you bet your skin
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Sitting on the john, Vinny watches a montage of crime scene snippets on his InVision: flashing police lights, murder victims, morgue shots, investigators, police cordons, criminals arrested and interrogated.
Two news things, a male and a female say:
"You've been talking."
"And we've been listening."
"So many killings."
"So very many killings."
"Each and every day."
"You're drowning in facts."
"So many killers."
"Way, way too many victims."
"Way too much."
"So you've been talking."
"And we've been listening."
"We know your mind."
"And we're doing something about it."
"Crime at its best."
"We know what you want."
"And you know we got it."
"Too thrilling to miss."
"So don't miss a second."
"Star killing news."
"It's killing entertainment."
A news chopper circles a dump. Scavenging gulls fly up. A body bag is zipped closed and lifted into an ambulance. An on the scene news thing reports, "Fans were stunned this morning when the mutilated corpse of Show Queen was seen dumped in this New Jersey landfill."
"Star Killing, don't miss one electrifying second."
"Star Killing, News Now, right now."
"And now for other news."
"Three hundred and fifty-eight pound woman loses two hundred and thirty-six pounds on the pill."
A slim looking woman says, "I never could have done it without Foodpass. With Foodpass I can party, binge, and orgy all I want, when I want. Whatever you do, don't pass up Foodpass." A disclaimer says, "Use only under supervision of an autodoc. Overuse can result in starvation or death."
Another news thing says, "Medical alert: Acquired Skin Disorder (ASD) is on the rise. Infection rates have reached double digits in some marginal countries. World Health officials warn that loss of eumelanin pigmentation in tropical inhabitants could lead to a rise in skin cancer. This news is brought to you courtesy of the makers of Bodyblock, the only sun block that adjusts itself automatically to the changes in your skin tone. To order Bodyblock, just say Bodyblock."
Another news thing says, "News insert: mayhem, as it happens."
A montage of urban bomb damage rolls across Vinny's InVision: carnage on sidewalks, in tube trains, sports stadiums, shopping malls. Close ups of people in shock, in grief. A dozen attack helicopters buzz low over a city.
Another news thing says, "According to authorities, it could have been much worse. There are growing reports of evilist penetration of trash communities. Representatives of the Organization of Quick Responders are conferring about what to do as mayhem reaches epidemic proportions."
A government official says, "Operation Keep Safe, we're looking out for you."
Men are seen running down a suburban street.
"But there's no hiding."
A rocket streaks from a hovering drone. There's an explosion, smoke rises from behind some houses.
"We hunt them and we get them. So relax, rest assured, we are taking care of business."
Another news thing says, "Rumors of the disappearances of thousands of people, referred to unofficially as goners, continue to circulate on the Interface."
A distraught woman says, "He just walked out, and that was three weeks ago."
The news thing says, "And reports of dog nuisance are on the rise. Citizens have been complaining that trash are now using dogs for..."
Vinny, only half awake on the toilet, watches a news thing say, "You know what they say about the weather, everyone talks about it and it just keeps cooking. This year's record temperatures are sending people without air conditioning to the morgue in droves..."
Call from Vita
Vinny snaps awake and leans forward, crossing his arms on his bare thighs. The frowning woman on his InVision informs him, "The client is unhappy, very unhappy."
The face of a smiling fat boy pops into an InVision window. "Mmmmm, ChoCorn. Yeah!" A drop of chocolate syrup glistens on his lip, a naughty gleam in his eye.
"He's way too fat, Vinny."
"I was going for the robust look."
"Get this chubba on a treadmill, pronto."
"Now, about Hammerman."
Vinny's action hero replaces the boy in the window. The battle-scarred warrior faces a battalion of tired looking mutants as he stands swinging a spiked ball and chain in circles above his head.
"Blood Warrior -- come on Vinny -- they've seen this a thousand times before. Sales are sagging. This old fart is in need of a serious upgrade, something fresh, a new angle, a sidekick, new bad guys, new good guys, whatever."
"I was thinking..."
"I don't really care, Vinny. But you better come up with something quick, and I'm not talking about next week. Now, about President Stickman..."
"What about the president?"
"On the news. Keep an eye on him."
"What am I looking for?"
"Just keep an eye on him."
"Because I told you to."
Vita clicks him off.
Vinny takes some deep breaths, opens a design frame in his InVision, and pulls up a hologram of the fat boy's head. He cups his hands over the kid's virtual ears and squeezes. The smiling Buddha boy resists at first, then gives way, cheeks sinking into cheekbones, taking on the chiseled face of a marathon runner.
Vinny opens a new design window.
Staring at the war torn fighter he asks the system, "Just what are the basics for this guy?"
Hammerman: weapons of choice
Ball and chain
Rocket propelled grenade
Satellite death ray
Vinny adds an item: <<Meat hook>>
Hammerman: character traits
Vinny modifies the trait, Evil, changing it to:
The design program replies:
Check for skewing error
He makes a note. Check this later.
There's just one goal on the list: Winning.
He makes a note: Expand goals, maybe something more sophisticated.
The list is blank.
Vinny sighs, closes his eyes, and says to himself, "Let it rest. Moving on, now."
Create workspace: new baddies
He describes his work while he sketches in the InVision workspace.
"Seven-foot cyborg, three arms, four legs. Macho machine, but feminine. Beady insect eyes, mascara and eyeliner. Flesh and blood nose and mouth, full, succulent lips. Fingers, long and slender, supple and strong, super strong, titanium nails, polished pearl, matching lip-gloss. Definitely feminine."
Clone three more
He considers the monstrous quartet for a moment and smiles.
Filename: Fearsome 4Pack
"No, change that."
Rename file: Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Moe
He shakes his head.
Rename file: Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum
The figures are replaced by an error message.
File lost. Check for skewing error.
Reminder: Check all skewing errors, and search for all lost files ASAP.
He frowns. "Like I have time for this."
Check News Now: show President Stickman
Vinny watches a man doing the breaststroke beneath the surface of a large swimming pool. The Presidential Seal undulates on the bottom as the swimmer glides over it. The middle-aged swimmer climbs out of the pool, towels off, and walks up to a bevy of news things at the side of the pool.
A news thing shouts, "Mr. President, the fear poll is at ninety-seven and the number of attacks keeps increasing. Can you tell us..."
"All I have to say about these evilists -- it just shows how desperate they really are. But rest assured, we're taking care of business."
Vinny makes a note: Advertising opportunity, work President Stickman into the game.
Vinny pulls off the last sheet of toilet paper. A new roll automatically pops into the holder.
A helper appears. "Order refills?"
"No. I'll do it at TheBox."