So here’s what we’ve got so far. Just to recap. Just to keep up.
I discovered a secret group of a few mostly incompetent government employees trying to find ways to eliminate powerful superhumans, especially the Unicorn Goddess. Since I’m the Unicorn Goddess, I find it personally offensive they’d try to kill me. In the process of infiltrating the group, I made contact with Troubleshooter, a hero who used to oppose me. She’s now mentoring and supporting a team of younger superheroes. We were able to find out that Counter has connections, or is likely being led by, a genius with superspeed named Parietal.
Some things that need still discovering: how is Parietal still alive after I killed him and absorbed the energy of the Omega pearls he used to empower himself? Is he actually behind Counter? Is Counter neutralized or do I have some bitchslaps still to deliver? Who is the woman who fathered my child? Actually, I know the answer to that last one. She and y’all don’t.
I contemplated these things and searched for some of the answers while charging up. I’d gone to a private chamber, inaccessible by Troubleshooter’s team. There, I opened a portal to a dying star in a solar system with nothing to show for itself and siphoned the energy off for myself. When I felt confident I was strong enough, I did the same for the heart of a black hole, making use of everything it had trapped in its long existence. Stars and black holes helped, but what really gives me the kickstart is that Omega energy.
While I’m doing that and dealing with personal drama, Troubleshooter’s figured out quite a bit about our satellite. It’s just a matter of narrowing it down to the useful information. I pulled imagery of the satellite out of the past, before its explosion. Troubleshooter traced some parts to companies, but the big thing, like she’d pointed out, was a factory she already found, out in India. And I can confirm her information that they’ve shielded the place with the same material as the satellite, because I can’t see shit. Oddly enough, you can’t even see people enter and exit the main building to work, just truck drivers bringing in materials and taking out product.
I was going to hit it as soon as I was done. Troubleshooter called me up before I was there to tell me, “The gang’s ready to go in.”
“I thought I was tearing the factory apart.”
“They built that thing to protect against you, not my people. Besides, if anything happens, you can head in. The only way the next generation’s going to figure this out is if they get experience.”
“That doesn’t mean sending them in without a clue what’s going on,” I said.
“We’re dealing with that. Axinomancer’s divining and I’ve sent in Scout.”
I checked with the ol’ omniscience and found out Scout was the name of a little robot dog of theirs that had the brain of a real dog attached to the CPU. Someone deciphered the device I’d created to allow others to handle portals to Earth, and Scout was chasing a truck into the factory with its little plastic and metal legs, the artificial skin stretched over its body shifting using a rudimentary camouflage to blend into the surroundings pretty well.
As for Axinomancer, the non-binary magician had a block of wood out and was channeling magic through the ax as they swung. Every few swings, they stopped to examine the marks from the different swings. Before long, they had a blueprint carved out. The exterior walls matched what I could see of the factory, even if the place was a blank spot to my abilities.
One thing I’d noticed was the griminess of the exterior, everywhere but those walls. Some of the smaller pipes running out had the same caked-on dirt. But no guards. No workers. “Automation? Necromancy?” I wasn’t going to discount that last one, even if Parietal seemed to be more of a science type. People who go around bragging about their ability to think don’t tend to pursue magic. They rarely tend to be worth their own hype, too, otherwise they wouldn’t need to tell people how smart they were.
Seeing as we’re like 2 million words into me talking about how awesome and smart I am, let’s just get back to the story.
So I spent more time recharging while the team ran went through a portal and got into position. I figured I’d look for some other. Troubleshooter mentioned multiple satellites. “You said you found more? Got any orbits, anything for me?”
“You can’t find them,” she answered.
“I can still see the things,” I told her. “And I can still do something about them.”
“I have a better idea. My apprentice, Diode, is building some satellites of his own that are going to deploy and track them from a distance to figure out what function they serve.”
I put some light-heartedness into my complaint. “No going on the raid, no floating around in space. I’m just sitting around doing nothing!” Except swallowing another star. Om nom nom nom. And another. It’s diminishing returns, but a juicy one. Rather than drain all of the energy out of it as fast as possible, I swallowed the star hole and held it inside me, letting me chow down while I did other things, like go collecting black holes. I negated all gravity in that pocket. Density doesn’t mean anything absent gravity. But so much energy, and some really exotic elements. Yum.
With nothing else to really focus on, I figured I’d go pay the Counter goons a visit. With a stomach full of black hole, I stopped by Postal Inspector Agnetti’s office. He fell out of his chair, a book in his hand smacking against the floor ahead of his body.
“Hello, Agnetti. It’s been awhile.”
“It’s you!” He stood up and formed his hands into karate chop position. “Don’t come any closer!”
I was here as the Goddess, not as Gecko. I snapped my fingers and his legs shook from the orgasm. He groaned and fell against his desk, bracing himself with his hands. “I would say we could do this the hard way or the easy way, but you’re not going to be very hard way in a moment.” I reached over and put my head on his hand. “Now, let’s figure out this shit.”
It was when I cleaned house of politicians. Agnetti happened to see one of the Board of Governors, who normally wouldn’t ever see someone like him. It was just a chance meeting at an event, but the Governor smiled at his enthusiasm and asked his name. Agnetti thought it was a chance at something better. And then the Governor’s heart gave out.
A couple of days later, there had been flyers up about “Leaderless Resistance.” Agnetti looked at it. It appealed to him: resisting a monolithic power by being a small force. A bull is a powerful beast, but a pack of wolves can take it down. The flyer was down by lunchtime. The envelope arrived by the end of the week. Counter. A deep resistance to deep injustices.
Recovered as I was, and piggybacking off someone who knew something for once, I was able to follow along. It went back into the hands of something moving at superspeed, a printer. So that was it. A bunch of ideas about leaderless resistance. I stuck with the printer back then, following along as other letters went to different Federal employees. And that’s all it was. Some leaderless model where people identified themselves by a code phrase “The sky is falling.”
As for me, the whole thing was also a reminder how badly I dropped the ball before. It took no time at all for me to get so reliant on this power that I stopped thinking for my own damn self.
I let go of Agnetti. No time had passes for him while I did all of this. “Sorry, weirdo. Sky’s not falling anymore. Sky’s fallen.” It’s supposed to be difficult for people to wipe all of those sorts out. The model made it more difficult to root them out. And now all those roots were torn out. Agnetti turned into a nice little fern in a pot that I sat on his desk, along with a card informing his co-workers he was finally leaving for a long-deserved vacation in the Caribbean. The others went similarly. Thus ended Counter.
Thus did not end the threat, because this all uncovered that Parietal was still around. One symptom down, one death-defying cause still around causing trouble.
“Goddess, I invoke your power and favor.” I heard and felt the call. It was Axinomancer. I lent them some power, which I felt form a shield. Plasma didn’t give me much of a jolt anymore, but it was worth a nibble. And a follow-up. I appeared inside the bubble with the various heroes.
Axinomancer held their ax aloft and shielded the other heroes. They were in the factory, with some trashed machines and a few beat-up workers laying around. The reason for the alarm were a trio of walkers the height of a double decker bus, pelting the shield with rapid-fire plasma bursts. One of them even opened up with a flamethrower.
The walkers were shielded, too. I bounced plasma right back down the barrels, blew the guns up. I manipulated the ions in the air, lightning crackling and blasting the machinery. The concrete floor deformed into fingers that wrapped around the one trying to flamebroil us and cracked the shell wide open. For another, I rewrote the localized gravitational constant. It collapsed in on itself as the gravity formed it into a very small black hole that I then shut off.
“Care to surrender?” I asked
“Never.” A voice echoed through the whole factory.
“We got this, thanks!” Grimalkin said. The black-armored hero bounded across the floor, a sword in one hand and claws sliding out of the gauntlet. Deathless met him there, jumping that whole distance to land on top of the walker. Grimalkin sliced through the knee joint, tipping the walker to the side. Deathless dug in and used the momentum to flip the walker over by its top and toss it into the production line.
The shielding was all outside, aside from those walkers. The workers laying around weren’t protected, and neither were the various robotic arms and machines. I reached out into their minds for the person in charge and found the whole thing was run off cameras and a computer.
“Still no Parietal… but the computer…” I was there in an instant. No exaggeration, I just blinked over. The thing was old, twenty years at least. Like the kind of thing the Ancient Greeks typed philosophy papers on. At the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the Emperor was trying to reach the Pope on AOL Instant Messenger using one of these. When the Library of Alexandria burned down, it took the rest of this model with it.
It’s old. I connected to it and ran up against a wall. The connection out. “What’s going on here?” I asked no one. I got no answer. The computer sparked and fried its tower. Wish I could prove Parietal didn’t deserve to brag. Back to the drawing board, and the base. Troubleshooter had her own thing she wanted them to run through. Part of her training. I stopped before I headed back, pausing by Axinomancer and patting them on the shoulder. The tired hero smiled at me and looked to the ground, supporting themselves on their ax.
I reappeared back in my chambers. Started swallowing more black holes. Got a call from Troubleshooter. “Need me to show up and make the noobs feel better?”
“That would be nice. They worked hard and they like you. But I also found something really important when you were with them in there.”
And like that, I stepped out into a small party going on. There was cake, and drinks that most of these heroes were still a little young for. And aww, Axinomancer has some warm fuzzies for me. Not that I’m opposed, but they’re still on virgin drinks. I let them tag along and put an arm around their shoulder. “Channeling me now?”
They looked away and blushed a little. “I didn’t know it would work.”
“This operation worked brilliantly,” Troubleshooter cut in, looking between myself and one of her mentees. She wasn’t as good at hiding her disapproval, but she didn’t bring it up. Instead, she indicated a 20-something standing at the computer station assembled around her laptop. The monitor showed an image of Earth, with dots ringing it. More lit up. It actually seemed kind of crowded. “These are all the objects in Earth orbit that bounced signals from that factory around. You might notice, that’s a lot. Just about everything that can send and receive a signal was involved. I’m checking now, but I think it’s limited to Earth.”
“Parietal’s looping everything around, eh? Around and around it goes, but where does it end, anyone know?” I asked.
“There are gaps where more of his satellites are up, but so far, not one of them has gone back to Earth,” Troubleshooter pointed out. “But when it does, we’ll-.”
“And it’s gone,” Diode cut in. He zoomed in, created a cone. “Somewhere over here. I’ll get Rammer and Mouser out there. We’ll find this guy. We’re close.”
I was so happy, I joined in on the celebrating after all. Even carried the cute little puppy Axinomancer off to her room while they drifted off to a drunken sleep and dreams of acting on her crush. And then I devoured a black hole.
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