My target: General Lulios, the prime asshole. The guy who started me on this path in life, as I’ve done nothing but blather about for the past month. That confrontation in Nunuvat was the last time Medusa and I spoke in all this and I got more detail about the situation when she dropped him off. I assume he’ll have protection.
I really should speak to Medusa again. No, I shouldn’t. She’s the one who kept going when I said not to. And she’s the one who didn’t seem to understand the importance of justice for what that bastard did to me. I want to speak with her again because she means something to me and because I’m in desperate need of a companion to pour my heart out too. But damn, I should have dated a friend instead of an enemy.
Max is still a friend, we’re just not like that. Even if… nah, still a friend. “I’m thankful you saved me, and I value our friendship,” he told me when I started planning the invasion of an alternate Earth, “But I can’t join you in this.”
I stopped and looked up at him. Sam and Holly flanked him and looked just as certain in the decision as he did. I sighed and got to a stopping point before responding. “Fine. Can’t force you. I hope we can still work together going forward.”
He shrugged. “You could just hang sometime. I’m still your friend, but this is a suicide mission.”
“Don’t know what you mean. It’s me, after all. Not the first time I’ve taken on the world.”
Sam decided to join in, “Technically it’s two worlds who oppose you killing this dude.”
“I can’t let him get away with what he did just because people like him now. It’s not right for folks to dismiss all the bad shit he did.”
Holly surprised me next. “But then you’d have to justify a need to punish yourself for all the bad things you did that weren’t his fault, and it almost comes across like this is an elaborate suicide-by-cop like you used to want.”
Max stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder to draw my attention back up and toward him. My gaze had drifted down as I pondered Holly’s words, not tried to hide from them and any inconvenient tinge of truth in them. “You don’t have to do this. We can help. You can do more of the therapy you quit or take the medication you stopped.”
I turned back to my work. “Y’all might want to get out of here before I finish this D-Bomb and zip on over there.”
They left, looking all sad at the thought that I wasn’t giving up on this vendetta. The gall, bringing up my mental problems. They should know my brain is ok now. I have a computer in there, a psychic superhero did stuff to it, and then aliens played around with it. My brain is perfectly fine! And so what if I die? They think it’s a matter of suicide. I buried hatchets and ended feuds because my daughter was worth living for. This vengeance is worth dying for. The world would still martyr him, but he would be dead. He belongs to the dead. Every future of everyone he had tortured and murdered in his sick Psychopomp program, every “what if” that could have been, they all cry out for a reckoning.
I am the Psychopomp. I am his final reckoning.
And by my reckoning, they have way too big a shitload of firepower at the portal to the other Earth for my liking. My drone shouldn’t have gotten through in the first place. Maybe they still could. Maybe I’m being overly paranoid. Maybe I’m a lot of things. Maybe I’m suicidal and crazy and alone without a community and friends after a lifetime of being the monster to everybody around me. I can’t fix it. No one can fix it, not without time travel. All that’s left is revenge.
Nobody left to miss me but Qiang and Max. And after that little bit earlier, why skimp on the brutal honesty? They’d get over it.
So, back at the house, I told Qiang I had something real important to do and I might be late getting back to Firecat for supper. I took her down to the basement for a laydown. Just before I pulled back, I heard Medusa calling a greeting. She called me while I was checking things over. Operating so closely out of two bodies was going to be hard enough. I didn’t need to forget stuff, too. Not a lot to forget though. It’s Li and my main body in its armor in a Psycho Flyer, with a big o’ bomb in the transport hold that’ll tear a hole in reality. I didn’t have time to bring Firecat, and the other body I put together died from where I left it. Whoops. At least it didn’t have a consciousness in it, but it just goes to show the importance of feeding and watering your spare bodies. Remember that down, kiddos.
And after all that, I get a call from her. I didn’t pick up, so I get a text. “Please, let’s talk.” I’d sooner celebrate that day’s Independence Day.
I was going to do the mean thing and tell her we could talk if I survived, but it was time to be professional again. Professionalism: be polite, be efficient, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. I blocked her, closed and sealed the Psycho Flyer, activated stealth mode, and detonated the Dimension Bomb.
Every damn time I do one of these with just myself, it tosses me through the Universe Divide into my original universe and this time was no different. And it always dumps me at the site of my original exit from the world, which my would-be victims at first turned into a memorial of my cruelty and victims. Upon my return and their realization I’m not dead, they fortified it. Then it became the site of the permanent portal connection these two universes. Meaning even though I bypassed the defenses on one side of this, I still appeared only a little off the ground in an area full of sensors and guns meant to keep me out.
Alarms went off immediately upon reappearing in reality. I gunned the Flyer and dropped chaff, then almost immediately had to bank upward to escape the wall around the area portal zone. I felt impacts and the panel showed damaged armor plating falling off from where something got me before I got clear of the wall. After that, I was free and clear. They didn’t seem to have so many guns and cannons pointed outward, and stealth mode seemed to protect me so long as I stayed low enough.
I parked on a hill overlooking the nearby city to reach out and see what I could see. Not literally; the morning light was as unwelcome to my cybernetic eyes as it had always been. I went digital.
The news was abuzz with recent revelations. The Justice Rangers had kidnapped General Lulios to use as bait to kill Psycho Gecko. Hey, I’ve heard of that person. And while many of the people seemed outraged, others sided with the Rangers all the more after Lulios told them why. He actually told them about Psychopomp. About kidnapping me and other kids to torture and abuse into the government’s expendable and deniable pet killers. About how the bigotry of he and his fellow soldiers caused the project to degenerate into sadism. He even told them about the scientists trying to break some of us out and dying when we were all caught. He was currently locked in public stockade in the middle of a memorial park to fallen Justice Rangers. That would mean Justice Ranger guards, but they’re mainly there to keep him in.
It was late afternoon when I snuck the Flyer in close and dropped out of there with my main body. I recalled some of the clothing I used to wear and my holographic illusion made me appear to be no different than another person there to look at the great general brought low. Most people maintained a good distance, but nobody minded when I stepped up closer to Lulios. “Why’d you come clean?”
“It was the right thing to do. I truly wish to make amends for what I did to Gecko and my responsibility for everyone he terrorized since,” he said. He coughed. Dude’s head was dirty, with some dried plant matter and seeds in his hair.
Be efficient. That’s what I was supposed to do. Move in and kill, then worry about talking. It was a great plan, and seeing him overrode it. I stepped closer to the stockade. A blackguard stepped up to put a hand on my shoulder. I grabbed him by the arm and threw him into his comrade on the other side of the stocks. Then I took hold of the metal stock and pulled, my armor amplifying the force applied by my muscles. After a long moment of strain, something let out a wiry snap and the stock opened. Lulios tried to stand up but fell on his ass while I approached, dropping the illusion and letting them all see my armor.
“You had to know this was coming,” I told him. Behind me, most of the gathered crowd decided it was a good day for a run in any direction but toward me.
Except one young woman. She started toward us until Lulios raised a hand and yelled, “Stay back!” He lowered his voice as he looked up at my helmet. “It doesn’t make it any less scary.”
“Any last words?” I asked. Behind me, the two blackguards had gotten to their feet. One called in backup while the other advanced on me from behind with a rifle aimed squarely at my head. I snapped my armor’s tail, knocking the rifle free, then wrapped it around his waist and threw him at the other man. They both crashed into an old statue nearby of the first yellow ranger. The woman from before was still there and pulled out a stunrod. Think baton that electrocutes someone.
“Please don’t harm my daughter,” Lulios said, nodding toward that woman.
I cocked my head to the side. “You really think I’d do that? That I’d take out my vengeance both on you and your child? What do you think I am, some kind of monster?” He almost looked relieved before I added, “Well I am, thanks to you.”
I was about to put my fist through his chest when I felt weird. Tingly. I looked around for what was causing my hair to rise on end and saw a moon in the afternoon sky. A full moon. I thought that was supposed to be for the 5th, but…
Quickly, hoping this would work, I jumped into the Li body in the Flyer. It’s still basically transmitted from my brain, but I was able to fall asleep in on ebody and keep going in another, so maybe whatever freaky neuroscience was going on would save me from the transformation. I opened the door to the Flyer to see my main body cry out in pain and pull itself free of my armor. Lulios backed away, his daughter rushing to his side to help him escape. They jumped at the sight of antlers spurting out of my head and my face elongating.
I jumped down in Li and raced for the group. If I’d just been efficient, this wouldn’t be a cluster in the fuckening. The pair got a little ways away from my transforming body before I caught up to them in the other one. I pounced… and stopped in midair before swinging around in a circle a few times and getting thrown down a grassy aisle between rows of statues. I gouged divots in the grass where I dug claws in to stop myself and snapped my jaws at Reindeer standing between me and my targets.
“Play 911 by Lady Gaga,” Reindeer said. My armor, laying mostly in one piece, began to blast it out. Reindeer launched herself toward me, then dug her heels in and skid while grabbing a statue of some beetle-armored person off its pedestal and throwing it at me. I ducked under it and wrapped my tail around it, swing it down low. I hopped up and released, throwing it right back. Even if Reindeer dodged it, Lulios wouldn’t have.
Reindeer jumped up over the statue and kicked down, knocking it into the dirt. It rolled, but stopped short of Lulios and his daughter.
“How’d I know we’d end up fighting?” I asked Reindeer.
“We don’t have to, but I’m you and you hate yourself still. Look, justice is being done. Lulios’s crimes are public. He was in a stockade. You won.”
“Not until he has his final punishment,” I growled at Reindeer.
“You can’t live in a world without mercy and forgiveness,” Reindeer said. “I know you don’t care for your own sake, but the reason you hate me and him and yourself is because you think a person can’t change and move past their earlier mistakes, because you don’t think you deserve that.”
As fun as it was to talk to myself, and it wasn’t, I scampered forward and swiped at Reindeer’s calves. She backed up, lifting her legs high, then caught my tail when it came around to pop her in the face. She landed and used my tail to swing me overhead, smacking me into a marble fresco depicting some Queen of Magic person. I grabbed onto it and dug in, then used my tail to fling Reindeer into the air. I activated the natural camoflouge of this form and rolled back, bringing my tail’s point up to impale Reindeer. I remembered at the last minute who Reindeer was, though, and instead batted her to the side, cracking a depiction of a little robot with an oversized head.
Reindeeer jumped to her hooves quickly enough, but was coughing thanks to the impact and some dust from pulverized stone. It gave me enough of an opening to remember why I was there. Reindeer had me seeing red, when I should be making someone see black.
“Do you want your daughter to grow up knowing if she wrongs you once, you’ll kill her?!” Reindeer called.
That stopped me from advancing on Lulios. I whirled on the weredeer that takes over my body once a month. “How dare you?”
“I’m you, you fuckbrain,” Reindeer said. “I’ve always been you, just the side that finally tried to do what we always wanted. You have a shot at a new identity and a new life, everything you claim to want, if only you can find a way. He took that away from you, but you don’t have to be the monster he made anymore. You are responsible for your own actions now, and nobody deserves to live in a world where one mistake means death. That’s not what we want for our child.”
I was silently brooding on all this, awash in emotions. Many of them involved anger. “I’m scared,” I told myself.
Reindeer approached, wrapping her arms around me. “I know. We’ll find a way to do the right thing. You’re smart and you’re strong. For all that she’s messed up, Medusa was right that you’re a person worth forgiveness and love. If you want it, and I know you do. All you’ve ever wanted was to be the good gal.” Her voice raised as she called out to Lulios, “I’m not going to be the creature you saw when you justified killing my parents and abducting me. I’m not your child soldier anymore, you husk of an old man!”
Reindeer kept her arm around me as she gathered up my armor. More blackguards were approaching, but so was the current Ranger team. “Stop!”
“The fight’s over… we’ll leave in peace,” Reindeer said.
“Get on the ground!” called the same Blue Ranger I’d beaten back on my Earth.
“Well, if you’re going to be dipshits about this, we’ll just leave!” Reindeer called out. We both jumped for it. They fired at us, but the only blast that got close, I intercepted with my tail before it got Reindeer. With Reindeer leaping and me climbing straight up the side, we managed our way up the building I’d landed on and scrambled into the Psycho Flyer.
“I wish you’d been less suicidal when you came here,” she said. “Would have been nice to have another bomb to get us back.”
“Looks like we’re taking this right up the portal’s poop shoot, then” I said. “Hey, you’re not going to insist I have to forgive Medusa next, are you?”
“I’m lost on that, too. I’m you, remember? She lost our trust and we’ll have to figure out what’s up going forward, but we weren’t going to kill her over it at least,” she said. “We both tried to hop into the pilot’s seat for a moment, causing a chuckle and me swapping into the co-pilot’s chair while Reindeer zipped off for the portal “I think they know we’re here and where we’re going, so let’s speed this up, shall we?” Reindeer said.
I used hands and tail to man battlestations “All tails on deck. We’re a little short on countermeasures from getting here.”
One of the first signs of resistance we encountered was a pair of missiles that blasted apart easily when shot. But the wreckage didn’t fall. Instead, little robots flew out of the wreckage. Some latched on as we passed through and began to cut and dig their way into the metal. One got onto the cockpit windshield, so I activated a different countermeasure. The windshield wipers slid out. The robot tried to duel with one, but it moved back and the one behind it swept its feet. Then the one it tried to fight knocked it around a bit before the robot dropped off the Flyer. Others were taking down more armor plates and putting enough dents in the adaptive skin and projectors to expose us in patches. I unstrapped and ran to the back, tying a cable around my waist and opening the rear hatch.
I swung out and around, grabbing for a handhold on the side of the Flyer. It was not fun, but I had some divots premade by those robots. One with the misfortune to be near where I grabbed one got sent off. I stabbed another with my tail. Really liking this thing. A hell of a learning curve, but humanity made a mistake when it got rid of this appendage. Another of the robots tried hopping onto me and bringing its sawblade down on the armor over my spine. I twisted one arm completely around and flicked it off. Ball joints. Another thing humans got wrong when evolving.
I spent the entire rest of the flight to the portal zone on the outside, trying not to get blown off while destroying saboteur bots. I didn’t end up having time to clamber back in, and Reindeer had to mostly shut the rear entry. “Hold on tight!” she called out through the external comms and took us right for the portal we shouldn’t have been trying with that big of a vehicle. We crashed through the awning, ions and all sorts of energy projectiles sizzling through the air. One popped me right in the chest, destroying one of my hearts. Good thing I had a spare. Except in all the crashing through the awning, we had shit flying everywhere. The Flyer was just sliding through the portal when a hunk of jagged metal jammed down and-