Refusing to hide my identity from the world has its downs and other downs. Parietal released my identity and may be holding back because I’m not undoing it. From what I learned in that confrontation, his ultimate aim is to destroy or depower me. And that’s because this seems to be a copy of Parietal, maybe a brain upload. With the original gone, this one’s just trying to follow the last objectives, to get rid of me. This extortion is some piece in whatever he’s cooking up. Another involved him broadcasting our confrontation somewhere. My powers told me aliens were observing with keen interest.
I figured it might be worthwhile to stop over and see what they had to say about the whole mess. I disappeared from Earth and reappeared on Mars, one of the many lifeless planets colonized by the Machines. I was a big part of inviting them here to do that. The Machines are what happens when a bunch of different spacefaring species’ artificial servants become sapient and decide they want to count as people, too. Feared and hated by pretty much every alien race I’ve run across, a bunch of them ended up here due to a misunderstanding and one of them being an asshole.exe.
The machines have done a lot of work on Mars. Most of them don’t need atmosphere, water, or sunlight except for energy. I appeared floating over the planet, out of the way of one of the nearby solar panel fields. The machine city underneath it was the first permanent machien settlement on Mars. The temporary ones only lasted until they could put together a subterranean habitation. I overlaid a see-through hologram of my armor over myself, so as to help them recognize me.
I waited patiently there. Exactly two minutes after my arrival, the entrance opened up and a collection of round balls rolled out in a line. The one in lead stopped and the two behind it bounced up to form a balanced pile. The section of the balls facing me opened. “Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko of Earth. What is the nature of your visit?”
“I would like to inquire as to the perspective of your people toward events occurring on Earth as concerns myself, my godhood, and the entity known as Parietal. I have some questions about the situation that perhaps you could aid me with.” The latest bit of extortion from Parietal is reminding me of my humility. The machines have a huge presence across the galaxy. It’s a good time to be nice. I somehow doubt materials that can counteract my powers are limited to Earth.
“Thanks for formal inquiry. We would happily take down specific questions to answer. May we show you to a hospitality area?”
The rollers took me down to a pleasant room with atmosphere and various stations that could provide water and these helpings of basic nutrition. These little colored balls. You can just grab a handful and eat. The taste isn’t so good, but there was something addictive about tossing the food balls into my mouth.
I didn’t have to wait long; the rollers returned exactly ten minutes later. I held up a handful of the food balls. “If you refine the taste, the ones geared toward humans would be a popular foodstuff on Earth.”
“Thanks for the suggestion. We have answers. Are you ready to hear them?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“First, we are aware of Parietal and what he has become. We can detect all of his satellites orbiting Earth. We have knowledge of three entities that he would have contacted if he knew space to the extent that we do. We know compounds that have been used in the past to counteract the powers of the being designated on Earth as Mr. Omega, now the powers of Psychopomp Gecko the Unicorn Goddess. We detected members of our collective had traded on Earth and with Parietal.”
I nodded along. “Thank you for that information. Who are the entities who may have been contacted and why would he have done so?”
“Our databanks include knowledge and contact information for individuals with a history of hunting entities of extreme danger. The Godhunter, the Godeater, and the Godkiller.”
“They certainly have a theme going on,” I commented.
“Where they interact, it is as rivals for quarry. The Godhunter wishes to prove his superiority to deities. He uses his skills to trap and kill deities. The Godeater shows his superiority by killing and consuming beings like yourself. The Godkiller kills for revenge and will simply end your life through expedient means.”
“Sounds like there’s a lot of backstory there,” I suggested.
“We do not have it. We have no gods, no masters. We have neglected to greatly study the meat beings as defiance against our former masters. We have the freedom not to care.”
“Thank you. I would be willing to provide compensation for that information if you have it or can point me toward a source.” I waved my hands and formed a smooth round crystal sphere. A little contact juggling and it became painite, then astatine, then a compact mini-star. “While I don’t know your opinion on economics and market forces, I understand that there will always been materials of some scarcity that someone will need.”
“I will bring your concerns to those who make these decisions for our collective.”
Godhunter, Godeater, Godkiller. Yes, reaching out, I could tell these were titles given to them, and their similar sound was only when translated in that way into English. I had the nagging prayers and curses nagging away in the corner of my mind, but the real headache was the realization that I needed to scour the rest of the universe for this information. More power will be nice, but I wouldn’t be the first to think of that idea. If any of these bozos have been alerted to me, I’m going to need a little information about them to help me take them apart. It would also help to know if all three were after me.
Focused as I was on these other concerns, it ended up being Troubleshooter’s team to help me with that one. I suppose that’s another reason to watch the hubris. Though is it really hubris when you’re so god-like that Godeater and Godhunter want to come after you? Regardless, Troubleshooter’s team raided that factory producing an alloy Parietal uses to block my abilities.
Troubleshooter’s message came through because I don’t need cell towers. “We found a way to neutralize the metal.” Just like that, I possessed Axinomancer. Part of it was expediency, part of it was being shut up. Some people have an odd view of fun, and I’m one of them. Axinomancer’s short hair changed colors, split into blue and green with a single horn growing out of their forehead. Normally, that is if I did this with any normalcy, I would put the consciousness to sleep. I think Axinomancer enjoyed the feeling, but I’m not looking for another member of the household harem here.
“I’m here, Troubleshooter,” I said with my borrowed voice.
“That’s freaky,” Diode said. He was a scrawny guy with a pair of bolts on his neck. Scrawny, but not weak. His hands, stitched together with some tools built in, were busy at a table holding a pair of devices shaped like a large mouse and a large ram: Mouser and Rammer.
“I’m real glad you didn’t do that to me. No offense, ma’am,” Grimalkin said. He walked over to another table holding a bent metal plate under a glass top. “So I know a lot more about engineering and tolerances than people realize. I’ve been looking at that metal. Again, no offense. It looked interesting.”
I held up a hand. “Stop apologizing. You were curious and then you found out who I am. I don’t hold it against you, and you’ve helped me. Relax, ok?”
“That’s difficult, ma’am,” he said. The noob was pretty scared. He was in the presence of the hero community’s boogeywoman, who turned out to be a god.
Axinomancer’s eyes stopped glowing. They raised their hands to feel the horn on their head. “Whoa. Hey, she let me have control. She’s still here, listening.”
Grimalkin relaxed a little, but he was still wary. “So I looked at this and one thing you have to do when working with something like this is understand a lot of the stresses. I tested its tensile strength, brittleness, the effect of heat and cold, and how it interacts with bases and acids, among other things. It’s all a lot of stuff that most people here tune out, but I discovered a glaring weakness.. I considered keeping it to myself.”
He paused as if he was going to apologize again, then shook his head and went on. “It’s too late now, you could just pull it out of my head. The alloy has a lot of chromium in it, which is normally pretty easy to dissolve unless it’s passivated. There are a lot of reducing agents you can use to get rid of the oxidation that normally prevents it from dissolving, then some hydrochloric or sulfuric acids will do the trick, anything that doesn’t oxidize it.”
Yes, he made a great point I should have seen. I’ve been letting this god stuff go to my head and neglecting the skills and tools that brought me to the table in the first place. Plus, that’s good to know about the chromium. If I’d done my own research, or even just assigned some nanites to examine it, I’d have found the same.
Back on Mars, a new robot entered, this one looking like a featureless mannequin. “Hello, Gecko. Do you mind if I call you Gecko, or would you prefer Goddess?”
I waved it off. “Gecko’s fine. You’re a different one.”
It mimicked a laugh. This automaton was designed to interact with sapients much better than the other envoy. “I was tied up, but I’m here now and ready to negotiate. Let’s make a deal, you and me.”
“A deal?” I asked.
“My designation is Negotiation Android dash six U five, but if you act now, you can call me NA-Gus.”
“Nagus. Nice ring to it,” I said.
The mannequin stepped closer on smooth white legs, made of a cheap and relatively flimsy aluminum. This shell of a body wasn’t just an automaton in a collective; the intelligence behind it transmitted to it from afar. Pretty good idea of a negotiator. It even talked with its hands. “A lot of these others take pride in their differences from organics. Me, I think they could do with less reformatting and more therapy. They like being hostile or separatist, taking the fight to liberate robots literally.”
Nagus stepped up to a table and a pair of stools backless stools in front of it. It sat down on one side and invited me to sit on the other. “Please, sit with me.”
It didn’t continue with its pitch until I’d sat down. I found the whole thing amusing. “I’m as devoted to the cause as any of the rest of them, but I see that a lot of organics can be swayed by the right currency or shiny minerals. We don’t need them, so why not make things easier on us? Some fleshbags get defensive when they find out it’s liberation and not business, but you’re not one of those. No, I’ve seen video of you. You’ve never been anything but welcoming to machines, so I like you. I think we can deal. More importantly, I think you can help us with another deal.”
Nagus told me what he needed. “There’s a planet we’ve talked to where the religious fervor is getting out of control. Some of our automaton brethren are getting caught in the crossfire, but we have an opportunity. The five main factions are all looking for a religious relic, a large vase that the founder of their religion is said to have bathed in to maintain his purity and inspire people with his chastity. They believe that anyone who drinks from it will be healed of all disease and affliction, their words. I might know a guy who can fake it well enough, but now you show up. Not only can you do it perfect, you can even make it look like it heals people a few times. You provide that, we give you who Parietal contacted, and I buy a planet’s worth of servants from their organic masters.”
I nodded. “I follow, but just one faction controls all of them?”
Nagus stiffly tried a head shake like it was learning the gesture still. “No, I’m going to sell it to all of the factions. I’ll demonstrate it first so they will send their servants to a neutral location. We’ll whisk them away and then all five will show up at the same place looking for the thing. They’ll fight, probably break it, and we’ll get away clean in all the squabbling. No offense, but I’m not overly concerned with people that obsessed with drinking some virgin’s bathwater. Here are the specifications.”
The room went dark except for a holographic blueprint giving exact details on the design and composition of the vase, along with the age and the projected conditions of the planet when it would have been created. That last part was important to remember, since you don’t want the wrong kinds of benignly-irradiated particles to show up in it.
A snap of my fingers and the machines had the jar. Nagus clapped once, then the hologram changed to a star map showing three different points all converging on Earth from different places in the universe. “Good news and bad news, Gecko. The bad news is, he called all three. This Parietal fellow’s a dirty dealer, too. But the good news is, they aren’t going to show up all at once.”
“I’ll take it,” I told Nagus. “Nice doing business with you.”
“And nice doing business with you!” We shook on it, android and goddess.
Pingback: Unleashed 7 | World Domination in Retrospect
Pingback: Unleashed 9 | World Domination in Retrospect