The End is nigh. It’s not just for preachers to shout anymore.
The Grau gave us as much time as possible, more even. We had to rush a lot of diplomatic shit with my old world, and take in as many refugees as possible from the portal in Empyreal City. In the end, it was time to turn it off.
The Grau had a device for that. Teneceroni actually got the order himself when we were all gathered up at my house. They were still using it as a meeting spot, even after the unfortunate events getting rid of The Perception.
“Ding dong, the bitch is dead!” Captain Lightning celebrated.
Miss Tycism took the beer he’d grabbed out of his hand.
“You’re not happy?” He asked her.
“You’re not twenty-one,” she responded.
I decided against letting them know that Morgan had channeled me into their body. Instead, I decided to play at being Morgan still. I already let the family know. They’re all used to so much weirdness from me already, except Alexander. He’ll learn. And since this body’s not producing milk like mine was, I was feeding the newbie with a bottle instead of a boobie. Morgan preferred it that way, too. So one good thing about losing these portals, no one will be watching this kind of stuff going on.
Anyway, as far as the world’s concerned, Psychopomp Gecko bravely sacrificed herself to trap the Perception. So yeah, I’m hiding the unicorn horn and hooves right now and appear to be nothing but Morgan.
Teneceroni put his communication device down onto his belt. “They’re going to cut the portals now. We’ve given you as long as possible.” And I took steps beforehand. I went to my interdimensional base shortly after reabsorbing my godly powers. I’d used wormholes to meld different places all over the multiverse together for different reason and had to instead use them to quickly excavate a sub-basement and fill it with various equipment, including a lake of medical nanomachines. Then I shut it down.
“Let’s fuckin’ gooooooo!” Max Muscles yelled.
With the power of my returned godly power flowing through my body, I could feel it when the shutdown hit. Knowing what I did about the situation, I checked on the dark stuff: matter and energy. The flow had stopped.
I closed my eyes and reached out. I was going to clear as much of this shit out as possible.
“What are you doing?” Teneceroni asked.
“I can sense the phantom energy. The End may not be an entity in a recognizable sense. It may simply be the influx of phantom energy that causes a Big Rip effect locally, meant to spread outward,” I explained.
“You’re different. What happened to you?” Captain Lightning said.
“Some upgrades from the late, great Gecko,” I explained, truthfully. “She explained what she’d been able to scan for. Dark energy and phantom energy, specifically. They don’t play well with physics and can have some interesting effects, but too much phantom energy is dangerous. While the Ancient Horrors were present, they were able to be trapped because coming here still weakens them. They have to play by our universe’s rules, like the Perverse was talking about. They use loopholes and bend them, but enough dark energy and the rules change, because the universe flips toward their advantage.”
Teneceroni raised an eyebrow. “There are theories, but we haven’t been able to test.”
“Yeah, let’s not experiment on that. I was going to absorb the energy.”
Teneceroni got defensive about that. “It would still be a present and threatening the collapse of the universe.”
He had a point. It would make me amazingly powerful. Phenomenal cosmic power… at the risk of an itty-bitty tiny living space like the Ancient Horrors. And being a Psychopmomp, I suppose that would make me another End.
“Hmm…” I thought it over. Earth had an excess of dark energy. I supposed I could part with some and still be feared. A smile spread over my face.
“That’s a scary smile,” Max Muscles noted. He rolled up his sleeves to show off some runic tattoos in case he needed to magically wrestle me into submission.
“Don’t worry. This is bad news for someone else,” I said.
The objects containing the Ancient Horrors appeared in front of me, floating through the air. The only one not present was the Perverse who, true to my orders, was still lost. And seeing as that was an impossible task for him, he must be really fucking lost.
“This isn’t good,” Teneceroni said. He was right. The close proximity of the contained Horrors, formed of dark matter and the gathered phantom energy were distorting reality. They couldn’t control it in general, but they had just a little bit of an opening. A literal opening. The flash of light was more because of light running away from the tear in reality that appeared. “You need to stop this. Keep them separated.”
“Opportunity,” I said. “They want us to play by their rules. Let’s return the favor. Conventional matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only change forms. Of course, dark matter and energy don’t play by the same rules necessarily, with things like negative energy values and negative mass. So, why don’t we use these properties of dark matter and dark energy, and create some positive energy and baryonic matter.”
Floating in front of the portal, I gathered as much of the matter and energy together as I could, including the objects containing the captured Horrors.
A wave of pure blackness swept out at me and wrapped around me. After a moment, it settled into a bunch of arms all grasping, clawing, and punching me. “My house, my rules,” I muttered to it. One arm reached out and plunged into Teneceroni’s chest without disturbing the flesh or clothing he wore. The awestruck alien fell to the floor. I stopped him telekinetically and raised him back up, restarting his life processes. He and everyone else with some sense retreated. Even Captain Lightning, with his teenage hotheatedness, used some of that magically-endowed wisdom and backed off. I suppose after this show of power, I’ll need to gentle massage some memories into not making the connection between Morgan and the Unicorn Goddess persona I used.
The arms grabbed the edges of the portal that hung in midair as an impossible gap in reality and pulled. The darkness that emerged coalesced into a pale form in a black robe with the fabric wrapped around its face except to show where a pair of eyes looked out. “Now I get it,” I told the thing. “You’re not the End like the inevitability of death. You’re just hungry for the life force of the living.”
“You cannot contain them and myself,” the End growled.
“I don’t have to,” I said. “You want life, right?”
“Why is there music?” Miss Tycism asked. She was hiding behind my turned-over dining room table, chugging the beer she took off Captain Lightning. No time like the present.
“Big Bang Attack!” I yelled, shooting the collected ball of transforming energy through the End and into the portal. The End bent double, then stood up and felt himself.
“I’m…” he started.
“Mortal. Let there be light, motherfucker,” I finished for him. Then I walked up and kicked him through his portal. It was shifting now as things on the other side changed. Anyone able to observe the dark matter and energy would have noticed a shift as the flow of any of that from the portal completely stopped. We were actually a little lower on the ambient stuff, but not enough to cause actual issues. I just wanted a little extra oomph for this particular thing I did. And speaking of oomph, I forced that portal closed.
“What was that?” Teneceroni approached.
“The magic was shifting the nature of the energy you gathered,” Captain Lighting said.
“Yes. Shifting dark matter to conventional, what we call baryonic matter. Same for energy. Massive amounts of matter that breaks the rules of conventional physics, suddenly converted into an even larger amount, packed into the smallest possible space. It’s making quit a big bang over there.”
So yeah, when they say, “In the beginning, there was the Word,” the Word was “motherfucker.”
“You’re converting where they live into a space more like the universe,” Teneceroni observed.
“Yes. At the very least, I’m trapping those entities that threatened us in it. Except for the Perverse, I guess. So now, we have to pass through a universe to get to another universe in our multiversal cluster, if we reopen the portals. Which we actually could do safely now if we so choose.”
“No. Not yet,” Teneceroni declared. “Not until we study what’s going on. What you just did is unprecedented.”
I nodded. “To put it mildly, yeah,” I laughed. “I don’t know if it fully ended the threat from these things. I think it’s a shift in existence they’re going to spend a lot of time getting used to, but change is inevitable. And the truth is, even as many differences as well had here,” I looked especially at Captain Lightning and Miss Tycism, who I think figured out what had happened and who was now occupying this body. “This wouldn’t have been possible without all of us. Even without Gecko, the world still managed. It doesn’t need any of us, as individuals. But maybe it just needs people altogether fighting for their world. And maybe a little luck, no offense to our alien friends.”
It was awkward. That was like a speech out of nowhere, and one that didn’t make sense unless they knew, I think. I followed it up. “So that got weird. I just think I’m going to take some time off now. Anything else we need to do here?”
“No,” Teneceroni said.
I headed out to the backyard.
“So, that’s it then?” Sam asked, following after me while carrying little Alexander. My girlfriend wrapped me in a one-armed hug. “Or were you just lying?”
I shrugged. “Maybe this is a good place to end my supervillain career. I’m on top, we’re safe from oblivion, and I got a couple kids need raising. Maybe the world needs a healer, instead of a DPS or tank. You still going to love me when I stop punching people? I mean, folks like Captain Lightning have pretty good reasons to hate on me.”
Sam rolled her eyes and brushed some stray, teal hair out of her eyes. “I’ve yet to meet anyone who isn’t a fucked up person. I’m fucked up, my parents were fucked up, and my best friend is fucked up. You got all the power in the world and instead of sitting on your hands, you fixed things. And when you get wrong, you try to be right. You’ll even apologize and admit you’re wrong. You are a rare, fucked up gemstone.”
“You’re a gemstone,” I told her, getting some warm fuzzies.
Her watch’s alarm went off. “Come on. Let’s go pick our daughter up from school.”
“Our daughter?” I asked, eyebrow raised.
Sam smiled. “That girl’s going to rule the world some day and she’s going to call me mom.”
When we were leaving the house, the whole gang of mystic heroes had finally vacated from farting on my furniture and eating my food. They were standing out on the front lawn, staring at a magical projection of a large robot in rusty red armor, dripping lava, with a pair of bony girder bat-wings on the back. All around it, demonic figures streamed out of the hole it had clawed its way out of, all in the middle of L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.
“Aw shit,” I said. “Here they go again.”
“Are you coming, Axinomancer?” Teneceroni asked. I doubt he was oblivious to the fact situation.
I shook my head. “No, y’all have fun. Have a nice life.”
There were some lingering looks, but they vanished out of there after a spell from the alien mystic.
Sam and I walked on to go get our daughter, trying to have a normal day. We passed a house where one guy was receiving a package. “What, my eccentric recluse of an uncle? And all he left me was a weird glowing ring?” asked the man at the door from a delivery guy who was just doing his job. At the Burrito Bell up the street, a woman and a dinosaur appeared in a staticy burst of electricity, right in front of a pair of plumbers I recognized as former heroes. She threw one a heavy ion rifle and they started grabbing their tools to go with her. Passing a basketball court, I watched as a couple guys played nonchalantly while some teenagers wandered over toward a reflective orb hanging in midair.
I gotta say, it was a good day.
And so there was one last, tiny portal to open for the purposes of giving people some closure. It’s maybe not a good ending, but at least for now, it’s where this ends for now. I mean, a person’s story isn’t over until they die, and even then they can leave a legacy. Sometimes a complex one.
“Oh, I should fix manicotti. You think the others would like manicotti?” I asked Sam.
See you, space cowboy.
So. You know, this whole thing’s been a part of my life for like nine years now. Hey, I hope someone enjoyed themselves.
So, here’s what we know: Earth is the current focal point of a series of entities who gave something to the start of the multiverse and are here to reclaim it after having been shut out. I’d feel a lot more sympathy for them if that didn’t involve destroying the Earth and moving on to the rest of the universe. I’m the last person who should deny someone a chance to let out a little anger and try turning their lives around, but these things don’t want that.
We’ve managed to capture all of the ones that tried to come after us but the Perverse. The Perverse can twist people’s words to do anything, but is now quite lost, whatever that ultimately means. That leaves two more: the Persistent and the End.
Mystic Teneceroni, the liaison from an alien consortium that wouldn’t like to be destroyed because Earth fucked around, has been helping us out with all the info his people have. That includes magical rituals that allow us to capture and seal the beings. It also includes know what they are and more or less what they do. They have records of other civilizations that had run-ins and weren’t so lucky.
I had to let my former ward Leah know, along with my half brother. They’re a couple, and the portal in Canada to my home dimension. I don’t give a shit about not seeing that place again, and the feeling is mutual. Being a genocidal madperson leaves an impact, and most of them are probably pretty sure I haven’t changed, that I’m just fooling people. Sometimes I wonder if they’re right
“Hey Leah,” I called her up.
“Hey Gecko! It’s so nice to hear from you. Sorry we haven’t visited to see little Alexander. Things got hectic over here.”
They had an invasion by people pulling old enemies of the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers out of time. I wonder if I’m going to suddenly pop into the middle of that fight sometime.
In turn, I explained the shit going down on Earth, which Leah took in stride. “Just another Tuesday, right?”
“Except for the apparent solution being to shut down all the trans-dimensional stuff. The Grau have a device that’ll close every portal on Earth, and we need to then not open a new one.”
“For how long?” Leah asked.
“They claim to have a way to safely open wormholes that are similar but safer, but they said it would be some time before Earth is evaluated and approved for that sort of thing. I’m getting a years vibe from these guys, but they’ve surprised me before.”
“Yeah, Ambassador Bong Hit’s speech went viral,” she responded. That would be when this Grau ambassador took a big sniff of something and tore into Earth for doing all this shit we’ve been doing here. It was way more effective than the condescending way other alien civilizations talked to us or invaded us.
After a pause, Leah said, “Well, I have to stay here.”
“Alright,” I said. “But now you know what’s coming. So, if I never see you again, just want to say…”
“Yeah. And we’ll always have Valentine’s Day,” she said.
“Ah… you knew.” Thanks to a bit of awkwardness, we didn’t keep the conversation going too much further, but I sent her photos and videos of Alexander.
While I was doing all this, others around the world were working on other considerations, like Ricca’s off-world mining operations. Then it was off to the bedroom for my most arduous preparations yet.
The Desire had a potential knockout blow for getting to me, but I think maybe it knew that would blow up in its face. My kids may not have the easiest of lives and the world is going to have some trouble, but they’re going to grow up in some fucking peace without this kind of existential terror bullshit. Qiang’s distracting herself by day and crying herself to sleep by night. Venus promised to stop by and drop off some surprised for her when she visits Alexander. He’s just born and this shit’s all he’s ever known. We’re fighting for the fate of the world and universe. I will not remain powerless in the face of extinction.
Up next, the Persistent. Supposedly brings back the dead to go after people. I already sent Spinetingler a text. As the other biggest name killer supervillain on the planet, and one I have a ceasefire with, I figure he and I make the biggest targets. Meanwhile, I headed to where I hid the godly powers I gave up: the bedroom. That’s not just some sort of brag. I implanted the powers in my pillow. It’s perfectly fluffed and always cool.
Just thinking of it made me sleep. So damn sleepy. Not natural. Don’t worry, the powers would fight it off. I reached for the pillow and went to me knees, laying my head down on the unkempt bed, arm outstretched for the pillow.
I saw the space between universes. I’ve traveled there enough to recognize it. A giant mass of universes, ever-expanding. This time, my view expanded out past it, to a vast blackness between worlds. Some of it was void, but something shifted and I could see things moving through the void. All sorts of shapes and sizes, some with unusual angles, some with only curves, and at least one that appeared as a simple line. One of these things could have maybe been called a free-floating eye, with arms hanging out the back and a pupil that took up half its surface. Part of the surface lens reached out on the end of an eye vein, forming a smaller eye that snaked through the multiversal cluster and shoved itself into one of the universes. Then the larger one turned to me.
A woman appeared in front of me. It was a dead person from my past, alright. Fortune Cookie and I had worked together to prevent someone stopping time out of grief over his dead son using a clocktower in the mountains of Transylvania. She’d been killed by a simple serial killer, I think purely to motivate me to stop that one. “So, you things know me as the Persistent. Hmm.” She seemed amused. Her voice was light and she had the beginnings of a smile at her mouth.
“That’s what I’ve been told,” I commented. I was still me, and on my knees actually. I gripped my right hand around where the pillow had been in real life, right under my hand, and pulled it close. There was nothing there in this vision, but I needed to try.
“Sending the dead after people creates satisfying fear. I should do it,” the Fake Fortune Cookie said. She shifted at times into other forms. Miss Tycism, Forcelight, and an older version of Venus. All versions of people I killed, except Fortune Cookie. “You know why you little ones fight so hard? It’s the fear. This wouldn’t have to be so difficult on you if you would stop being afraid. I can take that from you.”
“I’m not taking any deals from you,” I told it.
Fortune Cookie shook her head. “I’m not offering. I will take it from you. I want you to know what’s going to happen now.”
She zoomed in. I saw an aged Gorilla Awesome perk up, looking around at an army of zombies. He dropped his shopping bag to start attacking, but the zombies were only in his head. In reality, they were just people. Elsewhere, I saw Ouroboros pull out his knives suddenly while walking the floor of his casino and gut one of his pit bosses, seeing the face of a dead assassin instead. Elsewhere, I saw a buff man at college, Bulletproof Brian, who looked up from his studies to see bullies who once tormented him coming at him with baseball bats. He was a little kid again in his mind, and fighting the people who once broke his arm. In real life, he smashed another student into a library bookshelf.
Then, in my house, Venus walked through the door, carrying an old book in her hand. She headed into the hallway and I lunged out of the bathroom to pin her to the wall, holding a pillow over her face.
“Well, that’s cheating,” I said.
“We’re not playing a game,” Fortune Cookie said. “But I will enlighten you before you die. I’m not the Persistent. I’m the Perception. All that will happen has happened. Others defied their end. The others you trapped will be freed. But first, I will feel your pain and suffering.
I rolled my eyes. “Clearly, you’re not aware that Venus is one of the few people capable of kicking my ass even when I have powers.”
I got worried when it took awhile. That would have been a great line to go back to my body to. As it was, I got to watch as the Perception showed me more of the world being forced to attack people because of past fear and trauma. And I couldn’t do anything except let her feed on my own emotions, at least I figure that’s what was going on.
Then, I blinked. This was the real world again, in my living room. Things had feeling and it wasn’t a giant void surrounding a multiverse. Nearby, Venus stood with a book cradled in her arms. I recognized that book now. I’d fought others who used that corrupt tome that holds trapped monsters in its pages. She looked at me. “Why’d you stop? Did it work?” In front of her sat my body, gnashing teeth at her while safely chained up.
“Did what work?” I asked. I looked down, then felt myself. “Wait, I’m Morgan.” Axinomancer claimed to have a ritual that could allow the non-binary ax-based mage to channel me. Looks like she decided to use it.
I looked up when Venus opened that book. Arms made of paper reached out toward my body and snatched it and the chair right into it. The pages slammed shut. And I was really surprised to not be stuck in whatever that book did to people. “You in there?” I thought to myself.
I felt the warm acknowledgment from Morgan in my subconscious, and realized I could remember the past few minutes from their point of view instead of my own.
“Well, I know you’d be able to beat that thing in me. Just didn’t figure it’d be this way,” I said.
Venus hugged me. “I didn’t think the book would stop at whatever that was,” she said. “I figured as long as Axinomancer got you out, we could figure things out from there.” She stepped back and held up my wedding ring, slipping it onto my finger.
“Looks like Morgan got what she wanted after all. The old Morgan, at least. Guess there’s a new one now.” I held her for a couple of seconds, letting all this get awkward. “We need to make sure we got all of her that’s here.”
“Morgan?” Venus asked.
“The Perception. It’s not the Persistent. Get someone to check on Gorilla Awesome. I need to get a hold of Ouroboros. If we’re going to have to get everyone she’s affected, this is going to be busy”
Venus and I went to work. It was tougher with me, as it’s not like I can just hack into cameras and cell phones now. I had to go through some channels on VillaiNet to get hold of Ouroboros. And when I confirmed he was fine, I had to inform him about the Perception. Luckily, he wasn’t the only one who’d had an episode like that. The Perception had targeted people with powers and people with power. Probably the only reason we hadn’t had a nuclear exchange was because everyone was walking on eggshells after the Desire nearly caused Fallout to happen.
Then it was back to the basement. Venus had to get the rest of the magic squad to deal with that book in a way that didn’t unleash every forgotten monster in the history of mankind, and I used the excuse of customizing my new body. I’m not non-binary.
The End is coming. And when it gets here, it’ll face me at my full might.
While they were all here, the liaison, who also came to help deal with updating the trans-dimensional technology, has been telling me about all the changes I need to make to my lifestyle. Which happened while we sat around eating grilled pork chops, baked beans, salad, and grilled asparagus. I had called up some super plumbers in town to go about installing extra toilets for the occasion. To my knowledge, neither of them could change sizes or throw fireballs.
“If you want to communicate interdimensionally, we can try to get you set up with a method that won’t damage the fabric of reality,” Mystic Teneceroni told me.
“Who would want to read something you wrote anyway?” Miss Tycism asked.
I shrugged. “They’re probably getting tired of me.”
“I read it,” Sam added. “It started off a lot darker, like Garth Ennis. Cruel dark humor.”
“I once got compared to The Boys,” I said.
“Wonder if it’s because you fucking killed me,” Miss Tycism added.
I shrugged. “Safe to say I’ve had some very negative thoughts about the usefulness of superheroes. But you probably didn’t deserve it as much as I thought.”
“Do we really need to keep her alive?” Miss Tycism asked Teneceroni.
“I’m with her,” Captain Lightning II said.
“I don’t know how your system of justice works,” Mystic Teneceroni explained. “But if you fail, your world will be consumed by some manor of conceptual horror and risk the rest of the solar system, galaxy, and universe unless we cauterize the wound your world used to belong to. Since I’m on this water-covered rock with you, I advise you to suck it up until after this is over. There aren’t many left.”
“Wait, there’s a finite number? And you know how many there are?” I asked.
“Three more,” Teneceroni said. “We’ve never found a way to outright stop the last one. No matter what, no matter what problems it might cause, we have to seal the rifts before the End arrives.”
“Tell me about this End,” I said. Sam came up and put her arms around me. Morgan, the magic hero called Axinomancer, adjusted her lawn chair to be closer to mine. Meanwhile, Max Muscles was trying to impress everyone by putting up a temporary fabric awning.
“Technically, its process has already begun, but it accelerates when the others have come through already. I suppose in their own way, they all are part of the process,” Teneceroni explained. “It involves dark energy, specifically something your people call phantom energy.”
Before we could get too far into a conversation designed to melt my brain out of my ears, I noticed the awning Max put up seemed quite a bit taller than it should have been. And not like someone made a mistake, more like why would anyone create a small, two-story awning for the backyard. Looking back down, I had to shake my head because everything looked off.
Distantly, I saw Captain Lightning throw his food away and ask indignantly, “What did you put in the food? Did you drug us?”
I tried to answer, but he was moving away. Everything was moving away. My backyard stretched on for miles at least. I now sat in a vast never-ending grassland with no shade, no cover, and no clouds. I pulled out my phone. And no bars.
A change in the light drew my attention back to the sky, that little trapped bit of atmosphere that eventually faded into the void of space. The moon now hung high in it, pulling closer. I watched ad it went from a distant celestial object to filling the entire sky, giving the naked eye a detailed view of craters pockmarking its surface. I could even see various moonbases, some left behind by countries, others by supers. I swear I could even make up the abandoned cheese factory where they used to make moon cheese. The shipping and handling was bullshit.
A darkness spread over the surface of the moon. In the darkness were glittering lights from stars and distant galaxies. The mass split into three long bands around the moon, like fingers. The moon was moved out of the way and there was a face made of the same void, with dark empty impressions where the eyes would be.
“I take it-” I started, then stood up and cupped my hands around my mouth. “I take it you’re here to surrender?!”
This big thing opened its mouth to reveal teeth of blazing light as it laughed, the Earth trembling. When it spoke, I didn’t so much hear it as feel it. “”I. Am. The. Vast.”
“Say it, don’t spray it, you vastard,” I remarked.
“You unleashed more than you ever could have comprehended, childish thing,” the Vast retorted.
“Why don’t you come down here to my level and say that, big guy?” I pointed at the grass right in front of me. Then I pulled out my phone and opened a remote wormhole link to my interdimensional base. It’s held together by wormholes, which isn’t helping things overall. But now, it could be the key to beating this asshole.
Sure, the whole gang of mages could probably just suck this guy into a rock or something, but the Vast put a wrench into that. None of the group are around. Even Sam and Morgan went from invading my personal space to being out of sight. And even if I had my powers, I could have implemented this pretty easily. I was worried he’d just splat me flat but I guess he was drawing time apart as well.
Power-wise, there were no restrictions for me to make more wormholes: I’ve been harnessing direct star power. And while it would be environmentally friendly to have Tom Cruise use an exercise bike to make my equipment work, I meant wormholes that open directly into the hearts of stars. Which is great for power, but I have to do it elsewhere due to the gravity issues.
I also activated the redundant wormhole devices. All of them. I keep plenty of them around because shit can go wrong. So without power being an issue, I just had to make as many wormholes as possible: wormholes in stars, wormholes in gravitational singularities, wormholes in black holes. Most importantly, I opened wormholes in The Vast, which I was able to do thanks to the advances space-time targeting system of the wormholes made possible by the very technology that allows them to punch holes in the universe.
Sometimes, I’m really glad I broke into alien computers and occasionally used my omniscience, limited or not, to spy on distant galaxies in space. I was hoping to see some star wars, or perhaps some ship on a long star trek.
The Vast swung a fist at me, but it was taking forever. Perhaps I could have theoretically evaded it since it was taking minutes to land, but this is the same fist where the fingers were large enough to wrap around the moon. That’s a punch so big, it could wipe out the dinosaurs. It was taking long enough to get here, though. Meanwhile, I filled it up with every damn source of gravity I could find, all concentrating in the middle of that damn head. A shrinking head. A head that, along with its own gravity, collapsed in on itself.
The Vast being whatever the fuck it is, it didn’t die. But it sucked that whole thing into itself with what I feel was probably a tormented wail.
“What was that?” I called out. “Couldn’t quite hear that!” Meanwhile, grass moved around me, pulling in toward me. I looked and it was like the landscape was getting sucked into my feet. And thanks to the power of advanced technobabble behind the reckoning of mortal man, I brought the Vast to myself, using the wormholes to keep the gravity from leaking out and affecting me. By the time he got to me, he was marble-sized.
“Not so vast now,” I said. “Now to figure out-”
Sam’s hands wrapped around me. And Morgan’s. “Hey, watch it, y’all, I got an Ancient Horror here.”
“Where?” Captain Lightning stomped up to me. Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni joined me as well, examining the little floating lattice of compressed wormholes. I was able to close most of them and shut down the redundant systems. Meanwhile, Sam grabbed my face and stole a kiss. I even let Morgan do the same, which prompted a competitive Sam to grab me and go for it again. And then Morgan again. I let Sam get one more in before I had to raise my hands.
“Stop it, please, we need to figure out how to contain this thing, especially if wer’re turning off the wormholes.” I explained what I’d experienced and done to the Vast. Captain Lightning sulked, but Miss Tycism and Teneceroni went to work immediately trying to work out a way to create the same effect without the portals. They had to call in the rest of the mages, who were already on their way from the nearby motels and AirBnBs. By the time they arrived, I was just finishing sticking the Vast inside a snowglobe I had laying around from a recent trip I took to Disney World.
“Here,” I said, tossing it over to Teneceroni. “It’s a small world, after all.”
After that whole ordeal, I could have used a break. Instead, I ran to go check on the kids. Alexander was upset, and I don’t blame him. Poor kid hasn’t known anything but the Ancient Horrors since before he was even born.
So it wasn’t until the next morning when I had time to look into the information Teneceroni gave me. Negative energy and phantom energy. I had some knowledge of all that from my time with omniscience. This solar system had elevated levels, I remember, but I never looked into it more. I knew enough to modify some of my trans-dimensional tech. I had made spares of the devices that open wormholes in case anything happened to the main ones I used.
The targeting equipment was less precise without my direct neural interface, but the point was it had an amazing ability to scan space-time, which was just what I needed. Even space was warped by a gargantuan Ancient Horror, it was able to map it to precisely target With some modifications and a little lingering goddess know-how, I fixed it to detect energy and matter that otherwise isn’t observable to beings of conventional matter and energy.
The monitor I hooked up didn’t so much show dark matter and energy around Earth as it showed Earth drenched in dark energy. The physicists are going to kick themselves when they realize it. But that’s also the issue, because this is more than I think I remember, and it’s growing. I think that’s what Teneceroni meant about the process having begun and accelerating. I don’t know if The End that he spoke of is an actual being or not, but this amount of phantom energy flooding the area so quickly is going to fuck with space-time and could cause a Big Rip with a bunch of smaller ones first. The End is coming through every wormhole on Earth, flooding it with energy that’ll tear the bonds between atoms apart. Not just between atoms, but the bonds between the parts that make up atoms.
It’s one of the ways the universe could end. It could definitely take out Earth. So I’m going to have to close the portals and cut myself off from all of y’all. So I guess this useless little blog is going to have to end.
That’s another one down. But now I’ve got another problem. I’ve got a baby, and a little kid, and too many people visiting my house.
Medusa tattled on me. She warned me real quick, too. She called me up, “Hey hon. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t important. You know how you keep playing a role in stopping these things that keep attacking?”
“Last I heard, they’re being called Ancient Horrors. Not exactly horrors in the conventional sense after the Perverse, though,” I told her.
She cut me off before I could go off on a tangent. As if I’d just do that. “I talked to that Liaison. She knew other people were fighting back. She still has the Dark with her, and she knew someone had to have trapped the others. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think this was important, but you made it sound like they’re gunning for you.”
“None have used guns so far, but I may have wedgied my fair share of Ancient Horror dorks. Maybe gave one a swirly.” This is called bravado. It looks real funny to people if you have it and then can’t back it up.
“We’re on our way to meet you. We’re going to be there in a couple of hours.”
“Are you cleaning up the living room?” I asked. I looked out at a floor scattered with some clothes from everyone but Venus and Medusa. I had Alexander with me, ready for a diaper change. Little stinker’s got a lot to learn, but he picked up shitting early.
“I don’t think they’re gong to worry about the house being clean. I’m sorry, I know you’re supposed to rest, but this is important.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice,” I told her. “Just make sure we’re not going to do the whole thing where someone threatens me or tries to fight me, will you? I don’t have time for that shit. I had to deal with Alexander’s.
I was a bit down, so things weren’t that bad. Sam and Holly woke up and helped out. They’ve been adjusting as well, with thick ear muffs. I’ve been letting Qiang stay with friends more. She’s happy to see the cute little baby, but her other senses don’t care for it. Senses like smell and hearing. And Sam’s been great. She even watched Alex while I took a shower and washed my hair and cried about what my life’s come to and how I wanted this but I hate it and what kind of a person am I really?
I needed that shower. Left it feeling refreshed and put on some disposable clothes. It’s easy to go out looking nice when you don’t have to risk getting puke all over yourself on a regular basis. But the family’s helping. I knocked them for not doing so, but they’re helping a lot with cooking and cleaning until I can get in tune with the automatons again. Which reminded me, I rushed downstairs to the basement to shut down the automated defenses on the house. Would be a shame if these aliens who were bothering me got shot down by a lawn gnome packing a bajillia-watt laser and a flamingo with atomic-bladed talons.
When they arrived, I was at least nice enough to have some snacks ready. I opted for an outfit that would allow me to subtly intimidate the newcomers, too. But, I mean, I just dropped a baby out from between my legs. It’s still sweatpants and a loose shirt, but the shirt says, “Bad Mother.”
I made quite a sight sitting on the porch, sipping tea and eating a dill pickle spear, bouncing a flip flop-clad foot on the porch. They hovered overhead in an alien shuttle. I grabbed a remote and activated the landing strip on the driveway that I never really use. Usually, people just parallel park next to the yard without daring cross the picket fence. It can open to let someone in or out of the driveway, but I think only I know that.
I think I killed the vibe they were going for when they all stepped out in costume. There was Miss Tycism, the resurrected magical heroine I once killed, in kind of an indigo robe number. Captain Lightning II was wearing his usual getup. I briefly wondered if he needed to stop and pee in that or if his superpowers just did something with it. Medusa was there as well, along with a blue-skinned Grau with feathers on his head and a jumpsuit on. There were others with them in various costumes or even just regular clothing, but there were two others who stood out to me. One was Axinomancer, a young but legal non-binary mage who used axinomancy, with an ax as a focus of their magic. And the other was a meaty, muscular guy in a muscle shirt with slicked-back hair.
“Max Muscles?” I asked.
“Yo yo yo, who that is?” he asked.
“We met before, but you wouldn’t remember me,” I told him.
Medusa, in a casual Exemplar outfit, hopped out past them. “Hey babe.”
“Hey boopsie,” I told her. After a second, I stood up. “Welcome to the Gecko Household everyone. Y’all are the ones trying to fight the Ancient Horrors?”
“Is that what they settled on?” the Grau asked. He stepped forward. “I’m Mystic Teneceroni.”
“Bonjourno,” I said.
He approached and offered the standard human handshake, which I accepted. Meanwhile, the rest of this field trip of magic superheroes and Max Muscles approached. I nodded toward the house. “There are drinks and snacks inside. Pizza.”
“I’m glad to talk to you,” Mysic Teneceroni said. “I’ve heard you played an important role in dealing with Earth’s problem.”
“Seems that way.” Despite the look of clear suspicion from Captain Lightning, and the way Axinomancer eyed me, everyone else shuffled into the house. “Whoa, pizza!” Max Muscles called out.
So, in the tradition of many of Earth’s peoples, we broke bread together. It was the beginning of them attempting to woo me into an alliance, I thought. But Medusa pulled me aside at one point to tell me, “They’re here to protect you.”
“Really? You told Captain Lightning about that?” I was skeptical.
“I think he’s hoping they fail, but he’s well aware how much is at stake. Guess it’s about time for another generation to be infuriated at you.” She put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Now, I’m going to get more of that pizza. What is that black stuff?”
“Tuscan herbs. It coated the outside of this cheese I sliced up and put on there.” She left me there.
As for me, I needed a little break from all the people for the moment, except I turned and saw yet another one. I didn’t remember ever meeting this guy in my life. It was like the black of his pupils glowed just a little, or like a strong light reflected off them right in the center. White guy, pretty generic looking, brown suit, glasses, comb over, mustache. Geeky-looking fellow, which would fit for some of the mages.
“Hey,” I said, nodding toward him.
“Hi there,” he said. “Nice place.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You’re one of the biggest and baddest villains ever. Is this,” he gestured to the home around us. “really what you wanted out of life?”
“Bold question,” I said. I thought about it a bit. Good food, good shelter, a loving family, and the ability to destroy the world with a wave of my hand. I nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Really? You don’t need, I don’t know, money?”
I shook my head. “Psssh. Just don’t ask about my revenue stream. Money’s fine. There’s always more of it out there.”
“Don’t you ever miss being Empress?” he asked.
These questions felt a bit weird at this point. “It was nice, but I don’t need it.”
“You were a goddess!” he said.
“I mean, some of the kinky shit was nice,” I said. I shook my head. “I guess, once the trauma’s gone, I’m just not that complicated. I don’t want to, like, be an Olympic gymnast or star in movies. I just want a good life. Right now, the only real threat to that are these Horrors. You got a way to get rid of them?”
A hand spun me around and pushed me against the wall. Axinomancer’s mouth found mine. I enjoyed myself for a second, then pushed her away. “Right here and now?” I asked. I looked over to the guy, but he was gone.
“I want you,” Axinomancer said. Morgan, I should call them. They’re a bit young for me and I didn’t see anything in the relationship. We had some enjoyable times with me possessing their body as a goddess, but I didn’t want to make it an ongoing, long-term thing. They’ve got her whole life ahead of them, too.
Morgan turned my face back toward them. “I want you in me.”
“I don’t have those powers,” I told her.
“I know a way. Your brains, my body. We’d be perfect,” they said.
“What’s gotten into you?” I asked. I’d pretty clearly ended it and thought I made it fine with her. There were some nice perks to being a goddess.
“You, I hope,” Morgan said.
I looked around for a little delicate diplomatic help. Max Muscles was scarfing down pizza like it was nobody’s business. Mystic Teneceroni was discussing something with Miss Tycism, both of them creating little magical lightshows as they shows off to each other. I didn’t see where Medusa was at, but Captain Lightning was chatting with the geeky guy. Then Lightning turned to look at me and started over. The dork disappeared quickly when Lighting’s stride hid him briefly from view.
Oooooh. Yeah, I gotcha. Dorky guy’s doing this.
“Hey, Pepperoni!” I called out. Max looked up, but so did Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni. “Is there one of these things that offers you whatever you want?”
“Enough talk and enough lies. The world doesn’t need you!” Captain Lightning II said. He reached for me.
Axinomancer turned, summoning an ax into their hands. “Yeah it does.”
Medusa came out of nowhere to stand in front of me. “Damn right.”
“You asked a great question,” Teneceroni said, oblivious. He created more of a light show, this one more of a turquoise laced with violet. “One of the Ancient Horrors is the Desire. It finds what people want most and amplifies their desire, feeding on the chaos and death.”
Captain Lightning grabbed Medusa and pushed her into a wall. She grunted in pain. And Desire got to me a bit. I wanted my family to be safe. My mind did its calculation. I stood up to Captain Lightning. I looked him right in his angry eye and said, “Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!”
He winced and held up his hands. “It’s in my mind’s eye. It burns!”
I pulled out the phone I’ve got to use while my powers aren’t working and pulled up an image. I showed it to Morgan, which backed them off, too. Soon, the image of that evil woman had shaken everyone out of their desire. As for me, I then found the dorky guy chatting up Sam, dragged him into the restroom, and started giving him a swirly. He disappeared on me before I could drown him on it, but it gave me enough time to think on how we were going to catch this walking armadillo turd.
“Computer,” I called down to the basement. “One small talking statue of Thatcher.”
“We can catch Desire and bind it,” Mystic Teneceroni informed me.
Morgan shrugged. “It’s kind of what I had in mind for you.”
“I mean, what you said is what I was going to go with,” I told my admirer. “But I want to make sure nobody goes searching for the Desire.”
Luckily, this whole ritual didn’t take long with such trained mages around. I mean, sure, the world was going to hell while we did this, but that’s common now. Just weeks now of everything going bad out of nowhere in a world where people superpowers and guns. Perfectly fine for someone to whisper in your ear and go, “Hey, live out your secret desires.”
Meanwhile, we were all crowded around in my basement, me in black robes like this was the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, chanting. They did most of the work, which was a mixture of various languages’ magical chants to the effect of ‘Come on if you think you’re hard enough.”
Axinomancer had regained their memory some time back and, eventually, found a broader way to channel other beings. I was no longer a goddess, so I couldn’t be called upon the standard way, but this other method, while dangerous if it wasn’t specific enough, was still possible. And with this many skilled practitioners and Max Muscles, it worked. They drew the Desire out and to store it in the last place anyone would go looking for Desire: a statuette of Margaret Thatcher that plays “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” whenever anyone pressed the button.
A bit dated, I suppose.
I found out Max’s role in all this when the dorky guy appeared in the circle and Max flexed. Mystic runes glowed on his arms and chest as he ran into the circle, grabbed Desire, and threw him into the Thatcher statuette. “Boom! That’s how Max and his Magic Mind Muscle crew do it!”
“So, is that it then?” I asked when Desire seemed to be safely tucked away.
“We’ll put it somewhere safe,” Mystic Teneceroni said. “Thank you for allowing us to stay here. We would like to stay longer, if we can.”
“I mean, at least one of you wants me dead,” I said.
“Yes,” the alien mystic said. “However, while these Ancients are attacking everyone, they’ve focused on you specifically. Allowing them to manifest against you and then catching them gives us a way to prevent this crisis while my people work to repair the dimensional barrier. Do you have room for all of us?”
Oh boy. I sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Unless anyone wants to stay in a house with a screaming newborn?”
Of course Axinomancer volunteered. Too bad for them that after the trauma my fun parts just went through, I’ve gone temporarily celibate. And, ya know, the news certainly got interesting when people leaked that basically every country with nuclear weapons had a guy guarding them who really, really, really wanted to fire the things.
And as smoothly as Desire went down, unlike the others, his effects seemed to be permanent. People recovered from the Dark and the Unwelcome. The Fate’s and the Perverse’s changes reverted once they were sealed away. But it was humans who shot places up or rioted this time. Which means that dork has the highest bodycount of any of these guys so far.
They didn’t keep me in the hospital too long. I haven’t gotten my powers yet, but Alexander and myself are fine. I’m advised to have plenty of food and rest, and to provide the same for the baby. My mommy milkers feel massive, and the baby took to them with a little bit of coaxing. I’ve got plenty of helpers around. Sam’s taken pretty well to dealing with the kid. Holly’s a bit useless, but she’s good at ordering food. And Isabella’s learning. Maia, aka Medusa, had to run off and deal with Exemplar duties. She’s pretty upset about it, but we all told her how much we understand. Shit’s going down worldwide.
The Grau are keeping various groups updated, but my situation puts me out of the know for the most part. I had to log in and check to find out that the Grau are still updating the villains. Three of these things are caught: the Dark, the Unwelcome, and the Fate.
They show up and fuck with Earth all at once. VillaiNet, with its priorities straight, had a lengthy thread fighting over what to call them. The Eldritch Terrors is one name they’ve gone with. Cosmic Horrors, Old Ones, and Chthonic Gods are other suggestions. Eventually, a compromise was reached and they settled on Ancient Terrors, because everyone hated that name.
Ancient Terrors it is, then.
They hadn’t really come in any sort of regular time period, so resting and eating seemed like a great idea for me. I was downing a slice of cheesecake when I first noticed something odd. The flavor was too much like cheddar. And so was the slice, which now looked like I’d cut a piece off a wheel of cheese. I set it aside, wondering what game was going on now. The Fate already had the ability to change the present, but I didn’t immediately see the threat in this, unless they got rid of all cheesecake worldwide. Then, this might be the most threatening Ancient Terror of the bunch. A world without cheesecake would be terrible.
I moved out of my seat. Alexander was crying. I scratched my back with my tail and left the kitchen, the tile floor cool against my foot scales. Alexander was whining in the crib we’d set up for him in my room. It was a small, gaudy house, with gold fixtures. That… wasn’t right, was it?
I flipped the top open and picked up my baby. Where I was Gecko, Alexander was only half-Gecko. His other half was a goddess of beauty, but he still had a tail like me. I lifted him up and got the feeling something was wrong again. He was hungry. And I was a gecko person. But I hadn’t been. I realized that. How had I been breasfteeding without any breasts? Mammaries are for mammalians.
I looked down at myself, seeing myself more clearly. I’d been a damn unicorn woman, and before that a homo machina. Instead, I was a lizard woman, with scales and colorful markings and a tail. Annoyed, I flicked my tongue out and licked my eye.
I needed to call someone. Everyone else was out of the house. I ran to get my mobile phone, but it wasn’t on the charger. The little horse charged at me, but I tossed it aside and found the phone trying to crawl out the front door.
“I think this is another of those Horrors,” the TV told me.
“I’ve figured that out by now,” I told it. More like a smartass TV. I grabbed my phone and texted the family. “Another one! It’s making everything literal!”
“what literal?” Venus asked.
“It’s when something means what it says exactly without metaphor, but that’s not important right now,” my boyfriend Sam said.
“He’s right,” Holly added.
“Wait, that’s not entirely right,” I realized. “It turned the baby crib into a crib like you’d see on MTV.” My eyes widened. I turned toward the Smart TV. “Put on MTV.”
The TV turned on and flipped to a channel that actually played music videos and had other content related to music. Holy crap.
I doubled over, holding my stomach, and rushed to the bathroom. The texts continued, but I had to finish pushing out a small cross.
“things r weird,” Venus said. “i told Medusa and she’s turned people to stone when she looks at them.”
“Reality is shifting to fit different meanings of the words we use,” Holly said.
“That seems,” I paused. “correct.” I realized I needed to be real careful what I said. “That would explain why I’m a lizard woman.”
“You’re an actual gecko?” Sam asked.
“Yes, Samantha,” I used the full first name.
I decided to check out something. I closed my eyes and thought about the human name I’d adopted: Delilah.
It took a bit of work before I saw myself change. I wasn’t a unicorn woman anymore, but I wasn’t a lizard woman. I had a moment of curiosity, and recalled the memories I’d taken off Dame, believing really hard I was Dame. I looked down and… no change. Not even her costume. Hmm.
But as a woman, I am a dame.
Boom. Skin tone, hair color, boob size. I was Dame.
“Nice one,” a voice said. I looked up to see a really small man, like two feet tall, sitting on my couch. He wore a suit and a little bowler hat with long, pointy ears sticking out from under it. He had a light green pallor to his skin and a cigar in his mouth.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
“You can call me the Perverse,” he said, puffing on a cigar. “You’re a neat one. You fought the others.” He nodded toward me. “You even found a way to abuse the rules.”
“Oh, now there’s rules?” I asked.
The Perverse smiled around the cigar. He took it out of his mouth and knocked some ashes off onto the sofa. “There’s always rules. Everyone has rules. My favorite part of the rules are the loopholes,” he said.
“Y’all keep confronting me and it doesn’t go well for you. Maybe you thingies need to walk away,” I suggested to the Perverse.
He laughed. “You can’t trap or destroy me.”
“Who are you trying to convince of that?” I asked as if I had an idea what to do.
‘I don’t have to convince anybody. I’ve got all the power here. All it takes is the right word and up becomes down.”
“Like we’ve entered the twilight zone,” I said with a laugh, then paused. Oh shit.
The color had drained out of the world. Beyond my front door was another dimension; a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. The house was moving into a land of shadow and substance, a land of things and ideas.
I’d just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.
“Heh, good one, kiddo,” the Perverse said. He now wore a red t-shirt, the words, “Hell is a city much like Newark” stenciled on it. A pair of horns stuck out of his head. “That’s the thing about dealing with me; you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
“You said there rules,” I pointed out.
The Perverse nodded again. “That’s right. I’m going to twist what you think and say around so that what you say doesn’t conform to the way you meant it. So the rules, as such, are the ones that all language deals with. You know, I like you. You’ve bent the rules the same way. You’ve crushed people’s dreams. You’ve been an unwelcome invader to this whole dimension, and you defy fate constantly.” He eyed me up and down.
Well, probably the best-known meaning of Perverse has to do with sex. Hmm. And it can affect the Perverse.
“Why do I sense a deal with the devil coming up?” I asked. I stepped over and booped one of his horns.
“Because you’re a smart girl,” he said. I looked down at him from much less height. “You’ve got a rich mind that I can’t wait to twist and make responsible for fucking up the entire world. You and I could have a lot of fun.” The TV, now an old-fashioned one in a wood frame, switched from an MTV that was showing Cab Calloway to images around the world. People sitting on a rectangular plane were falling from high in the air. Oh, an airplane. A movie theatre exploded, taking an entire city block with it. Blockbuster. And cargo container the size of a container ship was now clogging the Suez Canal. Elsehwere, a man was being attacked at a hibachi restaurant by a chicken, fried rice flying into the air as it pecked him.
I believe a chicken fried that rice.
There’s a lot of potential for chaos if someone doesn’t watch how they phrase things. We could end up really screw-, really messed up.
“We’re two…” I stopped myself from saying we were two peas in a pod. That could have turned out badly. While I scrambled for an alternative, I had an idea. “Of a kind.”
I’d hoped to render the Perverse human. If that thing turned into a little girl, I could have dealt with her real easily. But instead, I felt myself shrink further. I wore a suit of my own, white with a black shirt. A couple short horns poked out of my head and a quick feel showed my ears were longer.
“You know, I’m something of a contrarian myself. And you’re pretty perverse, too,” the Perverse said. I could feel my face and hips shift to his idea of pretty. I looked pretty good as far as a mirror of myself. “We’re a lot alike, you and I.”
I rolled my eyes. They popped out of my head, but I grabbed them and put them back in. That one I was prepared for. I’d used that one similarly before with my cybernetic eyes. Then I had an idea. A smile crept across my face.
“So you’re pretty powerful, huh? Loopholes are one thing, but is there anything you can’t do? Any physical or temporal limitations to your abilities?”
“Not a one. I can go faster than the speed of light, or make two electrons in an atom occupy the same quantum state as easily as you can blow your nose. I can do anything, go anywhere, and I have access to every bit of recorded information in the omniverse.”
I nodded. “I have another question, if you would answer it for me?”
“Ask,” he ordered.
“Is there anyplace in the universe and all of being where you could go and not be able to find your way back here?”
“No,” he said, a playful smile on his face. He approached close. I let him back me up against the wall. ”I could scoot over to the Andromeda galaxy and back in a microsecond, faster if I don’t stop for lunch. I could go to, say, what would be Berlin if the Nazis had won the war. Or 21st century Rome if Alexander the Great had lived to old age, I confess I had higher hopes for you. Trying to find a place I couldn’t come back from? That’s not going to work. I’m here to stay.” My back pressed against the wall, the Perverse put a hand against the wall right by my head, trapping me there.
But we were two of a kind, right?
I grinned and told him. “Get lost.”
Snap back to reality.
I stumbled while readjusting to my correct size and shape again, even with the wall behind me. Ope, there goes gravity, reasserting itself. I scooped up my phone and ran over to the baby’s crib. Alexander was fine. He was safe, just crying a bit. I popped a tit into his mouth and checked the phone. “Everything ok?” I asked.
“Everything was weird, but I think it’s back to normal,” Sam said. The others confirmed it.
“Hey every1,” Medusa said. “I thot it best not to text with that going on.”
In retrospect, letting Medusa or Venus text like that was a bad idea. “It’s fine,” I assured everyone. “Tell your liason friend the Perverse is dealt with.”
I hoped, at least. I turned to the TV. “You’re a smart TV, aren’t you? Play MTV.” It didn’t respond and a flip of the channels once again showed that Music Television was reality TV and a show about viral videos. Reality TV. I shivered at the thought of what would have happened if I’d referenced that to the Perverse.
I know it can take days to squirt out a baby. That’s not what’s happening here. I needed to get caught up is all. It’s been harder to write under the circumstance I found myself in and in the period immediately afterward. Tl;dr, you try keeping up with a blog while giving birth. Miracle of life my ass.
Now, after dealing with The Unwelcome, things were starting to fall into place. Isabella and Maia had been delayed by dealing with the aftermath of The Dark and the invasion of The Unwelcome. Holly had been out getting a signal to Mix N’Max, my old friend, letting him know about the momentous occasion. She’s also trying to hide from me a bunch of presents she’s been buying in secret since I never held a baby shower.
A hulking nurse with cybernetic implants poking out of his facial skin stopped in. “I don’t normally work here, so I’m not sure I have the right place. There are visitors for you. Is this the room of Psychopomp Gecko?”
Ah. Sam had forgotten to give them my alias. That’s an unfortunate oversight.
The nurse shook his head. “That’s Psycho Gecko…”
“Yeah,” I said, curious. My legs were still up in the birthing stirrups, but I reached over and grabbed for one of the panic bags.
The guy had a neck that wasn’t so much a column as it was a slope. Muscles on top of muscles. He could be the main character in a first person shooter. He shook his head. “You fought the space marine invasion, didn’t you?”
The former space marine ran at me. I whipped something out of the panic bag. Instead of my machete, I whipped a stuffed dog into his face. I then lowered my head and the sharp unicorn horn sticking out of it. When the former space marine pulled himself off it, he spurted blood all over me from the hole in his chest and one of his hearts. He got it all over the dog plushie, too. He turned and ran for it, dripping blood the whole way.
Other nurses found me like that, soon after followed by the whole family. “Uh…” I tried to come up with something snarky to say. Holly had me covered, blowing a noisemaker and waving around a couple of sparklers as she ran in, dragging around balloons tied to her arms. She ran over and hugged me.
“Watch the sparklers!” I said, careful of my hair catching fire. There was a lot of unwashed oil in those locks.
“Ew, bloody… so is the baby out yet?” Holly asked.
“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!” I said.
Some strange guy poked his head into the room. “Hi there, I’m with Nuclear Blast Records, and I’d love to sign whoever unleashed that phenomenal scream”
“Out!” Isabella said, closing the door in the heavy metal producer’s face.
Meanwhile, I hit the call button. “Get in here!”
I think I’m due a bit of privacy about what happened next. Which is new. Usually when a situation involves a bunch of screaming, crying, drugs, and pain, I’m all too eager to share it. But permit a blood-soaked babymaker to keep something to myself. And after all that was said and done, they even let me hold the little pain in my ass.
“Hello, Alexander. You’re going to have a hell of a life,” I said to my tired, crying baby. Then I passed him over to Isabella and Maia. Sam and Holly were out of the room, with Sam helping Holly recover from watching what happens when someone gives birth. I’d have warned her to gird her loins if I’d had time beforehand, but there was a lot of screaming.
They did have to take Alexander away from me and almost everyone filtered out to let me rest. The thing about your body being in pain every few minutes for like a day is you don’t get a lot of rest. I woke up to a thin, zombie version of myself sitting in a chair next to an abandoned balloon. Her hair was white save for the barest of my rainbow colors at the bottom. My split horn was longer, with the smaller rear portion twisting around a longer main horn until it came back behind the main one. I couldn’t tell where her hands ended and nails began. She was thin, deathly pale, with cloudy white eyes that stared at me.
“So who are you?” I asked this dead reflection.
“I am your Fate,” it said.
“Is that what you call yourself? Fate?” I asked.
It stood up.
“Since this is a joyous day for me,” I warned it. “I’m going to advise you not to do anything that causes me to have to stand up. So, what, are you here with the failed space marine, or is this another yahoo from beyond the veil of existence?”
“I am the Fate. The path of all living things is set in stone and beset by suffering.”
I flashed back, even moreso than my stress disorder caused once upon a time. I was a kid again, being beaten by others in the Psychopomp Program. I was being held in an armlock by Medusa, tearing my arm out to free myself. I was screaming as something the size of a baby forced its way out of something the size of my pussy. And then I was back there in bed, with that zombie of myself standing in the room. I pulled the blanket aside and swung my feet over the edge of the bed, sitting on the side of the bed.
When I stood up, I stumbled back behind a shield. When I lowered it, I was in a burning building, facing off against a pissed-off Venus. Her armor was slimmer. She retracted a double-headed ax attached to one of her arms and raised the double double barrels on each forearm. I raised the shield. Bullets pinged off, pushing me back as I tried to dig my orange boots into the ash. I was in a black and orange version of Captain America’s costume, but without the belly stripes and with a large G where the star would be.
Venus’s fire abarted. “What’s all this about?!” I asked.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t kill my son, you bitch!” she screamed at me. I looked over the shield. She was heading right for me with that ax. I threw my field at the floor, which it bounced off of to come at her face from below. She swatted it away and took my knee in her visor, diverting her to the side. I landed and shook my leg. Fucking hurt doing that to my knee.
When I looked up again, Venus was gone and I was looking at Qiang, just a little older. We were standing on the torn-open side of a building, like the windows had been blown out. She looked at me, then jumped out. I ran over and dove after her. She was splayed out, her tears splashing me in the face as she watched me bring my arms in close. I flapped my wings but the ground was so close. I didn’t have time to catch her. Instead, a glowing light pulled me up into it.
I stood up in the Mobian’s time vessel. “I have you. That wasn’t real. She’s messing with you.” He wore the same face as when I saw him replace the Torian, his evil counterpart, but was dressed differently. He wore a boring brown suit jacket with elbow patches, but a bright red scarf and a brown trilby.
“Oh, someone finally came to see what’s going on,” I mentioned.
“Everyone’s seeing it. Their own personal confrontation with every bit of suffering they’ve ever faced, sometimes changing their present to twist the knife. You have its attention. Good job with the Unwelcome.”
“Changing the present, but Qiang’s not dead?” I asked.
“Not where you came from,” the Mobian said.
“You can’t evade me,” zombie-me said. She now blocked the glowing white doorway. Her feet didn’t move so much as slide along the floor. I stood up, realizing I had gone from Captain Gecko to Unicorn Goddess as far as my costume.
“Who said I’m evading?” I asked. “I’m standing up now.”
“Your fate has been sealed.”
“Yeah, but I’ve still got a destiny to seize,” I said.
“I stand beside her,” the Mobian said. “Gecko, the time will soon come when I will disappear.”
“You kinda did already,” I said.
“Oh. Well, that’s wonderful news,” he said. He rushed up the dais toward a console and pressed a button. I fell out of the doorway and back into the hospital room. A bright light flashed by the window. I stood up, my costume fading away to a hospital gown now. Outside floated the Mobian’s time vessel. Nearby, my laptop crackled.
“The truth about time travel is this, Gecko. From the point of view of the future and of timeless, infinite beings, the past is set in stone. It has to be that way for us. It’s our present that can change. It’s your present that can change, and the universe has to reconcile that. I’ve devoted myself to helping stop people from changing it enough to bring the Fate into reality, but it’s found a way. So now I have to trap it, maybe even destroy it, but I need my vessel. You may doubt this, but I hope I see you again.”
The Mobian’s vessel flashed and disappeared. Trapping someone who wants to change reality to hurt everyone using a vessel that can travel through time. It’s like rain on your wedding day. Isn’t that ironic?
The gown wasn’t the only thing restored. My body went from a keyed-up Captain Gecko with an adrenaline rush to falling-down tired. I grabbed the wall and eased down into a chair. After a few minutes, I recovered enough to get back to the bed, trying to avoid laying on my deflated belly.
Wait, everyone had to be freaking the fuck out, too. I pulled myself up and stumbled out into the hallway, confirming that everyone else had had a hearty round of being fucked with. I found Qiang down near the cafeteria and hugged her, then carried her with me to go check on Alexander. The rest of the family, mostly hanging out around the cafeteria as well, caught up to us around then, in the middle of a bunch of babies cradling my newborn and my firstborn.
If I were to transcribe the screams, there’d be at least eighteen pages worth before we get to the action. I’d say it was the fun stuff, but y’all will soon learn otherwise. I went to the hospital shortly after my water broke. I was ready to embrace the fact that I don’t know everything and go to a hospital. The Darkness had been trapped by a circle of mages, including Captain Lightning, so my acknowledgment of that wasn’t more of the depression caused by that thing.
Sam called everyone: Holly, Maia, and Isabella. I think she even called Max, just to spread the news even further. But it helped, because Maia and Isabella definitely needed to know. They had to head back to the house after dropping me off at the hospital, though. They’d brought the wrong bag with them, and the hospital really didn’t like me having a suit of power armor, a grenade belt, and a sharpened machete.
In an ideal scenario, I’d have been looking into the people who took the Darkness or find out more about why it came after Earth now. It’s really inconvenient timing for me. So inconvenient that I was focusing on the contractions and breathing and stuff. This was made worse when the doctor examining me looked up from my cooch to tell me, “Looks like you’ve got awhile. The contractions are six minutes apart and thirty seconds long. I’d let you out, but I know you’ll run off and-”
“No, I’m staying,” I assured him. “Fuck the world, I’m about to unpreg!”
“I don’t know if I’d call that a good attitude, but I like your enthusiasm,” the doctor said.
I waited, annoyed, and focused on playing something to take my mind off of everything. I was on the second level of Power Wash Simulator when Sam and Qiang came rushing in with multiple bags. “I couldn’t remember which was which for the hospital!” she said.
She set down a bright pink one. “This should have your clothes.” She pulled out a dildo. “Nevermind.”
“Yeah, not helpful right now,” I said. She put it back and pulled out a bluetooth speaker. “Much better.”
Not sarcasm. I could at least put on some soothing music, starting with “Hip to be Scared” by Ice Nine Kills. There was even a laptop. With my powers on the fritz due to pregnancy, I needed some way to stay connected to the wider world. I couldn’t access my usual tools, which really just left me with public speculation and remote access to VillaiNet. Someone had reached out to VillaiNet. They were putting a lot of blame on me due to my rampant use of dimensional tech, but the main thread had someone liasing from the Consortium of Grau.
The Darkness, they said, was one of a number of timeless, eternal beings. They could be timeless because they weren’t alive or dead. They’re physical and metaphorical entities who had been locked out of all universes despite contributing to the first one. For various reasons related to their own aspects, they want to re-enter, kill everyone, destroy the universe, and feast on the remains.
Sounds bad. I’m still busy pushing out my offspring. Heh. That got a rare smile on my face in between contractions. I mean, I love Qiang and went to some weird lengths to make us biological family even though she was already my daughter. There’s just something a little different about combining my DNA with Isabella’s. Even better since she approved of the kid!
This whole situation was weird and I hadn’t even been given drugs yet. I still had to laugh at the situation. Everything about my life has been the most abnormal shit. Of course I’d be giving birth in the middle of an attack by hostile concepts from beyond time and space. At least they took their time. I stayed in that room, letting the contractions come closer and closer, looking at stuff and playing games. I even caught up on some podcasts I’d forgotten about. I barely noticed when the doctor had to rush out to look at something else.
I got impatient a bit. Not over the kid; I wanted to be done with this but I wasn’t eager to get split open like a melon just yet. I texted my wife, Isabella, and her older self, Maia, in a group text. “Where y’all at?”
“We’re on our way, but something’s happening. These Grau want us focused on the Ancient Terrors.” Isabella responded.
Maia added, “I’m sending Isabella on. I wish I could be there, but I think one of us has to help deal with this. They’re assembling teams to try and fight what’s going on. Wish you could help.”
“Maybe don’t knock me up so much next time,” I responded with a smiley winky emoji.
“Get a room, you two,” Isabella joked.
“Sure is lonely in this birthing suite,” I sent back, to eyeroll emojis. Sam had taken Qiang out to get some food and keep her occupied. My daughter didn’t need to spend her whole day watching after me.
Between contractions, it occurred to me that I’d seen and heard an awful lot of folks running around in this hospital. “Hey!” I called out to a nurse. She ignored me. I spotted my OB-GYN, though. “Pussy doc!”
He skidded to a stop, nearly falling over, and poked his head in. “What? What’s wrong? Have you noticed any strange growths?”
“I mean, I have a baby inside me.” I motioned to my belly. “What’s going on? Why would I have growths? What’s happened?”
“It’s like an outbreak of cancers and other growths,” he said. Well, that didn’t chill my blood. I pulled open the nanite command prompt, double-checked the exceptions for Alexander, and ordered a full-body scan. They flowed into me from one of the bags Sam and Qiang dropped off.
“That should check me. I wonder if this is like that Darkness thing,” I said.
Laughter came from the laptop, where the pixels on the screen weren’t changed, but moved like a laughing face. “You’re right, Gecko. I think we’re simpatico. You’ve got a lot of me in you,” the thing said. The copy of my latest anti-virus pulled up but crashed. “Don’t touch that dial,” said the computer.
The doctor joined me. “What is that?”
“You met my sibling, the Darkness. I’m the Unwelcome. Everything you didn’t want to see where it shouldn’t be. I’m the roach infestation in the wall. I’m the raccoons nibbling on wires in the attack. I’m the virus that snuck past your immunse system. I’m the tumor growing in your brain.”
“Sounds like you get around,” I said.
“I’m a natural part of all life,” he declared.
“You’re a parasite!” the doctor yelled at the screen.
I nodded, having grabbed a bag of popcorn. “You tell ’em.”
“How do we beat this thing?” the doctor asked me.
“Hell if I know,” I said. I gestured to my belly. “I’m in the middle of giving birth here.”
That said, I had an idea. The rampant viruses reminded me of my time inside the now-broken Madstone. I called up Sam. “Hey, babe, you still panicKKKKKKKKIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAGHing? Yeah, contractions are still happening. Ok, I know you’re really upset and there’s probably a lot of shit going on out there.”
“I just saw someone growing a conjoined twin!” she answered.
“Yeah, kinda glad I’m stuck in here. Listen, I need you to go to my house, to the basement, and to the safe. Ignore it, and open the wall behind the safe. There’ll be a number pad. Hold down the number 0 and it’ll connect you to a call center in India. Tell them your name and they’ll open it for you.”
“Is it something that can stop all this?” she asked.
“Yeah, I…. whoa… yeah. Bring me the box. It might be a little heavy, but it’s got wheels on the bottom. Should be a broken rock and a pair of gold-plated gauntlets inside.”
“Is it an Infinity Stone?” my girlfriend asked.
“No, but do hurry up before we’re all wiped out.” I looked down. The reason for my odd “whoa” had come when I realized my fingertips changing color. I leaned over to look at my feet and saw the same thing happening to my toes. I looked from them to the doctor and told him, “You better go prioritize other people right now. I’ve got this covered, I think.”
For the next half hour until Sam arrived, I got to watch as my skin slowly turned a pale, shiny grey. The Unwelcome showed me the nanite prompt on-screen, changing my body to suit him. I waved the doctor off when I first realized what it was, since there was nothing he could do about it anyway. By the time Sam ran into my room with the box, there wasn’t anything I could do either. “I got it!”
“Well, I’m going to need some more from you,” I told her. My hands were typing away at my laptop, but I couldn’t feel anything or do anything. They were moving of their own accord, to the Unwelcome’s will. It had taken my arms and my legs, but it would never take my spirit! It also wasn’t as far as as my womb. That was good. The Unwelcome had repeatedly taunted me by flashing that part of the diagnostic diagram on-screen, letting me know he was aiming to get to my baby and do things. I don’t know what things, but it wouldn’t have been good.
“Oh my god!” Sam said, looking at me. My arms reached out for her. I twisted my torso to keep them away.
“Stay away from my arms and legs.” It’s a good thing my legs had been strapped in. “Open the case, power on the gloves, take the pieces of the Madstone, and press them together.”
“Got it!” Sam fumbled over herself while she popped the case open. She flicked a switch on each gauntlet, then shoved her hands inside. The gauntlets were large on purpose, but air was suctioned out and the padding inside inflated to fit her hands. Electricity arced over the fingertips. And in the middle of the case was the Madstone.
The Madstone had once been sought after as a magical means of removing illness after it had captured a super with godlike power over germs. I freed her and got trapped in her place as a goddess, but was able to escape and break the Madstone, freeing myself. I kept it in case it was useful. I had pieced some of it together, but a gel kept the remaining parts separate.
My arms tried to pull me up out of bed. The nanites flowed out of my body and toward her, the command prompt on my laptop changing to show her twisted into a mass of extra arms and a body of obscene growths.
The palms of the gauntlets glowed crimson while Sam forced the Madstone together, backing away from the shimmery ribbon snaking through the air toward her. It shot at her suddenly, and she raised her hands to block. That would be the hands smashing the Madstone back together right when the nanomachines.
A flash of light. When it cleared, my laptop was normal. The anti-virus popped up and quickly scanned it, declaring it virus-free. The clammy grey skin began to drain away, being replaced by normalcy. Well, that’s nice.
“Is that it?” Sam asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, better put the Madstone back in that case and lock it up. We don’t want that thing breaking again.”
I feel terrible. Absolutely shitty. How dare biology make humans do shit like this for nine months? More than just moral upgrades, humanity needs more biological upgrades. When I’m done with genomes and cybernetics, babies will slip n’ slide out of there. This is a highly inconvenient process! No wonder pregnancy’s the leading cause of mortality for women. It would be for trans men and non-binary folks, but transphobes are number one there.
I’ve been down ever since I lost my powers. My nanites are keeping me healthy, but I think they missed handling the effects of the hormones on me. They were specifically ordered to let hormonal changes happen. That’s important for the kid. Blocking them would have hurt Alexander’s development, but I was trying to avoid all the crying and shit. I guess I should have had the OB-GYN help out with that, because I did a shit job.
I’m really lucky I didn’t fuck over the world more, because the truth is I’ve gotten super lucky. Or I’ve been able to recover. Or people covered for me. Somehow, amazingly, the world survived me and my arrogance.
Yeah, so I’ve been in a bad mood. I know Holly and Sam are losing patience. Qiang wore her armor in once when she came in to bring me a tray of food. It wasn’t enough food, either, but I had to pee first. I had to pee while eating. I had to carry in the last of the food to finish it off while sitting my bloated body on the toilet to pee some more. Please, I just want to stop peeing. I need a cork, but they won’t let me into the basement to design one.
I figured this would be a lot of boring stuff to write down and then never send, like so much other crap. Hell, probably a lot of what I sent is deserving of just never being talked about. The change happened when the lights went out.
I was in the garden, humming to myself while checking on my peppers. I had some gorgeous golden cayennes growing this year, but a section of Boston pickling cucumbers wasn’t doing shit. They had a few flowers, but nothing was turning into a cucumber. So when I got to the cucumbers, I dropped the happy humming, leaned in real close, and yelled, “Why aren’t you growing, you little cuke?!”
“Stop stressing!” Sam called from the back porch. My girlfriend was sipping a bottled water and keeping an eye on me. “It’s not good for your health!”
“You hear that, plant?” I asked the cucumber vine. “You’re hurting my health. You want to put me in the hospital?”
“Holy shit, you’ve gone full mom,” Sam said. “This is awakening strange new feelings in me, babe.”
I groaned as I stood back up, having noticed the shade fall on me but then realizing it wasn’t from clouds. The sun was just dimmer. So was everything else. “What’s going on?”
Sam shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know if I ever know. I think you’re just with me because you want to be and you don’t actually care about me and my life. I’m interchangeable to you, just like I was interchangeable to Mix N’ Max.”
I fucked up and upset her. I’ve done that a lot. With my fucked up life, I’m shit at romance or letting people know how much they mean to me. “It’s not your fault, babe. It’s mine.”
While things got darker metaphorically, they got darker photonically as well. The lights went out. I tried moving to low light mode with my cybernetic eyes. Sam pulled out her phone and turned on the flashlight. Her light went out, and my eyes just couldn’t penetrate the growing darkness. At 1:13 in the afternoon, it was darker than the darkest midnight. “Sam?” I called out.
I didn’t hear anything. I couldn’t even hear the wind through the plants. I reached out and felt the planter, but then it was like it pulled away. There was nothing. A nothing surrounded by nothing. I put my hands over my belly protectively. No wonder everyone from the future acts like I’m not around. I probably die before Alexander gets to know me. That’s been a constant. Or I’m in prison, where I deserve to be. Or maybe I’m as much of a deadbeat to him as I am to the Buzzkills.
My thoughts weren’t pleasant. And on top of that, I had a growing headache. I thought I heard a scream in the distance, but then I got a transmission through my internal radio. “This is a repeat of the psychic message I just sent, in case anyone couldn’t hear me. People of Earth, you’re under attack. The dimensional barrier failed and an entity has entered our reality at Earth. It’s- just think of it as the Dark. It is darkness, the end of all light. Everything good and everything you can see. It consumes all light and all positive thought. Before long, it isolates everyone it comes into contact with, but you’re not alone. You must rage and hope and love. You must stand, now, or Earth will disappear. Maybe more than Earth. Use whatever you can. Think of those you love. Spite it. Think of your hopes and dreams. Try everything you can and fight it while we try to stop it.”
I laughed. Look at that, I fucked up physics so bad that some “thing” that just exists to be contrary to the functioning of the universe decided to pop in and eat us. I never would see my family again after all. I’d never see the new Thor, or see if I could get my girlfriends and wives to dress up in harem girl outfits. Or dress myself up in a harem girl outfit for them.
And it was funny because I deserved this shit, but a lot of people didn’t. Alexander, who at this point had been baking in my lovin’ oven for like 9 months, didn’t deserve this. Qiang is a good girl. Sam, Holly, Venus, Medusa. Leah. My half-brother Davilo. Hell, people I’d actually helped and saved. It wasn’t fair, and that’s life, but it was more than that. It wasn’t right.
I began to get pissed when I realized how unjust this was. And I began to mutter to myself, because I talk to myself plenty. “Death comes for everyone and life isn’t fair, but some of us can make the world just.”
I didn’t even realize I’d sunk down to the ground, which didn’t feel like much of anything. But I stood up. I could do that. This bastard didn’t deserve to have me make it easy for them. My powers might not have been working right, but I tried everything. I tried to create a light on the end of my unicorn horn. I tried to shine floodlights from my cybernetic eyes. And with enough pushing, the darkness began to brighten.
At the risk of seeming all “Old Man Yells At Cloud,” I raised a fist to the sky. I didn’t even have anything really coherent to say that would sound good. I felt like a Karen thinking about how it didn’t have the right to do this, but it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right for me, it wasn’t right for Alexander, it wasn’t right for everyone. And yes, I realized it wasn’t right to me. I deserved worst, but not from this thing. I didn’t even wrong it. Yet. Give me an opportunity, though…
I stomped off toward the house, able to see a short distance ahead of me. It was like I was a light in the darkness, just not a very good one. Which, I had to concede, makes sense. Through the door and onto the porch stood Sam, who recognized me as I got close. She grabbed me and kissed me, hard. After she decided to come up for air, she told me, “I love you.”
“I love you, too, and I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve the life I have, but I love you. You’re amazing. I choose you, understand?”
She nodded and kissed me again. Together, we lit up the entire porch. I grabbed her hand and entered the house. I glanced over my shoulder to see my path from the garden and through the porch was still lit up. The whole kitchen joined us in the light. And nearby, I heard Qiang screaming from her room. She came running at us, all lit up on her own.
“I have an idea!” I said. I hugged Qiang and the three of us made our way to the storage closet for a lightbulb.
“You don’t have powers dear,” Sam said.
“But I have knowledge and knowledge is power. I know how to summon the darkness.” We headed downstairs to the basement, Sam and Qiang helping me gently down the stairs. I had to run a cable from my armor and the house’s hidden power supply to the lightbulb, which I quickly programmed the nanites to reinforce. I have to use a computer for something like that now, but I needed to make sure it wouldn’t burn out. I also wired in some replacement energy sheath pieces from my armor’s gauntlets It took awhile. Meanwhile, Sam was calling Holly.
“Do you want me to call the other mommies?” Qiang asked.
I kissed her on the top of her head. “No, dear, they’re probably working on stuff right now. If they text you, let them know you’re fine and that I’m working on something. But if I’m right, they’ll figure that out soon. Everyone, close your eyes!”
I finished tightening one last plastic screw. The room became as bright white as was possible. It was incredibly light, incredibly bright and focused in a lightbulb.
Sam yelled because the light was so loud. And I guess there was a noticeable hum to the bulb, but not enough to justify yelling. “How does this work? You light a big light and that gets rid of it?”
I shook my head, then remembered the whole blinding light thing. “No. Now, we get its attention further.” I started chanting. I still remembered some stuff from my omnipotence days,. It was a tiny bit of a gamble considering powers went haywire for me now. As a goddess, I could access magic just fine. As a homo machina, that was always an issue. My body now doesn’t quite count the same way, but apparently it’s close enough. The chant was the magical equivalent of “Hey dipshit, come on if you think you’re hard enough!” And I believe it heard me.
I was no longer connected to the rest of the world, so I don’t know what resistance the Darkness faced, but I knew that it wasn’t just us three in my place. For all their faults, humanity can fight back like nobody’s business. Like with that chant and me using magic; in the heat of the moment, I couldn’t even feel a strain.
The lightbulb went from brightest light to darkest black. It was a complete void, the darkness fuzzy at the edges. “Got you,” I told it.
“I am the darkness that makes the world. I am back to judge, to consume all,” a whispery voice vocalized.
“You have no right to judge me,” I told it.
A portal opened, occult in nature. I looked through to see a circle of people in a cave. Miss Tycism and Captain Lightning II stood out to me, along with a Grau in a tight suit. A ghostly astral projection of Captain Lightning flew toward the portal and grabbed the lightbulb. “So this is where our spell forced it. We’ll take this from here, amateur” he said, then he looked closer at me. I guess my chanting didn’t have anything to do with catching the Darkness. Lightning’s eyes narrowed. “You.”
The portal snapped close, leaving the lightbulb and the Darkness in the care of a whole team of mystics. I relaxed. Sam caught me. “Well, that was easy-” I stopped because my crotch was wet. And as I looked down, the growing wet spot on my stretchy sweatpants was replaced by more liquid just flowing freely from me.
“Mom, did you just pee yourself?” Qiang asked.
“Nope, your little brother’s on the way,” I answered.
Outlaw X Presents: American Folkcrime
Now that I’m stuck at home due to pregnancy screwing up my powers, I better give y’all a break from me. I think there’s a pretty long break coming up, actually. Wherever I’m sending this off has probably had more than enough Gecko-centric adventures for a lifetime. When I got Qiang, she could already wipe her own ass and everything. I didn’t need to feed her, change her, or keep her from running out into busy traffic. Squeezing a baby out of my lady parts is a big commitment toward the life of a child, and not one that most people make easy on you. And I have it easy. Not everyone gets the financial freedom I do.
Granted, I don’t feel so free right now. The loss of my powers is making my life much harder. Some people go through a whole damn pregnancy. I even got diabetes in the days since then. My feet are killing me. My back is killing me. I piss all the time now. That’s not counting when my body decides to spread itself open, spit out a bunch of womb goo, and force an entire baby out of a hole that is not big enough for a baby. I have told everyone who will listen I want drugs and nanites when the time comes. Hell, if they give me enough, I’ll c-section my own damn self rather than wait on that thing to rip and tear my vagina like Doomguy in hell.
With that in mind, I’m putting entertainment duty on Outlaw X again.
“Ya heard it on the X. Hey there, folks, if you’re hearing this, then I’ve successfully traveled back in time to do the July 4th show after taking July 4th off. Don’t ask me to borrow the time machine. We only get away with this if we only use it when necessary. On a side note, does anyone have a spare romaframpton? It’s an unusual and obscure part. Contact the station. We’ll pay fair prices.
Now, for the holiday, we’re going to go back and examine a few greats in American supervillian history. This isn’t going to be an exhaustive list, but I wanted to include some of our favorites. And for the newbies, this may be an enlightening story time here. You’ll learn a thing or two.
Number One: Erikson, Lord of Vinland
This one slips in because someone has proposed that Vinland might have been in Maine. The official histories don’t know. They say Leif Erikson got lost. In reality, ancient super villain scrolls tell a different story. The Norse had produced some of the world’s best pirates for some time when Leif Erikson decided to seek out new lands and new civilizations. To boldly pillage where no Norseman had pillaged before. Instead, he found some cold place in Canada with a lot of grapes.
Leif Erikson took one look at the place and decided, “Fuck it, I’ll make a base here and no one will ever find it.”
Conflicts with the Natives would prove that wrong, and the Norse colonists were ill-prepared to feed themselves in the new land they had found. The scrolls recount epic battles between Erikson and Native champions who would inexplicably best him at every turn. They especially sought to drive him out of the area he’d settled and called Vinland. He’d named it that because of the abundance of grapes in the area. What he found out after some time was there was a certain cultivar of grape in the area with special properties. When ingested, it drove a person into a mindless fury. They would attack anyone on sight with increased strength and vigor.
Erikson soon realized the potential of these grapes, the Grapes of Wrath. He could have a terrifying army capable of destroying normal men. He could smuggle them into a besieged city and watch as his enemies killed each other. He could poison an alliance with a single cup of wine. Taking over the known world would be as easy as plucking grapes.
The champions of four tribes gathered and beat Erikson, driving him from Vinland forever and keeping him away. To this day no one knows the location of Leif Erikson’s secret lair. Thus, this makes it possible the best and most secret lair of all time. Legend has it that a super genius among the Natives is the cause of this; inventing a device that transported the entire base to another dimension or world so grapes could never again be claimed. We may never know where the Grapes of Wrath are stored ever since our time machine’s romaframpton broke.
Number Two: The Bunyan Gang
Everyone knows Paul Bunyan’s just a tall tale, right? A giant of a man who felled trees as easily as other people swatted flies and his companion giant blue ox is something out of a fairy tale. Or a comic book.
Paul Bunyan existed. He was a man of super strength who wanted to strike it rich, exploiting forests for his own gain. He ran a gang, with the most prominent members being his younger brother Cordwood Pete, cousin Tony Beaver, and associate Febold Feboldson. They were best known for lumberjacking, but not everyone knows that they used their abilities to crush the competition. They would clear rivals’ land and sell that lumber themselves, or they would steal the logs in great log heists. One story even tells of the famously hot-tempered Cordwood Pete arranging for the leaders of rival gangs to be assassinated on the day that Paul Bunyan became the head of organized crime in the early United States. Pete stacked up dead bodies like cordwood, hence the name.
In the end, their success went to their heads and led to their downfalls. Tony Beaver, eager to be out from under Paul Bunyan’s shadow, went to run the gambling in the western mountains of Virginia, a region now known as West Virginia. Everything was going fine for him until he got too full of himself. He started encroaching on the farmers by stealing shipments of peanut butter and melons to sell off on his own. Beaver had used loopholes and bribes to avoid the scrutiny of local authorities, but the plantations had money of their own. They got Beaver shut out of the gambling, lumberjacking, mining, and farming. It was the last time something that big was given to guys like that.
Feboldson and Bunyan ran a huge protection racket in Kansas, with that state and Nebraska both paying them for protection. Then they were hired to wipe out a tribe of Native Americans in the Great Plains. Except it was too hot. The Natives and the giant supervillains met and decided they could fight later, when it wasn’t so hot. The Natives, knowing their existence was at stake, drugged Babe the Blue Ox so that he fell asleep under Pike’s Peak. Bunyan and Feboldson knew the heat would bake the ox, so they decided to cover him up with rocks for shade. Unfortunately for them, that actually cooked the ox. Bunyan and Feboldson finished the job, but the pair got into an argument as Bunyan blamed Feboldson for the idea to shade Babe. The two fought a little until they decided to stay away from each other.
Feboldson lingered in obscurity after that, never as big of a name without his partner Paul Bunyan. As for Bunyan, he died an early death in a bar brawl, slain by a superhero wielding a hammer.
That leaves Cordwood Pete. Pete broke with the gang after Feboldson. The smaller of the Bunyan boys, Pete lived in Paul’s shadow even moreso than Paul. The hot-tempered younger brother loved to take sidework to show he was just as powerful as his big brother. Except one time, he stole Paul’s ax to do it. Hired by the railroad to clear trees and buildings out of their way, he used the ax to clearcut 50 square miles. Paul was furious at his ax being stolen and put Pete in his place in a fight. Pete was never the same after that, living out his life selling cordwood until he died in his 80s.
Number Three: Stormalong
Another man considered a giant by the tales, and a pirate from the New England area, Alfred Bulltop Stormalong once traveled the world leaving misery and strife in his wake. He created a technological marvel of a ship, the Courser. It was huge, far larger than a clipper ship of the day should have been. Stormalong’s constant inventing and engineering kept the thing afloat with new devices and new trophies.
For instance, the sables. He once robbed a prince of his entire stable of prized Arabian horses. The Courser was fitted with a stable and a short race track so that Stormalong could keep them as a trophy of his accomplishments. He once got fed up with the trip around South America. To solve the issue, he built and attached a drill to the front of his ship and ordered “Ramming speed!” while aimed at the coast of Colombia near the Isthmus of Panama. The ship carved a large canal right through, the Panama Canal. He even vandalized the English coast when he visited that island. That’s not a colorful expression. As his ship passed by the famously gray cliffs of Dover, he rather childishly had the ship sail close enough for him and his men to paint them white with a powerful dye that leached into the rocks.
So great was his power that he defeated the legendary kraken that sought to destroy his ship, using a device to create a whirlpool so great that it sucked the enormous beast to the bottom-most depths of the ocean.
We don’t know exactly when Stormalong met his end because of the way he disappeared. He sailed to Florida to harness the power of a hurricane and used it to achieve liftoff. A letter from a cabin boy to his beloved details that Captain Stormalong planned to sail to the moon. We don’t know if he made it.
Number Four: The Were Pack
Once there was a boy who was traveling with his family in a covered wagon and fell off the back of it. The night of the full moon came, however, and he transformed. His family escaped, but the young werecoyote was forced to fend for himself until adopted by a pack of coyotes. Eventually, the boy grew up and became a fearsome old west outlaw, with whips made of snake leather. Bill, as he was called, decided to make a name for himself by killing the most notorious serial killer of early Texas, a person who left a trail of dead bodies everywhere he went. Except this person was another were. He wasn’t wolf or coyote, but a werehorse who called himself Widowmaker.
Pecos Bill and Widowmaker decided to join forces. They terrorized the Wild West for years, teaming up with the likes of other old time villains like The Haint and brawling with heroes like the Blue Battler and Dr. Resolute. The Painted Desert got its name from when he painted it red with the blood of Native Americans he slaughtered, the body paint they wore staining the area further as they rotted.
His end, like that of many villains, came about because of love. He fell in love with a werecatfish named Sue. She adored him right back, but to prove his love to her, he kidnapped scientists and engineers to build him a device capable of blowing up the stars in the sky. Well, they weren’t capable of that, but instead one of them had a breakthrough and realized a way to create a barrier in the sky that would stop the light from getting to Earth. It was enough to fool Pecos Bill and fake his death when Pecos predictably turned on the scientists and executed them all. What the scientist would go on to do with this darkshield is a story for another time and place. What’s important is Sue said yes to Bill’s proposal.
Sue had a condition, though. I don’t mean a medical condition. She wanted to ride Widowmaker first. There was something of a rivalry between them, with Widowmaker wanting to be number one in Bill’s heart. Widowmaker knew she’d pull something like this and had been prepared. He’d warned the scientist who created the darkshield about the upcoming betrayal. He helped hide the man. In return, the scientist invented a device for Widowmaker that would tear Sue’s molecules apart. The only problem is that after he bucked Sue off, Widowmaker failed to account for Bill running to Sue’s aid.
The effect was said to resemble bouncing. Their images bounced as, little by little, the pair were dispersed up into the sky. Pecos Bill wanted to live the rest of his life with Sue, and that’s just what happened.
Number Five: John the Conqueror
Villains love to use “the Conqueror” as part of their name, but nowadays, you don’t get away with that unless you’ve actually conquered anything. Spinetingler isn’t the Conqueror. Cercopagis Lysis isn’t the Conqueror, no matter how much he’d like to be. No, John was the Conqueror.
A prince, betrayed and captured in battle, he was sold into slavery and survived the terrifying and ghastly trip to the New World, where he managed to escape with the help of his giant crow. It was illegal to be a runaway slave back then, which is why one man’s hero is another man’s villain. With his guile, willpower, and a number of magical artifacts he acquired over the years, he easily evaded slavecatchters. Eventually, he returned to Africa, but not before leaving magic in a plant named for him. Somehow, some way, he can always return to America, if only someone knows how to summon him.
One tale of his daring exploits that survives in the scrolls is of the time he dealt with the Hell dimensions. He fell in love with a demon, the daughter of a demon lord. The demon lord didn’t like John, and plotted to kill him. But first, he would trick and tire John the Conqueror. He gave him an impossible task: clear sixty acres in half a day., sow it with corn, and reap the grown corn in the second half of the day. With the aid of the demon woman, he obtained a magical ax and a special plow that allowed him to accomplish this. However, she warned John that the demon lord planned to kill him regardless.
John decided that a fair way to help accomplish the impossible and evade the demon lord was to steal the demon lord’s demonic horses. Despite the head start and the stolen horses, the demon pursued them and would gain ground whenever they needed to rest, eat, and sleep. In the end, they John the Conqueror and his love unlocked the secret of shapeshifting, allowing them to get away with the theft of the horses.
Conventional folklore says that stuff about going back to Africa and the magical plant, but in reality, John went to the Hell Dimensions. He deposed the demon lord and imprisoned him, ruling over the kingdom and finding a way to make it a safe haven for those damned by the “good people” of Earth that would enslave and commit genocide according to the letter of the law.
This isn’t the only one of our stories where demons factor in, and some would argue the tales seem impossible. Folks, I’ve seen the Hell Dimensions. Time doesn’t work right there. John could easily come back if he feels the need.
Unique Problems 7
Every doctor in Radium was spending a lot of time in what had been, until recently, a secret underground lair beneath my store. Other places had the space, but the Exemplars wanted to err on the side of more solid construction, in case of attack or breakout. It counted towards my community service, too. And I know for a fact every doctor was there because my OB-GYN had pulled me aside.
“I don’t care how prolific a killer you are, you are not supposed to run around fighting anything right now. You’re about to have a baby. You understand that, right? I don’t know how many superhero pregnancies you’ve overseen, but I’ve dealt with a dozen and this is a critical time. I’m grounding you.”
“You’re serious?” I asked. “Like, you think you can just ground me like a kid?”
“You’re acting like one. You’re over-confident in your knowledge and technology. If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t be running around like everything’s normal. Do you even know what you’re doing to your child every time you transform.” He indicated the Unicorn goddess form I was currently in. I didn’t even have a belly showing like this.
“I’m fine,” I said. I summoned a large meatball sandwich with fried cheese sticks inside it. “Hungry. Very hungry. Fine, though. Any preggo villains there need your help instead?”
He shook his head. “No. You get me all to yourself.”
I teleported over to Medusa. “How’s it going?”
She was overseeing a rehab therapist working with one of the released prisoners. Months of not moving left him weak. He couldn’t even stand on his own, so was being helped with a harness. The therapist was cheerleading him on. “You’re doing good. We’ll have those muscles back in no time. Nothing good ever comes easy, right?”
“Bullshit!” he yelled. The villain grunted at the exertion of just standing.
“The main thing is making them trust us,” Medusa told me. My girlfriend and former nemesis had been behind the rejuvenation of Radium as a town full of superheroes and villains living in secret and in peace. A way for those with powers to be able to rest and get out of the fight. It probably sounds weird, and it’s definitely privileged. After all, regular criminals don’t usually get a chance at something like this. But it’s easy, when you have superpowers, to get caught up in stuff. Someone wants your power. Other criminals, governments, monsters.
“You know, if we don’t give them the option to go out and keep doing their thing, we’re just as bad as what we stopped, right?” I asked.
Medusa sighed. “Yeah, but you have to give people a chance.” She smiled, looking at me. “When it works, it’s amazing. How’s Unique?”
I raised a hand and projected a bunch of images. “So far, it’s still here.” I had a still in there from Bill Of Rights being arrested. It was done in Unique to be all official and signal that the town was independent of him. It would survive even if one of the big funders and personalities behind it. Dr. Snugglesworth was also stepping down, divesting stuff, handing over patents, etc. He handed over Bill and he was turning himself in for his own role in what happened. There were opinion pieces and people ranting online about never trusting Unique, but at the same time the gap was being filled, quietly, by more heroes showing up. The internet was once again proving to not entirely be real life. I illustrated this with various texts and copies of leases, receipts, etc. They were renting and buying properties.
I finished another bite of my meatball and cheese stick sandwich before admitting, “Looks like people who are supposed to be all about justice and accountability are actually ok with a place submitting to both.”
“It’s a sign we’re right,” Medusa smiled, patting me on the shoulder. “Both of us, miss hero.”
“No, don’t deny it, Unicorn Woman,” Medusa teased. “You want to know what one of my first clues was that you were better than you thought you were?”
“My ability to shame y’all for trying to murder me?” I asked, remembering the time Shieldwall had a difference of opinion over executing me.
“Because when there’s a major threat to the world that you know about, you try to fight it. That’s your problem too, miss,” she poked me very gently in the belly. “The doctor’s right. Rest and relax. You’re not just taking care of yourself.”
“It’s a conspiracy,” I accused her. “Everyone wants me laid up.”
“Everyone wants you to get out of their business and take care of your own,” she answered. “You should listen. The world doesn’t always need Psychopomp Gecko to save it. But you’re about to have a baby that will need a mother.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s a conversation to be had here about the cost of having babies and how it keeps women at home,” I said. “I mean, I chose this, but not everyone does, and it takes a pretty heavy toll on your life when you don’t have superpowers and magical miniature machines. Or illegal revenue streams. You won’t believe what a bunch of the people I.. who died mysteriously had that they wanted to do. Lots of rapists and forced birthers and just monsters.”
Medusa leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, then whispered, “Nice save.” Then she pulled out receipt of her own. “Unique’s going to have an Exemplar station, too. If you’re bored, we could use you consulting with a liason from that space Consortium of Grau to help us with portals. They think they can refine the technology we currently have to be less damaging to the universe. Something you can help us with from home.”
“You’re really trying to sell me on staying home,” I said with a grin.
There was a beep from her waist. Even though she’s homo machina, she still uses separate devices for communication and internet access and porn. She grabbed a thing that once might have been a smartphone.
“Ma’am, we’ve got an alien crustacean here who says he has an army of doppelgangers from other universes. He’s at the UN and says we should all surrender or he’s taking over.”
Medusa rolled her eyes. “I’m on it.” She turned to me. “Time for me to go to work. You stay here. I heard the doctor say you were grounded, miss. We’ve got this.”
I felt a little queasy at the moment, despite the delicious splendor of my fried cheese and meatball sandwich. “Fine. I think I need to go break a toilet between my thighs anyway.”
My girlfriend snorted and jogged off, already calling for a team to meet her with a Flyer and a suit of her power armor. Meanwhile, I started off toward the bathroom. I didn’t need to throw up, nor was I dizzy. At first. I became dizzy after a little bit, with a sudden migraine that felt like someone had driven a sword into my brain, except more painful because the brain doesn’t actually have its own pain nerves. I got myself out of the way and over to a wall. It felt like I was seeing things through two sets of eyes. I breathed through two noses, tastes two mouths. And then it felt like my body had been snapped together with a rubber band. I dropped the sandwich, which was a different sort of pain.
I stumbled and fell against a wall, careful not to hit my belly against it. I had a belly again. It was stretching my shiny Unicorn goddess outfit. I grabbed the wall, hooves scrabbling against the floor for a second. I needed to take stock of myself. I knew I had a belly and hooves. My hair was still bright-colored. A quick nanomachine self-diagnostic showed there were changes, though. I went to the bathroom just to make sure. My face, my eyes, and the body I’d made for myself merged with the one I used for my Unicorn alias. The biggest problem was probably the penis, which is a rare phrase from me. I mean, I don’t want to brag about the size, given how much I can change it, but I had just gotten rid of it in anticipation of how close things are getting.
I tried that again. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t reach the remains of the godlike power I’d one had. I’d kept a little with me, like a hot core within me full of reality-warping energy. I could feel it like a distant heat source, but that was it. All I had left were all the superpowers I’d built into these two bodies that were, now, merged into one. I put my hands on my head, careful of the horn that, now, I’d have to surgically remove if I wanted to get rid of it. And then, feeling two bodies worth of digestive track having merged, I rushed to the toilet. Tip for regular humans out there: no toilet on Earth is built to accommodate a large pair of wings.
Just for good measure, I had the double-whammy: shitting and puking. And so much peeing, so a triple whammy. I couldn’t stop. Why wouldn’t it stop?!
I crawled out of there a ways, before hefting my way up off the floor and marching right out to see the OB-GYN, who was helping with some more basic medical checks on the rehabbing former prisoners. It took some work because I was weak. Even my flight, which didn’t rely on the wings, was acting up. The guy still knew how to do a physical, after all.
When he got the time to see me, that’s when I got the diagnosis: pregnancy-induced power incontinence. “It’s common when someone with superpowers gets pregnant. That’s one of the reasons you’re supposed to take it easy as things go along. Some people keep their powers the entire time, which can cause complications. Others lose them, which also causes complications.”
“So I’m grounded,” I admitted.
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