After that night at the Wherever of Justice, having boldly gone where no humans had gone before, Isabel and I rode along in a plane headed further north. It wasn’t as fun as flying under our own power, but we appreciated the view. The awkwardness from some of the team provided further entertainment. None of them had shared that they all got a piece of Isabella, known on Earth as the superhero Venus, and myself, known on Earth as not normally some symbiote merged with the body of Venus. That’s made possible by the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko pretending to be dead and using my recently-acquired godlike power to become… the Unicorn Goddess! Anyway, the horn and wings are optional.
Teasing Isabella wasn’t optional. “Oh no, good girl gone wild. What are we going to do about the paparazzi? First you marry a supervillain, and a woman, but then you two are all polyamorous?”
“People will know what I want them to know, especially now,” she said. The smile that crossed her face was from both of us. I liked the answer, even if it was arrogant. “The Academy thought about restricting who I was known to date back when they worried about my boyfriend turning into a large monster sloth. First time I ever put my foot down with them, it was to say they would never dictate who I dated or loved. I knew a little bit about liking women then, too. They turned me into their PR project and I was going to fight for as much of my soul as I could get away with.”
Being basically one person and one mind for such a long trip gave us time to think on the similarities between us. She’d noticed them sooner, since she was less self-absorbed and I was constantly pissed about my past. I’m still pissed, I just put off further suffering. I don’t know a healthier way to deal with it. I’ve avoided healthier ways to deal with it, save for some therapy that other people are proud of me doing.
I think even a good Earth jet would have reached that fortress in the frozen far north by the time we set down in a small town for refueling. “We don’t get superheroes,” the airport’s owner and operator told us. “Normally just research and rescue flights.” He leaned in to whisper to Florxman, “I don’t suppose I can have your autograph for my son, could I? He loves all the costumes and masks and bip pop pow fighs.”
Being an unknown on the planet, Hyperwoman, as Isabella and I were going by like this, was nearly forgotten. We gave a pretty basic one, with my taking control of her hand so we could handle the alien characters. Then we, meaning Isabella and I, asked, “Is there anything fun to do in town while we wait?”
The old man scratched his temple. “Now let me think. There’s a mahg show going on down at the rec center, with a silent auction.”
I projected an image of a domesticated animal with four legs, a protective ramming dome of bone on its head, and a pair of swollen udders hanging from its belly. It was maybe the size of a large dog on Earth, or a medium gerbil on a really small moon.
I could have gone with a joke about Uranus there, but I decided not to take that. Unlike Uranus.
“Pass,” we told the old man. “What else do you have?”
“The local schoolchildren were going to have a field trip to the city, but it got canceled. Seeing you guys would surely brighten their day?” he answered.
We looked over at the heroes briefly. They were liking that idea. “Anything else you got? Something really fun?”
The old man gave a high-pitched, whistle-sigh. “There’s the casino.”
So anyway, we walked into the casino. Much like an Earth casino, it was filled with cheap plastic and metal, weak inebriations, and machinery engineered to extract the optimal amount of money from anyone who dared to sit down. People still won sometimes, because of how the odds worked, but they money they won had to come from somewhere. That’s just how houses of chance work. But as long as you recognize you’re in an adult arcade where the games involve possibly winning money instead of winning a side-scrolling beat-em-up, you’ll be fine.
I brought the team with me, but those sticks in the mud kept talking about lectures and moral turpitude. Instead, I walked in and called for a Swanecool, a drink I knew I’d enjoy. The bartender got the wrong idea, though. He pushed some button that set alarms off. What dealers there were reached under their tables and pulled out weapons, like firearms, clubs, and knives.
“Gambling is illegal here,” Florxman said.
Isabella thought to me, “Is he really that scary to people?”
I showed her an image of a Florx, a winged sea predator that is capable of leaving the water, flying through the air to attack people, and settles in bodies of water surprisingly far from the oceans, including pools. “He likes to use terror and intimidation, along with the association with an animal that creeps people out and sometimes is a legitimate threat.”
“I guess it loses something without the context,” Isabella responded.
“Listen, why can’t we all just have some fun-” we started to say aloud. Unfortunately, the casino staff made the first move. The patrons ducked, dipped, dived, and dodged as the ones with guns opened fire. Florxman threw down a smoke bomb and disappeared behind cover. The Flicker appeared to stand still while dodging shots. Reservoirman twirled his spear, deflecting bullets. We stood there and let ourselves get shot.
“I guess we have to fight,” we muttered to ourself. We sped up and rushed to the nearest person with a firearm, taking it out of that guy’s hands. We did the same to the woman after that, and the man after that, and so on, until we’d relieved them of their guns. Then we moved back to where we started, set the pile down in front of us, and came back to normal speed. A lot of confused casino minions looked at their hands, then at us. “You’ll want to run along now,” we told them.
The Flicker appeared next to me, dropping all the bullets and pellets that had been fired. She’s pretty fast. Makes me wonder if she might be faster. She could be a God of Speed… but that really makes it feel like the “god” title isn’t that meaningful. I guess you get to pick what constitutes a god if you’re a powerful reality warper. Anyone who disagrees, you just wipe the out of existence.
Florxman jumped to the top of one gaming machine and swooped down onto one of the dealers who grabbed a hand-sized die from the table and was about to throw it. The fight proper kicked off there, with Flicker doing most of the work. We hung back because as much as we both enjoy fighting, we had come there to do some gambling. Party-pooping heroes.
I grabbed some coins that went flying when Reservoirman threw someone onto a table and tried one of these machines. “Ok, those things are Wild, getting these three starts one game, and having some of these symbols in a row starts a different game. You know, this is a lot less fun when we know all this.” They were pre-computers on this planet, so this thing had physical controls that meant it wouldn’t hit for me for fifteen more turns. We gave it a few goes before we got bored, picked up the machine, and hurled it at the boss. He just stepped out of a back room with an automatic gun in each hand up until the gambling machine hit the side of the door, which killed most of its momentum before it could kill him. He’d survive, but he’d need to let some ribs heal for awhile.
Our heart wasn’t really in any more fight, but neither were the various minions. Some tried to run only to get rounded up by Flicker or by Florxman’s grapple gun. The town’s constabulary of like a dozen guys had twice their number of belligerent dealers and pit bosses to take into custody. About the only good thing is the Amazing Twins decided to let the patrons go.
The heroes seemed pretty happy with themselves up until the explosion from the airfield. Flicker and I were the first ones there to see the robot stomping around, smashing the rear of the plane with the front of the plane. “I’ll get the legs, you take it down,” Flicker suggested.
“Agreed,” we said.
Flicker left friction-heat I the air that ignited grass as she ran. She went behind it and rammed into the knees of the blocky, claw-handed robot. One thing people don’t get about speedsters is that they have to be physically tougher and stronger to deal with the speeds they handle. The robot wobbled. We rose into the air and shot into its chest, creating a crater in the grass that it fell into with us standing in the hole we’d left in its chest. We reached down and tugged its head off as well, using my powers to examine it. It was an interesting piece of early technology, a melding of steampunk and extremely early computing technology. It has a small punchcard brain, more efficient than it should have been for that level of technology.
The rest of the team finally arrived riding on the back of the male Amazing Twin who had taken the form of some sort of extinct flying creature. When he landed, he reverted to the same humanoid shape as the rest who stood there. The scowl Florxman wore looked like he had to take a truly enormous dump. He walked up to us. “Have you had your fun yet?” He pulled a blocky device off his belt, an advanced radio for this age, and started pushing buttons on it.
“No, actually. This was all pretty boring to me.”
“I can speed rebuild it!” Flicker offered.
Reservoirman scoffed. “No. I hate flying, and I’m not going to do it in something you put together in seconds.”
“Fine, we’ll run you there,” we said.
“We will?” Flicker said.
Florxman thought it over. Reseroirman slapped him on the shoulder. “Come on, rich boy. You’re springing for a coat and sleigh.”
“Quiet!” Florxman said. The crackling of the radio grew more distinct.
A man was speaking, “And if I do not receive this ransom, I will detonate this atomic fission device and turn the entire atmosphere into a fiery conflagration!”
Florxman growled to himself and shut the radio down. “We don’t have time. Let’s do it.”
So, despite having been a werereindeer for awhile, it took going to an alien planet on the other side of the galaxy for me to get lashed to a sleigh with four people sitting in it, bundled up against the cold, and a speedster next to me.
I looked over to Flicker. “You and I should race sometime.”
“Not now though, right?” she asked nervously.
We looked back at the rest of the team. I let her have a moment of doubt. “No, not yet.”
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