Chapter 6: Devolution, Part Three
Looking at the Tinkerer, you wouldnt think he was a mass murderer.
Hes a little guy, maybe five foot, all stooped over from age and years of hunkering down over his work tables, with little grandfatherly wisps of white hair, so thin that you can see his mottled, liver-spotted scalp. He wears glasses, but I think theyre just a ruse; the guys eyes are way too sharp to need them, and you can tell; they look it, the kind of emerald green that can cut straight into you.
He speaks in a soft, lilting voice, everyones favorite teacher, the old man you just cant help but spill your soul out to.
Hes more or less responsible for the deaths of over five thousand people.
Sometimes I shiver uncontrollably when he smiles at me; thats not an old man smiling. Thats the smile of a shark.
Herman, my boy! I was wondering when youd visit a lonely old man again, Im so tired of outfitting psychopaths
Youre a psychopath yourself, goddamnit, you freaking monster.
Nice to see you, too, Phineas. Been a while. I run my fingers along the side of a new Goblin-Glider hes designing; once Osborn gets out of prison, hes going to use this thing.
And people are going to die.
On maximum power the gauntlets blew the Venom-symbiote entirely off Mac Gargan. And for a very dark moment, I wonder what theyd do to someone as old and unprotected as the Tinkerer.
Its a Goblin-Glider, old friend, he says, beaming. Ive upped the ammunition stores; he can shoot those razors of his at two hundred times more efficiency, no more weight imbalance for our pal Norman.
Thats incredible, I say, imagining that insane laughter as razor-bats tear through a crowded intersection. The shivers again. Howve you been, Phineas?
Hard times, he says, putting a hand on my shoulder, a grandfatherly smile, crows-feet bunching up by his eyes. Hard times. So many heroes in New York these days, and fewer and fewer fiscally responsible villains.
His workshop is what I always imagined the prop-warehouse at a movie studio looked like: every flat surface is covered in weaponry, everything from conventional guns to what looks to be a large assortment of explosive Easter Egg grenades.
So, a new pair of gauntlets? An upgrade to the suit, perhaps? Or maybe The Tinkerer lifts up what looks like a steel tennis ball. I call it the Unfibrulator; it sets off an electronic pulse that stops the beat of every human heart in a twenty-five yard range. That suit of yours would surely make you immune, so
No, no, nothing like that, I say quickly.
Are you sure? Your compatriot Killshot used one just the other week, and managed to take out half of the Sin-Cong royal family. I remember the picture in Marvel Knights, an underground super-villain newsletter. A child, his heart having torn itself in half, his eyes bulging out of his head. That horrible shiver comes again.
I need transportation, I say quietly, imagining Phineas choking the life out of the child with his bare hands.
Transportation, eh? He sounds disappointed. You know, we could add an acidic gas feature to those gauntlets and
No, I say, maybe a little too loudly. Please, God, dont have a device that detects negative thoughts.
Ive only been really truly frightened three times in my life. The first was when my father locked me in the basement for three weeks.
The second was when I first saw that Galactus ship in the sky, before I realized that the Fantastic Four could own his ass any time, day or night.
The third was of the Scourge of the Underworld. A couple of years back this underground organization was killing villains and Whym I explaining this to you? Look it up yourself.
I just need something simple, I say. I want this to be over, but Phineas, lonely old guy that he is, is trying to drag it out.
Something cheap, I clarify.
VERY cheap. Stiltman-cheap. Phineas laughs a geriatrics warbling, throaty laugh.
What kind of cheap transportation are you looking for, Herman? he says, starting to lead me towards the back of the workshop, where his larger projects reside. I mean, surely they still sell roller skates down at the local five and dime, yes?
I force a smile that, when I see it reflected in the shining chrome surfaces of a nearby Ray-Gun, looks borderline psychotic.
I stop the smile.
I was hoping for something that flies, I say without thinking. Flies? Me? I hate heights, why am I volunteering to wait, whys he smiling like that?
Cheap and flies. Lucky you.
Ive got just the thing. Finished overhauling it last week, as a matter of fact. Its still got a bit too much boost on lift-off; thats why the original owner gave it to me.
Gave it to you?
Mr. Osborn said hed rather stick with his own technology.
The Goblin? I whisper, and Phineas nods. Whatever hes going to show me, it was good enough for the Green Goblin, if even temporarily.
My excitement level rises.
He hobbles over to something hidden under a tarp, cylindrical, maybe a foot in circumference and six feet long. The excitement level rises again.
I call it he says, yanking off the tarp in a dramatic manner. The Flying Broomstick!
My excitement drops through the floor and into hell.
The thing, yes, the THING in front of me appears to be a big piece of steel piping, possibly solid all the way through. Its got goofy little handles up on the front of it, not much bigger than the oh, shit handles on the ceiling above the door in a car. The back of it seems to be just one big jet engine, and a saddle is kind of haphazardly soldered onto it. The saddle looks if you sit on it wrong theres a chance it could take your virginity, male or female.
There are three buttons on the right handle, and a lever, like a bike-brake, attached to the left. The front tapers off into a rocket-ship-like spike, at the tip of which is a little red lightbulb.
Its the most ridiculous fucking thing Ive ever seen.
You can almost hear me swallow my pride.
What good is it taking the money of a dead man? Its as good as stealing.
I open and close my mouth a few times before I can even speak. Whatre you
Phineas laughs that friendly old laugh again, but now its not friendly, if only by its context. Herman, you think I dont know why youre here? Your little superhero adventures? He shakes his head, smiles that sharks smile.
Youve been watching me?
I watch all my customers. And you havent been hard to keep track of Youre making people very angry, Herman. Important people.
But I havent even done anything! It comes out as a plea, a whine, a complaint, when I meant it to be an angry declamation. I cant even get inflection right.
Ah, Phineas says, raising a finger. But sometimes all one needs is to THINK about doing something, and they are condemned.
He does that thing where you pull your thumb across your throat and make a schhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiip sound. Normally, when someone does this you just laugh at them. When the Tinkerer does it, its shake-shit terrifying.
Fifteen minutes and five years off my life later, Im standing in an alley out back of his warehouse, trying to figure out the controls on my new God, it makes me sick to say it Flying Broomstick.
I didnt bother talking any more to the Tinkerer; it was clear that he wasnt going to say anymore on the subject of my apparently very imminent death, and he dropped most of the kindly old Phineas act after the throat-cutting-thing. Had a robot help me take out the glider and then slid closed the doors, leaving me alone in the most heavily mutant quarter of the Bronx.
So, the green button starts the engine; the thing runs silent and apparently heatless, the only sign that its on at all being the faint blue glow from the jet engine. Pressing the lever down gives it gas, or whatever the hell it runs on, and the blue glow brightens up.
The purple button dims the blue glow; I guess thats a brake.
The orange button pops open a panel on the left side of the front, revealing what looks like a Gatling gun. If I dont press the button again, the panel closes after fifteen seconds. I assume that if I press it within those fifteen seconds
I dont want to think about it.
I straddle the Broomstick, and try to think positive thoughts; at absolute best, Im climbing onto a free-flying jet engine.
I take a deep breath and start to pull down my mask when the first kick hits me, gets me square in jaw before I can get the mask over it. Smart move. The impact knocks me off my Flying Dildo, pardon me, Broomstick, and I land in a pile of torn-up trash bags. I immediately start to sit up, and get kicked again; this time its a swing as opposed to a straight, and something yanks the mask entirely off my head.
What do you know about FPS? a voice says, and something lands on top of me, but my concentration is a little blurred from the pain; its not the kicks that did it to me, its my fucking nose. When they yanked off the mask, they yanked off the bandaging and now I am jacked the hell up. I start to raise my gauntlets.
Kiss my grits you fucking And suddenly my hands are pinned down with bolos. I close my eyes and concentrate on shrinking the pain; put it in a box, and then shrink the box until it crushes all the pain away. Its a technique I learned from an old friend of mine, Fancy Dan.
Put the pain in a box, and then shrink the box until it crushes all the pain away.
What do you know about FPS? the voice says again, a note of anger now. My vision is clearing. I suppose its a testament to my loneliness and absolute base-state of mind that I immediately pop a hard-on.
Squat-straddling over me is a buxom woman in skin-tight black latex, blue-white hair hanging down around her face, like a halo in the street-lights, the tips of it tickling my cheeks, lips and forehead.
It smells good; like vanilla and cinnamon.
I didnt think it was possible, but my luck just got worse.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Black Cat.
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