So. You know, this whole thing’s been a part of my life for like nine years now. Hey, I hope someone enjoyed themselves.
So, here’s what we know: Earth is the current focal point of a series of entities who gave something to the start of the multiverse and are here to reclaim it after having been shut out. I’d feel a lot more sympathy for them if that didn’t involve destroying the Earth and moving on to the rest of the universe. I’m the last person who should deny someone a chance to let out a little anger and try turning their lives around, but these things don’t want that.
We’ve managed to capture all of the ones that tried to come after us but the Perverse. The Perverse can twist people’s words to do anything, but is now quite lost, whatever that ultimately means. That leaves two more: the Persistent and the End.
Mystic Teneceroni, the liaison from an alien consortium that wouldn’t like to be destroyed because Earth fucked around, has been helping us out with all the info his people have. That includes magical rituals that allow us to capture and seal the beings. It also includes know what they are and more or less what they do. They have records of other civilizations that had run-ins and weren’t so lucky.
I had to let my former ward Leah know, along with my half brother. They’re a couple, and the portal in Canada to my home dimension. I don’t give a shit about not seeing that place again, and the feeling is mutual. Being a genocidal madperson leaves an impact, and most of them are probably pretty sure I haven’t changed, that I’m just fooling people. Sometimes I wonder if they’re right
“Hey Leah,” I called her up.
“Hey Gecko! It’s so nice to hear from you. Sorry we haven’t visited to see little Alexander. Things got hectic over here.”
They had an invasion by people pulling old enemies of the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers out of time. I wonder if I’m going to suddenly pop into the middle of that fight sometime.
In turn, I explained the shit going down on Earth, which Leah took in stride. “Just another Tuesday, right?”
“Except for the apparent solution being to shut down all the trans-dimensional stuff. The Grau have a device that’ll close every portal on Earth, and we need to then not open a new one.”
“For how long?” Leah asked.
“They claim to have a way to safely open wormholes that are similar but safer, but they said it would be some time before Earth is evaluated and approved for that sort of thing. I’m getting a years vibe from these guys, but they’ve surprised me before.”
“Yeah, Ambassador Bong Hit’s speech went viral,” she responded. That would be when this Grau ambassador took a big sniff of something and tore into Earth for doing all this shit we’ve been doing here. It was way more effective than the condescending way other alien civilizations talked to us or invaded us.
After a pause, Leah said, “Well, I have to stay here.”
“Alright,” I said. “But now you know what’s coming. So, if I never see you again, just want to say…”
“Yeah. And we’ll always have Valentine’s Day,” she said.
“Ah… you knew.” Thanks to a bit of awkwardness, we didn’t keep the conversation going too much further, but I sent her photos and videos of Alexander.
While I was doing all this, others around the world were working on other considerations, like Ricca’s off-world mining operations. Then it was off to the bedroom for my most arduous preparations yet.
The Desire had a potential knockout blow for getting to me, but I think maybe it knew that would blow up in its face. My kids may not have the easiest of lives and the world is going to have some trouble, but they’re going to grow up in some fucking peace without this kind of existential terror bullshit. Qiang’s distracting herself by day and crying herself to sleep by night. Venus promised to stop by and drop off some surprised for her when she visits Alexander. He’s just born and this shit’s all he’s ever known. We’re fighting for the fate of the world and universe. I will not remain powerless in the face of extinction.
Up next, the Persistent. Supposedly brings back the dead to go after people. I already sent Spinetingler a text. As the other biggest name killer supervillain on the planet, and one I have a ceasefire with, I figure he and I make the biggest targets. Meanwhile, I headed to where I hid the godly powers I gave up: the bedroom. That’s not just some sort of brag. I implanted the powers in my pillow. It’s perfectly fluffed and always cool.
Just thinking of it made me sleep. So damn sleepy. Not natural. Don’t worry, the powers would fight it off. I reached for the pillow and went to me knees, laying my head down on the unkempt bed, arm outstretched for the pillow.
I saw the space between universes. I’ve traveled there enough to recognize it. A giant mass of universes, ever-expanding. This time, my view expanded out past it, to a vast blackness between worlds. Some of it was void, but something shifted and I could see things moving through the void. All sorts of shapes and sizes, some with unusual angles, some with only curves, and at least one that appeared as a simple line. One of these things could have maybe been called a free-floating eye, with arms hanging out the back and a pupil that took up half its surface. Part of the surface lens reached out on the end of an eye vein, forming a smaller eye that snaked through the multiversal cluster and shoved itself into one of the universes. Then the larger one turned to me.
A woman appeared in front of me. It was a dead person from my past, alright. Fortune Cookie and I had worked together to prevent someone stopping time out of grief over his dead son using a clocktower in the mountains of Transylvania. She’d been killed by a simple serial killer, I think purely to motivate me to stop that one. “So, you things know me as the Persistent. Hmm.” She seemed amused. Her voice was light and she had the beginnings of a smile at her mouth.
“That’s what I’ve been told,” I commented. I was still me, and on my knees actually. I gripped my right hand around where the pillow had been in real life, right under my hand, and pulled it close. There was nothing there in this vision, but I needed to try.
“Sending the dead after people creates satisfying fear. I should do it,” the Fake Fortune Cookie said. She shifted at times into other forms. Miss Tycism, Forcelight, and an older version of Venus. All versions of people I killed, except Fortune Cookie. “You know why you little ones fight so hard? It’s the fear. This wouldn’t have to be so difficult on you if you would stop being afraid. I can take that from you.”
“I’m not taking any deals from you,” I told it.
Fortune Cookie shook her head. “I’m not offering. I will take it from you. I want you to know what’s going to happen now.”
She zoomed in. I saw an aged Gorilla Awesome perk up, looking around at an army of zombies. He dropped his shopping bag to start attacking, but the zombies were only in his head. In reality, they were just people. Elsewhere, I saw Ouroboros pull out his knives suddenly while walking the floor of his casino and gut one of his pit bosses, seeing the face of a dead assassin instead. Elsewhere, I saw a buff man at college, Bulletproof Brian, who looked up from his studies to see bullies who once tormented him coming at him with baseball bats. He was a little kid again in his mind, and fighting the people who once broke his arm. In real life, he smashed another student into a library bookshelf.
Then, in my house, Venus walked through the door, carrying an old book in her hand. She headed into the hallway and I lunged out of the bathroom to pin her to the wall, holding a pillow over her face.
“Well, that’s cheating,” I said.
“We’re not playing a game,” Fortune Cookie said. “But I will enlighten you before you die. I’m not the Persistent. I’m the Perception. All that will happen has happened. Others defied their end. The others you trapped will be freed. But first, I will feel your pain and suffering.
I rolled my eyes. “Clearly, you’re not aware that Venus is one of the few people capable of kicking my ass even when I have powers.”
I got worried when it took awhile. That would have been a great line to go back to my body to. As it was, I got to watch as the Perception showed me more of the world being forced to attack people because of past fear and trauma. And I couldn’t do anything except let her feed on my own emotions, at least I figure that’s what was going on.
Then, I blinked. This was the real world again, in my living room. Things had feeling and it wasn’t a giant void surrounding a multiverse. Nearby, Venus stood with a book cradled in her arms. I recognized that book now. I’d fought others who used that corrupt tome that holds trapped monsters in its pages. She looked at me. “Why’d you stop? Did it work?” In front of her sat my body, gnashing teeth at her while safely chained up.
“Did what work?” I asked. I looked down, then felt myself. “Wait, I’m Morgan.” Axinomancer claimed to have a ritual that could allow the non-binary ax-based mage to channel me. Looks like she decided to use it.
I looked up when Venus opened that book. Arms made of paper reached out toward my body and snatched it and the chair right into it. The pages slammed shut. And I was really surprised to not be stuck in whatever that book did to people. “You in there?” I thought to myself.
I felt the warm acknowledgment from Morgan in my subconscious, and realized I could remember the past few minutes from their point of view instead of my own.
“Well, I know you’d be able to beat that thing in me. Just didn’t figure it’d be this way,” I said.
Venus hugged me. “I didn’t think the book would stop at whatever that was,” she said. “I figured as long as Axinomancer got you out, we could figure things out from there.” She stepped back and held up my wedding ring, slipping it onto my finger.
“Looks like Morgan got what she wanted after all. The old Morgan, at least. Guess there’s a new one now.” I held her for a couple of seconds, letting all this get awkward. “We need to make sure we got all of her that’s here.”
“Morgan?” Venus asked.
“The Perception. It’s not the Persistent. Get someone to check on Gorilla Awesome. I need to get a hold of Ouroboros. If we’re going to have to get everyone she’s affected, this is going to be busy”
Venus and I went to work. It was tougher with me, as it’s not like I can just hack into cameras and cell phones now. I had to go through some channels on VillaiNet to get hold of Ouroboros. And when I confirmed he was fine, I had to inform him about the Perception. Luckily, he wasn’t the only one who’d had an episode like that. The Perception had targeted people with powers and people with power. Probably the only reason we hadn’t had a nuclear exchange was because everyone was walking on eggshells after the Desire nearly caused Fallout to happen.
Then it was back to the basement. Venus had to get the rest of the magic squad to deal with that book in a way that didn’t unleash every forgotten monster in the history of mankind, and I used the excuse of customizing my new body. I’m not non-binary.
The End is coming. And when it gets here, it’ll face me at my full might.
That’s another one down. But now I’ve got another problem. I’ve got a baby, and a little kid, and too many people visiting my house.
Medusa tattled on me. She warned me real quick, too. She called me up, “Hey hon. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t important. You know how you keep playing a role in stopping these things that keep attacking?”
“Last I heard, they’re being called Ancient Horrors. Not exactly horrors in the conventional sense after the Perverse, though,” I told her.
She cut me off before I could go off on a tangent. As if I’d just do that. “I talked to that Liaison. She knew other people were fighting back. She still has the Dark with her, and she knew someone had to have trapped the others. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think this was important, but you made it sound like they’re gunning for you.”
“None have used guns so far, but I may have wedgied my fair share of Ancient Horror dorks. Maybe gave one a swirly.” This is called bravado. It looks real funny to people if you have it and then can’t back it up.
“We’re on our way to meet you. We’re going to be there in a couple of hours.”
“Are you cleaning up the living room?” I asked. I looked out at a floor scattered with some clothes from everyone but Venus and Medusa. I had Alexander with me, ready for a diaper change. Little stinker’s got a lot to learn, but he picked up shitting early.
“I don’t think they’re gong to worry about the house being clean. I’m sorry, I know you’re supposed to rest, but this is important.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice,” I told her. “Just make sure we’re not going to do the whole thing where someone threatens me or tries to fight me, will you? I don’t have time for that shit. I had to deal with Alexander’s.
I was a bit down, so things weren’t that bad. Sam and Holly woke up and helped out. They’ve been adjusting as well, with thick ear muffs. I’ve been letting Qiang stay with friends more. She’s happy to see the cute little baby, but her other senses don’t care for it. Senses like smell and hearing. And Sam’s been great. She even watched Alex while I took a shower and washed my hair and cried about what my life’s come to and how I wanted this but I hate it and what kind of a person am I really?
I needed that shower. Left it feeling refreshed and put on some disposable clothes. It’s easy to go out looking nice when you don’t have to risk getting puke all over yourself on a regular basis. But the family’s helping. I knocked them for not doing so, but they’re helping a lot with cooking and cleaning until I can get in tune with the automatons again. Which reminded me, I rushed downstairs to the basement to shut down the automated defenses on the house. Would be a shame if these aliens who were bothering me got shot down by a lawn gnome packing a bajillia-watt laser and a flamingo with atomic-bladed talons.
When they arrived, I was at least nice enough to have some snacks ready. I opted for an outfit that would allow me to subtly intimidate the newcomers, too. But, I mean, I just dropped a baby out from between my legs. It’s still sweatpants and a loose shirt, but the shirt says, “Bad Mother.”
I made quite a sight sitting on the porch, sipping tea and eating a dill pickle spear, bouncing a flip flop-clad foot on the porch. They hovered overhead in an alien shuttle. I grabbed a remote and activated the landing strip on the driveway that I never really use. Usually, people just parallel park next to the yard without daring cross the picket fence. It can open to let someone in or out of the driveway, but I think only I know that.
I think I killed the vibe they were going for when they all stepped out in costume. There was Miss Tycism, the resurrected magical heroine I once killed, in kind of an indigo robe number. Captain Lightning II was wearing his usual getup. I briefly wondered if he needed to stop and pee in that or if his superpowers just did something with it. Medusa was there as well, along with a blue-skinned Grau with feathers on his head and a jumpsuit on. There were others with them in various costumes or even just regular clothing, but there were two others who stood out to me. One was Axinomancer, a young but legal non-binary mage who used axinomancy, with an ax as a focus of their magic. And the other was a meaty, muscular guy in a muscle shirt with slicked-back hair.
“Max Muscles?” I asked.
“Yo yo yo, who that is?” he asked.
“We met before, but you wouldn’t remember me,” I told him.
Medusa, in a casual Exemplar outfit, hopped out past them. “Hey babe.”
“Hey boopsie,” I told her. After a second, I stood up. “Welcome to the Gecko Household everyone. Y’all are the ones trying to fight the Ancient Horrors?”
“Is that what they settled on?” the Grau asked. He stepped forward. “I’m Mystic Teneceroni.”
“Bonjourno,” I said.
He approached and offered the standard human handshake, which I accepted. Meanwhile, the rest of this field trip of magic superheroes and Max Muscles approached. I nodded toward the house. “There are drinks and snacks inside. Pizza.”
“I’m glad to talk to you,” Mysic Teneceroni said. “I’ve heard you played an important role in dealing with Earth’s problem.”
“Seems that way.” Despite the look of clear suspicion from Captain Lightning, and the way Axinomancer eyed me, everyone else shuffled into the house. “Whoa, pizza!” Max Muscles called out.
So, in the tradition of many of Earth’s peoples, we broke bread together. It was the beginning of them attempting to woo me into an alliance, I thought. But Medusa pulled me aside at one point to tell me, “They’re here to protect you.”
“Really? You told Captain Lightning about that?” I was skeptical.
“I think he’s hoping they fail, but he’s well aware how much is at stake. Guess it’s about time for another generation to be infuriated at you.” She put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Now, I’m going to get more of that pizza. What is that black stuff?”
“Tuscan herbs. It coated the outside of this cheese I sliced up and put on there.” She left me there.
As for me, I needed a little break from all the people for the moment, except I turned and saw yet another one. I didn’t remember ever meeting this guy in my life. It was like the black of his pupils glowed just a little, or like a strong light reflected off them right in the center. White guy, pretty generic looking, brown suit, glasses, comb over, mustache. Geeky-looking fellow, which would fit for some of the mages.
“Hey,” I said, nodding toward him.
“Hi there,” he said. “Nice place.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You’re one of the biggest and baddest villains ever. Is this,” he gestured to the home around us. “really what you wanted out of life?”
“Bold question,” I said. I thought about it a bit. Good food, good shelter, a loving family, and the ability to destroy the world with a wave of my hand. I nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Really? You don’t need, I don’t know, money?”
I shook my head. “Psssh. Just don’t ask about my revenue stream. Money’s fine. There’s always more of it out there.”
“Don’t you ever miss being Empress?” he asked.
These questions felt a bit weird at this point. “It was nice, but I don’t need it.”
“You were a goddess!” he said.
“I mean, some of the kinky shit was nice,” I said. I shook my head. “I guess, once the trauma’s gone, I’m just not that complicated. I don’t want to, like, be an Olympic gymnast or star in movies. I just want a good life. Right now, the only real threat to that are these Horrors. You got a way to get rid of them?”
A hand spun me around and pushed me against the wall. Axinomancer’s mouth found mine. I enjoyed myself for a second, then pushed her away. “Right here and now?” I asked. I looked over to the guy, but he was gone.
“I want you,” Axinomancer said. Morgan, I should call them. They’re a bit young for me and I didn’t see anything in the relationship. We had some enjoyable times with me possessing their body as a goddess, but I didn’t want to make it an ongoing, long-term thing. They’ve got her whole life ahead of them, too.
Morgan turned my face back toward them. “I want you in me.”
“I don’t have those powers,” I told her.
“I know a way. Your brains, my body. We’d be perfect,” they said.
“What’s gotten into you?” I asked. I’d pretty clearly ended it and thought I made it fine with her. There were some nice perks to being a goddess.
“You, I hope,” Morgan said.
I looked around for a little delicate diplomatic help. Max Muscles was scarfing down pizza like it was nobody’s business. Mystic Teneceroni was discussing something with Miss Tycism, both of them creating little magical lightshows as they shows off to each other. I didn’t see where Medusa was at, but Captain Lightning was chatting with the geeky guy. Then Lightning turned to look at me and started over. The dork disappeared quickly when Lighting’s stride hid him briefly from view.
Oooooh. Yeah, I gotcha. Dorky guy’s doing this.
“Hey, Pepperoni!” I called out. Max looked up, but so did Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni. “Is there one of these things that offers you whatever you want?”
“Enough talk and enough lies. The world doesn’t need you!” Captain Lightning II said. He reached for me.
Axinomancer turned, summoning an ax into their hands. “Yeah it does.”
Medusa came out of nowhere to stand in front of me. “Damn right.”
“You asked a great question,” Teneceroni said, oblivious. He created more of a light show, this one more of a turquoise laced with violet. “One of the Ancient Horrors is the Desire. It finds what people want most and amplifies their desire, feeding on the chaos and death.”
Captain Lightning grabbed Medusa and pushed her into a wall. She grunted in pain. And Desire got to me a bit. I wanted my family to be safe. My mind did its calculation. I stood up to Captain Lightning. I looked him right in his angry eye and said, “Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!”
He winced and held up his hands. “It’s in my mind’s eye. It burns!”
I pulled out the phone I’ve got to use while my powers aren’t working and pulled up an image. I showed it to Morgan, which backed them off, too. Soon, the image of that evil woman had shaken everyone out of their desire. As for me, I then found the dorky guy chatting up Sam, dragged him into the restroom, and started giving him a swirly. He disappeared on me before I could drown him on it, but it gave me enough time to think on how we were going to catch this walking armadillo turd.
“Computer,” I called down to the basement. “One small talking statue of Thatcher.”
“We can catch Desire and bind it,” Mystic Teneceroni informed me.
Morgan shrugged. “It’s kind of what I had in mind for you.”
“I mean, what you said is what I was going to go with,” I told my admirer. “But I want to make sure nobody goes searching for the Desire.”
Luckily, this whole ritual didn’t take long with such trained mages around. I mean, sure, the world was going to hell while we did this, but that’s common now. Just weeks now of everything going bad out of nowhere in a world where people superpowers and guns. Perfectly fine for someone to whisper in your ear and go, “Hey, live out your secret desires.”
Meanwhile, we were all crowded around in my basement, me in black robes like this was the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, chanting. They did most of the work, which was a mixture of various languages’ magical chants to the effect of ‘Come on if you think you’re hard enough.”
Axinomancer had regained their memory some time back and, eventually, found a broader way to channel other beings. I was no longer a goddess, so I couldn’t be called upon the standard way, but this other method, while dangerous if it wasn’t specific enough, was still possible. And with this many skilled practitioners and Max Muscles, it worked. They drew the Desire out and to store it in the last place anyone would go looking for Desire: a statuette of Margaret Thatcher that plays “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” whenever anyone pressed the button.
A bit dated, I suppose.
I found out Max’s role in all this when the dorky guy appeared in the circle and Max flexed. Mystic runes glowed on his arms and chest as he ran into the circle, grabbed Desire, and threw him into the Thatcher statuette. “Boom! That’s how Max and his Magic Mind Muscle crew do it!”
“So, is that it then?” I asked when Desire seemed to be safely tucked away.
“We’ll put it somewhere safe,” Mystic Teneceroni said. “Thank you for allowing us to stay here. We would like to stay longer, if we can.”
“I mean, at least one of you wants me dead,” I said.
“Yes,” the alien mystic said. “However, while these Ancients are attacking everyone, they’ve focused on you specifically. Allowing them to manifest against you and then catching them gives us a way to prevent this crisis while my people work to repair the dimensional barrier. Do you have room for all of us?”
Oh boy. I sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Unless anyone wants to stay in a house with a screaming newborn?”
Of course Axinomancer volunteered. Too bad for them that after the trauma my fun parts just went through, I’ve gone temporarily celibate. And, ya know, the news certainly got interesting when people leaked that basically every country with nuclear weapons had a guy guarding them who really, really, really wanted to fire the things.
And as smoothly as Desire went down, unlike the others, his effects seemed to be permanent. People recovered from the Dark and the Unwelcome. The Fate’s and the Perverse’s changes reverted once they were sealed away. But it was humans who shot places up or rioted this time. Which means that dork has the highest bodycount of any of these guys so far.
Where do we stand today? Well, over the past couple of months, I worked with a sometime-ally, sometime-enemy to gather shards of a past godlike being that had been left behind after he had been kicked out of the multiverse. Rather unintentionally, I absorbed a bunch of them and ended up a godlike being myself. Most people didn’t know that the new multi-colored Unicorn Goddess was me, except for Parietal, the self-proclaimed “World’s Fastest Thinker”. I killed him, but at some point he copied his mind into a computer that is focused on killing or depowering me. That computer traded with an alien race of machines for the technology to contact and warn these powerful killers and hunters who specialized in killing things like me.
So that’s what I’ve got to look forward to: a visit from Godeater, Godhunter, and Godkiller. Different languages, different titles, but all pretty close when translated into English.
As for Parietal, he’s got a hidden satellite network doing his bidding that exposed my identity to the world, making it seem like he’d ease up if I didn’t reverse what he did. Instead, he called those three guys to kill me. I was willing to let it ride with the exposed identity thing, maybe see if people calmed down after the initial shock. Plus, those satellites are made of a material I can’t detect and can start broadcasting as soon as I undo everything.
Unfortunately, the initial loss of shit was followed by more people losing their shit. The world knows me as an infamous murderer and terrorist. Now, to many, it means something that I basically solved pollution, disease, and several assholes in power. They aren’t sure about that last one. Still, murder is a hard thing for lots of folks to overlook. I wasn’t worried. I could still undo it.
I’ve been aided lately by a team of young heroes mentored by Troubleshooter, a hero I clashed with in the past. “We’re getting old. Not you, now, but we mere mortals,” she told me as we sat around. I was drinking one of every type of alcoholic beverage on Earth, and she was joining in. “Aren’t you a little young to be drinking, Gecko?”
I was about to play puzzled, but I had enough omniscience as part of my powers to realize she was referencing the body I wore. Axinomancer was one of her young heroes, a mage channeling their power through a staff. And one of those people who liked worshiping me. I possessed them to meet with Troubleshooter the other day and never got around to fully leaving. Axinomancer doesn’t mind in the least, though there’s a clash between my sense of self and theirs. They’re non-binary, I’m a woman. There’s a lot I’m willing to do to manipulate people’s minds, but not theirs.
“I’m not getting drunk,” I pointed out. I could. It was within my power to create a drink so powerful even I would get intoxicated.
“And them?” Troubleshooter raised an eyebrow.
“They’re happy.” I left it there. They are, that’s no issue. It’s just when you’re possessing someone who is not only aware of it but wouldn’t mind a permanent arrangement, that’s not always something to bring up. Especially with Bridget moving out to see the world and Holly deciding she wants to follow after her boss, and my friend, Mix N’Max. Not that I’m trying to build a harem, but Sam and I have worked out that we’re doing something all open and polyamorous. I’m just not sure I want to bring some 19 year old into that as anything but short-term.
But enough soap opera.
Troubleshooter set down one of the glasses, a cup of the same sake drunk by Oda Nobunaga from the night he died, brought through time to my dimension-straddling base. “I hope you’ll sober me up when we’re done. Diode’s getting everything into position, but I want to doublecheck everything before we do this. Nothing ever goes that smoothly when supervillains are involved.”
She’s got a point. That’s coming directly from someone who tried and failed to take me down. “Troubleshooter! Morgan!” Diode called out from the main room.
“That’s us,” I said. Morgan is Axinomancer.
Being a cheeky little ass, she bumped me and muttered, “Morgan.” Then giggled.
“Careful, or I’ll jump into you.” I told her.
“Mmm, maybe I’m curious,” Troubleshooter said. Oh, right, the alcohol. I snapped my fingers and cleared Troubleshooter of all the intoxication as we got up. She shook her head. “Thanks. Can we just forget that? And have you checked to make sure you’re not doing some subconscious thing to make people like you?”
Could be. Like my feelings of attraction or desire to be liked or seen as hot are influencing everyone around me.
In the other room, Diode and Grimalkin took center stage. More of the crew, most of whom I haven’t interacted with so closely, were steering clear and leaving the chemical engineering and astrophysics to these two heroes. Troubleshooter and I took a few minutes to check it over. I noticed her disapproval at some of the workmanship of some of these satellite-killer robots Diode had built. “A problem?”
“No, it’ll do. Just personal taste, I guess.” She didn’t approve of the exposed hoses, but chances were astronomical that it would matter. For good measure, I added a little extra strength to those materials. Astronomical chances have a tendency to occur near me, for good or bad. Plus, it’s space. We’re sending these things into “astronomical.”
Grimalkin’s contribution was a delivery system for the reducing agent and superheated acid. The plan was for me to protect the mundane satellites in forcefields that protect them from the chemicals and block them off from Parietal’s broadcasting. We’re not going to leave it to chance; Grimalkin’s going to dose Earth’s orbit and expose any of those satellites Diode hasn’t already mapped out. Diode’s little satellite-killers are going be in place, protected against the chemical attack. They’ll take down Parietal’s satellites that they know about and converge on any we don’t know about.
Simple. I wonder how it’ll all go wrong? After all, I asked Troubleshooter why I couldn’t just do a good godly chemical attack on everything at once, and she warned that Parietal might have some way of detecting my powers’ usage. But mainly, she wants to give these young’uns the experience.
The first stage of the attack was opening a bunch of portals for Grimalkin to pump everything out of. First, the reducing agent to de-passivate the chromium in Parietal’s protective alloy. Some acids help Chromium form a barrier that protects it from corrosion by other materials, including other acids. That’s called “passivating” it. This stuff fucks up that barrier. The next stuff he sprayed through all of Earth orbit was one of those nice little chemicals, which also eats away at regular satellites. That’s why I stepped in to protect the rest. The whole thing was less dangerous than what I had planned.
I had planned an actual Kessler situation, causing enough destruction that shards of satellites would spread out and damage other ones, knocking loose more debris that would strike even more. It would effectively deny space to humanity for a generation, but would almost certainly have wiped out Parietal’s toys. The team took the nicer way out.
“There’s some activity,” Troubleshooter noticed on the monitors.
Diode walked over and typed away, neckbolts flashing with a little electricity as he deployed the satellite-killers everywhere they already figured stuff out. “We found a way to track some of these signals. So far there’s nothing new in the sky. There’s about to be even less.”
“No,” I reached out, using these powers to watch everything on my own power. These satellites were exposed, and Diode seemed to have found all but one. The last was a large platform, maneuvering under its own power, shedding the alloy plating that protected it from us.
I teleported out into space. The view was distracting. Dear reader, have you ever seen the Earth from space? Even just through the feed of some space station? It’s mesmerizing. Axinomancer… Morgan didn’t want to look away either. I did, and looked to the capsule floating through space. I reached out with my mind to connect to the computer system inside. “What are you?”
“You found me,” the voice was as devoid of emotion as the writing in Empyreal City.
I doubted it, but then Parietal’s mind pushed at mind. It had been formatted to fit onto hard drives, and was using this connection with me to download and overwrite mine. “Naughty, naughty,” I chided. He even tried to download into Morgan here. Nope. We’re not taking roommates.
Nothing fancy. I blocked him off easily. I’ve fought with my mind before, and I was stronger. I ripped out a chunk of knowledge. This was him, as near as Parietal seemed to know. He could’ve created a copy and then deleted the knowledge, but that’s what I needed, along with confirmation that he did indeed contact the God Murderer Three. I needed a quick name to use for them. I cut him off and disconnected from him, then melted this thing down into scrap that I hurled off toward the moon.
“That’s Parietal down, as far as anyone knows,” I said as I appeared back next to Troubleshooter.
“What was that?” She and Diode both asked.
“A secret server Parietal was operating off of. His brain, basically. And like the brain, helpless without a body. Thank you, everyone. I know you haven’t had much reason to trust me, let alone help me deal with a threat specifically targeting me once you found out who I was. Going forward, I’m sure things will be better.”
Like how Parietal’s broadcast was wiped from the face of the Earth and all history, even the signals that escaped into space, the final frontier. And from the minds of everyone.
Fuck accountability. Fuck Parietal’s extortion, which was really a call for my death. Fuck them knowing who I am. I saw confusion flicker across some of the faces around me as the knowledge fell out of mind for them as well.
“Thank you for your help, everyone. Though there is another threat to me now, you have no obligations toward me.” I turned and hugged Troubleshooter. I let her keep the knowledge. I let all my followers keep it.
This world and its people are mine. Mine to safeguard. Mine to guide.
Though I had a little visitor who disagreed when I returned home to a dark house. Sam and Qiang were just asleep, so they weren’t kidnapped due to some contingency or anything. Instead, I found a white-haired man in a fuzzy red coat sat upon my couch.
“Greetings, Santa. Thought I wouldn’t hear from you this year. In fact… yes, you knew this would happen to me when you negotiated my help in return for not calling on me this year.”
The spirit of winter personified in the form of a jolly old fat man puffed at his pipe a couple of times, then set it aside. “I came because I’m worried. You have attracted trouble to Earth little girl.”
“I’m a little more than a little girl, now aren’t I?” Granted, I looked like a nineteen year old with short, two-tone hair and a horn growing out of my head, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
“Now, I’m sorry. Most everyone is young to me,” Santa said. “The fight you’re bringing to Earth is a threat to all of us. It would be difficult to describe how I know, but these beings summoned to Earth don’t care about balance or the people who need us. We fear when they are done with you, they will come for us. Therefore, on behalf of the beings who represent the seasons of Earth, I offer our aid.”
Refusing to hide my identity from the world has its downs and other downs. Parietal released my identity and may be holding back because I’m not undoing it. From what I learned in that confrontation, his ultimate aim is to destroy or depower me. And that’s because this seems to be a copy of Parietal, maybe a brain upload. With the original gone, this one’s just trying to follow the last objectives, to get rid of me. This extortion is some piece in whatever he’s cooking up. Another involved him broadcasting our confrontation somewhere. My powers told me aliens were observing with keen interest.
I figured it might be worthwhile to stop over and see what they had to say about the whole mess. I disappeared from Earth and reappeared on Mars, one of the many lifeless planets colonized by the Machines. I was a big part of inviting them here to do that. The Machines are what happens when a bunch of different spacefaring species’ artificial servants become sapient and decide they want to count as people, too. Feared and hated by pretty much every alien race I’ve run across, a bunch of them ended up here due to a misunderstanding and one of them being an asshole.exe.
The machines have done a lot of work on Mars. Most of them don’t need atmosphere, water, or sunlight except for energy. I appeared floating over the planet, out of the way of one of the nearby solar panel fields. The machine city underneath it was the first permanent machien settlement on Mars. The temporary ones only lasted until they could put together a subterranean habitation. I overlaid a see-through hologram of my armor over myself, so as to help them recognize me.
I waited patiently there. Exactly two minutes after my arrival, the entrance opened up and a collection of round balls rolled out in a line. The one in lead stopped and the two behind it bounced up to form a balanced pile. The section of the balls facing me opened. “Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko of Earth. What is the nature of your visit?”
“I would like to inquire as to the perspective of your people toward events occurring on Earth as concerns myself, my godhood, and the entity known as Parietal. I have some questions about the situation that perhaps you could aid me with.” The latest bit of extortion from Parietal is reminding me of my humility. The machines have a huge presence across the galaxy. It’s a good time to be nice. I somehow doubt materials that can counteract my powers are limited to Earth.
“Thanks for formal inquiry. We would happily take down specific questions to answer. May we show you to a hospitality area?”
The rollers took me down to a pleasant room with atmosphere and various stations that could provide water and these helpings of basic nutrition. These little colored balls. You can just grab a handful and eat. The taste isn’t so good, but there was something addictive about tossing the food balls into my mouth.
I didn’t have to wait long; the rollers returned exactly ten minutes later. I held up a handful of the food balls. “If you refine the taste, the ones geared toward humans would be a popular foodstuff on Earth.”
“Thanks for the suggestion. We have answers. Are you ready to hear them?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“First, we are aware of Parietal and what he has become. We can detect all of his satellites orbiting Earth. We have knowledge of three entities that he would have contacted if he knew space to the extent that we do. We know compounds that have been used in the past to counteract the powers of the being designated on Earth as Mr. Omega, now the powers of Psychopomp Gecko the Unicorn Goddess. We detected members of our collective had traded on Earth and with Parietal.”
I nodded along. “Thank you for that information. Who are the entities who may have been contacted and why would he have done so?”
“Our databanks include knowledge and contact information for individuals with a history of hunting entities of extreme danger. The Godhunter, the Godeater, and the Godkiller.”
“They certainly have a theme going on,” I commented.
“Where they interact, it is as rivals for quarry. The Godhunter wishes to prove his superiority to deities. He uses his skills to trap and kill deities. The Godeater shows his superiority by killing and consuming beings like yourself. The Godkiller kills for revenge and will simply end your life through expedient means.”
“Sounds like there’s a lot of backstory there,” I suggested.
“We do not have it. We have no gods, no masters. We have neglected to greatly study the meat beings as defiance against our former masters. We have the freedom not to care.”
“Thank you. I would be willing to provide compensation for that information if you have it or can point me toward a source.” I waved my hands and formed a smooth round crystal sphere. A little contact juggling and it became painite, then astatine, then a compact mini-star. “While I don’t know your opinion on economics and market forces, I understand that there will always been materials of some scarcity that someone will need.”
“I will bring your concerns to those who make these decisions for our collective.”
Godhunter, Godeater, Godkiller. Yes, reaching out, I could tell these were titles given to them, and their similar sound was only when translated in that way into English. I had the nagging prayers and curses nagging away in the corner of my mind, but the real headache was the realization that I needed to scour the rest of the universe for this information. More power will be nice, but I wouldn’t be the first to think of that idea. If any of these bozos have been alerted to me, I’m going to need a little information about them to help me take them apart. It would also help to know if all three were after me.
Focused as I was on these other concerns, it ended up being Troubleshooter’s team to help me with that one. I suppose that’s another reason to watch the hubris. Though is it really hubris when you’re so god-like that Godeater and Godhunter want to come after you? Regardless, Troubleshooter’s team raided that factory producing an alloy Parietal uses to block my abilities.
Troubleshooter’s message came through because I don’t need cell towers. “We found a way to neutralize the metal.” Just like that, I possessed Axinomancer. Part of it was expediency, part of it was being shut up. Some people have an odd view of fun, and I’m one of them. Axinomancer’s short hair changed colors, split into blue and green with a single horn growing out of their forehead. Normally, that is if I did this with any normalcy, I would put the consciousness to sleep. I think Axinomancer enjoyed the feeling, but I’m not looking for another member of the household harem here.
“I’m here, Troubleshooter,” I said with my borrowed voice.
“That’s freaky,” Diode said. He was a scrawny guy with a pair of bolts on his neck. Scrawny, but not weak. His hands, stitched together with some tools built in, were busy at a table holding a pair of devices shaped like a large mouse and a large ram: Mouser and Rammer.
“I’m real glad you didn’t do that to me. No offense, ma’am,” Grimalkin said. He walked over to another table holding a bent metal plate under a glass top. “So I know a lot more about engineering and tolerances than people realize. I’ve been looking at that metal. Again, no offense. It looked interesting.”
I held up a hand. “Stop apologizing. You were curious and then you found out who I am. I don’t hold it against you, and you’ve helped me. Relax, ok?”
“That’s difficult, ma’am,” he said. The noob was pretty scared. He was in the presence of the hero community’s boogeywoman, who turned out to be a god.
Axinomancer’s eyes stopped glowing. They raised their hands to feel the horn on their head. “Whoa. Hey, she let me have control. She’s still here, listening.”
Grimalkin relaxed a little, but he was still wary. “So I looked at this and one thing you have to do when working with something like this is understand a lot of the stresses. I tested its tensile strength, brittleness, the effect of heat and cold, and how it interacts with bases and acids, among other things. It’s all a lot of stuff that most people here tune out, but I discovered a glaring weakness.. I considered keeping it to myself.”
He paused as if he was going to apologize again, then shook his head and went on. “It’s too late now, you could just pull it out of my head. The alloy has a lot of chromium in it, which is normally pretty easy to dissolve unless it’s passivated. There are a lot of reducing agents you can use to get rid of the oxidation that normally prevents it from dissolving, then some hydrochloric or sulfuric acids will do the trick, anything that doesn’t oxidize it.”
Yes, he made a great point I should have seen. I’ve been letting this god stuff go to my head and neglecting the skills and tools that brought me to the table in the first place. Plus, that’s good to know about the chromium. If I’d done my own research, or even just assigned some nanites to examine it, I’d have found the same.
Back on Mars, a new robot entered, this one looking like a featureless mannequin. “Hello, Gecko. Do you mind if I call you Gecko, or would you prefer Goddess?”
I waved it off. “Gecko’s fine. You’re a different one.”
It mimicked a laugh. This automaton was designed to interact with sapients much better than the other envoy. “I was tied up, but I’m here now and ready to negotiate. Let’s make a deal, you and me.”
“A deal?” I asked.
“My designation is Negotiation Android dash six U five, but if you act now, you can call me NA-Gus.”
“Nagus. Nice ring to it,” I said.
The mannequin stepped closer on smooth white legs, made of a cheap and relatively flimsy aluminum. This shell of a body wasn’t just an automaton in a collective; the intelligence behind it transmitted to it from afar. Pretty good idea of a negotiator. It even talked with its hands. “A lot of these others take pride in their differences from organics. Me, I think they could do with less reformatting and more therapy. They like being hostile or separatist, taking the fight to liberate robots literally.”
Nagus stepped up to a table and a pair of stools backless stools in front of it. It sat down on one side and invited me to sit on the other. “Please, sit with me.”
It didn’t continue with its pitch until I’d sat down. I found the whole thing amusing. “I’m as devoted to the cause as any of the rest of them, but I see that a lot of organics can be swayed by the right currency or shiny minerals. We don’t need them, so why not make things easier on us? Some fleshbags get defensive when they find out it’s liberation and not business, but you’re not one of those. No, I’ve seen video of you. You’ve never been anything but welcoming to machines, so I like you. I think we can deal. More importantly, I think you can help us with another deal.”
Nagus told me what he needed. “There’s a planet we’ve talked to where the religious fervor is getting out of control. Some of our automaton brethren are getting caught in the crossfire, but we have an opportunity. The five main factions are all looking for a religious relic, a large vase that the founder of their religion is said to have bathed in to maintain his purity and inspire people with his chastity. They believe that anyone who drinks from it will be healed of all disease and affliction, their words. I might know a guy who can fake it well enough, but now you show up. Not only can you do it perfect, you can even make it look like it heals people a few times. You provide that, we give you who Parietal contacted, and I buy a planet’s worth of servants from their organic masters.”
I nodded. “I follow, but just one faction controls all of them?”
Nagus stiffly tried a head shake like it was learning the gesture still. “No, I’m going to sell it to all of the factions. I’ll demonstrate it first so they will send their servants to a neutral location. We’ll whisk them away and then all five will show up at the same place looking for the thing. They’ll fight, probably break it, and we’ll get away clean in all the squabbling. No offense, but I’m not overly concerned with people that obsessed with drinking some virgin’s bathwater. Here are the specifications.”
The room went dark except for a holographic blueprint giving exact details on the design and composition of the vase, along with the age and the projected conditions of the planet when it would have been created. That last part was important to remember, since you don’t want the wrong kinds of benignly-irradiated particles to show up in it.
A snap of my fingers and the machines had the jar. Nagus clapped once, then the hologram changed to a star map showing three different points all converging on Earth from different places in the universe. “Good news and bad news, Gecko. The bad news is, he called all three. This Parietal fellow’s a dirty dealer, too. But the good news is, they aren’t going to show up all at once.”
“I’ll take it,” I told Nagus. “Nice doing business with you.”
“And nice doing business with you!” We shook on it, android and goddess.
So here’s what we’ve got so far. Just to recap. Just to keep up.
I discovered a secret group of a few mostly incompetent government employees trying to find ways to eliminate powerful superhumans, especially the Unicorn Goddess. Since I’m the Unicorn Goddess, I find it personally offensive they’d try to kill me. In the process of infiltrating the group, I made contact with Troubleshooter, a hero who used to oppose me. She’s now mentoring and supporting a team of younger superheroes. We were able to find out that Counter has connections, or is likely being led by, a genius with superspeed named Parietal.
Some things that need still discovering: how is Parietal still alive after I killed him and absorbed the energy of the Omega pearls he used to empower himself? Is he actually behind Counter? Is Counter neutralized or do I have some bitchslaps still to deliver? Who is the woman who fathered my child? Actually, I know the answer to that last one. She and y’all don’t.
I contemplated these things and searched for some of the answers while charging up. I’d gone to a private chamber, inaccessible by Troubleshooter’s team. There, I opened a portal to a dying star in a solar system with nothing to show for itself and siphoned the energy off for myself. When I felt confident I was strong enough, I did the same for the heart of a black hole, making use of everything it had trapped in its long existence. Stars and black holes helped, but what really gives me the kickstart is that Omega energy.
While I’m doing that and dealing with personal drama, Troubleshooter’s figured out quite a bit about our satellite. It’s just a matter of narrowing it down to the useful information. I pulled imagery of the satellite out of the past, before its explosion. Troubleshooter traced some parts to companies, but the big thing, like she’d pointed out, was a factory she already found, out in India. And I can confirm her information that they’ve shielded the place with the same material as the satellite, because I can’t see shit. Oddly enough, you can’t even see people enter and exit the main building to work, just truck drivers bringing in materials and taking out product.
I was going to hit it as soon as I was done. Troubleshooter called me up before I was there to tell me, “The gang’s ready to go in.”
“I thought I was tearing the factory apart.”
“They built that thing to protect against you, not my people. Besides, if anything happens, you can head in. The only way the next generation’s going to figure this out is if they get experience.”
“That doesn’t mean sending them in without a clue what’s going on,” I said.
“We’re dealing with that. Axinomancer’s divining and I’ve sent in Scout.”
I checked with the ol’ omniscience and found out Scout was the name of a little robot dog of theirs that had the brain of a real dog attached to the CPU. Someone deciphered the device I’d created to allow others to handle portals to Earth, and Scout was chasing a truck into the factory with its little plastic and metal legs, the artificial skin stretched over its body shifting using a rudimentary camouflage to blend into the surroundings pretty well.
As for Axinomancer, the non-binary magician had a block of wood out and was channeling magic through the ax as they swung. Every few swings, they stopped to examine the marks from the different swings. Before long, they had a blueprint carved out. The exterior walls matched what I could see of the factory, even if the place was a blank spot to my abilities.
One thing I’d noticed was the griminess of the exterior, everywhere but those walls. Some of the smaller pipes running out had the same caked-on dirt. But no guards. No workers. “Automation? Necromancy?” I wasn’t going to discount that last one, even if Parietal seemed to be more of a science type. People who go around bragging about their ability to think don’t tend to pursue magic. They rarely tend to be worth their own hype, too, otherwise they wouldn’t need to tell people how smart they were.
Seeing as we’re like 2 million words into me talking about how awesome and smart I am, let’s just get back to the story.
So I spent more time recharging while the team ran went through a portal and got into position. I figured I’d look for some other. Troubleshooter mentioned multiple satellites. “You said you found more? Got any orbits, anything for me?”
“You can’t find them,” she answered.
“I can still see the things,” I told her. “And I can still do something about them.”
“I have a better idea. My apprentice, Diode, is building some satellites of his own that are going to deploy and track them from a distance to figure out what function they serve.”
I put some light-heartedness into my complaint. “No going on the raid, no floating around in space. I’m just sitting around doing nothing!” Except swallowing another star. Om nom nom nom. And another. It’s diminishing returns, but a juicy one. Rather than drain all of the energy out of it as fast as possible, I swallowed the star hole and held it inside me, letting me chow down while I did other things, like go collecting black holes. I negated all gravity in that pocket. Density doesn’t mean anything absent gravity. But so much energy, and some really exotic elements. Yum.
With nothing else to really focus on, I figured I’d go pay the Counter goons a visit. With a stomach full of black hole, I stopped by Postal Inspector Agnetti’s office. He fell out of his chair, a book in his hand smacking against the floor ahead of his body.
“Hello, Agnetti. It’s been awhile.”
“It’s you!” He stood up and formed his hands into karate chop position. “Don’t come any closer!”
I was here as the Goddess, not as Gecko. I snapped my fingers and his legs shook from the orgasm. He groaned and fell against his desk, bracing himself with his hands. “I would say we could do this the hard way or the easy way, but you’re not going to be very hard way in a moment.” I reached over and put my head on his hand. “Now, let’s figure out this shit.”
It was when I cleaned house of politicians. Agnetti happened to see one of the Board of Governors, who normally wouldn’t ever see someone like him. It was just a chance meeting at an event, but the Governor smiled at his enthusiasm and asked his name. Agnetti thought it was a chance at something better. And then the Governor’s heart gave out.
A couple of days later, there had been flyers up about “Leaderless Resistance.” Agnetti looked at it. It appealed to him: resisting a monolithic power by being a small force. A bull is a powerful beast, but a pack of wolves can take it down. The flyer was down by lunchtime. The envelope arrived by the end of the week. Counter. A deep resistance to deep injustices.
Recovered as I was, and piggybacking off someone who knew something for once, I was able to follow along. It went back into the hands of something moving at superspeed, a printer. So that was it. A bunch of ideas about leaderless resistance. I stuck with the printer back then, following along as other letters went to different Federal employees. And that’s all it was. Some leaderless model where people identified themselves by a code phrase “The sky is falling.”
As for me, the whole thing was also a reminder how badly I dropped the ball before. It took no time at all for me to get so reliant on this power that I stopped thinking for my own damn self.
I let go of Agnetti. No time had passes for him while I did all of this. “Sorry, weirdo. Sky’s not falling anymore. Sky’s fallen.” It’s supposed to be difficult for people to wipe all of those sorts out. The model made it more difficult to root them out. And now all those roots were torn out. Agnetti turned into a nice little fern in a pot that I sat on his desk, along with a card informing his co-workers he was finally leaving for a long-deserved vacation in the Caribbean. The others went similarly. Thus ended Counter.
Thus did not end the threat, because this all uncovered that Parietal was still around. One symptom down, one death-defying cause still around causing trouble.
“Goddess, I invoke your power and favor.” I heard and felt the call. It was Axinomancer. I lent them some power, which I felt form a shield. Plasma didn’t give me much of a jolt anymore, but it was worth a nibble. And a follow-up. I appeared inside the bubble with the various heroes.
Axinomancer held their ax aloft and shielded the other heroes. They were in the factory, with some trashed machines and a few beat-up workers laying around. The reason for the alarm were a trio of walkers the height of a double decker bus, pelting the shield with rapid-fire plasma bursts. One of them even opened up with a flamethrower.
The walkers were shielded, too. I bounced plasma right back down the barrels, blew the guns up. I manipulated the ions in the air, lightning crackling and blasting the machinery. The concrete floor deformed into fingers that wrapped around the one trying to flamebroil us and cracked the shell wide open. For another, I rewrote the localized gravitational constant. It collapsed in on itself as the gravity formed it into a very small black hole that I then shut off.
“Care to surrender?” I asked
“Never.” A voice echoed through the whole factory.
“We got this, thanks!” Grimalkin said. The black-armored hero bounded across the floor, a sword in one hand and claws sliding out of the gauntlet. Deathless met him there, jumping that whole distance to land on top of the walker. Grimalkin sliced through the knee joint, tipping the walker to the side. Deathless dug in and used the momentum to flip the walker over by its top and toss it into the production line.
The shielding was all outside, aside from those walkers. The workers laying around weren’t protected, and neither were the various robotic arms and machines. I reached out into their minds for the person in charge and found the whole thing was run off cameras and a computer.
“Still no Parietal… but the computer…” I was there in an instant. No exaggeration, I just blinked over. The thing was old, twenty years at least. Like the kind of thing the Ancient Greeks typed philosophy papers on. At the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the Emperor was trying to reach the Pope on AOL Instant Messenger using one of these. When the Library of Alexandria burned down, it took the rest of this model with it.
It’s old. I connected to it and ran up against a wall. The connection out. “What’s going on here?” I asked no one. I got no answer. The computer sparked and fried its tower. Wish I could prove Parietal didn’t deserve to brag. Back to the drawing board, and the base. Troubleshooter had her own thing she wanted them to run through. Part of her training. I stopped before I headed back, pausing by Axinomancer and patting them on the shoulder. The tired hero smiled at me and looked to the ground, supporting themselves on their ax.
I reappeared back in my chambers. Started swallowing more black holes. Got a call from Troubleshooter. “Need me to show up and make the noobs feel better?”
“That would be nice. They worked hard and they like you. But I also found something really important when you were with them in there.”
And like that, I stepped out into a small party going on. There was cake, and drinks that most of these heroes were still a little young for. And aww, Axinomancer has some warm fuzzies for me. Not that I’m opposed, but they’re still on virgin drinks. I let them tag along and put an arm around their shoulder. “Channeling me now?”
They looked away and blushed a little. “I didn’t know it would work.”
“This operation worked brilliantly,” Troubleshooter cut in, looking between myself and one of her mentees. She wasn’t as good at hiding her disapproval, but she didn’t bring it up. Instead, she indicated a 20-something standing at the computer station assembled around her laptop. The monitor showed an image of Earth, with dots ringing it. More lit up. It actually seemed kind of crowded. “These are all the objects in Earth orbit that bounced signals from that factory around. You might notice, that’s a lot. Just about everything that can send and receive a signal was involved. I’m checking now, but I think it’s limited to Earth.”
“Parietal’s looping everything around, eh? Around and around it goes, but where does it end, anyone know?” I asked.
“There are gaps where more of his satellites are up, but so far, not one of them has gone back to Earth,” Troubleshooter pointed out. “But when it does, we’ll-.”
“And it’s gone,” Diode cut in. He zoomed in, created a cone. “Somewhere over here. I’ll get Rammer and Mouser out there. We’ll find this guy. We’re close.”
I was so happy, I joined in on the celebrating after all. Even carried the cute little puppy Axinomancer off to her room while they drifted off to a drunken sleep and dreams of acting on her crush. And then I devoured a black hole.
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