Tag Archives: Baron Samedi

A Christmas Carnage 5

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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?”

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A Christmas Carnage 4

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“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.”

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Kill Da Wabbit 5

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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.

Lovely.

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.

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