“File 29520: Notes from Immediate Aftermath of Attack by New Villain, ‘The Daemon'” by Laura E. Price

What the hell kind of stupid-ass name is “The Daemon”? Did he even look it up before he chose it?

1. Repair hole in outer wall

—Can I demand damages from “The Daemon” on this? Because it’s huge. (Note: have Mrs. Johansen get out the nanotech tarps.)

—Good to know the leviathan gun can take out a wall that thick. (Note: fingerprint and retinal scans for next iteration of vault security systems? Password protection? Remote override? Need something; that was embarrassing.)

2. Sphinx – Removal and Disposal

—Not sure why I thought a giant-sized, taxidermied sphinx was a good idea for a trophy? Granted, the taxidermy is excellent; Dr. Epoch’s minions did good work, there, but looking at it right now, it’s ridiculous. It’s enormous. It appears to be smiling a toothy grin at anyone who might come before it. “Answer my riddle and you may access the Harrier’s news clippings from 1995 to 1998 in bound cloth format.” It’s just . . . stupid.

—Mrs. Johansen claims she can no longer keep it clean/dusted—Nick was doing it for her. (Note: research maglev vacuum robots.)

3. Change passwords and locks ASAP

—Check ETA on decryption of Nick’s network files (probably nothing there).

4. Vault

—Inventory weapons, gadgetry, chemicals, files ASAP—did he take anything other than the gun?

—Change labels and containers, and move Silencing Collar and Gravitonium to house vault immediately.

— Contact Sheila at the Consortium for extraction and custodial transfer of the Silencing Collar and Gravitonium. (Note: what the hell was I thinking, keeping those here? Stupid.)

2a. Sphinx (cont.)

—Can you put something like that in a landfill? Captain Greenspace would kill me, all those chemicals leeching into the soil or whatever, and he never shuts up. They filled in the tar pits in the 60s. Who even does this sort of disposal? I can’t be the first hero to outgrow a trophy, right? Fantastica has been around for seventy-five years, costume changes every ten, maybe she knows someone? Maybe call Sheila for a reference or to do some inquiries?

5. Check into offsite storage for active and inactive Harrierbots—creepy to look around and see myself staring at me.

2b. Sphinx (cont.)

—Maybe donate it to a playground? The kids could climb on it. It’s sturdy enough. Nick used to climb all over that thing, jump off it, grinning like a psychopath. He did it his first day in the Eidolon uniform, to see how the cape would flow. (Note: research playground insurance; could I pay for it after possible donation?)

* * *

He told me he would be the nemesis I deserved. Before he left. Before he blew a giant damned hole in the Sanctuary wall and leapt through it, away, leaving me open-mouthed and stupid in the dust and rubble.

“It’s just so easy. You deserve better.” Yes, well. Bleeding out on a floor. Fighting aliens whose assassin-queen has requested asylum. Three weeks in the Silencing Collar in the Exorcist’s Gravitonium-laced underground lair. Easy.

I liked the scarcity of those sorts of events in my career, that mostly I fought muggers or foiled bank heists or stopped the poaching for taxidermy of extradimensional creatures.

I suppose I do deserve better. For certain definitions of the word.

* * *

6. Have Mrs. Johansen purge all files in “Retirement Plans” folder on network; shred hard copies. (Note: get back to Fantastica’s text re: sidekick recruitment—news travels so fucking fast. No.)

2c. Sphinx (cont.)

—Museum donation? (That would be a card: “Sphinx [provenance, species, genus unknown; existence unconfirmed], donated by the Harrier, masked vigilante [existence unconfirmed], originally captured, killed, and taxidermied by Dr. Epoch [rumored; existence also unconfirmed] October 2013”)

—Nick’s face the first time he saw that thing looming up out of the shadows. Utter terror. The scream echoed off the walls and lingered in the air as he breathed hard. Served him right for breaking in here in the first place.

* * *

Eidolon was such a goddamned hero—dusting the sphinx, for one thing, and how many eighteen-year-olds can broker an interdimensional peace treaty with their mentor on the floor, bleeding from injuries sustained trying to fight people the size of a building? The same one who rappelled down a building using a grappling hook to catch a cat burglar; the one who parkoured up a building after the Gecko, cape billowing behind him. Always grinning. “That was too easy.”

Well. He wasn’t grinning when he was shouting so the giants could hear him. He glanced at me every few minutes, but otherwise you’d never know he was anything but calm.

And ridiculously intelligent—knew that from Day 1, didn’t I? Took the tech the giants gave him as a thank you for the treaty and built the leviathan gun.

* * *

7. Seal Brobdingnagian Rift

—Since I’m repairing things, anyway, may as well seal that up. It’s been years since the last giant invasion, but they always liked Eidolon and the treaty won’t last forever. Agreements never do.

8. Redecoration

—Maybe some color. I’m no kid anymore; the white and chrome aesthetic could use an upgrade—it looks like a computer store in here. Something warmer. Wood?

* * *

He said he touched nothing besides that goddamned gun, which is of course a lie. He’s all over this place, now: the air, the echoes; splashed over the trophies, the walls, the consoles, and the chair like paint or blood or ectoplasm.

At least I was smart enough to keep the Sanctuary well away from the house.

Sat in my chair. Smiled at me with all his teeth.

Crumpled on the floor behind him, Eidolon’s cape, a boot on its side, shadows too thick to see the rest. And I knew what I was looking at, once I saw that. I feel like I should have expected it.

* * *

9. Uniform

—Cleaning of Eidolon uniform; have Mrs. Johansen prepare it for placement in the display case.

—Move display case to back of HQ, possibly where sphinx is currently placed.

10. Future Reference

—“The Daemon’s” suit: dark red and black (maybe dark blue, hard to tell; that’s a dark area back there, command central; he had Mrs. Johansen on the main screen, the little bastard, though he’s in for a goddamned surprise if he goes after her; even thirty years later that alien assassin training’s no joke). Anarchy symbol—how original, like the colors, no, you don’t look like a jackass at all—etched into the front. (Note: reach out to all costumers in the area with queries. Also internet alerts, need keywords.)

—Mask: red as well, no cowl, covers eyes only, tied in the back like a bloody pirate, which will not end well; apparently paying attention to history and tactics was too much effort.

* * *

He was so fucking proud of himself the first time, for breaking the lock, bypassing the security system, getting all the way down here. And then the damn stuffed sphinx made him scream. Not even the Harrier emerging from the shadows made him react like that; no, when he saw me, he got the biggest goddamned toothy grin on his face. Like he couldn’t believe he got to do this.

He didn’t have to break in or bypass anything today.

Same smile, though: aimed right at me as he pointed his gun at the outer wall and pulled the trigger.

Laura E. Price lives in Florida with her husband and son. Her stories have appeared in Cicada, On Spec, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and GigaNotoSaurus. You can find her blog at seldnei.wordpress.com.

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