Category Archives: 68. Back To The Past

There’s something really heavy going on, and it’s not somebody messing with the Earth’s gravitational field. It’s payback time in so many ways.

Back To The Past 7

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Section 8 Complete

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“When did you escape from this dimension?” Mobian asked.

I gave him the date of my D-Bomb detonation. “But you’ll need to be close. There was a force shield up around me to contain the blast.” He nodded once, thanking me, while I clung to my family. I hugged onto Qiang, probably harder than I should have. It felt like Mobian took forever to get out of there.

“Are you going to leave all your stuff in the ship?” Citra asked.

I nodded. “We need to go as soon as we can. The ship is wrecked, I think. I just need to go.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked, reaching out to stroke my hair. Qiang looked up at me, too.

“A lot of very bad shit happened to me when I was a kid. I could stop it if I wanted, but I would never have met any of you. It feels like I’m responsible for everything I went through back then now. So I want to run out there and save myself.” My HUD offered a helpful music selection from a band called Stabbing Westward that I had to decline.

“She destroyed your armor,” Citra pointed out.

I gave my armor a quick glance. I’d lost my helmet and one of my gauntlets, and the chest plating was wrecked. Fallen off, or barely clinging to the underlayer. Upon closer inspection, I could see all sorts of less obvious damage arising from the fight. The holodisc had taken a hit at some point. Venus’s armor had been able to go toe to toe with a charged up version of mine, which was impressive. It also meant some likely problems with the pseudomuscles and exoskeleton when we were punching each other’s hands. Her’s hadn’t been nearly so bulky, either. I need to steal me some of that.

And as for how I felt about finally getting her… I wish the fight went differently. At the end of the day, she’s still dead and I’m still alive, but it doesn’t sit so well with me for some reason. Though, it didn’t sit well with Venus to kill me and look where that got her. This is why a professional killer shouldn’t make it personal. I can’t help but wonder if my own obsession with her may mirror her obsession with saving me, and to similar ends…

A flash of light signaled that we’d jumped forward in time while I was distracted. The wall displayed down below us, where my old girlfriend knocked me the fuck out and left me laying next to a D-bomb. We must have been hidden from view, because nobody so much as blinked as the ship swooped down to hover close over my semi-conscious body when the force shield was activated. This time, I could see the mixed relief and worry; triumph and defeat. As much as my followers at this point had hated the way they’d been treated, I was the only one who felt as strongly about it as destroying the planet. It probably didn’t get any easier after that, but hopefully some humans were smart enough to recognize that homo machina are people too. But probably not.

When the D-Bomb went off and we were all thrown through the Universe Divide, those thoughts cleared away for a moment. It really was an amazing sight, seeing the multiverse laid out like that. Then we were hovering over the scene where the me from this point in time had arrived on the Earth where I almost sorta fit in better. Lots of things destroyed, and another me down there. As strongly as I tend to feel about there being no doppelgangers, I dunno, I’m not in a hurry to drop down and kill myself. Maybe it’s the time aspect. Maybe warnings about fucking with something that big do resonate with me. Hell, maybe I simply can’t. Something might come up to stop me just to prevent the paradox of me from the future killing the past me, which would then prevent future me from existing to kill past me.

From my perspective, the effects of messing with time travel have been ambiguous enough.

“I would have shown you the future, of the year 2033, but that period is in temporal flux at the moment,” Mobian said. He shot me a look. I scratched my eyebrow with my middle finger. “I have archives of the great war with Mot.”

“What is Mot?” asked Citra.

“A god of death,” Mobian answered.

“That story’s real?” I asked. “I guess it’d make sense for Venus’s actions, but I’d kinda been going on that just being made up to get me in the trap.”

“Mot is very real.” The walls changed around us, showing a being walking along a grassy plains. He looked like a man. Just an everyday guy. Beard, hair grown out and back in a ponytail, a slight beard. But every footstep stripped the plants and left perfect footprints of dirt. He had followers, for some reason. I guess if a guy might just kill everyone, he attracts the occasional person willing to serve them if it makes the threat stop. The surprise is that this supposed God of Death didn’t just kill them too. Suddenly, a glowing green man in a costume the colors of the American flag flew in. This one looked a lot like a guy I’d seen before, a super with a tank strapped to his back that nuked a militia base. I guess this time he decided tanks, but no tanks.

He held his hands out, then a mushroom cloud erupted, centered on the weird rippling guy. It didn’t even clear before the rippling man was flying at the nuclear man, who tried to outrun him. His target reached an arm out, and kept on reaching well past normal human limb length to grab the nuclear guy.

The nuker beat at the arm, and his skin even flared up in a brighter green, so I think he was tryting to do something. I have to assume that’s the case, because none of it made Mot stop. He pulled himself right up toward him, then collided and smacked over him like he was liquid. One moment there were two people there, then just one. Mot started to fall, then stopped. He looked at his hands, then toward an approaching group of tanks. He wiped them out with a nuclear explosion of his own, just like the guy who had disappeared into him. Then he looked back over to his followers, who were ensconced in a glowing dome of metal that retreated into the ground. None had been hurt by the blast, though that’s unlikely to be true for long unless he’s clearing away fallout.

“So he eats people and takes their powers?” I asked. “I dunno, I expected something weirder. Like, I dunno, tentacles? There are always tentacles involved. And that it’d be giant, with no real face. This just looks like a man.”

“I believe he was an early powerful superhuman treated as a god. I think his original, or most important, power is what he did there. He absorbs people and takes on their powers. He eats every superhuman he encounters,” Mobian pressed something else on his console.

The view shifted to Mot leading his followers into a small town. Locals stop and stare at him. He halts and raises his hands. The crowd of dark-eyed people moves past him, running for any people or animals around. They fight like their lives depend on it, beating the resistance out of folks. It was like a horde of pimps seeking cash from a couple dozen hookers. Someone did manage to shoot one of the followers, and that guy went down. The ground underneath the shooter shook and dirt flooded upward around the guy’s legs, trapping him and pulling him back under as it retreated. The prisoners were brought before Mot, who put his hands on their heads. He ate most of them. A very few were released to join his flock, though at least a couple of those hung their heads in shame. The more worrisome types were the ones to hold their heads up proudly and smile.

“Mind control?” I ask.

Mobian shook his head. “Not that anyone is aware of. It is discovered just before he is defeated that he has limited telepathy. The one who discovers this said that it was as though Mot peered into his mind and could tell that he was more afraid of Mot than of anyone or anything else.”

“He’s like some sort of extortionist cult leader,” Arsehole said. I still hadn’t bothered asking the name of Mobian’s companion, but, more importantly, I just didn’t care.

“How’d he die?” I asked “Might help me do so more quickly on this go-round.”

The scene changed yet again. Now, Mot stood in a city I didn’t recognize offhand. His followers swarmed like ants, many armed and firing back at soldiers. I noticed a pocket of them shooting uselessly at a tank until one of them closed her eyes and ran for the tank, arms wide. She exploded upon reaching it, cracking open its armor and leaving it a smoking heap.

Then I saw the monsters arrive. A killer clown with a ridiculously exaggerated head sprayed bottles of liquid on followers of Mot that left them smoking, acid-eaten wretches. A hulked-out man with a metal skull for a head ignored gunshots and swung a hook on a chain at followers. A long-haired woman clung to the side of a building and pulled people up toward her with a tongue that wrapped around their throats. Their heads disappeared under her long hair, which hung down to hide her head. They shuddered, then fell, headless.

Spinetingler appeared, his armor black metal and bone, to wield a scythe against Mot. Meanwhile, several of Mot’s followers clutched their heads, then turned on their fellows. Spinetingler’s daughter walked among them a flowing black dress, playing with a pet white rat in her hands.

Mot and Spinetingler fought, briefly. Spinetingler tried to cut the God of Death into pieces, but Mot’s limbs regrew like liquid spurting back out. Before Spinetingler could truly comprehend what was going on, Mot spread out like a human sheet that wrapped around the horror villain. Tingler struggled. Just imagine a human hand pressing out of a big, pliable sheet of human flesh. Nice images. More things to scare my daughter to sleep.

The squirming mass pulled itself back into just Mot. Then some of his followers began to warp and shift into monstrous forms of their own. The day suddenly became night, which seemed like just Spinetingler’s powers until the view shifted to show the sky blotted out by a massive ship. It fired Mot, catching the thing in a blue beam. Mot raised a hand to stare tiny parts of him disintegrated away, slowly enough for him to watch. He started to pull himself back together in spite of it, until the beam pulsed. The view shifted to outside the city, showing the pulse work its way down the beam until a it sweeps out as a wave, fading away before it reaches whatever is recording. The entire city just… blows away. Buildings, people, streets, plants. What’s left is a smooth, circular depression, deep into the Earth.

“The People’s Republic filed only token objections about the destruction of Beijing. After Islamabad and New Delhi, humanity knew the city was already dead.” Mobian said.

Qiang clung to me, hiding her face against my chest. I rubbed her head and kissed the top of it. “There, there, I can stop it.” I looked up to Mobian and nodded toward the space ship. “And the aliens?”

Mobian pressed a button and the walls of his ship whited out again. “That is for me to know and you to find out.”

“Fine… just know that once I take out Mot, I want the title,” I pointed at him with one hand as the others began rubbing my daughter’s back.

“The title?” he asked.

“That’s right, once I find and kill that bastard, I want to be called the God of Death.”

“You see that and you want to find it?” asked Arsehole. She threw her hands up in the air. “He’s a bloody madman!”

“You saw how well waiting for it worked out for everyone,” I explained. I looked down at Qiang. “Now let’s go see your momma.” I looked up at Mobian. “The little girl you just scared would like that, I believe.”

Mobian nodded.

When we landed at that time, Qiang rushed out of the timeship first. Citra and I followed, but I bounced off the opening and she went on through. I tried again, pushing at seemingly empty air. Citra turned to look at me, then reached out for my hand. She tried pulling me through but it just didn’t work. “Go, make sure she’s safe,” I told Citra. I whirled on Mobian, but he and Arsehole ducked through the door quickly. I tried to reach through and grab them, but I was stopped again.

Mobian raised his hands. “I will not give you the opportunity to screw things up further. That is all. This isn’t a trick or trap; neither ambuscade nor set-up. I promise on my life I would never allow your child to come to harm.”

I pointed to the corpse of Future Venus. “I somehow doubt that. I told it to show you what is happening so you will not be unaware. I will release you should anything go wrong.”

And with that, he walked away. Because he could. Just left me banging on a door. Muttering angry sounds to myself, I turned and looked around at the walls, wondering when they were going to show me anything. “Well?” I asked, raising my hands up.

The walls unwhited again, changing to show me Qiang and Citra holding hands, Qiang finding her way through a small town to a house. Mobian and Arsehole ran to catch up as well, but Qiang wasn’t focused on anything but finding her mom.

Nothing seemed to be happening so, having so recently used her as an argument, I snuck on over to help myself to a teeny tiny sample of Future Venus’s future armor. A gal’s gotta stay up to date.

“Mommy!” Qiang said, launching herself at a woman who was rather plain looking, with a scar on one eyebrow that caused a slight break in the hair there. A shame, though. If only I had Qiang’s birthday, I could have gone back about nine months beforehand and made sure she was mine. There wasn’t a man around there anyway. Also, note to self: find out Qiang’s birthday and throw her a party.

Qiang’s mother humored the little girl, having a young baby of her own now, especially once Citra explained to her quietly, “She lost her mother when she was young and you look like her. Please humor her.”

The woman smiled and agreed. Mobian patted Citra’s back but she shot him a look. I’m liking Citra more and more after this trip. I just hope she’s not in love with me or thinking this is more than it is. The group had a pleasant time there, it seemed. They sat and talked. The Citra, Arsehole, and Mobian all fawned over a baby I assumed was Qiang, while my present Qiang told her mother all about me saving her and being her dad and crazy adventures we went on. Yeah, a child’s recitation of my real life doesn’t make for a believable story.

Finally, it was time to drag her away. I knew they’d have to. If that mother was saved somehow, Qiang probably wouldn’t be mine. But knowing that doesn’t count for much when you see your daughter broke out into tears and start struggling to get free of a couple adults.

I launched myself at the command console with a growl, pressing my cheek to it as if that’d make everything merge together faster. Just as the nerves reached out and began to link to what passed for circuitry on the ship, a shock threw me on my back. The walls whited up again, not that I could watch anyway. I was shocked again every time I felt ok to stand or even roll over. It hurt like a brick up the ass.

A few minutes later, Mobian’s voice rang out. “There, go to your daddy if she’s quite done touching things she shouldn’t.”

“I swear, all I did was lick absolutely every surface on that console,” I said, chuckling to myself. I felt Qiang run over and hug me where I lay and I pulled her tight with all but my lower left arm. That one rested uncomfortably under my back. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

“I hate him. I hate stupid heroes,” she said through sniffles.

“I know. I hate them too,” I said, turning to shoot a hostile smile to Mobian.

He snorted and walked up to the platform on his ship. “What I do is necessary. For that matter, my life is if you want to go anywhere. I think it’s for the best if you have a lie down while I see to our travel arrangements.”

Without my helmet, I couldn’t keep as close an eye on everything. I had Citra and Qiang though. Citra to brush my hair and Qiang for me to brush her hair. And Mobian did finally let me up to leave.

I was happy to be rid of him, though. Happy to be back in Ricca, and only an hour after my last stop. Nothing really to clean up after all this, save for the bundle I had wrapped around my lower left arm. I kept it behind me and under my cape as I left Mobian’s ship, so he didn’t really notice. It really was amazing armor, what Future Venus wore. With one of my armor’s working holodiscs attached, Mobian may not even realize she’s missing it.

So I worked on it in the Institute of Science, keeping an eye on him as he began seeking out people with doctorates and more bills than morals to fill out our science team. They certainly would have loved studying what happened with my log. Time travel did odd things to its attempts to send off. I didn’t gain many new readers in the Cretaceous, but that’s for the best. As far as time travel trips go, mine was probably more of a bogus journey than an excellent adventure.

I lost so much I had to redo, too. I rebuilt the nanite mini-foundry, and the armor maintenance tube. And, finally, I finished my new armor. Gecko’s back from her little vacation. Well-rested. Re-armed. Ready to steal some shit and kill some people.

They say that in strange aeons, even death may die.

It’s time to bring the strange.

Dammit, I just realized I got roped into saving the world again. Because now Future Venus is dead, and I’m left alive to deal with a guy who eats supers or get eaten.

Venus is so damn annoying, she makes me want to kill her twice.

Archive Transmission Fragment 8 Complete

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Back To The Past 6

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Archive Decompiling…

Section 7 Complete

Archive Begin Transmission

Whatever damage had happened to the ship, at least it let me leave. I’d made sure Citra and our hostage were alright enough, then headed out to go see what the fuck was going on. I almost tripped over what I’d thought had been part of the wall. A column had fallen down and cracked open, spreading more of those colorful alien uniforms everywhere.

In contrast to the Cretaceous and my brief stopover in the Enlightenment, this place was full of digital noise. I’d gotten used to a lower level of signal traffic, and it was something of an adjustment for me to be here again. The ship had crashed onto a hilltop across the river and outside of a city with architecture you wouldn’t see on the Earth I’d become accustomed to. I knew this city. Home.

The city where I’d been born. It was even snowy, just like my earliest memories. The ones starting just before men with guns busted in the door. I realized a building whose unbuilt top floors I’d once used as a sniper’s nest didn’t even stand out on the skyline. That’s when I checked the date.

Oooooh. Oh no. No no no. How the FUCK did they know that date? Was there time to save myself? Should I?

That explains what was going through my head and why I wasn’t paying so close attention when Venus called out from behind me. “You seem distracted!”

I turned, throwing a wild punch, only to end up with her grabbing my arm and using my own momentum to toss me onto my back. I checked her out while slowly getting to my fight. The armor plating was flush, looking like puzzle pieces, but flexible. The boots were wider and thicker, probably for the sake of leverage. Same went for the fists. Light grey, save for a little remaining pink on the chest, it had seen better days. I found those pockmarks I’d seen on it before, along with scorch marks and thin surface cuts. The armor came up and guarded her neck where it met a helmet. That greying hair was hidden behind a helmet of armored V-shaped plates that swept from the back of her neck down to cover her eyes with one-way mirrored glass. The only skin I could see on her was her mouth.

“Done looking me over?” she asked.

I brushed my thighs off, biding some time, trying to stop the loud hammering of a tell-tale heart that gave away my thoughts on being back here and now. “How’d you know to come back now, to this time?”

She smiled. “I thought you wanted to kill me?”

“Oh, I do. You fucking used me! Just throwing my life away, taking my daughter and running. And now you bring me here. What the fuck?!” Ok, so I was bit on tilt. For the folks who don’t enjoy poker, that means I wasn’t thinking all that clearly.

“What day is it?” she asked.

“You brought me back to it, how can you not know?” I looked around, then up to where Mobian’s ship floated. “How do you know, you time-traveling limey piece of shit?!”

“I cannot tell you that,” his voice sounded from the floating orb.

As pumped full of adrenaline and emotions as I’d become, I wasn’t in a mood to hear that. I looked between that ship, then back to Venus. She took a fighting stance in anticipation of my attack. As far as she knew, I took one of my own. That’s what the hologram did while I stepped to the side. I moved around to her left before trying to catch her around the neck with a grab. The plan was to grab her and squeeze that pretty throat until her head popped or he neck crunched.

She was good, though. She didn’t react to my presence at all until I’d lunged for her. She spun out of the way and hit me in the back with a kick that sent me stumbling. Only then did I let myself become visible again.

“I don’t want to fight you,” she said.

“You picked a hell of a time and place to prove it,” I said, holding my arms straight up and activating my elbow rockets to rise to my feet.

“What’s the matter, something distracted you?” she said. She took another stance in anticipation of my attack.

And I so wanted to attack, but she was right. I was distracted. I want to just jump on her and scoop her ribs out with metallic hands. I also really wanted to go and see myself. I didn’t even remember their faces. And she brought me here, knowing, somehow, when and where, knowing I’d want to go there and do something. I clenched my teeth under my helmet. “Gonna chase me if I run?”

She shook her head. “No, but I think it’s a bad idea.”

“Yeah, you would. Out there’s a little kid whose parents are about to be gunned down. He’ll be kidnapped and tossed into a secret government program that’ll abuse him almost to death because the guy in charge has a hard-on for power. What does protecting the timeline even mean? Just protecting the devil you know for no other reason than you know it?” I put my top hands on my helmet, wishing I could run them through my hair or something. I’d started pacing around in a circle, but I jumped at her, throwing my upper right fist for a punch. What she probably missed was my lower arms shooting straight forward and pulling me along with their rockets.

Venus didn’t react in time and I caught her in the head. She grabbed that wrist with one hand, then went to smack me in the helmet with the flat of her palm. I deflected it with one of my lower arms, then grabbed her wrist with my left. I held my arms out to the side, my lower arms taking it to her belly one after the other. She jumped and wrapped her legs around my lower right, trying to drag me to the ground. She let go of my upper right as well, trying to put that one arm in an armbar. I grabbed hold of it with the lower left arm and used my upper right to pull her leg free. I swung her overhead and brought her down on the grass, tearing up clumps of it as I smashed her on the ground.

I got a few good smacks in that way before she a burst of fire shot out of her back and pulled her forward. She slipped out of my grasp that way, but not before dragging me toward her into the same torn up grass. I set my upper hands into the dirt and rolled until, with my body above me, I launched myself up and onto my feet. I landed right in front of where she was hunched over in the middle of standing. She turned and that giant right shot off her fist like a pneumatic jackhammer, knocking me flat on my cape in what was starting to become more dirt than grass. I slid a little, trying to recover my breath.

Meanwhile, the fist that had come off her about another forearm’s distance slid back along a pair of rails until it locked back on where it served as a gauntlet. But before I could even begin to get up, she’d lunged and planted her knee in my throat. She stood up over me and stepped to the side, careful of my arms.

“You are both freakishly fast. I should know, I hang around enough freaks,” said Mobian’s voice from above.

Venus ignored him. “You’d be abandoning your friends and family. You go and change time, guess what happens to every one of them whose lives you saved? No more Qiang, no more Max. Instead, Spinetingler would have Empyreal City and Ricca’s plot would have gone off without a hitch, maybe. It depends how the alien invasion would go, if they didn’t kill that henchman of yours or the statue. So I care and I know you do, too. Do you want to lose your daughter forever?”

That’s just a fucking low blow. And given my crotch situation, the only one she can pull off that actually hurts.

“You done yet?” I asked, then finished with a few coughs. I sat up. “You’re the hero. You’re supposed to be the one running around saving kids.”

“Cheap shot,” she said.

I scrambled to my feet, prompting her to back off just a little. “So, you want me to condemn myself to every fucked-up thing that’s ever happened to me for the greater good of your world.”

“And your family,” she added. “You want me to save someone even though you know it will hurt your loved ones and the world.”

One good thing about a pair of extra arms? I can flip someone the bird without compromising combat readiness. “Making some things right is just more important than your consequences. Like not being complicit in the torture and abuse of all of us in the Psychopomp Program. I’m not me yet, see. I’m some kid out there, enjoying the solstice holidays with my parents. I even have a real name!”

“You have a real daughter up there,” she raised her chin to indicate Mobian’s ship floating overhead.

“What the fuck do you want from me you turgid gurgler?!” I asked, flailing for words. I was just yelling at her at that point, fighting be damned.

“I don’t want to kill you, but I think I have to,” she said.

“You’re starting to sound like me before you decided to run off with my kid,” I said.

“I was taking her to the Master Academy!” she yelled. “You never let me explain, because you wanted to assume the worst. You disappeared in 2018 and somebody dropped Qiang off at the Academy.”

I pondered. “So this entire trip is when I supposedly died…”

Her stance tightened up again as she grew expectant of an attack. “Then you survived the ambush by the aliens and actually came after us. I knew what that meant. The timeline says you don’t go back.”

“You and that gorram timeline,” I said. “Here I thought you might still want to save me. Nope. Just kill me and abduct my daughter.”

I lunged. She moved back to put some distance between us. This time, I didn’t project invisibility. I projected a whole lot of visibility. I lit up with a bright flash of light that blinded her enough for me to sidestep and punch her in the throat. She stumbled and covered up her throat, leaving her with just one arm to counter more punches. She used her legs instead. She even jumped up, hitting her little jetpack, and staggered me by kicking with both legs. It put some distance between us and she flipped around to land on her feet. Then it was her turn to come for me.

I tried to block her punches, but that piston thing was stronger than I expected. I felt something crack in my lower left forearm. She swept my legs, but I managed to jump back and avoid it. She cocked something back on her right fist, shooting a canister out of the right knuckle. I went to swat it away but it stuck and electricity began to course throughout the armor. It didn’t do much to the armor, aside from help charge it, but it got through enough to leave me grinding my teeth, my muscles involuntarily spasming.

It only lasted a second, but was long enough to leave me open to a flying spinning kick from Venus that whirled me around. I turned around quickly and punched at what I was sure would be a follow-up with my upper left. The glowing gauntlet unloaded its energy on her right gauntlet. And that’s it. They hit, her gauntlet unleashed a couple streams of steam, and neither moved. I tried with my right lower arm, but she intercepted it with her left fist, no give, just steam. Same for my right upper, but I sent the wounded lower lefty flying for her face, only to be stopped by her grabbing my arm, raising it up, squeezing it, unloading on me with a big, pistoned left to the chest.

I lost my breath again, and lower left did pretty cracking, but she didn’t let go. I tried to fly away from the hit but she yanked me back in for another hit, this time to the head. It had me seeing stars. That strong of a hit, I thought I might even see Ziggy Stardust in a minute. Then my helmet was gone. How’d that happen? Of course, that question had to wait for me to keep getting the shit pounded out of me. It’s hard to think while doing me best impersonation of an asshole on getting a train run on it.

When Venus let me go, my chestplates had been trashed. I didn’t have a helmet. My lower left arm was broken in all kinds of places and the gauntlet was missing. Oh, and I spat up a bloody mess of what used to be most of my teeth. Venus knelt over me, looking down, even as my hands twitched around, my lower right one hunting for my belt. She raised her fist, and it looked big. You don’t know how big. So big, I musta had a concussion, that’s how big.

“I don’t want to kill you. That’s the kind of hero I was taught to be. When Master Academy was founded, it wasn’t about heroes. It was Oligarch who created it. He wanted kids with powers loyal to him. He just made it seem like we were heroes. He didn’t torture us, but he wanted to make us weapons like your general out there. We were taught that we were supposed to be better than everyone else, elitist jerk. Mender found out and confronted him. That’s how he ended up crippled, but he exposed Oligarch to the rest of us and we drove him off. Since then, Master Academy is about improving ourselves. And we can be better than we were.”

Her voice had gained a backbone then. She lowered her fist, then stood up. “You can still change.”

I tried to laugh but it came out as a cough. Instead, I settled for telling her “Fuck you.”

“You can still change the future,” she continued.

“What are you doing?” asked Mobian.

“He’s right. Some things are worth changing,” she called up. Then she looked back down to me, but still spoke up loud enough for him to hear. “I don’t want to become a murderer just to protect your status quo!”

It was almost inspiring, coming from a woman who led me into an ambush, beat the shit out of me, and kidnapped my daughter. Plus, whatever this was, this whole thing where she brought me back to before I was kidnapped to get an edge on me. These were the thoughts racing through my punch-drunk skull at the time. And I remembered something else that didn’t seem right, which mildly amused me to note. It was a bit arrogant, actually.

I raised my right hand. I think it was the upper one, because things were fuzzy at that moment. “Wait, wait, wait… one sec, hold on… before you go into any more preaching… you said just I disappeared, only me…”

A spear came flying out of the night right toward the side of Venus’s head. She turned and actually caught the thing, causing even Citra’s jaw to drop from where she threw it. Venus stood up. “I didn’t know about-” then she looked down to where a headless rubber chicken squirmed against her in my grip. I amped up the power on my suit’s leg pseudomuscles and kicked Future Venus through the chicken, causing Venus to drop the spear and sending them both flying. The chicken detonated in mid air and helped Venus carve out her own divot in the grass.

I grabbed for the spear and helped myself up, then jumped high, arcing down toward her. I don’t know where Citra got that spear, what it was made of, or what Venus’s armor was made of. All I know is that I came down on top of it with all my weight right into her mouth. It didn’t penetrate the armor on the other side of her head from her mouth. Instead, it slid and dropped me while the blade sliced upward through her skull. The rest of the stumbling I did dealing trying to catch my balance wasn’t any better for her head. I could barely even stand, barely even register what was going on as her body twitched its final twitches.

Instead, I held a hand over my face while searching through my belt for anything helpful like, ooh, a syringe! I had no shortage of places I could inject it with my armor beat to crap.

Out of the corner of my eye, I realized the glowing orb above us had started to rise.

“Come back down here!” called Citra, and I saw she now had Arsehole, Mobian’s companion, by the elbow. Arsehole was still tied up, but her leg restraints had been loosened enough to let her stand and move on her own.

“Yeah, get your ass down here, Mobian. I don’t think I’ll kill you,” I slurred, then vomited up a tooth.

“Hey, don’t leave me!” called Arsehole, and that really got him in a hurry to land. The glowing orb descended and the dark outline of a doorway appeared.

The older, British-accented time traveler stepped out into the doorway. “She changed the timeline.”

“Have that sit on a big purple dragon dildo. I changed the timeline,” I said. Citra came over to help me stand even as microscopic machines coursed through my body to mend tissue and organs. “We changed the timeline,” I said in response to my wife’s aid.

Qiang pushed past Mobian and raced toward me. Citra and I both bent down to hug my beautiful baby, despite the rather poor state I was in. The doubts I had about maybe going and saving myself washed away. They didn’t leave, not completely.

Mobian gave us wide berth as he stepped around to untie Arsehole. “I could still leave you.”

“You wanna try that again, Monty Python?” I asked, raising a lower left fist that felt stronger already. “I could still screw things up for you. Save myself, maybe build more D-Bombs, come back over early. Or, and hear me out here, we all just go back to 2018.”

He locked eyes on Venus’s corpse for a long second. “Let me bring her. She deserves a proper funeral for all I’ve known her.”

I nodded, then turned my attention to kissing all over Qiang’s face. “You smell like blood!” she said, giggling. Aren’t we a pair? Or perhaps more than a pair, the way Citra clung to us both.

“Come on, let’s get inside the ship before he changes his mind,” I said, leaving Mobian and Arsehole to drag the body of Future Venus inside by themselves.

Mobian did indeed bring her in, finding us three sitting down and cuddling, me all bloody and snotty in torn-up armor. It wasn’t exactly Christmas Card material.

“Before you go back to 2018, I have something I want to show you,” Mobian said. He glared at us, which just goes to show how he took all this too seriously. Who could glare at my little Qiang? “Something to make her sacrifice worthwhile.”

In spite of her presence, I glared right back at him. “Good, because there’s someone my daughter needs to see as well.” For emphasis, I jammed a big ol’ syringe into my neck and pushed the plunger, injecting myself with more nanites. He looked away first.

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Back To The Past 5

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“Tell me, creature, what are you and why do you interfere with the glory of France?” asked a rather pudgy fellow who spoke French with a bit of a different accent than most of his buddies. He sat facing me in a fine wooden chair he imported.

I rolled my eyes under my armor. Our audience was not quite private, but at the same time, the General had been informed of the efficacy of his weapons on me. He kept a pair of guards in there in case he needed to sacrifice their lives for his. I suspect those two young men hadn’t been told how useless their muskets were against me. I wasn’t about to take my armor off and give them a chance, especially as it would immediately destroy my credibility. Women’s chief role in warfare at this time involved sex, either as a camp follower or a victim. “Monsieur Bonaparte, I know your ambitions reach further than mere glory for France. A man such as you could rise to emperor, if you weren’t loyal to the Revolution, that is.”

That was about as close as I’d hint at it here. It may be going too far to outright say around guards that he plans to take over. That would technically be the sort of thing he could be guillotined for, though they were done with most of that by this point. Napoleon’s a man seeking only to elevate himself. That’s why, in the main timeline, he tucks tail and runs back to France when things get bad. With his fleet already sunk, that means leaving almost every other man of the expedition behind. Those who don’t die of the plague. In this siege camp at Acre, I am literally surrounded by dead men, and in an audience with one of the few men who matters.

“My loyalty remains with France. Long live the Revolution!” Napoleon said. A servant brought us a glass of wine each. I couldn’t tell if it was a good year, but I knew it was an old vintage. Couldn’t have been any more recent than 1799. Just a bit of time travel humor. Not many get it. You had to be there.

“Long live the Revolution,” I said, not downing the drink myself. Once again, the helmet was an important part of my cover. I watched as he partook, and continued on once his thirst had been sated. “And sure the best way to aid the Revolution, your men, and the glory of their general, would be to wrap up this siege as quickly as possible. Congratulations on defeating that relief force, but it still leaves you without the cannon you need to break the backs of the defenders.”

“Yes. The British confound us and the walls are strong enough that even the inferior peoples of this land may hold out against the superior cause and army,” Napoleon said, at least as much for the benefit of his soldiers.

I nodded along and projected a hologram of Acre’s defenses as the ship’s scans had presented it to me, focusing on blind spots and proposed timelines for penetration at the French army’s current strength. I could be more exact if I had the relevant info memorized, but I didn’t anticipate it being so important to my schemes before going off to fight a god of death. “Acre can and will hold out for long enough unless you accept my help.”

“You believe you can defeat walls that hold back France’s greatest army?” he asked.

I nodded. “I am more than capable of breaking through, but I believe my enemies, who originate where I come from, have a trap waiting for me. If I enter alone, I may be captured or killed, and your army never takes Acre. They won’t do anything with you and your men there with me. You get Acre. I get the renegades I’m looking for.”

“These are incredible tales you ask me to believe,” Napoleon said, leaning toward me.

I stood. “The difference between a psychopomp and a god is that belief is not necessary for men to die. Let’s go see shall we?”

I led Napoleon along as I trudged closer to the range of the enemy’s guns. He stayed back, of course, and called over a servant with his horse, a brown Arabian. “You’d look better on white,” I yelled back at him, remembering a painting not yet painted.

I started charging my gauntlets, then took off running across the battlefield toward Acre. Cannons boomed and balls bounced off the sand around me. For morale’s sake, I waited until one of them was coming right at me and gave it hell with four fists, which is normally something I reserve for an orgy. One-armed, that likely would have left me three-armed. With all four, I shattered the cannonball. A cheer went up from the French line behind me. I bowed toward Acre and turned with a sweep of my cape, walking back toward the French lines. The Ottoman forces inside kept firing, and actually got a lot closer, but I sidestepped the only one that would have gotten me. Then I jumped, showing off that my mobility was far beyond that of a normal human’s. I landed right in front of the future Emperor. “So, when’s the soonest you can attack?”

The attack commenced a couple hours later, after having given everyone time to get together. I led the charge. The Ottomans had upped their game. A shot almost hit me right near the beginning of my charge. It went right through and I disappeared, only for a half dozen more of me to appear. Grapeshot peppered some of the other mes around. Ah, holograms. The Ottomans could spend all day shooting at them instead of French soldiers. Some of the officers on the walls began to realize that as well, but by then I’d gotten rather close to the part of the wall the French had weakened the most.

On top of that, the defenders of Acre got to deal with an attack from the air, something none of them were used to. Drones hovered above them, picking out targets for potshots. People without an understanding of radiation or the speed of light got skewered by lasers. Bombs destroyed artillery emplacements that might have hit me. And I set to work on the wall, invisible to everyone. The French began to move forward while I put together a lovely bouquet of beautiful bombs to blow the wall. They could have charged up behind me, but I warned them they didn’t want to be too close when things went off. That’s why, once I was done, I jumped onto the wall and got hoppin’ to avoid being there when my work went kablooey.

It was more of a “Wawoom!” sound, truth be told. Rock rained down, the wall split open. Bodies fell and men screamed in pain while soldiers charged and cannons thundered.

“Now this is an occasion that requires some music,” I said to myself. The men around me, Ottomans with a few limey supporters, looked shocked as I became visible again. “Music, random,” I said as men pulled pistols and swords.

“Now Playing: Wow Wow,” my HUD read as I grabbed the arm of a British officer trying to tug his sword loose. Someone fired impotently at my back. I tugged on the officer’s arm, pulling his sword loose and into the belly of the man behind me. I broke it and tossed the sword’s wielder off outside the city.

A musket ball bounced off my helmet from the side. I grabbed the rifle from the man, broke it over my knee, and stabbed the jagged part of the front half through the unlucky shooter’s throat. One fellow who was just tugging a pistol free of his belt, got the stock of it in his nuts. He dropped the pistol and screamed. I shoved the stock into his mouth. “Bite down,” I said, then did a split and punched him in the nuts so hard he fell backwards from the fortifications into the city.

I was whirling, nut-crushing death incarnate, but that wasn’t my only goal here. After clearing myself some breathing space, I turned to look over the city and an entire secondary wall built further in. The French couldn’t take the city so long as it still stood. More important to that was a scene atop that wall. I saw Mobian’s timeship perched there, with Mobian and Future Venus standing there. Venus looked ready to beat some ass, but she wasn’t looking at me or the horde of rampaging Frenchmen. She was looking at man in a turban with much of his body covered, save for a hand gripping-

I jumped, having put too much power into the jump because I’d operated on instinct. I landed hard further down the wall past the man who held my daughter. She turned and yelled, “Baba!” as she stabbed at the man, but he didn’t seem to react. Problem was, it’s hard to stand on broken legs. I knelt there and tugged out a couple syringes of nanites. Then it was time to crawl.

Venus moved like a flash, a large metal fist encasing her hand just before she punched the living daylights out of the guy who had my daughter. He went stumbling back, falling over Qiang, who was then picked up by a Venus ensconced in dirty, pockmarked power armor of her own. Qiang’s knife bounced off Venus’s throat armor and fell off the secondary wall. I didn’t have as good of a few after that because turban guy’s turban fell off as his head grew into a flesh-colored spike. In fact, his whole body grew until it broke free, looking like a fleshy starfish.

Mobian yelled something at Venus, who grabbed the starfish thing and tossed it at me just as I was standing up. I threw it off to the side, getting amazing distance on it with some sort of Frisbee effect. Unfortunately, I saw it gliding toward the breach where the French were fighting their way into the city. Even more unfortunate, when I turned my attention back to Mobian’s glowing orb ship, I saw the outline of a door had closed. The ship itself began to rise.

“No, you fucking don’t,” I said. I pulled the drones away from the main battle to fire on Mobian’s ship. A light shot out, like lightning, and I lost connection with the drones. They froze in midair, then crumbled away into red dust.

“Get back here and die like a man!” I yelled and launched myself into the air. I grabbed more syringes in midair, making sure to keep myself full of healing nanites. My legs snapped with every landing, even in the sand outside the city. I reached out and let myself be shrunk and pulled into my timeship after an agonizingly long time, though hopefully not too late. Mobian’s ship never moved from its perch over the city.

I found him hailing me again as I reached the command center. “Gecko, whatever our conflict, we mustn’t disturb history. I believe it will go more or less as planned now, but we cannot continue this fight here.”

“I’ll do whatever I have to. You didn’t have to take her!” I yelled at him.

“Give us back our daughter!” yelled Citra over my shoulder.

“I understand you are perturbed at the moment, but you have a nasty habit of, er, murdering people. I want this resolved with as little loss of life as possible.”

“Yeah,” said Arsehole from where she sat on a little stool in the corner. “I’d like very much not to die, if you please.”

“So just land and hand her over now. Or you could have just left her for me, dammit,” I said. “You keep jerking my chain and someone’s gonna die!”

Future Venus spoke up on the line, “We’re afraid you’re already about to kill someone.”

And that’s when I gave up my fucks. Just whoosh, there goes the last one. I had the timeship rise and had it move to intercept his.

“We’ll all die, you can’t-” Mobian started, then my ship detected his exit from this point in time. The ship, acting according to its orders, jumped as well. The ship shuddered, sensors suddenly showing us having collided with Mobian’s ship. The top point penetrated into the side of Mobian’s orb. We appeared in space, briefly, the ship’s unusual way of telling time informing me we were in 2016. The year of the alien invasion, where I defeated the ship with a Dimension Bomb.

“I didn’t expect him to follow so closely,” said Mobian.

“It’s fine. Let’s end this,” I heard Venus say.

Over that, I heard my daughter’s voice cry out. “Baba!”

All around us, a fleet of alien vessels. “Now!” said Mobian. He tried to time jump, but my ship went with it, either due to physical attachment or the last orders given to it. At the same time, I felt the familiar pull as the Dimension Bomb blew a hole in spacetime and everything in the radius of the detonation went through.

It got really confusing then, as even the view of floating above many spreading Earths changed, the planets pulling back into one another until there were fewer.

When we came out, my ship wasn’t handling the stress that well. It fell to the ground and thumped end over end. The interior was protected, amazingly, but it didn’t look good for the timeship. And Mobian’s was still there, in the air, the side closing in where it had been damaged.

In the midst of diagnosing the damage to the ship, I discovered we’d headed back in time another couple of decades. Despite that, the signals and development of Earth definitely didn’t match up with the Nineties. Or at least, as I soon realized, not that Nineties.

“That did not exactly go as planned. Is everyone alright down there?” asked Mobian. Sparks shot out of the console for some damn reason as he began speaking and his voice sounded further away than normal.

“Yeah,” I said, before looking around. Citra was on hands and knees, throwing up. Arsehole had bumped her head against the wall, but seemed fine otherwise.

“Good here for now,” Arsehole said.

Venus almost sounded said when she spoke. “Good. I think it’s time we finally settle up.”

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Back To The Past 4

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“What would anyone want in 1799?” asked Citra.

I looked over the place, wishing I had my internet connection. “Well it’s the Middle East, 1799, blue uniforms… Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign. This alien map thing is telling me nothing, but at least I’ve got my own map in my head. We’re a little ways from Egypt, but Napoleon was all over this area. He just beat the pants off those Turks. Though…” I shook my head, getting my facts straight. “Yeah, they had pants by now. Hard to have fought in the Alps without them.”

“Where is our daughter?” asked Citra, shaking the spear she’d brought along at me.

I grabbed it and eased it away from me. “Easy there, Bard. That’s what I have to figure out. This thing’s pretty handy at following a trail it leaves behind. Particles or an energy signature or something. All I know is, it led us here, so now let’s follow it further. And, maybe if this is over quick, we can get in a little tomb raiding. This is when the French started nabbing all the good stuff, like the Rosetta Stone.”

“You know that but now why this time is important.”

“From a criminal standpoint, stealing gold and other valuables is the more important thing about this time and place.” Still, they weren’t important now. That’s why I really didn’t pay Napoleon’s army of 4,000 routing a force of 35k much mind. Killing ranked more highly for me than theft.

The computer came up with two different trails. They started as one near where we showed up before breaking off. It dipped low near the French soldiers below, where part of it broke off. The rest continued onward to the northwest, toward the water. I considered just taking us down into the soldiers and seeing how things shake out. I’m supposed to be concerned with timelines, right? Except I’m trying to think about how this goes and how killing a few people would change anything. That bunch of infantry down there don’t even have any cannons with them.

So after pondering it for a few seconds, I sent the pyramid ship into a dive toward the sands below. The French forces scattered. “Ok, I’m going to go out and negotiate for the transfer of whatever dropped off Mobian’s ship.”

“Would Qiang have survived that fall?” Citra asked.

“Not the question you should be asking,” I said, mainly because I wasn’t thinking about it. “We can’t do anything about it yet. Now, let’s go have a chat. And be us, I mean me.”

Citra looked at the viewscreen and saw all the French soldier surrounding us, readying rifles, bayonets, and swords for those lucky enough to have them. “Have fun, dear husband wife.”

I popped off my helmet and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for not insisting on coming out there.”

She grabbed my cheeks and held me. “Don’t misunderstand me. She is my daughter and I want to be your partner, but I am not stupid.”

I nodded and locked my helmet into place. Just in case, I also locked entrance and exit authorization to just myself. Then I went out, the deminiaturization process spitting me out into a crowd of Frenchmen. Fully aware of being a metal being in a flying ship with four arms, I raised a hand and gave them the Vulcan salute. “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. I come in peace. Take me to your leader.”

A man rode up on a horse with a significantly fancier uniform. He took one look at me and the ship, then raised his sword. “Fire!” Things got really loud then as every damn soldier’s rifle balls bounced off my armor with a lot of clanging. Balls. Balls everywhere. The fire stopped suddenly because these are the sorts of guns that take a minute to reload after every shot.

I waved with all four arms and stepped closer to see the man on the horse. “Am I to understand you’d like me to for war instead?”

“What manner of creature is this?” asked the mounted officer, mouth agape.

I posed, crossing my top pair of hands over my chest while the bottom arms rested on my hips. I took a few deep breaths. “I am Darth Theodore Logan Vader, Dark Lord of Eternia, from the planet Minbar. I have come here to take back those who have wronged me. My vessel, the Enterprise, is a Firefly-class vessel with the power to destroy an entire planet using the awesome power of the Force.” Here I raised a clenched fist. “Have you had any strange visitors drop from the sky recently, aside from myself?”

“Bring forth the prisoner!” he ordered, raising a sword.

“Bring forth the prisoner!” the order echoed throughout the army until a new line came back like a receding wave. “Bringing forth the prisoner!” Along with it came a soldier with crappy boots leading the same blonde, middle-aged woman I’d seen on Mobian’s ship, her hands tied together. “The prisoner is brought forth,” said the soldier.

“Thanks, dude,” I told him. I stepped over and grabbed the rope leading to the wrists of Mobian’s companion. “For your efforts, know that I shall bless your leader Napoleon. Truly, his expedition here to Egypt will be remembered for generations, and not just for the Rosetta Stone.”

“What is this Rosetta Stone?” asked the officer on horseback.

I shook my head. “I can say no more, but know that you men will be a shining example of the sort of leader he is. Huzzah!”

That started a cheer I used to end this little chit-chat. I grabbed the blonde woman and pulled her close. We stepped over dented musket balls until I got within range of the boarding device. It detected me and sucked us both in thanks to her proximity to me. As soon as we were miniaturized and safely inside the entry area, Citra started whacking the companion over the head. “Child kidnapping son of a toad!”

I let her get a few good whacks in before grabbing the spear. Citra stopped easily enough and tossed the spear aside, over by a pile of ammo bandoliers. The companion didn’t seem all that hurt. “Are you bloody well done?!” she yelled. “I’m sorry, fine, no need to beat me.”

“Tsk, tsk. Look at you. Such a soft life if you think that was a beating. Citra was being nice, since we need to have a talk to you,” I said. Citra nodded along. “But first, I need a name.”

“How about arsehole?” she suggested.

“If that’s really what you want us to call you, Arsehole, we’ll be more than happy. Citra, let’s find this Arsehole a chair.” I pointed back behind us, to the wall that closed up behind us after entering the ship. “Or I suppose you could make a run for the safety of the French.”

She looked at me a second, then turned and ran, not stopping until she bounced off the wall and fell onto her back. I stepped over to check on her. “Aaaand she’s out.” Citra appeared at my side, a bundle of rope in hand. “Ah, perfect timing. Thank you, dear.” She smiled as she handed it over and I began to tie up our new guest. “Ship,” I called out as I tightened things. A tone and momentary shift in lighting indicated an answer from the alien vessel. “Take us up a mile and begin to follow the other trail we spotted.” The ship indicated a positive response and began carrying out my will.

It having only been about a minute, it was nice to see Arsehole wake up. It meant brain damage was unlikely. “Hey there sunshine,” I said as she groaned and tried to sit up. “Wakey wakey. You’re gonna be late for school.”

Citra brought over a stool someone had left. She hefted Arsehole up onto it, who then had to swing her body around to keep from falling off. “Ow. Thanks for tellin’ me to stop before I hit that wall.”

I shrugged. “You’re a grown adult. I expect you to know not to run headfirst into a wall. Once again, my confidence in humanity doesn’t pay off. Seeing as I’d rather have a daughter than you, we’re going to go find Mobian and trade you back. But what I’d really like to know first is why y’all kept her in the first place. Come on, kidnapping?”

“They didn’t want to bring her along,” Arsehole said. “Venus and Mobian needed you. They didn’t want the girl to come with you, but you weren’t coming and we needed you.”

“You needed to hand me over to aliens to be imprisoned or, more likely, killed.” I knelt there, looking her in her eyes. It was a more difficult discussion the other way, with her tied up and unable to pierce my fanged helmet with her gaze.

“That Mot, it almost destroyed the world until the aliens showed up. They saved us, then they found out about you. You committed some crime against them years back, they remembered, so they wanted you or they wouldn’t help save the world. Earth was dying. They knew Mobian could get you, and he knew Venus had to do it. It’s just, your daughter threw a fit when Venus came back without you. She stabbed Mobian while he flew the ship. We come out here, spinnin’ like a top, and I get thrown out the ship. We didn’t mean to take her.”

I shook my head. “I stopped back in 2018. You didn’t return her.”

“Maybe she was gonna-” Arsehole started, until I slapped her across the face. She tumbled over the back of her little stool.

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go,” I said, standing. Actions and intention. Good acts without good intention aren’t so bad, but good intentions without good actions are just so many worthless thoughts and prayers. I mean, this is all time travel stuff here. Mobian and Venus could have lost Qiang, looked for years, and returned her to me at that point in time. No need to wait. Whatever’s going on, Qiang wasn’t being dropped off at Ricca.

“Don’t come any closer!” came Mobian’s voice over the ship’s internal sound system.

I ran for the command center to find we’d been hailed. Mobian continued. “There is a bomb here set to detonate in your vicinity. Stay away!” I stopped us. It may be a bluff, but I’d have time enough to figure that out stopping. I still set the ship to scan for any projectiles or other sorts of attack.

“I thought you didn’t like bombs, Mobian,” I responded to the hail we’d gotten.

“It’s not mine. There are… creatures here. They have a device that does not belong in this time,” he answered. “I’m sorry, but when I examined it, it started tracking your vessel. I see you survived the ambush, Gecko.”

“No thanks to you.”

“I’m sorry, as I said, but they are trying again. This bomb will blow us all up and irrevocable change history if your ship approaches too close to the city.”

I checked our location. We were still about a mile southeast of a city, near a camp of more French soldiers. Checking on the map I brought to the future, I saw we were technically within Acre as of 2018. At this point in time, the city hadn’t grown out enough to encompass the area.

“Fine. Send Qiang out with Venus, I’ll hand over Arsehole, and we’ll settle this.”

“Arsehole?” he asked.

“I asked your lady friend for a name. That was the only response I got, so that’s what I called her. You’ve been a naughty boy, not returning my daughter.”

“I’d like to, but something came up. We cannot open these gates to return your daughter to you. Napoleon has besieged the city.”

“I see that. Open the gates, let the blue bastard in, and we’ll be on our way.” I checked over the siege. The camp didn’t look too good. Napoleon didn’t have a lot of manpower. Given what he’d just done at Mt. Tabor, that’s not too big a deal. The problem was the lack of cannon. The French didn’t have enough artillery to break in that quickly. That meant this was probably after the English destroyed the fleet the French sent along.

“The French lose this one. This is the turning point of the campaign. We must not interfere. You don’t know what changes it will make to the timeline!”

“There is always a way to sneak people out. You’re on the water,” I responded.

“Er, well, about that… Qiang ran away into the city and Venus is still searching for her, but the monsters around here are making it harder on all of us. Let me disable the bomb so you can fly in and settle this without any more bloodshed.”

“Oh dear, that means I’d have to head in there by myself, where all sorts of traps could be laid,” I played up sounding concerned. I’d walked into one ambush already. I had another idea how to handle what appeared to be another one. I thought it over, once again considering Mobian’s concerns about the timeline. “I wasn’t born on this Earth. Not a damn thing that happens here is going to prevent my birth. My daughter isn’t from around here, either. It seems like I could interfere quite a bit and not drastically alter much that would threaten the lives of anyone I find important. So I think what I’m going to do, is I’m going to get the future Emperor of France and head in there myself. All of us. Just the whole French army, unless you get me my daughter. Otherwise, I’m telling the timeline to go fuck itself.”

“You can’t do that!” he protested.

I took the ship down toward French lines, wary of getting much closer to the city. “I’m doing it. You know what is required to stop it.” I grinned as I noticed a big tent in particular.

I crashed my ship right through a part of it to reveal a command meeting. The men inside did not cower, though some might say they ran to get reinforcements. Others had pistols and swords at the ready to intercept me as I appeared suddenly. “Greetings,” I announced. “I have come to aid General Napoleon’s entrance to Acre. Where is he?”

The men looked to each other, confused by so much of this incredible sight, until one spoke up. “He has gone to aid General Kléber.” One of them pointed off in the direction… that I’d just come from. I miss the internet.

“Ah, yes, he’s succeeded at that,” I said, considering ordering someone to paint me a picture of a naked woman. Like I said, I missed the internet. “I shall await his return to camp. Please inform him I am waiting. Together, he and I are going to make history.”

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Back To The Past 3

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I barely slept as I tried to figure out the alien languages I’d surrounded myself with. It wasn’t just the programming language and operating system; I had to figure out the alien language itself well enough to fit into my translation program. I actually passed out at the console exhausting myself. Luckily, the dreams were more of those flashbacks to memories of bad times, which woke me up again before I could waste a whole night getting nothing done.

I had to find her, though the her vacillated between saving Qiang from Future Venus, and finding Future Venus to murder her. Pretty sure it’d work within those rules of the Parliament of Rogues if anyone wants to make a big deal about it. And if anyone wants to give me shit about aliens in costumes, I’ll remind them this happened in the Cretaceous, like 65 million years before any such agreement existed. I still dumped the body of the alien off the ship with the others in a big cloud of bugs.

Big referred to both the size of the cloud and the size of the bugs. They were tall enough to ride the roller coaster.

Between desperation and anger, I had all the motivation I needed to shove a shitload of information into my brain. I learned to read this weird language as best as possible, which involved touch sensitivity on the buttons as well. I probably don’t even have a mouth capable of making the noises necessary to pronounce the spoken version. And while I didn’t figure out absolutely all the ins and outs of this ship, I learned enough to get it going. That part was kinda important to me. I wanted well away from the ground so as to avoid any more giant gators or giant bugs. Everything’s giant back in the Cretaceous, and here I am without a penis.

I’d lament my timing, but I have at time machine! And with it, I shall find that future copy of my nemesis and tear her apart, molecule by molecule if need be. The only shot she’s got is- no. No shot. No more. Not for this one. Having figured out how to work this thing, I’m going to head back to the time I left and I will see if they returned Qiang. If she’s back unharmed, Future Venus dies quickly and painlessly. Relatively. There actually is a more painful way to tear a person’s heart out through their ass. My favorite version involves music, interpretive dance, and a fistful of rusty, glowing hot nails. The rust doesn’t even do anything at that temperature, but a lot of pain is psychosomatic. So the nails are to mess with her mind. The Thai dragon peppers impaled on the nails, those are for the body.

But like I said, if Qiang is returned to me, I make it easier on Future Venus. I’m undecided on Mobian, mainly because I put all the blame on Venus. But figuring out all that blame won’t exactly work if I’m wrong on time travel. So, once I figured I had the systems under control, I activated Time Navigation Mode. The ship’s viewscreen of the surrounding area shifted from its strange, blue-heavy that analyzed the threat posed by whatever birds, giant bugs, and pterasaurs were flying around. Instead, it sorta whited out, like looking at a wireframe mode. I noticed something off there, though. It showed me some sort of path. When I told the computer to clarify what I was looking at, it came back with the alien equivalent of “Temporal Slipstream”. Flying closer and swapping views, it appeared to be coming from where Mobian was parked.

“Cool,” I said to no one in particular. “Let’s get this bad boy up to 88.8 miles per hour and give it some jigawatts!” I switched back to Temporal Navigation and started charging it up, setting in a course to follow this slipstream. The viewscreen showed it as if I would follow the thing, but instead it created a field around the exterior of this weird little ship to match something it detected in the slipstream. The ship then rose along the same course and existence blinked.

When it came to, the ship had moved quite a bit in various ways. Gone was the marsh, instead replaced by barren plains that grew only scorched grass. And because this is alien, it didn’t use a time system or coordinates in the same way I knew them. I tried reaching out to satellites and the internet, but the ship blocked that. So I figured I’d stop by Empyreal City. At least the ship could give me enough of a view of the planet to navigate manually.

Even from a continental level, things had changed. Where California had been was now an archipelago. Florida hung out from the southeast side of North America, but an awful lot of the east coast north of it had become a bay. China was entirely desert, the middle east was setting off radiation alerts from the other side of the world, and my country was just gone. Ricca and Mu were so thoroughly disappeared, you’d think the Argentinean military snatched them up. I’m just kidding. The Falklands know just how bad Argentina is at stealing land.

And I know just the place to stay up to date on the news. This thing could fly, too. Nice to know in case Maverick and Ice Man were wingmen any time. But I didn’t get any response at all, despite this thing likely being detectable. It became more apparent why when I came into visual range of Empyreal City. The place looked like it’d been home to a kaiju gang bang. Buildings were toppled or half-missing. There were scorch marks everywhere. Then I spot a chitinous leg sticking out of a building, its torn off portion exposed to the sky like it had held up something even bigger. I immediately checked myself for any more of the prehistoric bugs hitching a ride. Satisfied that I hadn’t somehow caused this by exposing the world’s biggest cockroach to time travel, I decided to land.

The streets turned out to be abandoned by people. Not so much cars, but there weren’t many people around. Most hid upon seeing the ship lower. Some of them outright ran when I popped out, but then that’s a normal enough reaction to me. “Hello!” I said, waving at everyone. The dirty, scared people looking back said nothing. The silence deafened, which is when I realized the amazing lack of cars and internet. The phones were almost entirely silent. Satellites? Only a few left. Shit had gone down. Empyreal City’s had its fair share of problems before, but this was a big deal.

“Hey!” I called out to somebody wrapped in an oily blanket. “What year is it?”

“You a time traveler or somethin’?” the boy called back. “It’s 33.”

I looked around. “2033?”

“No, 1933, ya dumbass,” the kid responded. Nothing in those rules I agreed to about not killing civilians.

“Y’all stopped that Mot thing, right?” I asked.

“Shit, no thanks to you, time guy.” He jerked around as a wail started in the distance, then began running for it. “Shit, they doin’ curfew early! Better fly, time guy,” he said as he ran off. Everyone did.

Well, I didn’t know the big deal with curfew, but I knew I was here looking for somebody. And there was one place to find Venus when everywhere else failed. I zapped myself back into the time ship and took off for the East Coast campus of the Master Academy.

It turned out to be nothing left but a pile of cinders and some shiny land that looked like it’d been glassed. So… yeah. Over on the west coast, I found the the original campus of the Master Academy torn to shreds. Not a single whole building stood amongst a campus dotted with crescent moon divots the length of a car. This future version of Earth had been fucked up its earhole.

That didn’t matter. Knowing the year, I was able to make a few conversions and put in a course for home. One second I hovered way overhead a reef in the Pacific, the next I was looking down on Ricca in the year 2018. A little adjusting put me back there right after the disappearance of Mobian’s time ship. I actually wondered what would happen if I tried to stop it from leaving. I’ve seen the future. Fucking up the timeline could only help these people.

Instead, I waited. And waited. And when they didn’t fucking show back up off Qiang, I set it down in front of the residential palace.

“What’s going on?” Silver Shark asked, her large, cyborg body gleaming in the sunlight as she stepped out to greet me. “Where’d you get this thing?”

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I shrugged. “Carjacked some aliens. Time traveling super bitch stole my daughter and is probably trying to raise her to hate me. I need explosives.”

She set her jaw. “How much?”

“All the explosives,” I said. “And a shitload of rusty nails.”

I loaded up my armor stand for repair and maintenance, nanites for my health, knives for Venus’s health. I didn’t know how long this bogus journey would last, but even a most excellent adventure would still end with me making damn sure that someone was going in a grave. Oh, and I brought rusty nails.

Silver Shark tried to come with me. So did Max, but I held up my hands. “Uh uh. No. This is something I have to do myself.”

“But Gecko, why?” asked Silver.

“Because technically I’m not supposed to be murdering superheroes for no reason nowadays. So I’m going to go have a very intense… discussion… with this Future Venus. A real tongue lashing. Going to chew her out.”

“So this is sexual?” asked Sam, Mix N’Max’s assistant.

“Oh, she’s already fucked,” I said. “I’m just gonna widen the hole.”

Max offered a hand. “If you ever need us, just say the word.”

I shook it with three of my four hands. “If anyone asks, I’m not murdering a super.” He nodded. I walked over to my ship and it seemed almost like a dramatic moment, but then I was like, “By the way, as long as I succeed, I’ll be right back. Like, I’ll be gone, then I’ll be here again, and you’ll all be disappointed you felt like this was a big deal.”

“Boo!” called Max’s other assistant, Holly, causing me to smile under my helmet.

So I took to the ship, got myself settled into the command center, and flew the ship up, navigating conventionally and temporally. When we blinked through time again, we were back where I’d first come into 2033. I set the ship to scanning for any more temporal slipstreams. I whirled as someone stepped into the command room. It was Citra, my wife, carrying a spear in one hand with a bandolier of bullets over the outside of her dress and handgun sticking out of a sash on her waste. “The hell are you doing here?” I asked.

She set her jaw, which made her look more pouty than anything. “She is my daughter too. I am going to kill the bitch who stole her and left you to die.”

“No, you’re not,” I said, turning around as we got a hit on the trail left by Mobian’s timeship. Citra versus Venus? Not so much a curbstomp as a footnote.

Citra walked over and held the spear out to block my access to the console. “You are my husband. Qiang is our daughter. I want to do something.”

I shrug and gesture behind me. “Whatever you do, don’t get in my way. That’s kinda important since I don’t know where we’re going. Now let’s see what time it is these Mobian folks went to…” I hit the button.

When we came out, it was over Palestine. Zooming in to see what might be significant, I found a large force of cavalry getting their asses handed to them by about 2,000 soldiers in blue coats. “Ok, Citra, you thought this would be nice and easy. Now let’s figure out what they’re doing in 1799.”

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Back To The Past 2

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Trapped in a big crystal, faced with a squad of aliens ready to murder me after tricking me back in time. I’d expected them to go for the kill immediately, but they had some idea of due process. Maybe they wanted to take their time. Either way, they didn’t care to talk to me, the victim of their “complete victory” as he’d so arrogantly put it. I know what Sun Tzu said, but I don’t like declaring victory before people are dead.

These alien fuckers from Omicron Persei 8 relaxed. One of them, uniform colored primarily teal, stepped over to the diamond-shaped floating timeship and pressed a hand to it. He, or whatever that species has, pressed a hand to it and disappeared. That left three. Red watched me. The brown one circled around me. Purple stared off after Venus. That part was something I had to handle later, because I knew if I focused on her, I’d get locked in a loop.

I strained to breathe in that crystal. Not entirely sure how I was able to do so, in fact, but I was focused more on surviving than exploring mysterious technology. Luckily, I knew how to send my mind outside my body. Forget meditation, I’d dropped off those drones earlier. They must have been mistaken for another part of the ambush by she-who-must-be-impaled-later. Ok, so I’d brought a couple. The laser drone could be handy for getting me loose from this thing, but I don’t see these bozos letting it finish the job. I’d packed the other one with automatic ballistic weaponry. I know, a bit of boring gunplay. Hindsight’s a bitch and it’s too late to strap a rocket launcher or some grenades to the thing.

Rounds from the gun drone loosened dirt around the base of my prison. Red took cover. The triangular remote-control weapons platforms moved in quickly, zooming to press against it. The one with the gun attached took the best position and aimed away so it could fire and let recoil add to the force. They were so… damn… close. And then it moved a tiny bit. And a little more. The purple guy walked right up to where the drones were trying to help me gather some speed. Good thing for the 360 view of my armor the way I rolled out of view.

The laser drone was essential, but the gun drone I could risk. The laser one flew up while the purple people trapper walked over, caught just as it backed up to ram the orb again. He grabbed it and said something in weird sounds I couldn’t translate. Probably something smug about me being some primitive lifeform. It’s like they’re confusing me for a damn human. Not the first time I’ve had people coming after devices I built. I’ve learned lessons. I installed explosives. The drone self-destructed in that guy’s hands. So he didn’t have hands anymore.

More than that, the explosion gave a little more force to the orb I was encased in. I rolled toward the brown guy, though. He had one job. One job. But he didn’t get a good grip on the cracking material and I bounced off, rolling. And rolling. And rolling even more. We must have been on a slight slope. It was hard to tell at that point. I couldn’t even fly the remaining drone at that point. I had to set it to hover while my internal music player started playing “Round and Round” for some reason. I didn’t have time to manage my music selection. I was trying not to throw up while trapped in a rock.

When I did finally stop, I’d splashed into the marsh. Because that’s cool. Let’s add a moat to my situation. And it’s the Cretaceous period, so there are probably dog-sized leeches around, just waiting to get Medieval medicine on my ass. My stomach was spinning, but I could at least call the drone to me without making it do loop de loops. The drone caught a glimpse of the leader tending to the guy whose hands I blew off. The one in brown ran after me while they were busy. Seeing him close in, I brought up the drone to go ahead and start taking a little off the edges. I worked on cutting an arm free by cutting down parallel to my head and neck.

The beam cut slowly. Worse, the drone had to stop firing to cool down. I wasn’t going to be able to get this guy before he started splashing into the water, crawling over roots and stepping around this giant log. On the plus side, I doubted the bastard could roll me anywhere, especially out of that muck. If I was lucky, they’d have trouble loading me into their ship. Can a guy catch a break?

Suddenly, the thirty foot log nearby raised its head out of the water and lunged for Brown, completely justifying the color of his pants. This giant fucking gator attacked like a gumbo chef’s worst nightmare, hissing. Ever hear a thirty foot long alligator hiss? It’s not cute.

Now, I don’t know for a fact that Brown used his pants as nature clearly intended. When he turned to catch that thing’s jaw and stop it from swallowing him whole, he looked wet like a guy naturally would after tromping through a swamp. He diverted its maw to the side, and I felt fairly safe inside my crystalline prison. Hell, I figured this thing was going to solve all my problems for me. Then our not-so-favorite Martian pulled laser swords out of Uranus. Glowing, thin blades of light grew from the palms of his gloves. The blades shown like the edge of a pane of glass. Alien and prehistoric reptilian predator met in a clash of lasers and primal fury.

Would have been awesome to see, but I was carving myself an arm free with the laser. And as soon as that thing was able to move a bit, the enhanced strength of my power armor allowed me to break it fully loose and start taking off more chunks, especially when I used my energy gauntlets. The good news is that it wasn’t really sticking to me in any way. Once I got enough of myself clear, the material from the orb would just fall off. One arm soon turned into two arms, then all four, my head and torso, then I was able to pull my legs out of there. I had to set the radiationthrower down in the orb’s remains as I freed myself, though.

That was about the time that gatorzilla released a last, gurgling hiss, twitching. Brown jumped off, uniform torn along his torso in the shape of jagged fang marks. Neither of us really had a moment to celebrate, as he swung one light sword at my midsection. I jumped over it easily thanks to my suit’s enhancements, but then he swung the other arm up in a bisecting uppercut. Probably would have gotten me if not for the elbow rockets on my armor. They allowed me to shoot forward just enough to stomp on his head before landing behind him. We turned at the same time, me right up in his face. With my four arms, I had his two by the elbow and wrist.

He headbutted me. I headbutted him back. He kneed me in the groin. I have a pussy. Unfortunately for him, I also had a laser drone that flew down and carved through his neck like thermite through a piggybank. Remember, kids: the word “overkill” still has kill in it. Now, just in case he had some sort of strange alien physiology that would let him stab me after losing his head, I held onto his body through its death shakes, singing to myself. “Just like me, they long to be, close to you…”

After he stopped shaking, I dropped him and got the fuck out of that water before it turns out the land I was standing on was an even bigger gator. For fuck’s sake, no wonder somebody threw a meteor at this place with those things swimming around.

Free from the swamp, and the muck, I was able to project invisibility, which likely wouldn’t do any good. It didn’t stop them form seeing me when I raided their homeworld. The red… ranger?… came over a rise on his way down, all by his lonesome. Oh, wait, that’s right, they can see through my invisibility. That’s why he didn’t have any trouble spotting me. He pressed his palms together and came away with a shorter pair of blades. Where before it was like a longsword, this pair were dagger-length.

“Wait!” I said, holding up my hands. He didn’t, so he was actually pretty close when I backflipped onto the remains of my crystal prison and kicked the main gun of the radiationthrower into my arms. I kicked that bad boy into full release and started nuking him from orbit. It was hard to be sure though, as he’d made it into the water. The radiation put up a fog as it began microwaving the water around the alien. The hissing of the steam made me glance over and make sure the big gator wasn’t moving. When I turned my attention back to Red, he’d stepped out of the fog and wasn’t looking that good.

Brown armor plates deformed and twisted off underneath the remnants of his uniform. He didn’t even have one of his gloves and its laser dagger anymore, but he kept on coming. I saw the bottom portion of his helmet deforming, crinkling, melting. He stabbed at the radiationthrower’s backpack line. I jumped as he severed it, leaving him standing there with a hose leading right to a nuclear core expelling heat all around it.

He dove to get away, splashing into the murk. When he came up, I smacked him on his weakened helmet with the gun portion again, then brought it down on his hand to keep him from directing his little stabber at me. I wanted to just bash his head in or hold him under the water until he drowned, if he can drown, but that’s too slow of a victory when the opponent has time travel on their side. Instead, I unhooked a rubber chicken grenade and pulled the red guy up. I tore the grenade’s head off and stuck it under his belt before tossing him onto the wild and loose nuclear reactor. Whatever weird trills made up his language, they rose in pitch and felt like they were stabbing into my ears until the grenade detonated. It didn’t necessarily destroy all the fissionable material involved, but it hopefully didn’t do anything too bad to the timeline.

Off in the distance, I saw Mobian’s timeship, the one I’d arrived on, rise up into the sky and blink out of existence, thoroughly stranding me. So I took care of some of these fuckers, but I’m not out of the prehistoric marsh yet.

When the diamond-shaped brick shithouse of a ship floated over minutes later, I lay unmoving on the shore. It hovered closer, then a flash brought forth the teal colored one. He walked over and nudged me with a boot. Then he kicked me. He kept going, harder, and I began to wonder if he might know I’m alive. He almost hit my remaining drone where it was hidden under my cape. I was just about to jump up and take him out when he turned toward his compatriots.

I couldn’t see the expression on his face, of course, but I’m sure it turned to surprise when one of my arms burst through his chest, tossing away a portion of what might have been a spine. Purple blood sprayed everywhere, and he soon found he couldn’t control his own arms, what with my lower arms holding them. I dragged him close to the ship then. Intertwined, I reached out with his hand. Suddenly, the ship expanded, growing larger all around us as a beam of light pulled us into it. So glad it’s not one of those deathtrap teleporters that’d kill me and make a copy on the other end.

When it finally released us, I pulled myself out of the dead body I brought with me, holding it ready to smack opposition with. Instead, I found nothing except a relatively small room. It seemed empty, except there had been one with an uncomfirmed fate. Purple, whose hands I blew off. I scoured the place, finding a pretty well-rounded ship. Group quarters, mess hall, storage, some sort of control center, and finally the medical station. The doctor’s office itself, complete with a serious of rounded pods, all clear except for one. I walked over, looking for any sort of control. I found a panel that lit up with different symbols in different places, but nothing I could use. It was when I tried tapping on the pod itself that the thing cleared out in a small radius around where I’d touched. The thing had felt more like water than anything solid. More importantly, I saw our Purple friend inside, stumps looking slightly longer than I thought I’d left him.

Remembering the way it felt, I pushed my hand against the surface harder and found it gave to my touch. They must have put him out, too. He didn’t resist at all when my hand snaked up to his throat. Oh, sure, choking him, then he tried to fight back. For obvious reasons, he couldn’t get a grip. I ended up pulling him out of that pod and holding him up in the air. One hand choked, the other three kept him from kicking me away. Finally, he fought back no more. I snapped his neck for good measure and squeezed it until it separated from his head, then tossed him aside.

With a moment to think things through, I made my way to the command center, going over stuff. Betrayed by Venus. No, Future Venus. My Venus hasn’t done this, but now I know she’s capable of it. Hell, she still might. So Future Venus left me to my fate with these aliens. Mobian’s ship disappeared. And the fuckers who had used me as just a commodity to hand over had my daughter. Future Venus and Mobian. Not exactly the easiest nut to crack.

But as I pulled my gauntlets off and pressed my hands to a control panel, I smiled. I couldn’t understand the programming language and had been a bit surprised that my body even managed to bond to this ship’s computer at all, but it had worked. All I had to do now was decipher this language. Then, I’ll have all the time in the world to bring them 1.21 jiggawatts of pain.

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Back To The Past 1

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“Nope. Nooooope!” I said, turning away from The Mobian’s timeship. I turned and began to walk away. From the 360-degree heads-up-display of my power armor, I could see Mobian, or at least an older, scarf-clad version of Mobian than the one I’d seen before, turn and look at his companions. The bleach-blonde middle-aged woman was just as clueless. It was the other woman, an older version of Venus with grey hair and a robotic right eye, followed after me.

“I come begging for help and you turn your back on me? Since when!” she said, hurrying to grab my shoulder.

I turned. “As much as I love to hear about you coming and begging me, future Venus, you said no daughters. An awful lot of stuff I get dragged on seems to take a month of my time, and that’s a bit too long for me to leave her alone.”

She looked me where the eyes of my helmet should be and walked around to block the direction I had been walking. “We need the world’s best assassin. Do you want your daughter to see kill people?”

“My daughter’s been through some shit.She can handle me turning someone’s skull into my own personal dickpuppet, but what I don’t think she can handle is me just dumping her to go run off for a week or a month or however long.” I poked her in the chest, noticing that the tattered top she wore was less like her hero outfit and more like scrounged-up body armor.

The Mobian poked his old, grey-curled head in from the side. “If I may, my timeship does not operate by what humans call ‘San Dimas Time’. I can return you to the instant after you left.”

“And if something happens, then I’ve just suddenly disappeared from her life. Either Qiang travels with me on a journey throughout time, or you can fuck off to Transexual, Transylvania looking for someone to do the Time Warp with, gramps, got it?”

“We need you,” Venus said, moving closer and crowding me in.

I looked between Venus and Mobian, then leaned in, brushing my upper hands through their hair. “Shh. Shh. It’s ok.” Then I reached down and slapped a lower hand on their asses at the same time. “So, how serious are y’all about needing me?” They stood there awkwardly for a moment before I let go of their heads, stepped past them, and pushed them behind me with both sets of arms. “Get the fuck outta here! Killers are a dime a dozen. Like that guy.” I pointed off to the distance where Specialist St. John sat by a fountain, his giant alien blaster shotgun taken apart for cleaning. “Dragoon there used to be a mercenary. Killing for pay is the mercenary way.”

“We’ll let you bring your daughter along!” said the blonde woman, marching up behind me. Venus glared at her and the Mobian bit his bottom lip briefly.

“That is a bad idea. She’s a child,” Mobian said.

“No, fine,” Venus said, turning her glare to me and trying to fight it down. “If it’ll get you to come along, bring her. We’ll look after her.”

Dear reader, do you ever get that feeling like you’re not being told the whole story?

“You need me that bad, eh?” I looked to Venus, focusing on her. “Must be something pretty important. Why do you need me? Come on. I’m not a tool here.”

She blinked her biological eye and crossed her arms, standing with feet spread just a little. “We need you. In fifteen years, Mot awakens. It is an ancient god of death and pestilence that consumes everything. It empowers its followers to kill; it spreads filth and disease wherever; it takes the powers of whoever it consumes and sends their ghosts and corpses to round up more for it to eat. It’s unstoppable. Mobian finally came when we had no other options,” she gestured to Mobian, who bowed his head sheepishly. “It’s too powerful now. We have to go back to when it was weaker.”

“I’m following along with you so far, but why me?” I asked. I pointed over at Dragoon again. “Mercenary. Works for cash.” I pointed at myself. “Untrustworthy psycho. Gonna try to love you up and turn you into a horny toad.”

It’s a testament to how rough a future she comes from that this got Venus to smile just a little. She got control of her mouth, but it still happened. “It does things to people. Mot forces people to confront the worst about themselves. It brings out every bad thing about them and makes them see it.”

“Like depression?” I ask.

She shakes her head. “Worse. Most people can’t put up a fight.” I don’t think she has much experience with depression. “We know where it will be at one moment, but we may only get one chance to destroy it. We know, don’t we? You know the truth about yourself?” She laid a hand on one of my forearms. “I can’t think of many who could get close to it through all of that.”

I cocked my head to the side. “What about future me?”

“You were dead. Will be dead.” The tense problem was just one portion of the awkwardness in those words.

“ You’re going to have to tell me how that happens,” I said.

“It’s a deal,” she said quickly. “Come help destroy Mot, and I’ll tell you how you die.”

“The timeship will be parked well away from this depression aura thingy, right?” I asked.

“Why?”

“For Qiang, of course. It was already agreed I could bring her.

“Yes,” Mobian said. “We wouldn’t want her to experience anything so terrible.” He looked between future Venus and myself. “We are agreed. Gecko, gather all you will need as well as your daughter.”

And I did. I grabbed Qiang, loaded up a couple extra rubber chicken grenades, and brought the radiationthrower back out of its carefully-sealed lead refrigerator. I don’t often get a chance to just drag the thing out, but it seemed like a good time to carry around an unlicensed nuclear reactor in a backpack. It helped conceal another thing I figured would be useful, especially if this depression aura was real. I’d been hoping to make more use of drones, and my brief time on the alien world attested to that. I snuck a couple of smaller drones under my cape, attached to the battery pack back there, as well as the back of my belt.

“Hey baba,” Qiang said, taking one of my free hands. Yet another advantage of having extras. “If we’re going back in time, can I see mama again?”

Hoo boy.

I squeezed her hand. “I sure hope so. I’ll see if they can do that, ok?”

I left a message for the Directory that I may or may not be gone for awhile. I’d let them know if I was leaving, and not to go selecting anyone else to take over for me too quickly if I don’t come back from the trip I may not go on. Mobian’s timeship was still where we’d left it. The blonde kept an eye out for me, though she spent more time checking out the various supervillains leaving. Most had been on their way out already, but Mobian’s vessel didn’t strike any of them as a good omen. As much as he was a hero, he was one who tended to show up around the time things were going wrong. It wasn’t so much that he caused problems, but he tended to be where problem were.

“Hey there,” Future Venus said, smiling warmly at Qiang in a way she’d never managed for me. Qiang ran over to go hug her. An idea flitted through my head of adopting more and more kids until she was forced to love me, but that obviously wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even be fun, not even to watch from the outside. Might be a handy way to start my own gang of villains if I’m willing to put the years into it, so I decided to put it on the list of Possible Future Schemes. It’s right up there underneath “Engineer Global Ice Cream Shortage”.

I’d expected the inside of the ship to be all cluttered, with weird hoses and levers all around. It was a lot bigger on the inside than I expected, with a floor of some cloudy amber material. The walls were way more white than I preferred. A bit hard on the eyes there. The Mobian was standing atop a raised platform made of some dark metal that clashed with the rest of the interior. On one of the walls was a doorway of brass, perhaps, that led to further interior. Perhaps there were rooms there. Out here in this section, there was only the raised platform Mobian stood at pressing things, and the blank area for the rest of us to stand.

The opening we’d entered by closed up, cutting me off from the world’s information once again. “Are we ready to bid this millennium adieu?” Mobian asked, then leaned down to smile at Qiang. “It’s a smooth ride so you won’t need to buckle up.”

“Can we go see my mommy?” she asked in the Riccan pidgin.

Mobian’s friendly demeanor faltered for a moment. “I’ll see what we can do.”

“You speak Riccan?” I asked him.

He winked and pointed up at the ceiling of the ship. “My ship ensures we understand each other. Everyone who travels through time on it is linked, but the field dissipates if not soon renewed. Buckle your unnecessary seatbelts, folks!”

Despite that, the blonde woman was leaning on the side of the raised portion where it met the floor in a gentle ramp, holding onto the lip for support. “It’s ok,” I said. “I’m sure this nuclear device will be fine if it’s jostled too much.” I raised the radiationthrower. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“The where isn’t as important as the when. Tell me, have you ever been to the Cretaceous before?” Mobian asked. A part of the white wall cleared up like a fog, showing us lowering onto the edge of a marshy area. “If the location is important to you, this would be the continent Laramidia.”

“I think I caught that once,” I said. “So, this is is where an ancient god of death. Hey, after I kill this thing, I call dibs on its title.” Huh. Can a god of death be killed? Interesting question, but I suppose it depends on the type of god. My brief look into this Mot critter before leaving the present didn’t turn up a lot of info. Lived in a pit, ceaseless hunger, covers the land with filth. I actually had so much of a hard on for killing a god of death, I didn’t even want to pull out the social commentary, like wondering if this was Rush Limbaugh’s house or something.

The door opened and Venus volunteered to show me the way. “We’re far enough way that the ship won’t be affected. I’ll lead you as far as I can.”

I nodded and knelt down to look Qiang in the eye. “I gotta go deal with this thing, then I’ll be right back. Until then, this people are supposed to be nice to you.” I reached out and booped her nose with one of my lower hands. “See you in a bit, dumpling.”

We hugged. “See you soon, baba. Don’t get eaten by monsters.”

I patted her head. “Don’t worry, sweetie. Monsters hide under the bed because they don’t want me to find them.” And they don’t like it when I try to cuddle in the afterglow. I hugged her for a few seconds before breaking it off and standing up.

Once we’d exited the time ship, Future Venus pulled out a device and pressed a soft button on it. It created a conical hologram in front of her with lines marking ranges and a beeping dot in the distance. “This way,” she said.

We walked on for a bit, her not really responding to my attempts at conversation. Stimulating stuff, too. “And if that wasn’t bad enough, then Napoleon’s guys are just like ‘fuck it, kill ’em all. It’d just be cheaper to buy new slaves,’ and start gassing folks.”

“Do you just look at the worst humanity has to offer?” she asks.

I shot her a look. “No. I just figured I’d learn about the Haitian Revolution someday. It’s just your history, and it’s interesting. And those worst of humanity types come along naturally. Unfair to classify them as different. They are humanity.” We took turns hopping over portions of the swamp that we were circling around.

“Your daughter’s half that, too.”

“Yeah, she is. She gets to be my daughter. How fucked is her life going to be if people hold it against her, right? But that’s why I’m taking some of those lessons you tried to teach me to heart.”

“Bullshit,” Future Venus said as she stepped over a root thick enough to rival many a tree.

“I trust you with my daughter. I trust you enough to drag me to Jurassic Park. And I’ve been trying to do things to make the world a little better. I don’t want Qiang hurt because of a cycle of revenge that started with me.”

Venus hurried to get further ahead of me. “We’re almost there.”

“What, my attempt to be a tiny bit more responsible offends you, my dear Venus?” I jumped in front of her and turned around.

She stopped, of course. Even with the years on her, Future Venus was still beautiful and stubborn. “You’re bringing up some conflicting feelings, and it’s not easy knowing what’s coming left in your life and mine. My life from back then,” she gestured back behind her, toward the ship.

“Yeah, I plenty of conflicting feelings about you too. I hate you, but at the same time you’re so wonderful. A strong, unflinching hero with your stupidly naive goody-goody ways. I suppose Captain Lightning is too, but he’s not the one who seems willing to die for the belief there’s a better person in me.”

She crossed her arms. “And he’s not as pretty as me.”

I shrugged. “True, but I just learned it’s not an age thing at all, beautiful.”

She smiled and turned away, shaking her head. “You talk some shit.”

“Yeah, I do. But, ya know, I could always make someone look like you. They’d just never mean as much to me as you do,” I said. It felt a little warm under my helmet, but what the hell? I’m dead when she comes from, and present Venus won’t know any of this. “There’s a reason I can’t bring myself to kill you.”

“Yeah, because I can still fight you off.”

I handed off the radiationthrower to my lower set of arms and popped my helmet off so I could blow her a kiss. “Keep flirting like this and we’ll see.”

That got a laugh. When she stopped, she looked at me for a moment, pondering. Then she put her hand on my shoulder, leaned in, and something magical happened. “The-” she started to say before I made a little more magic happen. She didn’t let me go on forever, pressing a finger to my lips. “There. We’ve tried it. A man from your past and a woman from beyond your future.”

“Well see,” I said. When she backed off further, I put my helmet back on and redid the seals. “Unless changing the timeline makes you disappear, you could always stick around with myself and Qiang.” And my wife, too, but I wasn’t so stupid to mention that when I was on a roll.

Her smile faded and she looked down, shaking her head. “That won’t work.”

“If you’re afraid I’ll die on you, you’re supposed to give me that info anyway,” I reminded her. She sighed and walked past me. That… got chilly in a hurry.

“We’re almost there,” she said.

“Ok,” I said. I stayed quiet, hoping to give her time to think and sort all this out. Probably some hero hangup she’s dealing with?

I don’t normally enjoy nature hikes, but the day’s events made this one just awesome. If Mot the death god was trying to bring me down, he wasn’t doing shit. Maybe that’s what got Future Venus, but I wasn’t feeling a thing. I was thinking on that when she stopped, staring down at a strange stone that definitely looked out of place there from the glow within. The smooth obsidian orb just sat there. “This our Mot guy? A bit on the small side, and I thought there’d be a pit.” Behind me, the drones dropped out from under my cape. One took off for cover, the other headed up into the tree tops.

Venus looked back and up, trying to follow the noise, but didn’t seem all that concerned. “That leads to Mot. I’m not going any further, but wait a moment,” she turned and patted my shoulder. “I was going to tell you when you died, now, before you touched it. I can’t now. I hope you can understand.” She stepped back.

“This Mot aura’s really doing a number on you… Let me just deal with that. You tell me afterward.” I turned and walked toward the orb. “What do I do?”

“Just touch it,” she said. Nice words to hear coming from her. I went to nudge it with my boot and-

It was like it blew up on me, but not explosively. One moment it’s a rock on the ground, the next it’s surrounding me, everything held in place in rock or crystal or whatever’s the fucking difference when I’m trapped like that.

I could still feel the drones at least, but before I could direct them to fire on the thing, a diamond-shaped thing flew through the sky. It was even smaller than the timeship, but when it touched the ground, four beings appeared. Four humanoids, each wearing a different primary color with black and silver as secondary colors. The same damn things that showed up at the end of the big villain raid on the alien planet that created the Deep Ones and experimented on the mercenaries who accidentally found the portal.

The lead one in red made a sound that, after a moment, shifted into English words. “Go.” Venus turned and jogged away, sparing me one last glance. Red guy turned to me then. “You understand this language?” he continued in English.

I’d have nodded, or given him a middle finger, but both were hard to do. “Yeah, fuckface, but if you really want to speak my language, let me out of this thing.”

“You are Psychopomp Gecko, member of an infant race, leader of a group who attacked the society of your superiors. We will exact punishment for your trespass. You can not escape. You have no allies. Our victory is complete. Our power, overwhelming. Resistance will only bring pain.”

“Oh, you have no fucking idea,” I growled from inside this crystal ball that encased me as I stared out at a a foursome of aliens who decided to commit the world’s least fun suicide.

Archive Transmission Fragment 1 Complete

Archive Decompiling Resumes… … … …

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