiled, showing off those feline canines. “Anything you want.” She showed such trust. Tsk, tsk.

I snapped her neck to the side. Maybe trusting me was a bad idea. I let her body drop, then looked around for that damn knife from earlier. Ah, there it was. Turning Wildflower over, I carved open the back of her neck to check for one of those little alien communication pods. Despite the difficulty getting through her skin and its annoying tendency to refuse to stay open, the check turned up nothing. Shame, I guess. There was something thrilling about her motives. She didn’t want money or things. She wanted a crazy-ass murderer. She got one, too.

I dropped her body and stood up, wondering if I had anything nice to drink at the bar. I stopped when I saw her body move behind me. Her tail glided up her back, wrapped itself around her neck, and wrenched it back into place. The neck itself, I realized, had closed up almost completely by this point. I turned around to watch her stand back to her feet. “I lost everything to Sigma labs. Maybe you didn’t notice. You like to talk, but I didn’t have much to say. I don’t know for sure Rachel is my real name. I don’t know who I was. Everything about me, except these awesome powers.”

“A hero that tough who doesn’t want to bring me in?” She had my interest. Goody goodies often don’t like the idea that their partner is dirty in more than just the fun ways.

“Yes, a hero. I’m not going to give up stopping criminals and bullies. That’s what I have now. I don’t expect you to be anything but what you are. God, I want you to be who you are. No one will ever do to me again what Sigma Labs did.”

I stepped closer, checking her over. Her physiology wasn’t quite human, and she showed some agitation and flushing, but no nervousness, no doubt. She seemed honest about liking that I do what I do how I do it. She didn’t just accept it, she wanted it. “You’ll use me.”

She giggled. “Use me, too, but no one uses us.” She put her arms around my neck.

I grabbed one arm and moved it aside to release the seal on my helmet. She put it back in place and moved the other for me when I undid the other seal and pulled it off. Suddenly, I could smell the blood, the plaster, and her. Her most of all. It was a good smell. Like sex, or at least a close-up with some of the body parts that make it happen. I couldn’t help looking into her eyes. Or moving my face closer to hers. Or the kiss, whichever of us started it.

***

Late that night, technically into the next morning, I awoke from my sleep, disturbed by the lack of covers. I only had on a thin sheet, same as the superhero laying next to me on my upstairs landing. We lost the comforter, pillows, and bed when Venus swung by to see what had befallen her comrade in arms. We missed Venus, but not, as far as Crash’s email indicates, my personal assistant’s parked car on the street below.

I curled up next to Wildflower’s…hope she doesn’t expect me to call her by her real name, Rachel…anyway, Wildflower’s warmer body until I realized that, despite all that had gone on, things smelled very, very different. She had more of a citrus smell now. I rubbed at the little scar on the back of her neck and a still lightly-bruised throat caused by something much more recent than my interrogation of her earlier. “Tigerlily,” I whispered my favored nickname in her twitching ear.

“Mmm?”

“Did you use pheromones on me earlier?”

“Mmm. Mhm. Jus’ a little. Mostly was in heat,” she responded drowsily. I felt her tail coil around my thigh, the thorns lightly pricking my skin.

I tightened my grip on her throat, fingernails biting into her flesh, but not tearing anything open. I held her like that long enough to get my point across, and though she struggled to breathe, she didn’t raise a hand to me. “You don’t use pheromones on me.” I told her.

She started hacking when I let her go, so I took a moment to sit up and search for a blanket that might have fallen off the bed. I found it draped over the railing at the edge of the second floor and pulled it onto both of us. Even though I’d faced away from Wildflower, she soon turned to wrap her arms and legs around my body, nuzzling the back of my head. “Sorry, babe,” she said with a purr before slipping into sleep once more.

The interesting thing about being a psycho: somehow, you’ll never be the craziest one in the relationship. But, provided I believe her, it’s nice to have someone in a romantic sense willing to accept me that way. I mean, not like it’s love. But it’s still nice.

Unless she’s really an alien. Then I’ll kill her anyway. After I’m done cuddling, that is.

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Together For The Holidays 9

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I considered skipping this one. I didn’t really have anything special going on Christmas Eve or Christmas. After destroying a bunch of toys and beating up a couple heroes, it’s a bit of a letdown to say “Oh, I took a break off from wrecking Christmas to go to a Christmas party.”

Anyway, I took a break off from wrecking Christmas and went to a Christmas party. I got invited to the hero and villain parties, as organized on over the networks run by my company, so I sorta played a trick. Rescheduled a couple things. I wanted to bring people together, and getting the hero and villain parties scheduled at the same time and place accomplished that goal.

See, there’s an informal truce around major holidays for various reasons. I’ve mentioned it before in regards to Halloween, especially. No one wants to fight their nemesis and it turn out to be an enthusiastic trick or treater. People on both sides have kids they have to worry about, too. It’d be about as acceptable to them as stealing candy from a baby.

Well, that happens for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. Generally a lot of super crime tapers off this time of year. There’s shopping to be done, and even heroes understand that family dinners are one of the worst times to burst in and arrest someone. No matter how much some of the family wishes they could get out of the dinner that way.

So, this reminder concluded, I manufactured a mixup at a hotel convention room. The staff stood ready to provide for the gathering, a fact I knew from tapping the camera feeds. The organizers for either side arrived and immediately got into a standoff. I could give names and costume descriptions, but it all boils down to people in tights with funny names standing around in funny poses with glowing body parts. Both sides accused the other of conspiracy and gatecrashing. Finally, the hotel manager spoke up and yelled at both groups for daring to risk messing up the room at that time of year.

Both sides put their body parts away and began to talk. Then, they decided, in light of this odd coincidence, they’d have a truce and throw the parties together. After all, it’s Christmas. Besides, they never knew when they’d get another decent shot at consensual sex with people on the other side of the law. They didn’t actually say anything about that part, but they’re also human beings. Of course, they soon realized they had to keep a close eye on people joining the party and send messages out to make sure no fights broke out on the way there.

Food was handled by potluck, which mostly worked out. Ash Burner, villain, and Revere, hero, got into an argument over their cookies. Revere insulted Ash Burner by claiming he burnt his cookies, while Ash Burner thought Revere ran off with his before they were even finished. Just two big, muscular dudes, one a pyromaniac with fire powers, the other a strongman with a tricorn hat, arguing over who made the better cookies. Even though the Fire Gang looked ready to join in on the side of Ash Burner, a member of said crew of fire-based supervillains, a mutual enemy ended their confrontation. Helio, a hero with a sun theme, wondered why they were arguing over such a womanly thing.

Helio made a few enemies at the party.

See? That’s why I don’t want to go around naming names and describing everyone. So many damn people in tights. Enough that the place was crowded by the time I arrived on Wildflower’s arm in my Banshee costume.

“That’s hot,” Helio said, standing nearby with a drink. He walked over to us. “Hello Flower. Who’s your friend and how much does she want me?”

“I want you like a punch in the head,” I said.

“Oh yeah?” He stepped closer, holding his cup out toward us. He looked me in the eyes and ran his tongue over his lower lip. “Flower knows I can light up your life.” He nodded toward my date.

I punched him flat in the nose and sent him stumbling back, spilling his drink on his costume. It smelled like fruit juice and alcohol. Spiked punch. People on both sides brought beer and liquor, but someone still went out of their way to spike the punch. That’s people for you.

And it’s not like I meant something by calling Wildflower my date. We’re not dating, clearly. She’s keeping track of a villain that she’s on friendly terms with, and I’ve got a soft spot for bestiality with my homo sapiens cousins. After all, if bestiality wasn’t awesome, why does it have “best” right there in the name? Either way, I was Wildflower’s date to this event, and that’s all I meant by referring to her as such.

My resorting to physical violence caused a small uproar, but mostly from Helio. “Get rid of that bitch! Arrest her! Do something, did you see that?”

I made a show of sniffing the air around him, “Whew, someone’s had too much to drink, don’t you think?” I asked Wildflower.

“Definitely. He just tripped himself. You didn’t spike the punch, did you?”

Helio stood up and tried to wipe the bright red liquid off his costume before it stained. Good luck with that. “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. She punched me!” He pointed at me.

I held up my hands, “I swear, I didn’t see a thing! I don’t know what he’s talking about. He came over, slurring his words, trying to hit on me. When I told him no, he called me a ‘fuckin’ dyke’.”

A disapproving murmur ran through the crowd like a streaker in a football stadium. A wild-haired man in a cape took Helio aside for a chat, but the didn’t eject him. I don’t think anyone at the party wound up “ejecting” him.

Wildflower and I mingled a bit, catching a few large grins from the men, but mostly just going around saying hello to a bunch of people I didn’t know. I had to shut down the identification program because it went crazy in there, so that’s one reason I’ve given up completely on saying everyone’s codenames.

Funny thing is, about four different people stopped me along the way to thank me for pinning the spiked punch on Helio. Note to self: don’t drink the 200 proof punch. The first one, a villain of some sort, even told me, “You don’t wanna know how drunk some people we all got off it at last year’s party.”

Oh, gee, I wasn’t invited to that one.

That said, I soon found myself facing Venus just before she and Wildflower did a bunch of happy hugging. When they finished, Venus held out her arms for one from me, and Wildflower shoved me into it.

“It’s nice to see you here,” she told me.

I grinned awkwardly, “Wow. Nice? You had any of the punch?”

She let me go, laughing a little too loud. “No, not at all. I’m just happy to see you.”

“Sorry,” I broke into a small grin, “Very few people are enthusiastic to see me.”

“Aw, that’s a shame, but it’s Christmas. Try to have fun.” She let us go then.

Walking toward the food tables, I asked Wildflower, “She’s nothing like I thought she’d be in this situation.”

“She’s been a little interested in you since you control Hero Net, and she knows we’ve been spending time together.”

“How does she know that?” I grabbed a piece of cheese out of a tray and looked over the other offerings.

“She saw us out at that Italian place.” Wildflower helped herself to a pig in a blanket.

Obviously, she’s talking about another time that wasn’t a date. She was hungry, I was hungry, and I suggested we take care of both at once at some Italian place I wanted to try. Just a meal.

I held out one of the pigs for her. “Here, try this. They’re really good.” She ate it out of my fingers, so I figured it was as good a time to ask, “By the way, are we dating?”

Wildflower held a hand over her mouth to keep from spitting anything out when she started laughing. After she finished chewing and swallowing, she smiled at me. “I guess?”

“Like, a relationship. Are we in one?”

“Um, yeah, kinda?” She answered, blushing lightly.

“I don’t even know your real name,” I told her. After a moment’s thought, I added, “And you don’t know me.”

Wildflower scooped up some macaroni and cheese and turned to me. “I’m Rachel, and I didn’t think I was into women, but I accidentally started dating one. I know her name and her life story, but now she says I don’t know her at all, so I’m starting to wonder what’s up.”

“Um…” I looked at her, feeling wrong for some reason. I’d say it’s a crisis of conscience, but I didn’t know I had the conscience, let alone why there’s a crisis. Maybe because I told her she didn’t know anything about me for real. Yeah, that’s a good one. I’ll go with that. I hadn’t said anything, so I used my brain to dial my phone. “Oh, whoops, let me get that.” I pretended to look at the number. “Yeah, this is important. Work-related. I gotta go take this somewhere quieter. One minute.”

I walked away. I really needed to get out of there. Happy people? People who like to see me around? And I’m dating someone now? No one’s running around, playing out a bunch of angles, trying to take advantage of each other. The sick fucks. I didn’t know how I got into this situation, other than following a chain of events that led up to it. No wonder I never get invited to these sorts of parties and actually hang out with most people for long periods of time.

So I ditched Wildflower and got away from the party.

Oh, and on Christmas morning, I woke up to a very lump bed. Even in my sleepiness, I felt dirty. Dirtier than usual. No, I wasn’t waking up next to Wildflower, either. When I opened my eyes, I found my bed full of coal. Pieces of coal, all over the place. Under me, next to me, on top of me. I was covered in black dust, accounting for the extra dirty feeling that morning.

“Dick move, Santa. Real dick move. But I suppose it was your call to make.”

I slipped out of bed and shook myself off. I ran my hands through my hair and found a few more pieces. “By the way, dirty old man, I better not find any coal hidden in me anywhere.”

A bit peeved, I fired off a low-priority email to Crash. “Find me a buyer for some coal. You can tell them it’s magical. It’s more than would fit in a stocking, but I didn’t put one up.” Next stop, the bathroom, where I hoped to take a shower. Except, when I turned on the shower, I got blasted with more coal dust.

Coughing and gasping, I jumped out onto the bathroom floor and tried to clear it all off. “Dirty pool, old man. Dirty pool.” I told Santa again, wherever he was watching from. “I’d ask what that’s for, but that’s a lot longer list than the kids.”

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Together For The Holidays 4

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Ah, Massage Sundays. That’s one way to mellow out: take a scantily-clad superhero out to get our backs smooshed by people not afraid to really dig those elbows in there. Nothing too crazy. Just maintaining my friendly facade with Wildflower, with a friendly massage where we were both nude under towels. Then a dinner.

It all started innocently enough. I woke up to find her watching me, vine-like tail twitching behind her. And me without a bra on. Unfortunately, nothing happened worth writing to Penthouse about. “Morning, sunshine,” she said, spinning a bra around in her hands. Rifling through underwear is generally a good sign. Otherwise, the person wouldn’t let themselves get caught at it. Crash has yet to find out how much I know about her panty choices, for instance.

“Mornin’ glory.” I yawned and stretched. Ya know, just giving a nice view of the girls. Just in case she needed help making decisions about…anything, really. How to wear her hair. What her favorite food is. Her sexuality. Just making sure she knew her options.

She tossed the bra at my head. “Looks like you need this.”

I winked at her as I put it on. “Still took you awhile to suggest that. What brings you into my bedroom and dresser drawer?”

“I have a free day, so I finally visited. ” she said, hopping off my dresser. “Things are crazy lately. You have to tell me what you think of this Misrule Lord.”

“Lord of Misrule. Kind of a tradition from the Romans for December. They had a king or emperor who presided over this week of feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and social disorder. Slaves were allowed to talk back to masters who had to serve them dinner. One of the traditions pre-Christianity winter celebrations, that happened to end on December 23rd. During the Middle Ages, various European countries celebrated this big Feast of Fools in roughly the same time period, like New Year’s. Feasting, reversal of social order, that sort of thing, with a Lord of Misrule appointed to head it all up. Or an Abbot of Unreason, if you’re Scottish. I thought that was funny.”

“So he’s one of you?” Wildflower pointed at me.

I shrugged. “The villains don’t know who he is either. We didn’t appoint him, but he’s generally been fighting crime.”

She scoffed. “In the worst way.”

“Oh yeah? What guarantee does anyone have that y’all aren’t planting drugs and weapons? Ooh, or how about when you bring in some beaten villain. How do we know you didn’t beat a guy up, shove them into some spandex, and say they did it?”

Wildflower eyed me, then picked up the edge of my covers and threw them over me.

“You’re a poor loser,” I told her, looking in the direction I’d last seen her. Then she hit me in the face with a pillow.

After that was the shower, then the impromptu decision to loosen her up good by taking Wildflower to a masseuse. Then, dinner. Like, with clothes on and everything, instead of her normal, skimpy superhero clothing.

There’s actually a somewhat good reason for that, if I haven’t mentioned it already. If a person doesn’t rely on armor for protection, then it’s useful to wear clothing that provides good range of motion and better aerodynamics for speed. Obviously, those sorts of outfits lend themselves to the imagination, and some people are either victims of that mentality or use it to get one up on the enemy.

Maybe I should be cautious about how it’s impairing my own judgment of the heroine.

We went out for some Japanese food. She had to stop and take a call while we dined on hibachi. I didn’t mind. I had to stuff myself with delicious vegetables. Remember, children, eat right if you want to grow up big and strong enough to tear a man’s heart out through his anus. Vegetables, meat, a glass of cold milk, and even a helping of dietary fiber. Trust me, the fiber helps a lot on the anal decapitation. That’s a really bad time for the victim to get constipated. And it’ll help keep you regular so that you don’t have to walk around in brown tights to save your dignity.

I heard her laugh on her way back. “That was so stupid,” she mentioned when she got back to her seat beside me.

I raised my eyebrows, sucking down some chow mein noodles. When I finished, I asked, “What?”

“The Lord of Misrule struck again,” she stopped and looked at me while easing down.

I cocked my head over toward her. “You can tell me. If I’m involved, I’d already know and there’d be no harm telling me. If I’m not, there’s no reason not to tell me.”

Such is the impeccable logic of Psycho Gecko.

“So,” she began, “he broke into city hall. Tore the door off its hinges. Responders didn’t know what to expect. Every room is decorated. There is Christmas and Kwanzaa stuff. I heard there’s a giant menorah on top of the mayor’s desk.”

I gently slammed my fist onto the counter. “That evil, holiday-loving bastard! When will they ever bring him to justice!”

Wildflower screwed up her face, trying to be serious while holding back a laugh. “This is serious.”

“I thought it was stupid?”

“You know what I mean. He broke in.”

“Did he steal anything or break anything but the door?” I asked her, picking out a delicious mushroom to chew on. “Or are you going to arrest the Lord of Misrule for a flaunting Empyreal City’s interior decorating regulations? What do you think they’ll get him for, illegal use of sprinkles? Tell me, did he have pure Columbian snow in there?”

One of the animals Wildflower had mixed in with her must have been a pig from the way she snorted at that one.

We didn’t spend the entire time discussing supervillainy, though. I got to try out the backstory I’d come up with for Norma Mortenson. Or at least the one I stole in a hurry when Wildflower asked me about my money and how I got to Empyreal City. How I’d married young to a writer who, while researching Jesus, had written a book that proved unpopular with very religious local authorities.

“He and his work were threatened until they forcibly checked him into a psychiatric ward as an alleged paranoid schizophrenic. They burned the manuscript, too.”

“Hearing of my plight, a man named Victor Faland approached me with a deal. I didn’t understand exactly what took place, but his attendants anointed me, injected me, and ultimately dressed me for a ball where I stood at his side as hostess. I met strange men and women, feeling worse all the while from whatever they did to me. I survived the event and found my voice can paralyze. I used my powers to quietly liberate my husband alongside Fiello, one of Faland’s underlings. “

“We succeeded, and Fiello led us in a victory toast with wine. I blacked out and awoke on the ground, next to my husband. Whatever we’d been a part of, Faland had tried to end us. The money from my husband’s insurance aided a lawsuit against the city and hospital that falsely imprisoned him and somehow poisoned him to death.”

“Now I’m in Empyreal City, helping others who have lost a part of themselves, hoping to find out more about the confusing events that empowered me.”

It’s a nice story. Wish I’d come up with it, but then a skillful adaptation can often be just as creative.

After dinner, we took a swing on the wild side, courtesy of her and one of Venus’s complementary grappling hooks. Wildflower swung me through the skyline, working off dinner. I offered to pay for dessert, but she said she felt full enough already. Instead, we sat and talked, staring out over the harbor, giving me all sorts of naughty ideas.

I fulfilled one of them that very evening. I mean, if Wildflower had stuck around, I probably wouldn’t have been able to slip away. The fact that she left after seagazing is why I had time to pull off my next trick.

I met Wildflower out on one of the roof sections of Double Cross HQ the next day, laying out a light picnic while viewing a very specific part of the harbor. When she flipped into view and landed softly beside me, I handed her a sub sandwich and nodded toward the Statue of Liberty. “The new look is hot, don’t you think?”

“You like what Misrule did to it?” she asked.

“Oh yeah. It’s got a Dr. Frank N. Furter look to it now, and I like Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I smiled, noting the ships surrounding it full of tourists, police, forensics, newsies, and architectural crews who aimed to examine the structure. Said statue now lacked its robe. In its place, Lady Liberty donned a corset, panties, garter, and stockings. Depending on your definition, I feel it counts as gay apparel.

Thank you, thank you, I’m very proud of what I’ve pulled off.

That’s what she said.

See, I find that the longer nights give villains like myself more time to pull off our capers. These cold nights especially. Who wants to hang around outside and witness a crime when it’s cozy and warm inside?

Sadly, Wildflower couldn’t stick around. I know, I know. Aside from shoving exciting new things up people’s asses, y’all’s favorite parts are the romance. But I had another lady desperate for my attention. That lady is Lady Luck, though she goes by the name Fortune Cookie. Her text wasn’t very long. “Sum 1 nose who u r.”

I sent back, “How?”

“DNA evidence.”

“Tell me where.”

I had a crime or two for daylight hours, it seemed.

When I stepped in the door of the lab, I wore a ski mask and trenchcoat that covered most of my body.

“Excuse me,” the receptionist said, standing up. She knew something was up, especially with my apparent lack of pants. I wasn’t a complete mannerless barbarian, though. I had shoes on. “Are you here to see someone?”

She stopped reaching for the phone when I spoke, my voice scrambled so as to hide my gender. “Yes, you could say I’m here to see men.”

I whipped open the coat, revealing several things. First, my new tank top that hid my tied-down boobs. Second, a pair of briefs. Third, a fire hose nozzle that stuck out of the briefs, pointed right at the receptionist. I tugged on the assault nozzle’s handle, unleashing a blast of fluid that knocked both me and the receptionist back. She hit the wall behind her desk, screaming. I hit the partially-opened door, laughing. Difference was, I was smart enough to make sure nothing got in my mouth when the creamy white fluid shooting between my legs splashed anywhere near me.

I fought my way to my feet with a little bit of help from one of the obedient buzzkills manning the tanker truck in the street. She helped brace me as I made my way through the place, doing an enormous amount of damage as I hosed down the lab with the stolen contents of one of the most busiest sperm banks in Empyreal City.

On my wanted poster, feel free to find the charge of “bank robbery” and pencil in “sperm bank robbery” after that. And if the receptionist gets pregnant, y’all might get to add a different sort of “assault with intent” in there.

The computer monitors were fun to send flying, but being a supervillain is really about being a people person, and I sprayed those motherfuckers from head to toe on my way to find their evidence samples.

I eased the handle back down when I got into the records section. I needed that computer. I penetrated their security and loosed a nasty load on the entirety of their records, soon replicating with their boxes and filing cabinets what I’d done to their electronic records. Unfortunately, time was too short and my ammo too limited to risk a full blown confrontation with responsive capes. No, I had to push in fast, unload, and slip out in a hurry.

I know it sucks, but I didn’t want to blow this subtle maneuver to hide my real identity. And even though I had to give the hose a tug from time to time and work out some kinks, my performance seemed perfectly adequate. Indeed, I strutted out with the limp hose hanging between my legs, proudly singing to myself in celebration of the job I’d just pulled off. “Oh I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”

As much as I liked keeping Norma’s record clean, working that closely with bodily fluids left a bad taste in my mouth. It made me feel dirty. Just to be on the safe side, I scrubbed myself down in the shower for two straight hours and requested that Crash get rid of my pearl necklaces.

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Together For The Holidays 1

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Oh, I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, dee dee dee dee, there they are all hiding in their holes. With Oligarch gone, you’d think they forgot all about the idea of running things. I get it. Not everyone’s leadership material. There are lots of other materials they can be, instead. And, if they run into the wrong interior decorator, they might even become wallpaper material. Or even dress material, if they put the lotion on their skin.

I held a videoconference for The Order. The camera showed me standing in an empty meeting room in front of a small wall made of donut boxes. “Greetings, fellow alleged criminals and crime enthusiasts. I’m glad to see so many of you stuck around and joined me for this little get-together. We needed a talk, and I figured people were a bit hesitant to come together in person after what the heroes did.”

“They have to pay!” Man-Opener interrupted. His screen showed him still in his eyeless, mouthless helmet. After he said it, other villains formed a little chorus of agreement.

I held up my hands to call for silence and to hint at my objection. “I’m not sure it should be us who does that. After all, we technically tried to do the same to all the heroes. Are we forgetting Oligarch blowing up the asylum where we kept them?”

“How did they get out? Oh yeah, why don’tcha give up the goods on that?” asked Powder. She looked like she’d already gotten into some donuts of her own from the white around her nose. I’m sure she just got really enthusiastic while baking with flour earlier.

I threw up my hands due to feigned ignorance rather than autocannibalism and told them, “I don’t know how they escaped, but we all knew it was a personality. I mean, somehow killing them all in one fell swoop seemed too good to be true, didn’t it? Besides, what happened at the docks may have been for the best. You heard the Seals went after him. It was only a matter of time before they thinned the herd, and they could have done worse. Would you really put it past the government to bomb the city and blame on dead supervillains?” I leaned forward on the table to look intimidating for a second before remembering I was showing off the girls. I stood up and crossed my arms rather than making it apparent through sudden movement that I had forgotten about my chest-mounted dual airbags.

Not that they’re air. Nope. All natural. If you were to take a sample, they’d still show me as having a Y chromosome, but altering my phenotype means I can do a bit better than saline or silicone. I could have made a fortune with my nanites being used for all sorts of medical purposes, and even gotten away with a lot of stuff with all that money on my side. But I wouldn’t have been able to be me. There are only so many people even the wealthy can get away with killing.

In the United States, at least. I could go to Argentina, kidnap a few hundred people, chain them up, drug them, then dump their sedated asses into a river to drown and the States wouldn’t give a damn. Hell, Saudi Arabia’s going to execute a guy for the crime of being an atheist. Personally, I find it pretty bullshit that a bunch of Middle Eartern islamists go around executing infidels.

And before y’all start, since this is the internet, I feel I should point out there’s a difference between Islam and Islamism. It’s like the difference between Christianity and Christian Dominionism. It’s like I’ve always said: don’t hate blindly. Learn to hate people for who they are. Because everyone’s uniquely terrible in their own way. And that, folks, is why prejudice is wrong.

I decided to add that, “If we keep this cycle going, it will give them an excuse to come after us, right? I know I’m new around here, but that’s how it works, right? Otherwise, you’d think it would be a bloodbath out there.”

That got a round of nods from most of the villains. Then Man-Opener spoke up again. “Informal agreement since World War II. The scales are balanced. Technically. We should hire Psycho Gecko if we want Forcelight dead.”

“I’ve never met him, but Oligarch didn’t seem to want him around. He’s strong enough to get away with it, right?”

“That guy’s nuts,” Giuseppe said without looking up from whatever he was tinkering on. He had a loupe over one eye to help him see as he assembled something.

A wolfman with scorched fur added, “We only tolerate him because he’s crazy and he usually goes after superheroes. I got away with gold bars because of him. He distracts superheroes, too.”

Man-Opener joined in so the wolfman couldn’t get another word in. “He is not that strong. I could take him. He draws so much attention because lethal force is his first, last, and only option. When he shows up, someone is going to die. Murder matters more than stolen gold to the police and heroes. He also does crazy shit.”

A goat nodded its head rapidly, then grabbed it when the goat head mask started to slip. “One time, I heard he destroyed a helicopter with a banana.”

Roadkill scoffed. “What’d ‘e do, stick it ina tailpipe?”

The goat person started to answer back that of course helicopters don’t have tailpipes when someone spoke up louder. “I heard he used a walnut. He threw it at the correct angle to ricochet into the pilot’s mouth, thus choking him and making him crash,” Giuseppe said.

As flattering as it was to hear supervillain ghost stories about me, I had to shut them up. “So, does that mean we can’t hire him? I thought we could just pay him to hang around and tell the heroes we don’t want another big war or we’ll send him after them specfically.”

“It’s risky.” Terrorjaw said reaching around for something. He found what he was looking for, a toothpick, and brought it to his mouth to pick at something. Instead of pulling out a chunk of chicken or something, one of his teeth wiggled loose and he pulled it out, freeing the license plate stuck in there between it and the next one over. I hope that wasn’t from Thanksgiving. It’s not good to leave food in your teeth that long. Then again, the guy swims in the waters of the state of New York. There’s probably no disease on earth that can overcome his immune system. He’s probably got a cure for AIDS in there somewhere.

I spoke up again. “Well, this isn’t about being the boss. It’s a suggestion. I’m not the boss of the Order. Y’all are about to abandon the Order, but I don’t think it’s time to fall apart. This can be a social network for villains. Think about it! The heroes are organized enough to pull what they did at the docks. Why not have a way to see if anyone can watch your back on a job? Like, if you need someone who can do one thing, you can ask around. Come on, guys.”

While not the most elegant of arguments, you’d be surprised what you can convince people to do by saying, “Come on, guys.”

The various villains didn’t exactly give me a standing ovation. It’s not like they had a spokesman. They sorta mumbled, but at least no one said no.

“Well, just think about it, everyone. Don’t forget we have forums and an instant messenger service. Everyone who signs up will receive a box of donuts by private courier. Please don’t eat the couriers, Terrorjaw. Also, anyone caught signing up more than once, I will distribute your name to the others so they all know you have lots of extra donuts you can’t eat by yourself. Just think about that.”

I had to rush out of there because I had another meeting to attend by video. I triplechecked that I was disconnected and then connecting to the right one. This was not a time for humor. Besides, as I saw the monitor fill up with the faces of heroes where villains had stared out before, it wouldn’t be all that funny for me. That’s not a punchline I want to be on the receiving end of. Like a conga line of angry knuckles.

Shit, I really am outside my own brain lately if I’m worried about heroes punching me. Still, I forced on a smile as I looked at them, and gave Wildflower a little wink. “So, how is everyone? Glad to be out in time for Thanksgiving?”

“Absolutely!” said one enthusiastic voice while others had more muted affirmation. Clearly, some sick bastard was a morning person. That ain’t right. Morning people should be taken out back and shot, preferably about two o’clock, after the rest of us have had time to wake up, shower, and fix a quick lunch. Hell, you’ve seen how much of this story involves doing stuff at night. Do you really expect me to hold regular hours?

“I’m glad so many of you answered, becuase I want to keep this little social network service going. Y’all like it?”

“Why?” asked someone I couldn’t care less about in a lime green mask.

“It works, right? It’s not like Shieldwall, but you get to team up, share tips, coordinate patrols. I mean, it’s helpful. Plus, it sounds like you’ll need it. You know, the Order is doing the same thing.”

“How do you know? Can you get us in?” asked Forcelight before taking a long chug from her coffee cup. Bah, coffee. Relying on some drug to stimulate herself. Just abusing caffeine like that. Compare that to the villains. Do y’all think any from that group was doing something as unhealthy as drinking gallons of coffee? That shit stunts your growth, I hear. I mean, just look at Powder. She’s so think, she probably works out all the time, and she still has energy to bake up a storm. She’s always got some flour or granulated sugar or baking soda around. That’s a good role model right there.

Anyway, I had to put a stop to any notion of me helping the heroes spy on the villains. “Nope. Can’t do it. They’d know it’s me the moment y’all stop a crime. You’ll get what, only a few villains? And I’ll be outed to people like Terrorjaw and Man-Opener. I know you don’t like me, but that’s vicious. Geez. The crap, Forcelight?”

I threw up my hands, exasperated.

“Calm down. We appreciate your help and nobody wants to get you hurt,” Venus said, trying to calm the situation down. “If you can give us a heads up without getting caught, we would appreciate it. You don’t know where the servers are or who is running it?”

I shook my head, lying my ass off. “Sorry. It’s one of the others.”

“Hey, that’s alright,” Wildflower said softly, “I’ll stay signed up. You’ve done right by me and everyone else from the asylum.”

Ooh, there’s some classic guilt. I wonder if she’s Catholic.

The heroes expressed more enthusiasm than the villains at least, so I grabbed my phone and sent out a text. “Sorry, everyone. It’s great you’re all so enthusiastic, but I have business to deal with, too. Just keep the system going. Share tips. Make friends. Have awesome team-ups.”

To the villains, I sent out a notice on the Order’s network. “I just found out the heroes are coordinating thanks to shared captivity. Everyone, you NEED this service.”

I logged off to let the heroes do their helping people thing, then had to call up Crash, my personal assistant. “Crash, I need a shitload of couriers. We have to move some donuts. Try not to wreck your car doing this somehow.”

“Miss Gecko, you’re the one who wrecks my car,” she said.

I rolled my eyes. “Crash, you’ll never get ahead making excuses like that. Just handle it. I’m going to be in an important meeting seeing to my Buzzkill minions.”

“Enjoy your TV, ma’am.”

She said that because Beetrice, the Queen Bee, had been staying in my penthouse. Her hive had taken up residence in the bunker underneath the building, but she insisted on staying with me. Not for sex or anything. She’s really disappointed that I can’t give her baby Buzzkills, but enjoys cuddling me in front of my huge ass TV.

When I walked in, I found her bouncing on the couch while the credits of some new Marvel super women’s noir show rolled. When she heard me enter, Beetrice spun around and vaulted over the back of the couch. “Psycho Gecko, I am so happy you are here! I’m going to be a superhero!”

Well, there was nothing more to do at that point but toss my TV over the terrace and watch it crash onto the street below. Or maybe onto a car below. I called Crash back. “Addendum: have someone clean up that TV I just threw out. I think it hit-”

“My car!” she screamed into the phone.

“Crash, that is not an appropriate volume level for a business environment.” I got a cluster of cusswords as a response. “You take the rest of the day off and think about how you’re supposed to be acting, you hear?”

“-up your pert, curvy ass!”

“Don’t make me have to file a claim with HR over inappropriate sexual comments either, young lady.”

I hung up and sighed. Beetrice walked over and put her lower set of arms on my shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just so hard to find people who appreciate what I do for them. Beetrice, take me to the bunker. We’ll go put on Christmas Vacation and teach the hive about the meaning of Christmas.”

Beetrice lifted me princess-style and carried me over to the elevator. “Peace on earth and goodwill toward man.”

I shook my head. “Amateur mistake. It’s all about presents and pretending you aren’t a dick.”

“But you have a-”

“Christmas Vacation, Beetrice, not The Vagina Monologues. Chop chop.”

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Local Politics 13

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At last, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It was difficult to convince Venus that all I wanted to do was fake killing her. We just had to make a big enough public spectacle out of it.

On Thursday, she swung over to Double Cross HQ like she’d done so many times before. The gleaming hero in a gold, pink, and white padded costume that exposed her belly and neck. She didn’t wear the full suit of armor that Forcelight, her ally, had made for her. Instead, she wore a pink and gold exoskeleton that gave her big metal gauntlets and shoulderpads. It also included light armor plates on the sides of her limbs and along her spine. Oh, and a visor that covered her masked face.

A visor and a mask. When she says secret identity, she means secret identity. Assuming she ever did anything other than hero.

Only, this time, she carried a warrant for my arrest. She showed it off after helping herself in through a window using one of those rods she’s been using to swing around the city. Playing the role of a distressed villain caught off guard, I did what any reasonable person would do. I pulled out the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink and hosed her down.

Instant fanservice. That’s right, I managed to get Venus all wet as a woman. More importantly, it gave me a chance to legitimately get away without having to make it too obvious I was in cahoots with her. Oh yeah, baby, gimme those cahoots. And don’t worry about catching anything. I had my cahootie shot.

After hosing Venus down, I gave her a closeup of my melons. I threw them, and the grapefruits from my fruit bowl, at her head. I only had a single apple in there, but I tried to hit her in the throat with it. Then I grabbed a banana, peeled it halfway, and came at her with it.

She grabbed my wrist, easily overpowering me. I dropped the banana and caught it with my other hand, then mashed it over her visor. She picked me up by my wrist and tossed me toward the living room. It put some distance between us while she cleared the gunk off, so I ran for the terrace. I heard Venus running for me as I slipped into a harness clipped to a cord and jumped off.

Down I fell, wondering if Venus would jump after me. On the one hand, she might want to save me. On the other, she might know it wouldn’t really do her any good if I’d already jumped. When the cord stopped me, tensed, then pulled me back up, I figured I’d get to find out.

As I shot back up, I saw Venus had fired another rod into the side of the building, but hadn’t yet jumped. When she saw my ascent on a bungee cord, she swung off to intercept me. Except it wasn’t exactly a standard bungee cord, and I didn’t slow down. I unclipped myself and tried to enjoy the sensation of being flung several stories into the air with nothing around to catch me but the hard roof. Friction and gravity did some hanky-panky with my inertia, which is a property of matter, and I actually landed fairly softly on my feet.

Oh look. A greenhouse. A simple, unassuming greenhouse. But not just any greenhouse! A greenhouse with a cannon. I ran in there and punched the release button to fold up the walls and ceiling.

This was the tricky part. It required precise aim. Also, a mark to let Venus know what part of the wall she needed to jump up from. It helped that I ran over to the edge and looked down. I still had access to the cannon’s fire control from afar. That’s why, when Venus landed in front of me, I just hugged her, spun her around so her back was to the cannon, and said “Hey, guess what I’ve got up here?”

I ducked and fired. The smoke and huge banging noise obscured my ability to determine if it hit at first, until I realized I felt fatter than normal and pushed Venus off me. When I ducked, she must have gone down on me. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.

Ok, so she didn’t go down that way, but she ducked on top of me. When I realized she was alive, I tried to push her off me. I had to yell at her to remind her of the next part. “The door!” I pointed to a maintenance hatch by the cannon. After shaking her head a bunch of times, she nodded and crawled over there under cover of smoke.

I joined her, picking my way over what blood and gore had landed on the roof with me. Ok, so I had to a gimmick things in case Venus dodged. I used some very special ammunition. Forget armor-piercing, hollow point, incendiary, or high explosive. This November, cannon shells come in new smokey BBQ pork flavor. Yep, a pork shell. Strong enough to kill a human at point-blank range, but weak enough to explode into gore on its own. Between mine and Venus’s contacts, any DNA tests will confirm that meat chunks are all that’s left of her.

Yeah, Venus has friends in forensics labs. Go figure. Now, they can even get away with calling her a pig.

Unfortunately, Venus still survived, but she had to hide in Double Cross HQ’s new bunker. As for me, I got a replica of Venus’s costume. You know, for reasons. Important reasons. Reasons aside from feeling it. We tore it up a bit so I could present it to Oligarch. He was so happy, it appeared to have caused constipation. Or maybe I can’t read his face that well. He didn’t seem all that happy at first.

He cheered up in a hurry when he realized it was time to declare The Order’s ownership of the city. I told him I’d rather not stand out as much, so I’d be bowing out of the press conference. Why? Because Oligarch immediately settled on Friday the 13th as the date for the big announcement.

That’s all well and good for him, but I had a prison to break. Again.

I opted not to do all the work prior to the expected date of explosion. This, I explained to Venus, is because I didn’t want to be the one to set off the explosion. All I told her is I knew one was going to happen to clear up the heroes once and for all. She didn’t know that I knew it all thanks to a clairvoyant, and she didn’t need to know how I knew. Knowing how I knew is on a need-to-know basis.

Though I did check in with Fortune Cookie again to get the exact time. I started moving in only a two hours prior. I didn’t even want to give them that much time. A lot can happen in two hours. That’s also why I had to go in that early. Some of the security measures we put in place were pretty hardcore. We buried Forcelight in a fucking block with a catheter. I’m sure there are others, but I can’t just rely on the heroes being able to solve all my problems.

That’s why, when I stepped out into the abandoned mental asylum, I looked less like a horror movie victim and more like a horror movie survivor. Jackhammer slung across my back. Chainsaw in hand. Dynamite stuck in my belt. I rolled a cutting torch kit with me.

“Hello,” one of the clowns said casually as I walked in. “Doing some work?”

I smiled at him and stepped close, my boobs showing blatant, some might say explicit, disregard for his personal space. “Just beefing up the defenses. Speaking of which, is there a camera up here?”

I turned to follow when he pointed up to one of those dark half-circle camera casings in one of the shadowed corners of the room. I turned back to smile at the guard, then proceeded toward the door. Just before I left, though, I poked my head out and burned through the camera with my eye.

“What was that?” the guard asked, looking at the camera, then back at me. I threw a stick of dynamite at him, causing him to dive behind his crappy Ikea desk for cover. I hadn’t actually lit the dynamite, so it was perfectly safe for me to set down the cutting torch and chainsaw, then walk around to the other side of the desk and snap his neck. Then I took back my stick of dynamite. Never know when you’re going to need more dynamite. Not bad for seasoning a steak, either.

Though you really shouldn’t throw it. It’s a more stable way to use nitroglycerin, but it can still go off from tossing it around. I mean, feel free to play around with it all you want, but I wouldn’t take that sort of risk.

So I walked down the hallway, pulling the kit after me and balancing a stick of dynamite on the flat of my chainsaw blade. I had an idea to turn on some music, too. Emilie Autumn’s “Fight Like A Girl,” a song that a pretty big section of the internet would not care to hear. Then again, I’ve spent plenty of time as a guy fighting a female nemesis, so it’s not an anthem I could get away with most of the time either. Odd, though. I expected more guards.

I turned a corner and saw a pair of clown guards running my way. Well, that’s right on time. “Ooh, better not drop this!” I said as I flicked the dynamite off toward one. He scrambled to catch it, then tried to figure out if he should drop it when he realized what he was trying to hold onto. While he did that, I used the chainsaw to knock his partner’s gun away and started it with a crank.

“Groovy,” I said, raising an eyebrow. I swung the chainsaw, sending blood gushing as it began to chew through the second clown’s throat. The first one was just laying the stick down when I handed him the chainsaw. “Hold this for me?”

He let it drop, the rude asshole, which made something of a Pez dispenser out of his buddy, with blood as the candy. I kicked him in the balls to double him over, then knocked him out with one well-aimed smack of a boob. Yeah, I wore my brass nipples.

It took me a couple minutes to boob him to death. I guess you could say that, as far as damage went, I really nipple and dimed him.

Shutting off the chainsaw, I made my way down the corridors, a spring in my step as I headed for the security office they used to keep a good eye on everything. Yeah, right. Stick someone in a room with a bunch of cameras and they’ll be bored and tired before you know it.

Thing is, I didn’t find anyone when I got in there. The lock was too old and rusty to lock properly, so I could let myself in, but there wasn’t anyone around. Before I could even get a good look at the monitors, I felt some wind from behind me.

The air conditioning didn’t work in the asylum.

I whirled around and got a sting in my arm as I saw a man in a yellow and green costume standing there, holding his hand out at me. I looked down and saw he had a glove with a pair of blades mounted on the wrist. One of those blades currently resided in my right bicep. I looked back up at him, with his grinning yellow mask with solid green eyes, then back down at the blade. Yep, that’s a stab wound alright. Bleeding and everything. Then I looked back up again. “You ass-guzzling skunk chingus!” I yelled as I punched him with my left.

I punched him, then everything kinda blinked and people from behind grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. Which is odd, because the only thing that had been behind me was a desk with security monitors on it. I didn’t have the luxury of thinking time because of all the costumed people clawing and hitting and kicking. Also, I think someone copped a feel and someone else made a hurtful racial remark. Just getting that on the record for any potential later civil suits. I finally got a chance to ponder my predicament once I heard someone call out for them to back off. Which is good, since it gave my mind a moment to realize I hurt like a motherfucker.

“Norma?” asked the familiar voice of Wildflower. My neck was just a bit sore…possibly worse than sore…at the time, so I didn’t bother trying to look at her.

“S’ok, Wildflower,” I gasped out, wondering when my kidneys migrated to my lungs. “I’m here to rescue you.”

“You’re late,” she said, moving into my view. She looked better than she had for awhile. “But better than never. We got out on our own. Here.” She offered me a hand. I took it and she pulled me up. I tried to stand, but then the dizziness set in and I had to lean heavily on her. “Concussion, maybe? Hey, what did you bring?”

I didn’t feel like talking much and just motioned down to the cutting torch. Then I touched the strap on my shoulder. “And a jackhammer.”

The escaped heroes helped themselves to both, causing me to wince when they unstrapped the jackhammer and the touched my arm wound. “Ympe got you clean. We can patch it while we work on Forcelight and the others.”

Wildflower picked me up princess style. “I thought this would be easier than you walking like that.”

“My hero,” I said sarcastically.

She laughed. “I couldn’t have gotten out without you.” She set me down, then had someone else pass her a first aid kit so she could at least stop the bleeding. Ympe, the green and yellow man, let a bunch of heroes crowd around with my tools. Then the entire group disappeared. It was then that I realized we were in something of an infirmary section. Geez, I hope the first aid kit isn’t from when the hospital was open.

“How’d that happen?” I asked. Then I winced as she cleaned my wound. Geez, want to stick a hot poker in there while you’re at it? Yet another way in which nanites are superior to sterilizing a body with alcohol and sewing it back together. It’s basically a matter of sticking the body parts in the right place and hoping they grow together.

“I told you I heard people. We found a way to communicate, and I overheard from the guard that they had C4 tripwires on the doors. He talked about it with you, and I have really good hearing. They didn’t expect me to be strong enough to overpower them, but I have you to thank for that, too. We passed along information and arranged a breakout using morse code and here we are.”

Morse code? Who the fuck uses morse code nowadays?

Well, heroes, I guess. Whew. Glad that wasn’t my fuck-up.

“Tigerlily, we’ve got to go,” I told her.

She nodded as she took out a needle and thread to start sewing me up. See? That’s how it happens. “We’ll go when we get everyone out. It shouldn’t be long with the equipment you brought in. You were really here to break me out, huh?” She looked up at me and smiled, showing sharper teeth than I remember. It looked like she had a little reddish substance on them, too.

At first I winced again as the needle pierced my skin, but I got over that soon enough. “Yeah, that’s why we need to go. Oligarch’s claiming the city as his. Don’t ask how I know, but he’s planning to blow up this place in less than two hours. If you can get everyone together, I have a bunker where y’all can all hide.”

“Hide?” she asked. She bit through the thread easily enough and packed the kit up.

I sat back against the cool wall, trying to let my aches subside with my eyes mostly closed. “If y’all all go out on your own again, they’ll just get you all again. I think we need one big fight between everybody to settle this. Just how did they keep a teleporter here, anyway?” I had wondered about that seeing that Ympe person in action.

“He takes people and things he’s touching with him. He says his power feels him and things touching him out so it won’t take half a person, but it can’t teleport anything too big. He has to know where a place is in relation to his current location to get there, too. Someone asked about that, because even in those chains he could have gotten out to the police.” She walked over and knelt by me, looking me over.

I opened my eyes the rest of the way to look back at her. “What?”
“Thanks. You tried to get me out.”

“Sure, I try to do my good deed and get the shit kicked out of me by a bunch of your friends. Yep, you’re grateful. This is why I don’t do favors for sadomasochists.”

She giggled at that, almost starting me on it until my chest remembered it hurt. “I am grateful. Don’t go taking advantage of my gratitude, now.”

I raised an eyebrow as I looked her in the eyes. “Me? Take advantage of your gratitude?” Moments like this made me glad to have a mental condition characterized by superficial charm.

The heroes had rounded up most of the guards except for the ones I had handled, and the place hadn’t been built with a line going to the outside, so there’d been nothing to slow them down or alert The Order to the breakout. Nonetheless, we all got out of there with plenty of time to spare, with a few windowless black vans meeting us at the other end of the sewer tunnel I took to get there.

I had to pull those vans off elementary school duty, but I figured it was worth the loss in profits from weed. Hey, don’t act like that. It mellows those bastards out. Besides, when we tried to sell them candy instead, they just ran away screaming “Stranger danger!”

In the end, Wildflower, Venus, Forcelight, and all the other rescued heroes save The Saurus gathered around the TV sets in the bunker to watch as Oligarch demonstrated the power of himself and his Order by destroying a random target. Olirgarch hovered over the city in his armor, then raised an arm in the direction of the old asylum. An arm plate shifted to the side and a rocket fired, much bigger than his usual micromunitions. One news chopper managed to zoom in on them enough to show a resemblance to a Minuteman missile.

Ah. Giuseppe. Oligarch must have wanted him around to design that for him. I guess even the former head of the Master Academy can only build bombs so small. Say what you will about Giuseppe, his work is da bomb.

The Miniman intercontinental ballistic missile didn’t have enough range in that form to nuke Russia, but it easily reached the asylum and detonated with an explosion that created a mushroom cloud and absolutely wrecked the sturdy old building and a few other nearby through a combination of raw nuclear fission and the resulting shockwave. The Starbucks across the street will be serving its Chernobyl Mocha Machiatos from now on. Fortune Cookie was right about the chances most of these costumed crimefighters could have survived that. As a side note, I know we had a Mastermind Cafe nearby that’d be getting a lot more coffee business from now on.

“There goes the neighborhood,” I said, ignoring the dirty looks from the heroes around me who realized I was joking. Venus in particular shot me a look. I swear, sometimes I get the feeling she doesn’t like me no matter who I am. I guess I just rub her the wrong way.

On that piece of mental imagery fanservice, Gecko out.

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Local Politics 10

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“And then they were looking for an engineering achievement to rival the Eiffel tower, until this guy named Ferris got an idea for a giant moving wheel…but enough about The Devil in the White City. Time for the good stuff.” I looked down at Wildflower and began flashing her. “Well?”

“Beautiful,” she said, looking up at me with rapture on her face. She wiggled around to try and take in as much of the UV light from the portable UV lamp I carried. She’d gotten incredibly pale and lethargic, too. The guards informed me she hadn’t even been finishing her swill. And this is high quality swill, with at least a 50% chance of not containing any spit. “If only you could bring me something to help me sleep.”

Actually, I didn’t agree with the swill policy. Too much spit takes away from proper swill consistency. I mean, we’re basically talking gravy, grease, and food bits. Or maybe grits that have been watered down. There’s a lot of good swill recipes out there. Surprise your family at Thanksgiving this year with a healthy portion of swill.

Besides, you have to feed prisoners at least enough to keep them healthy. That’s part of why I brought some nice stew for her. That, and it made her like me more. I’d been paying visits to her and realized that I had to do better than fast food. Plus, cold weather is excellent for stew.

Turns out, she liked the UV light a lot more. It gave me an idea, too. “You know, if you were to pull off some of your clothes, you might be able to absorb more of the light through your skin. Go ahead, give it a try.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she asked.

“Well, ya know, caring about you as a friend…”

“And being a lesbian.”

“I had my suspicions about you, Tigerlily.”

“No, you are. You’ve been flirty.” She had a point. “You’re like a guy sometimes.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I like women. Still, this isn’t about that. How are you?”

Wildflower reclined in the light, taking it in. She looked greener already. He stare bore into me in contrast to her luxuriating pose. “I can hear the voices. People screaming. I’m not the only prisoner here anymore.”

I nodded, trying to look sad. “Yes. They’ve captured a lot of heroes. Things are pretty depressing out there.”

“Even if I get out, it won’t be enough,” she said, curling up and wrapping her arms around her legs.

I knelt down and put a hand on her knee. “I’ll get you out. I’ll get you all out. Somehow.” I looked at the ground and bit my lip. I know, it didn’t inspire confidence. That’s probably why Wildflower put her hand on mine and gave it a little squeeze. I made sure to turn my gaze away from her.

“Hey, look at me,” the heroine said. I did. “Thank you for everything. I believe in you.”

I made up an excuse to leave soon after, but left her with a thick blanket. Next to the door, I saw the guard watching a monitor. He tried to avoid looking at me. I put a hand on his shoulder, “Too bad, bucko. No gay porn this week.”

Back in the outside world, Crash had a message to pass on to me. “Hey, I don’t know where you’ve been going, but I don’t like you being out of phoneshot. Anyway, that bug doctor wanted me to tell you that the grub you brought back isn’t a normal queen bee grub.”

“It’s giant and made by bee people. I hope I wasted money on an entomologist capable of recognizing it isn’t a normal grub.”

“It’s started to transform, and he says it’s not developing right. He wanted to see the mother, so we showed him. He thinks that what’s wrong are the queens. They aren’t right. They aren’t all bee. Or all bee people, whatever.”

“They aren’t?” I asked.

“He said the legs were an obvious giveaway.”

I took a moment to wonder at that, then slapped myself in the forehead. Yeah, she had extra legs, and managed to grab hold of me with extra arms. Eight limbs total. “Insects have six. Arachnids have eight.”

For those with amnesia, it’s worth remembering that when I first obtained these Buzzkills, they were in the custody of an anthro-arachnid in Japan. She took over her group of insectoid villains after a coup and seemed to be abandoning the Buzzkills. She must have been doing something else to them. “So what’s all this mean?”

“He thinks they won’t work right unless there’s a full-blooded queen.”

I don’t know how that’ll help anything. Besides how the hell am I supposed to do that? I really don’t want to go all the way back to Tokyo. Then again, that spider lady wouldn’t even have full-blooded ones. What am I supposed to do, make one?

Now there’s an idea. “Thanks for passing all that along, Crash. How’s the business side of things?”

“We’re surviving. Everyone’s making their own decisions pretty well now.”

“Okily dokily. Keep me abreast of any developments. I need to go talk to a man about a bee.”

Fifteen minute later, I stood on a street corner in a dirty coat, fake beard, and tinfoil Napoleon hat. My voice sounded normal on my end, but I scrambled it in the call. “Technolutionary! How’s it going?”

“Terrible, Gecko. We’re mapping your entire genome. I hope you don’t have any harmful mutations, or they’ll be part of the new race we’re going to create.”

I hated to do this, but this was right up his alley. “I’m trying to sabotage someone…a Japanese gang that uses these bee people as minions. They corrupted the queens to make them more amenable to their rule. Made the queens crossbreeds, I think. I want to uncrossbreed a grub that’ll become a queen, or something like that.” People looked at me oddly as I spoke like this, all the while crawling on the ground and addressing a pigeon.

“I’ll look if you have the grub.”

“I’ll rustle that grub up to you. Is there anything else you need?”

“Oh? Interested in my needs suddenly? Come to think of it, I’m set for now. I have all the test subjects I need, and the supplier you gave me has provided everything I’ve asked. It’s been quite refreshing, actually.”

I stood up and brushed myself off, then wandered off to go call up Moai. Suddenly, I realized the flaw in having someone that can’t talk keep track of the advanced scientific research Technolutionary worked on. But… “After you give me a rough outline in writing, I need you to do a drive-by grubbing. Actually, better not throw it at him. It might…burst…or something gooey like that. Just get it to him. Eh, you can actually work on the outline after you get it to him.”

I know Moai got it out to him before the end of the day before giving me an idea of Technolutionary. He had been using the homeless again, and most of the supplies he’d ordered looked like they could have matched what he’d been doing. Except he’d also been getting some of our prosthetics. He might have a few for testing if he’d made further progress in merging humans and technology. Yeah, when I saw he’d been getting a few each time, I told Moai he probably should sneak around Sigma. I think Technolutionary’s stockpiling his robot people.

Robot people, bee people. Whatever happened to people being people? Or, in my case, multiple people. It’s almost like they’re making up for the fact that I’m like three or four people. Myself, Missile Patriot, Banshee, Norma Mortenson…yeah four different people at least.

I woke about noon the next day to a ringing in my ear. It wasn’t because of the Manischewitz wine bottle on the nightstand, either. Good stuff. I like the Concord Grape especially. That shit is my jam.

But, no, the ringing was Technolutionary, who decided to start my day off yelling.

“You ask the world of me twice in a row! I’m not magic, as you well know. These interns…. I swear, you’d think they never ran a centrifuge before.”

I winced. “They’re interns. Geez, don’t you ever sleep? It’s the middle of the day. And, anyway, many of them haven’t run a centrifuge before. Even if it wasn’t so hard that Sigma Labs couldn’t do it.”

“The people behind Sigma aren’t around anymore. Nevermind the scientists. The test subjects alone would be an amazing find. A light shining into the darkness of ignorance.”

And there’s another idea. “What about if I could get you the DNA from one of them?”

“The more the better.”

Back to the sanitarium I went, along with a cooler full of beer. Sewer access makes moving supplies there difficult, but I could at least wheel that much in to help make my visits more tolerable for the guards. Depending on how much of Wildflower I decided to carry out of there, it might be nice to have them friendlier toward me or potentially drunk. Plus, the ice can help flesh fresh. Keep your flesh fresh with new solidified water today!

Solid water, a Double Cross product, all natural, organic, no preservatives, no MSG, and biodegradable. If people complain that we’re rebranding ice, I’ll just say it’s because our ice is fat free. How many other bags of ice actually say they’re fat free? What do they have to hide, huh?

Well, I’ll tell you one thing, Double Cross has lots to hide! Big secrets! Skeletons literally packed into our closets, and that means we don’t want to waste time lying on the little things.

Anyway, the guards that I was pretty swell and wanted me to stay and have a beer with them. In fact, they wanted me to have several beers. I’m sure many women would have been uncomfortable with a bunch of criminals in monster clown masks inviting her to down a twelve pack at night in an abandoned insane asylum, but not me. After all, I was the serial killer who tended to wear a mask.

One of them did interrupt me before I could head right in to see Wildflower, though.

“Since we got used to your weekly visits, we go ahead and disarm the failsafes,” he said, bending down by a set of wires by the bottom hinge of the door.

“Failsafes?” I asked. While the guard was distracted, I messed with his computer and decided to give it monitoring problems.

He stood up and played around with some wires on the top hinge. “C4. Man-Opener delivered a load, set it up. If anyone tries to leave who doesn’t know about it, the ceilings will blow up.”

“Sounds messy for anyone stuck underneath it,” I told him. “Just the two there?”

He dusted his hands off, “Yup. Go on in.”

I walked in, hands behind my back. Wildflower looked up at me from her rusty old caught against the wall, wide awake. “You’re back?”

“I’m…sorry. I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I was thinking of you. I think about you a lot, you know. Especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. So I thought about how you can’t sleep and I had my people make this.” I brought my hands around and showed her the small case I brought. I opened the top and revealed a needle.

Wildflower sat up. “What is it?”

“Just something to help you relax and sleep. It just gets you to sleep, though. I’m not an anesthesiologist.”

Wildflower jumped up and threw her arms around me. “I’m so tired, but being here reminds me too much of Sigma. I keep thinking something might happen. I can handle guards, but I don’t want a supervillain jumping me.”

“I could watch over you…” I trailed off, giving her the option to accept.

She nodded, then held out her arm. I took out the needle and set the case on the floor. I slid it in, finding a vein, and injected her. She stepped closer to her cot and I went with her, easing her down when the drugs began to affect her. It was almost sweet, watching her drift off. She ran her hand through my hair, then it went limp as she conked off.

With her out like a light, I went ahead and started extracting blood. Not too much. Not enough to kill her. Hell, not even enough to weaken her. Yeah, yeah, all that talk about body parts was just for laughs. I know it wasn’t that good of a joke, but how about a hand?

I grabbed hair and skin samples, too. Just in case. Little things she wouldn’t miss.

And maybe I sat with her for a few hours playing Payday 2 offline in my head and eyes. What? Doesn’t mean anything. Maybe I’m just lazy and like to relax inside decrepit old buildings. Besides, no one was around to think I’d come down with a case of Tourette’s every time the drill jammed in the game and I had to fix it. Seriously, I hate that broke-dick, piece-of-shit drill.

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Local Politics 8

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Work, work, work. Too many things to do and not enough time to discuss it all. According to Technolutionary, his work is still taking time. To think I was ever concerned he’d pull this off on his own. He assured me that the delay was merely a normal part of the scientific process. I told Moai to sneak over there and get a glimpse of what Technolutionary’s doing.

I also haven’t heard from Fortune Cookie in awhile. I always thought seers blabbered all over the place. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist. I’d also have been banned from state lotteries and Las Vegas. Not that Vegas would be all that happy to see me anyway, I suspect. I’m beginning to suspect that other villains really don’t like me. Maybe I should ask her more about that. I just figured that if she’s willing to actually help me given her obvious discomfort for me and my methods, she’d prefer to have more input. Then again, maybe that’s the only way she can stand it.

It’s important to get a sense of people like that. Deep down, through all their differences, people are fundamentally the same. They want the same things. They react the same ways. Everyone bleeds the same color. I should know. I have lots of experience among a wide range of people.

I left her a message at her number, which claimed to be a psychic hotline. I told her I wanted her to get back to me about this Order of supervillains seen around.

Kinda important to keep a handle on this. While my stuff is working on profitability, I have to juggle this Order mess and somehow make them further my goals. At first glance, capturing heroes doesn’t necessarily work with that. I haven’t been the most clear to y’all, so here’s what I need: more superhumans. I need more heroes, more villains, more neutrals, and more defenses in general. I might even need a specific way to draw the foreseen alien invaders to this city. Sure, in the movies, they love to stop by Empyreal City. But how do I know these aliens don’t like rural America? After all, people out in the middle of nowhere always complain about waking up with probed asses. Personally, I’d blame the moonshine and the horny neighbor, but they went with aliens and there might be a hint of truth to that.

Ok, so I need to lure in the ass-probers and make sure I have a large group of men and women in spandex costumes to beat them off.

That’s why I requested the guys making the prosthetics create a few sets with room for weapons. Gotta fix those up and get them into the right hands. Well, not the right hands. If they had hands, they wouldn’t be getting the cybernetic parts, unless I wanted to be as much a dick as OCP and amputate someone’s limbs to give them that stuff. The question is: who do I upgrade? It’s reasonable to assume I wouldn’t want to give all that power to some cop who’d just turn around, barge up into the boardroom, and shoot me through a window. Buuut, if I gave it all to a career criminal, there’s really no reason he or she wouldn’t try the same. Or just take off and run.

I need someone with a sense of duty, and some loyalty wouldn’t hurt either. Like the Buzzkills. Well, hell, the Buzzkills. I’d forgotten about them. Ok, let’s table the cyborg discussion. I called up Carl and asked him about the Buzzkills.

“We put them up at the docks, paid up. They have a whole warehouse to themselves,” he informed me. “The people who deliver the sugar never said anything.”

“Just humor me and go have a check. Make sure they know you work for me. Make sure they’re getting enough food or whatever.”

Let’s see, what else…I checked on Wildflower and Forcelight, too. With Forcelight’s powers being what they were, we had to keep stuck in a cement block. I hear they had a hell of a time getting the catheter set in there so she could use the restroom. That’s not the sort of medical care you can just hide in a scoop of ice cream. They also keep the room dark. I don’t know if that helps, but it couldn’t hurt. I mean, might drive her insane with fear, but you kinda expect someone in an asylum to be mentally ill.

Then again, that Rosenhan guy would take issue with that. Famous psychiatric experiment. A guy and a few helpers claimed they heard a voice saying stuff and got admitted. Then they acted normally and told people they stopped hearing any voices, even started taking notes. The staff didn’t believe them and would only let people go if they took medicine and admitted they were still mentally ill, though some of the other patients did guess they were actually sane researchers. As for the staff, they decided that all this note-taking and claiming to be sane were more symptoms of insanity. The guy himself, Rosenhan, was stuck in there for two months.

When some other institution heard about this, they claimed it would never happen there, so Rosenhan told them that over a period of three months, one or more fake patients would try to get in, and that the institution had to guess. During that time period about half of the patients who came to the institution were suspected of being fakes. Rosenhan never sent anyone.

The study had a nice name, too. “On being sane in insane places.”

I guess it doesn’t really have a lot to do with actually having locked heroes up. I just find it interesting how easily the sane can be trapped in that situation. And now heroes are in that situation. Plus, with the staff taken to wearing clown masks, it looks like the inmates are running the asylum. In a lot of cases, their just monster masks painted to look like clowns. I like ’em, and the guards like that they’re staying anonymous in style.

I gave Wildflower some more decent food and a stack of books. I gave Forcelight a ridiculous hairdo.

My little Pyscho Sanitarium, as I’ve personally nicknamed it, is a little too thick for cell phones, so I didn’t get Carl’s messages until after I got out. He sounded worried. “They’re taking people! Get down here! I’m callin’ security to get guns!”

Oh great. Now we got a fucking horror story on our hands. I called him back once I hopped in my car and got no answer. Repeatedly. I called up Double Cross Security, too, wondering who and what they had on the way to the warehouse. All I got from the man on the line was a “Huh?”

“VP Carl said he’d call in. Something happened at a warehouse by the docks, he said he’d bring in backup.”

“We don’t have any record of anything like that, ma’am.”

“I’ll get back to you,” I told him, then checked in with Accounting. I had them trace where we were renting a warehouse and delivering huge quantities of sugar. I also had Crash go down, find that armor in the art gallery, and bring it in her car. “And no wasting time looking for someone else’s car to bring it! Lives could be at stake.”

Which was true. Even if the Buzzkills or other folks around the docks had already ended Carl, their lives would still be at stake.

Then it was back to Security to arrange for my own personal army to invade a small section of Empyreal City. They would move in from the south with our own fleet of vehicles, including Tacticals and armored cars with turrets. I’d head in from the north. I met Crash at the gate there to get my armor. Yes, she saw me don it. If she didn’t explicitly know it before, now she does.

The only thing she asked me was, “You don’t want me to take my car in there, do you?” She pointed toward the north gate.

I shook my head even as I noticed a few husks of beehive in the fence. Little pieces, like from normal insects. “No, this is something I have to do alone, with a private army. Your car will only end up totaled, somehow. I’d find a way. While this is the season for people to explicitly not split up, I think you’ll probably be ok if you’re nowhere near this place.”

I chose stealth when heading in this time. I crashed in through the gates riding on the roof of somebody’s modified station wagon. Its front doors formed an angled bulldozer blade on the front of it, and I controlled the wheel and speed with a pair of ropes.

I charged off through the docks, blaring out Two Minutes to Midnight from my suit while navigating around cargo containers, equipment, cranes, and all that. My HUD couldn’t tell me where Carl called from, and I don’t know what he’s driving now. Maybe the very station wagon I commandeered.

You know, I figured there’d still be some workers wandering around. Something, anything that reacted more readily to all the noise and movement. That’s one of the things about hunting. It’s easy to see a moving target, since most of the environment doesn’t move. And when there is a lot of movement, still targets stand out a lot more. That’s why you flush things. That, and it makes the bathroom smell better.

Rather than take the scenic route, I figured I’d just pop in the nearest warehouse for a quick look-see. I had to jump down and hang off the rear. It was that or get knocked flat on my ass. I don’t go around getting my ass kicked for y’all’s entertainment. I do it because asses have needs to. Fetishes, even. Listen, my ass is a consenting adult and I stay out of its business, so y’all should too.

That building didn’t have much. Just huge, ominous hives. The wheels of the station dozer crunched over it. I pulled to a stop and waited as the Buzzkills buzzed out in miniature form, then grew into anthropomorphic, androgyne black and yellow bee people. They looked a lot brighter back in Tokyo, and their angles were rounder and curved. Here, the black didn’t reflect anything and the yellow was darker. They had spines sticking off their bodies now.

I waved at them and hopped on top of the car. “Hey guys!”

I couldn’t make out their buzzings, but some of them knelt.

“Yes, good. I deserve it. But can anyone tell me what’s going on? I hear something about people getting taken, and then my friend Carl disappeared around here earlier today. Anyone got any answers for me?”

They all stopped and turned toward a larger section of the hive where a bit of human flesh stuck out. I jogged over and pulled out…some random person. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much-” I shoved her back in when it turned out she wasn’t Carl.

“Guys, Carl isn’t a woman. Don’t y’all know the first thing about human gender?”

The nearest Buzzkill glanced at me, then around at its buddies. Then its hand morphed into a curved mixture of stinger and blade. It took a swipe at me. I grabbed its blade easily.

“Hey, you’re not supposed to attack me! I’m your boss. I’m your god. I give you sugar! Sweet, sweet Colombian sugar!”

Just then, I got a call in on my secret identity’s line. “Boss! It’s me. Security got me out, but they had to fight for it. Are you around here too? They had to burn one of the nests. The bugs are goin’ nuts!”

That explained some of the hostility, like how two more of the Buzzkills stepped up in front of me to try and free their friend. The others maintained their distance. I let go of the one I had, trying to see if I could salvage things. “I understand the other guys did something wrong. We’ll fix it. More sugar, right? After all, you’re a growing species. I brought you over in a single crate.”

The three Buzzkills seemed to consider it, buzzing back and forth between each other. I thought I remembered something about colony insects using smell, or even interpretive dance, in order to communicate. Unfortunately, the only smells I naturally produce make people want to kill me, so instead I settled on shaking my hips like Bombalurina during Macavity the Mystery Cat.

When they went quiet, I had a feeling negotiations didn’t go favorably. I reached into the hive and pulled out the captive woman just in time to catch the three stinger blades they shoved at me. What else was I going to do? Dodge? That’d require mild effort on my part.

“Ah, fuck it.”

I turned invisible and escaped, making sure not to make a smell that would give away my position. Getting out wasn’t difficult. The difficult part will be taming the Buzzkills all over again. I’ve put my top entomologists on it, which required hiring some top entomologists. In the meantime, the docks of Empyreal City are currently under quarantine by sufficiently bribed police under orders from sufficiently bribed agents from Customs.

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Local Politics 6

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If anyone is wondering where we kept a captured hero like Wildflower, that leads us back to the asylum. It occurred to me that I didn’t need to buy the old thing. We’re criminals beating up and kidnapping heroes. Why worry about the legality of owning the place we put them?

Still, I didn’t want to shoulder the cost of security alone, so I contacted Oligarch and convinced him to get some other minions camping around the place. That way, it keeps me from looking like I have a part in it to anyone who comes looking. Plus, that is one miserable, run-down wreck of a building. I don’t want my guys camping out there. It’d be terrible. Inhumane, even. Nah, I just kept the heroes there.

Heroes, plural. Nobody had nabbed the big ones mentioned at the table yet, but we were starting to get some prisoners from lower down the totem pole. Scrubs. Though, I don’t exactly have intimate knowledge of how reputations and being known work for heroes, except that power and skill helps a lot.

Either way, we got a couple of other inmates locked up well away from Wildflower’s cell. I saw that personally when I went to visit her. The rusty old cell in a dilapidated old asylum may not seem that secure, but this was an old-school asylum. Lead and asbestos and meant to be filled fifteen people to a five foot space. Plus, I’m pretty sure Wildflower can’t manipulate dead plants. If she could, a lot of people’s shirts and pants would have rebelled against them while on guard duty.

Backed up by a trio of men with light machine guns covering the entirety of the opening, I swung the door open and poked my head in. “Hello there, sunshine. Is everything to your liking?”

She squatted in the corner to the left of the door, keeping on her feet like she’d pounce. I hadn’t straight-up walked in, though, so the most she could do is grab my head. That didn’t give her many nonlethal options. I shook my head. “Now, now. I’m just here to talk. I stepped in and allowed the guards to close the door, leaving me alone with Wildflower.

“You did this,” Wildflower accused me, shivering. Sure, now she shivers. When the wind’s blowing against the side of a skyscraper and she’s fighting crime in ho clothes, no shivers. But lock her up in a cold metal room with no heating for a few days and she finally shows some ability to feel body heat.

I shook my head again. “No.”

She shook her head, her hands resting on her knees. My, she did have some long nails, didn’t she? “Yes, this is because I’ve been watching you. Don’t deny it!”

I tried to look concerned as I stepped over, kneeling down. “No, honey, no. I didn’t like you hanging around, but I had nothing to do with this. These people, Wildflower, they’re supervillains.” I don’t know if the wide-eyed look came across as sincere as I tried to look.

“What are you doing here then?” She spat at me.

I glanced back at the door. “I saw when that man on the motorcycle went after you. Security was happy when you didn’t come back, but I got worried. I don’t like you, but I’m not trying to kill you. Or imprison you. I pulled some strings, paid some people. I found you here.”

“Get me out,” she said. “There’s no sunlight in here.”

Well now. Is that the cold or the shakes, little miss part-plant?

“I’m not sure I have that kind of pull. Not yet. And…well…” I bit my lip. “I’m not sure I can trust you. Now, wait,” She bared her teeth at me. “You think I’m up to something. You’re watching me, Venus is watching me, and the first thing you did was accuse me of putting you here. I’m sorry, it’s not what you want to hear, it’s not what I want, but it’s hard to be sure you won’t…”

She growled at me.

“Listen, they won’t let me let you out. I’ll try, I will. I don’t know what they’ll ask of me. But I’ll try to help you. In the meantime, is there anything I can bring you to help you out some? You look cold. How are they feeding you? How about a pillow?” I reached out and laid a hand on hers.

She looked up at me. “I don’t believe you.”

I stood up and backed toward the door. I knocked on it, shave and a haircut. The guards popped it open. “Hand me the bags,” I instructed them. I kept an eye on Wildflower as they passed me a pair of paper bags, one of them from a fast food place that isn’t paying me for advertising. To Wildflower, I said, “I didn’t know where they were keeping you, but I figured it wasn’t nice. So here’s a double cheeseburger with fries and a pillow.”

I laid both on the floor between us. Wildflower looked between me and the bags, then stretched out to take them. She dug through the bag and almost ate a mouthful of wrapper in her urgency to shove the burger in there. I turned back to the guards, “What about the milkshake?”

The guard shrugged and shook his head, looking embarrassed as he could behind the hood he wore over his head. “Really? Give me something here. It’s a burger. You need more than whatever you’re letting her drink to down one of those things.” He offered a bottle of beer. I grabbed it, then felt something off. I shook it, then smelled the open top. Holding it back out to him. “I said beer, not piss.” He tossed the beer over his shoulder, then walked out of sight. One sound of a cooler opening and closing later, he came back holding the remaining two of a six pack. I set them down next to the non-food bag.

“Ok, there’s some beer to go with the food and pillow. It’s memory foam, so it’s good for your head. I guess you need a blanket too.”

She murmured something. “What was that?” I asked.

“A UV lamp would help more than a blanket, if you can.” She looked at me with wide-eyes now.

I nodded and smiled. “I don’t know if they’ll let me, but I’ll see what I can do for you.”

When I left the room and they closed that heavy steel door, I turned to the guards. “Don’t ever let her see the light of day again.”

One of them nodded and lifted up his gun. I pushed the barrel back down. “Not that way. I mean no sunlight. I think she gets something from it. Do you really want to be known as a guy who kills superheroes? Geez, you’d need to be crazy to want that kind of heat.” I threw my hands up as I walked away. “So hard to find good help around here. And y’all owe me a milkshake.”

We set up a number of alternate entrances and exits so people could escape without being spotted. Which worked out great for me. With Wildflower missing, Venus has taken to checking in on me randomly. It’s not round the clock coverage.

Of course, one of my biggest highlights was the return of Crash to active duty. She walked in just in time to hear me complain about why nobody’s been bringing all my business messages to my attention. I looked up to see her walk through the door, her smile going from sincere to painted on in less than half a second. “Ah, about time you showed up. You’ve been taking a lot of paid leave lately, missy.”

“It was my car again, I thought-,” she started.

I threw my hands in the air. “Always that damn car. And never your fault, either, or so you claim. What excuse are you going to use this time, someone just fell out of the sky onto it?”

Crash set her hands on her hips, jaw open, nodding. “Yes, actually. You sent me an email right after it happened. In fact, I think you were the person who fell on it.”

I shook my head and tut-tutted. “You can’t go through life blaming all your problems on everybody else. You have to take responsibility for your own actions if you want to be a mature adult. Now, get to work. I haven’t been able to get a thing done without you here to let me know what needs my attention.”

She sighed, but sat down across from me and started checking through her tablet. “The budget report looked important. The email is marked urgent.” She bit her lip as she read.

It is fun to take a bit of enjoyment in being a corporate asshole. It’s one of those little privileges you get from being in control. But, as I looked at Crash there, I remembered all too well what it was like to be on the other side of that. People treat you like crap for no other reason than they can. I used to take contracts eagerly to knock people like me down a notch. I stood up and walked around to the other side of the desk, then gave her a hug that probably seemed a bit awkward from where she sat.

“Uh…what?”

“I appreciate you.” I let go and patted her on the head.

She blushed as she looked up at me. “Ok…”

“Now then, let’s take a look at those- holy fuckbeagles.” I had glanced over her shoulder at the budget report. Whoever wrote it must have been briefed on how I liked things, because the bottom line under the projections simply said “After New Years, we’re fucked.”

“We’re going to need a big score or two,” I mentioned.

Crash scrolled up. “I found something here from a Prof. Electro. He wants an appointment to discuss investing in a scheme to hold the city ransom.”

I looked him up on my eye HUD. Big fan of electricity. Likes to act flashy. One of the last heists he pulled was to rob a truck carrying gold to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“I thought I said I didn’t want to listen to the schemes of every criminal in the city. Don’t we pay people to turn down people like this?”

Crash read through more of the email. “He insisted and pulled an electro-pistol, so they told him they’d set him up.”

I rolled my eyes. “Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill. Alright, I’ll see him. And while we’re at it, get me a list of other richy-rich businesses around here. Investment firms, banks…ooh, and insurance companies. I have a much more lucrative idea than this city ransom bullshit.”

Yes…it’s so brilliant…forget stealing gold, or diamonds, or cash out of vaults. We’re not even going to commit insurance fraud. No, dear readers. We’re going to stick it to some assholes who need sticking. Let’s extort us some insurance companies!

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Local Politics 5

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Another day, and yet another dollar spent. Of all things, Technolutionary insisted that my genome is too complex to fully map on his own. And then genetically graft to homo sapiens on his own. He claimed the only way he could get things done in time was the brute force method: wave after wave of grad students.

What an idiot. “How the hell do you propose to get grad students, you crazy, research-hungry bastard? They work for the only currency we can’t provide: college credit!”

“Listen to me, this is brilliant! Brilliant, I say! The fools will work for free. All we have to do is call it…an internship.”

That magnificent bastard. I gotta give him credit. It’s brilliant. He sent over the entire business proposal. All we had to do was muscle in on local colleges. I don’t understand why we weren’t getting in on this scam before now. Shit, I should start handing out student loans next and really put the hurt on people.

But enough about destroying the hopes and dreams of human beings. I intended to tell y’all about hunting and caging human beings instead. Or at least, superhuman beings.

Ah, hunting sentient beings. It’s an interesting pastime. Some people will even pay to take part in that, so long as it’s not a fair fight. Then again, the same could be said of people fighting regular game. I have yet to see a hunter go after a deer bare-handed. Which reminds me, at some point I should find a way to give deer a fighting chance. Like knifehooves, or perhaps a biological rocket system located in the anus. An internal constipation engine, of sorts.

That’s a gag for another day, though. Wildflower’s the joke of the day today.

It’s been a bit complicated by the lack of knowledge about her powers. Allow me to demonstrate what went wrong.

The first attempt to capture her was pretty straightforward. She perched on my balcony again, so I politely shooed her away with a fire hose, further emphasizing the chilly October day we found ourselves experiencing. In order to justify my use of firefighting equipment, I followed it with a Molotov cocktail. Yeah, that’s the correct order.

It caught her off guard because, as far as she knew, I’d just been carving a Jack O’Lantern, showing off my artistic ability to screw up knifing a pumpkin, when I suddenly pulled a hose on the scantily-clad heroine. Knowing the importance of keeping my hose in line, I left it by the bar and ran out onto the terrace to confirm Wildflower’s fall from grace.

I looked down, expecting to see her either splatted on the road in some degree of distress, or caught in a net that my guys were supposed to string up between Double Cross HQ and the building across the street. It was there to catch her, both by arresting her fall and putting her in captivity.

She slashed through the net. Unless my guys disregarded my very specific orders to buy the good stuff, that should have been kinda tough. But no, she slashed through a portion and used it to swing over to the other building, then dug her claws into the glass and concrete over there. Guess that answers the net question. For good measure, she then jumped out over the distance, caught the Molotov before it hit the ground, and was caught in turn by one of the sidewalk trees that grew and stretched in her direction.

We can safely add sharp claws and plant control to the list of powers. Super strength and agility, too. I sighed, walked back to the bar area, grabbed the pumpkin, and threw that at her too. Better than keeping it around my penthouse. I also send out an email to the entire office that plants, alive or dead, are no longer allowed in the building or any other building we own. Just like the company health plan, though, we were willing to pay out for rubber.

Later that evening, she stopped by during the office party. I looked out by the window to see her poking her head down from above, watching us. Now, the rest of us were all just having some punch and pie to celebrate the end of another successful work week of fleecing people. We actually made some money. Not enough to offset the massive startup costs of creating a corporation from scratch, but we’ll get there. We’ll get there. Like I said, just need to start selling to high rollers and maybe rob a high-value target.

I threw the party for two reasons. The first was morale. I think a lot of the anonymous drones we’d hired got the general sense that this whole effort was slapped together and not at all how these things went. I’d actually mentioned that at the very beginning in a few brief remarks. “I know we aren’t the usual company. We haven’t necessarily worked in this environment before, so there’s a lot of useful stuff we don’t know. Useful stuff that every company like this knows, even the dead ones. But I bet we all know a hell of a lot that those other companies don’t, especially the dead ones. So don’t think of it was a weakness, that we don’t know the established way to do things. Think of it as freedom. We can learn to do it our own way, and with our own special flare, too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure you’re all eager to sample some pie!”

And, just as food and drink served as a way to make a community happier and bring it together, such displays of revelry were also accepted as decent times to temporarily bury the hatchet. And the thing about burying the hatchet is, you always want to be the one to do it. That way, you can memorize the location and come back later, when the other guy is sleeping, to dig it up. Now, I find that a hatchet is best for soft tissue damage, somewhat like a knife, except that it requires a swing instead of a thrust or slice. That means you need more room. And while the stomach area is your best bet for stabbing someone, a hatchet can stand a little bit of metal-on-bone action.

Here I am talking about how hatchet someone instead of getting on with things. I had just enjoyed a nice slice of pie and extricated myself from a trio of former credit card identity thieves when I saw Wildflower looking in on the party. I waved and smiled, then motioned for her to come in. She narrowed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at me. I held up a fork in one hand and a plate of apple pie in the other. She crawled down the window, providing an interesting view in the process, and slipped the window open enough to sniff around. Then she pushed it wide open and hopped in, landing on a pair of bare, clawed feet.

I smiled at her, “I know I got you all wet earlier, but feel free to come and enjoy my pie.”

She turned her nose up at me, “Hmph! I think I will, but you better not hose me down anymore!”

I followed along, setting my fork on my plate so I could reach out to trace a finger over her exposed shoulder. She jumped and glared back at me. I shrugged. “You looked…soft. I was curious what moisturizer you used. If you’re not putting lotion on your skin, it would suck to get the hose again.”

She batted my hand away with her tail, perhaps not fulling picking up what I was putting down. Of course, I mean pretending to put down. Unless she can do some plant pheromone thing. Then we can blame that while also advising DC comics to sue her for copyright infringement. Poison Ivy wants her shtick back, and she doesn’t like people taking parts from trees.

“Ah, miss! I was informed if you showed to offer you this very special pie in order to, as our dear President put it, ‘bury the hatchet.’” Said the fellow catering the event. He offered the entire tin of pie to Wildflower, who took it with a smile but sniffed cautiously at it.

“What flavor is this?” she asked.

“Peach, but with extra special seasonings,” said the caterer.

She sniffed at it, dipped a fork in, brought the forkful close to her nose. Then she whirled around and walked right over to me. “Catnip!”

I shrugged. “I thought you’d enjoy it.”

She narrowed her yellow eyes. “You’re trying to drug me.”

“It’s catnip! You’ve got the cat vibe going on. I thought it’d be like, well, catnip toy ou.”

“Stop being nice to me. It’s creepy.” She balanced the pie tin in one hand as she glared at me.

I shrugged yet again. Dealing with Wildflower gave my shoulders a workout. “If you insist.” I palmed a tiny remote and pressed the button on it. Then I stepped back as my personal electronics started to go wonky. The positively-charged electromagnet inside of Wildflower’s pie tin activated, as did the negatively-charged ones in every other pie tin in the room. Even as the pull of magnetic metal on Wildflower alerted her to the danger, ever tin flew at once.

Acting with incredible reflexes, Wildflower threw the catnip peach pie at me, smacking me in the piehole. I saw her throwing herself to the side just before my vision failed due to the pastry and the magnet. I barely had time to even try and pull it loose before pie after pie slammed into me. I swear a pumpkin pie tried to force itself down my ear, while something softer smooshed onto my boobs. Banana cream, maybe? The overwhelming simultaneous impact of dozens of pastries knocked me down.

I was down for awhile. Seven minutes before someone through to pull the tin off my face. I know they had to dig me out, but I can’t be sure what else happened to keep them from rescuing me any sooner.

I was nettled. Super nettled. And I might have to add super reflexes to the list. I’m not sure if you could say she had a danger sense of some sort. Such foreknowledge is ridiculous and unrealistic except for clairvoyants, but reflexes and enhanced speed count for a lot.

So finally, I did indeed call up Herne. “You done wif those Looney Tune tricks, ‘en?”

The next morning, I awoke to a ruckus on the outside of the building and ran out onto one my balconies. You know you’re rich when you have multiple balconies. My fuzzy pink pajamas proved little defense against the cold, but the sight of Wildflower fleeing a man on motorcycle down the side of the building warmed some organ inside of me. The spleen, maybe.

You read right: a man on a motorcycle. He raced down the side of the building on a chrome monstrosity, antlers standing up proudly from his helmet. He held a spear to the side in one hand. Or maybe it was a rifle. He raised it up and shot something from the end. Whatever it is, he missed her. When they hit the street, I called him up. “Hey, send off toward 33rd. Circle her around, then goad her toward 44th. I have a plan.”

“You have a pl-?” I ended the call. I didn’t need no lip.

I raced down to the art gallery and threw on my armor. Moai poked his head around one of the exhibits of a nude Greek guy. “Hey, Moai, you seen my parachute around here somewhere?” He nodded and tossed it over. I slipped it on as I headed over to where the window should be and tore down the drywall we’d covered it over with. Taking a few steps back, I lept…and smacked into the window.

Damn. I remembered too late that I DID order these things to be made strong enough to handle human bodies being thrown into them with some force. From the floor, I called out, “Moai! A little help, please?”

He nodded, then bounced over and headbutted a hole in the window for me. I gave him a thumbs up. Then he picked me up and threw me out. A little less thumbs-worthy, but I appreciated the effort. Unfortunately, I really should have thought about the weight difference of a parachute loaded down with me in my armor. Oh, sure, y’all think of that now. I didn’t think about it until the ground looked considerably closer. At that point, I adopted a holographic disguise as a woman in all-black clothing and a ski mask, then tried the parachute. When it didn’t slow me down enough, I also considered panicking. I started drawing up a panic plan and everything.

9:05:53 AM, start waving arms frantically.

9:05:55 AM, scream.

9:05:56 AM, urinate.

9:05:58 AM, land hard on Crash’s new car, which softened the blow. Injuries minimal.

Ignoring Crash’s crying on the sidewalk, rolled off the messed-up vehicle, shooting an email to Crash’s inbox informing her that she can take some paid leave to get another new car. Meanwhile, I jacked a taxi. No passengers, unfortunately.

Now, the reason why I requested the pursuit head down 33rd is because 33rd dead ends into 44th. Well, technically it dead ends into the foundation of the higher road that is 44th, but either way, it’s one big wall. It’s one of those things you learn if you flee the cops enough times. I hoped Wildlfower didn’t have it down yet, given her relatively short career as a heroine. When I got within sight of the 44th wall, I texted Herne to go ahead and bring her on.

Four minutes later, I heard them coming. Wildflower snarled and panted as she pounded down the road on all fours. Behind her ran glowing translucent hounds. Ghosts? Spirits? Magic? Don’t know. I know that every time Wildflower attempted to flee down a side road or alley, they cut her off and tried to nip her. Herne herded her as well, aiming his shots with the spear-rifle thing to also keep her from escaping.

The only way left to Wildflower was forward, through a dark tunnel under 44th. SMACK! Oh wait, there’s no tunnel under 44th, is there?

Herne skidded to a stop next to her and clamped a pair of handcuffs on her wrists and ankles. Then ropes. Zip-ties. More ropes. Duct tape. He looked up at me when I tossed a pair of fuzzy pink handcuffs over for him to use on her.

I projected pulling off the ski mask and grinning at him, then held up my cellphone and pressed a button. The hologram of the tunnel disappeared, though the phone and button were for appearance only. “How do you like that Looney Tune trick?”

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