Ok, so maybe this power is tempting me. Upon the monthly reminder that I’m a werereindeer, I considered, merely considered, only considered… blowing up the moon. Now, dear readers, before y’all get upset at this, I was going to replace it with something else about as dense. I had some ideas for certain people I could use instead. They wouldn’t shine as bright because these are some pretty dull, dense people. But they’d be there and we could hopefully still have tides. Those are important, right?
Other ideas that occurred involved sending it to another dimension and all that, blocking the light from it for a night, or spending the night on the backside of the big cheese itself. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time on the weredeer stuff when I had these disappeared Omega pearls to deal with. For all I knew, someone else figured out how to merge with them. I even thought of not even doing it this time. I had a lot of control over my own body, and that included the ability to snuff out this magic condition I’d been stuck with.
I’ve gone a little soft. Usually I mean with the belly I’ve added. Makes it even more fun now, being a chubby gal flying around with my superpowers. But on top of that, I like Reindeer. If someone told me when I started all this that I’d like some aspect of myself, especially a part that wants to be heroic, I’d probably have torn off that person’s ass and made them it eat. I’m reluctant to say this, but maybe all these people fucking around in my brain fixed things by accident. Or maybe I fixed it somehow when I had infinite cosmic power. Like how when I thought about it, I checked and found I was no longer infected by the disease engineered to shut down any powers above the human baseline when in contact with certain collars.
I went ahead and made that permanent for myself before hearing the alarm letting me know it was almost full moon time. Then I split off a body just for Reindeer to manifest through. We were in my base, not the Skylab. Sam was with us, using a large computer system and some of the recon drones I’d built to check a few areas I remember pearls being in. One of those areas was Technolutionary’s portion of the SkyLab.
I wanted to handle it myself, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to revert to Reindeer in the middle of all this. And I didn’t. Though Sam did comment on all the screaming and snapping and stretching. “That’s gross to hear.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to feel it,” I told her.
Reindeer stood up. Whereas most people who turn into some sort of were-thing find themselves consumed by instincts and evil desires to tear other people apart or what-have-you, my alter-ego decided to become a hero. My therapist says it has to do with buried desires to be a hero that fueled my villainous rampage and desire to save the world in my own twisted way at times. But weredeerism isn’t treatable with pills and techniques, at least none I’m aware of.
“You get used to it,” Reindeer said, shaking herself off and grabbing her costume. “You’ve got a problem. Things going missing. You know this is probably Technolutionary, right?”
“Or the demons,” I said.
“Or the Exemplars,” Sam contributed.
“Yeah, and we have to remember there are a lot of unknown unknowns,” Reindeer warned. “But we already know one untrustworthy supervillain who has the ability to track down every single pearl on the planet. We’ve been expecting him to betray us.”
“True,” I said. “And he was experimenting on materials to resist the effects of Omega energy.”
Sam joined in. “And he already told you he wants to weaponize the pearls instead of hiding them. And his section of the lab is emptied out.” The monitor showed us both that his part was missing. There goes the longshot that it had something to do with that one guy in the chair powered by a pearl that time. I lost track of him pretty quick.
I shrugged. “I thought he’d be able to keep it together longer than this. Ok, Sam. We’ve confirmed he’s gone. How about some of those other pearls?”
“Gone,” Sam said, switching to a bank of views. The views didn’t show anything, which was the point. If they’d showed pearls, we’d know the pearls were where we left them.
“Ok, let’s activate the trackers,” I said.
“We planted enough of them,” Reindeer muttered.
Sam pulled up the global view and activated the numerous bugs I planted all over Technolutionary’s gear. Never on his armor itself, because I figured he’d find those. Instead, my nanobots got them all in the guts of his machines. I left a few really obvious ones on some of the equipment for him to find and disarm, figuring he’d let his guard down if he thought he’d already gotten all of them.
They all lit up in the same location: Empyreal City. The place had seen plenty of problems from the last time the pearls were in action there. “Let’s go,” Reindeer said. She grabbed some of her gear, like the grenades that looked like Christmas ornaments.
“You don’t want to take the night off?” I asked. “This is my problem. You got your own life.”
“Right now, we got a pile of shit to clean up. You could use all the shovels you can get if she’s figured out how to use these things.”
We both kissed Sam goodbye before leaving. Here I’d been worried Reindeer would have my body dating someone else, turns out she’s got at least some of the same taste as me. And I don’t mind Sam being a bit of a furry.
But before we went, I access the vaults. There were a lot of pearls out there. I had my own misgivings. I can tell because Reindeer, who is also me, voiced them. “You know you shouldn’t do this. It’s risky.”
I know,” I said. I grabbed pearl after pearl, absorbing their power. Not all of them. Just enough that to make me feel like we’d still have an edge over Technotutionary. And from there, I took us right to our partner.
This base had been built into the sewers, inside a half dome of metal. It was a pretty wide open space, widened and torn apart to make enough room. All of Technolutionary’s equipment was there. Technolutionary, I found, was inside a metal cage hanging from the ceiling, his armor on the floor below him.
“Gecko,” Reindeer called, looking at an armored throne with mechanical legs. The man seated in it had his own armor. More than that, he had a chair powered by Omega energy, and a mess of tendrils all with their own. Even just looking at him, I couldn’t feel the pearls.
“Gecko? The Psycho Gecko? Welcome. As you can see, I’ve beaten you to the rest of your prizes, but we can leave this where it is, yes?” the man said. His face was covered in a smooth white plastic mask, or some other material that looked like plastic. Some people have a lot of fun creating stuff that looks like plastic. It’s an aesthetics thing. People are like that.
“Who do I have the displeasure?” I asked.
“I am Parietal, the fastest brain alive,” he introduced himself. “I became interested in the potential of the Omega pearls. You ended my most promising experiment, providing their power to others and watching the chaos that ensues. I planted a tracker on your friend, Technolutionary. From there, it wasn’t difficult to-”
Parietal was interrupted by a crunch. Reindeer raised a hoot off some sort of bug-like device that had been sneaking up on me while he drew my attention. “Sorry, did I ruin that plan?” Reindeer asked.
“Who are you and why are you here?” Parietal asked.
I made a show of turning to look at Reindeer, then disappeared and reappeared behind Parietal’s chair. I punched my hand through it, feeling more resistance than I had since gaining this level of power. Fast brain over there must have figured out some nifty materials. The tendrils whipped around and tried to fire on me but I absorbed the energy. I didn’t need to sense the pearls to drain them. I cracked that throne like an egg and pulled out the ones it used as an energy source of its own. I absorbed that one, too. All mine. The machine burst open with a crimson explosion.
The man in the throne stood there. His jumpsuit had neon red lines running along the arms and legs, but he seemingly knew when he was beat. Reindeer kept an arm pointed at Parietal, sonic weapons armed, but was busy tearing the lock open. Technolutionary practically jumped into her arms, I guess a bit of a furry himself. I don’t know if he knows about that curse of mine.
“It’s fascinating, but I wonder what will become of you as you gain more power,” Parietal mused, turning around to face me.
“A means to an end,” I said.
“What a glorious end,” he said. Guy was kind of creepy.
“Behind you!” Reindeer and Technolutionary both cried out.
Spheres rolled over the inside of the dome, spreading out in a semicircle. They didn’t fire at me. They fired near me, all of their beams converging. I caught the expanding blast, draining it before it expanded and blew the hell out of me, Reindeer, the city, and that other guy we were working with.
Technolutionary and Reindeer dropped down, Technolutionary’s armor standing up and sliding onto him. “Turn it off!” the other villain ordered, raising an open hand to Parietal. He had lasers built into each finger.
“I don’t think I will. I need to run,” Parietal said. The red lights intensified and sprinted out of the way of both the lasers and Reindeer’s sonic blast. The lasers nicked him, damaging the suit enough for me to feel the power from another pearl beneath. The others tracked him, trying to blast the super smart speedster, but they ended up blasting off a part of the metal dome instead. Parietal raced toward that section, leaving a hole in the wall behind him. So a super tough super smart speedster. Or at least smart speedster. Let’s not give the guy too much credit here.
Reindeer flew after Parietal, but Technolutionary lagged behind, keeping his lasers trained on me while I drained the energy from this weapon system. That’s what it was, a nifty means of defense and a way to blow the whole base up if Parietal lost. It also meant I had a fuckton of pearls we hadn’t already collected feeding me energy all at once.
“Gecko. Can you handle it?” Technolutionary asked.
I nodded, realizing then that I’d become a glowing person and once again burnt through my clothes. And I had an idea, then. I didn’t just contain the power, though that’s what I was doing. I had held almost all of it at one point. I used it. Might as well, and it would take some of the strain off me. I wiped that power-controlling disease off the face of this and every other Earth planet infected with it by us. I cured… everything. AIDS and HIV? Gone. Cancer? Wiped out. Diabetes? Eliminated. All injury, all disability. The only thing stopping me from all transitions was not wanting to delve into every individual mind and find out the level of transition they wanted to go to, but I’d have time for that. I didn’t wipe out the homo machina mutation, either, nor the others inflicted with the unique condition that gave me Reindeer.
“What’s going on?” Technolutionary said. “I’m connecting to my satellites, what are you doing?”
“What a god should,” I answered, head snapping around to stare him down.
“You’re not a god,” he said.
“I might as well be. Isn’t this what you wanted? A weapon to scare off everyone who would come after our home?” Ok, I was a bit intimidating there. But this guy wanted to use this power. I use it to fix something and suddenly he’s scared of me?
Enough jerking off. I reached right back up those converging beams and yanked all of those remaining pearls I couldn’t feel right out and into me. The residual blast was weak, really just blowing the lights out. I had enough light on my own. I sent Technolutionary to his lab and followed after Reindeer.
I appeared near her, up on the surface. “Where did he go?” I asked.
Reindeer shook her head. “I don’t know. Got away. Still can’t track him?”
I hated it, but… “Nope.” I tried expanding outward, even looking for wind disturbances, things moving at high speed. Either his shielding was that good, or the fastest thinker on Earth put some distance between us and is laying low. “But I’ll find him again. People don’t lose obsessions that easily.”
“Are you ok?” Reindeer asked. “Something’s different.”
“I had to absorb a lot more energy,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”
“Really? Because you’re flashing everyone.”
Oh yeah. Nude. I created a costume real quick. Didn’t mean to create an omega symbol on it, but fixed that real quick. “I’m great. Never better. And so long as I have the power, I think a lot of people are going to feel better than ever.”
“That sounded kind of ominous, girl,” Reindeer commented.
“Ugh, I prefer it when the doubting voices stay in my head,” I whined. Then, on a whim, I teleported some beer cheddar cheese to me to enjoy with my whine. This “ultimate power” shit is handy when I’m not completely homicidal.
I don’t even need to sleep. It’s a little annoying. As busy as I am, I do enjoy resting. You’d never know it to read all of this dren, but I do like a good sleep or cuddle or even some sex. It’s just that sex isn’t the most important thing in life. Not when you’ve recently gained minor reality-warping powers by absorbing fragments of a dead extradimensional conqueror.
Attacks are ramping up, too. People are posting stuff online. At least with the Facebook posts, they mostly just blow themselves up somehow. It’s gotten so bad, that hearings are scheduled sometime next year to speak to a representative from Facebook, if they decide to send one, to discuss the problem of people posting instructions on how to blow stuff up on there. At least VillaiNet has better threads that actually work.
The heroes aren’t blameless, either. Some of them are using the same stuff, even if the collateral damage isn’t so bad. They might be some of the ones blowing themselves up. Some people have this idea that if you give everyone the ability to destroy a building as easily as a sneeze, the world would be better off and force people to cooperate. These people know nothing. Every day, people do stuff because they’re angry, sad, depressed, frustrated, or out of conspiratorial beliefs. And the people crying about how folks need to act rationally turn right around and act the same way, especially if the “rational” and unemotional decision is one that harms them. So what I’m saying here, I guess, is it’s kind of a bad idea to give everyone such power. Maybe that’s how other civilizations can manage to live outside their own initial solar systems: having some sort of responsible way to handle advanced powers and technology.
All I know is, you give enough people the kind of power I was wielding, you’d have plenty of people doing worse than I ever did. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s sobering to realize I’m still more responsible than way too many people out there. Fuck, I was even left in charge of a kid.
So it’s getting worse. Technolutionary’s just decided to leave confronting the people with that stuff to me. He’s going after ones that seem to have been left alone. His device tracking the things worked, but it took a lot of processing power to load everything at first. So he runs out, grabs one up that landed in the beach or a mountain somewhere, and brings it back. At base, he’s found a way to use one as an energy weapon and has built a detachable, expendable pod onto the Skylab. There, he’s decided to try various alloys for anything that offers resistance to their powers. He’s even gotten some thunderbolt iron to give that a go.
I would be more worried about him having his own Omega pearls off in that lab, except I can track them now. I did make an alteration to my multidimensional base. Sam helped me out and moved all of the pearls I had stored in various obscure spots and reprogrammed the algorithm in those accessways to store them all in dimensions Technolutionary doesn’t have access to. Preferably, no one has access to these. I prefer dumping these in Earths devoid of sapient life. Quite a few of those wiped themselves out with nuclear weapons, or were killed off by plagues.
Part of me wonders what I could do with so many planets with no one else to claim them. The rest of me is busy with stuff like bodyslamming a humanoid walker powered by a heart of Omega energy. The guy behind this one was smart, but he was also destroying half the bank stopping a bank robbery. The robbers were huddled up behind a counter… no, nevermind, they were dead. The guy in the big robot didn’t realize it yet. He kept firing his minigun. Guy must have been using up more money than the corpses on the floor possibly could have stolen. They all looked like regular guys in sky masks and all, no costumes.
I swooped in over the police barricades and through the ruined doors that the walker stomped through. The walker got enough of a heads-up on my approach to activate a scarlet forcefield, clear with veins of energy crossing over the surface. I brought myself to a stop against it, drawing the energy out. The walker turned and opened fire on me, nevermind I had the street and people behind me. I blocked it all with my body and wings while funneling the Omega energy into me. That’s really all these “pearls” are: his energy, crystallized and contained. It wouldn’t hurt to draw it into myself. I once handled way more, and it’s not like it gives me a huge boost. It’s a pretty convenient way to handle this. Even the crystal shell, also from Mr. Omega, was drawn up into the flow of it and pulled into me.
The walker came to rest, powered down. The minigun couldn’t fire anymore without a power source. And I felt a rush. Not as overpowering as back in the Blasted Place, but I can’t lie that it felt good.
“Hope you bothered to install a failsafe for a power outage,” I told the walker’s pilot. “Or a way to breathe. You gave the guys robbing the place a few extra vent holes, too. I wouldn’t expect a lot of sympathy from the dead. Or the people you just shot at.” I nodded back to the street with my head.
I left him there, flying out and disappearing into the glare of the sun. Didn’t need to go deposit another pearl, so instead I went back to looking all civilian-y and picked up Qiang from school. Despite her being pretty damn smart of a kid, she’s running into some trouble. Smart as she is, she’s been neglecting her education. It’s been a few weeks since she turned in any assignments in one of the classes. She’s bored, sounds like. Would rather do interesting stuff. So I picked her up for a chat. Carried her around on my shoulders while we looked into some of the storefronts. The bakery here makes some damn good donuts.
“Ok, kiddo. I know it’s boring and you can just pick it up quick, but you won’t always be able to. You gotta have a foundation, like with martial arts. Gotta punch before you can spin kick.”
“But I don’t wanna! I want to play games or hang out with Dee and Cam. You didn’t have to do homework.”
“Yeah, I never did homework. That means there’s a lot of stuff I had to work even harder at as an adult. You get all this, you’ll grow up to be even smarter than me,” I told her. “And if you don’t go ahead and get all the homework for Social Studies done by Friday, I won’t let you see your friends or have internet access anymore. And you know I can cut you off. Maybe if you were smarter than me I couldn’t…”
She didn’t like it.
Medusa spoke up, having approached while we were examining giant cookies in the window. “If you don’t make good grades, you can’t be an Exemplar like me.”
I turned around and saw Medusa… and Venus. Same person, but Venus was pulled from another, now-alternate timeline a few years earlier. They were there in civilian clothing, but Medusa wore a black leather jacket and shades, while Venus had a long wool coat on.
“She has a kid,” Venus noted, probably to avoid asking a silly and suggestive question like “How?” Instead, she took a sip of some sort of cold coffee drink.
Qiang was a little bit confused, but I pointed to Medusa. “That’s the one we know. The other’s a copy from the past, before she ever met you.”
Qiang held out her hand toward Venus. “Hi, I’m Qiang. You look just like other momma.”
Venus held a hand over her mouth and nose, her cheeks bulging for a moment before she turned away. Medusa patted her on the back and gave me a silent laugh. I received a text from her. “Now I no y u tzed me so much.”
Points for hands-free communication, but that grammar…
Qiang was smiling, too. If she didn’t do that on purpose, she’s probably going to from now on. She looked at Medusa conspiratorially when the woman lowered down to talk to her. “I got bored in school, too, but now I know all sorts of stuff that helps me save the world. You want to help me someday?” She made a fist. Qiang made one right back. “Alright! Then try more in school, even if it makes you want to sleep.”
“I think I need to use the restroom. Do they have one in there?” Venus asked.
“Of course,” Medusa said. She looked to Qiang. “Why don’t you go in and pick out a treat, just one. If that’s ok with your mom?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
Qiang and Venus both went in, leaving Medusa and I outside.
“So, what were you wanting to talk about?” I inquired.
“What’s this with you and Technolutionary?”
I have her the quick run down. I could tell she wasn’t happy to know I’m supercharged again. Last time I had anything close to this level of power, I let it go to my head and killed a bunch of her friends.
“I’m going to work on a contingency,” She told me.
I nodded. “I know. Not just for him, right?”
“Sorry,” she said with a sad little smile.
I nodded. “No, don’t be. It’s smart.”
“We’ve been trying to track some of the seeds. That’s what we call them. You don’t trust us to hold them?”
I shrugged. “It’s a little late to let you have all of them now, but some of these people I’m stopping are heroes. Some of them, you never even would have seen coming. Too late now anyway.”
Medusa sighed. “No, yeah, I know. You don’t run to me over everything. Just prove me right about you. Please.”
And I totally intend to, as soon as I figure out where all of the pearls went. They all disappeared when my mind, and choice parts of my body, were occupied in bed with my girlfriend. You suck on a great pair of tits and suddenly a bunch of super-powerful artifacts go missing all at once.
In the course of liberating Omega Pearls, small portions of the power of a godlike being that had once possessed me before being banished from the universe, I went to Hell. The Hell Dimensions didn’t end that encounter better than they left it. They were testing the ability to bond the pearls. This caused a dangerous explosion. When they realized I was there, the demon scientist in charge decided they would take care of me the same way. The difference is, I didn’t die. Instead, I made an example and then I let the demons and prisoners go. Then I tried to head home.
Somehow, I ended up in the crimson pocket dimension remains of Mr. Omega himself, on a great plain and facing a lesser version of Omega who greeted me as a sister.
“I’m not sister of yours. Why did you bring me here?” I asked.
“You are meant to rejoin me,” he said.
I laughed. “You aren’t even the real thing. You’re like a tiny reflection in a shattered piece of mirror.”
Lesser Omega nodded. “I am the most powerful remnant, but there are many others. You have a number of the smallest pieces inside you, your body adapted to the power. Most can not directly harness this energy.”
“This power is dangerous for them to use,” I said. I glanced down at myself, checking myself over. The bonding process had overloaded me a little, leaving me naked. The addition of some demonic body parts was my idea of mocking the demons. I curled up my tail and its tiny end spade. I created a simple dress, long but sleeveless. I also tried toning down the scarlet glow and the demon parts. “And I’m not too fond of giving Mr. Omega a chance to reform.”
“I think you will,” Lesser Omega said. He swept his arm along the plains we stood upon. “You may even claim this entire space as your own, in the end. You proved your worthiness once before.”
“Flattery’s a nice change of pace from most enemies,” I informed him. Even now, my heightened senses allowed me to see things happening all over these smaller planetoids all floating in what had once been Mr. Omega. There were beings, an entire ecosystem born out of the power seeking a form, or attaching itself to multiversal detritus. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks. Some of them are things I sent through the cracks with my blatant abuse of dimensional technology.
Part of it included humanoids. Some humans, maybe? Some elf-like beings were around as well, their forms made that way based on pop culture ideas about them, making humans into a thing they wanted to be. And some of them weren’t far, an army waving a banner with an omega symbol on it. The Lesser Omega’s army of conquest. This was just the closest one. There were other armies as well. In the sea was another army. The dead rested in wrecks and rock formations, bodies animated by Omega energy tethered to another Lesser Omega. An Omega leading machines. A gargantuan forest advancing slowly at the behest of an Omega that gathered an army of creatures and plant people. Even an Omega that seemed to be a large worm, underneath a mountain, sending up worms to parasitically capture people.
“Hell of a world you have here,” I said. “I’d rather go back to my own.”
“Take my power. Bring me with you,” he offered. He didn’t even buy me dinner first. Not like buying someone dinner first was an impediment for giving them my “power” though. The thing was, if he’s stuck here, that kind of does the job for me. He’s contained. That’s the reason I’m involved in all of this. These powers are already showing themselves to be destructive to my home. That’s what that Earth is. And sure, it’s wildly imperfect. I want to kill at least half the people there myself. But it wasn’t about power for myself. I didn’t grab this stuff for myself.
It’s like he could read my mind. “Think of all the good you could bring to your world.”
“That’s not what you’re thinking of,” I told him. Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. And every time I try to force the world to be the way I want it, things go bad.
“No,” he admitted. “But I accept the trade-off if it means the ascendancy of myself with you. If it means coming being part of the winning side.”
I wondered what to make of that. Mr. Omega seemed set on hating me with an undying passion last time I saw him. Now, a remnant of him is willing to give me his power under the assumption that, when faced with a conflict involving other Omegas, I’m the one that would come out on top. And he’d rather be part of that than deal with another Omega winning out.
I shook my head. “This isn’t my conflict. If I accomplish my goals, none of you will come out on top. Unless we’re going to fight about this, I should get going.”
The Lesser Omega looked me over. “No, I don’t think I will. Go. You will return on your own or one of us will find a way to your planet. You have all of eternity to feel the call.”
“Could be awhile cleaning up this whole mess. Looks like a lot of creatures could end up with Omega’s power so easily.”
The Lesser Omega shook his head. “No. The power here changed other beings or formed remnants representing aspects of Mr. Omega, if we are advanced enough to have a personality. The ones on Earth may do the same, but you are one of the few who can handle it without further changes. You were already altered by our source to be vessel that can wield it. You will be just fine.”
He was lying. I’m sure. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made a deal with an Omega for vast amounts of power. This version of Omega is clever. He’d influence me into gaining more power, him growing stronger, with me losing more control.
I did fingerguns. “You’re pretty good. Don’t pull me here again.” I turned and opened a breach. As I left I could feel something pull me back. It wasn’t the Lesser Omega, but some sort of binding. Magic, that’s what. I knew it thanks to what the power had done to me, but that same power is why I was dragged back. I had a lot more “me” in me than anything else in the Omegaverse. Not to say I’m special and somehow capable of doing things by sheer uniqueness, just that I could tell these bonds didn’t respond as well to someone who wasn’t just another part of Mr. Omega. I slipped them and ended up on Earth, back in my own front lawn. I took a step and noticed that I’d accidentally materialized with my leg merged with the lawn flamingo and popped it back out. The flamingo went back to keeping an eye on the law, hidden laser ready for any trespassers like Jehovah’s Witnesses or mosquitoes.
I reached out to recreate the exact same connections I had digitally. These powers I have, they warp reality and impose my own on the world. Not enough to just take over the world, but enough to let me repair the stuff this burnt out in me once this power had been thrust upon me. As soon as I had control over my cave and all, I checked on my daughter Qiang and my girlfriend Sam. Qiang was fine, Sam was jabbing Technolutionary with adrenaline to help him get part of a building off his crushed leg while medical nanobots healed him.
I pulled my focus back a little.
Empyreal City wasn’t looking too hot. There was one guy flying around on a metal throne with tentacle-style robot arms coming from it, blasting everything around with beams of Omega energy. Down on the street, a man in blackened metal armor with six glowing red pearls set in it was blasting it out with someone who wielded a sword and gauntlet in one hand that had six of his own spread across them. Those two would blast at each other, with the resulting effect wrecking everything around them.
I needed an alias. I dropped the demon traits entirely and covered myself in a thin but armored costume, enough to cover my skin. Metal angel wings grew from my back because in the moment I figured I’d go with something like Lady Guardian.
Technolutionary was at least stable at the moment. Meanwhile, armor guy and sword guy were getting ready for another round. They fired, straight on. I appeared between them, floating over sand that used to be a street, and caught a beam in each hand. I absorbed them, then turned. I threw metal feathers at the guy in the armor. The dimensional teleporter’s aiming computer had a little trouble latching on in the middle of all this, but my new powers helped. I took the pearls. God, I’m overpowered. And I could be more so. Just gotta eat these pearls… I hid them in my base again.
When I looked up for the other guy, he was just gone. Nowhere around, nor could I track him. So I’m sure that’s a great sign of things to come. So then I flash-stepped on over to Technolutionary and Sam. They were still recovering, but Technolutionary raised a gauntlet toward me and jumped to his feet.
“Relax, it’s me,” I said, opening the mask up.
Sam ran into my arms, hugging me, but then also slapping me. “Where the hell have you been?!”
“Got a little sidetracked with Hell, and, uh, turns out I am a bit different when it comes to these pearls.”
“From my readings, they should have vaporized you in a massive explosion,” Tecnolutionary said. “That’s why people need some other way to harness their power.”
“Well, the good news is that’s not a problem with me. One of those bunch here got away, though. Couldn’t seem to track him, and I can track things you wouldn’t believe right now.”
“This is all worrying,” Technolutionary said, probably also meaning the idea of me being given these sorts of powers. He’s not entirely wrong. But I can hold onto these for a little bit, right? I can already feel more of the pearls out there. Should be easy enough to grab them all up and find some way of keeping them out of the wrong hands.
“Hey,” Sam interrupted my thoughts. “You’re back, right? You, not all this?” she motioned toward my wings.
“Yeah,” I told her, wondering how much I was lying, and how much I was actually myself.
I was once imprisoned in a complex underground prison called the Cube, like a Rubik’s Cube. Been thinking about that now that I’ve actually managed to put together the control for my own base. I need a name for the base itself but for now it goes everywhere. One little cube lets me connect to every seam in the place and change it up. A self-sufficient, transdimensional hideout with access to energy and resources beyond the reach of anyone else. I gave Sam a key that I can turn off from a distance, in case Technolutionary doublecrosses me.
I consider it more of a “when” instead of an “if” situation. My goals and his sometimes cross over enough for us to put aside past betrayals and work together, but it never lasts long. In this case, I don’t know how long he expected me to think we’d work together. There are so many of these Omega Pearls around. They’re just little bits and pieces of this overwhelmingly powerful being that had been trapped between all universes for a long time. He got into our world through a situation that involved possessing my body, and getting kicked out seemed to have left bits of his power around.
The situation’s ripe for shit going wrong. That’s why I have a base that transcends space and the universe, accessible from a control cube floating in the main cave. It was a wonder of technology that could revolutionize the world. I kept it to myself and used it to steal some computer parts real quick. I hefted the box, adjusted the exit to send me to the Skylab.
The Skylab, our cooperative lab, gets its name from the fact that it’s flying. Maintenance robots keep it functioning while, on the inside, we were working on a way to find out the enormity of our task and make it much easier.
We don’t know how much, but Technolutionary and I have come up with an idea. We’ve figured out enough about how people can access the pearls that we believe we can plug it into a computer with a mapping system. We’re going to use the power of satellite technology to try and track down the rest. Worst case scenario, instead of some inherent connection, we analyze its unique energy signature and try to find that around the world minus any hidden deep underground or in lead. Or in other dimensions, like in the Hell Dimensions.
With nothing but hard work, determination, old-fashioned grit, sayings people have heard a thousand times, and an army of robot minions, we assembled our new supercomputer. We threw the code in there, and Technolutionary slapped one of the pearls we had in the “Omega chamber” as he called coffeepot-sized container.
“I thought there’d be more electricity shooting out. You mad scientists love that,” Sam said, sipping on coffee.
Technolutionary cleared his throat, then pressed a button. The entire wall behind our supercomputer revealed itself to be a monitor that flashed lightning across it, thunder echoing throughout the lab. “Does that meet your approval?”
Sam gave him the thumbs-up.
“Good,” I said. “Let’s get this bad boy scanning.” I walked over to the side of the supercomputer tower, packed full of computing goodness, and flipped a switch. The computer’s fan started and the light turned on. A holographic projector in front of the tower turned on, showing a hologram of Earth. Overlaid on top of it was the word “Scanning…”
And it kept on floating there like that. After a couple of minutes, Technolutionary went over to open the tower and look into it. “It’s working, right?”
I brought up the holographic keyboard and the task menu. “Yep. Taking up the entire CPU, too. I think it’s just taking a long time to work.”
Five minutes after we activated the seeker program, a red blip appeared. “We got one!” Sam declared. “And at this rate, you guys can go collect one every time it pops up!”
Technolutionary grumbled to himself. “I’ll grab it if you want.”
I shrugged. “If you want. Looks like this is going to take awhile. I might duck out, go for some I know of in another dimension.”
“Might as well,” Technolutionary agreed.
“What about me?” Sam said, leaning on me.
“I’m going to Hell, and I don’t want to take you with me,” I said.
“Like, a sexy hell, or lake of fire hell?” Sam asked.
I waggled my hand. “I mean, I thought some of the demons were hot, but the place was a floating crag of rust and metal used for target practice, so…”
Sam nodded, took a sip of coffee, and pulled a chair out from the wall. “Looks like I’ll be watching the hologram. You have fun, babe. But if you find a sexy demon…”
I nodded. Just like with how I tried a couple dates with Medusa again, Sam and mine’s relationship is polyamorous. It’s kind of like being polygamous, but without the marriage or the pedophilia.
I barely even needed to get ready. I mean, the power of these portals was at my fingertips via a wireless electronic link. I could drown them in lava, or an ocean. I could drop a blue whale on my enemies, or cast them into the heart of a collapsing star.
Recognizing the signs of a power trip in myself, I decided to slap myself a few times and armor up. I’ve killed too many people who thought the exact same things. I hadn’t even set up a forcefield generator that could project one through a portal to cover me. I checked and rechecked the armor, and made sure all the equipment was doing ok. I even upgraded winrar from the demo to an actual purchase just to make sure something wouldn’t go wrong in the heat of battle. And I expected heat in Hell.
I reappeared, armor computer racing to analyze the situation and project a cloak of invisibility around me. I was back in the big egg-shaped building where I’d disappeared. The damaged globe was gone, as were the pearls around it. There were a few lights left on, but it all looked abandoned and dusty. I hopped outside for a better look, appearing on top of the egg.
A large number of vehicles were parked a ways away, around a set of clear cubes with metal along the edges and corners. Inside, I could see people. Outside, I saw demons. Some more of the ones with all the tendrils, and even a pack of the feral ones that looked humanoid with odd proportions and claws. There were also more conventional demons, with different skintones, spade tails, and a pair of horns up top. They wore suits and labcoats as one of them, a demon with a pair of welder’s goggles on, stepped forward to one of the cubes with a huge batch of Omega pearls.
They were all forced together, a basketball-sized bunch levitating out of reach of his hands. That they moved where he wanted suggested they were under his power in some way. He forced them through the clear portion of the cube somehow, and then they flew at the human. While they glowed red, he made a gesture that left an imprint of azure in the air in front of him, around the pearls, and on the prisoner’s chest. The pearls flew into the human.
So I guess they got impatient with whatever they had planned and tried another weaponization. It was the eyes of the person in the cell that were subsumed into crimson first, then their skin. The clothes they had on were rough with clawmarks, but they burned off as the floated… and then the cube was just gone, prisoner and all. An explosion off in the distance helped me track it again. I looked over there and zoomed in, finding nothing left but a floating mass of pearls and scraps of the cell the person had been in. A child-sized demon in a biohazard suit appeared, scooped them into a plastic container, and then teleported back to the demons at the cubes. I did the same, staying hidden so I could figure out what was going on.
The demon who had done the insertion was babbling to the others in a language that my translator program hadn’t yet figured out. I didn’t have a complete enough sample last time. Then, he approached the other cube and spoke English. “Greetings, mortal. Don’t be afraid. Soon, I will give you more power than you can possibly imagine. You can become a god unto yourself, in the service of elevating us. We are finetuning the spells we use for this, so we will be with you momentarily. And know that if you die, your death will not be in vain. You will have given us the greatest gift of all: knowledge.”
The prisoner in the cell stayed on his knees, praying, trying to drown out the demon. When the demon stopped talking, I could hear he was speaking Spanish. A demon walked up to the head scientist demon and said something to him, who sighed. “It worked in the movies, where all humans speak the same language. Fine. Are we ready? I’m not explaining it to any test subject twice.” He turned around to look at the imp carrying the container, which I was sneaking up on.
The demon scientist raised a finger, pointing one long nail at me. He spat something in his language, then moved his finger around in a circle, leaving yellow symbols in the air. I kicked the biohazard demon out of the way, who disappeared with the container. Its body reappeared nearby, in a crowd of more of the little ones in protective gear. Meanwhile, all the demons around me looked my way, noticing me at once.
“Who are you?” asked the scientist. “Get her!”
Two larger, bony-plated demons with no horns stood nearby in black suits. Flames engulfed their outfits and left them in spiky armor, holding swords. With a wave of my hand, I created a portal from the tips of the swords to the inside of their skulls. The demons guards fell. I turned and opened another portal, bringing me the container of pearls.
Suddenly, I noticed the blue glow on my chest and the container. The pearls flew into me.
Everything went red hot. My awareness exploded. Like instead of having your consciousness focused in your head, through your eyes, everything expanded outward. Past that land mass, past the other islands of the Blasted Place, out from the cluster of dimensional flotsam that is collectively called Hell. I’d been there before. When Omega possessed me, there was far more power than this safely ensconced in my body. I willed myself back to myself, finding myself naked with scarlet skin. I was also in one of the other islands. Doubtless, the demons expected an explosion.
And to think, I hesitated? I feared the power. It felt so good. Familiar. Like sliding back into a bodysuit of godmode. Just for fun, I decided to add a spade tail, pair of horns, and a couple tiny wings. Just a bit to mock them. I realized I could no longer feel my dimensional network, but that’s ok. I took a step from a barren floating island of rust and reappeared in the middle of the demons.
“What did you think the good result was going to be if you turned someone you hated into a god?” I asked. They understood. I had put understanding into the words, regardless of their language.
The head scientist’s lab coat fluttered like a cape as fire and electricity built up in his hands. I raised a hand and dissipated the energy. Then I spread his atoms out until he fell apart like ash.
All the demons lost their shit. I took a look at a few, wondering if I ought to grab one… no… no. That’s not who I am, not even with this power. And I don’t mean because there was a female guard demon and I was wondering how those bony plates work in mating.
I let them go. They couldn’t do anything to me, even use me as a suicide bomb. Instead, I turned to the cubes, and the people within. I thought to myself that I’d like to find out where they came from. Lines appeared in the air, probably only to me. I sent them all back home. I was going to go back myself, but then I got a fitting little idea. I flew far above the whole area. Yes, flew. It’s different even than with the antigravity. The control and the feeling of physics being my bitch… it’s my way of telling the world it doesn’t own me anymore.
A lot of the demons were still fleeing. I shrugged and sent them to other islands. Then I imploded the one they all had been on, smirking. The Blasted Place… I wasn’t done with it yet. I gathered up all the remaining demons. All the little imps were gone, leaving guards and scientists. I brought the entire crowd to me in a protective bubble and let them watch from above this pocket dimension. I intended to wipe out the rest of the land here.
Then I hesitated, thinking of Sam and Medusa and Qiang, and everyone else I care about. “Go home,” I told them. “Leave us alone.” I sent them away. Then I left the Blasted Place. I meant to go home, but something else drew me in. I’d seen it before, a red blemish in the divide between universes. I recognized it now as the remains of Mr. Omega from when he was drawn out of ours. There was another pocket dimension there, a vast expanse of land. I appeared there in front of Mr. Omega himself. No, my newfound awareness told me this wasn’t just a smaller Mr. Omega. This was a piece of him, in the same way the pearls were pieces of him.
“Hello sister,” the Lesser Omega said.
Teleportation is an amazing power with many forms. The version I have lets me walk through a door in my basement and step out into a cave with no entrance to the surface, deep beneath the Earth, with weird stalactites in part of it that look like snow hanging from the ceiling. A corridor from there leads to an old, abandoned military base on a Pacific island near the returned continent of Mu. I’m building more doors. There’s one that leads to the inside of an asteroid where busy automatons of mine chip away at heavy metals and bring them back to be used. Another takes me to the base hidden underneath my shop; it serves as a refuge for criminals and supervillains who need to lie low. Finally, there’s the door that I open to get to the Skylab I share with Technolutionary.
I don’t even need the doors. They make it easier recognize where one place ends and another begins. It’s incredibly powerful, even if it doesn’t sound like it. Sadly, it was used for something like saving people. I mean, it was technically what I was trying to do. It just interrupted me in the middle of stealing really valuable shit.
“Hey!” Sam said, coming up behind me. My girlfriend/minion wore some nice short black jeans with fishnets for me. Well, she wears them because she likes them and I just go along appreciating how they make her look. “What have you been doing?”
I stood at an arch, looking into a bunch of cubbies. I whirled around, holding bonds in one hand, a brick of cocaine in the other, and a pearl necklace of the nonsexual kind around my neck. “What?!”
“First, don’t what me. Second, I’ve been trying to reach you. Technolutionary has an alarm on a big monitor and he says he needs your help.”
I had to be the saddest woman anyone had ever seen in a pearl necklace with a brick of coke and a fistful of one million dollars in someone else’s money. I reset the arch to a more neutral destination: the inside of a space station my robot builders were putting together. The arch has five different sensors that will turn it off in case of hull breach, solar flair, or other dangers.
Sam and I took the door to the SkyLab where Technolutionary was adjusting the view on his Big Monitor. It was divided up, different camera angles focused on a fight going on. He wore his close-fitting power armor, the armor plates adjusting subtly to account for weight distribution. His face was far more recessed in the helmet he had, his faceplate still in his hands.
“What is it, where is it, and why do we care?” I asked.
“Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the where.”
“Now I don’t care,” Sam responded.
Technolutionary brought up one divided window and ran it back. “I was running tests on how to utilize the Pearls. I’ve made advancements, and so have others.” That window framed a still shot of someone in brassy armor with a softball-sized Omega pearl in a backpack firing crimson energy blasts at another super. That one had a trio of smaller pearls, one in a necklace and the other two on leather gloves he wore. He was dressed like some sort of wizard, flying through the air, hurtling fireballs and red lightning at the other one.
I got facial recognition on both, but Technolutionary had already run it and put it on screen. “Brash is the man in the armor. The wizard is Lord Shadeheart.”
Sam gave a golf clap. “Not bad.”
I glanced her way. She shrugged. “Better than your evil villain name being Gecko without a lizard gimmick.”
I squinted in an exaggerated look of hurt and betrayal. She stuck out her tongue at me.
“They’ve been in the local Tuscaloosa news for some time. Shadeheart is a nobody former archeologist who got arrested for stealing and selling minor magical artifacts before he appeared one day with his three magic stones and started hurling thunderbolts. No one had the context when he first appeared to realize what the stones were. Then there’s Brash, who was known for his engineering and exoskeletons in high school that he tried to turn into a superhero career. He managed to rig some good power sources in recent years thanks to recent advances, but then a few months ago he shows up with that red backpack, using it as a source of energy. He probably tapped the core and is lucky he found a way to contain it for now.”
“So one hero, one villain,” I noted.
“Both are walking time bombs,” Technolutionary said. “They’re fighting and this time they both have that Omega energy. Look what’s happening.”
He showed video real quick of Brash firing a beam that hit a squiggly red line of false lightning from Lord Shadeheart. It unleashed a hell of an explosion. The two seemed to be protected by the pearls they used, but cars were blown away and buildings, or what few Tuscaloosa has, shifted and fell. Shadeheart focused his magic on keeping one from smacking into him, while Brash tried to lower one down.
“I suppose we oughta steal those from them,” I said.
“This looks like a job for Supergirl!” Sam said, clapping me on the back. “One hero for the villain, one villain for the hero.”
“What hero?” I asked.
“She means Lady Guardian. Yes, I know it’s you,” Technolutionary said.
“I’m no hero,” I declared.
“Babe, you can be anything you want to be,” Sam whispered in my ear.
I blushed and decided it was still a good time to wear some armor. The Lady Guardian armor zipped over to me and encased by body, hiding any expressions from the world. “So I’ll take Shadeheart?”
Technolutionary sighed and pushed his faceplate into place. “I would prefer to face off against Shadeheart for the challenge and study, but this works better. Let’s get our channels tuned.”
“Same bat channel, same bat time?” I asked. It was really him making sure our encrypted communications were on the same wavelength.
“I’ll stay here and monitor the monitor,” Sam said. It was better than having her out there near falling buildings and massive energy blasts.
I turned to the doorway I used to walk in. “Time to… ugh… save Tuscaloosa.” The door shifted destinations I dove out first, coming out of the sky overhead. Technolutionary ran out and took flight, catching up to me briefly during my free fall before peeling off to find where Brash ended up.
The vaguely-angelic, semi-organic Lady Guardian armor’s shimmery wings were more nanomachines, but I had built in the same antigrav tech I’d stolen for use in the other armor. I adjusted course, aiming to come down right on top of Shadeheart’s head. He surveyed the mess around there and fired off a few scarlet magic bolts that tried to collapse more buildings on Brash. He didn’t notice the growing shade until just before I got there, turning his head to look up.
I crashed into him, feeling one of his shoulders make a snapping noise. We both spun out of control for a moment. He reached at me with one gloved hand that glowed carmine. My “wings” slipped underneath it and yanked the glove off. A burst of red pushed us apart, throwing us in different directions as he used his remaining glove to separate us.
I oriented myself upright and saw he’d encased himself in a maroon orb, naked hand now holding the shoulder of the arm that had a glove left. I unleashed a blinding flash with the suit’s holoprojectors and swooped down below, avoiding a burst of what looked like blaster fire from his glove and necklace.
I came up below, my wings forming tendrals that spread over his orb and guided him upward, rapidly. I opened another gateway just for us and passed through it, releasing the orb into space, the final frontier. Lord Shadeheart didn’t react well. Lots of people don’t under those circumstances. He looked at me, then began to fly toward Earth. He ended up slowing before that, the orb faltering. I caught up to him as soon as it went down, my nanomachines crawling over him to both see to his health and separate him from the sources of his power. We passed through the gate again, coming to rest in the woods near Tuscaloosa.
I’m not fond of what he used that power for, but I’ve done worse. “You’ll live. You’ll be sore for a bit, but you’ll live,” I told him. Gave him a little slap on the cheek. He groaned and stirred. “I’m keeping your gloves, though. Gonna find out how you’re tapping onto these things.”
I changed the destination of the gateway nearby and tossed the gloves and necklace through. “Ow!” Sam said over the radio.
“Sorry!” I called out. “Didn’t realize you were that close.”
Technolutionary broke in. “Watch out! There’s a chopper around, with guns. They’re taking shots at me.”
I took to the air and scanned the disaster area. There were a couple of helicopters, one black and one with the Tuscaloosa Police Department decal on the side, right next to the open door and the rifle barrel. The black copter had something similar going on, but the rifle looked to be much heavier caliber. I flew into the air above the whole chaos. The police sniper trained the rifle on me and let a shot go. The bullet bounced off my tit with an annoying pain, but better than it going into the middle of that. I opened another gateway, appearing immediately in front of that open door and grabbing the rifle from the deputy. I handed him back just the scope. “You can have the rest when you can prove you’ve grown up.”
Then I did the same quick two-step on over to the black chopper. I immediately had an OSR badge thrust into my face. “Lady Guardian, we’re not here for you!” yelled one of the agents inside. I had to read it more than hear it under the circumstances.
“There are better ways to handle the disaster down below than adding bullets to it!” I warned them, pointing down at stunned bystanders in dust and debris. Nearby, I noticed Technolutionary, straddling the back of Brash’s armor and carving off a support strut for the larger pearl. It fell off, Brash’s armor stumbling and jerking. Technolutionary encased it in more of that goop from the Skylab and stuck it under his arm. I opened a gateway behind him that he dove through back to safety. I dropped down below the helicopter, through another one that left me in the Skylab well. I closed up all those ways to get back to us.
Sam stood in front of us, oversized gloves and necklace on. “Mwahahaha! Now I shall be the mistress, foolish mortals!”
Behind her, the monitor declared “Bum bum bum!” and let out old time dramatic thunder.
“Actually, these things aren’t working for me,” Sam said, pulling the stuff off. “Don’t know why, but I’ll go put them in one of the new scrambled cells.” She walked off to go delivery them to safe holding in these small randomized caves all over the world that this one particular portal accesses randomly.
“You didn’t kill Shadeheart, did you?” Technolutionary asked, popping out his faceplate.
I shook my head. “Might be worth one of us visiting, finding out how he could make those work.”
The other villain nodded, then tossed me the ball of goop. “Yeah. This thing looks like it was drilled into. We might learn something from it, but it’s clear we’ve run out of time. That’s three small-timers who figured this out and ended up with the ability to level a city by accident. Imagine if it was someone else like us. Or someone who wanted to do more.”
I nodded, remembering the scale model of Earth in that one Hell dimension weapons testing area. “Yeah. We’ve got a lot more ass to kick on our hands.”
“You want to rethink your phrasing there?” Technolutionary asked.
“Why do you need to do this?” Sam asked me. She was helping me assemble this thing, a dimensional breach device like the island of Ricca uses to harvest infinite power from the stars. They’re doing some great research there, and I tap into all of it. I could go back if I wanted, but I respect the will of the people who deposed me in a coup. It’s not an election, but it was a pretty good indication that they did not want me in power anymore. I figure me stealing their research for my own nefarious ends is just a decent retirement package from the position of Empress.
As long as you have a big enough power source to open the initial gateway, you can then access the very core of a star and harvest the radiation for more power output without anything messy like radioactive waste material. And at that point, you can just open more portals as needed. I’ve already got an idea on how to use M.C. Escher and alien antigrav to design a demo room. That demo room is not the answer to Sam’s question.
“Everyone seems really complacent with this idea that someone else will fix the problem when it comes up. Mr. Omega’s powers are broken. I think everyone really underestimates not only these powers, but the ways they can be harvested. It’s a lot the same with the full grasp of portal technology and transdimensional technology. Power, as in energy and electricity, opens up so many things. People make too many assumptions about saving the world. The things I could do with this in its current form, if I was trying to really raise some hell…”
Just like with thoughts of bases and traps, my mind wandered to building perfection in armor. Infinite energy. A middle layer laced with portals that divert projectiles and such. Filling any space I’m in with whatever toxic gasses exist out there, or firing a solar corona.
Sam jiggled my hand. “Wake up.”
I blinked. “I’m awake.”
“The lights were on, but you were elsewhere. Busy? You had a thing, right?”
I shook my head. “I have a little while before I need to be in Lightning Crack. My consciousness was here, I was just daydreaming about things I could do with this if I was more inclined. Maybe I should, to be prepared. Same reason I’m doing all this.”
“Well I don’t think it’s complacency. It’s just knowing that one person can’t solve all the world’s problems alone. That’s not your problem. You have problems letting anything be someone else’s problem. The rest of us poor humans have to sit around and know that the fate of the world is being decided by gods like you.” She bumped my hips with hers. I bumped right back.
Sam decided to get under my skin by getting her hands all on top of my skin. There’s something nice about just being touched by someone sometimes. It’s not the same touching myself. She wasn’t doing that, dear readers. Not with Technolutionary doing his creepy thing where he pretends not to be focusing on us.
Technolutionary had just brought in one of the Omega Pearls in a transparent aluminum cube and set it into a device with a bunch of little arms. Sam was distracting enough, especially when she put her mouth close to my ear and blew. The pearl made things worse, drawing my attention. I felt the heat off it when it came in. The other villain tapped a few buttons on the side of the cradle he set the cube in and a set of four robot arms began to fire small lasers through the cube and over the surface of the pearl.
“If we can do nothing else with them, at least they make good heaters, right?” I asked.
“How would you do that?” Technolutionary asked.
“I can feel the heat this far away,” I said.
Sam stopped messing around with me as Technolutionary straightened up. Sam told me, “I can’t feel it and I’m here with you.”
“It’s giving off no heat,” Technotutionary said.
“Y’all kidding me right now?” I asked. “How does it look to y’all?”
“Red and glowing,” Technolutionary answered.
Sam patted me on the head. “Yeah. What do you see?”
“The same, but it’s hard to look away,” I said.
Technolutionary looked to her, then to me. “Sorry to interrupt, but we need to test this.” So I ended up sitting in the corner, letting them know every time I felt them approach with one of the pearls. This was then followed by Technolutionary having me pick out the pearls from a bunch of gimmicked minerals or crystals. I could pick. Every time, I was drawn to the pearls.
“So you have some special connection with these, and it’s not just your eyes, or your race,” Technolutionary concluded.
Sam folded her arms. “It’s probably because you were possessed by Mr. Omega.”
“Makes the most sense so far,” I said. “And one other way we can test it and get more insight into all this is something I need to run do.”
“Lightning Crack?” Sam asked. I nodded.
“Do you need my help?” Technolutionary offered.
I laughed it off but brought Sam along in my Flyer that my won personal maintenance bots checked and rechecked for sabotage first. Assistant robots and more recon bugs stayed behind to make sure Technolutionary didn’t get up to no good and start making trouble in the neighborhood.
Lightning Crack was a small town I visited not far from Radium. Through sheer happenstance, the night myself, my family, and the weredeer I turn into went bowling there was when some local villains decided to rob the bowling alley. One of them blasted things apart and was wearing a suit with the same coloring and properties as these pearls. I didn’t know what it was then, but now I do. And more importantly, it looks like someone figured out a way to do something with the pearls that gave him some access to their power.
We brought the Flyer high over the Lightning Crack Sheriff’s Department building. Dead pine needle brown, it had one story aboveground and maybe a basement. I’d find that out once I went in.
“You’re not going to turn this into a big massacre, are you?” Sam asked.
I shook my head. “Figured I’d cause some panic and mayhem, but not particularly try to kill anyone.”
“hat’s more you wanting fun. What about your new leaf? Come on, I’ll help you fake credentials.” She led me over to one of the storage lockers and pulled out some bags of clothes and wigs that I had not stashed there.
“Just make yourself at home,” I quipped.
“Thanks, I will.” She blew me a kiss. With the help of a wig, suit, and briefcase, she went from Sam Hain, amusingly-named minion and girlfriend, to Samantha Hainsworth, single female lawyer.
It wasn’t hard to whip up some official-looking law firm letter and use my armor to appear as her partner in law. We walked in there, Sam taking the lead and slamming the letter down. “This is ridiculous! I’ve been trying to see the evidence against my client for weeks!”
“Ma’am, calm down” the night desk officer said. “Who are you and who are you here to see?”
“Not who, what,” I said.
“What are you?” the officer asked this time.
“I’m pissed is what I am,” I said, exaggerating my accent to sound even more Southern. “It’s all there in black and white from the judge. If you don’t show us that evidence, the prosecutor’s case is getting thrown out onto its hind end!”
“Wait a moment, let me call the Sheriff,” the deputy said.
“You do that, and while he’s on the phone, we’ll walk right on out, call up the judge, and get this whole case thrown out,” Sam said. The officer looked at us, then at the phone, then sighed. “Fine, I’ll let you in.”
He led us into the back, near the evidence lock-up. “What, exactly, are you here for?” he had the letter with him, which didn’t specify anything.
“A red suit, from the incident at the bowling alley,” I responded.
“That thing, yeah. I heard… nevermind. We still have it.” He stopped off at the door to the evidence room. “Stay here, alright?”
I nodded and he left Sam and I there while he went in. Sam stole a kiss from my helmet real quick. And I whined. “I can do this stuff on my own, you know.”
“Yeah, but this way I got to go with you.” She winked at me. She separated from me before long, making sure the officer wouldn’t catch us canoodling. Not that it would affect things, but we want him paying as little attention as possible. In retrospect, both of us being pretty worked against that.
He re-emerged after a couple of minutes with a box. “This is that costume the fellow was wearing. Weird red suit. It’s in a protective, lead-lined cover we got from Department of Homeland Security, in case it might be radioactive. Anything else I can do for y’all?”
I took the box from him. “That’ll be it.” Sam smiled, shaking his hand. “Thank you, officer.”
“Oh, just sign for me please,” he said, grabbing a clipboard off a plastic shelf on the wall. Sam went ahead and put her Jane Hancock down.
Once we got out of there, I called the Flyer closer. “And that, my dear, is what we call Social Engineering. Because the most vulnerable aspect of any system is usually the people.”
“All you do is talk about work. You’re probably going to put your hot minion to work instead of having any fun once we get up into the air.” She pretended to pout, pulling off her wig.
“Darn right,” I told her. I grabbed her around the waist and hefted her over my shoulder, carrying the evidence box under my arm with the other. “I’m not going to let you rest until we explore what’s in this box together.”
“Promise?” she asked. Then she let out a nice, “Ooh hoo!” when I patted her ass. She screamed pretty good when I jumped up into the Flyer, too. My favorite screams of the night came after that.
I’ve got my base, hidden under my shop. Technolutionary has his own, hidden somewhere else. We agreed to compromise on a shared space, which we’re working on. He wants something flying. Too many bells and whistles, too many moving parts for me. But not the worst idea. And it helped me come up with an interesting idea myself that I’m going to work on. Why not modify the dimensional bomb technology to hold a breach open? Maybe meld multiple places together. Not the sort of thing you really need if you’re a small business owning retired villain mom.
My girlfriend’s not happy. I told Sam what I was doing, trying to be more open to a romantic partner. She told me straight up, “This is probably a bad idea. That guy’s creepy and he never has good intentions.”
So for now, I’ve got a body up in a flying lab of Technolutionary’s powered by a stolen alien generator. Seeing as I keep spares, of some of my tech, I’ve got a nanite pool, armor auto repair, and the auto-foundry. I’ve also got some computers back in my own personal base running on traps and other ways to apply various stolen sciences to keep what we take safe from Technolutionary and others.
But first, we had to get it. Technolutionary has a few locations mapped out. Some people who get these Omega Pearls aren’t shy about letting folks know they have them. But first, we have a time sensitive matter in the hell dimensions.
As I understand it, there isn’t a literal Biblical Hell. There are a lot of places people think up where they go when they die to be tortured, usually meant to be the worst places imaginable and inhabited by demonic beings that plague humanity. And the various beings lumped together under the label “demon” seem real enough, but being real doesn’t mean every story about them is real. I’ve read about a French cavalry officer who was so strong, others at the military academy claimed he could do a pull up and bring his horse with him. Doesn’t make him fake, but also doesn’t mean he could really do that pull-up. For one thing, he’d couldn’t skip leg day.
Anyway, I figure the hell dimensions might be one inhuman planet with a variety of biomes that gave humans different ideas of Hell. Otherwise, they might just be a bunch of different dimensions each matching a different Hell. No matter the interpretation, I had a bug telling me the box containing an Omega Pearl was somewhere. I armored up and activated the armor’s chameleon protocols, then made a dimensional breach to land about 200 feet away.
It was daytime, lit by an orange star. The ground was rocky, with veins of rust running through it. Near me lapped water, clear but brown. I took a good look around, noticing both a the large, dark blue egg of a structure, and a crowd where the bug’s signal came from. The crowd stared my way. They were humans, two of them being Captain Lightning and his apprentice, Captain Lightning II. Those two were looking at me despite my armor projecting a holographic cloak of invisibility over me. Miss Tycism stood nearby, wearing purple robes and hood. She looked my way, but not at me. The others, I couldn’t make out who they were.
Well, I think I was busted. Not nearly as busted as the bodies on the ground near the bunch. I dropped the cloak and took a long leap to land near them. “Hey there Captain, Captain,” I said, offering a hand out for Captain Lightning to shake. Despite the magic giving him a buff body, he looked like age was catching up to him. He showed a lot more wrinkles and grey hair than I remembered. Then again, the guy was old enough to have fought the Nazis in World War II. I think he’s tired.
He smiled a thin smile and clasped my forearm in that sort of shake. “Gecko.”
Lightning II didn’t offer one of his own. He and Miss Tycism both glared at me. The others in the bunch looked well out of their depth. There was a fellow in a trench coat, another done up like a stage magician, and a woman in a gothic Lolita-style dress and a half-dozen belts wrapped around her waist. The magician carried the case I’d been tracking, the one the Omega Pearl had been sent off inside.
“What are you doing here?” Miss Tycism asked.
I shrugged. “Was going to steal back that Omega Pearl from these folks.” I nodded toward the case that the magician was carrying. “I guess y’all got it first?” The magician opened the case to show it was empty.
Captain Lightning let go of my arm. “We’re all late to intercept it.”
The man in the trenchcoat held up his hand where he held a coin. He flipped it and opened his palm to catch it. It bounced once, then started spinning on its edge. It was slower at first, then sped up when he pointed it to the big dark egg-thing. It slowed as he moved it past the structure, then sped up again when he brought it back.
“So it’s in that big-ass thing?” I looked to the rest of the bunch. “Room for one- look out!”
I pointed up toward the egg thing and the large ball of fire coming at us from it.
The Apprentice Lightning and Miss Tycism acted before the rest of them. Miss Tycism raised a wall of ice that curved overhead, throwing off a little mist from its sudden appearance in a land that my suit said was at what y’all would call 93 Fahrenheit. The second Lightning added his own barrier to it, a half-sphere that crackled with electricity. The fireball hit the ice wall and flash boiled it, throwing steam into the air with a piercing hiss that my ears filtered out. The twin shields held. I even got to see one of the bodies left outside the shield, a pale, horned thing with out of proportion limbs and odd numbers of clawed digits, burn to a crisp. Curious, I glimpsed at some of them around inside the shield and sent my nanites down to do an examination.
“I had it,” Miss Tycism said.
“Extra doesn’t hurt,” Lightning II said.
Captain Lightning floated up off the ground six inches. “Speaking of which, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to have someone along who can help distract them. Gecko?”
“Mind if I bring some of these along for study?” I asked. I raised a hand and a couple of the dead humanoids stood up. Looked like one was masculine and the other feminine, with mouths full of fangs and long, thin tongues.
“If you want to, I suppose. They’re dead, right?” he asked.
“Ew,” noted the woman with the belts.
“Their bodies have ceased life function. The nanites have restored enough to keep bioelectricity flowing and are piloting the bodies for me,” I explained via the one that might have been a female.
“That’s fucking creepy,” Apprentice Lightning said.
“Language,” Captain Lightning admonished. “Fine, bring them. Those are little more than half-feral guard dogs anyways.”
I threw down a holodisc. Yes, I have some of these again. Little portable hologram generators with a link to my armor. I’ve spent years of disposing of stuff almost as soon as I build it up, and I now have more of these. I plan on my vault for the Omega Pearl being a mindfuck, and that prompted me to order up my machines to produce a bunch of these. My armor cloaked us as Captain Lightning raised a clear, circular plane for us to stand on and zipped toward the Egg. The holodisc stayed behind and projected our group continuing out discussion. We were well clear when the next fireball was launched from the fortress ahead of us. Our doubles looked up, made whatever gestures I thought looked magical enough, and then disappeared while running in different directions.
Captain Lightning’s flying disc got us there in a hurry, before they could get a good lock on us again. And up close, the egg wasn’t as big as it looked from afar. I think it loomed because the landscape was so flat, mostly that rusty ground with little pools of water around. “What’s this hell called?” I asked.
“The Blasted Place,” Captain Lightning answered. “The races of demons like to test weapons here. It is the perfect spot to lay a trap, and the place to assemble a dangerous new weapon.” That would also explain the floating islands of jagged rock at various levels in the sky.
“No offense to your companions,” the Magician said.
“They’re dead puppet bodies,” the Belted Woman told him. “I think that one’s bleeding again. I don’t know how it’s standing.”
“I don’t know much about demon bodies, or whatever gets called a demon. Hoping to learn more about these by bringing them along. Believe it or not, I don’t do much business with the Hell Dimensions.”
“Neither do I, this is crazy. Now we’ve got a supervillain along?” the Magician freaked out a bit.
“Hey, here, look at me,” Trenchcoat said. These are just nicknames since I’m clueless who these people actually are, I hope y’all know. Magician turned to Trenchcoat, who put a hand on the side of the Magician’s face tenderly and stared into his eyes. “You’re going to be calm now, do you know why?”
“Why?” the Magician asked, voice shaky. Trenchcoat got a little reared back before slapping the Magician’s face with the open palm not holding a spinning coin in it.
“Or else I’ll have to slap you again,” said Trenchcoat. I like Trenchcoat.
“We need a way in,” Captain Lightning said. “Three, two…”
Miss Tycism held her hand up. Apprentice Lightning started chanting. The gothic lolita woman with all the belts pulled a couple of small glass vials out from her belts.
“One,” Captain Lightning finished. Miss Tycism unleashed a blue beam that she held on the side of the egg, slowly unfolding the material like it had been cut and was being tugged apart layer by layer. The Second Lightning shot electricity that I don’t think did anything before switching to gouts of intense flame that might have sped up the process of cracking this egg. The woman with the belt threw her bottles that exploded violently and unleashed a dark haze. Trenchcoat waved his hand and a wind pushed the smoke away, then pulled out a small wooden wand from his coat. It unleashed a spray of black bolts that flew into the widened gap until.
With their forces combined, the egg cracked. I am Captain Trans! What seems to be the problem, Transeteers?
But seriously, I and my humanoid demon puppets jumped the gap and landed in a nice little forge. Nearby was a what looked like a horned human without the twisted features, his skin a mess of scars. He turned to me and raised a forge hammer overhead. I impaled him with an arm and held his body up, letting my nanomachines crawl in. “Interesting.”
Behind us, the “feral dog” demons clawed and bit at another. I’m not the best at controlling three different bodies at once, but I was able to tear another of these demons apart. Then they were blasted into pieces by another one who held the Omega Pearl in tongs. The tool he used on them appeared to be an ornate hammer, the flat edge perpetually engulfed in flames. I threw the body I’d picked up at him; it held him down while he caught it alight. While he did that, I walked over and looked for the tongs. It was now holding a rubber ball with a star on it.
“Presto!” I heard over at the opening. The Magician held the Omega Pearl in his white-gloved hands, then palmed it.
“I’d really like to have that,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” Captain Lightning apologized. “I’ll make sure you get out.”
A blue, shimmery portal appeared overhead and swooped down, encompassing the whole bunch before disappearing, and taking that Omega Pearl with it. Behind me, the forgemaster tossed his burning underling aside and stood up.
I disappeared. I could take him easily, but what’s the point now? Instead, I decided to head around, see if I could find a good place to cause some last minute destruction with my exit. I found out we were merely in the outer layer of the egg.
Deeper inside was the core. There floated an oblate sphereoid made of pewter or a metal very much like it, carved to a scale model of Earth. Around that floated dozens of these Omega Pearls, all held in a weave of flames that traced through the air between each one. There were many gaps; this grid was nowhere near complete. Even this one wouldn’t have done it. But the Hell Dimensions are planning something.
I programmed the second dimension bomb I was going to use to escape to have a wider area of effect on this end. It would bring more along with me, in case I wanted more of these lovely samples. I found a spot where two of these were close enough to let me nab them and wreck part of that model of Earth they wanted to do something with. Perhaps I could take some samples before that?
I looked around. There was some sort of being in a white robe speaking into an orb on a desk nearby. I couldn’t understand the language, but my translator program was working on it. I stepped closer, unseen, to get a better look. She was yellow-skinned, a couple of holes on the side of her head where ears would be. A half dozen thick, fleshy tendrils sprouted from her back, measuring maybe a foot each. In place of hair were much finer tendrils. She had five fingers, with nails that curved over the fingertips. I let my nanites swarm over her. She screamed while they found their way into her. I’d have knocked her out first, but I didn’t know just how close she was anatomically to human. Surprisingly close for the exterior details, it turned out. Everything was a little off inside, too, further so than that one I scanned in the forge.
Unlike that one, I left this one alive and withdrew my nanites once someone burst through the door. These were larger, more muscular, and biceps bulging with scales next to bulging breastplates.
They couldn’t see a thing, of course, and I decided to get out of there before they would. I checked the Earth model, finding it had rotated slightly in those minutes, and got myself lined up. Then bam!
I reappeared in the floating lab with a chunk of pewter depicting part of South America, and a couple of Omega Pearls.
They tried to reorient themselves, but whatever magic was at play went wonky. The two Pearls went flying off, smashing into things. Technolutionary, thinking quick, raised a gauntlet on his suit and emitting a pulse that stopped one in midair. The other crashed into a bunch of stuff before getting stopped by a wall. The thing was bending it like Jason Voorhees pushing a college girl’s face through the side of an RV.
As I got closer to grab it, I felt weird again. That intense heat. And ideas resurfaced. Going back and abducting exotic demons. Dissolving the other dimensions until there were none left. Making most of the world forget my existence. It bothered me. Yeah, I have the thoughts, but I still know when I’m doing something wrong. I’ve always known.
I opted to grab some breach sealant nearby. Technolutionary had sprayers all over the place in case we accidentally put a hole in the outside of the lab. I sprayed the Pearl down in a yellow goo that quickly solidified.
“Our first success!” Technolutionary exclaimed while we each set ours into the safe meant to be temporary housing.
“Yes, but also no,” I told him.
Despite that, my conscience’s problems with some of the ideas I was having, it felt good to be back. To taste mad creativity again. Only this time, I’m helping the world along with helping myself. Just not helping myself to everything I can think of.
Sam let me have it, too. When she heard what all happened, she decided she’s going to be a part of this and she wants to hide the Pearls. It’s not a bad idea, with what I’m feeling about them.
There we were, in the high school gym, just my ex, myself, and various improvised weapons. They had to use the gym to store some textbooks, chairs, and broken desks that were already wearing out or out of date. What had started as Medusa asking me to attack her while she ran an obstacle course turned into me breaking a small school desk on her back and her stabbing me through the gut with the metal leg. Worse, it simultaneously knocked the wind out of me and gave me a new hole to breathe through.
She paused long enough for me to rip the leg out, but kept going, jumping a final set of hurdles to reach the finish line before circling back around to me and asking, “You ok?”
I nodded. The nanomachines were already dissolving the metal in my hand and using it to temporarily patch up the hole in my belly. “You got stronger.”
Medusa, sweaty, nodded. She still looked sexy wet, even if I knew the smell wouldn’t be the best. And even if it was a little more mature of a look than when I first met her. Not like she’s super old, but I don’t have that hero worship I used to have where I got creepy obsessed with her. “We have our own upgrades.”
I stood up, all good to go except for a hole in my workout shirt. “I was worried I’d gotten too far ahead of you for you to catch up. Guess that isn’t true.”
“Neither of us are in armor,” she said, trying to soothe my ego.
I chuckled. “Yeah. Plus I have the extra bodies. And the extra powers.”
“Come on. We gotta get this place picked up,” she said. Our meeting there was an after-school thing. Just a personal favor for her, since she wants to keep herself sharp. “Unless you need to run off for anything?”
I shook my head. “Nah, dinner’s in the oven for awhile still.”
I could tell she wanted to say something. Just something about her body language was off. Luckily, we were saved by a threat to the world. Her highly-modified phone beeped with a shrill tone. “That’s my world threat alarm,” Medusa said. She pointed at the phone and it went to speakerphone. “Shoot!”
“Uh, yeah, there’s a message here from the President. He wanted to bring us in on a situation where he says an alien attorney showed up claiming to have a signed contract from someone on Earth to buy all of Earth’s oceans and transport them off-world.”
I shrugged. “Looks like you’ve got to go find an ace attorney or something.”
“Yeah. You want to be part of it or…?”
I shook my head. “I’m a lot better at TV law than intergalactic law. If I turn out to have any files on anything, I’ll send them over. And you can call on me if you need my particular set of skills.” I actually did have some documents still saved from one of the times I’d been abducted by aliens. And I imagine the cattle rustlers are going to be annoyed at losing their source of prime beef if these others succeed. I threw in what little I had on the alien peacekeepers and a few contact numbers that might play a part and dropped that off in an Exemplar digital document stash.
I ended up rushing through the cleanup once my ex had to go. Then it was back home, to the girlfriend and kid and the white picket fence. And the augmented reality ghost standing there near my front gate wearing the Technolutionary’s armor. “Hello Gecko.”
“Technolutionary,” I said. “You found this place?”
His armor was still pretty tight against his body, with a metal face over his own. Owing to the digital nature of our exchange, the helmet’s lips moved when he spoke. Or he’s really cyberizing himself. “They don’t hide it as well as you think. I don’t intend to retire, but I thought I would keep tabs on you.” He raised his hands. “Don’t worry. Your family’s safe. I can’t think of any situation where a threat against them actually aids me in the long term.” He finished that sentence quickly. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s another situation going on.”
“Aliens want to steal the oceans,” I said.
The Technolutionary nodded. He seemed to have mellowed out a bit since the last times I interacted with him. He’d always been a creepy fanboy of mine, obsessed with using my anatomy to help humanity progress into a new era of technological supremacy. “If it’s not that, it’s ecoterrorists, crossdimensional invaders, time travel; the bullshit never stops. We need to do better.”
“This is another scheme of yours,” I said.
“Yes, I admit it. I have a plan instead of waiting around for the next big threat to try and wipe us all out. My dream of humanity’s advancement ends if that happens. I’ve studied you. It was your dream, too, in your own unique way. “
See? Creepy stalker. Maybe a bit too ideological and incapable of recognizing my hypocrisy and selfishness.
“You can’t fix people,” I told him. “Not without a good knife and a sewing kit. But as silly, and ignorant, and frustrating as humanity is, you have to work with the fact that they’re individuals. And I guess with the fact that you can’t prevent the next big threat ahead of time.”
“What if you could?” Technolutionary asked.
I took a breath to help bite back my knee-jerk assumption. “This better not be about time travel, because the rules are just straight-up incoherent at this point.”
“No, oh no, god no,” Technolutionary insisted. “It’s not artificial intelligence either. I thought about it, but a computer capable of predicting the future with any true success is smart enough to try and take over itself.”
I didn’t point out that an AI trying to take over was way more likely if its entire way of thinking came from someone who himself wanted to rule the world. He may hide it behind all his talk of improving thing, but Technolutionary’s got that itch. I’ve seen the signs.
The digital ghost held up an grape-sized orb. “It’s this.”
“It’s one of those Omega Pearls. They’re pieces of Mr. Omega’s power, the power you once wielded, orphaned after he’s been banished again. People are realizing they’re out there. Before long, they’re going to figure out how to tap these powers.”
I thought back to the last time I turned into a were-reindeer. We went bowling and a guy showed up with a red suit that, now I think about it, reminds me a bit of the coloring that was such a big part of Mr. Omega. The being really loved red.
“That actually could be the next big thing, yes,” I admitted. “So you want to gather them all up, for safekeeping and allowing you to tap into that power.”
“Wha-? Really? Like I would do tha- yes, you got me. I was going to appeal to you by suggesting we gather them all and hide them, but you got me. The potential is enormous. But if it gets you to work with me again, I’m willing to let you do the hiding. We could stop someone worse, someone who wants to destroy everything, from getting them. And maybe, just maybe, we can use them to stop other threats. We work so good together. Remember what we did with the Homo Machina? This could be the next leap forward, a way to make everyone back off and leave Earth alone.”
Between his know-how and mine, we figured out a procedure to transform a human into a homo machina, my type of human. We’re the latest evolution in humanity on my Earth of origin, and greatly resented because of our abilities that allow us to physically connect to technology like computers and control them as extensions of our own bodies. But aside from that, he had a point. It makes sense that people would try and grab that power and tap into it. That alone sounds like the beginning of a crisis. And being able to use it… well, I don’t know if we can safely do that. Mr. Omega was partially in control, and the worst instincts it brought out of me was mindless destruction.
“Tell you what,” I told him. “You’ve tempted me. Let me think it over a few days.”
The next couple of days saw some super scrambling to handle the alien ocean crisis. Since I wasn’t a direct part of it, I only know so much of what went on. There are rumors that a glowing sphere was seen having something to do with it. And then they brought me in.
“How would you feel about working security?” Medusa offered. “Takes an assassin to stop an assassin kind of thing?”
That gave me a front row seat… well, more like a back alley seat… to the signing of a contract. Nothing major. They ended up setting down on the same island where I worked things out with the alien robots. Maybe it’s becoming a thing, but the tourist industry’s going to really pick up there over an island that’s been home to two intergalactic agreements.
I slunk around the trees, moving all over the place, tapping into NATO drones and directing a few of my own around to help me keep an eye on everything. I still took the time to record it as some demonic entity in a couture suit sat down and scribbled out a contract that left the alien’s encounter suit leaking a thin saline solution. All pretty standard stuff, and I didn’t get the go ahead until the shuttle craft was out of the atmosphere. I swung by where Medusa stood in her dress costume. “All clear?”
“Mostly,” she said. “Earth’s oceans are saved, except for all the pollution and dying species. Now, we just have to pay off the infernal forces of the hell dimensions. They asked for a really big retainer this time.” She nodded toward the demonic lawyer.
“I presume a really large crate of Dr. Scholl’s won’t do the trick?” I offered.
Medusa grinned. “No souls or soles this time, not exactly. This is supposed to be something pretty valuable.”
“Yeah it is, it’s got an effect,” I said, eyes drawn to the armored box brought out. It looked like a really secure pistol case, but the demon insisted on it being opened, showing a red orb the size of a baseball. It felt warm out of nowhere, but maybe that was the hell dimension thing. “What is it?”
“I think it’s an Omega Pearl,” she whispered back.
“Just giving that thing away to demons now?” I asked.
“It wasn’t my decision. Besides, if they try to use it, we’ll stop them. We always stop them,” she turned to wink at me, but her smile lacked sincerity. It’d be hypocrisy to not understand that, given I’m a whole ‘nother deal with the devil she made. So I’ll understand. But I sure as shit won’t trust where this is going. That’s why I tapped into the tracking beacon the UN left on the case. It’ll be found in no time, but at least it’ll give me a headstart.
I waited until I got back home and swept myself for bugs before posting to VillaiNet.
I am once again taking a short break, as I don’t have much interesting to tell. Nobody’s really all that interested in small town politics and my dating life. At least, not a real dating life. They want action movie romance, like that bizarre kiss from Agent Clark. Not that Sam would object to me dating someone else. She didn’t mind about Medusa and I dating before I realized I wasn’t into her so much.
See, this is the kind of rambling y’all don’t want to hear. So for now, let’s go back to throwing on a story from Outlaw X. Meanwhile, Sam is taking me to dinner and a concert while Qiang stays at a friend’s house.
Rebel Rebel, the hot tramp, is back and I look divine on the criminal underworld’s number one pirate radio station! That’s right, the station’s own Outlaw X that we named the thing after has the night off tonight unexpectedly. I know, sad to hear, but don’t worry: He had a bank robbery come up suddenly. Someone decided to move their pile of gold at the last minute and now you’ve got to rush it.
I’ve got some great music lined up for you folks. First, we have an hour of yodeling. Next, an hour of polka. Finally, five straight hours of Gregorian chants. Now, before you fine felonious folks out there call in telling me to get my finger out of my ass, I’m just kidding. I’m going to put on one of our stories, then we’ll have ourselves some blues rock for you outlaws.
Our story tonight has Made Men, main dishes, and murder most foul. It’s a story of the hottest franchise out of New Jersey, New York, and Chicago. Ladies, gentlemen, pirate bisexuals, and transbians: I give you the story of Mafia Garden.
“When you’re family, you’re here.” That’s the motto here, at our completely legitimate business. Mafia Garden’s a special place, not just for the food, which is fantastic. It’s amazing food. Spaghetti you could strangle someone over. Pizza pie so good, you’d pay a fifty percent tip to the waiter or else. And the gabagool? It grabs you and just won’t let go. Say, that’s a nice watch you’re wearing. Is that real gold?
We’re good to customers, we’re good to our workers, and we’re good for the community. Leftovers go to the homeless, if they can. If they’re outside the bounds of human consumption, we make deals with pet shelters and pounds to feed the animals. And we have no problem hiring convicts. That alone is reason enough to advertise on this here pirate radio station.
Enough with the hard sell. My name’s Herb. Not “Herb the Hook” or any funny nickname like that. I’m just a regular guy who got a job at an up-and-coming Italian restaurant. I need money. I have bills, that’s all. Sure, I’m a workaholic, but that doesn’t mean I’m in the back room breaking kneecaps. I’m just a guy who needs a job. Mafia Garden pays good and our reputation scares customers off making a scene.
We’re hardly supervillains, but we’ve had our fair share of them. I wanna tell you about a time we had a close call at our location.
I remember it was around the time school started up. We’d lost some of our younger staff to the educational system, and the rest of us were getting used to picking up the slack. We had a new guy with us, no real experience in the industry before and he was eager to learn. Did everything anyone asked of him. Normally, he was a busboy, but the guy sprinted all over the kitchen. Silverware, restocking, washing dishes.
I took five to go out back and have a vape. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s better than sucking on cigarette smokes and there are some good flavors out there. Heard someone say they got some vapeable sex packets, but that’s asking for trouble at work. I’ve never been so busy that I needed that extra limb to help me carry dishes out to a table.
So I was out back and this guy approaches, like a wannabe Robocop. Black boots, dark blue pants tucked into them, with a police dress jacket. The badge was bent like it took a bullet and I I could make out that he had a vest on under it. He had a billy club in one hand with some metal coils around the end, was smacking it into his black-gloved hands. The arms went like gloves on the hands, then bracelets of bullets around the wrist, then the blue of the jacket sleeve. He had a metal helmet with a couple of red horizontal visor eyepieces, one over each eye.
“Where is he?” he asked, then said the name of my coworker, Bud. I knew who he was asking about, because that was our busy busboy. Then he asked, “Where’s Deletion?”
“Deletion?” I asked.
“Bring me your manager,” he ordered.
“Fuck you. Tell me why?” I said right back. Rent-a-City Robocop thinks he can intimidate me, he’s obviously never dealt with a six year old’s birthday party. I once walked in on a bathroom where some guy got sick coming out of both ends.
Robodouche grabbed my collar. “Because I’m here to warn your manager about a dangerous criminal who is working for you.”
“Who’s that, the guy plowin’ your mother?” I took a vape and blew it in his face. He threw me through the door.
“The fuck’s goin’ on here?!” asked our chef. I was a little loopy, seein’ stars still, when Americop over there steps on into the place. “The fuck you do to my waiter?!”
“I am Hardtimer,” the guy said. I heard that part clearly because I didn’t have a head injury or nothing.
“Hardtimer?” the chef asked. “What you come up with that while jerking off?”
“The hell is happening back here, Greg?!” called out manager, Robert. He came striding in, drawn by the noise and yelling. “Who the fuck? Go back to work, Greg, I’ll handle this.” The chef nodded and went back to fixing some more veal marsala. Meanwhile, Robert helped me up, but asked Hardtimer, “Who are you and why you in here beating up my guys?”
With a growl of exasperation, Hardtimer told him, “I’m here to warn you about an employee of yours. I’m Hardtimer.”
Robert patted me on the shoulder. “Go on, go make sure you’re good before you go handle your tables. Hardtimer, eh? You bustin’ our balls because you got tired of workin’ your shaft or something?”
“I’m here to tell you about Deletion. He goes by a different name now. First name, Bud. Last name…” Hardtimer said it, but I’m leaving it out. I’m not outing the guy. He works hard and he’s nice to me.
“I don’t give a fuck what you say, he’s a good guy and he’s working hard at a regular-ass job. He doesn’t need you coming around here reminding him he went to jail!” the manager yelled at Hardtimer. “Matter fact, I don’t need you around here neither!”
“It’s only a matter of time before his criminal instincts take over and he robs you, if he hasn’t already,” Hardtimer added.
“Only person crimin’ in here right now is you assaulting one of my waiters. You gonna pay his medical if you broke something?” Robert said, nodding.
Hardtimer backed off, setting his jaw. I think Robert got to him there.
“Hey, where is Bud anyway?” I asked one of the other busboys, Leon.
Leon nodded out toward the floor. “Mina said someone got sick out of both ends in the Men’s room and he volunteered to go clean it.”
“See? He’s a good guy and there’s no reason to assume he’s still a crook now he’s done his time,” Robert said, pointing his finger at Hardtimer.
The vigilante turned and left back out the door. Didn’t apologize or nothing.
“Schmuck,” Robert said. He turned to me. “You good?”
I did some stretches. “A bit sore, but I’ll make it. Might need an ibuprofen if we got ’em.”
He nodded. “I’ll go get you one. You better go see to that. I’ll go talk to Bud about that fake cop wanting to hassle him and us.”
Another busboy poked his head in. “Someone’s yelling at Mina. Is that masked ass still back here?”
Ugh, yeah, another wonderful night in the restaurant business. We got through it. The only other option was not to get through it. Afterward, Robert gathered the staff around, including Bud the ex-con, and offered everyone a glass of wine for our nerves. It came with a toast. “To getting through it together. Salud!”
“Salud!” everyone said, raising our glasses before drinking.
Bud and I were walking to the entrance when Hardtimer stepped through a door that was supposed to have been locked “Deletion!”
“Come on, man, I’m not doing anything but leaving work,” Bud said to him. It didn’t stop Hardtimer from getting close to us, baton in his left hand.
“Ahem,” said Robert. “You’re trespassing after hours, copper.”
Mina was the first to grab something, a bottle of wine out of a rack behind the host station. Greg had one of his kitchen knives on him for some reason. I edged closer to this big vase sitting on the floor with some plastic flowers in it.
“This is between myself and the criminal,” Hardtimer said.
“Everyone hear me warn him?” Robert asked. The whole lot of us nodded.
Hardtimer’s right hand slid down to the holster at his side and the handgun resting in it. I grabbed the vase and heaved it into his chest the moment I saw him grab that gun and start to pull on us. The vase thumped him in the head. He dropped his gun then. Mina’s wine bottle thunked into his left forearm. He didn’t lose his grip on the baton, and the gun actually flew off the floor to his other hand like it was magnetic or something. How the fuck did that work?
The other busboy, who didn’t stick with us too much longer, decided to join in. He grabbed a mop nearby and threw it like a spear. He got Hardtimer in the face with the wet end. If that didn’t blind him, Greg maybe wouldn’t have gotten close enough to start stabbing. I don’t think he hit anything, but Hardtimer was in a pickle. He had a mop in his face, me winding up with a vase, Greg stabbing him, and Mine bashing him with a wine bottle. He turned and ran off, nearly making me drop my vase.
Robert jogged to the door and called out to him, noting the broken exterior lock. “We’ll serve you your ass any time!”
Bud stood to the side, looking awkward and vulnerable, with his hands in his pockets and looking down. “Geez, guys, you didn’t have to do that. He’s an asshole, but he probably wouldn’t have beat me much.”
“He’s a dirty, rat bastard who doesn’t get that when you serve your time you’re entitled to a clean start,” Robert said. He walked over to Bud and put his arm around the ex-con’s shoulders. “You got anymore problems with him, I’ll pass it up to corporate and let them take care of it.”
“Corporate, as in…?” Bud didn’t complete the question.
Robert laughed. “Lawyers!” I happened to catch his eye and he winked, his hand drifting up to a scar along his cheek. “Those sharks’ll eat him alive.”
“Thank you. Everyone, thank you,” Bud said.
“Thank nothing of it,” Robert said. “When you’re family, you’re here. And nobody messes with the family.”
Wow, outlaws. I think I got a new favorite Italian restaurant. Tell all your friends who want to go legit, I guess. And maybe some of your less-than-legit ones. You know, what’s weird is I heard about this Hardtimer guy. Yeah, an ex-cop. They found out his identity when someone found him beaten in a park and called an ambulance. Weird, isn’t it? Probably nothing, but I think I’ll stick to the pasta and pizza if I go there. Because the only clues they found nearby were crusty, day-old meatball subs that match the bruises all over Hardtimer’s body.
It’s been a little bit since my brother Davilo stopped by for a visit. The Justice Rangers of my home dimension can get busy. But he decided to stop in, timing his visit for right around the time things typically wrap up for me, which is also just before the full moon.
“Never want to visit me when it’s just me, eh?” I asked as we pulled back from our hugs. Yeah, he’s Justice Ranger, but he’s also the only surviving family I know of from back there. And he is Qiang’s uncle. I have to go by things I see and hear, mostly from entertainment, on how these familial relationships work. We’re figuring it out.
“This way, I get to see both my sisters. You’re twins of a kind,” Davilo said.
I rolled my eyes. Leah came up and gave me a hug, too. My former ward and protege is dating my half-brother. I’m sure that Freud guy would have some stuff to say about all that, but he’s busy being dead.
Qiang, meanwhile, was hopping up into an embrace with Davilo. “Little lizard!” he called her while hefting her up. “You’re getting so big!”
My daughter giggled. Leah looked over at them. I whispered to her, “Qiang’s got more than flesh and bone to her, too. It affects her weight a little.”
“Looks like your weight is affected, too,” Leah joked and poked me in the belly. I made a Pillsbury Doughboy sound and gently pushed her away.
“Careful, that’s my battle fat, for when I lose my arms and legs, and have to smack someone around with my gut,” I grabbed it and gave it a little wiggle. “Plus, they’ll never suspect I’m a superhuman because, supers are never gorgeous women who are down with a thiccness.”
“Hey-,” Leah started to say. She narrowed her eyes, pretending to take offense. “Thank you for the compliment.”
Sam came up behind me and wrapped her arms around me. I felt stress melt away that wasn’t even there. Maybe it was the smell of pineapple from her body lotion. “Hey, Leah, Davilo.”
“Do I know you?” my brother asked, looking at the girl with the mohawk from purple in the front, green in the middle, and dark red in the back.
She offered a hand. “I’m Sam. I’m Gecko’s girlfriend and minion right now.”
“You have a minion?” Leah asked.
I shrugged. Sam kissed the back of my hair, then answered. “I’ve offered, but she prefers to work on her own. Starting next week, I’m going to hog-tie one of her clone bodies and take over at the store. Isn’t that right?”
She had to scratch my head right there. I melted. “That’s a yes,” she said. “She doesn’t like to admit defeat. Or when she’s in love.”
“I’m not-” Sam put her finger over my lips.
“If I don’t talk about myself, she’ll try not to mention me,” Sam kept going.
So we had a pretty nice night catching up. Nothing wild happening in Radium, apart from the beginnings of special mayoral election ramping up along with talk of integrating the super and non-super schools.
“It’s so quiet,” Davilo mentioned at one point. “The cities feel different and aren’t as loud, you know? But out here especially, how do you keep up with everything?”
“I knooooow,” Sam said, leaning on me. I kissed her head where she had a little bit of fuzz growing back after her latest mohawk look.
“Quiet isn’t bad. Keeps me out of trouble, helps me curate stuff. Not so good for when Reindeer has to come out or I need to actually go to an important place. I think that’s part of why Medusa picked it. World-changing plots don’t generally happen in the middle of nowhere like this. Or if they do, a band of plucky young adults or angsty teenagers save the day before it draws in anyone too capable.”
“Gecko watches lots of TV,” Leah warned Davilo.
“It’s how I became an expert on this Earth,” I nodded, deadpan.
“Anything exciting planned for tonight?” Davilo asked.
I shrugged. “Everything’s ready if we have to do some throwing down. I guess it just depends on what Reindeer wants.” My internal alarm went off letting me know we were close to the change. “And I better go on down to the basement.”
This time, I swapped into a spare body, one that looked a lot like the semi-chubby look I’d gone for, but I threw on some fake glasses, a pink top, and some dark blue jeans. I focused on that until the screaming stopped, then turned around and held up a dress and a costume. “Work or play, which is the Reindeer doing today?”
The tall Reindeer woman snorted and picked the dress. She comes out every full moon after I ended up with a case of reindeer-thrope, or whatever you want to call it. I’m a were-Reindeer, only my alter ego is driven to stop crime. We share a body, so I keep her safe when she does all that. “I don’t lots of time to relax. Come on, let’s go bowling.”
“Bowling?!” I asked.
“Bowling?!” asked the crowd once we got upstairs and Reindeer told them the plan.
“Is that a form of ritualized combat?” My brother asked.
“Not really. It’s a game where the humans throw a heavy balls around,” I said.
“Pretend combat,” Davilo nodded. “Where do we find bowling?”
“I don’t think there’s even a bowling alley around Radium,” I mentioned. “Maybe someone ought to put one in.”
We ended up running across one at a nearby small city that I had never heard of. To be fair, I haven’t heard of most of Minnesota. I hear they do weird things to fish here. Lighting Crack, Minnesota seems like one of those towns, but it was the closest bowling alley to Radium.
“Welcome to Lightning Lanes,” said one of the workers who greeted our part as we walked in. He gaped at Reindeer, who wore a dress, then looked down at her hooves. “You may not be able to bowl, ma’am.”
“Relax, I brought my own,” she said, holding up these rubber booties I’d thrown together real quick at Reindeer’s request. She’d anticipated the problem. The rest of us had no problem renting shoes, though we had to explain the concept to Davilo.
“My Earth does not have your primitive bowling!” Davilo declared playfully.
“Did you have to do that?” Leah asked, swatting him gently on the arm.
“I wanted to take some of the attention away from the rest of the group,” Davilo declared. He wasn’t wrong. I think my cybernetic eyes were some of the least outlandish things to those folks. We grabbed our shoes, lane, and snacks, and set about having a fun time, interrupted at one point by a few kids wanting to say hi to Reindeer. Davilo, Reindeer, and I all got showed up by Sam, Leah, and even Qiang getting some strikes. These lightning bolts would light up above the lane, with an animation of a lightning strike on our monitor each time. Then I’d drag myself out of Sam’s comfy lap and her sweet humming to go make three of those ten pins sorry they ever met me.
I sometimes wonder if my life was curse, but this particular night, with Sam doing her absolute best to embarrass me in public, had a bright point. Because that night was when Lightning Crack’s local criminal element made a hilarious mistake.
In walked a man with a green metal helmet, holding a pair of hammers in his hands. I’d say he was in his twenties, as was the guy in the red suit who walked in alongside him in a red suit that pulsed. I could feel the power in the suit somehow, like a wave of heat getting closer, but not actually affecting the temperature of anything. The others who stormed in along with them looked to be a bunch of regular folks with store-bought Halloween masks over their faces, carrying things like chains, bats, and claw hammers.
“Give us your money!” shouted the hammer guy.
The guy in the suit waved his hand toward a laser light ball hanging from the ceiling. Crimson crevices spread across the device an instant before it blew apart. The shards ended up hurting some people in there.
A bunch of people screamed and hit the floor, or started emptying pockets. Our group didn’t. Reindeer cracked her knuckles. Davilo got his transforming device ready. Leah took a fighting stance I taught her. Sam aimed a plasma crossbow at the nearest chain-carrying mook. And behind me, the ball I’d loosed just before they walked in hit the pins and knocked some of them over.
“Who are you?” asked the red-suited guy. I grabbed a bowling ball and hurled it at his head. He exploded it just before it hit him, but one of the shards grazed his head and drew blood. The guy with the hammers screamed and ran at us. I think I saw his eyes go white just before he tripped over a raised platform.
“That’s what happens when you change the color of the eye’s lens,” Leah said. I am so glad I taught her creative uses for the super power of changing things’ colors.
Davilo morphed, with Reindeer and him meeting the charging minions to get to the guy in red who was using whatever powers that suit conveyed to close the wound on his head. Sam stuck by me while I knelt next to the ball return, pulling open an access panel and doing some creative rewiring. She raised the plasma crossbow and blasted a baseball bat into burning wood splinters.
The berserker guy with the hammers rose and swung wildly around. By then, Leah had closed. She kicked him in the shin, the balls, and stomach. When he doubled over, she pulled the green helmet off his head and watched him get pulled to the floors by his hammers. Leah figured out there was thunderbolt iron at play, that weird alloy from a destroyed meteor that has telepathic and telekinetic properties. When the hammer guy tried one last time to let go of the hammers and do something, Leah grabbed a pair of bowling shoes nearby and smacked him upside his bearded face.
The guy’s minions weren’t doing well, but most of them were at least doing a good job getting in the way of Davilo and Reindeer for long enough. Red turned, the wound on his face now a raw scar, and raised his hands. Davilo and Reindeer were lifted into the air, then screamed when the villain began to squeeze his hands into fists.
My ball made its way up the ball return with me kicking the mouth of the return over to the side. The supercharged machine emitted a burst of sparks and caught fire. The ball shot out of there with the speed of a professional baseball pitching machine. Redsuit guy had time to widen his eyes and try to bring his hands together. It knocked Davilo and Reindeer into each other, but the ball had already passed by them and gave the guy in the red suit a splitting headache. A seven-ten split, I’d say.
“I guess you’d call that a hole-in-one,” I said.
“My girlfriend, the Earth expert,” Sam said. “Hey, who’s a lady gotta kill to get some cheese sticks around here?”
But seriously, the whole family event was kind of ruined with that. We didn’t get our cheese sticks. They didn’t let me strip that guy’s suit off so I could figure out what was going on there. “It’d sure be a lot easier to loot the corpses if y’all listened to me and we came in the Flyer,” I said, pouting, while the cops held us off to the side for some questioning.
“Who won, anyway?” Sam asked.
“I did,” I whispered to her. “Gave myself a score of 69. A perfect bowling score.”