Cassie: Part 9

“Do it, and hurry,” I said. “The guy in the van could be anywhere by now.”

And maybe I shouldn’t have said that because Sam didn’t look quite so happy afterward. I need to remember to think before talking. She’d have hurried even if I didn’t say anything.

On the other hand, she didn’t argue with me.

She pulled a foot wide, metal basin out of a pants pocket, followed by a canteen of water. The pocket could never have fit the basin, warping and bending as she pulled it out, but appearing completely normal by the time it was out of her pocket.

It went the same with the canteen.

After she poured the water into the basin, she said a few words over the bit of plastic. I didn’t recognize the language. She could have been making the words up.

As she said the last one, the water in the basin bubbled, turning into an office building even if it did look odd. Brick, and at least seven stories high, it slanted away from the highway.

Under the darkening sky, hazy images of cars, and their glowing headlights left a strange glow on the alley’s walls.

“There?” Rod stood, leaning over us. “That’s Georgetown. It’s not that far from here.”

Sam said, “Just a second, I still haven’t found the van.”

The image changed, going through the building in a flash of brick, desks, potted plants, motivational posters, and gleaming floors, and ending in an almost empty parking garage.

The van sat alone, the back doors closed.

“That’s it,” I said. “That’s the same van, but where’s the guy?”

Sam shook her head. “I don’t know. I can’t find him. If I had piece of his clothes, or hair, I could.”

“If I’d known you could do this, maybe I’d have tried.”

Sam frowned and the image disappeared.

Oops. Shut up, Cassie. Just shut up.

* * *

Fifteen minutes we were riding in Rod’s old, green Ford Focus. Sam looked overweight and white again. Rod, of course, was not in troll form. He wouldn’t have been able to fit into the car, much less drive.

“Since we missed the concert,” he’d said, and popped a CD into the CD player.

It wasn’t bad. It sounded like something Vaughn might listen to—a little bit of an Arcade Fire sound maybe.

I sat in the back, watching as we passed brick houses, other cars, people standing and talking outside, feeling the breeze from the open windows.

“So which is the real you? What I’m seeing right now, or what I saw back there?”

Sounding a little surprised, Sam said, “Not this. It’s an illusion. Normally I look more like I do when I’m Red Hex.”

“So you’re Indian or something?”

“I was born here. My parents grew up in Pakistan.”

“Okay. Why don’t you look normal now?”

Rod said, “Oh, don’t get her started on that.”

“My secret identity. There’s no reason for Rod and I to know each other. We went to different high schools and never met until running into each other on a Stapledon weekend.”

“And we found out we were both from DC. I’m at Catholic University of America. She’s at Duke, but we could have met each other hundreds of times.”

“But we didn’t,” Sam said, “and none of my friends would recognize you, and none of your friends would recognize me, and if anybody went asking around they’d learn we met this year when we couldn’t possibly have met.”

“We could have met this summer somehow.”

“We don’t have any common interests.”

“Got it,” I said. “Sorry. I wasn’t trying to start an argument.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rod said. “She’s just paranoid.”

“I’m not. Cassie, what does your team do?”

“We try to be careful where we change, but we’ve already had people figure out our real names.”

Sam drew in a breath. “What did you do?”

“The Mystic’s a telepath. He fixed it.”

Sam began to say something else, but sirens started going—not police either. To me they sounded like tornado sirens. Did D.C. have tornadoes?

“Hey,” I started.

“Crap,” Rod said. “Do you see anything?”

“See what?” I asked. Sam was already staring out into the twilight outside the car.

People walking on the sidewalks stopped and looked up, or got closer to buildings. A few started to run.

“Heroes, villains, monsters, explosions, whatever. I’m betting whatever they were fighting downtown’s got to be heading this way.”

“It could be something else,” Sam said.

“Let’s hope not.” Rod said, turning off the CD, and switching to the radio.

“Shouldn’t we be going somewhere? Don’t you get alerts through your phone or something?”

“The Liberators and the Young Liberators get alerts. We’re not in the Young Liberators.” Rod pulled his hand away from the radio.

A man’s voice coming out of the speakers said, “—urge anyone out tonight to get inside immediately, and to turn on the lights. This is especially true for anyone near the Potomac river—”

“What does that mean?”

Sam said, “I… don’t know.”

“Yeah well,” Rod said, “you know what sucks?”

I looked over at Rod—at the back of his head at least. “What?”

“That building the van’s in is just off the Potomac.”

12 thoughts on “Cassie: Part 9”

  1. …and for some reason he couldn’t just be a cool friend she met online?

    Quick, NBA Commissioner Jordan, turn on the superhero signal for all of D.C. to see! *the night sky is lit up by a skull and crossbones symbol* Good, now they’ll know to get inside so that if Superduperman passes gas, he won’t fling the flesh off a 9 year old. That’s a lawsuit that you lose even if you win.

    Gotta suck to be a superhero in DC though. Not enough to have the FBI or other hero groups on your butt if you screw up, you gotta answer questions and get chastised for every Representative Tom, Senator Dick, and Aide Harry whose campaign needs to show them cracking down on out of control supers.

    I bet if Awesome Abe, the only U.S. President with size-changing superpowers, was alive today, he wouldn’t put up with it. Alas, he was assassinated by Curtain Call, the skillful actor/hitman/model, when he attended Ford’s Theater near the end of his presidency.

    At least the historical teammup of TnT is still around to protect DC from any time related villainy. Teddy ‘n Tesla. One can hunt anything, the other can build anything.

  2. @PG:

    “The Explosive Times of TnT” deserves it’s own full color webcomic. If only I could draw. Or write…

  3. Captain Mystic: Somewhere out there, a drummer played a sting just as you finished typing that…

    PG: Buried within the humor are a couple things that may actually appear someday. I can easily imagine congressional hearings on superheroes operating in DC.

    One of the others will come up too, but alas, not Teddy ‘n Tesla… (Sorry, Luke…)

  4. Ooohhhh! I’m pretty sure that means that Abe Lincoln DID have size-changing superpowers in this universe!

    But wait! What did he change? His own size, or other things? Maybe just his hat? It was a pretty tall hat, after all…


  5. My joke behind the size changing Abe Lincoln was that the Lincoln Memorial, while physically the same, was now built to scale.

  6. Psychonomous Gex!: The Rise of Psycho Gecko, Part Duece, or “A Hot, Steamy Night on the Town.”

    Mr. Morden steps into his office, wearing a scowl. It’s 11 and he got called away from a very expensive dinner with the mayor about removing those unsightly protestors. The plates alone cost $400, not counting the money he had hidden underneath and woven into the napkins. Those homeless, good-for-nothing hippies, wearing the same dirty clothes they bought years ago because they can’t afford any new ones. Why don’t they shut up until they get their trust money or talk on tv for money, like normal people?

    But that isn’t what has him really pissed off tonight. He puts two of his best and his sister’s son on a simple scheme to wiretap and spy on supervillains for gossip, and now he can’t even get a straight answer on what they know except that Harlon’s in his office, Morden’s own office, demanding he get up there.

    “Harlon,” he starts as he barge in, “what the hell are y-” The office is completely black. Even the blinds are closed. If those security guards lied to them, he’ll send their jobs to China so fast the uniforms will be made out of lead and asbestos before they can even get them off. “Lights on,” he calls out, swinging the door closed and stepping towards his desk.

    Instead of a pleasant glow suffusing the entire office, a much less purple-prosed single light over his chair comes on. It is facing away, with someone in it.

    “There you are, Harlon. What is the matter with you, boy?”

    The chair swings around, revealing a man in black and orange power armor. The visor of his helmet is one solid piece, though the top curves downward in the middle, giving it a glaring look. At the mouth is what appears to be some sort of rebreather, softening the image somewhat until Morden notices the gloves that feature barbed wire coming out and wrapping around the hands. Hands that are holding Harlon on this freak’s lap, stroking the bound fat man’s back like a cat.

    “Good evening, Double-O Douchenozzle.”

    Morden slips his hands into his pockets, deciding to play this out business-like. He hits his personal panic button, signalling the super-security guards. They are always on call to come to his personal aid, though it would take them a little while to arrive. He just needs to stall for time. He answers back at the taunting, “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, and Harlon as well, Mister…?”

    “The name’s Gecko. Psycho Gecko. I’m here in regards to that story your people were so desperate to obtain about me.”

    Mr. Morden chuckles, “Cutting out the middle men? A man after my own heart.”

    “I’d save such an assumption until after the story.”

    “And I would be fascinated to hear it, then we can call up a notary, is that fine?”

    Gecko leans back in the chair, putting one foot up on Morden’s desk and being careful not to tip over with Harlon still on his lap.

    “I guess you could say I’ve really been a supervillain ever since my public failure to assassinate this one emissary on my home earth. For the first time in their laughable existence, the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers had actually left the country and, quite unfortunately, were there to muck things up. My handlers burned me, first figuratively, by disavowing me, then literally, with some C4 cleverly hidden in a role of toilet paper. I will admit, that was a good try. So there I was, directionless, pennyless, homeless. I already had a first version of my armor then, but I decided to revise it and head home for the first time in quite awhile. For one thing, I was pretty angry about the C4. No doubt my former handlers suspected as much when the Hexagon was toilet papered with no clue as to who did it, but I think when the TP exploded really gave them an insight into how deep the feelings of betrayal ran.

    I actually managed to kill most of the high-level members of the Psychopomp project before some junior ones decided to trick everybody’s favorite semi-competent heros, the Justice Rangers, into trying to save them from me. The first time, they really did get lucky. Top notch equipment and funding, bottom-rung experience. They had suits that could protect them by dispersing most incoming attacks into blunt-forced trauma, with the side effect of causing sparks to fly. Their strength was enhanced, even their balance was better calibrated through those things. Idiotically, they took advantage of that to perform multiple flips every time they jumped. I once slammed the door behind one just to see what would happen. Two and three-quarter flips before I choked him to death. The whole thing had a depressing ending, though, when the Rangers themselves uncovered the truth about the Psychopomp project and exposed it to everyone.

    Now, this still didn’t make me a big hero to most people, seeing as I’d still done some pretty despicable things, like this one hit involving running a garden hose into a target’s ass and out his mouth so I could shove it against his nostrils and drown him. I couldn’t help but spice up a “natural causes” job.

    Still, to many other disaffected young Homo Machina, I became some sort of odd, heroic figure. I was like some sort of magneticly-powered person, attracting the disenfranchised of my species to me. They wanted to attain equal rights violently, I wanted to kill the Justice Rangers and cause widespread destruction and chaos. Win-win. Until the Botphodkers Building fiasco. Did that ever leave me feeling sore in the morning. I guess stealing transdimensional technology and assembling it into a bomb that would destroy the whole city we were in just came across as counterproductive to them. There we were, force shield still up, Justice Rangers unable to stop us and unwilling to escape, when they turned on me.

    Yep, my own followers turned on me. One in particular, a mean little lady, knocked me out. Cold, too. I was out, but I have some good recording equipment on this thing. She had her doubts some time back, and was just looking for a good enough scheme to turn on me, save the day, and win the praise of everyone that way. And so I hear they did. Some later contact between our dimensions, sporadic as it is, revealed that they escaped, leaving me propped against my precious bomb, reversed the shields, and hooked it up to the city’s power array. I bet they burned out half the nation’s power grid, but in the end it was enough to contain what blast their was. See, what they forgot is that my subconcious has an ego too. A super ego, you might say, given my powers. I knew that bomb better than anyone at that time, and was in physical contact. A little quick rewiring and instead of a void, I wound up on some random other earth. Hello world, meet Gecko.”

    Mr. Morden nods, worried to hear the end of this meandering tale of idiocy and strangely familiar pop-culter references. Those guards should have been here before he could even finish this tho-

    Two hulking men in suits burst in, quickly assess the situation, and come at Gecko from either side of the desk. Gecko spins the chair to the side, jumps up, and awkardly hands Harlon to guard #1, whose hands are on fire, with a “Yo dawg, hold my cat,” then kicks back, sending the chair rolling into guard #2, slowing him down. Then he disappears.

    When he next appears, he’s in the air in front of the guard #2, wrapping one glowing hand around the guard’s neck. He then grinds his other fist over the eyes of the guard, the motion of the barbed wire opening the eyelids and allowing the energy concentrated on the points to finish the blinding.

    Gecko holds on, watching the man’s face as he screams. “No fair, you get eyescream when I’m the one who wanted a cone.”

    Meanwhile, Morden has rushed over to guard #1, who has had to douse his flames, insisting on having Harlon handed over to him so the guard can help his partner. The guard complies, causing Morden to collapse onto his back under Harlon’s weight. The guard pulls back for a punch, his fist a ball of flame, then aims it right for Gecko. Luckily, every set of Psycho Gecko power armor comes with leather interior, surround sound, power windows, an owner’s manual written entirely in Mongolian, fake fangs, a few birds, a pogo stick, donkey ears, extending tongue gag, rubber chicken (you can’t even get these anymore), lucky whale tooth, and a giant clam that opens to reveal an American flag held by a mermaid and her normal brother Richard. Gecko drops down onto his rear as guard #1 throws the punch, dropping guard #2. Gecko rolls back, bringing his legs over him in a kick to #1’s knee. The guard stumbles and falls to his knee. Balanced on his back as if to kip up, Gecko wraps his legs around the man’s neck and his arms around the man’s leg, yanking the man to the ground and squirming out from under him.

    The guard rises quickly, then stops, disbelieving this latest assault, too close as it is to risk lots of flames. He can almost hear the villain grin behind him as he speaks, “Now I’m going to demonstrate a move I fondly call ’63ing your ass.’ It’s pretty simple. Just insert your hand into the enemy’s rectum, then rotate 63 degrees on a random axis and let go.” Short story mercifully shorter in this case, the guard’s head hits the CEO’s desk hard and he is thankfully out before any other orifices can be invaded by Gecko’s other or, as an even worse thought, same hand.

    Gecko turns towards Morden, speaking genially, “Now, we still have,” only to be interrupted by the growls of Guard #2 behind him. Sighing, Gecko turns, noticing the man’s eyes have completely regenerated and that he possesses abnormally long and sharp nails. Gecko grabs him by the bottom of his mouth, the guard biting at his fingers. Gecko quickly leans in, speaking in a low growl the most evil, menacing words of perhaps his entire supervillain career, “Smell. My. Finger.”

    The guard begins to puke as he tastes just which hand Gecko shoved into his mouth. Off balance, his head is easily yanked down into Gecko’s knee, and he too is mercifully out.

    Gecko opens a window to let a little of the smell out, undoes that particular glove, fishes a grenade off of his belt, sets it inside, and lets it drop. Then, he bends low, balancing on the balls of his feet as he addresses the still-trapped Mr. Morden. “Now, we still have one last bit of business to discuss, and that took far too long.” Gecko pulls out a small spray canister from his belt and sprays it into the air in front of his breather. “Mmm, lemony fresh.” He turns it on Morden and gives it a squeeze.

    For Mr. Morden, CEO of the largest news and media corporation on earth, things go drowsy and black.

  7. Gecko once again you have astounded me with your brilliance. Continue this covert story in the main story or start a new site yourself either way continue writing the thing. P.s. when have any of those items in Gecko’s costume come in handy?

  8. “Fifteen minutes we were riding”… likely either ‘For fifteen minutes’ or ‘Fifteen minutes later’.

    In the end, I think I come down on the side of ‘weird’ in terms of Sam’s normal appearance and Red Hex appearance being similar – and her appearance with Rod being the outsider! I mean, it makes sense, but it means her double life isn’t so much normal and “being a superhero” so much as it is normal and “being someone with a double life”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, if anything it’s clever… but it’s a bit weird. Kind of like if Robin decided he needed a new persona in order to hang with the Teen Titans instead of Bruce Wayne.

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