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I've never really understood the appeal of Pekar Parkway, or in fact, any other amusement park. When you have a computer brain, thrill rides are entirely predictable, the midway is filled with games that you can beat with mathematics and physics, and carnival food is... well, let's just say I'm glad I can't eat anything and leave it at that.

I suppose humans find all that exciting, but I simply don't get the appeal. Transient thrills, rigged games, and unwholesome food seems like a poor way to spend your free time.

But I rather suspect that Pekar Parkway gets a lot less fun for everyone once the Chaos Crew shows up. 

Why are they here? No one knows. No one ever knows why the Chaos Crew does anything. That's their schtick.

The Chaos Crew includes:

  • Lady Chaos, the group leader. Real Name: Roberta Randall. Caucasian female, 5'3", redhead. Former archaeologist before exposure to an ancient Mayan artifact granted her probability alteration powers and the ability to generate electricity, but also drastically unbalanced her mind. Current location: playing cat-and-mouse on the merry-go-round with the Star, who is getting more and more frustrated with the way her powers keep him from getting a clear shot at her.
  • The Anarcho-Syndicalist. Real Name: Donald Kendall. Caucasian male, 5'9", brown hair. He has light powers. He doesn't actually understand anything about anarcho-syndicalism. Seriously, I've talked to him. He's an idiot. Current location: Flying above the ferris wheel, trading energy blasts with Gamma Girl.
  • Allie Gator. Real Name: Allison Davenport. Saurian female, 6'4", no hair. Former socialite. Mutant with lizard-like appearance and heightened strength, agility, and senses. Not particularly into chaos, but gleefully sociopathic. Current location: Trading punches with Calypso on the midway.
  • Amy Arson. Real Name: Amy Rollins. Caucasian female, 5'6", dyed red hair. Former bassist for the Kumquat Cordials, a now-defunct all-girl punk-rock band. Extremely versatile fire powers. Highly destructive. Current location: Burning down the Tunnel of Love and running Polyphemus ragged.
  • Phreakazoid: Real Name: Elton Dempster. Mutated male, 5'11", green hair, purple scaled skin, long pointed ears, and a long tail. Mutant hacker and technologist cursed with a nonhuman appearance. Current location: Holding the Wheelman in a hovering forcefield. I don't know what Greg is doing without a car. I suspect Phreakazoid's techpack also contains any number of other treats, including the signal jammers that are keeping us from calling in any assistance from the city's other heroes.
  • Bazooka Boy. Real Name: Marcus Hickman. African-American male, 5'5", black hair. He's 14 years old. No powers, other than the bazooka he likes to shoot people with. Current location: Tilt-a-Whirl. Shooting me with a goddamn bazooka

Oh, hey, did I get too far ahead of myself?

My name is Gearbox. That's all -- just Gearbox. I'm a robot and a superhero and, I suppose, a renegade.

I was created six years, eight months, 13 days, two hours, 46 minutes, and 24.04927 seconds ago by an unknown genius. The "unknown" bit is particularly frustrating for a computer brain, or at least for my computer brain. But the fact is that I know what he looked like, 'cause I saw him when he switched me on. Aside from that, I know almost nothing about him. It's not the greatest irritation of my life, but it's certainly in the top five.

I'm 1.6764 meters tall and I weigh 52.1631226 kilograms. I have a cubic volume of -- actually, forget it. I could run down my specs for exactly six minutes, 14.6202 seconds, and even I would be bored with it. If you really require further details, please reference filename: Gearbox://specs/cubic_volume.txt.

I have a very nice red and yellow paint scheme, my face is immobile except for my lower jaw, and my voice sounds exactly like Douglas Rain doing the voice of HAL in Stanley Kubrick's "2001." I can't change that -- I've tried plenty of times. My creator may have been a genius, but he had a stupid sense of humor.

I've got a number of functions that correspond to what are popularly known in the media as superpowers. I'm a mechanical shapeshifter -- I can reconfigure myself in a vast number of ways. I can turn my hands into buzzsaws or clubs. I can turn my legs into wheels or drivetrains. I can shape myself into lengthy pulley arrays, flying machines, catapults, small vehicles, or almost anything else. My only real limit is size -- I'm not a particularly large robot, so I can't transform into very large things.

In addition, I'm quite durable, can rebuild myself even if torn apart, and can even regenerate any lost parts. I've been completely disintegrated more than once and always manage to repair myself.

I think that's enough background info about me, at least for now. Let's get back to the fights.

The good news here is that a very large part of the civilian park attendees have already fled the area, which means we won't have to worry too much about hostages or endangered bystanders. In addition, I'd judge that we've got a slight edge when it comes to firepower. The bad news is that there are still some civilians about, and that we're unable to call for backup from other Metro City heroes. I'm also concerned that our side has too many less-experienced combatants. Could be trouble for all of us.

I should be able to handle a bit of play-by-play for everyone here. I have an unusually strong sensory suite that allows me to monitor everything from the emergency radio bands to certain strong stellar signals, and though I can see and hear 5.4055 times better than the average human, that isn't nearly enough to let me listen in on everything happening in the park. However, I have previously attuned my sensors to my fellow heroes' communicators, which should let me keep track of my cohorts' activities, at least inside the area of Phreakazoid's signal dampening field.

So I can track Calypso as she and Allie Gator knock each other back and forth across the midway.

"You need to surrender right now, lizardbreath," Calypso throws a punch across Allie's muzzle. The blow bounces her 6.096 meters away, almost to the ring toss booth, but she hops right back to her feet with a throaty cackle.

"Why should I give up, little preschooler?" Allie laughs. "You haven't managed to hurt me yet!"

She leaps straight at Calypso, grabs her, and flings her at a concession booth, but she hits her air-brakes just in time and hovers up and out of the way.

Unfortunately, I would judge the two of them to be quite closely matched. Calypso can fly and appears to be stronger, but Allie is significantly faster and more agile, and her lizard skin may be tougher than Calypso's. Even worse, she's far more experienced with super-battles than Calypso is.

"I haven't even been trying to hurt you!" Calypso shouts. "Do you want me to? Do you want me to get completely Ow, dammit!"

Calypso needs to learn that there's not always a lot of time to trade quips -- Allie tackles her in mid-air and knocks her back into the concession stand. Cotton candy, soda, and deep-fried candy bars go flying everywhere. There's a muffled "POOM" sound, and Allie goes somersaulting through the air, with a furious and sugar-coated Calypso close behind.

And while that battle resumes, I'm also monitoring how Gamma Girl is handling the Anarcho-Syndicalist.

The two of them are flying around each other quite rapidly, occasionally firing a shot at each other. The Anarcho-Syndicalist's spherical light shield is sufficient, at least for now, for keeping Gamma Girl's radiation blasts at bay. His laser beams aren't particularly powerful; unfortunately, GG doesn't have any real defense against them other than dodging. 

"You should leave us alone!" shouts the Anarcho-Syndicalist. (That's an awful mouthful, isn't it? I should abbreviate it. The A-S? No, that's ridiculous. I suppose I'll have to go with Anarcho.) "We weren't bothering anyone! We were just bringing chaos to the masses!"

"You were causing a panic, and people were going to get trampled," says Gamma Girl, executing a mid-air backflip to avoid a laser. "Then there are the fires, and the kid with the bazooka. Quiet, Sparky, this is not the time for a radiation debate."

"Also, you should actually join us," says Anarcho. "Because I think you might be crazy, and Lady Chaos loves crazy people."

"Oh, go to hell," says GG. "Sparky, see if you can pass through his shields. Look for something I could try to blow up."

Meanwhile, I'm also tracking the battle -- if you can call it that -- between Polyphemus and Amy Arson. It's essentially Amy setting more fires at the Tunnel of Love while Dr. McKenzie hauls more civilians out of the ride while shouting frantically. 

"I can keep doing this all day, you big eyeless turd!" Amy laughs. "Or I would, but I'll have burned this whole park to a crisp way before the day's over!"

Polyphemus charges through a burning wall, a large wet tarp full of screaming teenagers in his arms. 

"Stop this, you mad harridan!" he shouts. "Give me time to get more people out!"

"Like hell!" she yells. "I don't even know if you could give me a good fight anyway, you ugly whining yellow shitbird! You haven't even tried to hit me!"

"I don't know if I'm allowed to!" he shouts back. "I'm not supposed to hurt people weaker than me!"

Oh, Dr. McKenzie. We need to do a much better job with your training. We should also make sure you know not to say things like that to supervillains.

McKenzie is at least putting on a better effort than Wheelman is.

"Come on, man, lemme out of this forcefield," says Greg.

"No," says Phreakazoid.

"Oh, come on."


"I'll make it worth your while."

"Oh, really? What are you going to do?"

"Kick your ass and throw you in jail?"

"You are not getting out of that forcefield."

"The longer you keep me in here, the worse it'll be for you."

"Yeah, right. You gonna pull a car out of your pocket there? Don't know why you even showed up for the fight without a car."

"I thought there was a parking lot inside the amusement park."

"Man, I thought you superheroes were supposed to be smart."

"Smart and good-looking, thanks."

I've got to hope things are going better with the Star, and I hate to say it, but they're not. His own cosmic forceshields have proven improbably weak against Lady Chaos' lightning bolts, and his cosmic beams have been uncommonly inaccurate -- he's missed every single shot he's taken at her, and he appears to be getting more and more frustrated and angry by the minute.

"Dammit, Lady Chaos!" he shouts as he fires another cosmic blast only to watch it ricochet off a fiberglass merry-go-round horse. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Causing chaos, Star!" she laughs. "What did you expect from us?"

"Don't hand me that," Star yells back. "This isn't the G8 summit or a political convention or a stock exchange! Since when did the Chaos Crew ever care about targeting something as chaotic as an amusement park with even more anarchy?"

"Do you think I follow any kinds of rules?" she asks, neatly and very improbably deflecting one of his cosmic beams with her wristwatch. "I do what chaos demands -- to hell with any concept of rules or law!"

Well, the thing is -- the Star is absolutely correct. Lady Chaos prefers to have her team focus on targets that are run by or cater to wealthy, powerful control freaks. Multinational corporations, wealthy megachurches, the Pentagon? Yes. Small, family-run amusement parks? A very big no.

Something else is going on here, and I have no idea what. Hmm, hypothesis: Is she doing this just to cause chaos and confusion in a computer-powered brain? Hypothesis rejected: (A) Too much effort for too little reward, (B) my computer-powered brain is not a wealthy, powerful control freak, and (C) that's attributing far too much to Lady Chaos' ability to formulate complex plans, and (D) really, it's just my ego talking. You don't do stuff like this just to mess with a robot's head.

I'd love to spend some more time trying to figure out why the Chaos Crew has abandoned their usual modus operandi, but I don't really have the luxury of thinking on it right now, what with Bazooka Boy repeatedly shooting me with a goddamn bazooka!

"Stop it, you little--"

There's an explosion at my feet, and it blows me back 12.889 meters into one of the park's maintenance buildings. I barely have time to duck out of the way before another missile blows out the back of the building. Another shell blows the roof off, and I'm scrambling for more cover.

Yes, that's a lot of bazooka shells. The damn kid got his hands on an experimental rocket launcher with a magazine of shells. He can fire 'em off one after the other. Computerized guidance system, too. It does a lot of damage -- I have no idea where my right arm or left leg are right now -- and makes a lot of noise. But not enough to keep me from hearing the snot-nosed little punk laughing at me.


I hate Bazooka Boy so very goddamn much.

"Probably didn't need to broadcast that so loud, Gearbox," yells the Star. "People are already terrorized enough around here."

"What's an anchor bolt?" shouts Amy Arson. "And where can I buy some?"

It's actually a bit disappointing to me that the person who turns this whole fight around in our favor is someone I'm really not very fond of. There's a from-out-of-nowhere trill of flute music, and a pink-haired Japanese woman dressed up like Sailor Moon flies into the park.

"Silver Protector Kumiko!" shouts Amy Arson excitedly. "I mean, wait, ugh, I hated that dumb TV show!"

"Phreakazoid!" yells Lady Chaos. "What the hell is she doing here? I thought we'd be cut off from everyone out here!"

"The signal jammers are still working perfectly," Phreakazoid yells back. "So she didn't come here because of anyone's communicator!"

"I could feel a great deal of psychic trauma and chaos magic coming from this area," Kumiko says. "And I felt I should check it out. Good thing I did, from the looks of things."

"Stop patting yourself on the back and get to work!" I shout at her.

"Fine," she says. "Star, shift to a new opponent. I can handle Lady Chaos."

"Oh, little magic girl, you and your little magic wand are no match for my perfect mastery of probability!" laughs Lady Chaos. "Let's see how you can handle some lightning in your face!"

She flings a blast of electricity at her, but Kumiko shouts, "Radiant Blossom SHIELD!" and a wall of purple flower blossoms appears in mid-air to deflect the lightning.

"Aww, flowers," sneers Chaos. "How pretty!"

"If you say so," says Kumiko. "Celestial Storm of Ten Thousand GOLF BALLS!"

I'm quite good at counting, and it isn't anywhere near 10,000. Nevertheless, golf balls start raining down around Lady Chaos. Most of them get deflected by improbable wind gusts, but a few make it through.

"Ow, oh my god, what are you doing?!"

"Overloading your luck magic," says Kumiko. "It should flare out completely in a few moments. So this is a good time for a Giant Dragon UPPERCUT!"

And there's a glowing, oversized fist that appears out of nowhere and belts Lady Chaos in the chin. Knocks her out just like that, and Kumiko catches her with an "Emperor's Supreme CUSHION!" before she hits the ground.

And that's how she does all her spells. Shouting stuff like it's a cartoon. Not really that weird, I guess -- other sorcerers have to do long rituals or use special ingredients to cast spells, so her method is at least faster. And that's not what irritates me about her anyway. Kumiko has a terrible attitude about Metro City and it really gets on my nonexistent nerves.

By this time, everyone else is switching to new opponents, too. The Star swoops down toward Phreakazoid, pops off a volley of cosmic beams, and shorts out the forcefield holding Wheelman.

Greg drops out of the force bubble and hits the ground running. Phreakazoid tries to catch him in another forcefield, but he's ducked into the bumper cars too quickly. And after that, Phreakazoid has his hands too full with Star. 

Phreakazoid snaps off a couple quick energy blasts from his tech-gauntlets. He wings Star with one, but the other goes wide. After that, Star brings up his own cosmic forcefield, and Phreakazoid's blasts are harmlessly absorbed by the shield.

"Power down and drop your weapons," says Star. "Be smart, Phreakazoid."

"I specialize in smart," laughs Phreakazoid. There's an audible pop in the air, and another force bubble expands around him. "I can't get to you, you can't get to me. But I've got sensors analyzing your forcefield, and I bet I'll be able to crack it open in 30 seconds."

"Is that so?" says Star. "Do the words 'full cosmic' mean anything to you?"

My sensors always fritz out a bit whenever he converts his body completely to cosmic energy. Even 47.5 meters away, my visual processors go pure white on me, and I start getting wildly variant temperature, pressure, and atmospheric readings.

By the time everything clears up, I've missed the fight completely -- the Star looks like he's put himself through hell, but Phreakazoid is unconscious and all of his equipment is either shattered or on fire. Hope he never decides to turn that power around on me. I can take a lot, but I don't know if I could handle that.

Meanwhile, a 1997 Daihatsu S110P maintenance mini-truck bursts out of a storage shed and zips down the midway before hitting the brakes hard and fishtailing to a stop, timed just perfectly to slam into Allie Gator with the back bumper and send her flying to the far end of the midway.

"Hey there, Calypso, how ya doing?" Wheelman grins.

"Hey, Wheelman," she says. "You really think you can take her on with just a little mini-truck like that?"

"Won't be a problem," he says. "Go give Gamma Girl a hand, okay?"

"Sure thing," Calypso says. "Um, I kinda expected you to show up with one of the bumper cars, you know?"

"Please, girl," he scoffs as Allie pops out of the bottle toss booth and runs screaming at them. "This truck may not be the hottest ride in town, but at least it's better than a bumper car."

As Greg somehow starts thrashing Allie by turning the windshield wipers on, Calpyso soars up and orients herself on the Anarcho-Syndicalist. She rockets upwards and slams into his spherical hard-light forcefield, knocking it 96.6216 meters away.

"I think I got this guy, Gamma Girl," Calypso says. "What's his deal?"

"He's a light controller, Cal," says GG. "So watch out for lasers, and try to keep your eyes guarded. He's called the Anarcho-Syndicalist."

"Wow, that's a... name, I guess," says Calypso. "Do I want to know what it means?"

"It's one of those complicated political things," says GG. "Too complicated to deal with now, I think. He's basically into anarchy, but he's a bit stupid. Try not to hurt him too badly."

Gamma Girl flies down as Anarcho returns to the fight.

"Where's she going?" he shouts. "And what did you hit me for?"

"I hit you 'cause libertarians are idiots," says Calypso. "Ya wanna fight, libertarian?"

"I'm not a libertarian," he says. "I'm an anarchist."

"Same difference."

"No, it's not, they're significantly Ooof!"

She smacks into his forcefield again and knocks him another 24.842 meters back.

"Ow, watch it!" he yells. "What's with the -- oh, you just trying to wind me up? Have a bunch of lasers!"

Of course, she's much too thick-skinned for Anarcho's lasers to cause her any harm.

"Well, fine, I can't hurt you," he says. "But you can't get through my forcefield, can you?"

"I don't need to get through it," she says, flying above him. "You ever spiked a football, libertarian?"

She bodyslams the forceshield hard, and Anarcho is sent rocketing downward. He and his forceshield hit the ground hard enough to make a small crater in the dirt. The forceshield vanishes as Anarcho bounces 1.593 meters in the air. He lands flat on his face, but manages to make a decent recovery and stumble to his feet fairly quickly. His forcefield flickers back to life, though I doubt it can handle many more hits like that.

"Hey, I can't get through that forcefield at all, can I?" says Calypso as she hovers down toward him. "Lemme try not getting through that forcefield some more."

Down by the Tunnel of Love, now mostly lost to fire, Polyphemus has plunged back into the inferno to look for more trapped victims, while Gamma Girl swoops down to deal with Amy Arson.

"Young lady, you're going to need to settle down before you get hurt," Gamma Girl says as she lands in front of Amy. She pops her radioactive aura up 11.8% in an attempt to intimidate her. It doesn't work, unfortunately.

"Oooo, little radioactive bitch thinks she can scare me off with a little extra heat?" Amy sneers. She kicks up her own fire output by 72.21% and shouts, "There is no goddamn way you're hotter than I am!"

She's probably right. Amy is far from the most powerful fire projector on the planet, but she does delight in destruction, so she's spent the last few years working to make herself more powerful and more dangerous, sometimes with power-enhancing drugs, often with simple training and practice.

"Yes, Sparky, I know," says GG, apparently talking to her weird imaginary friend. "Heat is basically radiation, so I can shrug it off. But that doesn't really solve the problem of all the damage she's causing, now does it? And adding more heat is only going to make things worse, right?"

"Why are you calling me Sparky?"

"I think you're learning, Sparky," says Gamma Girl. "Not every problem has a radiation-based solution."

GG darts forward and punches Amy in the stomach. It's not a particularly hard hit, but it surprises her long enough for Renee to throw another punch at Amy's jaw.

But Amy reacts pretty quickly, swinging a roundhouse that knocks Renee back. 

"You think you can outfight me, too?" she yells. "I've been fighting my whole damn life! I can take you down easy!"

"Oh, I bet you think you can," Gamma Girl laughs, wiping a smear of glowing white blood off her lip. "You get into a slapfight after a concert, and you've got security on hand to take out your target if they end up kicking your ass. But you don't have security now. You just got me, some lowly radioactive housewife... who's been getting combat lessons from the Chrome Cobra and Jonni Rotten."

And as much as el Phantasmo would want me to spend more time describing in detail a knockdown brawl between two women who are literally on fire (Oh, fine, if you're interested, access filename: Gearbox://logentries/20160722_1115/pekarparkway/chaoscrew/amyarson_gammagirl.mpeg.), Polyphemus takes that moment to burst out of the Tunnel of Love with the last two trapped carnival-goers.

He carries the panicking, sooty teenagers, a girl under one arm and a boy under the other, a safe distance away from the blaze, then plops them down on the ground.

"Children!" he shouts. "Run for the front gate and exit the park as quickly as you can! And in the future avoid attractions like Tunnels of Love. They're unsafe and lead impressionable young people to indulge foolish passions!"

I doubt either of them are really able to hear him. They're just screaming too loud.

"There is no more need for screams," he says. "I've gotten you out safely. You are in far less danger than you were before."

I don't actually know if he realizes that they're not screaming about the fire, but about the giant eyeless yellow monster in front of them.

"Just leave the park, okay?" he says. "There are still supervillains here. Go on, go."

As the kids finally run away, still screaming, Dr. McKenzie turns his attention to Bazooka Boy, which is a damn good thing because the little hominid brat is still shooting me with a goddamn bazooka and I'm down to my head, left arm, and 86.8% of my torso, which takes a while for me to self-repair -- which I can't do yet because the twerp just won't stop shooting me with a goddamn bazooka!

"You there! Young man!" Polyphemus shouts. "Stop that nonsense immediately! You're going to hurt someone!"

Bazooka Boy, still perched on top of the Tilt-a-Whirl, brays laughter. "Eat me!" he yells as he unleashes another volley of missiles at Polyphemus. 

McKenzie's a big target -- every rocket hits. And they don't even scratch him.

"Children these days have no respect for their elders," Polyphemus grumps as he effortlessly leaps the 37.76472 meters to the top of the Tilt-a-Whirl. The ride rocks hard under his weight, and Bazooka Boy starts to fall off, dropping the bazooka as his arms pinwheel. McKenzie grabs Bazooka Boy with one hand and the weapon with the other.

He holds Bazooka Boy fairly carefully in the air by the back of his shirt and effortlessly crumples and folds the bazooka with one oversized three-fingered hand. I actually would've treated the boy and the bazooka in exactly opposite ways. And Bazooka Boy probably would've wailed just as loud either way.

So final tally: Lady Chaos knocked out, Phreakazoid cosmic-blasted into unconsciousness, Allie Gator shocked by a car battery, and Anarcho-Syndicalist, Amy Arson, and Bazooka Boy all handcuffed together. Casualties on our side? Gamma Girl is very proudly showing off some bumps and bruises, including an impressive shiner (with her regenerative abilities, she should be as good as new in 10 minutes, 49.87 seconds). And I'm still trying to get myself completely repaired.

So even though we had a rare clean-sweep of all the bad guys, I'm still not very pleased with my performance. Probably would've done a great deal better if I hadn't had to deal with a punk kid with advanced explosive missiles. I guess everyone has an occasional super-battle where they don't cover themselves with glory, but I'm never happy when it happens to me. At least no one else is bitching at me about it.

Unfortunately, that's when our communicators start sounding alarms like crazy. This wasn't an isolated attack. There's trouble going on all over Metro City...

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