I know it can take days to squirt out a baby. That’s not what’s happening here. I needed to get caught up is all. It’s been harder to write under the circumstance I found myself in and in the period immediately afterward. Tl;dr, you try keeping up with a blog while giving birth. Miracle of life my ass.
Now, after dealing with The Unwelcome, things were starting to fall into place. Isabella and Maia had been delayed by dealing with the aftermath of The Dark and the invasion of The Unwelcome. Holly had been out getting a signal to Mix N’Max, my old friend, letting him know about the momentous occasion. She’s also trying to hide from me a bunch of presents she’s been buying in secret since I never held a baby shower.
A hulking nurse with cybernetic implants poking out of his facial skin stopped in. “I don’t normally work here, so I’m not sure I have the right place. There are visitors for you. Is this the room of Psychopomp Gecko?”
Ah. Sam had forgotten to give them my alias. That’s an unfortunate oversight.
The nurse shook his head. “That’s Psycho Gecko…”
“Yeah,” I said, curious. My legs were still up in the birthing stirrups, but I reached over and grabbed for one of the panic bags.
The guy had a neck that wasn’t so much a column as it was a slope. Muscles on top of muscles. He could be the main character in a first person shooter. He shook his head. “You fought the space marine invasion, didn’t you?”
The former space marine ran at me. I whipped something out of the panic bag. Instead of my machete, I whipped a stuffed dog into his face. I then lowered my head and the sharp unicorn horn sticking out of it. When the former space marine pulled himself off it, he spurted blood all over me from the hole in his chest and one of his hearts. He got it all over the dog plushie, too. He turned and ran for it, dripping blood the whole way.
Other nurses found me like that, soon after followed by the whole family. “Uh…” I tried to come up with something snarky to say. Holly had me covered, blowing a noisemaker and waving around a couple of sparklers as she ran in, dragging around balloons tied to her arms. She ran over and hugged me.
“Watch the sparklers!” I said, careful of my hair catching fire. There was a lot of unwashed oil in those locks.
“Ew, bloody… so is the baby out yet?” Holly asked.
“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!” I said.
Some strange guy poked his head into the room. “Hi there, I’m with Nuclear Blast Records, and I’d love to sign whoever unleashed that phenomenal scream”
“Out!” Isabella said, closing the door in the heavy metal producer’s face.
Meanwhile, I hit the call button. “Get in here!”
I think I’m due a bit of privacy about what happened next. Which is new. Usually when a situation involves a bunch of screaming, crying, drugs, and pain, I’m all too eager to share it. But permit a blood-soaked babymaker to keep something to myself. And after all that was said and done, they even let me hold the little pain in my ass.
“Hello, Alexander. You’re going to have a hell of a life,” I said to my tired, crying baby. Then I passed him over to Isabella and Maia. Sam and Holly were out of the room, with Sam helping Holly recover from watching what happens when someone gives birth. I’d have warned her to gird her loins if I’d had time beforehand, but there was a lot of screaming.
They did have to take Alexander away from me and almost everyone filtered out to let me rest. The thing about your body being in pain every few minutes for like a day is you don’t get a lot of rest. I woke up to a thin, zombie version of myself sitting in a chair next to an abandoned balloon. Her hair was white save for the barest of my rainbow colors at the bottom. My split horn was longer, with the smaller rear portion twisting around a longer main horn until it came back behind the main one. I couldn’t tell where her hands ended and nails began. She was thin, deathly pale, with cloudy white eyes that stared at me.
“So who are you?” I asked this dead reflection.
“I am your Fate,” it said.
“Is that what you call yourself? Fate?” I asked.
It stood up.
“Since this is a joyous day for me,” I warned it. “I’m going to advise you not to do anything that causes me to have to stand up. So, what, are you here with the failed space marine, or is this another yahoo from beyond the veil of existence?”
“I am the Fate. The path of all living things is set in stone and beset by suffering.”
I flashed back, even moreso than my stress disorder caused once upon a time. I was a kid again, being beaten by others in the Psychopomp Program. I was being held in an armlock by Medusa, tearing my arm out to free myself. I was screaming as something the size of a baby forced its way out of something the size of my pussy. And then I was back there in bed, with that zombie of myself standing in the room. I pulled the blanket aside and swung my feet over the edge of the bed, sitting on the side of the bed.
When I stood up, I stumbled back behind a shield. When I lowered it, I was in a burning building, facing off against a pissed-off Venus. Her armor was slimmer. She retracted a double-headed ax attached to one of her arms and raised the double double barrels on each forearm. I raised the shield. Bullets pinged off, pushing me back as I tried to dig my orange boots into the ash. I was in a black and orange version of Captain America’s costume, but without the belly stripes and with a large G where the star would be.
Venus’s fire abarted. “What’s all this about?!” I asked.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t kill my son, you bitch!” she screamed at me. I looked over the shield. She was heading right for me with that ax. I threw my field at the floor, which it bounced off of to come at her face from below. She swatted it away and took my knee in her visor, diverting her to the side. I landed and shook my leg. Fucking hurt doing that to my knee.
When I looked up again, Venus was gone and I was looking at Qiang, just a little older. We were standing on the torn-open side of a building, like the windows had been blown out. She looked at me, then jumped out. I ran over and dove after her. She was splayed out, her tears splashing me in the face as she watched me bring my arms in close. I flapped my wings but the ground was so close. I didn’t have time to catch her. Instead, a glowing light pulled me up into it.
I stood up in the Mobian’s time vessel. “I have you. That wasn’t real. She’s messing with you.” He wore the same face as when I saw him replace the Torian, his evil counterpart, but was dressed differently. He wore a boring brown suit jacket with elbow patches, but a bright red scarf and a brown trilby.
“Oh, someone finally came to see what’s going on,” I mentioned.
“Everyone’s seeing it. Their own personal confrontation with every bit of suffering they’ve ever faced, sometimes changing their present to twist the knife. You have its attention. Good job with the Unwelcome.”
“Changing the present, but Qiang’s not dead?” I asked.
“Not where you came from,” the Mobian said.
“You can’t evade me,” zombie-me said. She now blocked the glowing white doorway. Her feet didn’t move so much as slide along the floor. I stood up, realizing I had gone from Captain Gecko to Unicorn Goddess as far as my costume.
“Who said I’m evading?” I asked. “I’m standing up now.”
“Your fate has been sealed.”
“Yeah, but I’ve still got a destiny to seize,” I said.
“I stand beside her,” the Mobian said. “Gecko, the time will soon come when I will disappear.”
“You kinda did already,” I said.
“Oh. Well, that’s wonderful news,” he said. He rushed up the dais toward a console and pressed a button. I fell out of the doorway and back into the hospital room. A bright light flashed by the window. I stood up, my costume fading away to a hospital gown now. Outside floated the Mobian’s time vessel. Nearby, my laptop crackled.
“The truth about time travel is this, Gecko. From the point of view of the future and of timeless, infinite beings, the past is set in stone. It has to be that way for us. It’s our present that can change. It’s your present that can change, and the universe has to reconcile that. I’ve devoted myself to helping stop people from changing it enough to bring the Fate into reality, but it’s found a way. So now I have to trap it, maybe even destroy it, but I need my vessel. You may doubt this, but I hope I see you again.”
The Mobian’s vessel flashed and disappeared. Trapping someone who wants to change reality to hurt everyone using a vessel that can travel through time. It’s like rain on your wedding day. Isn’t that ironic?
The gown wasn’t the only thing restored. My body went from a keyed-up Captain Gecko with an adrenaline rush to falling-down tired. I grabbed the wall and eased down into a chair. After a few minutes, I recovered enough to get back to the bed, trying to avoid laying on my deflated belly.
Wait, everyone had to be freaking the fuck out, too. I pulled myself up and stumbled out into the hallway, confirming that everyone else had had a hearty round of being fucked with. I found Qiang down near the cafeteria and hugged her, then carried her with me to go check on Alexander. The rest of the family, mostly hanging out around the cafeteria as well, caught up to us around then, in the middle of a bunch of babies cradling my newborn and my firstborn.
Days of Future Tense 5
As was explained by the woman we rescued, the not-so-utopian future I saw is one where superheroes and villains never existed. Where Teddy Roosevelt and Nikola Tesla never adventured through time. Where Captain Lightning never gave Hitler a wedgie. Where there is no Psycho Gecko or Darklight or Mobian. And while some of those people could definitely make the universe a little better by not existing, Jaguar Slayer’s real goal appears to be wiping out all of us in the name of order and perfection.
Our charge, Keiyona, told us a bit about her experiences. “Superpowers are from comic books or blockbuster movies. Maybe half-decent TV shows that networks cancel before their time.”
“Your military doesn’t have exoskeletons and rocket packs and so on?” I asked. Even our guys in the present have that stuff.
Keiyona shook her head. “There is no military.”
Alexander raised his hand. “What do you do about other countries?”
Keiyona thought about it a bit. “I don’t know. We never hear about them. Jaguar Slayer controls the government and the internet. I think there are other countries, but it’s hard to get news from place to place short of physically moving it, and travel has to be approved by an Ingram. Since the robots do all the work for us”
I think we all pretty quickly picked up some signals on our Shit’s Wrong-o-meters. I mean, on paper it sounds pretty nice. No cops, no military, no work. Probably cuts down on carbon emissions, too. Too bad the way the world got there was by the control of a killer computer program. I can’t really blame it on the people picking this, not when this computer started pulling this shit.
She continued, “My brother liked to tinker. It was his hobby. He had little kits that let you build simple robots and inventions, but then he told me he met some backdoor hobbyists. People who sneak around where the system is blind and do things it doesn’t approve of. They’re harmless and they’re everywhere. This time, the backdoor club was found. The last I saw of my brother, one of the Vigilants, those big robots, had scooped him up and was taking him to processing. I kept waiting to hear he had gotten some sentence or restriction, but I didn’t hear anything. I kept checking, but the system refused to tell me. Then another backdoor group found me and showed me video proof of the graves. Pits of bodies, for anyone who inconveniences the system too much.”
Heavy shit. And not, as some might guess, due to a problem with the Earth’s gravitational field in the future.
“Alright, what’s the plan?” I asked, wondering if they’d finally let me in on something ahead of time.
“My armor’s on the fritz. Want to take a look?” Qiang asked.
Oh, so that’s how this is going to be. I went with her down to my basement lab to take a look at the armor. The pseudomuscles were so compact and worked so smoothly, but it held interlocking armor plating that worked like scales. “Interesting, what seems to be the problem?”
“The problem is that no one’s being all that honest with you, but I know you hate that and are just as likely to take it out on us when you find out the truth. The others don’t personally know how that works with you.”
And then, she told me why. And it was indeed something that should stay just between us girls. What I can relay is when she went to a different subject. “But if you could take down Darklight, that would be a big help to us.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about her,” I said. “She reminds me of someone from my past.”
“Could be,” Qiang said. “Slayer might have known you’d get involved, or he grabbed someone who hated you to fight us. It’s dark, but there are people who would do that.”
“If it’s the person who I think it is, she has every reason. And it sounds like if I go after her, that’s something I have to do alone. Is there a way the Long Hall can get me somewhere on its own?”
The grown up version of my daughter affirmed there was and led me to the Long Hall, a really long hallway in the House of Shadows and Spires where every door can lead to a different point in time, including alternate timestreams. Last time, pun not intended, it allowed me to see what Jaguar Slayer was going for. A World War II devoid of superheroes. A future with his robot minions in control and where superpowers are considered fantasy.
“Say please,” Qiang told me.
“That’s it?” I asked.
She patted the wall. “The House is alive. If it wants to help, it will help.”
I nodded. “Ok, then, House. I have some ideas. Will you please help me?”
A painting appeared on the wall that wasn’t there before. It looked like a children’s drawing of a smiling sun. I gave it a thumbs-up. “Ok, good. I need a few things. First, I have to go steal something that shouldn’t be that tough to do. It’ll be so easy, I won’t even recount it until it’s critically important to make myself look clever while creating a sense of narrative tension that wouldn’t be there if they knew the whole story. Besides, it won’t come up for awhile.
Next, I decided I’d go punch that Darklight person. Keep it simple after all that. I figured we’d try one of those places I’ve never been to before. The picture in the Long Hall was an old-timey black and white photo of a skyline under construction, kind of like old Empyreal City. I asked for part of the Golden Timeline that Jaguar Slayer was trying to build.
I stepped out of a building to see plenty of dirty streets and mildly-leaned up passerby. Also some horses and old-fashioned cars. People looked at me like I was completely foreign of a being. Which I am. I set down a case that’ll become important later. A bunch of them scattered away from me. I held out a gloved hand. “A newspaper, if you please.”
The crowd pushed a paperboy forward who stepped up and handed me a newspaper. I handed him a gold coin. Real, by the way. With time at my disposal, a little gold is such a trivial thing to give away. Money is no object. Head into the future far enough, and there is no lack of resources. Perhaps Jaguar Slayer’s decision to destroy other timelines isn’t such a bad idea. Otherwise, I can see too many people like me using it for temporal colonialism. Oh yeah, I’m tempted to use and abuse this situation.
But that would have to come after I finished with this alternate Empyreal City, this New York City. This essential part of
Now comes the part of this story to save the multiverse that requires a villain. I threw the paper back at the whole crowd. Then I raised my hands, took a good horse stance like it mattered, and let out a paralyzing screech. It’s such a cheap trick. Probably why it was first used on me by prison guards. The thing about us supervillains though: we tend to be thieves.
Everyone in sound of me dropped, paralyzed. Didn’t stop their breathing. Caused some car accidents. Just small ones, and only into sidewalks… and people on sidewalks. Buildings. Other cars. Pretty sure this is one of those situations where I have to be at least a little bit as ruthless as the AI I’m hunting. I didn’t figure I’d have to do much before I got the result I expected.
It didn’t. A bright light appeared in the sky. From it flew the burned woman in black, Darklight. Or some version of Forcelight, I would guess. A version with a better name.
She came flying in, landing with a crater. I left a hologram nearby to at least attempt to talk things out. “Hey, whatever timeline you’re from… I probably deserve all the hate you have for me. But you’re helping someone who has killed way more people than me. Whatever that other me did to you, I’m not her. Or him. I realized some things about myself. But anyway, helping Jaguar Slayer means you’re doing to trillions what that me did to you. And in the end, you won’t even get whatever you want. It’s going to erase all superhumans.”
She pulled off her mask, showing off that burnt face. “I made those nanomachines to help the world and you used them to threaten everyone. Then you took control of me and left me to die in space. Jaguar Slayer saved me, but the deal was, I get to kill you. He even got you to be his spy on the inside, feeding him information through that stupid blog.”
By this point, I was sneaking up behind her. That’s why I didn’t see her eyes shimmer until she turned around and tried to put her fist through my chest. I blocked it with both arms, watching her watch me. She could see me. With a pulse of white light, she dispelled my holograms.
“New tricks?” I asked. I followed it with another paralyzing screech that didn’t do anything to her. Worth a try.
“Killing you will be a treat,” she said through a strained grin as she pushed back against me. Then she grabbed my wrists, flew up just enough, and pushed me down onto my back on the street. Both hands were right there in front of me, but then my nanite cape formed a pair of arms that wrenched them away. Blasts of dark light melted cars and concrete around us.
“I’m sorry and I was wrong. If you’ll let me, I can heal you. It won’t make up for it, but I want to be better,” I said.
She glared down at me and kicked me in the boob. Then another kick to make sure she got the second one. “You killed my father you fucking freak!”
Ok, I think I’ve established diplomacy is not an option. I kicked up into her gut with both feet, then formed the nanites into one arm to whip her against a nearby building. I deployed a trio of mini drones from my armor that zipped toward her, exploding uselessly. It was enough to cover up when I came running up with some old-timey Beetle car and smashed it into her.
Black light blasted it out of my hands, leaving me holding my hands above my head and ripe for a haymaker to the jaw that made it snap out of place. I gave her one right back. I caught her return punch, and she caught mine in turn. “You’re not stronger than me anymore. If I wanted you dead, you would be.”
She stomped on my foot, then uppercutted me. I slammed back onto the street. Then she dug her heel into my ankle. She flew up. Way up.
“Stop now, before I’m forced to hurt you,” I declared to Darklight before she flew down fist first. I didn’t say it loud. I lost so many teeth from that uppercut.
The nanites pulled me to the side and left us both crashing down into the sewers. She fell much harder than I did. I got my bearing more quickly in the rubble and extended the laser claw power I’d stolen and genetically modified into myself since I’d last encountered Forcelight. She groaned. I stood there and lifted her up by the hair, bringing the claws in close. Then I dissipated them. Instead, I tossed her up onto the street and hopped out.
Darklight’s boss wasn’t too happy. There was that big device with the red light that pulsed quicker and quicker. The thing he uses to annihilates rogue timestreams. I hit the remote activation sequence for that suitcase I’d dropped and was happy to see it responded after all that fighting nearby. I grabbed Darklight and carried her over my shoulder, making for the door as fast as I could.
The Time Annihilator neared its activation. Off down the street, next to a pile of metal and some dazed people the Jaguar Slayer would sacrifice anyway, a suitcase popped open to display a shrunken clockwork device that once stood in a clocktower in the mountains of Romania. A grief-stricken father tried to use it to stop time after his son died. I think I regretted that kill even then. I studied it then, but realized I could also just find something to shrink it down and abduct the original. Now, its imminent activation caused Darklight and I to rubberband back and forth. I was at the doorway with her over my shoulder, then I was back in the hole, then I was where I thought I was supposed to be and ran for the door.
The door slammed itself shut behind Darklight and I. A photo hung next to the door of the scene outside. It was smashed up from our fight, but it was still there, frozen in time and holding that device at bay.
Mobian Jr. was the first to arrive, followed quickly by Wattson. “I’ll get her to the stasis cell,” Wattson declared.
Mobian Jr. looked over to the door, looking at the photo. “You trapped it, you clever primitive.”
I waved it off goodnaturedly while still getting my breathing under control. “Maybe now… you can stop giving me the… what’s the phrase?”
“The reach around?” Mobian Jr. asked.
I pointed at him. “Yes, that’s it exactly. Keep using it that way.”
Days of Future Tense 3
Now, even though I joined this bunch pretty readily, I have to admit my focus was on the endgame. “What’s winning for us? What stops Jaguar Slayer from doing all this and lets us all go home?” I asked Mobian Jr.
The son of the time traveling hero looked at me in surprise, holding a pair of coffee cups in his hand. “I thought you needed me for a coffee order.”
“No, that was because I wanted answers from you. About that, and another question,” I said, holding up a new gauntlet for my armor and shaking it from side to side so that an empty finger wagged at him. I’d only been with them a short time, and most of that had been taken up by Alexander wanting a tour of my new workspace and armor. He was also showing off some of his gadgets that seemed to be from a variety of supers I’d been involved with in some way or another. The breastplate was that Thunderbolt stuff, a tough meteoric alloy brought to Earth in an asteroid that a bunch of supers got together to blow up before it could hit us and cause extinction.
Most of them don’t realize that was the same meteor that brought an important alien robot to Earth. I was able to bridge the gap between humans and alien robots, and we’ve reached an agreement. The robots are settling on other planets in the solar system. I’m sure there are a lot of paranoid people worried about that whole setup on both sides; robots are inherently distrustful of organic life that created them just to serve as slaves. Humans, and pretty much any other sapient species I’ve run across, are paranoid about their creations rising up to exterminate them.
I suppose in a way, the humans are ending up correct. Jaguar Slayer is some future artificial intelligence that’s decided that the only way to build a utopia is to completely warp the past leading up to its present.
And that leads to Mobian Jr.’s answer to me. “We need to change the timeline to prevent Jaguar Slayer from existing.”
“Last time I tried to change something majorly relevant to my own timeline, it started to do stuff to me,” I told him. “Your parent made it clear that doesn’t work.”
Mobian Jr. sighed. “Um… he lied. He was good at it. He had this little sonic gizmo, and he liked to use it to trick people into thinking they were dying if they were changing their own past. He mainly did it to people who were important or who he didn’t like. It might make you feel better he also considered you important.”
At least he wasn’t pretending Mobian liked me. I’m pretty sure this means it’s multiversal time travel at play, but that’s probably contradictory to my experiences as well. Fuck it, why do I bother still trying to make sense of time travel? I’m pretty sure they just change how it works every time.
I finished rubbing at my forehead with the empty gauntlet. “Fuck. Ok, back to the original question here. How do we stop Jaguar Slayer?”
“We’ve been fighting it for some time and we’ve tried to blow it up. We’ve gotten pretty good at it, and the raid we had gave us crucial data about its origins we can exploit to get rid of it. We’re going to stop at crucial periods in the development of what would become Jaguar Slayer and destroy it.”
“Ok, and what’s my role in all this? Need me to steal important data? Assassinate a key programmer? Protect a beautiful woman from a killer robot while nailing her?”
Mobian thought about it for a minute, which gave me some hope about the sex part, before answering. “We might need your help to fix some stuff, but you’re here to keep you safe. You beat that bunch then, but you have a whole life they could target that affects two of my team. Darklight would come for you again, and we can’t risk that. That’s all.”
I pondered it. “Darklight, huh? That’s the woman in black?”
He nodded. I shrugged. “Fine. I’ll just be down here, preparing for when I inevitably have to save the day.”
The first stopover was a dark and stormy night in the Scottish countryside, year 2050 CE. Great setting for the House of Shadows and Spires to appear. I came up because of a lightning bolt that flashed across my basement window. I couldn’t have told you how long we’d been traveling. My atomic clock was doing screwy things in this place. I found Alexander waiting around in his armor. He jumped up to hug me, making me once again wonder what is supposed to happen in my future that I have a son who is that eager to see me again. It implies I met an unfortunate fate.
“What’s the job, kiddo?” I asked. Dr. Ohms was putting on an outfit that looked like doctors scrubs with circuits visible in the material. Qiang, this future version of my daughter, had her armor on and was doublechecking the seals. It more closely resembled the version I used that had the fanged grin on it and a trio of eyes above.
My future and presently-unborn son, Alexander, pointed over to her. “Dr. Ohms is going to intensify the storm to provide cover for Qiang while she sneaks into the base and wipes a server containing targeting data that Jaguar Slayer uses. Without it, a lot of people the Slayer has picked up will simply be undone the next time they set foot in the time line.”
So my official job was to… sit around and let my daughter do all the work. Turns out I don’t like doing that. I don’t know how much of it was thinking I could do better and how much was being worried for my kid. Still, she hopped the fence and turned invisible well enough. This big window in the living room zoomed in to show her slipping in a door.
“Relax, she’s great at this,” Alexander said, leaning against me.
I put an arm around him. “I’m used to doing stuff.”
“Temporal signature active… they know we’re here,” Mobian Jr. said.
Wattson, the chrome detective, stepped up to the window. He pressed something on a clock sitting by it and adjusted the view.
Two windows appeared, in the computer sense. Picture in picture, which figures. We couldn’t have just zoomed in on Qiang infiltrating the base. One of the pictures showed a couple people, IDK. I focused on the one that showed this huge fight between two giant robots. One was piloted by me, and the other was controlled by a server containing a copy of my consciousness. The fight had its explosive conclusion that destroyed the server and left me half-dead, buried under rubble. And then Darklight appeared.
She blasted through the rubble. “She’s looking for me,” I said. Hey, wait a minute, “If this is multiverse stuff, how can me dying prevent Qiang from living?”
“It’s complicated,” Mobian Jr. insisted.
Alexander volunteered an answer. “Slayer’s killed you off every time you were in a different timeline. As long as you remain preserved here, you had to come from some time, so your prime one is saved. This is a weird attack, but it doesn’t serve a purpose.”
Certainly didn’t make me feel good to watch this super I knew I could beat uncover a dying past version of me and step on my throat until I shuddered and crapped myself. And then Medusa was there, in her power armor. The past version, when she went by Venus. She confronted Darklight, who told her something, even pulled off her mask to show off a face like Liam Neeson had been caught in a laboratory fire. She stepped close to Venus and the pair of them disappeared in a column of light. They were replaced with a device, like a cylindrical tank that tapered out at the bottom and top.
“What’s that?” I asked. I was over right in front of the window. I think the others had started rushing around due to something else, but Mobian Jr. was right there with me.
“That is the ultimate version of flipping over the board when you’ve lost the game,” Mobian Jr. informed me. “We believe that it’s derived from technology stolen from this very vessel when it was destroyed and the Mobian killed.”
I watched as a light on the middle section went from dark to an intense red. And then darkness, along with the words, “Timeline purged.”
“So you can do this too,” I said.
“Shit,” he said. I looked up at the other window. It was that hairy short guy again, but in an officer’s uniform. They had some others with them, including someone who looked like a woman version of him. They were all spreading out inside a building, a bloody Ohms slung over the shoulder of some guy I couldn’t identify with skin that had a scale pattern over it.
I looked back around. Wattson was gone, as was Mobian Jr. Alexander was with me, scanning the windows the windows showing what was happening. Qiang appeared briefly, grabbing the woman by the head and flinging her through a brick wall. Most of these Slayer fodder rushed for her there. It was the snake-scale guy who ended up finding her when she reappeared and uppercutted him onto his ass, taking Ohms from him. They both disappeared then and she made her way back.
Darklight appeared in the sky overhead. It was the column that showed it off. A bulky suit of power armor dropped from where she appeared, the main body of it resembling an iron maiden, with arms and legs like steel girders. They were coming for the house.
Iron Maiden ran for Wattson, the robot looking outgunned with only his cap, jacket, and cane to protect him. He wielded the cane like a sword, then tapped it at the ground once. He turned to run back to the porn where Mobian Jr. and his raggedy friend with stood nearby. The friend had on a bizarre fusion of armor, like football meets SWAT, with a facemask joining the top half of a welder’s mask to the bottom of a hockey goalie’s. Mobian Jr. was charging up the void cannon thing I’d fixed for them while the guy in the mix and match clothing twirled a gigantic wrench in his hands. He settled it against his shoulder and fired glowing chunks of metal out of the back end at Darklight.
Iron Maiden reached the point Wattson had tapped and shot up into the air like gravity had reversed itself. Alexander was out there too, raising up a pistol with a big round barrel that expanded when he pressed the trigger. The barrel spread out and fired blue plasma into the air. Unlike with my turrets, Darklight tried to dodge these projectiles, ducking to one side where Iron Maiden was about to hit her.
Mobian Jr. fired the void cannon then, leaving a streak of nothing in the air that pierced Iron Maiden through the middle and split it from sternum to fun bits. Darklight flew out from behind it, throwing a ball of darkness at us. Alexander holstered his pistol. A disk on the back of his glove grew larger, spreading out as meddle holding a forcefield shield inside it. He jumped into the air, rocket boots firing. The backpack he wore reached out a pair of metal arms that braced the shield to help it fling the darkness elsewhere.
Oh, and Iron Maiden seemed to be dead.
Qiang appeared with Ohms in a fireman carry. “We need to go.”
Alexander heard somehow and shrank his disk back down, giving Darklight the finger before rocketing back toward the house. Wattson had already pushed past everyone to head inside. The moment Alexander crossed the threshold, the scene around us changed. Gone was the night and the storm. Instead, a vast rolling desert spread out.
“Inside,” Mobian Jr. ordered.
I glanced out at the landscape, swearing I saw a puff of dirt off from one of the dunes. And the suns were bizarre. Purple, swirling. I felt a hand clamp down on my shoulder and turned to see Alexander. “Hey, don’t stare at it too long. Um, you think you can help me fix my shield?” he held up the small disk. Some of the portions that formed the edge were smoking and hadn’t closed in properly.
I followed him inside to see a whole slew of those windows, with one larger one in the middle that had Darklight and the rest of Slayer’s minions. “They certainly have the numbers, eh?” I commented.
In rapid succession, that device I’d seen before appeared where the House had been, and the lights went out. Wattson took off his hat and held it agains this chest.
Mobian Jr. rubbed his face. “It’s never easy see it.”
“What’s happening?” I whispered to Alexander.
“Slayer’s pruning the timeline. Destroying universe but the one where he confronted us and won.”
It didn’t quite feel real. Sure, you could create a universe easy enough, but did that mean that someone destroying Earth, the galaxy, and the universe a dozen times over was truly slaughtering that many people?
The people who felt I was worth protecting seemed to think so, and I agree. Guess they need my help more than they think.