My private pit of darkness and relaxation was interrupted by a blast of light from the door opening. My eyes automatically adjusted to keep it from hurting my sight, allowing me to pick out the curves of Medusa, my renamed nemesis. “You’ve walked right into my trap!” I told her, pointing right at her.
She smirked as she turned on the lights to my study and shut the door behind her. “It’s not much of a trap when you’re stuck in that back stretcher.”
True. She looked upside down to me, but that had to do with me being held by my ankles from one of those things that flips you upside down and helps you stretch out your back. “I had a headache and I thought it’d help.”
Truth was, it did more than just help with headaches. I’ve made improvements to my physiology many times over the years and I’m beginning to realize I’ve neglected a few important parts of the body that don’t normally see a lot of improvement. My cartilage isn’t meant for the kinds of impacts I take regularly. I’ve got some bio guys at the Institute working on some formulations to help pad my body better. In the meantime, I decompress. And try to digest the data the brainboys gave me. “I asked them to walk me through how they figured the Telechamber was causing problems and they did. I feel like I gave birth to a quantum physicist through the center of my forehead.”
“Were they right?” she asked, walking up beside me. She bent down to kiss me, which eased my pain quite a bit too.
I shrugged, still upside down. “I don’t know. It’s over my head. We’ll have to wait longer to really tell, because more of these crossovers are bound to come to light as more people realize what’s going on. They’re not sure what might drift in from the Sargasso.”
“The what now?” she asked, settling into a chair in front of me and crossing her legs.
“The Sargasso. It’s short for Super-Sargasso Sea. This guy named Fort presented it as an idea he didn’t actually believe in to account for lost things. He presented it as another dimension that lost things somehow slip into. The guy wasn’t very highly thought of in his time, but he talked a lot about weird concepts that don’t match up with conventional science. Unfortunately for all the scientists who prefer a nice, orderly world, neither do superhumans. I got a lecture from an evolutionary biologist earlier today insisting that there’s no way my species of human can exist because evolution doesn’t work like that.”
“You make an awful mess of everything,” Medusa said with a smile.
I crossed both sets of arms. “If the entire world can be so moved by one jackass, then it’s a lot more fragile than they’d all like to think. Speaking of jackasses making a mess of things, how’d your trip go?”
“ICE missed a lot of quotas and I beat the crap out of some border patrollers who need a better hobby,” she said. “It’s a lot of work being a criminal.”
I threw up, er, down my hands. “Finally you get it! You wouldn’t believe all the work we put into this stuff, just for the heroes to show up at the last minute and wreck things. You have any of those?”
“No. I knew the government had some heroes, but they freaked out and started rushing to Miami and Washington. Do you know anything about that, Little Miss Assassin?” She gave me an exaggerated questioning look to make it perfectly clear she knew I was responsible.
“All I know is that if being criminal makes you tired, you should toss those clothes away and we’ll go on crime spree.” I winked at her. She laughed and stood up, tossing her mask aside, walking to the door, turning the lights off… and then leaving the room with me there hanging upside down still.
It wasn’t all fun, games, and good feelings around the house, though.I don’t just mean the unflattering pictures of me on the news for having assassinated the once and never again President.
But, hey, things were great. The Telechamber was shut down. There wouldn’t be any more of these things popping in to ruin my day. It wasn’t even all bad, if the new Tupac concert is anything to go by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed we didn’t get Kurt Cobain back, but you can’t hold Kurt Cobain. He goes where he’s needed.
Annoyingly, it was a late midnight dinner when I got the call about a weird big arrival. A passenger liner had arrived, one of the ones bearing some of our newest citizens. They received their passports and visas special thanks to my trusty agents in the United States. For some damn reason, ICE nabbed them thinking they were illegal immigrants from Central and South America. Don’t know what that’s about, but my Foreign Service, in full cooperation with my Intel agents, were diligently plucking them out of camps and prisoner convoys, usually aiming to keep families together.
Finding room, food, and clothing for them is a little tougher, but I’m sure my guys will manage a whole lot better than shoving hundreds of them in a cage.
Well, it seemed to be going well, except this one came back a bit… dead. The ship drifted in close without responding, so my Deep One marines boarded it. They found a fuckton of bodies. I usually like people dead, but I specifically ordered these ones to be breathing and mostly intact, so that caused a stir. They managed to find a survivor, an older ship’s hand who knew some good spaces to shove himself into to protect himself.
According to the report from our debriefers: “There was a passenger that stayed covered, until he didn’t. His skin was black as midnight and slick. His clothes obscured what he looked like and he never came out for meals or showers. He managed to hide among the refugees, until he didn’t. The first sign was a family torn apart. Then an ensign went missing. We started a search, and that’s when he stopped pretending. He killed them all, and neither bullet nor blade stopped him. The one to put up the best fight was the Agent onboard. I saw them fighting while I was fleeing. The Agent was tasing him and going for a fire extinguisher. I stopped and almost helped, but the Midnight Man recovered and pulled the Agent back into his arms at the last second. I can still hear the defiant scream.”
So… that’s a setback. I have my people on alert, though. Pagan sent me a message, another dark file asking, “Stop the refugees?”
“No,” I sent along. Because, sure, you can occasionally get some freaky super killer among any group of people, even refugees. The refugees clearly aren’t this guy’s friends either, and I know my people can handle the guy. If it comes down to it, I’ll take his heart out of his chest and pop it in a blender myself. So the patrols went out with some idea of what to do.
They’re pretty sure they found evidence he came ashore. There was a warehouse area near the docks full of consumer electronics that “fell off a truck” somewhere in the middle of being shipped from Japan to the Americas. Being the kindly people we are, we took in these lost electronics and figured we’d hold onto them until their rightful owners came looking. We might even send them off with some people to help find their rightful owners, so long as they present some ID in the form of currency.
We’re a generous people.
Security didn’t know what to call this break-in until they’d been briefed about Midnight Man. I snuck a peek at the detective’s notes, and he pointed out, “It isn’t the superhero menace. He takes from the government. It isn’t the thieves. They pay their cut for protection. It isn’t the people, because they already have these.” Among the unusual items found was a wet and bloody sweatshirt with bullet holes and tears in it.
The mystery of what he needed with flatscreen TVs and wireless phone chargers would soon be solved. I was sleeping when the power plant was attacked, but I had video off drones and helmet cams. The first sign of a dead body, they were all deployed. If he went to shut it down or send the nuclear core into meltdown, he didn’t manage it. By the time the video started, a jet black man, not African, fucking black, was punching a Security officer through a wall. His t-shirt and sweatpants were riddled with burns and holes from the laser pistols the Security guys were using.
I stopped it and zoomed in as much as possible to catch a glimpse as he took a shot through the head. It didn’t stop him… but it did go through and burn the wall behind him.
Bullets didn’t do much either, so my guys switched to grenades. Why do my police have such ready access to grenades? That’s not rhetorical. I actually sent that message along to the head of Security, because while the explosives did manage to drive off Midnight Man, they also blew some shit up inside the nuclear power plant. That’s generally not a place I want explosions.
I studied that footage quite a bit. Even adjusting for different skin tones, Midnight Man’s face didn’t show up on any facial recognition. We couldn’t find any DNA, blood, skin flakes, or even loose strands of hair. If he even had had hair. He either had a misshapen skull or an obsidian hairdo. No matter what, this guy didn’t show up in any records or seemingly on any cameras whenever he was moving around the city. I figured that meant he traveled by sewer system, so it should be easy to take him down with nanites. Even if he didn’t, the water around here is inundated with regenerative nanomachines that I can order to start eating him the moment I can give the ordr
I figured we had another hero on our hands. I thought I’d have a little fun taking him on personally.
Then I got word that the Telechamber was firing up from Creeper. “It’s not just on. We’re detecting an energy surge of unprecedented proportions. It’s using more power from its own power core, and it has tapped into the nuclear plant!”
I brought up the nuclear plant. “We need a shutdown or something. We need to stifle power to the Telechamber.”
The plant manager didn’t sound calm. “Empress, we don’t know what’s going on. We detected an unusual drain. The controls aren’t responding. We will attempt an emergency shutdown.”
By now, I’d rushed into my armor and was leaping out into the city toward the Telechamber complex, which glowed a blinding white light all around it. I sent an alert to all Security and Military to evacuate the Telechamber area of all civilians, while also sending out a general evacuation order myself. I heard the plant manager yelling in my ear, “Empress, it’s not responding!”
And then a column of white light soared into the sky toward the sun. The Telechamber complex exploded, throwing up dust, flattening the adjacent buildings, and tossing pieces of the Telechamber building all over the place. But I was a bit slow to respond to that because the sky had gone pretty dark.
There, up in the sky, wasn’t a cloud, wasn’t an eclipse. It was a small fleet of alien spacecraft in high orbit. I knew them from a couple years back, when they had more ships. I’m the reason they’re down to so few. The Fluidics are back. Seems just about everything I tossed a D-Bomb at is coming back to bite me in my shiny fleshy ass.