Category Archives: 86. Sword Of Damnocles

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t, I got some damn assassins to deal with because it’s good to be the King, but Kingin’ ain’t easy.

Sword of Damnocles 6

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“Gecko, let me in!” Medusa said, banging away at my door. I’d locked myself in my study, hanging upside down while my consciousness raced through computer systems to collaborte with my science guys and steal info from around the world. The Fluidics hadn’t done anything yet. Yet.

Normally, the solution I’d resort to is a D-Bomb. Oops, looks like there’s no guarantees that’ll keep working, and what the brainiacs said makes me think I should ease off on those. Considering we’ve got a couple of permanent holes to other dimensions around this world, they seem to have a point. That’s really going to fuck up that contract I had to drill Uranus while providing things like food and consumer products. That’s a miner concern at the moment.

I was trying to ignore Medusa while I dealt with bigger, deadlier concerns, including the aftermath of the Telechamber explosion. She didn’t want to let a sturdy door get in her way, though. I heard it rattle from an impact, then dear Medusa’s voice a she yelled “Fuck that hurt!” I should have installed a window with the words “In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass” on it.

“There’s a door knob!” I called to her, unlocking it remotely with an audible click. I nearly locked it back just before she could open it.

“You are really worried about this,” Medusa said as she opened the door. I couldn’t really see her as I’d put a blindfold over my head to help me concentrate

“I’m surprised you aren’t,” I answered.

“There are a lot of heroes who will help fight the big stuff,” she said. “I have to trust in them if I’m going to do what I do now. You should trust that you have people who will fight for you if they come for revenge.”

That caused me to pause for a moment. “Well, normally people don’t. They’re more than happy to see me die. That’s one of the downsides of my Machiavellian, fear-based respect. And on top of that, if they come for me, I need to make sure a lot of other people don’t get caught in the crossfire. The Fluidics won’t care who they have to go through. I got some ideas for things to do, but this kind of shit is always a gamble. There’s always a chance they’ll move faster, or have some advantage I can’t overcome, or that they’ll simply know stuff I can’t know.”

“I get that you’re used to that, but you’re not alone. What can we do to help?” Medusa asked.

“Yeah, you got friends in low places,” I heard Max say from further, probably around the door.

“Not like you can do much about the remains of an alien fleet lowering themselves slowly into the atmosphere,” I responded, watching that happen over various feeds.

Sam spoke up, “They may not want to kill you. You should be open to the possibility of giving people a second chance.”

“Yeah, that’s why you have a girlfriend,” Holly added.

“True, I gave her a second chance after all the times she tried to thwart my plans, but I don’t think we can risk that kind of trust for murderous aliens who want to take over the world. Or at least, I can’t as an Empress,” I said, which attracted snorts for some reason.

After a second that I was using to check data on the island’s forcefield, Max decided to expand on this whole thing, “You are a murderer from another universe who once took over the world. You even killed The Good Doctor, who was our friend.”

“That’s not the same,” I said.

“I remember when you made stupid jokes about assuming gender even though you and Max’s sister are, ya know…” Sam said.

“Remember when you jumped up and tanked a rocket for a little girl you took in as your daughter?” said Holly.

I didn’t quite know what to say, so I tried to keep looking things over. I had ideas about the island’s shield, but it’d be dangerous to pull off with people around and it wouldn’t really come up unless the aliens came at me with their ships. I figured I could repurpose the nanomachines in the waters to handle a ground invasion, though.

A caress of my cheek drew me back out of those thoughts, and Medusa told me, “If nobody trusted you, you wouldn’t be here to argue about protecting people you feel responsible toward, or smuggling people out of concentration camps to safety. Does that sound like someone who deserves to die?”

“That’s not the whole story and you know it,” I said.

“Yeah, but what you think is justice is sometimes revenge and paranoia. The Academy and too many heroes get confused about that, and I’m tired of seeing that. If you want to be no better than the heroes, though…” Damn, this is what I get for dating someone with a sense of morality.

“I’m still going to plan on how best to kill them,” I said.

“You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t,” Sam said. “Also, can you put on some clothes.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who barged into my private study. Besides, it’s not anything you haven’t already seen.”

“We need to talk about all the public nudity, while you’re at it,” Medusa said. “It’s making everyone uncomfortable that you don’t wear a hair net when you cook.”

You miss one Brazilian…

Just because my family doesn’t want me committing preemptive strikes or walking around with no panties on taco night doesn’t mean I stopped thinking of how to take the Fluidics out the second they step out of line. It didn’t hurt they only had a handful of ships, and those didn’t look good. Pieces were missing or blackened with burns. I could take them, it’s just a matter of how many casualties they cause before I send them on to another great beyond.

They didn’t take long to make an announcement, breaking through on every TV and radio channel out there, even the smutty ones. I was watching a guy in handcuffs say, “Punish me, daddy,” to someone wearing all black, when suddenly my attempt to learn how that murder trial turned out was interrupted by TV snow. It began to shift as a digitally simulated voice began to speak. “You call us the Fluidics. We came to conquer. You banished us to another dimension.”

I knew where this was going, or so I thought.

“In the space between universes, there is a greater threat. It called itself the end. Extinction. It did not kill us slowly. An anomaly allowed it to escape to the universe it had drawn closer to. We found ourselves here, again. That is why-”

That feed cut off. I immediately cut back to my bootleg view of their ships from all the angles. Every country on Earth’s got eyes on these guys, and I’m tapped into as many independent sources as I can. Cameras on the ground, satellites, drones; everything.

The sky split the fuck open. I can’t express what the fuck that looks like, but I’ll try. Imagine the sky, and then it’s pushed apart like it was wallpaper. Instead of seeing anything on the other side, even a black void, you just see a red hand and wrist hanging in the air. Its fingers were curled around the Fluidic ships. It squeezed, then pulled back into the sky, leaving little scraps of metal to fall to the ground while it and the ships disappeared.

That wasn’t the end of my unpleasant interruptions, though. Once again, my view of things was hijacked. It was just a face, as generic and hairless as human faces come, and not even in color. “Hello again, Psychopomp Gecko.”

“Is this going out for everyone?” I asked, wondering if this thing would answer.

“No, this is between the two of us. Do you recall who I am?” it asked.

I thought it over, glad for my facial recognition software. “Mr. Omega. You wouldn’t happen to be the guy those Fluidics were talking about, are you?”

The face grinned. “I promise, I come in peace. I defeated the Fluidics for you, did I not?”

“You scared the shit out of a lot of people while you did that, and I still know so little about you.”

“I have offered to help you once, and defeated your enemies for you another time. I am a powerful and grateful friend.”

“What about that Dusk Club you claim to be part of? I thought you were already defending the Earth?”

“I was banished from the universe long ago for the crime of having ambition. I didn’t want to stay in my place, so I was banished by those jealous of the power I tapped into. So great was their jealousy, they forced even my closest allies to forget me. I nearly went mad alone in the aether, but I found the power to watch and, eventually, the power to make myself heard. I owe you a debt of gratitude for weakening the veil between worlds. Continue to do so, and you will have a place of honor and protection.”

I know this pitch. This is not a good pitch. He’s basically asking me to betray the world, much like the invaders from Uranus did, in exchange for being one of the slightly higher-placed servants. Everything that’s come through might have even been his doing, which explain why so many of them were threats to me. Normally, I’m disinclined to accept anything like this, but I also just saw a giant hand rend the universe to grab a fleet of spaceships and pull them out of our universe. This is a heck of a power imbalance I’m on the wrong side of. So that left me with an important question.

“And if I don’t, you’ll reach that big red hand right up my ass and pull my spinal column into the universe divide, right?”

“Do not be so crude. There are so many ways I could punish my enemies, or our enemies. Nobody needs to know it was you, Psychopomp. Not your loved ones, not your rivals. Wouldn’t you like to have a god on your side? A true one, not the petty pretenders.”

“In some ways, it feels like I already have one. I think I need to speak with my people about our deal with the Uranuses in that other dimension. I have people over there and important resources to trade with them. Luckily, the power cores weren’t breached.”

“Hmm,” is all Mr. Omega said, a toothless smile stretching his face.

I don’t know how I’m going to pull this one off, but it looks like I get to try and betray an extradimensional being that can literally squash me like a bug. Ah, how I long for the days when I kicked Cthulhu’s ass off my island.

Oh, and for added bonus, I have to do all this without tipping off the entity watching me. Kinda wish I was telepathic, now.

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Sword of Damnocles 5

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My private pit of darkness and relaxation was interrupted by a blast of light from the door opening. My eyes automatically adjusted to keep it from hurting my sight, allowing me to pick out the curves of Medusa, my renamed nemesis. “You’ve walked right into my trap!” I told her, pointing right at her.

She smirked as she turned on the lights to my study and shut the door behind her. “It’s not much of a trap when you’re stuck in that back stretcher.”

True. She looked upside down to me, but that had to do with me being held by my ankles from one of those things that flips you upside down and helps you stretch out your back. “I had a headache and I thought it’d help.”

Truth was, it did more than just help with headaches. I’ve made improvements to my physiology many times over the years and I’m beginning to realize I’ve neglected a few important parts of the body that don’t normally see a lot of improvement. My cartilage isn’t meant for the kinds of impacts I take regularly. I’ve got some bio guys at the Institute working on some formulations to help pad my body better. In the meantime, I decompress. And try to digest the data the brainboys gave me. “I asked them to walk me through how they figured the Telechamber was causing problems and they did. I feel like I gave birth to a quantum physicist through the center of my forehead.”

“Were they right?” she asked, walking up beside me. She bent down to kiss me, which eased my pain quite a bit too.

I shrugged, still upside down. “I don’t know. It’s over my head. We’ll have to wait longer to really tell, because more of these crossovers are bound to come to light as more people realize what’s going on. They’re not sure what might drift in from the Sargasso.”

“The what now?” she asked, settling into a chair in front of me and crossing her legs.

“The Sargasso. It’s short for Super-Sargasso Sea. This guy named Fort presented it as an idea he didn’t actually believe in to account for lost things. He presented it as another dimension that lost things somehow slip into. The guy wasn’t very highly thought of in his time, but he talked a lot about weird concepts that don’t match up with conventional science. Unfortunately for all the scientists who prefer a nice, orderly world, neither do superhumans. I got a lecture from an evolutionary biologist earlier today insisting that there’s no way my species of human can exist because evolution doesn’t work like that.”

“You make an awful mess of everything,” Medusa said with a smile.

I crossed both sets of arms. “If the entire world can be so moved by one jackass, then it’s a lot more fragile than they’d all like to think. Speaking of jackasses making a mess of things, how’d your trip go?”

“ICE missed a lot of quotas and I beat the crap out of some border patrollers who need a better hobby,” she said. “It’s a lot of work being a criminal.”

I threw up, er, down my hands. “Finally you get it! You wouldn’t believe all the work we put into this stuff, just for the heroes to show up at the last minute and wreck things. You have any of those?”

“No. I knew the government had some heroes, but they freaked out and started rushing to Miami and Washington. Do you know anything about that, Little Miss Assassin?” She gave me an exaggerated questioning look to make it perfectly clear she knew I was responsible.

“All I know is that if being criminal makes you tired, you should toss those clothes away and we’ll go on crime spree.” I winked at her. She laughed and stood up, tossing her mask aside, walking to the door, turning the lights off… and then leaving the room with me there hanging upside down still.

Cheeky.

It wasn’t all fun, games, and good feelings around the house, though.I don’t just mean the unflattering pictures of me on the news for having assassinated the once and never again President.

But, hey, things were great. The Telechamber was shut down. There wouldn’t be any more of these things popping in to ruin my day. It wasn’t even all bad, if the new Tupac concert is anything to go by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed we didn’t get Kurt Cobain back, but you can’t hold Kurt Cobain. He goes where he’s needed.

Annoyingly, it was a late midnight dinner when I got the call about a weird big arrival. A passenger liner had arrived, one of the ones bearing some of our newest citizens. They received their passports and visas special thanks to my trusty agents in the United States. For some damn reason, ICE nabbed them thinking they were illegal immigrants from Central and South America. Don’t know what that’s about, but my Foreign Service, in full cooperation with my Intel agents, were diligently plucking them out of camps and prisoner convoys, usually aiming to keep families together.

Finding room, food, and clothing for them is a little tougher, but I’m sure my guys will manage a whole lot better than shoving hundreds of them in a cage.

Well, it seemed to be going well, except this one came back a bit… dead. The ship drifted in close without responding, so my Deep One marines boarded it. They found a fuckton of bodies. I usually like people dead, but I specifically ordered these ones to be breathing and mostly intact, so that caused a stir. They managed to find a survivor, an older ship’s hand who knew some good spaces to shove himself into to protect himself.

According to the report from our debriefers: “There was a passenger that stayed covered, until he didn’t. His skin was black as midnight and slick. His clothes obscured what he looked like and he never came out for meals or showers. He managed to hide among the refugees, until he didn’t. The first sign was a family torn apart. Then an ensign went missing. We started a search, and that’s when he stopped pretending. He killed them all, and neither bullet nor blade stopped him. The one to put up the best fight was the Agent onboard. I saw them fighting while I was fleeing. The Agent was tasing him and going for a fire extinguisher. I stopped and almost helped, but the Midnight Man recovered and pulled the Agent back into his arms at the last second. I can still hear the defiant scream.”

So… that’s a setback. I have my people on alert, though. Pagan sent me a message, another dark file asking, “Stop the refugees?”

“No,” I sent along. Because, sure, you can occasionally get some freaky super killer among any group of people, even refugees. The refugees clearly aren’t this guy’s friends either, and I know my people can handle the guy. If it comes down to it, I’ll take his heart out of his chest and pop it in a blender myself. So the patrols went out with some idea of what to do.

They’re pretty sure they found evidence he came ashore. There was a warehouse area near the docks full of consumer electronics that “fell off a truck” somewhere in the middle of being shipped from Japan to the Americas. Being the kindly people we are, we took in these lost electronics and figured we’d hold onto them until their rightful owners came looking. We might even send them off with some people to help find their rightful owners, so long as they present some ID in the form of currency.

We’re a generous people.

Security didn’t know what to call this break-in until they’d been briefed about Midnight Man. I snuck a peek at the detective’s notes, and he pointed out, “It isn’t the superhero menace. He takes from the government. It isn’t the thieves. They pay their cut for protection. It isn’t the people, because they already have these.” Among the unusual items found was a wet and bloody sweatshirt with bullet holes and tears in it.

The mystery of what he needed with flatscreen TVs and wireless phone chargers would soon be solved. I was sleeping when the power plant was attacked, but I had video off drones and helmet cams. The first sign of a dead body, they were all deployed. If he went to shut it down or send the nuclear core into meltdown, he didn’t manage it. By the time the video started, a jet black man, not African, fucking black, was punching a Security officer through a wall. His t-shirt and sweatpants were riddled with burns and holes from the laser pistols the Security guys were using.

I stopped it and zoomed in as much as possible to catch a glimpse as he took a shot through the head. It didn’t stop him… but it did go through and burn the wall behind him.

Bullets didn’t do much either, so my guys switched to grenades. Why do my police have such ready access to grenades? That’s not rhetorical. I actually sent that message along to the head of Security, because while the explosives did manage to drive off Midnight Man, they also blew some shit up inside the nuclear power plant. That’s generally not a place I want explosions.

I studied that footage quite a bit. Even adjusting for different skin tones, Midnight Man’s face didn’t show up on any facial recognition. We couldn’t find any DNA, blood, skin flakes, or even loose strands of hair. If he even had had hair. He either had a misshapen skull or an obsidian hairdo. No matter what, this guy didn’t show up in any records or seemingly on any cameras whenever he was moving around the city. I figured that meant he traveled by sewer system, so it should be easy to take him down with nanites. Even if he didn’t, the water around here is inundated with regenerative nanomachines that I can order to start eating him the moment I can give the ordr

I figured we had another hero on our hands. I thought I’d have a little fun taking him on personally.

Then I got word that the Telechamber was firing up from Creeper. “It’s not just on. We’re detecting an energy surge of unprecedented proportions. It’s using more power from its own power core, and it has tapped into the nuclear plant!”

I brought up the nuclear plant. “We need a shutdown or something. We need to stifle power to the Telechamber.”

The plant manager didn’t sound calm. “Empress, we don’t know what’s going on. We detected an unusual drain. The controls aren’t responding. We will attempt an emergency shutdown.”

By now, I’d rushed into my armor and was leaping out into the city toward the Telechamber complex, which glowed a blinding white light all around it. I sent an alert to all Security and Military to evacuate the Telechamber area of all civilians, while also sending out a general evacuation order myself. I heard the plant manager yelling in my ear, “Empress, it’s not responding!”

And then a column of white light soared into the sky toward the sun. The Telechamber complex exploded, throwing up dust, flattening the adjacent buildings, and tossing pieces of the Telechamber building all over the place. But I was a bit slow to respond to that because the sky had gone pretty dark.

There, up in the sky, wasn’t a cloud, wasn’t an eclipse. It was a small fleet of alien spacecraft in high orbit. I knew them from a couple years back, when they had more ships. I’m the reason they’re down to so few. The Fluidics are back. Seems just about everything I tossed a D-Bomb at is coming back to bite me in my shiny fleshy ass.

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Sword of Damnocles 3

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The investigation didn’t take long to conclude. Dr. Creeper sent over some of the xenobiologists specializing in multiversal specimens. They didn’t bother to tell me until they got over here that they haven’t figured out a way to tell if a being has crossed the universe divide and traveled to another universe. Creeper wasted my time there, but I know why he did it. I’ll have to have a talk with him about honesty and trust later. Maybe while dangling him off the side of a building.

Not having a good relationship with the Elders, and having reaffirmed my leadership by murdering people, the Elders didn’t want to talk to me. I had Toyotomi handle that for me as well, with the idea that he could threaten th em with talking to me if they were difficult or if he thought they were lying. Officially, I was inclined to be merciful so long as my subjects stayed in line. So he handled the investigation.

I have my people looking out for any similar phenomena around the world, either with people returning from the dead or new people appearing fully-grown. Either one could turn into a hell of a problem considering some of the folks I’ve fought and killed. A sample size of one doesn’t give me an idea if I’m being targeted or just lucky.

I don’t like having nothing to do. I think that’s why it took me so long to really delegate things. Being a badass makes it hard to sit a threat out, but this is something better left to others. I’ve done incredible things based on the work of others, but I’m really no scientist. I don’t have Toyotomi’s rapport with the locals and I just scared the crap out of some of the people he thinks would know if this Eld guy was some lost sibling or undead prince. What I could do is exhaust myself by spying on the world. I have lots of people who can do that instead.

Good people. I got a report back from my Intel Chief that showed that in a report he sent to me. It’s a dark report, one we can destroy after I’ve dealt with it. A few of my guys in the States are sympathetic to folks in the camps and got the idea to form a cell to intervene. They wanted to help. Pagan dressed up the language a bit so it didn’t come across too altruistically, but they’ve already taken a few steps.

The ones that have appropriate contacts are using them for cover, but it amounts to them having people removed from camps or convoys heading to the camps. They don’t have any real documentation other than what they can forge, and it could compromise our infiltration of the government. On top of that, my Foreign Service is talking with some Acting Secretary of State or maybe whatever intern is left working for that department to try and get us a consulate or an embassy. This could screw that up.

I sent in my orders and looked into anything else I could do in the meantime. Then I was like “What the hell, let’s continue my tour of the Mu colonies,” and gathered up my personal guard for a flight to New Paradise.

From above, it looked like a fun little mess. The Hares had laid out an outer wall that enclosed part of a forest, a bit of farm land, and a grid pattern of streets with the beginnings of a city. They had streets going out further than they had buildings, which were in all sorts of different styles. I saw a log cabin across the street from an adobe house. A villa with Greek columns was neighbors to a cottage that stood on two tall legs resembling chickens. They had styles from all over the world thrown together like it was nobody’s business. In the middle of it all was a building that looked more utilitarian and even brutalist. It was a thick, concrete thing, like a Soviet version of a medieval keep, except for where it flowed into a smaller, lighter section that could have been a normal government building in Europe or North America.

I heard the chatter as ground control contacted our pilot. I didn’t even think they had an airfield, but we flew around and came down at a small area that had been cleared northwest of the keep area. It was a mostly empty section of city except for a couple of sheds and a small hangar.

Since I didn’t coordinate this visit with the Hares, they didn’t roll out the marching band or the welcome wagon. Instead, an apologetic alien with purple skin called ahead about us and stayed to show us what little amenities there were in the hangar and air traffic shack. She seemed nervous to have us there, but then I was a well-known villain in powerful power armor flanked by a squad of trained, genetically- and cybernetically-modified soldiers in power armor of their own. And all she had for us was a TV, a DVD player, and a single pot of coffee.

“We don’t keep enough on hand for large crowds,” she said while my guys swarmed the coffee machine.

I waved it off. “Understandable. Please relax, this is merely a visit to check up on the place under my banner. No big trouble, no fights, none of that. No need to worry, miss…?”

She held a hand to her own chest. “My name is Iza.”

“What?!” I said, taking a step forward. She meeped and shrunk back, shoulders hunching to make herself look smaller. “How dare you say that about my mother?!”

My guards all looked up as soon as they heard me first raise my voice, but quickly continued raiding the coffee when I chuckled. “Relax, it’s just a stupid joke. You’re fine. Just chill. And breath, I think you’re turning a deeper shade of purple.”

Iza let out a deep breath. After a couple of seconds, she laughed too, but I don’t think she enjoyed the joke so much. Left her alone and waited outside after that to give her a break, prompting a couple of my guys to rush after, little styrofoam cups in hand.

Apollo arrived twenty minutes after we landed, driving a yellow and white Cadillac convertible that Elvis would have called gaudy. That’s the Hare’s Apollo, too. The other Apollo I know is a guy who looks like a sculpture due to some powers of controlling stone and other materials. This guy took the name of the Greek deity, and did his best to emulate the guy with a bow and arrow, teleportation, and doing things to people’s bodies. “Hello, Empress Gecko. What brings you to New Paradise?”

“Just checking on the colonies. Seeing how they’re doing, if there are any strange problems going on. This continent’s kind of odd from what I’ve noticed.”

He nodded. “I know what you mean. We didn’t mean to worry you, but we have been fighting an unusual threat. When we arrived in this area, we found ruins and bodies belonging to a snake cult. We buried them, leader and all. Now, for the past few nights, the town has been besieged by the snake cult, lead by their fanged leader.”

“So, it’s Return of the Living Dead up in this beast?” I asked. Sounds like another example of what went on back at the Bronze City.

Apollo shook his head. “We checked. Their bodies are still buried.”

“Huh. So it’s either time travel or invaders from another dimension,” I said. “I want to see this.”

That evening, my guys and I got to see it. We were waiting up on the wall along with a few of their aliens with high-tech beat-up guns, a few guys with rifles, and a small detachment of folks with mail, crossbows, swords, and spears. Between the bunch of them, they were prepared for very small numbers of everything from Greek Hoplites to white-tailed deer.

We were waiting since around sunset, but nothing really happened until dark finally set. When it got too dark to see normally, Apollo fired an arrow into the air that lit up the night like a beacon and showed the ground outside the wall crawling with snakes. Among them moved people with curved swords wearing armor resembling snake’s scales. Off in the distance was a snakeman with a lower half like a snake and a staff in his hand.

“Seems easy enough to deal with,” I said. I pointed at that guy. “Men, target and kill.”

My guards raised their microguns and opened fire. The targeting assist program in their armors’ HUDs helped them find their mark, the shots bounced off a writhing barrier that only became visible when hit. The snakeman seemed to say something, then laughed. I noticed that a few of the shots went wide and the same barrier appeared to block them from striking the cultists that otherwise would have ended up quite holy through the power of 5.56.

“Huh,” I said.

Apollo shook his head, “Yeah. I tried just killing him. It goes all the way around, too. I tried to teleport behind him and get him in the head, but it stopped the shot. I can’t get inside the barrier, either.”

“Hmm… I have an idea…” I called up Telechamber Command. “Hey guys. This is the Empress. I have a special request I need taken care of. I’m sending you a set of coordinates now. I need you guys to target the coordinates and teleport it to this other set of coordinates. Yes, I know that’s a heck of a distance, but it shouldn’t really matter.”

A minute after our conversation, the snakeman was engulfed in a bright white aura, then he and his protective orb disappeared. My guards began to fire on the approaching snakes and cultists, who were getting a little closer for comfort now. The Hares went at it too, and Apollo fired off a few shots in between walking over toward me to ask, “What happened to their leader?”

“I stuck him where the sun doesn’t shine,” I responded, then pointed up into the night sky, and the moon that hung in it. “That’s one small slither for snakeman, one giant leap for snakemankind.”

Apollo laughed. “That’s one enemy you sent to the sun, another to the moon.”

“The dark side of the moon,” I said. “He’s the moon Nazis’ problem now.”

“Is that a reference to something?” Apollo asked.

“If you don’t already know, then I’m now allowed to tell you,” I said to him, waving off his questions. There aren’t moon Nazis, but I still owe the Hares a lot of fucking with, even if they are technically a colony of mine now. “You got these snakes handled?” I asked.

Apollo raised his bow and pantomimed pulling back an arrow. A yellow glow filled the entire interior of the bow between the string and the body. When he let it go, the yellow bolt flew off and burst into the ground, exploding and sweeping out in a corona that burned everything caught in its radius. He grinned and looked to me. “They die easily enough without the Snake King to save them.”

“Ooh, I call dibs on the title,” I said, the Great and Devious Empress Psychomp Gecko, Snake King and King of the Bronze City.

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Sword of Damnocles 2

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I suppose this could be the pettiness shining through again, but I’m really not liking these guys deciding they don’t owe allegiance to me. I know I tried to give up the Riccan throne at one point, but I did a whole weird marriage scam to make this happen. And the Bronze City’s excuse isn’t even anything like “you’re bad at your job” or “the citizens overwhelmingly vote to not let you rule them”. They just don’t like my tits. Ridiculous. I got great tits. Everyone should like them. I’d show them off all over the place if I could. I’m proud of these bad boys, especially the aereola. My boobs should be on display at the Louvre, but then I’d have to steal them on general principle.

So my plan was to just wear my power armor, crater the opposing champion’s ass with a well-placed boot, and lord my victory over them all. But as I stepped out into the square arena they had, they did this ritual with tossing some sort of powder on me. The crowd booed me actually wearing armor instead of the traditional loincloth. From up in the VIP box, or whatever the old school equivalent would be called, the Elders called out, “She spits on our traditions! We should have her forfeit the fight for this!”

I held up all four hands, then opened the armor up and stepped out. I nodded to a pair of my guards, who picked it up and carried it up into the stands out of easy reach. I figured I could still beat whatever champion they had in mind for me. He was a big guy, thick. Most people would picture a bodybuilder, but this guy was more like a weightlifter. Round, thick, and strong. He wasn’t obese, but he had enough flab on him to absorb some punishment and some slices from the sword I didn’t bring with me. He didn’t seem all that distracted by my nudity as he hefted his bronze warhammer and spun it overhead.

“It’s a shame you have to die for a bunch of cowards,” I called out to him.

He bowed his head briefly, “I don’t intend to die.”

I winked at him. “It’s the last thing anyone intends to do.”

He didn’t rush me. He walked purposefully toward me. I crossed my arms and tapped my foot on the sand of the arena, waiting. When he got a few feet from the reach of his hammer, I turned and ran at the wall. I jumped and pushed off it, leaping over the champions’ head. The gasps of the crowd and the wind on my back suggested I almost didn’t make it.

My training is to kill. Kill first, kill second, add a pithy one-liner, then start asking questions. But, I dunno, I felt different. I smiled and jumped back to avoid getting hammered when he whirled around, hammerhead first. “Close, but no cigar.”

He took a side swing at my head. I dipped and came up quickly, but he managed to stop the hammer and reverse it to try and put a bronze spike through my eye hole. I did a split and dropped below it, blowing him a kiss. He showed some skill by redirecting the swing around and up over his head to try and bring it down on mine. I lunged forward so I was laying on my belly and elbows, legs still spread. I felt the wood smack into my ass as the head barely missed.

This was completely wrong for me to do. I knew it then, and I know it now. I just felt different, ya know? I was a proud bearer of boobs for all to see. I am the Empress. I am awesome. I can fuck a goat and make it pay me. I was happy and feeling good, so I played around. It was way different than the usual style of killing first, killing second, pithy one-liner, then start asking questions.

Anyway, he took one hand off his hammer to reach down and grab me by the hair. He hauled me up to my feet, then squealed in pain when my lower hands gave him a purple nurple. A weapons-grade nurple. I put some torque into those bad boys while laughing at him. “Say the safeword!”

He didn’t say the safeword. He banged the hammer’s handle into me as much as he could at that distance with one hand. I put my foot on his belly and pushed. He fell back and I walked toward the middle of the arean a few steps, showing off my trophies for the audience. “Behold, I give you nipples!”

The crowd ate it up, except for the Elders. They seemed disgusted, which is quite a take for the people who made the decision to put me almost nude into a life or death fight in the first place. They made their bed, now they get to lie in it. They get to die in it. I tossed one nipple up to them, smacking one of their pompous faces with it and leaving a small streak of blood on his cheek. That startled him.

The vibrations in the sand brought my attention back around to their champion. I turned and ducked to see the man running for me, hammer’s pointed top lowered at me like a spear. I tossed the other nipple into his face and the man reached up to try and salvage his amputated body part. I grimaced in anticipation as I threw my body toward him, legs first, to baseball slide for his lower body. He closed his legs at least, but I still threw my fist into his groin. A large part of the crowd let out a collective “Ooooh!” in male sympathy.

I threw another punch into his paunch then, doubling him over. With his head now considerably closer to mine, I grabbed his throat, and threw him at the wall. He crashed into the wood, winded, his hammer on the ground in front of me. He pushed away from the wall and let out a roar of anger and pain. A spear flew through the air from behind me and pinned the man to the wall. The crowd started booing, as did I. The Elders yelled in outrage. All of us looked to find out who interrupted this fight.

It was a man in bronze armor and helmet, a sword at his hip, and a bronze shield in hand.

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked.

With his free hand, he pulled off his helmet to reveal a face I didn’t know framed by blonde curls. The crowd seemed to think something about him, though. “I am Prince Eld, son of Garth, king of the Bronze City.”

I looked up at the Elders. “Garth didn’t have a son. He had a daughter. Unless you had some recent revelations and changed your hair color.” Garth had been the king here. He met his end shortly before I provided myself as a replacement by marrying his daughter. It’d be a funny coincidence if I wasn’t directly responsible for killing him. The whole point had been that he didn’t have a son. I treated Elda wrong, too, but I set her on her path as a traveling adventurer in the Americas with high end armor, a sharp sword, and enhanced strength.

“Some sorcery has changed this world,” Eld said, looking around. “I awoke from my battle with a mad enchanter in a world that says my father is dead, though yesterday he was alive. They say the Bronze City belongs to some foreign-born king. Now I find that king is a woman.”

“You going to be an ass about that, too?” I asked, glancing back at where the warhammer lay. The way I see this, we either have some sort of time travel where people just happened to forget to mention the old king had a son at some point, or we’ve got more interdimensional shenanigans going on. First, I need to find out how much of a threat this guy is going to pose to my rule.

“I am going to take back the throne as its rightful owner,” he said, then planted his helmet back on his head.

Well, that was easy.

He drew his sword and pointed it at me. “Yield.”

I pointed a finger at him and spoke in a mocking voice. “Yield.” In the stands, I saw my guards react, but have to defend themselves as armored warriors of the Bronze Guard drew their swords and spears and attempted to stop their interference.

“Stop copying me,” he said, raising his shield and jogging toward me.

I turned, grabbed up the warhammer, and raised it. He swung his blade and a gleam swept through the air. The wood just above the metal head of the hammer broke. Another gleam, and fell back, blood spurting from my magnificent Imperial boobage.

The Elders cheered, as did some of the crowd. Eld grandstanded, or maybe he grandstood, raising his shield and sword to the sky. He turned around in a circle, not noticing craning necks and anticipation. The spear caught him high in the chest as he turned toward me. Now, I’m not the best shot with throwing weapons, but spears are fairly aerodynamic. And I was no longer having a good time. He had enough strength to throw a spear through a man. I have enough strength to throw my fist through a man.

Eld stumbled back, looking down with wide eyes at the spear sticking out of his chest. He wrapped a hand around the handle, then fell onto his back. I grabbed the warhammer head and tossed it back and forth between all four hands as I walked over. The crowd that cheered for him roared for me as I stepped up close to the guy.

“Is this your king?” I asked of the crowd, looking around. I pulled the man’s helmet off to let them see. Then I asked of them, “Or am I your Queen?” That got a chant.

Eld thrust his sword at my calf, the blade stopping shortly after piercing my skin. I brought the hammerhead down on his head. I didn’t have to do so again. I tugged the sword out of my leg as well and gave a little discus-style turn to toss the hammer head up at the box the Elders were sitting in. The Bronze Guard had stopped, with my Riccan Dragon Soldiers keeping a shitload of firearms at the ready in case they decide to take a mulligan on this whole combat trial.

I raised the sword in the air. “By this ass-kicking, I rule. I am Empress Psychopomp Gecko. I am your Queen. If the dead rose up, they would not beat me. If your gods summon all the heroes who could have ever existed, I would defeat all of them. My enemies can’t beat me. They can only survive me. But you are my people. Your enemies are my enemies. Your welfare is my welfare. Allow me to show you this side of myself as well.”

On my way out of the arena, followed by the cheers of my subjects, I called up Dr. Creeper audio-only. “Hey, Doc, I have a corpse I need you to look into. Need to find out somehow if this thing’s from this universe or another one.”

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Sword of Damnocles 1

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There are many challenges to being a leader. One daunting challenge is boredom. It had been awhile since I could just relax, but I expected something more substantial than a giant bunny to interrupt that. Nope. Nothing really needed my attention. There were various problems popping up and being handled by the people I put in place to see to those things. I had time to spend with my daughter, but she has school and playing with her friends. And Medusa wouldn’t want to spend all her time with me, especially not when she’s busting concentration camps in the States and helping people avoid ICE troopers.

It sucks that I have problems sitting and vegetating. I did a lot of stuff, like working on armor designs, and just couldn’t get over the itch to go out and hurt someone. Even the news was relatively boring, even with me in it. According to the New York Time’s foreign correspondent, I murdered an endangered shark and publicly executed a bunny. That shark started it, and it was a giant rabbit. I needed help with the rabbit, which is why I’ve been looking over my armor. I need something to help me fight giant things, so I’m reviewing my options there. They don’t seem workable, so I found something else to do instead.

I am visited my colonies. We have a few spots on the lost and found continent of Mu that we populated with people who wanted to try their hand at frontier living and I should get around to them. First, I decided to go see a group that’s been asking for a visit. I’ve mostly left the Bronze City to its own devices since kinda-sorta marrying into their royal family and claiming it as part of my empire. There’s an ambassador, but not so much a king. Or queen, in this case.

I landed without much fanfare. The Psycho Flyer made a pass over the city before heading to the palace, blasting out the song “Hail To The King” by Avenged Sevenfold. It hovered low to the ground outside the stone palace and I stepped off in my armor, a cape draped around my shoulders and a jagged crown of gold upon my brow. Toyotomi walked out to greet me in an indigo-colored tunic with gold fringe. “Empress! It is a delight to look upon your radiance again.”

No wonder the guy got along with the Bronze City’s elders. He slings grade-A bullshit. “Toyotomi! How are you doing? You ever get that medal I told the Directors to award you?”

Ambassador Toyotomi laughed. “I’m well and I did receive my award, thank you. Whoever designed it felt it should be able to serve as a shield if needed, so it is difficult to wear in public.”

I just shook my head. “I’ve gotten much better people than that, so we won’t make that mistake again. Now, as my expert here, let’s chat. I should try to actually learn about these people.”

Toyotomi swept his arm out before me. “I’ve had them prepare a meal for us. No grand feast or anything, if that’s fine with your majesty.”

I nodded. “I’m a little clueless to be holding big dinners with all the people who expect me to know stuff.” I waved to one of my guards to bring my clothes along so I could switch out of my armor.

They could have done a little better with some of the spices, but it looked like a pretty good meal. Toyotomi had a big wheel of cheese waiting for me, along with fresh bread, a pot of some thin vegetable soup, cabbage, and steaming hot venison. Toyotomi wrapped a slice of the venison in cabbage to pull it onto his plate. “A local custom,” he said.

We didn’t get to enjoy much of the meal before we heard a ruckus outside the dining hall. With a squint, I focused on my guards’ cameras and saw they were holding back a group of tunic-clad older men who were demanding in the Bronze City’s dialect to be let in as Elders of the city. “We’ve got Elders incoming,” I warned Ambassador Toyotomi, then notified my guards to let them in.

Toyotomi stood up to greet them, a smile quickly coming to his face. “Good Elders, welcome!”

“We heard our King had returned, at long last remembering his throne and his duties, and no one sends for us?!” said the one in front who appeared to be in charge. He was old, balding, with white hair and a long, groomed beard that was still black at the bottom. “Who is this?” he said, gesturing to me.

I stood up. “I am Psycho Gecko, your King,” I said. “You may wish to amend the title.”

Toyotomi gestured between us. “The Empress has just arrived and required refreshment and my thoughts on the current state of the Bronze City. We meant no disrespect to your esteemed Council.”

“A woman! This is a mockery!” said the spokesman.

“This is who I am,” I said. “And I am your ruler.”

“The Council will not agree,” said the Elder statesman. He and his fellows stormed right out again, which made me wonder why they even bothered showing up. They could have been just as pissed off in their own damn homes without trying to ruin my dinner.

“Please wait, Empress. I will dispatch an aide to watch them and see if they plan something,” Toyotomi said before hustling after them. He returned five minutes later to resume briefing me over dinner.

He was in the middle of a story about him and some of the Elders getting drunk and tying a city guard to a bear when his runner returned. It looked like one of the native Bronze City people, but Ricca is a melting pot. He ran up to the door, slowed, and walked in. “Ambassador. And Empress,” he took a moment to nod to Toyotomi and bow low to me.

“Rise and tell us what’s going on,” I said. I like ruling, but the bowing is a bit ridiculous. It’s enough to know I have power; I don’t have to go around showing it off all the time unless someone’s being an ass about it.

“Thank you, Empress. As you asked, Ambassador, I followed the Elders. They called a meeting of the Council. They are agitating for a new ruler. They do not believe the Empress may be their King as she is a woman, and incapable of continuing the royal line.”

“I should go nip this in the bud,” I said to Toyotomi.

He sighed. “I was worried this might happen. I have made allies on the Council, but this is considered a big problem for them.”

I slipped into my armor. “You put our guards on alert around the palace and the Flyer. I’ll address the Council, if you can tell me where to find them.”

He turned to the runner. “Show the Empress to the Council.” To me, he added, “Good luck. They think of themselves as civilized, but they’re stubborn about their sexism.”

“I think I have a way to see to that,” I said.

I made it clear what that way was when I stepped into the lovely place they’d set up as a column. It was a round building with columns spaced close all around to form walls, except for two entrances on opposite sides of the circle. The city Elders were still rabble rousing in the place when I stepped out of the shadows of the night. “Greetings, Elders of the Bronze City. Your Empress and King is here.”

“You are no King, but a woman who has corrupted our princess in unnatural love,” said the same spokesman from back at the palace.

“I am your ruler, as you have all affirmed. Should you wish to turn to treason now, I’ll make it easy on you.” I spread my arms. “There is but one of me, and so many of you. Whoever wishes to dissolve the bonds of loyalty between us, come and do so with blood. I promise, it will not be mine.”

“It’s a trick!” yelled an Elder who looked barely old enough to qualify. “She wears outsider armor. She flies and jumps no more than any other man, but uses their science to pretend to be our better.”

It looked to them like my armor opened up and I stepped out, but that was an illusion. I could take any of these guys in a “fair” fight thanks to the enhancements I’ve made to my own body, but that doesn’t mean I had to give them anything like a fair fight.

“We are civilized men,” said the spokesman. He gathered a group around him in a huddle and they spoke briefly. “We shall find a champion to represent our honor…” he looked to the others, who held up various fingers. “The day after the morrow, if you will fight without your armor then.”

“Fine, fine, wimps. Civilization made you weaker than the woman you think is unable to lead you, it seems.” Hologram-Me turnd around to get back into her armor when a nearby Elder pulled a dagger and tried to plunge it into her back. She turned in time to grab his wrist, flip him to the ground, pull the dagger out, and shove it through the middle of his head. It was all the armor putting on a show as I dispatched my would-be assassin. I was able to drop the illusion when the hologram stepped into the holographic armor.

I gave the Elders a mocking bow. “Day after tomorrow, we settle this matter of leadership.” Then I kicked at the corpse on the ground. “Sic semper asswipes. Do try to find someone better than a woman next time.”

They certainly tried. I came down the next morning, a bit itchy from the inferior bedding they have over here, to find a group of my guards were pulling a rope up one side of the wall and tying one end around posts they’d planted in the ground. There were three other posts with ropes around them next to that one. I turned to the nearest one. “What’s this?”

He bowed. “Assassins, Empress. Caught sneaking in, armed, making for your bedchamber.”

I patted him on the head. “Excellent.” I hopped up to the walls around the palace to look out over it. Sure enough, there were four bodies dangling from nooses on the other side. They hadn’t bothered to tie the hands of the two who were already dead, likely from before they’d been hung. The other two brushed against the wall, but it wasn’t enough to take the weight off their necks.

Some Bronze Citizens had gathered to watch the spectacle, so I raised all four of my arms and my voice to address them, “People of the Bronze City, your Empress-King has but one question for all who would try to kill me in my sleep: How’s it hangin’?”

They didn’t get the joke, but it killed with my soldiers.

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