Tag Archives: Baron Samedi

Godwar 2



The Trobogorians have been resorting to bombardment from low-orbit while they try to handle the machine assault on their fleet. From what I can gather. When I say the machines are tearing them apart, I mean they’re ripping their way through bulkheads and defenses. They’re pretty methodical about recycling. The Trobogorians had a relief fleet arrive that moved toward the Machine colony, forcing most of our extraterrestrial automaton allies to back off and focus on their own defense. That also means the fleet in orbit didn’t get any reinforcements of their own.

Anyway, that’s just an update. Setting the scene.

The Trobogorians had been bombarding the planet from orbit at random, but in between my recruiting efforts, I would catch them. Now, instead of going after the real location of the little ornament they’re after, the United States Bullion Depository, they went off on Louisville. The lasers they were using would have given Louisville a slugging, but something flew through the air and chowed down on them.

I landed, the glorious Unicorn goddess with the multi-color hair, the shining horn, and the glowing wings. Like a gay icon. It’d be nice, but I’m hardly icon material. I landed next to the others I brought with me. There was Pestilentia, the recently-freed woman with basically godlike powers focused on disease and fungi. She brought Mix N’Max with her, a friend of mine she’s banging and a master of turning just about any material into whatever potion or poison you can think of. Baron Samedi was along, the Loa claiming he isn’t involved and just providing a lift for Tom Waits. Tom is… well, we haven’t pried, but he agreed to help. What good he’ll be, I don’t know, but he’s a got a gravely singing voice and he’s almost certainly no god. But he brings snacks. Seems to be something of a supernatural thing that we all like people who bring us alcohol or food, like Baron Samedi sticking with us after I brought a cask of wine that originally sank in 1503.

We all looked out over the city from the top of some place called 400 West Market. Tallest building in the city. In a flash, a force of Trobogorians and their conscripted minions, the Mindarians. The Trobogorians averaged more like 50 feet tall, so they would have to climb slightly to reach us. The Mindarians were more like 9 to 10 feet, all decked out in pretty drab fatigues. They don’t really break out the armor for us little beings.

I held a hand up. “For my next trick, I will make this army disappear!”

It was like an explosion went off in my stomach that would not stop. It wanted to tear me apart. With Alexander on the way, I went into panic mood a little bit before fully concentrating to protect myself.

“What’s wrong?” Max asked.

“They spiked those lasers,” I said.

The sky lit up again. A being towered over us the same way the Trobogorians towered over their minions and humans, but it was ghostly and see-through. A truly humongous Trobogorian deity.

“Are you this planet’s puny gods?” it asked.

Baron Samedi stepped forward. “Actually, I’m a Loa. It is not the same, thing, and I’m not really-”

The alien deity fired a red beam from its mouth right at the Baron. I caught it before it hit and managed to smile. “I, on the other hand, am a god.” I didn’t devour this bit of energy. That’s how they got me. They saw what I did with the first time they tried to bombard me and hid a bit of their own godlike essence in those lasers to fight me from the inside. I had to spend some energy fending off the unexpected assault from inside, but I had enough to catch that thing. And to throw it right back at the giant thing.

Samedi put his hand on my shoulder. “You are ill.”

“They pulled a nifty trick. See, this is why I wanted some Superfriends along.”

The Trobogorian got himself stuck with arrows by Pestilentia, treating it as no consequence. And I just saw the futility of having done any of this. With me busy, that pretty much just left Pestilentia. Max would be easy for them to kill with his powers. Tom Waits was merely a man. Baron Samedi has no heart for the fight. By resisting the invasion, I’d doomed myself and my family. All because I couldn’t just sit back, say a few words about how horrible war was, and let people die. Any escalation, any attempt to help simply helps the world end. Even expressing hope at the determination of the humans is nothing but ignoring the suffering created. The light does not stand against the dark. I should submit.

Ah. Now, I’ve had some suicide ideation before. It doesn’t go like that. I disappeared and reappeared as a giant equal in size to the Trobogorian deity. It was slow, moreso than it expected with Pestilentia’s beasties roaming its body. It punches me, but that didn’t stop me thrusting my hands into its wide mouth and pulling it open. I vomited up the traitorous energy down the throat of the alien, burning through its gnashing inner jaws. It teleported away, but not before I’d already expelled the entire attack into it.

I shrunk down and returned to the rest of this bunch. I felt it return to a temple ship in the fleet. The ship broke apart, then was vaporized. One down, five to go. It was easy to keep track because the remaining ones showed up at first. Five on two. At least these wore more than just fatigues. The one in the lead seemed male, but scantily clad with metal undies and headdress. “You forget your place as underlings to true gods!” I felt the pressure around us from the barrier they created. All five fired their annihilation beams at once. I pushed back on it with my own power, reaching out and slowing it down. I was worth at least two of these guys, but there were five. Pestilentia turning her arms into weird growths that climbed through my power, reinforcing it, helping to slow down the assault.

“Breaking the barrier would help more,” I suggested to her telepathically.

Hands on my shoulder. Baron Samedi, speaking to himself, but I heard it only as faint whispers from all over. I felt the Five grow weaker. He was sapping their energy. I started to make out something in the whispers, “I will not fill your grave. You will not yet die.”

The odds were nearly even, but they’d gained so much ground and were only advancing.

Tom Waits spoke into his phone, “Is this getting out? I don’t ordinarily believe in livestreaming bullshit, but under the circumstances…”

With a roar, a blue and orange man, the size of a Mindarian, slammed into the head of one of the Five. Another found himself swarmed by twisted monsters made of warped Trobogorians and undead Mindarians. Lighting struck the barrier around us, again and again. It finally shattered, the sky thundering at the command of the man hanging in the sky among the storm clouds. Or a teenager empowered with magical power to protect the world. On the ground, a man in skeletal armor rode a worm of bones. A blue and orange titan hung in the air.

The alien gods backed off. A barrier surrounded them and prevented their escape now while I gathered the power they had unleashed. I compressed it.

“What now?” Samedi asked.

“Now, we put an end to this,” I declared.

“We could kill them,” Pestilentia said. “Kill them, wipe out the things they brought to us.” She was speaking my language. It was only right. They brought the fight here. If not for literal divine intervention, our cities would be wrecked and our people killed. Regardless of the physical damage and wounds, the fear and trauma isn’t over.


I encased the energy they threw at me into a gemstone and set it in an amulet I wrapped around my horn.

The Titan, Captain Lightning, and Spinetingler all met up at me. Lightning, the successor to the Captain I’d killed so recently, glared at me, but something was staying his hand. “I knew you had to be lying.”

I nodded to him. “How’d you decide to show up here, anyway? All of you, separately?”

Captain Lightning, Spinetingler, and Titan all looked to Tom Waits, who answered, “I put in a word with some friends. They got hold of everyone, and then I livestreamed our location when we came here.”

In their barrier, the alien gods were destroying Spinetingler’s mangled mutations of their underlings. Titan kept an eye on them, shifting his wings so he could see over his shoulder. “What are we thinking?”

I let out a deep breath, despite not needing to breathe. “As much as it feels right to punish them, it’s not about us and our grudges. Now we force them to agree to peace and a withdrawal. One moment.” I conjured up a holographic connection to the alien Machines who had been helping us. There was a little pile of spheres that formed into a body. That as the automaton they’d sent to speak with me when I requested information before. “The Unicorn Goddess of Earth here. We are about to open talks for peace. We thought you would like to sit in on this.”

“We understand,” it responded. “Please provide transportation to Earth of a delegate from these coordinates on the stellar body known to Earth as Themisto.”

When I snapped my fingers, what looked like a mass of junk appeared in the sky. It looked like someone had beheaded a massive statue, then attached antigravity engines and other pieces. The thing was a spaceship in its own right, but also doubled as a diplomat for the Machines for dealing with particularly-threatening species.

“Ok, let’s go have us a few stern words,” I told the assembled group.


We didn’t end up letting the Trobogorian gods go until they agreed to get the fuck off. They were allowed to retrieve prisoners, dead bodies, and equipment they’d brought. That last provision suddenly struck me as maybe a good idea. There were groups out there eager to get their hands on alien salvage and it ran counter to my ideas on how to guide and grow humanity. This will slow down the copycats from perfecting their own devices meant for nothing but creating pain in people.

The Machines requested compensation for their part in the defense of Earth, which we extracted from the Trobogorians. First, the Trobogorians weren’t getting back any salvage or captured ships that had already been claimed by the Machines. Second, the Machines won the liberation of an automated asteroid mine.

The Trobogorian gods didn’t seem fond of that, but ultimately acquiesced because it saved their lives and they could just make the Trobogorians do it anyway. One day, there was an interstellar invasion on. The next, the fleets were just gone, and there was a new asteroid in the solar system.

And somebody had gotten a photo of the bunch of us gathered there, preparing to talk to the captured gods. They put a big black border around it like a motivational poster, with us captioned, “Pantheon.” Not sure how I feel about that. Somehow, with Spinetingler in the photo, Tom Waits was still the creepiest-looking of the bunch.




New Me Who Dis? 2



I think I enjoy my little meetings with the Baron. I’m still shit at chess, but that’s partially because we agreed not to use powers. There would just be so much cheating if we used them. I’m not sure if he’s on my level, what with how mysterious he plays. Still, he seems to be something above the Three Hares, a conspiracy of supers, some immortal, who claimed to be gods. Maybe even some were, just that gods back then were supers. I suppose I would fit that definition, just having surpassed every other super on Earth now, and hitting a tier of existence where I had a trio of god-murderers hunting me down recently.

This time, the Baron and I moved onto cards. We were playing HORSE, which is really five poker games in one that alternate. We chose to alternate every hand to a different game, from Texas Hold’em for the H, Omaha Hold’em for the O, Razz for the R, Seven Card Stud for the S, and Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Eight or Better for the E. It seemed like a good compromise because he wanted to play Seven Card, I wanted to play Hold ‘Em, I offered Razz, and he countered with HORSE. I’m a lot more competitive in it than chess, though I still have problems with a couple of the games.

Samedi knew it, too. That’s why he put the pressure on during Omaha so much, dropping down some lost Spanish gold doubloons we were playing with. Still, I thought I had a chance, and heads-up play allows for a much looser playstyle in Hold’em, so I called with some Deep One coinage, which were more like triangles with holes through the middle.

“What troubles you this time, Lady Unicorn,” the Baron asked. Much like me, he seems fond of nicknames. But then gods collect nicknames like some people collect stamps. Philately aside, I did have something bothering me, but when don’t I? I could probably go a good eight or nine years doing nothing but talking about shit happening to me. “You and the thief Dame have more adventures?”

“Yes, and I can get to that, but right now I’ve also got this thing going on with Blacklight,” I muttered. The dealer, a zombie on loan from someone the Baron knew, flipped over the final card, which might be good for me. I raised. Samedi called.

“Your cards,” the zombie asked in an emotionless voice. I’m not a fan of the idea of turning someone into a monster to attack their own loved ones in the abstract. Enslaving someone with poison or magic is potentially worse once you take away the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. But he made for an unimaginative card dealer without the agility to perform card tricks.

We turned them over, leaving my three of a kind at the mercy of a flush. I tossed my cards in. “Good hand.”

“Now, Razz,” the zombie dealer said. He began to gather up the cards and stuck them in a automatic shuffler

“Now you’re seeing Blacklight? I remember having a libido like that,” Samedi teased.

I shook my head. “That’s not exactly how it was meant to go. I was juggling this Dame stuff, but I also thought, maybe, I would get on Backlight’s good side. Not that kind of good side.”

And so I began to explain that story to him and y’all.

Blacklight, along with everyone else on Earth at one point, had found out the infamous Psychopomp Gecko was also the Unicorn Goddess. It caused a lot of hard feelings in people who couldn’t square that the goddess who fixed pollution and disease, the savior of every genocide in history who created plopped everyone down on another Earth, could be Psycho Gecko. All that good done by a mass murdering serial killer just doesn’t compute. And power like that in the hands of a mass murdering serial killer really freaked people out. That’s part of why I wiped it all clean, so that the only people who remembered were the ones ok with it. Blacklight, obviously, was not ok with it.

But, hey, she’s flying around with her looks restored, fighting crime and all that. Worse, she was fighting to deal with having been legally dead. She was the heir to a major medical conglomerate, Long Life. That meant a lot of money was arrayed against her, and I imagine she had to hide how she returned to life. I think lawyers could make a pretty good case that she isn’t so much back from the dead as a temporarily-displaced time traveler. If she heads back to her original time, she dies and the timeline goes forward as it has been. There would also be plenty of people who see it as their duty to return her to the time of her death, even though that doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t think it ever mattered anyway.

So anyway, I thought I’d spy on her. She was flying around, fighting a giant Nazi robot. They’d built it with a death’s head face, adorned with lighting bolts, swastikas, and Pepe frogs. Out of everything bad about them, which is basically their entire existence, their symbols weren’t as bad as the current generation.

The robot was stomping through this suburb of Empyreal City when Blacklight came out of nowhere and cut one of its arms off with a blast of life. The robot turned to her in time for her to smack into it, but she didn’t push it too far because that caused a little more damage. She tried instead to ease underneath its center of gravity, starting to lift it into the air. The robot tried smacking its metal fist into her but that did nothing, so instead it opened the fingers and fired a palm cannon at the buildings around it. Blacklight responded with more blasts of her black lights that tore holes through its torso that didn’t disable it.

I created a shield at the barrel and blocked the shots, causing the barrel to explode, which I also contained. I flew in on my extraneous wings, horn glimmering in the light of day, and joined Blacklight. I put my hands next to hers and pushed, throwing the Nazi robot high into the sky.

“Thanks,” Blacklight said with a thin, grim smile on her face. “But what comes up is going to come down. Help me finish it off?” She nodded up toward it.

I nodded along and smiled. “Sure.”

We flew up, me holding back to stay with her, swooping around her. We made good time, with the robot barely reaching its apex when we hit it. Blacklight encased herself in an aura of her light and gathered speed, smacking into the upper chest of the robot and tearing it off from the collar up. I stopped and fired a beam of plasma from my horn that engulfed the rest of it and melted it down.

Blacklight came down with that topmost bit of the robot in hand, carrying that part pretty easily. “Thanks. You’re that goddess, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” I said. “You’re Blacklight.”

“Nice to meet you. I bet these guys aren’t,” Blacklight said, indicating the robot.

“That reminds me, one moment,” I said. I turned back to the neighborhood and snapped my fingers. The buildings came together, and the dead returned to life without a craving for human flesh. I couldn’t say the same about all the pets I returned to life, but some of those just come with a natural craving for humans. So many of them, in fact. It’s a good thing I brought the people back first.

“That’s handy. A giant undo button. I could use something like that,” Blacklight commented.

“You have something you’d like to fix?” I asked.

“So many things,” she shook her head. “Let me dump this off with someone.” She swooped down and dropped off the robot head with a uniformed cop with a squad car, then came up to join me.

“You’re going to leave that with… him?” I asked pointing to the inadequate publicly-owned security guard.

“Gotta look good while I’m fighting for my life in court. I have a new name, new costume, new fucking anger issues. One of them, I swear to God, um…”

I waved it off. “I am that I am.” I snapped my fingers again, dropping us off at a food truck serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, Gouda Vibrations. I floated us a big variety tray.

Blacklight grabbed a half of a sandwich and inhaled it pretty much. “Fine. One of these slimy little bastards tried to put in a motion arguing I’m an evil twin. Someone opened a portal to another dimension where the heroes are villains and villains are heroes, so now they’re trying to say that’s who I am. It’s fucking deranged.”

“I’d leave out the deranged language, but go on. What do you want?” I leaned forward, to halves of a sandwich flying toward my mouth like a butterfly. I plucked one out of the air and nibbled on it. Smoked cheddar with mozzarella. “Delicious.”

“Yeah, it’s good… no, but see, I don’t know what I want, I guess,” Blacklight continued. “You could make it all go away, couldn’t you? If you wanted, you could change their minds, or make everyone thing I hadn’t died.”

I nodded. “Yes, but do you really want me to? There’s all that moral stuff.”

“You’re supposed to be a goddess, right?” Blacklight pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’ll freely admit I’m not a source of morality. I can do all kinds of things that aren’t really moral. I can make them give up and judge in your favor. I can make them never have had an issue with it. I could them love you. I could make you love me.”

Blacklight chewed on her sandwich, leaning forward. I caught a grin through the mask of hers. It was all black, with the openings looking like burns, made to resemble some of the damages that originally killed her. “I’m straight, but I can think of a worse exchange. You said that for a reason.

I raised an eyebrow, busying myself with another sandwich. “You want to offer yourself as, what, my girlfriend? And in return, you want to be legally declared alive and in charge of your company. But what if I know you’d have hated me?”

“How bad could you be?” Blacklight asked. “I know what you’ve done. Heard about what you might have done.” She bent down over the tray to have herself another half of a sandwich. “You should see what I’d do to have my dad back. Or take me up on this and see.” She winked at me.

“Uuuuuh,” I said.

“Don’t beat around the bush. You have the power to stop this. If you have better offer to do this for me, let me hear it,” Blacklight said.

“What did you do?” Baron Samedi asked, gesturing for me to take my earnings from the latest hand.

“I left. Teleported out. I didn’t take her up on it, but I wanted to.”

“Why not then? She offered a deal that appeals to you,” the Baron said. He accepted the new cards dealt to him.

“I’m uncomfortable with her selling herself to me, basically,” I responded.

“I think you are uncomfortable with who you are and what you want. Dame wanted something, Blacklight wanted something. Morgan, Venus, Medusa, all want something. You let them do the things they do because you want the fantasy and companionship, but you fear the judgment of others and yourself. You should figure out who you are, embrace it. Or don’t, and stay a puny guard.”

I was quiet for awhile after that, up until we reached the end of the E again. “I think I’ll just go on my merry way. Nice playing with you, Baron.” I reached for a bottle of rum I made appear, pouring both of us a shot and leaving him the bottle.

“We should do this again, but bringing others we know won’t cheat.” Baron said, puffing on his cigar and snatching up the glass. I nodded and threw back a shot of rum before leaving.



New Me Who Dis? 1



“How do you do it?” I asked.

My companion, the Baron Samedi, “hmm”ed. He held a pawn in one hand, rolling it in his fingers, then set it down in an innocent-seeming spot that would ultimately set him up to defeat me. “I play chess. It has been around plenty of time to master it.”

“I mean being a god,” I said, looking over things. “All this power, and you can fix so many things, but then they start wanting everything fixed, even in conflict with each other. And then there’s the tail…”

“I was going to tell you to shut up and play, but the tail you say?” the Baron asked, leaning in.

“Seems kind of unethical never knowing if I’m projecting something onto other people… or changing people’s memories, that sort of thing.”

“You bring the conversation back to this every time,” the Baron said. “If you don’t want to risk hurting someone, you should go for just what you want. What you really want, and not just what your loins crave.”

“I mean…” I started. Remembering it was my turn, I moved a knight. “One situation I’ve gotten into wasn’t even trying to be all romantic.” I told him about it same as I’m telling y’all.

I was trying to find a natural opening with Dame. Not that kind of opening. Dame is a super thief with an uncanny ability to track me down who I ultimately treated really shitty. Like, took control of her body against her will kind of shitty. I’ve been trying to get close to her to see if I could find a way to help her out without simply making her forget everything that’s happened to her. It seemed like a shortcut that wouldn’t really solve her issues, and I was skeptical how much it would help to just magic her issues resolved. What doesn’t kill someone can often leave them weaker than they were before. While I’m not fond of Dame being 100% and a potential threat again, I’ve felt uneasy about how I treated her for awhile.

Part of my plan to help her mental state involved following her so I knew when slip in and get to know her under false pretenses.

Mainly, I was on the subway on her route home in Boston. She could have disappeared better in Empyreal City, but it’s such an active place for supers. Boston is a lot more tame as far as supers. Dame wanted tame. And relative quiet. So I was a relatively boring person on the subway for her commute. Just Delilah, hot and a teensy bit thicc. I was thinking maybe I’d get into some sort of fight over the phone and forget my purse, see if she bit. The night I picked didn’t quite go that way.

For starters, there car was unusually crowded, and the regulars were complaining about cell phone coverage until someone noticed, “Hey, it’s working in the next car.” Most of the regulars moved to the car in front or behind then. The ones who left were all people I’d never seen before, eight of them. They had coats on, but I felt the padding and knives beneath, except for the two guys with swords.

I walked up to pass by Dame and one of the guys with a sword who was holding it ready under his coat, then stumbled accidentally on purpose. The sword flashed out in the open as he tried to hold himself steady and push me off him.

“Shit,” someone muttered.

Dame snapped into action, grabbing one a pole and kicking the guy I’d stumbled into with both shoes. To his chest. He fell back onto some seats. That was the start of the fracas. The other noncombatants, all of whom weren’t trapped between the attackers and other cars, fled, some starting to call the cops. I was one of the exceptions, instead letting myself get grabbed by one of the guys who held up a knife.

Dame got a good punch in on one guy and then kicked one against a pole before the guy holding me called out to her. “Hey!” I stomped on his foot and bit him on the wrist holding the knife, grabbing at his hand. I could have dropped all these people without my godly powers, but I figured I’d make this work for me. The guy let go of me enough for me to look like I was struggling with him while Dame dealt with the others. I tripped one of them who passed me and my hostage-taker for a chance to fight Dame. He hit the floor hard.

Dame’s been practicing her fighting. She’s got some other tools with her, too. The other guy with the sword whipped it out and got a knife thrown into his shoulder that made him drop the sword. Another guy grabbed Dame’s hair and tried slamming her head into the wall of the subway car. She put a switchblade in his thigh, then pulled it out and stuck it through his hand.

I let myself get nabbed as a hostage again in time for Dame to finish up with that bunch. This whole attack just helped me too much. I just had to let this one douche hold a knife to my throat and act as if I was in danger from it. “You’re coming with us now!” he ordered in a French accent.

Dame grabbed a sword in each hand and pointed one at him, answering in French. “Come and get me.” Pretty hot. The guy ran the knife over my cheek, and I let him draw blood. I let out a pretty convincing scream, I think. Dame lowered the swords and stepped forward, eyes flicking down between my legs. I had a skirt on, and my legs were spread a little. I adjusted my stance and spread them further. When Dame got close, she kicked up right between my legs to hit my captor in the Johnny. I slipped away and let her smash the top of his head with the flat of one of the swords over and over until he was crumbled on the floor.

Some of the others were starting to come to when the car stopped. Dame grabbed my arm and led me off, while I asked, “What was that? Who? What’s going on? Why did he slice me?”

“Come on, quiet or they can follow,” Dame said. She led me out of there and toward her apartment. She glanced up at the building and muttered, “Shit” under her breath but we headed inside and toward the elevator. I glanced back and saw some guys come around the corner just before the door closed.

“They’re here, aren’t they?” I asked.

Dame nodded, then reached over and held the button for floor seven for a seven seconds. The elevator stopped at the fifth floor and the rear opened up. “Come on,” Dame said, walking me into a hidden room and pressing another button that closed up the elevator and sent it on its way.

“Where even are we?” I asked.

“We’re in my bolthole,” Dame answered. “Those guys are after me, and you got in the way. I was going to look after that cut, but they’re here, too.”

“Oh… thanks,” I calmed down. Dame had let me go and grabbed a first aid kit. I sat down on a stool at the counter. It was an apartment, if a bit cramped, but with a kitchen, living room, and bedroom area. No windows, though. Insight from my omniscience showed me that it was the extra portion after an apartment was turned into a maintenance room. The rest of it was bricked up, but then Dame bought up the building and made some adjustments while trying to lay low.

My attention was brought back to Dame when she came at me with a rag covered with alcohol. “Here… doesn’t look too bad. They know I’m a better person than they are.”

I was quiet and still while she tended to me with alcohol and glue and a bandage. After she was done, I smiled, then cringed at the tensing of the facial muscles. “Thanks, doc. Will I ever be a model again?”

Dame chuckled and started checking herself over. She had some minor cuts on her arms. I hopped off the stool and walked over. “Need my help?” Between the two of us, we started getting her patched up. Most weren’t that bad, but she had one where I had to help do stitches.

“You could be a model,” she said at one point.

I laughed it off. “Thanks, but I was just joking. I know I’m not model material.”

“You’re pretty. You’ll look like a badass with that scar.” She smiled. “You are a badass, helping me fight those guys.”

“Thanks, but you were the badass with the swords and speaking French,” I said.

“Do you know French?” she asked.

I shook my head, then finished up the stitching, tying and snipping and all that. “No, I’m terrible with French. Just doesn’t make any sense to me.” Which was true before the godliness thing. I had to become nigh-omniscient to figure out those pronunciations.

“I wish they told me what they want. I’ve stolen so many things from France,” Dame said.

“Those Louvre guards mean business when they say you should tip the Starbucks barista.” I held onto her arm a bit, running my fingers gently over the skin around where she’d been sliced.

Dame smiled. “You can let go now.”

I pretended to notice what I was doing and let go, tucking my hair behind my ears and turning my blushing face away. I started packing up the first aid kit while Dame went on. “They don’t worry about tipping the same way over there, but the Louvre never sends thugs. They send lawyers and insurance investigators.”

“Oh,” I said quietly. “Um, I guess, how do I get out of here?”

“There’s a back way,” Dame said. “I can’t let you go.”

“What?” I asked.

“They know you were with me when I ran from them. If they find you near here, they’ll know you know where I’m hiding. I need you to stay the night,” she said. She blushed a little. “Not that way, you know.”

I shook my head. “No, I see… you spot a pretty girl in the subway, you hire some French guys with swords to get into a fight so you can bring her back to your hidden apartment… it’s cute, but you could have just asked me out.”

Dame laughed. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Delilah,” I told her.

“Stefani,” she introduced herself, holding out her hand for a handshake. We shook… and then next thing you know we were making out in between the covers with our clothes all over the floor.

Back at the chess game with Baron Samedi, he laughed while holding a bishop. “What is the moral conundrum? You didn’t make her like you. It is rescue sex, and it is fun.” He gave me a lecherous grin, but the Baron’s a bit of a horndog. “Check,” he said upon setting the piece down.

I sighed and moved a rook. His queen took it, allowing him to follow-up his innuendo with more, “And mate.”



A Christmas Carnage 5



Everyone thinks about the benefits of being a world leader, but not so much the downsides. Yes, I can park anywhere I want, especially when people see the missiles and canons on the side of the Flyer. But I’m constantly interrupted by people wanting my attention, even when I’m heading off somewhere to deck someone’s halls and sleigh some people.

This comes up because, right when I’m waiting to hear back from my team and Baron Samedi, Intelligence Chief Pagan called me up with an update about the Paris Situation. It didn’t help he was confusing me with his facts and nuance. “What do you mean they aren’t entirely right- or left-wing? That’s the damn country that invented those terms!”

“Mommy, there’s a tree in the living room!” Qiang said from the doorway. Young Qiang this time. Not the future version that I saw reach down a man’s throat to pull his heart out. That’d be ridiculous. Her hands are too small. She’d have to use both, and a little kid can’t fit both arms down a human throat. Not sure how common of knowledge that is for you, dear reader, but it’s true. Personal experience.

“That’s for sticking shiny things on and hiding presents underneath it!” I told her.

“I know it’s a Christmas tree,” she said. “The movies are all over the TV!” She smiled at me. D’aww, she’s going to be a real heartbreaker some day. When her hands are big enough.

“You can go decorate it and stuff if you like. I’ve just got a call right now,” I told her.

She clapped her hands. “Ok!”

Back with the phone call, Pagan had invited someone from the France Office of the European Section on to give me a better idea what was going on. “Yeah, ok, so a mix, possibly hijacked, with some astroturfing and all. More importantly, did we get what we were looking for?”

“We retrieved the painting the Deep Ones told us about, and the casket from beneath the cathedral. We successfully masked the thefts. Proceeds from the artwork and gold we obtained are expected to more than pay for the operation. We can escalate the riots at your discretion, ma’am.”

“Nah, no need to toss weapons into the mix. And, hey, if this treasure hunt you’re on doesn’t work out, at least it hasn’t cost us anything,” I told him.

“In my eyes, the existence of the map confirms the Squamous Reaver’s existence. I will claim its power for Ricca.”

Either the guy’s developed a treasonous streak, or he’s just really into hunting this thing down. Some people get like that, you know? I think it’s a very old instinct, evolutionarily speaking, to fixate on a hunt. But I’m fairly good-natured as murderous dictators go, so I told him, “If you need a help, for any reason, feel free to let me know.”

After that, it was a nice night of tree decorating up, cookie eating, and movie watching. As it happened, it was nearly one in the morning when I heard from Baron Samedi. Well, first I heard from Skul. With that bunch of magic users, he was the only one who thought to take a cell phone with him.

“We’re getting’ real close, Psycho,” he said.

“Hand me the damn phone or I’ll shove it up your ass!” said Samedi in the background.

“I discovered, with no help from Baron Samedi, that there is a ritual going on. That was me. If he had wanted to dispute that, he should have brought his own phone and maybe shouldn’t insult my phone case’s bedazzling.”

“I am a god!” Samedi said.

“And I’m an atheist. I don’t believe you’ll do anything about it,” Skul said to the Baron. The next part seemed to be directed at me. “We’re attempting to disrupt whatever’s going on. You have a secret admirer.”

“Are there nudes?” I asked.

“There’s hair,” he answered.

Ew. Not liking the thought of how some hostile person got that stuff. “What do you mean about whatever’s going on?”

He responded more quietly. “We’re almost in. We’re bypassing wards to shield the building and alert those inside to our presence. It’s an old asylum. Does that mean anything to you?”

“Not really. I’ve messed with one or two before, but it wasn’t all that significant. I mean, I DID meet a girlfriend in one.”

“You dated crazy?” he asked.

“Worse, I dated a hero,” I told him.

“I have a bet with someone. Was it Venus?” he asked.

“Nope,” I told him. “What’s this ritual thing look like?” I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, wondering how I’d look with something more in the purple shade for lipstick.

“This is advanced stuff. They took a long time doing it. I see a ghost with sunglasses from my position. Blood. There’s a clock and blood, too. Wait, something’s… Baron Samed-”

Everything changed. The decorations, the tree, my daughter asleep in my lap… it all disappeared. “Skul, what the fuck?”

The response from the call wasn’t encouraging. “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and dial again.”

It didn’t look like anyone had lived in this place for awhile. I got a rush of weird notices from incoming data that confused me, too. Conflicts in scrapers. No access to the Institute of Science. Weird notices about the Empyreal City Nightmare Zone. Stories of the Fluidics in their remaining safe zones fleeing Mot and civil war. Eschaton the superhero burned down Moscow in the name of Ricca. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

There were three things I wanted immediately: my daughter, my armor, and a clue. My first guess was some sort of Ghost of Alternate History, but one didn’t appear. I checked outside the door and found a hallway. Someone didn’t get rid of the rest of the palace in this continuity. There was a servant out watering a plant in the hallway. She looked up when she saw me. “May I help you, madam?”

“You can see me?” I asked.

“Yes, madam. Should I not be able to?”

“I don’t know. It’s still 2018, right?”

She smiled. “Yes, madam.”

“Do you know who I am?” I asked.

“No, madam.”

“Does the name Psycho Gecko ring a bell?” I asked.

She began to back away. “It does not. Perhaps I should fetch someone for you.” She set her water jug down and turned.

I put my hand over her mouth before she could call out. “Tis the season for me to give you a choice. You can either go sit in that residence for awhile and pretend you got knocked out for awhile, or you can call out.”

She made a sound, so I slammed her head into the wall, knocking her out. It only occurred to me after my percussive anesthesia that she might be trying to signal agreement with shutting up voluntarily. I left her safely locked in the residence while I made my way out of the palace.

The secret is to just be cool, dudes. Walk like you belong there. Seeing as it’s my damn country, I know I do. But whatever this is, they don’t realize that and I don’t have my power armor. Or nanites. The lack of my nanomachines is troubling in particular. Even if they for sure didn’t have my face on file after walking across the courtyard, there aren’t many people strutting their stuff with four arms.

Everything felt different in the city. It had that tension I hadn’t noticed until it was gone. The one where regular people know they can’t be too much themselves in public. I didn’t see any Deep Ones at all until I came across one with a cart strapped to him. He was bent over while the owner of the cart lashed him with a short whip.

The Deep One stood suddenly and grabbed the man’s arm. With a pop, he tore the arm out of its socket. The Deep One began tugging at his restraints amid spewing blood and screams. It was locked on, and he was trying to tear off the thick lock with his claws.

“Hold still,” I said, jogging over. My laser eye lit up and cut a line down the harness next to the lock. A couple seconds of effort later and he had the collar off.

“Thanks,” he said before booking it down a side street. I went the opposite direction, and didn’t trail blood after me. I had to find myself a liquor store, so I headed for the traditionally poor section of town. World leader 101: keeping people drunk is an easy way to control them. They can’t even organize like that because if you get enough drunk people in one place, they turn their anger on each other.

I slowed down and caught my breath before heading into one such store. “You have a marker?” I asked of the teller.

The pudgy, balding man with the goatee looked around and reached for something. Before handing it over, he stopped. “What’s this for?”

“Calling a ride,” I said.

He squinted curiously, so I nodded toward the palace and reached for the marker. “I’m on assignment.”

He went to hand it to me. I grabbed his wrist and pulled him into a headbutt, then grabbed his had and slammed it down on the counter again and again. I finished him off with a beer bottle to the back of the head. But I didn’t kill him. No, I just covered him in high-proof liquor and used that marker to draw out a figure of a man in a top hat on a wall away from the counter. “Ok, calling Baron Kriminel. You out there, Baron? I hope you’re not too picky about going through Papa Legba, but I know you do this stuff in Memphis. I got wine, rum, a whole damn liquor store for you.”

When that got no answer, it was time to resort to the bigger offering. I sighed and turned to shoot a puddle of moonshine pooling under the counter. The moonshine lit up with blue flame that climbed the counter and caught the cashier on fire. As expected, that woke him up, and led to screaming and flailing.

Kriminel didn’t show. Fuck. There goes getting out of this with magic.

I headed out the doorway…

…and found myself in New York state, standing outside an old, abandoned home for the criminally insane.

Standing before me was a crying young man, not even to his mid-twenties, with long hair and a beard that existed more for lack of shaving than actual effort. Purple light from his fingertips joined into an orb at his palm. “Come all the way through,” he said.

I looked at the doorway I was in. The other side showed the liquor store that was catching fire as the cashier ran around trying to put himself out.

“Maybe I don’t wanna,” I said.

“It’s the only way we can get back,” he said through tears and strain of effort.

“Back where? Who are you? Where are we?” I asked.

“I’m Douglas Blackstone. I’m the person who has been tormenting you so I could obtain the reagents I needed to get here. A world where you never existed.”

I was on him in a flash, throwing him to the ground. “You got rid of my daughter!”

He pushed a hand to my chest and said a word that threw me into the air. Purple tendrils appeared from thin air and wrapped around my arms and legs, holding me captive. Blackstone stood up, coughing and wiping himself. “You killed my family. If you care about your daughter, think about what you’d do to the man responsible. How you’d spend years preparing for revenge. The things you would give up. I’ve spent six years of my life on this… and I get here and they’re still dead. And things seem worse. What kind of fucking joke is this?” He ran his fingers through his hair to get a handle on himself.

I just raised an eyebrow. “The Aristocrats.”

In a moment of dark empathy, we both started laughing. After he calmed, he looked up at me. “As much as I would love to kill you or leave you behind in this world, I need you for the ritual. If that failure of yours is normal for you, you can’t manage magic of this magnitude on your own.”

“So… you tried to get me to die while you worked on your magic plan to somehow shift everything to a timeline where I don’t exist, and upon getting what you wished for it turns out not to be worth it. Yeah, sounds like a Christmas miracle.” I tried to spit on him.

Blackstone sidestepped it. He shook his head and glanced at a phone laying in the snow nearby. “I never thought you… listen, do you want to get back or not? I vow to work with you and not see you come to harm until we are back in our timeline, and may this vow be binding upon the spirits and the universe. Agreed?”

He made a gesture and interlocking symbols appeared in the air between us.

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I already preferred a world where I existed, thank you very much.” The symbols shifted, then shot into a line between myself and Blackstone. I immediately felt the tendrils loosen and gently lower me to the ground. I walked over and tried to punch him, but my hand stopped of its own accord inches from his face. “You agreed to it, too,” he said by way of explanation.

Instead, I grunted my frustration and began to rub my arms, having not been dressed for snowy New York. “Ok then. What do we need to get back to a wonderful life?”



A Christmas Carnage 4



“Bet you didn’t expect to see much of me from here on out, eh?” I asked the man in the doorway. He was hidden by shadow, but I could make out the cane he held himself up by.

“You tempt fate calling me,” he said.

I held out a jug. “That’s ok. I brought rum to tempt you.” I sensed more than saw the smile. The darkness enveloping the loa in that door frame wasn’t mundane in nature. My HUD classified it as a magical anomaly as well. Despite that, the loa tend to enjoy wetting their whistles. “Unless I’m getting you mixed up with the Baron. I’ve seen him in action recently, and I thought it was him at the bar in Memphis. I don’t intentionally mean disrespect. I’m just a poor, confused little mortal.”

The Back Alley Voodoo Bar on Beale Street is one of the villain bars that isn’t normally accessible to civilians or heroes precisely because of the criteria for entry that involve a representation of who I used to believe was Baron Samedi.

Papa Legba reached out and took the jug from me. His hand passed out of shadow to do so, revealing an old, thin, weathered hand. “You assumed too much. I answer the calls of mortals much of the time, but we chose Baron Kriminel to be the doorman. He likes you supervillains. And if the Baron Samedi was here, I think you would soon find yourself bearing a dark baby with dark powers in that tummy of yours.” He poked my belly with his cane.

I snorted. “He’s a little old for me by, what, a few hundred years?”

“That hasn’t stopped him yet,” answered Papa. “I would not be surprised if he tries the next time he sees you.”

“That’s going to make this awkward then, because that’s what I’m going through you for,” I said. “I believe there are protocols for your particular branch.” I put it as diplomatically as I could, considering my conflict with the Three Hares.

The Hares are a collection of stranded aliens, powerful supers who had been seen as gods once upon a time, and the human descendants of those supers. Considering they tried to brainwash me at one point and pretend I was another god, it’s possible they aren’t even immortal so much as passing along code names. The fighting ended when we found out a rogue alien named Barkiel had been manipulating events to set loose Mot, an ancient and nigh-unstoppable superhuman powerful enough to end the world as we know it. I’d taken care of Mot for them, and my allies, the hero Venus and the superhuman activist Titan, figured out something like an agreement afterward. And proved that we’ve grown way, way beyond simply giving ourselves the names of mythological gods.

Venus sent me an email about the further details of the peace they negotiated with the Hares. I should read it someday. Instead, I set about contacting the loa portion.

Legba cocked his head. “What does the Psychopomp want with an old man like Papa Legba?”

I swept my hand back to the table in the room I was in. “Perhaps you could bring me Baron Samedi and enjoy some of this hot red beans and rice I have here in the kitchen.”

I hadn’t used my own place for the ritual, but a local restaurant had jumped at the chance to be especially nice to the dictator. When you control a country, people just jump at the chance to do nice things for you. And if you happen to favor them in the future, well, that’s just being nice to your friends. And that wouldn’t count as bribery pretty much anywhere.

Legba stood up straight all of a sudden and twirled his cane. “That sounds wonderful, thank you,” he said as he stepped out of the shadows. He’d gone from old to young and horny. They looked like bulls horns a bit. He didn’t exactly let me study them while he headed to the other room.

The doorway he’d left was suddenly filled with a bespectacled man in a top hat and a black coat over purple shirt and pants. “What brings me here?” he asked before looking me over and cocking an eyebrow. “Psycho Gecko. Damn fine to see you.”

“Samedi, you ol’ horn dog. All that time I was messing around with the Hares and I never ran into you?” I walked over and gave him air kisses.

“That is truly a shame. You’re a hell of a woman.” He grabbed my ass.

I grabbed his balls and squeezed. “With long, sharp nails. Interested in being one, too?”

He laughed and we let each other go. “What are you fuckin’ around with now to give me a call?”

I handed him a jar of rum. “Thought you might be interested in helping me find out some information about some specific ghosts.”

“What’s in it for me?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I know you Three Hares types like to pretend you’re gods, but if you can’t be arsed to care about someone showing you’re asleep at the job, I guess that’s on you. In the meantime, feel free to relax. But what would I get the people who have hidden compounds, alien technology, and money squirreled away? A really good razor?”

The Baron chuckled. “Let’s talk land, head bitch of of Mu.”

Both of the loa had left by the time I was once again visited. Having become secure in other ways, and remembering how the Ghost of Christmas Present had toyed with me, I didn’t bother squeezing into the armor for this one. No, when the clock struck one and a figure in a black hood and robe appeared, transparent as always.

It found me in my own bed, nude, hands moving under the covers and a loud buzzing noise. It stepped toward me, then threw the hood back. She had a face painted like the Calavera Catrina, with her face painted like a stylized skull, with bright blue “petals” around the blacked-out makeup surrounding the eyes. As pretty as it was, the the makeup ended at her neck. That wasn’t a painted spine connecting her head to a bony chase. Whatever kind of ghost she is and powers she has, she couldn’t be mistaken for someone with powers in a costume.

She put her hands on her hips. “Is this meant to shock me? I’ve seen it, honey.”

I sat up and threw the cover up. Before it even fell from the air between us, I fired the plasma tether. The scientists thought it up. Instead of a smaller blast, this one fires as a continuous arc. The yellow-orange discharge lit up the see-through ghost, which burst and showed of the scorched wall. I powered off the plasma tether and set it aside. After applying a bucket of water to the wall, and walked into my closet to throw on a dress real quick.

I turned around and there was the ghost again, standing at the doorway. “Did you think that would stop me?”

“Nah,” I told her, holding out my hand. “But it makes me feel better.”

The spirit grabbed my hand and squeezed with an intention to inflict pain, but my grip’s pretty good too. It’s when she let go that I noticed we’d ended up somewhere, and somewhen, different. We were in my office, being ransacked by people speaking American English and dressed in civilian clothes but with SMGs and pistols around. “Dead at last, dead at last. Christ Almighty, she’s dead at last. You think they’re out there toppling statues?”

“That’s what the other team’s supposed to be doing. May not be working. If it doesn’t, the extraction team has a nuke to leave behind,” said another.

One of them held up a diamond broach and whistled. “This is a profitable mission if we’re quiet to home base.”

“Yeah, but where did she hide the schematics. Blueprints. Nuclear codes! There has to be some kind of documentation. Were the scientists the only ones who could read here?” asked one of the three. He turned to the door. “How we doin’, Frank?”

From outside came a thud.

The one who called out pulled his pistol. He eased up to the door and turned the knob. The door fell in, along with the body of another “civilian”. The two further back in the office began to pack up whatever they’d found, which seemed to be art ripped out of the frames and some jewelry. The man in the doorway’s head exploded. A blood hand stuck through it holding a pistol of its own that shot one of the others in the head. The last remaining one opened fire on his comrade, who needed the extra bullets like he needed a fist-sized hole in the head. The corpse collapsed. The owner of the fist seemingly vanished into thin air.

The last remaining looter looked for anyone. Then he realized what was up and opened swept the gun from side to side, firing wildly. He was stopped when the gun flew upwards out of his hands and a woman appeared. Blood marred the outfit she wore, with flecks on her blonde hair and just under eyes that that revealed Asian heritage. I liked the outfit, too. Close-fitting, but not skintight, with a short skirt and leggings, all dark red with gilded portions that formed a dragon soaring through the red fabric.

Her face rippled and became a smiling reptilian visage. She reached down his screaming throat and pulled his heart out only so far as his throat, where she left it.

“I like her,” I said to the Ghost of Christmas Past.

The ghost responded, “You might. She’s your daughter.”

The guy who had been shot in the head stood up and shot her in the head. She fell to the ground.

The ghost coughed. “She was your daughter.” She held her hand out for me.

I ran to the future Qiang. “The fuck is the point of this?”

“Showing you what your life is leading to,” said the ghost. “Let’s go. We have much of this dark future to see.”

“Bullshit,” I told her, looking over my downed daughter and running a finger over the wound and bullet. “This story you’re copying might be old-fashioned, but it’s about changing someone’s ways. Exactly what ways do I change to prevent my girl from getting shot in the head.” I turned and looked at the ghost, laser eye glowing.

She looked at me. “You could end it.” She seemed shocked at the words, then turned to glance behind her.

“You done fucked up now, pretty pretty,” said Baron Samedi, grinning at her from behind his skull facepaint and glowing eyes. “Tell the truth now, skeleton cunt.”

“I was told to frame things as needed to encourage Psycho Gecko to depression and worse,” she said. “My master believes it would be easy. It’s the holidays.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.” I backed off as Qiang opened her eyes and sat up, throwing a knife through the open door. I heard a cry from the last of the infiltrators, then another thud from out there. Oh, right. There was a living guy here. Kinda lost track of it in the middle of seeing my daughter shot in the face.

Qiang shook the bullet free from her skin, which had stopped it. There were some darker colors than regula flesh in there, so maybe some subdermal bulletproof nanotube mesh? Either way, she got up, swore to herself, and ran out the door to go finish off the guy.

Samedi watched her go, too, until I hopped up and hit him on the arm. “Hey, she’s my kid.”

He turned to me. “Kids grow up.”

I grabbed his throat and started choking. He sputtered and spat a cigar in my face. I charged him. We rolled over a few times, the Ghost of Christmas Future forgotten. In the middle of pulling the Baron’s top hat over his face and punching it, I noticed her turn and fade away. Everything looked dark again, as we were back in my closet. I quickly pulled the top hat off. “You able to follow her?”

“I am the master of the dead, bitch. Her ass can’t hide through space or time, though it helped find you that you two never entirely left this room. Shit, I put my mark on her the moment we touched.” He patted my butt to emphasize the word “touch”.

I pulled his top hat back down and socked him in the nose again before standing up. “Good. I have just the team to go pay this little gaslighting son of a petaQ a visit. Commissioner Gordon, it’s time to light the batshit signal.”



Kill Da Wabbit 5



Mischief! Treason! Exclamation points!

These things greeted me as I awoke one night during our siege. We’d spent the day blasting music at the chateau. In particular, a song well known to the people of Empyreal City called “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom”. The commander approached me at one point to express his confidence in his men to take the chateau given the power of the inhabitants they faced so far. I figured we’d just wait it out to be cruel, but he’d recommended caution with the new soldiers and the unusual opponents. I might need to put in for someone more bold, but that he showed plenty of boldness when he stated that one reason to attack was that, “The men are tiring of the siege. They believe we are engaging in torture at this point.” Then he pointed to where the speakers were stacked up to play music.

I had myself a chortle at that one. Soldiers for a dictator being squeamish about torture? See, this is why it’s important to have a chief interrogator. “Heh. Go ahead then.”

He bowed. “Thank you, Empress. We will attack at night. I will have you informed so that you may ready for the assault as well.”

So when I woke to the sounds of gunfire, I thought maybe we’d been overheard. They had a big wolf, with big eyes the better to see us with and big ears the better to hear us with, up until some red, blood splattered woman took his head off.

I jumped up and caught a burst from a microgun. The person holding the other end was one of my Riccan Dragon soldiers. He wore bulky power armor and held a rotating, fully automatic 5.56mm miniature minigun plugged into the suit’s power supply. A mini minigun, hence the name microgun.

The bullets didn’t do jack shit, but that’s really beside the point when it comes to me being shot at. So long as I’m in my armor, the most important part of being shot at is who’s doing the shooting. In this case, my own guy. I was just about to kick him in the figgin when another soldier turned and shot him. And then another soldier shot that one. And on and on. They just kept shooting away at themselves. I got up and looked around and the whole camp was firing away, like the world’s most hardcore game of paintball.

“Empress almighty,” said a voice over the comms that I recognized as my commander. I’ll admit, I was flattered. I couldn’t see him in all the commotion. The muzzle flashes and scattered fires made it hard to keep track of everything.

I cracked my knuckles and looked around, knowing I’d have to quiet this shit down to get anything done.

It wasn’t five minutes after I finished laying them out next to each other that the welcome committee showed. A flash of light lit up the sky and revealed a circle of all sorts of weird looking folks surrounding me. There was the guy with the bow, now sporting a tanned line. An Asian fellow twirled a guan dao and ran a hand down a magnificent straight black beard. The iron-pierced man was there too. I could spend way too long talking about the menagerie in front of me, though the old bearded man with long hair and a tie dye shirt stood out for sheer hippieness alone. Socks and sandals? Clearly a man of great cruelty.

It wasn’t just them, though. All around me, blue-clad men stepped out of the woods, like a special operations team. From the numbers they brought, they clearly saw me as extra special.

“See, dudes, I told you, uhhh, yeah,” said the sandal-socked hippie, turning to the folks and waving his hand around at all the people. “Yeah, man, told you I still got it.” He looked to me and flashed the peace sign. “Make war, not peace.”

“Dammit, Ares,” said the bowman. He stepped up and shoved hippie back. Then he turned and pointed at me with the bow. “You are our prisoner, Psychopomp. I have a bottle with your name on it,” He pulled out a glass snifter.

“Offering me a drink?” I asked. “Hemlock or something with the ancient Greek name?” I pointed to the hippie.

Ares stepped forward again, “My man, hey, I had this amazing acid trip back in the Summer of Love. Mind,” He pantomimed his head blowing open. “Blown. Changed my entire outlook on life. I hear you could seriously use some, man. You gotta mellow out.”

“Shut the fuck up, Ares,” said the archer, who glared at Ares, then turned and walked to me. He held the snifter out for me.

I looked down at it. “Brandy? Gin? Bourbon, maybe?”

“Touch it,” he insisted.

I projected a raised eyebrow on the outside of my helmet. The archer was not amused and held his bow hand toward me. I doubled over as something felt all freaky and twisted around in my lower abdomen. I had to pee really bad all of a sudden. Plus the weird ache and tightening there and in my lower back. While I was incapacitated, I saw him approach, press the snifter to my head, and-

I saw a bright light at the end of a long tunnel. But there’s no way I could be dead. Even if I granted the light at the end of the tunnel, we all know there’d be crackling flames and the eternal screams of the damned instead. Of course, when I looked down, I could see I was in a weird room with sharp angles and weird lights off in the distance. My view from the drones outside showed the guy with the bottle still standing there. Only I was gone. My armor was left there for some reason. Of course I wouldn’t get my nanites in here to figure out what that one guy did to me. Last time it was cancer. This time, it’s a smaller bladder or something.

They left the bodies of my men laying there, but a woman in a skintight black outfit stepped out of the darkness. Dame. Fucking Dame. She got quite the friendly welcome for someone supposedly on my side.

She said something to my captor. He said something to her and slung his bow into a holster on his back before raising the free hand to work his weird cancer powers. She doubled over, then screamed like a little bitch. Her body bulged and slimmed in places. Blackness shot through her hair. Whatever he was doing, I was glad it hurt her. I was significantly less happy when she stood up as a copy of myself. Down to the arms, which flailed around as Dame tried to figure out how to work them.

By now, one of the spec ops guys had popped a flair and called down several choppers. Some were helping the gathered Hares up into them. I got photos and video of as many faces as possible, but none popped up in an initial quick scan of my database. I got distracted watching Dame wiggle my beautiful body into my armor. Ya know, taking turns looking down, comparing. The areola were too wide, and I’m more of an inny between the legs. Where I was bleeding. Internal bleeding.


Dame, in disguise as me, left with them all. Likely going to hitch a ride to Ricca, just not on that chopper. Not enough fuel capacity. It gave me time to send out a warning to certain parties, including Venus and Titan. Didn’t have time to edit all the video evidence down, so I hope Venus enjoys the view of my boobs.

I jumped up and down a bit while looking at them, and sent it as a supplemental video to her. The hell with it, I sent it to Psychsaur as well.

The only one left was the guy who held onto my bottle. He turned and walked back to the chateau, and the propped up doors. He burnt and image into it and knocked. I don’t know what he said, but the door glowed and then swung open good as new, pushed by a man in a black coat and top hat, wearing shades. The man’s face seemed to glow white from underneath the skin in contrast to the orange glow of the cigar in his mouth. This one I knew even without the facial recognition database. Baron Samedi had, among other things, been the gatekeeper for the Back Alley Voodoo Bar in Memphis for decades. I always figured he did other things than let people into the villain bar.

Before I was carried over the threshold into wherever my captor was taking me, I sent another order and video message. This one went to my men, all laid out.

My soldiers get first priority on nanites over prisoners. They help them recover from injury in the middle of a fight, and can restore stamina after a hard day of exercise. They can even be used to cut off blood flow to the brain exactly enough to put someone to sleep without harming them, and then maintain that sleep. And from the calm manner in which they awoke, the bellicosity Ares imparted upon them had ended. That means they didn’t want to fight anymore. Not each other. They really wanted to shoot the Hares, and I included the last vectors of the non-Dame choppers. I gave them orders: open season on the rest of the Hares, but leave my cuntdouble alone.

It’s a good thing I did that. I lost consciousness after my captor passed through the door.

I awoke in a dark room, sitting at a bare wooden table. It was cold, despite the robe now covering my body.

A man sat across from me. A bald black man with weathered skin and a soul patch. No iron or chainmail here, just a business suit. “Good morning, Tripura.”

“Is that supposed to be a name, or are you just trippin’?”

“Your confusion will pass,” he said. “I have been asked to debrief you.”

I looked down and motioned toward my crotch. “Clearly already done. I need to have a word with someone about my crotch, by the way. What’d he do this time? More cancer?”

He smiled. “Please allow me to conduct my psychiatric evaluation. Give me the first answer that comes to your mind, please. If your house was on fire and you only had time to take one thing out, what would it be?”

I shrugged. “The target.”

He furrowed his brow. “Second question. While walking along in desert sand, you suddenly look down and see a tortoise crawling toward you. You reach down and flip it over onto its back. The tortoise lies there, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over, but it cannot do so without your help. You are not helping. Why?”

He disappeared as soon as I threw the table at him. They had left my legs and all of my arms unbound. The man appeared again from the darkness behind me. “You must calm down, Tripura. You have been undercover for far longer than we expected.”

“I’m not your Yama, and I wasn’t undercover,” I said, turning toward him.

“You are and you were. You are Tripura Sundari, a member of our order.”

“That’s a Hindu goddess. Kinda. Sorta. It’s a little confusing,” I said.

“We disguised you as Pyschopomp Gecko, the notorious killer who tried to rule the world. He died two years ago when he fought with a giant robot in Empyreal City. You were given much surgery and placed in the wreckage to be found. Your healing scars were excused as injuries. But in order that you may serve as a part of our apparatus, we had to strip your memory from you. It is time to come back to us, Tribura Sundari.”

Well that’s just bullshit, plain and simple. “Yeah, right. Good luck getting me to believe that.”

The man smiled and raised a hand full of yellow powder that he blew into my face. I coughed and swiped my hands. Blinded and hacking, I needed a moment to get my bearings. Someone pressed a glass of water to my lips and I drank. Then I was helped up and the water was poured over my face. I shook my head off and looked to the man standing there. “The fuck was that?”

“Tripura Sundari,” said the man in front of me, whoever he was.

“No, that’s that thing you were saying was my name,” I said. I tried to think back. He’d just said something about two years ago… and I KNEW he was lying, but I was thinking back and I couldn’t remember why I was sure. The more I thought about it, the more he seemed right. I was found in the wreckage, a little hurt.

The man kept talking. “Welcome back to your home, Tripura.”

“I don’t remember you or this place. I showed up here all of a sudden and I hated you from the instant I saw you,” I said.

His grin stretched wide, “These feelings will linger, but the facts do not care. Let me show you to your home, Tripura.”

I still felt defensive, so I did not take his offered arm. Perhaps he’s right, this guy… “What was your name again?”

“I am Mbeku,” he answered as he led me into the darkness around the light. My sight changed to allow me sight in the dark, and I saw the hallway we were headed to, marked with three rabits chasing each other in a circle over it.

I felt so tense, with lingering paranoia when I saw others dressed in all sorts of costumes around. One man kept staring at me while adjusting something. The word wouldn’t come to mind, but the name appeared in my vision. A bow. It’s a weapon of some sort.

“Greetings,” he said, catching me looking. “Do you remember me?”

I shook my head.

He smiled and held out his hand. “I am Phoebus Apollo, the true Apollo.”

I took it, allowing him to kiss my hand. “And I am Tripura Sundari. Pardon my memory.”

Ya know, they almost got away with it, too. Problem is, my brain’s like one of those things they call a computer. I can search stuff, and I even found where I keep this file open, doing running commentary or reports after my adventures. And do I ever have adventures, stretching back further than when I suffered extensive injury two years ago. These files document all of that, and more recent ones. Like Apollo capturing me. Or my discovery of a drug called Unity that affects memories. And a cure.

I can read about them, but they still aren’t my memories again. Not yet. But these folks were kind enough to invite me into their organization, thinking they have me fooled. It’d be a shame to waste the opportunity.

Unless I run across regenerative nanites first. Then I can stop being Tripura and go back to being Gecko. They named me after a Hindu goddess or something, with a name that means stuff about being really beautiful.

Stuck with a name about being really pretty when I’ve beaten up other people named Apollo and killed alien conquerors. I’m gonna have to crush someone’s skull with my kegels for this.