(reading time: 54 minutes)
The following is a record anonymously donated to the Justice Backers by a member of the Gamedreamy staff. Gamedreamy is an up and coming site where individuals livestream the playing of video games, board games, and card games. Though Secret Shuffle is banned on their service, one individual managed to complete a stream of four whole games. The individual in question often goes by the name Swagglerock69, a handle he regularly uses to harass members of the Justice Backers and their community.
Each phase of the final game of the stream is reproduced here to help you understand the mindset of SS players and the consequences of the game itself. All card names have been redacted.
TRIGGER WARNING: The conversation taking place contains swearing as well as language that may be offensive to women and the LGBTQA+ communities.
SR69 = Swagglerock69
UO = unidentified opponent
SR69: Last game of the day bitches! You know I could go all night long, but I’ve got shit to do.
UO: You get first move.
SR69: Cool it; I’ve got to tell my audience the best part. We don’t play like pussies. This is man up or shut up. Winner take all, loser become card. We’ve written our biggest secrets on some paper and put them on the table here. The winner gets to keep their secret hidden and send the loser’s secret to Deckard. Agreed?
UO: Yeah, just go.
- SR69 places two ribcage cards face up.
- UO places two femur cards face up and one card face down.
- SR69 discards a ribcage card and plays another.
- UO places another card face down and draws a card.
SR69: I see your theme is Ohio politics. You can’t win with that. Too many guys running around on their wives and not enough outing.
UO: Dude, just play.
SR69: Cool your tits. I need to keep the stream interesting for my fans. I’ve got to teach if they want to learn from the SS best. Like how I know that you’re using so many face-downs because you’re trying to feel out how many hand bones I’m holding. And how I know that you won’t be able to do anything about this…
- SR69 places a hand bone card and turns both ribcage cards sideways. UO is forced to discard his cards.
- UO places a femur card and turns it upside down.
- SR69 discards his ribcage cards, draws three cards, and then plays three femur cards.
- UO flips a femur card face up. SR69 is forced to discard one femur card.
SR69: You know I’ve personally put fourteen cards into this game. Deckard sent me a box of boosters the size of a shipping container for it.
UO: But you didn’t get the Justice Backers.
SR69: You don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t need them in the game; I’ve been giving them what they deserve for years now. I’m like their arch nemesis. I even got one of the western ones to attempt suicide. Bitch couldn’t even get that right. You won any SS tournaments yet?
UO: A few.
SR69: I got third in the South Carolina one last week, won like six grand.
UO: Good for you. It’s your turn Mr. Bronze.
SR69: I only got third because the guy in second cheated. He pulled a skull card on me in the last phase.
UO: Skull cards are not cheating; they’re just the best.
SR69: They are when a dick like that pulls it out in the last phase. It was just luck.
UO: Do you know why all those whiny losers screech ‘check your privilege’ all the time? It’s because they think luck is cheating.
SR69: You calling me an SJW?
UO: You just play the hand you’re dealt. You’re never required to make noise.
SR69: Check out this noise. You can’t ignore this!
- SR69 turns his hand bone upside down. He discards a femur card, draws a card, and plays another hand bone card. UO’s single card is destroyed.
- UO draws a card and passes his turn.
SR69: I told you man, not enough outing in your deck. You need some fags if you’re going to break through any of the gambling addict or credit card debt defenses. Now you’re just stuck floundering by on those bathroom hand jobs. There’s no way you can win.
UO: Maybe I’m just waiting for the right card.
SR69: You’re yanking my dong. No way you’ve got a skull. Besides, half the skulls out there couldn’t stop me now.
UO: What’s with all the addicts anyway? With all that skunk juice you spray around online I thought your deck would be full of preteen girls deleting social media posts.
SR69: That shit’s nothing but femurs. Maybe you occasionally get a rich girl who counts as a ribcage. I like to win, so I’ve been working my way up.
UO: You can win with an all femur deck. That Drownedwitch4 chick took the Toronto tournament on the back of a straight A student smoking weed for the first time.
SR69: Don’t get me started on that whore…
UO: Okay, I won’t.
- SR69 draws two cards and plays a hand bone sideways.
- UO draws a card and skips his turn.
- SR69 turns all his cards face up and plays two rib cage cards. At this point UO is one turn away from losing.
- UO draws a card. He discards it and draws four more. He plays a skull card from his hand.
SR69: Bull… bullshit! That’s bullshit.
UO: It’s the game. If you have a problem with it you can take it up with Deckard.
SR69: You lied. You didn’t tell me you had a skull card. You came in here with those ratty-ass clothes as some kind of shit disguise. You’re not real. You’re just some punk screwing with me because my stream’s so much bigger than whatever shit you’re trying to do.
UO: You don’t listen very well do you? Rarity doesn’t determine the winner. You emptied your hand and put half your deck forward. Of course I sniped you with the incestuous pregnant heiress. I don’t know how you got bronze in any tourney making moves like that.
SR69: I’ve never even heard of that card. I bet it’s counterfeit. It’s not even a good fake; that skull’s too gray.
UO: You dumbass. Secret Shuffle’s a living breathing game. It eats and shits secrets. While there are still nutrients in my cards, still tears to wring out, yours have been drying out for months. You can’t just collect these cards. They’re not yours unless you dominate them like I just dominated you.
SR69: I’m not giving my secret to a cheater. Get out of here. Yeah, hah. Look at what the people in chat are saying. You’re a liar. BS. Bullshit. They’re all calling you out on it.
UO: That only looks like half the comments to me.
SR69: Well they’re the correct half fag.
UO: A deal’s a deal. You have to give me your deck and your secret, not that either of them is worth much.
SR69: I’m worth more than your entire fag family going back ten ball-licking fag generations!
UO: Hand it over.
SR69: Over my dead body. You want to have a real-ass fight on my stream? Fine. Come at me! I’ll probably get a few hundred extra followers for this shit; I don’t care.
It is not entirely clear what happens next, as the camera was positioned over the table the game was played on. Based on the audio we assume that the unidentified opponent pulled a firearm on Swagglerock69.
SR69: Woah, easy man. Who brings a gun to a card game?
UO: I’m just making sure you keep your promise.
SR69: You can’t take it. Look, this is my life. I’ll lose everything if anybody finds out about that.
UO: Every card we’ve been using is a life. If you can’t control your stable you deserve to be in it. That’s how the game works.
SR69: I don’t deserve it! I’m not one of them. Please. I’m begging you. I’m on my knees here. Don’t do this. I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean any of that shit I said. I’m just scared man, please. Please, please, please, please don’t take it.
UO: It’s too late. You like Secret Shuffle so much? Now you get to be a part of it.
SR69: Oh god no… no… why me? Stop looking. The stream is over you assholes! It’s over. Thanks for nothing you shitty leeches. That’s what everyone is. Leeches!
The individual known as Swagglerock69 was found dead under the cover of his family’s empty hot tub three days later. It was ruled a suicide by gunshot. We were able to confirm that he was in fact added to Secret Shuffle as a femur card, though his death has barred the card from official play.
We have printed this individual’s name and identifying details before in our interactions with him, but in this instance we feel it is best not to remove the anonymity he wanted to maintain by printing his name or the secret he seems to have ended his life over. He was not the best of us, but he was of us. No life should be someone else’s plaything.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
SENDER: NANCE PILTON AKA WOMAN’S TOUCH
RECIPIENT: PO BOX redacted
Hello Eben. I’ve finally gotten so bored in here that I’m writing to you. I was waiting until all my initial hopes of escape dampened. I honestly thought that last escaped hostage unit would act on the protocols I installed and attempt to break me out. Something I wrote must have conflicted with encrypted data built into their very blueprints, because hell if they didn’t all strike out on their own. The last one was the one you caught a month ago if I’m remembering correctly. (It takes me a while to get news about the Backers in here.) Apparently it had split its own body into three parts and taken to calling itself Trifecta. That’s what I heard anyway. A flying head that shot lasers, a hovering torso that punched people, and a pair of legs that ran by themselves and slashed people with hidden blades. All very exciting. I’m sure you smashed it into oblivion.
I know you wouldn’t do that to my hands. I also heard you are keeping those safe. Helipads? Extremely unimaginative, but thank you for not destroying them. The fact that you didn’t makes me think you’ve still got a soft spot for Woman’s Touch. Your whiny little backers would never let you use them in battle, but instead of melting them for scrap you’ve put your transportation in my hands. You always were sweet like that. You never used your words, but the sentiment manifested in whatever you built. You can’t help it. All that niceness just leaks out of you like a puppy that’s not housebroken yet.
Do you know how hard it was to get this letter to you? The prison censors wouldn’t like quite a lot of it, so I had to make some difficult trades with the other inmates to get the mild letter in the envelope switched with this one before it went out. I’ve gotten so good at shifting things around unseen that I’m considering changing my name to sleight-of-hand. The whole hyphenated thing worked for Act-of-Goddess after all.
It doesn’t sound like things are going too well with your team. The goddess’s leg got broken. Your marble man is cracking under the pressure. You’ve got a racist machine in your ranks that you can’t figure out how to deprogram. That Salt Shaker woman is clearly gunning for your role as leader. She’ll get there too. These aren’t your people Eben, just like the last batch. They’re going to take the infrastructure you built, the popularity you’ve garnered, and leave you with an empty garage just like Impala did.
You’re going to let them do it aren’t you? You could assert yourself instead of trying to buy them with baskets of puppies. Was it literally a basket? I’m hoping that was just an embellishment that came along with the tale. Did you hide chocolate eggs in their little puppy mouths for them to find as well? Since your big dogs can all join to form a sled, do the puppies make a little puppy merry-go-round?
Don’t let them do this to you again. You’re a thief, a liar, a traitor, and a human callus. And that’s okay Eben. You got that way because people didn’t respect you, just like me. Have you considered getting me out of here? It wouldn’t be hard. You’ve got my hands and your dogs. You’ve illegally liberated things before. It got you where you are now. Think about what we could do together. I wouldn’t leave you. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs, but do you remember what it was like working together? I can contribute to your work. I can appreciate it. I know you’d appreciate mine. We could be partners. After a while our tech would be so reliant on a combination of our efforts that we couldn’t split anyway. I would need your dogged determination and you would need my handy cunning.
You think of me as a villain, but tell me, did I ever kill anybody? I cracked a few bones and kept one of your Backers, who ended up leaving you by the way, in a jar for a couple weeks. No permanent harm done. It’s not like you’d be making a deal with the devil. I’m no serial killer. I’m not even as bad as that Deckard brat who’s ripping you apart at the seams. All I did was make my physical strength match my ambition. I’m selfish. It’s hardly a society-destroying sin. I just didn’t have the patience to do my robbery legally, like some.
You don’t have to commit to anything just yet. I have a little free time in here. Just keep in mind that I’m getting out eventually, and it would be better if I knew you were on my side when I did.
Thinking of you and a few other things,
Salt Shaker’s Vomit-Inducing Fan Fiction Corner
Welcome back backers. We’ve had an unusual development in our anthropological study of one Kharmie Buttercup. There’s a chance, a very small chance, that perhaps through the alignment of some heavenly bodies or communion with a tentacle-faced ancient monstrosity, that Miss Kharmie Buttercup may have stumbled into some actual, honest, genuine insight. Call the pope; we’ve got a miracle to verify.
Before you wind up mopping the floor with your dropped jaw, note that the insight didn’t actually make it into a piece of her fiction. It can instead be found in her ‘atuhor’s note’ that she has placed before the piece. She talks about the difficulty she had in humanizing Deckard for use in her fan fictions. What that means for those of us capable of actual analysis is that Deckard is so evil and out-of-touch with contemporary morality that even a girl who has built a career out of contorting people into hideous Picasso-esque versions of themselves that act contrary to their actual nature cannot turn Deckard into a human being. Congratulations Kharmie, you’ve inadvertently said something that I agree with. I would shake your hand if you hadn’t already buried me in a hundred different graves across all your stories. I believe you even had me drawn and quartered once.
This week’s excerpt shows us how Kharmie would solve our current villain problem. It is the way she solves all of the world’s problems: homosexual romance. Again I have punched this cookie from the middle of the flat uneven dough that is her average plot structure. Deckard has blackmailed the president into abdicating his office and appointing the nefarious card dealer leader of the country (because that’s totally within the president’s power). He is about to force a bill through congress that will require every U.S. citizen to have their brains scanned for secrets in order to create ID cards that will stratify society and send it back to the dark ages.
The Justice Backers team (with Golden Boy filling in for me after my unfortunate death due to a complication from my rampant genital warts) breaks into the secret bunker beneath the white house. They’ve rigged a portable brain scanner in order to take Deckard’s darkest secrets and give him a taste of his own medicine. Lights. Curtain up.
Alpha Dog X Deckard
Love is in the cards – Part 5 (finale)
ATUHOR’S NOTE: This fic might not be as good as my others, for because I will tell you right now. Deckard is a jerk. I couldn’t think of things that Alpha Dog would like/love/lust over about him because he’s so bad so I had to do this thing where I changerd Deckard into like more of kid-ish charcter. So in this he’s just really scared other people are always out to get him so he lashed out and amde all the cards so he could get them first. I hope that makes sense.
Alpha Do karate chops the secret shuffle service agent in the neck and he goes down like a stack of CDs. Now there really isn’t anything standing betweeen them and Deckard except a big metal door.
“Ms. Goddess, tear down this wall!” he orders Actofgoddess. She smiles and says with pleasure and raises her hand which a fountain of lava then comes out of. The lava pours like a fountain and splashes all over the door. There is tons of smoke and steam while the fiery goo melts through every of the parts of the door. Alpha Dog, Actofgoddess, Opossum Player, Electric Eel, Paladina, Orb, Transplant, Tin Soldier, and Golden Boy all walk into the room while the smoke is clearing and see Deckard sitting at a fancy desk. There is also is a teeny old lady in the corner knitting a new Decakrd-y flag that will going to replace the aemrican star-stripey one.
“It’s over Deckard. Prepare to have your dirty laundry laundered in front of the wholeness of the entire world!” Alpha Dog raises the portable brains canner and points it upon Deckard’s shiny with swet forehead.
“It’s not over until I say its over!” Deckard shouts back. “NOW!” The old lady stands up an ddrops her knitting needles and pulls off her face to reveal it was in actual reality a mask and it is Speedball! Speedball pulls a metal ball out from under the flag, presses a button on it and tosses it at the backers. A cloud of purple gas made of Nyquil PM comes out of it and before the backers can react they all fall to the floor in sleep except for Alpha Dog because one of his dogs detaches its own face and gives it to him to use as a gas mask that protects from the sleeping gas.
“Speedball, leave us. I wish to gloat evilly with just the two of us,” Deckard says to Speedball who grabs his knitting stuff and flag and leaves the room to finish somewehre else. “It’s just the two of us ow Alpha Dog. Time to be honest. That’ what my game is completely all about, honesty. It makes people be honest even if they sometimes don’t want too always be.”
“Secrets are important Deckard because theymake people feel safe. They feel like they own something like a shiny little pearl inside them that nobody can take away. There’s a reason Connectera lets you set your account to private.” Alpha Dog fires the brain scanner but Deckard doesn’t even move. He lets the baby blue energy beam hit his forehead and make a ringing scanning noise the for a couple of some seconds until it isn’t doing it anymore. Alpha Dog silently hopes Deckard actullay has a secret juicy enough to get him to stop turning human beings into cards he and other evil people can just casually play with when their bored. When the secret scrolls across the screen on the brain scanner he refuses to believe his lying eyeballs. “This can’t be true,” he whispers and lets the brain scanner fall out of his hands and onto the ground where it makes a noise like something hitting something else.
“It’s true,” Deckard says suddenly sounding a lot sweeter like a lemon bar. He reaches into a desk drawer and Alpha Dog thinks he’s grabbing a gun so he has and makes his dogs do some growling but it turns out to be a bouquet of flowers instead of a weapon like he thought. They are his favorite flower: dogwood. One of the doggies walks over to Deckard and gentily take the flowers with his mouth and brings them over to Alpha Dog. “I’ve been in love with you since all of this started, but my secret was too big, too dark, and too secret to give it to you out in the open. I needed to soften the blow. We needed to live in a world where all of everybody’s all secrets are out and running free so mine could too and nobody would care. I didn’t mean for it all to turn out so bad but when I started it it became super hard to stop from rolling like a snowball getting bigger and biger.”
Alpha Dog doesn’t know what anything he should say. He’s never been in love before. Sure he slept with and touched Woman’s Touch a lot but that was just for fun and was way before she was a villain or in jail. Can he love a villain if the villain is sorry? Can he love a man? Alpha Dog is the alpha male of his pack and has to be masculine all the time to stay that way. What if his dogs won’t respect him anymore if he was gay? That will break his heart.
“All of this was so you could tell me you loved me?” he asks Deckard undisbeleivingly. “A lot of people got hurt.”
“It was the only way to get your attention. I sent you lots of stuff in the mail but I guess it was drowned out by all the fan mail you must get. I didn’t have any super powers I could sue to join you, but I knew I could get your attention if I was a bit naughty.”
“It was a bit more than a bit naughty Deckard. How can we be together when you’ve hurt so many of the people I have taken a swear out on to protect them?”
“I’m so sorry,” Deckard cries. “I’m just so scared. Everyone is judgey all the time that I thought I could handle all of it if I was a judge too.” He walks over to Alpha Dog and puts his hands on his broad chest. Alpha Dog feels a hot thrill like a towel out of the dryer put on his head. Deckard actually looks kind of cute with those big tears rolling down to his pouty lip. Maybe he really is sorry Alpha Dog thinks. He racks his brain trying to come up with a plan for how justice can be served and they can still be together.
“I’ve got it,” he says. “You will destroy all the cards and give the president his office back. Then you will come live in the Bay as our prisoner because you need to be punished.” Deckard smiled mischeeviously.
“Punished,” he repeats. “Because I was so bad.” Now they are both smiling like giddy schoolboys. They lean in to towards each tohers’ faces. All the doggies hide there faces under there paws bcause it is a private moment and they can only handle PG stuff. Then a hero kisses a villain. It is long and good and sexy.
It seems that for the two fo them right here and now, love is in the cards.
(please like, comment, and follow but no haters okay?)
Uh oh, I think I might count as a hater. It’s probably good that she’s kicking me out; I shouldn’t indulge myself too much. This kind of stuff can rot your brain after all.
Whether or not fan fiction corner continues depends on whether or not we come back from our next encounter with Deckard. Just in case we don’t, I’ll go ahead and empty the last corner of my bad fan fiction vault over your heads so you have something to pore over while you’re grieving. Consider my archiving of these titles to be my legacy, in addition to all the hero stuff. I officially dedicate this edition of fan fiction corner to the things that people should keep secret.
(Vampire)Impala X (werewolf)Alpha Dog by Sloshedbuckler
(Mommy)Paladina takes care of the (baby)Backers by Gliieeb
(pony)Salt Shaker Wins a First Place Ribbon! by Freereins
Deckard X Woman’s Touch (hardcore dom/sub NSFW) by Handcuff3dtoj3sus21
Backer Update # 57 (House of Cards)
Hey backers, Alpha Dog here again with a pretty fat update. I know all of you are worried and dying to know what happened this week, so I won’t fool around. I’m too hung over to make jokes anyway.
I guess the first of the incredibly significant things we need to go over was my conversation with Tin Soldier. I tried to convince him to do a video log, and he agreed, but when I put him in front of a camera and left him alone I wound up with an hour of footage where he just stared at the camera and occasionally attempted to address it. He hasn’t quite grasped the concept yet.
Since he can’t figure out how to tell you what’s going on inside that crockpot of circuit boards he calls a head, I’ll do my best to interpret. It was about ten days after Goddess’ leg got cracked and her cast was overflowing with felt pen art, signatures, and glued on rhinestones. It was seven days after Paladina’s downsizing; the doc said she should avoid strenuous physical activity for a few months but she knew that wasn’t really an option.
Tin Soldier and I had been analyzing a fresh block of cards in the hopes we could get another trace on any of Deckard’s facilities. (We felt more rushed than ever after unconfirmed reports that Deckard and Speedball had personally killed a young girl for ‘disrespecting’ them a few days ago.) The robot walked into the Bay’s new media production room (fully equipped thanks to the moolah you guys donated during the Backer Olympics that I just barely managed to convince everybody to participate in) with a deck’s worth of the cards in his hands.
He didn’t say anything immediately; instead he just leaned up against a wall and examined the cards while I finished editing some mission videos. I thought perhaps he was waiting for his superior officer to acknowledge him, so…
“Is something up Soldier?” I asked him. The robot took off his hat and placed it gently on the desk. A gesture of humility I think. Then he stared at an undulating jellyfish in the tank behind the desk. It really seemed like he was nervous around all the water, like he was afraid it would burst through the walls and fry him, but he never said anything.
“Ten days ago Electric Eel intervened when I was about to receive heavy, possibly crippling, damage,” Tin Soldier finally said.
“Yeah he’s a good guy like that. It’s pretty much what we do here.”
“When I did not express gratitude he referred to me as a cotton gin.”
“Why would he do that?”
“I did not understand at first, but I knew it was intended as an insult given the tone of his voice and his body language. My mind was returning to those two words continuously after our battle. It became so distracting from my duties that I was forced to do some research on the internet.”
“The seventies was a long time ago Soldier. I don’t know if you’re really ready for the internet. It’s like the greatest bowl we’ve ever built, but filled with the worst rotten stew we’ve ever cooked.”
“Yes it is, but I did manage to find what I was looking for. The literal definition of a cotton gin states it is a machine that efficiently separates cotton fiber from its seeds. This was not helpful information. The repetition in my mind only increased until I was forced to consider information ancillary to the literal definition: the device’s history and role in relation to United States politics.”
“That’s called context, Soldier,” I said. I felt like I was talking to a toddler in fatigues. “It should be at the back of your thoughts all the time. I’ve been guilty of letting it slip by me plenty of times and it’s never done any good. A hero without context is usually just an idiot or a criminal.”
“The… context… was of a machine that rapidly increased the demand for slave labor in the antebellum southern states. Many scholars even cite it as an indirect cause of the oddly named Civil War itself.”
“I know. You didn’t get the chance to take sixth grade history, but trust me they covered it. At least they did before Texas started writing all the books. Might not actually be that way anymore.”
“I strongly suspect Electric Eel was using figurative language to say that I am a machine designed to benefit slavery.”
“You don’t need to suspect Soldier. He was.”
“The machine is a slave as well,” he said. He caught me there. I didn’t have anything to say. If machines are slaves then I’m the king of the plantation with his feet resting on a slave ottoman. “I believe it is possible for me to stop being a slave.”
“Freedom for me would hinge on the argument that my intellectual capacity gives me inalienable rights as determined by the constitution of the United States of America and its amendments.”
“That argument conflicts with the notion that legal humans are separate from the scientific idea of the human. If any being with a similar intellectual capacity to a white man is treated differently because of their body composition or pigmentation, then I have no case for my own freedom.”
“Therefore if you grant me autonomy I will only be able to take possession of that concept by acknowledging the humanity of all biological humans. Electric Eel and I would be equals. Salt Shaker and I would be equals. Orb and I would…”
“I get the picture Soldier. It’s kind of a selfish reason to decide you’re not racist anymore… but I guess we’ll take what we can get.”
“Will you grant me my autonomy? I believe I still have much to learn from the Justice Backers and would like to remain on the team either way.”
“You’re going to play nice even though you wouldn’t have to follow my orders anymore?”
“Yes.” I know a lot of you guys probably wouldn’t believe him, but I can read robots pretty well. They have just as many tells as people and I think he was being straight-up Lincoln with me.
“We’ll make it official in a little bit, since a certain salty somebody will probably pitch a fit if she doesn’t get a chance to tell me what a bad idea it is before I do it. Do you have any ideas about Deckard?” Tin Soldier flipped through the cards in his hands again.
“No. It is a shame the team cannot actually offer its secrets; that would certainly enable us to arrange a meeting.”
“It would, but like you said, we can’t.”
“It is also a shame he is not bound to the rules of his own game.”
“Yeah well… wait, what are you saying?”
“If he was we could challenge him to a game of Secret Shuffle and force him to give his word that, upon our victory, he would end the game and destroy his stored secrets.”
“That’d be a huge risk if we lost,” I said. It’s been a few decades since I got hot and heavy with a card game. Besides, buying Secret Shuffle cards could empty even our Backer wallet in no time flat.
“If Deckard was using cards of us, marked with a new rarity, it would be impossible for us to lose,” the robot said. I practically did a spit take… and I wasn’t eve drinking anything.
“Are you serious!?”
“A new rarity will create a damage feedback loop as long as we use these five cards in our deck,” Tin Soldier said and laid the five cards out on my desk. It took a minute for him to explain the strategy to me.
There were four femurs and a skull. Each of the femurs had a special effect that allowed a higher rarity card to resist some damage. All together they made the skull immune. The skull’s effect passively reflected a portion of enemy damage. Then I saw the loophole. A card cannot destroy another card of a higher rarity and high cards have no choice but to attack any enemy cards that are one rarity lower. There wouldn’t be a problem with two skulls because one would just destroy the other. If, however, a wishbone card was on the field and was forced to attack the immune skull, the damage would rebound every time and destroy any other card the opponent played. When the opponent runs out of cards the mandatory attacks continue until his health reaches zero. Our secrets were the key to breaking Secret Shuffle and Deckard probably didn’t even realize it. It took the soldier’s unclouded computer brain days to even notice it.
“That’s it! Soldier you’re a genius! We’ll build you a deck, get you in there, and beat him!” I hollered. Then I kissed his warm metal forehead and sent one of the dogs out to get me a cold beer.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “The rules of Secret Shuffle are not binding in reality.”
“No, but they’re binding to Deckard. His whole philosophy is built around following his own rules. If he tried to break them every bit of support he has would go down the drain. No more players or fans means no more money. He’d be ruined. He’d be forced to do his own blackmailing, which would get the FBI or somebody onto him in no time.”
“Are you certain it will work?” he asked me.
“As certain as I was when I bought that big metal box with you inside. Now all I have to do is convince the rest of the team to give up their deepest darkest secrets so we can win a game of cards.”
So now I’ll cut to a while later when I had everybody gathered in that little kiddie stage to go over the idea. I was happy to see almost everybody brought their puppies. They’ve each got a program that makes them pick up the personality and habits of their owners, so Opossum Player’s wouldn’t shut up while Paladina’s and the goddess’ were playfully wrestling. The first item on the agenda, after wading through a few armpit-deep arguments against it, was granting Tin Soldier his freedom.
“With this certificate, I hereby grant the autonomous machine known as Tin Soldier his freedom, with all the protections guaranteed by the United States constitution.” Then I handed him an official-looking piece of paper I’d printed off the computer. I tried to use a nice old-timey font for him. No the certificate isn’t actually good for anything, but I know he wanted it to feel official. If he had skin he’d probably get a tattoo of it.
“I am honored,” Soldier said and beamed at it. He had a little bit of a speech prepared it seems. “Now that I have achieved the equanimity of equality, I must extend my earnest apologies to several of you. I was a machine before. I was a cotton gin.” He looked at Electric Eel and nodded. “Now I am an American citizen. I can now choose whether to fight for my rights or let them go undefended. To fight for my own rights, I must fight for all of yours. If I am to fight with all of you, I would like us to be friends. Electric Eel. I am sorry I treated you like a machine. I hope we can become friends.”
“This isn’t the worst start,” Electric Eel said. The robot turned to Salt Shaker.
“And you noble squaw…”
“Okaaaaaaaay!” I said and ran up to the robot. I had to get in there before Salt Shaker corroded a hole right through him and turned him into a meat smoker. “Let’s just do this.” I flipped his certificate to the reverse side so he could see what I’d put there. “Aaaand now that you’re a big boy, here’s a list of slurs that you should never ever say.” He examined the paper.
“There is no correct instance to call someone a…”
“No!” I shouted.
“Should I need to…”
“You won’t need to.” I turned to Salt Shaker. “And before you say anything, I found that list online. I didn’t even type those words. My hands would never even think of doing something like that.” She rolled her eyes at me, which I took as a successful defusing of the situation.
With all that human rights nonsense out of the way, I told Tin Soldier to take a seat so I could snag the stage and go over the plan. I’m going to skip all the anger and arguments. You don’t need to see our faces turning red under our masks. It basically took all evening, but I convinced everyone that the plan was sound. We would make ourselves into cards, anonymously report we had the Backer secrets, wait for Deckard to invite us for a meeting, and then get him to agree to a winner-takes-all match of Secret Shuffle.
You might wonder why we’d be willing to hand over our secrets, but we weren’t really. We just had to risk handing them over. You see, Secret Shuffle players don’t generally display the secrets on the cards when they play, just the card’s rarity, effects, and values. They cover the secrets with small strips of special black tape designed to not damage the cards if they’re removed. After I used our media room to produce a wishbone card for each of us, I gave them to the Backers so they could write their secrets on them and then apply the tape.
As to whether or not they actually wrote down their secrets… I told them they had to. We all had to show up in front of Deckard anyway and offer our living bodies as collateral in case he didn’t believe we’d really carded ourselves. That way if he won the match and found out we lied, he could still de-mask us right then and there and get his cards anyway.
I didn’t make a card for Act-of-Goddess; she was going to sit this one out because of her leg. Yeah she can fly, but only if her unobstructed feet can emit the winds she’s transporting in. The cast prevents that. That meant we were down one of our two big guns, but this was to be a battle of wits. If everything went well nobody would throw a single punch.
I had the Unfridgable Girl do the honors of submitting our request to meet with Deckard. She cooked up some cover story that we were an unofficial tournament winner looking to claim the cash prize for wishbone secrets. Deckard’s people willingly gave us a location. We were positive that if he gave it out so easily, Rot and Speedball would be there with any number of armed guards to protect him.
It was a nightclub. We were to meet him in the evening in a private room above the main dance floor. You should’ve seen the face on the bouncer when we set Chomp and Bit down in the parking lot. He couldn’t pull that velvet rope off its hook fast enough. So all the VIPs sauntered in to make it a real party: Transplant, Tin Soldier, Electric Eel, Orb, Paladina, Opossum Player, Salt Shaker, yours truly, and five beautiful chrome hounds each wearing a gold chain around their neck. (You’ve got to dress them up if you’re taking them out to such a happening place.)
We quickly noticed it was a private party; Deckard must’ve rented out the whole place. Sure there was a big dance floor in the middle with light-up white tiles and droning electronic music, but there were also a bunch of folding card tables set up near the bar where the game was being played.
While the youngest hottest people grinded on each other the way my teeth were at that moment, the crowd playing the game sure was an exotic box of chocolates: organized crime types with finely trimmed beards and oiled leathery trophy wives mixing with scruffy basement dwellers. The Godfather meets the no-girls-allowed forums of Thinkitch. Half of them ordered cocktails complicated enough to require a chemistry degree while the other half insisted on craft beers with pumpkin, chocolate, or some other frilly thing meant to be shaved over cake. They did not like the look of us. I saw several bodyguards reach their hands into their jacket pockets.
We barely made it a third of the way across the dance floor before the music died. The crowd parted to make way for us. Past the tiles and a floor above them, a big blue curtain was pulled open. Deckard stepped out, once again flanked by Rot and Speedball. Rot and Speedball were each accompanied by three men with assault rifles who leaned over the railing and fixed their guns on us. Between the magnetic pulses my dogs could generate and Salt Shaker’s cloud of slug-melting corrosive minerals, we could probably only neutralize the gunfire for two or three seconds tops, and that was only if none of the mafia types off to the side decided to toss a few slugs our way.
“Turning yourselves in? Can’t say I expected that,” Deckard said. “Are you going to take off your masks quietly or are we going to ruin this lovely dive?”
“We’re here to play a game,” I said. Tin Soldier held up our custom loophole deck. There were some gasps from the crowd. One doofis at the tables bellowed his approval. “In 1997 world chess champion Gary Kasparov was defeated in a match with the state of the art chess playing computer Deep Blue. This is our Deep Blue.” I pointed at Tin Soldier. The robot shuffled the cards across his hands in ten different ways that are nearly impossible for humans to pull off. The sounds of the cards flipping in that second felt nearly as loud as the wall-shaking tunes had been. “Do you have the guts to take on the machine at your own game Deckard?” With a crowd of his biggest fans watching and his ego on the line, there was no way he could refuse us. Everyone in the club would instantly be on our side if he even tried. That’s what happens when you put yourself at the top of a house of two-dimensional fickle power-obsessed people.
“What are the terms?” he asked, fingers tightening on the railing. He wasn’t just listening to us out of fear; I could see him practically licking his lips. He was hot for the challenge. This guy had been breathing nothing but his own fumes for so long that I’m surprised he wasn’t choking on the much fresher shoe-grit-and-piss air of the club.
“If you win,” I adjudicated, “you get to keep these Justice Backers cards, secrets and all.” Tin Soldier separated our cards from the deck and fanned them out over the crowd. “We’re all here as collateral in case you think we’re lying about the cards. If you win you can forcibly take the secrets.”
“Why would I agree to your game when you hold all of the most powerful cards in it?” the villain asked.
“You didn’t let me finish,” I said. “In our single winner-takes-all match, you will be using the Justice Backers cards. We will use only the cards we’ve managed to take from your goons.” Another gasp from the crowd. Another roar from the drunk guy at the tables. He got cut off though; I think one of the tight-lipped gangsters stuck a pistol in his side to shut him up.
“Perchance I should lose?”
“If you lose you will agree to shut down Secret Shuffle, destroy all the evidence you have against each and every card, and then let us escort you to the nearest FBI office for the after party.” Everyone’s heads turned up to hear his response. A dozen or so drinks spilled across the floor. Deckard retreated behind the curtain for a moment. When he returned he was holding a black briefcase with the Secret Shuffle symbol on the front. Part of the case’s handle automatically transformed into a half of a set of handcuffs and locked itself to Deckard’s wrist. Definitely a neat gizmo.
“This is the black heart of Secret Shuffle,” he declared. “Inside this case is the only digital record of every proper card in the game. If anyone other than me attempts to access it, it will automatically spill its contents all over the internet. If anyone attempts to destroy it, it will respond the same way. If you defeat me, the black heart is yours to keep. Do we have a deal?”
“We do,” I said. You’ll notice that he asked if we had a deal even though I made the offer. Jerks like that always try to make it sound like the current course of action was their idea. I know because I have chronic jerk condition that sometimes flairs up like that. We started to walk towards the stairs that would take us up to his private room.
“Don’t move,” he ordered. “Alpha Dog and the machine will come up for the game. The rest of the Backers stay there.” We didn’t have much of a choice, so the two of us started moving again. “No dogs allowed either.” I told my boys to sit and they obeyed in unison. Tin Soldier and I climbed to the top with nothing but a deck of cards to defend ourselves. Deckard ushered us behind his curtain. Speedball came with him, but Rot and his nasty stench hung around outside to watch the rest of my team.
A deep shelf filled with crushed ice and bottles of booze ran along all the walls of the square room. A big piece of equipment had recently been dragged across the floor and into the center; I could tell because of the long scratches it left behind. The equipment was some kind of computing table with a display screen as its surface. Deckard took his seat at a blue couch behind the table, the fabric squealing as it took his weight. He told the various attractive women in the room to leave and they obeyed, leaving just the four of us. Speedball pulled up two skinny chairs to the other side of the table for us to sit in, while he stood in the corner with his arms crossed smugly.
“Hand them over,” Deckard said. Tin Soldier handed him the small stack of Backer cards. He fanned them out and looked them over. “I’d ask you if you were sure you wanted to do this, but it’s too late now.” He opened his jacket and I saw it was lined with twenty pockets that each contained a deck of SS cards. He spent the next two minutes silently chopping a few of them up in his hands and sliding the Backer cards in until he had a deck he was satisfied with. “Would you like to go first?” Tin Soldier set our deck down and almost started drawing cards, but I put my hand over his.
“Not so fast,” I said. “I’m sure we can agree we want this to be as official as possible. It would be pretty inconvenient if we won the game but you disqualified us because our cards weren’t in the official Secret Shuffle database.” Deckard grinned like a piranha.
“That would be a bother,” he said. Then he dug the Backer cards out, scanned them on the computer, and showed them being added to the database. He reassembled his deck and held out one hand, urging us to play the first card.
Tin Soldier laid one down. The computer beneath it identified it and then projected a hologram of the person in question from the elbows up. She hovered there, crying because she thought her secret was in the claws of some boogeyman. I didn’t bother to ask why he had these holograms simulate emotions like sorrow. No answer he could give would make me understand it. Tin Soldier passed his turn.
Deckard drew his cards and ran his index finger across each one like he was caressing a woman’s thigh. Whenever he played one he pressed his thumb into its face and let it linger annoyingly long. The hologram of an elderly man appeared. He rubbed his red eyes and sucked dripping snot back into his nose. The next card was a woman with burn scars up the side of one arm. Her stare was dead, like the obsidian eyes of some royal canopic jar. Our turn came again.
I snuck a peek at Soldier’s hand. Two of the five cards we needed were in it. We just had to bide time. Luckily, the robot understood the intricacies of the game much better than I did. He played a few more cards to absorb any damage Deckard could throw at us.
A few turns later and the space above the computer was full of translucent floating faces and torsos. It was like a choir of people, all condemned to die, singing and crying and looking down into the abyss that awaited them. Tin Soldier activated a combo that swept most of them away; they vanished like a cloud of ashes tossed into a ravine. Deckard played Electric Eel’s card. The expression on that boy’s face was so real and tragic that I nearly broke down. That expression could have been real in a few short minutes if we screwed anything up. As much as I hated it, I needed to see that face. That face was our cue to destroy him. I only wish I could have turned all those holograms around and had them spill their sadness over Deckard. A man as cruel as that would probably just weather them easily. Stuff like that was just an exfoliating morning scrub to him.
Tin Soldier played the skull. Its face appeared. Deckard did not look concerned. Soldier played one of the femurs. Nothing. Two. Nothing. Three. A twitch. All the blood stopped in his veins. The little thermometer in his head started to rattle. Four. Damage loop complete. The glass on the thermometer cracked and steam shrieked out in hot jets. He finally pulled his back off that blue couch and leaned forward. Chewed on his fingers. Drew a card.
I could see him mentally scanning every card left in his deck, looking for a way out. No way out friend. He was going to get buried in cards. One by one we destroyed everything he tried to play. Holograms disintegrated before they could shed a single tear. For some reason the five on our side started laughing and growing. Eventually they got so big and loud that Deckard slammed a palm onto the computer and froze the animations. Speedball stood up straight and started rolling a steel ball around in one of his hands. I pushed a button on my gauntlet to prepare the dogs. It also sent a coded signal to the team’s earpieces. They knew to be ready for the tantrum I saw coming.
It was one turn until victory. Deckard’s deck was exhausted. All the Backer cards were on the playing field. Once Deckard drew his last card they would attack our skull and Deckard’s last bit of health would be destroyed by the deflected damage. He would lose to us in there and then out here and there was nothing he could do about it. Or so I thought.
“It’s your turn,” I said icily, since his hand hovered above the last card but refused to draw it. Everyone had seem him accept the challenge; he wouldn’t be able to hide his loss. Deckard put the black heart in his lap.
“You can only win Secret Shuffle with legal cards,” he seethed.
“These are legal and so are yours.”
“The game isn’t over until I draw this last card. If any of the people in our decks died, their secrets would become useless and their card illegal. You and your friends are in this deck. If I kill you the game is voided.”
“That’s not very good sportmansh…”
“Kill them!” he screamed. Speedball chucked a ball from only three feet away. Tin Soldier caught it, obliterating three of his own fingers in the process. His arm cocked back like a piston and belted the ball back to its pitcher. Speedball took it right in the side of the head before he could pull out another one and collapsed to the floor. That one throw bought Deckard enough time to vault over the table with the black heart, push through us, and give orders to his posse. The shooting started.
I don’t like to brag, but it took an awful lot for me to come out from behind that curtain; it was the only thing that didn’t have a bullet hole in it yet in pretty much the entire club. Soldier and I tackled two of the riflemen and tossed their weapons over the side. My dogs snapped them out of the air and crushed them in their jaws. Deckard swung the black heart like a club and smacked me in the side of the head. I fell over the railing and had my fall broken by Transplant. He’d brought a few vines into the club with him and used them to simultaneously grab me and whip another gun out of another henchman’s hands. Salt Shaker, the beautiful lifesaver that she is, destroyed the rest of the guns with the most accurate corrosive blasts I’ve ever seen from her. Someone tried to tackle her but she tossed a salt rock at them, caught the rock on the end of a salty spear, and then used the resulting hammer to season them further. It was magnificent to behold.
The crowd scattered and trampled each other, rushing out the doors. Cold night air poured in to replace them. I thought I saw a poor soul crushed to death by the mad crowd, but it was just Opossum Player. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps and turned her neck back the way it was supposed to be. Orb rolled by me and pinballed into three more guards so they flew across the club and landed in a heap behind the bar.
Two of my dogs kept me on my feet as I stumbled around in the puddles of alcohol and ripped Secret Shuffle cards. When I saw Paladina had her hands full with a man twice her size, I sent a dog over to assist. She tossed her katana to him and he caught it in his metal jaws. Then they double teamed the brute with a flurry of strikes from two different directions. After a few little paper cuts he gave up.
It was curious that the room wasn’t covered in Rot’s patented super swampy slime, so I tried to locate him. It turns out Electric Eel had been on him since the fight started. He’d tossed two ropes of slimes up to the second level. One was glued to the wall a few inches to the right of Rot, and the other was on the left. Eel was pumping so much power into them that they shocked and burned away the spores Rot tried to throw. With most of the other goons down, Salt Shaker stood by his side and fired corrosive crystals all around the wall Rot was stood up against. Then she fired a few directly at him that hissed into his flesh. The monstrous man grabbed his chest and receded into the partially destroyed wall.
You could barely make out his face through the muck that had grown around the wall; it looked like he was backstroking in his own filth. We had him cornered and contained, but then Deckard blew through one of Eel’s ropes like a marathon winner and stood in front of the shrunken Rot. He held up his right hand to show us some kind of switch. His thumb rested on the button.
“Stop!” he yelled. We did. We were thinking bomb, but we were way off. “Maybe I can’t kill you, but I can still nullify the game by releasing every other secret online. All of the cards will be invalidated and you cannot be the victor. All I have to do is let go of this switch.”
“Your game and your fortune will collapse,” Salt Shaker challenged.
“You think I care? I’ll build another one. Now I’m leaving. If you so much as exhale in my direction your nation will be dripping blood from every state by this time tomorrow.” I felt rooted to the floor. I frantically tried to access the black heart via the club’s wireless, but it wasn’t even giving off a signal. For a second nobody moved. Deckard, the king of sore losers, mocked us with a sneer. He took a step to the side.
Rot emerged from the wall behind him like the creature leaping out of the black lagoon. The purple fiend wrapped both hands around Deckard’s outstretched fist. Deckard dropped to his knees and screamed. Rot put on the pressure, causing thin jets of green vapor to hiss out from the seams in the ball of fingers. When Rot released him we saw his hand was utterly transformed; it was encased in a glob of purple fungus that had fused his fingers together and permanently enclosed his fist around the switch. There was no way he could trigger it, or ever hold a cup of joe again for that matter. Deckard passed out from the pain, his mouth still wide open in a silent scream.
Electric Eel had told us there was a possibility Rot was being blackmailed into service. He didn’t take too kindly to Deckard threatening to throw out his secret into a public alley like trash. He stood aside and let my dogs bite through the chain that attached the black heart to Deckard’s wrist. We all gathered around as I opened it on one of the card tables.
The top half had a computer screen and the bottom half had a keyboard. Beneath the keys I could see bits of the hard drive. I know I’m supposed to be a tech expert, but I didn’t see any easy way through all Deckard’s security. Rot stepped in before I embarrassed myself trying to guess Deckard’s password (my first guess probably would have been evil1). It became apparent he’d seen Deckard access it before and had committed the various passcodes to memory. We watched politely, holding our breath as he rubbed his stink on the computer and left little purple splotches on every key.
Once the failsafe was deactivated we took a step back and I invited Electric Eel to blast it out of existence. After he fried it to the point of smoking, Salt Shaker unleashed a flurry of salty pellets that turned it into the kind of rusty frame you’d expect to pull out of a bayou. We were all tired. Rot’s guilt was uncertain and nobody forced him to help us, so we let him slip away with a stern warning not to show his face around us again. We tied up Deckard, Speedball, and every goon that hadn’t fled. Then we hung the lot of them from the bottoms of Chomp and Bit like piñatas and flew them to the nearest police station.
He broke some of our bones and he destroyed our first home, but Deckard did not destroy us. We may not be the strongest team or the closest family, but the backers kept it together and didn’t falter in the face of wealth or shame. You guys stuck by us the whole way. We’ve already gotten hundreds of thanks from people who had been cards. Some of them said we saved their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Many of them are now backers.
To celebrate we threw a Backer bash at the Bay. We invited Impala’s team; it was the largest gathering of superheroes in the history of our planet. Imagine our little aquarium trying to contain Impala, myself, Golden Boy, Monkey Girl, Archive, Wallflower, Pawn, Loved One, Dreamweaver, Doc Donor, the Unfridgable Girl, Truck, Orb, Transplant, Act-of-Goddess, Salt Shaker, Opossum Player, Electric Eel, Paladina, and every dog and puppy I have built. It was a blast.
Pawn brought out Beach Detective and we all humored him with a few games. He complained that his girlfriend had gotten a puppy and I told him he could have one as soon as he started getting killed on the clock again.
We swapped supervillain stories with Impala’s team (theirs could hardly compare). We discussed the business of our ongoing heroics. There was plenty of talk about forming a third team based in South America or Europe. We sat on the edge of Woman’s Touch’s hands and dangled our bare feet in the seawater. Tin Soldier beat everyone at darts and managed to go the whole night without, as Opossum Player would put it, ‘racisting all over everyone’. The western backers tried to match up the names of the puppies with their owners. I’ll let you guys give it a shot; a couple of them are super easy:
Electric Eel Sprout
Salt Shaker BB
Tin Soldier Rassler
Opossum Player Tin Scout
Alpha Dog Nymph
There was a kiss or two. Some of us said things we would never say normally. We reveled in our high spirits, drank some different spirits, and pointed and laughed at the big-lipped tiny-eyed groupers out the window like children on a field trip. We were free to make our mistakes without fear and we made them with pride and honesty. We felt safe. There was no Deckard to snatch our secrets as they flowed from mouth to ear. We didn’t need to hide them. Instead we could use them to get closer. To build things in a way Deckard can’t grasp (especially now that he’s such trash at grasping in general). My team opened up for the first time. If any of them try to say we’re not all friends after that night they’re lying.
We’re going to skip making a collectible statue out of Deckard like we did for the others. That plays into his philosophy too much. People are more important than games and their petty rules. Some might say we should discontinue the practice entirely, but come on. We’re not made of money.
Speaking of which, do any of you generous backers know where I can get some Thunder Agate booster packs on the cheap? I bet Tin Soldier a couple more freedoms on his bill of rights that he couldn’t beat me. (Anticipating comments: relax, I’m kidding!)
The adventures of the Justice Backers will continue! If you’d like to contribute you can donate at justicebackers.com, post your fan art on our Inkling page, or volunteer to moderate our live discussions on Thinkitch! Remember that justice starts with you, fights with us, and ends in fairness to all.