You really did love her, didn’t you?
“We’re not talking about this,” I said, and I meant it, because I turned the phone off.
Somehow she turned it back on.
“Not having this conversation with a phone,” I said. “In fact, I’m just not having it at all. It’s none of your fucking business.”
You pry into everyone’s business. Me asking you is only fair.
“Supervillains don’t care about fair,” I said, and lit up a cigarette. I watched the patterns drift across the ceiling for a moment, stolen memories from a thousand minds scampering across my consciousness like a slide show, awakened by subliminal cues that my monkey brain kept trying to interpret from the smoke and resolve into recognizable things.
You answered my question. You never hesitate to say anything you feel like. You don’t seem to care if anyone thinks you’re rude, or childish, or disgusting.
“And yet you still have the hots for me,” I said. “Because I know something you don’t.”
I’m not even going to ask.
Okay, fine, what don’t I know?
“You aren’t interested in a nice, well-behaved gentleman. You want someone who is comfortable with who he is, who will tell you to go fuck yourself if you don’t like it. You want confidence, unpredictability, and a hint of danger.”
I’m not touching that. But if that is true, then the one thing you’re not comfortable with, is telling me about your ex-girlfriend.
“Yep,” I said, and turned off the phone again, but she blinked it right back on immediately.
You might want to psychoanalyze that a bit. Might learn something about yourself.
I didn’t answer, just watched more smoke whorls. Tried not to think about Lana, and failed.
We had a lot of arguments about Keith. She thought I was fucking around too much, and after I’d picked up my sixth serial killer in training, she told me she was going to report me to the police if I didn’t get Keith out of Greenfield right now.
Which was an empty threat, because she needed me. We also had arguments about how to do the deed, and finally I told her that if she wanted my help, she could damned well let me do it, or else go blow a security guard and try to break him out herself.
She kept wanting me to just go there, use my mind powers, bowl everyone over, and walk out with Keith. I could have done that, if I wanted. But she wasn’t playing smart. Besides, it was easy for her to risk my ass while she was hiding in a bunker somewhere, but I was done with other people gambling with my life.
Clearly that was my job.
Greenfield was a big campus, and unless I went out of my way to find everyone who could see me, track them down, and erase their memories, there was always the chance that someone would mention the strange, scary, scarred man walking around. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be a clue. It would be a thing they could cross-reference. As for going there in person, there was always the chance of leaving behind DNA.
I’d seen too much CSI. Once they have an eyelash, you’re fucked. I had no intention of leaving physical evidence behind, or even setting a pinky toe onto Greenfield.
But I had not been idle, either. I’d been gathering reconnaissance of the “stolen memory” variety. No place that has to regularly feed and house children is hermetically sealed, and outsiders were briefly allowed to visit, so long as they had reason to do so. I had the layout of the place in mind, and at my house full of crazies it was stuck to the wall with pushpins.
I also realized that I had subconsciously been gathering my accomplices for the kidnapping. I needed expendable people who I could not give a fuck about, and what better people to use than murderers, scumbags, and...well, villains?
After her ultimatum, I told Spider to hold onto her tits for three days. Then I drove back to Casa del Mindbender, and then hung out inside in the air conditioning while I instructed my “Sinful Six” in their roles.
There they were, my Dirty Half-Dozen. My Passel O’ Bastards. My Corral of Psychos. My Sinful Six. We were in a windowless air-conditioned room, one of the few rooms in the place that didn’t have an ego window somewhere. I’d picked up donuts, and me and the psychos were munching on them. I was drinking black coffee, and downed a jelly donut in three bites to fortify myself for all of the talking and scripting that lay ahead. On the beige wall was the layout of Greenfield, an aerial map that Spider had procured. I had some flamenco guitar playing. By which I mean I went to Pandora and typed in “flamenco guitar”, because I was feeling flamenco as fuck.
My droogs retained a fair amount of personal inertia. They would eat, sometimes exchange light conversation, and sleep as it suited them. I’d allowed them to do all of this, because I didn’t want to return home to dead, starving bodies, and I wasn’t about to wipe anyone’s ass.
But scripting in a range of allowable behaviors to a mind which I’d formatted was more time-consuming. And unlike a real computer, I couldn’t copy and paste. I had to re-script every time as if I was starting from scratch. Every brain is a little different, and there are different impulses, suggestions, and bans that people are working with. Some things conflict. You can’t script a suggestion or an impulse towards eating pork to someone with a ban against swine. Removing suggestions and impulses are easy, but bans are a bit deeper-seated. As I said before, we all have our own personal catalog of bans, our forbiddens: one of mine, for instance, is ever having my penis touch another man’s penis, but yours probably differs from mine.
Take Emmet Case. A real “man’s man”, Emmet had a ban against doing dishes. He considered it “women’s work” and to his mind, doing dishes he might as well walk around carrying a purse. I removed that ban right away, and sadistically told him that he was in charge of washing all the dirty dishes in the house from now on. But when I returned to the house a couple weeks later, the dishes were stacked and piled up in the sink with a cloud of sink flies swarming over them. I could tell he’d run the dishes at least once or twice, but after that he’d given up. The ban had returned.
Luckily I’d returned with another psycho, one Wil Cartwright, who had no such ban. I decided I’d find other ways to torture Emmet, and gave Wil the job of being a dishwasher.
Little by little, as I added more howling maniacs to my McMansion, I got a feel for their capabilities and backgrounds, likes and dislikes, favorite sexual positions and the foods they just refused to eat, the big babies. Since they were mentally only one step above wearing diapers or shitting in the nearest hat, I spent a lot of time babysitting them, tweaking the scripts to allow them to officially move around their environment.
It was like playing the Sims on “set it and forget it” mode.
Emmet was eating an apple fritter, and he was savoring it like it was the best thing he’d ever eaten, nibbling slowly and even moaning to himself. He seriously had tears in his eyes. I suppose after I’d told him that he had to eat dogfood all the time, he was desperate for some human food. But hey, if he’d been willing to do the dishes, I might have let him have pizza delivery or eat from the barbecue like everyone else.
I looked at the clock, and it struck 11 AM. I immediately glanced to Cameron Walker and was satisfied to see him deliver a two-handed overhand blow to his groin, before falling to the ground and whimpering in pain. His tasty eclair hit the floor nearby. He suddenly wasn’t hungry. Oh, Cameron Walker? He had been a church leader. And a serial rapist. Of children. His balls had another hour to recover before he did it again, and he’d developed a bow-legged walk that he hadn’t possessed when I first picked him up.
I was pretty sure he’d never breed again at this point after something like seven-thousand blows to the groin over the past few weeks, which was a mercy you can thank me for later.
Yes, I’m a petty, sick asshole for torturing these people in all my various demeaning little ways. I should have left them free to walk the streets and murder, rape, and torture people themselves, right?
You can’t fool me. I know more about human nature than you could ever imagine, and there are few and far between who will lose any sleep over the torture of a rapist or a murderer. But I wasn’t horrible to all of them, just most of them.
I lit up a cigarette, and handed it to Macauley James. Mac was the only one of my mindslaves that I had any degree of sympathy for. I’d given him a much lighter touch than the rest. He’d wanted to kill himself, and I’d stopped him. Of course, the reason he wanted to kill himself was because he was eaten up by guilt about the woman he’d gang-raped in college, and had gotten away with. He’d gone over ten years with it eating him alive, and I’d happened to walk past him after he had said his final goodbyes to his family in a suicide note, and was on his way to a secluded spot with a gun in his pocket to end his pain.
Since he already felt guilty enough, and since he’d already decided to end it all, and since as far as his world was concerned he was already dead, I removed the impulse for suicide from his mind, walled off all of the guilty memories that would have continued to torture him, and gave him a simple series of impulses and suggestions. Basically, he looked at me like something of a big brother (even though I was a year younger than he was), and would rather have taken the gun to his temple again than disregard a single thing I had to say. I just had to talk to him like a regular person, and that was nice, because the rest of my lackeys were too stripped of their faculties to have anything interesting to say.
He slept in the master bedroom, and got better treatment than the rest, because at the end of the day, he really wasn’t a bad guy. The gang rape was awful, of course, but he was drunk, and young, and the four other guys who were with him pressured him into it, and even while he was doing it he hated himself. Of course he did it anyway, I’m not excusing him. I’m just saying he wasn’t broken in the same way that the others were. His own actions had broken him, and he had suffered for years for it.
That left Wil Cartwright, Doug Shamrock, and Mohammed Shakir. Each of them knew a great deal about guns and weaponry, and each of them had planned to carry out a mass shooting in a public space. For lulz, I guess. They each had a manifesto, or what they felt was a justified reason for it, but people like this are so unredeemable I’m not much interested in plumbing the depths of their fucked-up psyches, a lesson I’d learned from Emmet Case, so I basically held my nose and gave them the most stringent scripting of all: Each of them required a focused, individual session that led to a flood of nosebleeds, nausea, and in some cases, passing out.
But at the end of those sessions, Wil, Doug, and Mohammed lacked all initiative. Much like I’d done to Mitch, they were incapable of doing anything without me, or my designated second, Mac, telling them what to do.
I trusted Mac because like I said, he wasn’t really a bad guy. He’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and made the wrong decision. I figured I could trust him enough to tell those three when it was time to eat or use the bathroom.
They were my expendables. They were the three I was happiest to lose in a hail of gunfire, and it just so happened that they were the three best-equipped to go out in a hail of said gunfire. They got last dibs on the pastries, and ended up munching on three glazed donuts, eyes staring forward equally glazed, but only after Mac told them, “Go ahead, you can take one. Go ahead, you can eat it.”
I stared at them for a long moment, long draws on mine and Mac’s cigarettes filling the room with acrid, bluish smoke. Each of them stared back at me with a servant’s pliant conformity. I guessed I was as satisfied as I'd ever be.
“Okay, you fucks,” I said. “Let’s go over the plan.”