The List Episode 15: Heist

My teeth dug into the marble patterned floor as some half witted goon introduced his heel to the back of my skull.  He didn’t know who I was, I surmised by the fact we wasn’t pissing himself, but he must have singled me out as the tough guy and wanted to set an example.  I etched his face into my memory, because soon it would be nothing more than a dripping and shredded mess.  He pointed his automatic to the sky and shot a volley off into the high vaulted ceiling, and the others hostages, all lying prostrate and scattered around me, squealed in terror.  The four other gunmen that had busted in on this show weaved through displays of junk and garbage that passed for priceless treasures in New City.

“Shut up!” one of the masked men yelled, but the cries continued.  This was not the ancient artifact exhibition these people had clamored for.

A woman, whose age was indiscernible due to the doll face she wore, let out a sob louder than the rest.  The gunman that had yelled reared his foot back and connected the toe of his boot to her temple.  Her weeping ceased, and her head dangled on her neck like it was connected by a thin rope.

“I thought I said shut up!” he yelled, and the floored crowd tensed but unanimously decided that being quiet was a better option than being dead.  The idiot on me continued to push my face into the floor, and I could feel my teeth start to fracture.

“Come on, come on,” one of the gunmen begged of the others, and pacing frantically, he bumped into a vase that had been set up on a display pedestal.  The pedestal teetered, and the goon’s masked face twisted in horror as the vase toppled over the lip.

It seemed to float to the floor as the man scrambled to reach for it.  In doing so, he tripped over his own feet, and fell with it.  I strained my peripherals to see the outcome.  The impending shatter of ceramic never came.  Instead of crashing into a million pieces, the vase sat comfortably in the palm of an outstretched hand.   And when I say outstretched, I meant literally stretched out from the grand doors that had been blown in when the goons had made their entrance to the twenty yards where the vase had been on display.

“Tsk, tsk.  I told you boys, be careful,” a voice said, thick with a Russian accent.  “Do you know how much this vase is worth?”

Boots crunched on glass as the sixth and final member of the party walked into the building, his arm contracting to meet his body as he moved. I would have grinned if I hadn’t been busy kissing the earth.   I didn’t have to see his face to know it was Lump, member of the Sin Coalition and world renowned art thief.

“Let’s keep it moving,” he said, twirling the extended fingers of his free hand.  He then used those fingers to brush a lock of his thick hair back from his face, and his hair moved on his scalp like a wig.  He stepped over the bodies and walked right by me.  He wore a slack expression that seemed to droop just slightly off his narrow cheekbones – likely a side effect of the super power he had augmented himself with.  That is, if you consider turning your molecular structure to putty a super power.

Lump’s body met up with the hand that was holding the vase, and he stood over the trembling gunman that had bumbled into it. “No need to worry,” he said, and hauled the man up to his feet.  “Now off we go.  The cavalry should be arriving soon.”

“Wrong.  The cavalry is already here,” a deep voice boomed from the hole in the wall that had once been an entrance.

From my position I was able to catch a glance of broad shoulders and the metal gauntlets that encased a pair of already thick fists.  From that I could piece together the rest of the picture – the modified officer uniform, complete with the triple star insignia, the sheen of light glinting off the closely shaved head, the dark and sinewy set face that said he meant business.

The goons all turned and pointed their guns at Rocket Jab – yes, that was his name, and I would know.  I’d had to write it down on my list.  And now I would have the fortune to mark the stupid name off.

“Oh well,” Lump said, shrugging.  He tossed the vase he had worked so hard to protect over his shoulder.

Jab was a blur, gone by the time the bullets shredded the wall behind him and sailed out into the street.  He appeared in front of a gunman and cocked back his metal fist.  Little cones of blue flame shot out from around the wrist, propelling his fist at the speed of sound.  The gunman’s head vanished into a fine pink mist.  Somewhere else, a vase shattered as it finally reached the floor.

The gunman who had been stepping on my head kindly took his foot off as his body separated at the torso.  The man who had bumped into the vase shot across the room, his body trailing red splotches in thirty different places along the room’s walls.  The ground shook, and I looked in time to see a gunman split at the seams down the middle.  Jab pulled his fist from the hole he had carved into the marble just as the last gunman found his courage.  Bullets ripped into the floor, silencing the cries of some of the hostages, but couldn’t find their true target.  The gunman’s head disintegrated between two open palms as they slapped together.  The resulting boom shattered whatever ceramics and glass had been left on display.

Lump eyed the massacre around him.  “It’s hard to find good helpers, eh?”  He wobbled his arms at his sides in a humorous attempt at calisthenics.  “Well, let us get this over with.”

In an instant Jab flashed from his location.  Before Lump could blink a droopy eye, Jab’s fist embedded itself deep inside his skull.  Lump’s body went wet noodle and squirmed on the polished floor.

“Okay, people,” Jab boasted to the still prostrate crowd, “Trouble’s over.  Evacuate immediately in an orderly fashion, after which I’ll be available for autographs.”

“Huh.  Shit,” he added as he flung his hand, trying to free it from the glove he had made of Lump’s head.  It only seemed to grow farther up his arm, bubbling up until it enveloped it to the elbow.  Then the noodle limbs started to writhe and wriggle with no particular rhythm, and Jab almost yelped in surprise.  Lump’s head shifted and morphed, the features blending and resurfacing elsewhere, as mass crawled up from other parts of his body.

Blue flames pierced through the putty-like material.  “I’ll burn you off, see if you like that!” He yelled, but the mass continued to lump its way around his arm, and now it had Jab all the way up to his shoulder.   The blob of flesh seemed to loosen for a second, then tightened as if it had been twisted up by a rotor.  Jab let out a full blown scream this time as Lump obliterated the man’s arm.

Jab cut the scream short, bared his teeth, and brought his fist up over his head.  He let out a roar and pounded his fist into the floor.  The building rumbled, and the granite fractured out like glass hit by a bullet.  Jab repeated the process, each time his arm burrowing farther and farther into the rock.  He embedded his arm up to his shoulder, then pulled out as if in a daze and started beating at the blob with his other fist.

Finally Lump let go, forming a puddle beneath Jab, then slithered a good distance away before half pulling himself into a shape resembling human.  Something told me he hadn’t let go because Jab’s punches had hit a weak spot.  Jab hunkered over, panting and dripping sweat, one arm now fragments of bone and muscle tissue that hung from the shoulder and almost touched the ground.

“Why don’t we make a deal?” Lump asked, laying the accent on thick and heavy.  “You look like smart man.”

Jab glared at him and spit on the floor.

“No?  Here’s the deal in any case.  You took five of my men.  I’ll give you one for free, but I still need to – what you would say – break even.”  The deformed and sagging face managed an eerie smile.   “How does one limb for each man sound?  Fair?”

“I’ll kill you!” Jab roared, and launched himself.  The rockets burned white hot, propelling his fist with deafening speed.  I clamped my hands over my ears to keep them from rupturing.

Lump rose to meet the impending fist, his mass visibly shifting to his right arm until it formed a giant cylindrical battering ram.  Both men swung at the same moment, fists connecting with enough force to send a shockwave of debris flying out from the point of impact.  The remaining paintings on the wall rattled off their tacs and smashed against the floor.

Jab’s metal fist shattered.  His skin split and tore up his arm, revealing bulging muscle.  Blood spurted out in gushes as he wheeled his arm around and fell onto his back.

Lump stood, or more accurately, planted himself over Jab, looking curiously at his hammer fist as it turned back into a normal hand.

“Non-Newtonian liquids are a wonderful thing, you agree?  The interesting thing about a dilatant material is that the more force you apply, the more solid it gets.  But enough with science, back to business.  I think that makes number two, so just two more and you are paid square.”

“No more,” Jab pleaded.  His boots skidded and squeaked in the blood pooling from his arms.  “You like deals!  I’ll get you whatever you want, just stop!”

“Now you want to cut deal?  Funny, I thought I had already named the terms of our little agreement.”

“What, wait, just see what I have to offer!” Jab sobbed as tears and sweat streamed down his face.

“I’m afraid time for negotiations are over.”  With that, he brought both hands up and clasped them together.  Flesh colored spikes sprouted as the arms melted into one, and he slammed the spikes down into Jab’s right leg.  Jab howled, and his cries amplified tenfold as Lump destroyed the other leg.

“Even now?  Yes, I think so.”  Lump straightened up, taking the form of a human once more.  “Please excuse me, but I have an expensive artifact that I must make mine.”

Jab sobbed, his chest heaving between bouts of weeping.  Lump ignored the pathetic excuse for a man – let alone superhero – and exited through a door in the back to a corridor that would take him to his real goal.

Now it was time for me to strike.  I rolled to my back and popped up to my feet.  I wiped the blood off my lip as I strolled over to Jab.

His eyes turned up to meet mine.  “You…you’ve got to help me.”

“Sorry, but today just isn’t your lucky day.  I honestly thought you’d put up a better fight, but I guess I should thank you for the show.”

“What are you talking about?” he stammered.

“I normally only hunt your type, but lately I’ve been making an exception.  I was sort of hoping you’d at least reveal a weakness of his,” I said, mostly talking to myself.  “Guess you get what you paid for.”

I could see the gears grinding in Jab’s head until they finally clicked in place.  His eyes widened and almost bulged out of his skull.  The dark pupils pointed at me, in place of the mutilated hands that couldn’t.

I shrugged, and let my beam blade fall into my hand.  “Yep, it’s me.”

✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

I tore off the expensive suit jacket I had rented for the occasion, and found my trusty synthetic fiber jacket I had stuffed away earlier, filled with just the right amount of nades and other fun devices.  The other hostages had long since fled, leaving me alone with one dead superhero and a room full of trashed relics.  I made my way to the same door Lump had taken on his path for what I saw as a worthless piece of junk, but it would coincidently lead me to my real prize.

At the end of the corridor a thick vault door stood open.  Through it, in a polyglass case, was the object of Lump’s infatuation.  It looked like a clay mug made by an art school dropout – that is, if the said art school dropout had been missing half a brain.  But the word was that the brown cup was worth enough to buy any of the buildings in New City and then fill it with the remaining cash.  Around the display stretched a creature, part man, part mess, working at the security holds.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” I said as I eased up to the vault.

A face formed from the tangle of limbs and looked my direction.  “What are you going to do, stop me?”

“I know my face is different from the last time you saw it, so I’ll forgive you for not recognizing me.”

“Am I supposed to know you?”

I let out a heavy sigh and rubbed my brow.  Sometimes the Doctor actually did a good job at concealing my identity, but it was a pain to explain it to each and every one of my enemies.

“I kill superheroes, you and your misfit league of evil left me to die in an explosion, the names Levi Cole? Do I need to spell it out any more?”

“And you are here…for revenge, I take it?” he said.  His limbs started to constrict and pull in to his solidifying torso, but his hands continued to work on the case.

“You could interpret it that way.  I like to think that it’s more just my duty to society and all that crap, but when you’re dead it doesn’t matter either way.”

“Words of wisdom.  If you don’t mind, give me a couple more seconds.”  Lump’s stretched out limbs twitched, and I heard the small hiss of air rushing into seams at the bottom of the display case.  He left the polyglass there and returned his attention to me.  “One thing taken care of, now let’s settle this other manner.”

I didn’t give a verbal confirmation.  I whipped my beam blade on.  Lump anticipated the oncoming beam and his torso stretched and writhed around the hot white beam.  I worked the controls on the blade, and it bent around to pierce into Lump’s back.  A perfectly circular hole opened up in his chest, letting the beam pass right through, and I had to shut it off to keep it from shearing my own head off.

A fist the size of a small car slammed into my chest and pounded me into the wall.  My back dented the resilient plastic metal, bowing it in about a foot.  Both my spine and I were glad the walls weren’t the same marble they had used for the floors.

Before I had time to dig myself out, Lump yanked me from the hole and threw me into the opposite wall.  This time he wrapped his arm around mine, and started the same twisting motion that had demolished Jab’s arm.  I could feel the muscles start to bruise, but I wasn’t content with letting Lump take my arm.  I caught him at what might have been the elbow with my beam blade and cut a clean line through it.  His arm was still wrapped around mine, but now I was free and falling backwards.  I moved the blade with a necessary cruelty, carving large chunks off of the surprised looking Lump.

The pieces smoldered as they hit the ground.  I ripped off the hand that was still latched on to me and threw it to the side.  I stepped back, knowing that this fight wasn’t going to end that easily.  The hand trembled at first, then slithered to join the other pieces that now coagulated into a sphere of fused doll flesh.  It melted into a large face, first the eyes and nose, and then a solid row of teeth.  Except each tooth was the size of my fist.

The teeth blob lashed out, chomping down on air as I dodged to the side.  The mouth inverted and changed direction midair.  The teeth opened up again, this time snapping shut and pinning my arms to my sides.  The teeth tore through my jacket, biting to the bone in some places.  I cursed and tried initiate my beam blade, but a foot shot out from inside the mouth and crushed my fingers.  The blade handle clattered on the floor, but I was far from defenseless.  I twitched my arm to release my Seiver, loaded with special bullets meant specifically for Lump, and it dropped into my other hand.  I fired wildly and let the recoil push the gun up into the bulk of Lump’s body.   A line of slugs plugged into the surface of the creature, and the mass of teeth and limbs started to convulse as the bullets did their job.

The giant teeth pulled loose from my arms and a fist hammered into my gut, sending me skidding down the hall way.  I was losing a decent amount of blood and ached all over, but I guaranteed Lump’s condition would be worse.  His cells would be fighting to stay together now as the bullets embedded in his hide vibrated at a molecular level.

I struggled to my side where I could watch him hurt.  His body was now closer to man shape, but dripping globs of flesh that continually tried to amass back in with the main lump.  He moaned as he shifted to and fro in the cramped hall.  The moaning decreased to a low murmur.  He had caught sight of the relic, and, as if called by the cup, he drifted into the vault.

I could barely bring myself to my knees.  The bullets were only meant as a temporary measure, and he was planning on making an escape with the relic before I had time to finish him off for real.  But that was his mistake.

His drippy fingers worked their way under the seams of the case, and his shape heaved to lift it up.  He wrapped an outstretched hand around the relic.  The moment his skin touched it, the trap went off.  At first his skin seemed to gravitate towards the relic, then all at once his mass was sucked in around it and the case dropped back into place, leaving a cube of solid skin on display.

I stumbled into the vault, looking over my recently refined list, now covered in so much blood I had to squint to make out the names.  I wasn’t sure if Lump could see out of his prison or not, but I held it up to the side of the polyglass and pointed to his name anyway.

“What was it that you said about Dilatant materials?  Something about them becoming more solid when you applied more pressure?”  I rapped my knuckles on the side of the case.  “That’s too bad, otherwise you’d probably be able to escape.  But from the looks of it this thing has you compressed to a rock.  I had a heck of a time setting it up, too.  You know what, that’s not even the funny part.  Here’s the real kicker – that ‘antique’ you were after?  I scrapped it out of a dumpster.”