With my civilian form being wined and dined on a train with Dame, I felt it was appropriate for the Divine Gaming Club to play Ticket to Ride this time around. In deference to pretty much no one else knowing the rules beforehand, we settled on the simple American edition. Next time we rotate through it, we can try Pennsylvania.
In this case, the group was myself, Baron Samedi, Argu the Observer, and another being who told us to call him “Reed”. He was woven out of the things, with grain for hair, so I’m guessing an old, forgotten being associated with agriculture. He could also be related to one of the seasons, though the grain suggests Fall and the reeds make me think of Summer. The Baron vouched for him, so he joined us for the game.
“The Unicorn Goddess was regaling us with a scheme she enacted to deal with an old enemy of hers whose treatment she regrets,” Argu summarized for Reed.
“In the old days, people would water the fields with the blood of their adversaries,” Reed said. Yep, old-fashioned. I don’t use my omnipotence while playing, because it would spoil every move my opponents make. The games would get boring. This just told me about Reed being an old thing, sleeping for long stretches, that managed to receive new purpose when it was decided to fit itself in to various advertising campaigns in modern times. It did a stint as the Jolly Green Giant at one point, taking that form instead of the one it wore with us. This was its original form.
Samedi waved a hand at me. ‘Not cool.”
“Yeah, that’s just rude. We agreed no powers,” Argu added.
“Sorry, I was curious about our friend here. I apologize and will keep my powers in line,” I said. They got a little huffy, but we went back to all trying to grab red train cars for our various needs.
Reed broke the silence. “What was your story again? I would like to hear it.”
Right, so now Dame and Delilah, my civilian form, were on a train. Blacklight had last been spotted taking in the guys who crashed Dame’s hotel room to try and kill her on behalf of the Monacan mob. That’s Monaco the country, not the Native American tribe. With the hotel room exposed, Dame figured we’d go mobile. She was trying to figure out a next step besides running and hiding, especially dragging me along so I wouldn’t get hurt by the people hunting her. Now that the mob’s commissioned killers were captured, they’d opened the contract up. $12 for anyone to kill Dame and recover the Monegasque Shag, a gold bird statue with inlaid gems and a big sapphire egg.
The complication is that Dame wants the egg because she claims it has the power to function as a prison that can hold Psycho Gecko. She wants revenge. And Psycho Gecko is me. She’s got a good reason for disliking me. I sent Blacklight after her originally as part of a deal to help Blacklight’s legal problems if she recovered the Shag, which is stolen property. Blacklight knew her from a few years back, when they were both fighting me, so she agreed to wait until Dame was finished with it.
“What’s our plan?” I asked Dame.
She laughed and shook her head. She’d fancied herself up. She was still an accomplished thief with connections, so she didn’t need to stay in street clothes that blended. Now she was in jeans that cost like $200. She was checking and rechecking her costume, too. Skintight black tights, with mirrored armbands and mask designed to look like diamonds. It’s a mark of skill that she can rob a museum wearing shiny stuff on her.
“You’re sweet, but your plan is for me to find a nice, quiet place to hide you until everything’s settled. You don’t need to be a part of any confrontation I have with the people coming after me.” She winced as she stood back up. Without my intervention Dame would have been killed by a bullet that turned to seek her out. And she’s got better reason than most to avoid medical nanomachines after all I’ve done to her. “Help me get undressed?”
I raised an eyebrow and started to help her, but we didn’t go any further than a little making out. “Not right now.”
We’d gotten close in her adrenaline-filled adventures since she doesn’t know it’s me. Besides, it’s only an action-movie relationship. I’m some random person she found who’s attractive and willing to sleep with her during an adventure. Once things normalize, this wouldn’t last. And unless I brainwashed her, nothing about this was going to last.
But like I said, the contract was open. I have every reason to intercede as Psycho Gecko. And I had a plan for everyone to get what they want in a decent enough way.
It so happened that in my search for some meaning in my life, I ran across an alternate or two of myself. One of them had turned himself into a lizard person in power armor and was trying to conquer his world. I didn’t intercede there, but I’m not without judgment. I can judge the crap out of things. Like, it’s much easier to figure out you’re a woman than to decide to be a lizard. I don’t need a reptile theme just because I’m called Gecko.
That guy suddenly found himself thrust through a dimensional breach ahead of us, at Spokane. I had brought some of his lizard people minions with him. It caused quite a stir. The conductor slowed us down and was trying to work on an alternative route but, for some reason, the radio failed. The brakes decided not to work then, either. Instead, they came over the intercom to warn everyone. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem…”
Of course, once the story about “We’re hurtling toward a train station full of Psycho Gecko and a lizard army, unable to stop or divert our course,”got out, it didn’t make Dame feel any worse. She wanted this fight. She grabbed her phone, though, and called up Blacklight’s number. “Hey, I’m not done with it yet, but I’m about to be. You want to punch Gecko?”
Blacklight had been ok with setting aside her colossal grudge against me a bit, but this set of circumstances gave her an opportunity to get a little bit of revenge. A Freudian fist slip. She agreed to meet us at Spokane.
We rolled up to an empty station, unable to keep going because the tracks weren’t clear ahead of us. It was the end of the line for us. Now, it looked quiet, but it didn’t smell or sound quiet. There were sirens and helicopter rotor sounds coming from outside, since police, SWAT, and local National Guard had been called up. There were some superheroes, but they were hanging around the train station since before it was popular, so they figured it was cringe and left. Well, not really, the cops just pushed the out of the way to take over shooting lizard people. They weren’t getting a lot of opportunity yet. The lizards were mainly there to secure the perimeter. That Psycho Gecko was still trying to figure out where he was and what he was doing. Oh, and it stank out there.
“You wait here. Hide. Run away if you need to,” Dame advised me. She had her costume on and her phase gauntlet ready. She wore an exoskeleton sleeve over the arm, a new development, that covered the whole arm. There was a shoulder covering of mail that it ran up to. That arm let her carry the Shag, because gold’s heavy. Lately, I’ve been forgetting things have weight. It’s a good thing Dame hasn’t noticed me playing around with some stuff.
Gecko jumped the front of the train before it stopped, tearing open the metal and climbing inside. He roared at the conductor and pilot, spittle flying through the air. Dame came running through the door, staying phased to avoid this one big glob that came right for her. She became solid again when she was on the upswing with the Shag, knocking Lizard Gecko upside his jaw. Then she held up the Shag and pressed a switch hidden in its tail feathers. Nothing happened. “Stupid artifact bitch!” she yelled at it, then phased again to avoid a swipe from Gecko’s tail.
Gecko spun around after the tail swipe and lunged for her with its mouth. Dame jammed the Shag into his mouth to prop it open. Gecko’s head dipped and he tipped it out, but it gave Dame a moment to run to the side, out of the car. This being another version of me, Gecko didn’t just chase her out. Instead, he bit off the arm of one of the guys who hadn’t yet fled the car because I guess he felt more entertained than frightened by events so far.
Dame cussed and went back, coming through a wall and grabbing Gecko Lizard’s tail with the exoskeleton arm. She phased him through the wall, even his armor. Weight doesn’t work the same way like that, so she had enough strength to toss him, turning him solid just before letting go. He didn’t go as far that way, scraping against the ground a little and rolling to his feet. Thing was, Dame didn’t have her secret weapon with her.
She had another one with her instead. Blacklight crashed through the roof and cratered Lizard Gecko. Just bodied a bitch. She stood over Lizard Gecko, who was missing an arm, leg, and tail. He looked down for the count. Blacklight turned to Dame, smiling. “Oops, didn’t realize it was her.”
Lizard Gecko woke up and clamped his jaws down on her chest, picking her up and shaking her around before tossing her. She recovered, a couple of large bite marks in her chest that gushed a bit of blood in between puffing up from the injection of venom. So I wasn’t the only one of me to like having venomous fangs despite it not fitting. He’s not Snake Gecko, after all.
“Where’s your fuckin’ bird?!” Blacklight called to Dame.
That seemed like a good time for some divine intervention. I appeared at the door to the pilot cabin, dragging the Shag along with me. “Here!” I called out.
Dame ran over, “I told you to run, you moron!” Well that was uncalled-for. She grabbed the bird statue from me. “I can’t get this to work, anyway!”
“It’s a gem, maybe-” Blacklight didn’t finish that. She was breathing more heavily.
Lizard Gecko was taking the time to rapidly regrow his lost limbs, including the tail that he used to help wiggle away from where he’d been fighting them.
Blacklight floated around so she was on the opposite side of the sapphire egg from Lizard Gecko and raised a hand to it. Her super names have been derived from her ability to generate unusual light that she uses as a weapon. She conjured a bright white light that passed through the sapphire, revealing writing inside it.
“What is that?” Blacklight asked.
“It’s Scytho-Sarmatian,” Dame said. Then she started reading it aloud.
I felt a pull toward it. They didn’t see it because I was so far away out of their line of sight, but I had to concentrate my powers to not be drawn toward the sapphire. That thing was designed more to catch something like myself, not Lizard Gecko. At Dame’s direction, indicated by her hand pointing at Lizard Gecko, the gem shattered into glistening mist that flowed toward Lizard Gecko. The pull got stronger for me, but it pulled at that version of me as well. He tried to leap away, but the gem mist flowed around him, engulfing him and hiding him from view until the mist got smaller and settled into the sapphire egg again. There was no sign of the alternate me inside it.
Blacklight started toward it, but lowered to the ground and then to her knees.
I brought the Unicorn Goddess form to her, appearing with a warm glow and laying a hand on her shoulder. “Good girl.”
Ok, so a tiny bit of kink in here. Dame watched, unaware that the goddess healing Blacklight was the person she had been protecting and smooching and trying to banish for the past weeks. When she was better, with holes closed and venom dispersed, Blacklight looked up at me and received a warm kiss on the forehead. “You could have had my lips, you know,” she said with a smirk.
I patted her cheek. “This worked better for me. I think you’ll find some folks are going to have a change of heart soon. Especially since you are now one of the people who banished Psycho Gecko.”
I turned to look at Dame and the statue she held. She seemed in shock that she’d done it. Or seemingly did it. I waved a hand. The statue didn’t want me to grab it telekinetically, so instead I created a telekinetic platform underneath it that I used to carry it toward me. “I’ll take this and safeguard it from others.”
“So I got him?” Dame asked.
Dame smiled, then seemingly collapsed to her butt. “I don’t believe it.”
She had a couple of options: accept it and heal, or don’t and realize the hollowness of her revenge. Either way worked for me.
It was awkward for Blacklight, though. “I’m going to go if that’s alright with you.”
Dame nodded, telling her, “Yeah.”
I let her leave and made sure no one would notice then as I walked over and hugged her with both bodies.
And then, for a treat, I appeared back home to see my family. Qiang took it in stride when I had a different face and body between my horn and my hooves, but Sam commented on the rest of my treat to myself. “So, you took that thief’s body after all?”
I’ll give it back. Probably. No, I will. Besides, as long as she’s me, none of her pursuers will know she’s me. As far as they’re concerned, she disappeared from that train station. They could look right at me and never recognize her.
“What have you been up to?” I asked Sam. I’ve kept a body around the house, seeing to stuff, but she had a secret meeting she didn’t want to tell me about, which I respected.
My girlfriend crossed her arms and smirked. “I was talking with Venus and Medusa, planning your wedding to them.”
If, if, if. If a god wants something done, and it’s within their power to do so, then it’s done. That’s what causes some with power to just go nuts with all sorts of wacky things. Needs and goals are more easily taken care of. But it’s possible to try a more convoluted way to get what someone wants. One, it’s neat to see the plan play out, but it also can help disguise how you’re getting things done.
Just some things for me to muse on while at game night with Baron Samedi again, who paused for a moment. “I play Inevitable Betrayal. Hand me your gold.”
We were playing Lords of Waterdeep. Baron Samedi and someone he called “Argu the Observer.”. Looked like a six-legged starfish with a ring of eyes around a central mouth. “He’s not from around here,” Samedi told me, which I took to mean he’s an alien god or similar entity. Argu had a small army of warriors and rogues, constantly hogging those buildings and forcing Samedi to keep using the buildings I was buying up if he wanted to complete any quests.
In response, Samedi was concentrating his Intrigues on Argu, and hopefully not ending a friendship in the process. If this had been Monopoly or Mario Party, I think we’d have had a real problem on our hands:
“How’d the Intergalactic Holy War start?”
“Well, this Loa built a hotel on Baltic Avenue…”
I laughed at the thought, and at another that popped into my head.
“What joke tickled your funny bone?” the Baron asked.
I shook my head. “Nothing. Just thinking how one of the few beings that lived up to its supernatural reputation was one who doesn’t claim to be a god.” I nodded toward him.
“None of us here need to lie about what we are to be what we are,” Samedi said.
“Lying is still fun, though,” Argu said.
That got agreement from Samedi and I. Lying to people can be fun, but that’s not something everyone agrees with. Just to make sure, I used my powers to make sure none of us were cheating. All good.
“So what is going on with your people you are tricking?” Argu asked. “One of them wants to kill you and the other wants to mate with you, and you set the latter against the former.”
“Yes. I sent Blacklight, who offered herself to me if it would solve her legal problems, to take this mysterious bird statue from the thief Dame who believed it was capable of imprisoning my human form. I had made sure nobody hostile to me was aware I was the Unicorn Goddess, but I also couldn’t read the statue enough to figure out if it was a threat to myself as a god.”
“You know, you remind me of this musical theater that was recently imported to my planet,” Argu noted. “They say it contains footage of real aliens being murdered.”
I remembered that time I killed some fascist aliens defending that performance and getting recorded in the process. “Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime performance.”
Anyway, let’s cut away from that to the events with Blacklight and Dame.
Dame was laid up in the hotel, recovering from getting shot by a bullet with her name on it that curved through the air to get to her. With some of that mysterious ways bullshit, I’d made sure it didn’t kill her when she was struck and made sure the guy’s partner didn’t blow her up. Then, I subtly fixed it so she’d make it until the doctor got her stabilized. She was in no shape to fight, so I was tending to her in my civilian form, known to her as Delilah.
Dame was stumbling back to bed after using the bathroom, wincing at the pain of laying herself back down. “Lilah, make sure there’s lots of fiber and yogurt for dinner. I can’t deal with a shit like that again.”
There was a kitchen that I doubt Dame ever used, in addition to a delectable room service options, including bringing groceries up if guests decide to cook. It gave me some time to prepare a meal or two, including country fried steak. I put a little too much of the drippings and oil in with the gravy. That made it less white, but not less delicious. Shame we wouldn’t get to enjoy much of it.
“Plenty of corn!” I told her, bringing her a nice plate of it first so she’d have more time to eat and get her strength up. For all the antagonism between us, I want to see better for Dame, and not just by making her forget what happened. Maybe I should. Like, maybe that’s a wound that will never fully heal and provides no future beneficial lesson. In that case, what benefit is there to it other than giving her vengeful ambitions? I watched as she ate.
“Aren’t you going to have some?” Dame asked. She clearly enjoyed it, but then she saw me looking at her. “What?”
“Just seeing you hurt like this… why do you do all this? The fighting and all that. You’re rich. You could just not be here. Why kill yourself?”
Dame laughed, going from amused to crazy sounding over the course of a few seconds before clutching at her chest. I caught her plate so she wouldn’t drop it. “Ow, fuck… ow… not worth it…”
“Nevermind, just eat,” I said. I let her get back to it once she was over some of the pain.
She took a break from inhaling the mashed potatoes and gravy to answer me. “Someone hurt me in ways you can’t imagine. I don’t… I can’t. I have to do this. I have to. You’ll never understand what she did to me and how little it makes me. The heroes won’t do anything about it because one of them has had a crush on her forever. So she gets away with it.”
I understand that feeling. I’ve been on the other end. I wish I could help her, but I’m the person who wronged her, so the best I can do is make her feel better.
She didn’t get much further before we heard the door swing open. Someone shushed someone else, and we heard footsteps. It was Blacklight, walking in and heading right toward the the Monegasque Shag, a golden statue inlaid with gems, next to a sapphire egg. Not being able to get a read on the statue, I worried about what it could do to me. Blacklight was just walking up to it.
Dame kept her plate in hand and didn’t spill it while rolling out of bed. Wincing, she set it down on a dresser and slid her phasing gauntlet on. I tried to stay quiet and hid behind the bed while Dame padded quietly to the door. “Forcelight?”
“Hey Dame,” Blacklight responded to her former superhero name. In her defense, Blacklight was way better than forcelight.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were that jerk trying to kill me,” she said.
“Sorry, but someone wanted me to come get this. Don’t worry, not the jerk coming to kill me,” Blacklight answered. I snuck toward the door. I looked enough different from my Unicorn Goddess guise like this that Blacklight couldn’t recognize me, but I still had a role to play.
“I can’t let you do that,” Dame said. I saw her fist clench. “I need that.”
Things went quiet and tense for a minute. Blacklight stood in the middle of the living room, right next to the Shag, then sighed and shook her head. “Relax. Why’s this thing so important and what’s it do?”
So Dame told her about it and about her intention to use it to lure out and trap Psycho Gecko. Which wasn’t the worst plan. Over on VillaiNet, the Monaco mob were fishing for people who would be willing to kill Dame and regain the artifact. Some had put feelers out for me. Money wasn’t that big of a deal, and they’d consider allowing me to use the hotel and casino. That was my pretend sticking point while all this played out.
I focused on Dame and Blacklight again when Dame discussed the guy who’d shot at her. “Some hunter god I knew from the Three Hares. I found out the hard way he controls projectiles. I guess he didn’t want to leave civilization behind like the main group with their hiding dogma.”
I shook my head. “Hmm?”
“Nothing, Lilah,” Dame said.
“And who is she?” Blacklight asked. “You have a helper?”
“Umm,” I said, blushing.
Dame smiled. “That’s Delilah. She rides the subway with me. She got caught in the middle of their first attempt to kill me, and then she saw my safehouse, so I’ve been keeping her safe in case they tried to go after her.”
“Hi,” I said, reaching out and shaking Blacklight’s hand. The mischievous side of me wanted to fuck with her sexuality at the time and maybe get some jealousy going between her and Dame, but I contained myself. As bad as all this looks, it’s not about just pursuing my wants. Believe it or not, I’m doing this to help people and enjoying myself lying to them.
The door opened just then and one of the hotel staff’s housekeepers was thrown to the floor inside. The man from the intersection entered, raising his gun. Forcelight threw me to the ground and stood up, while Dame phased and dropped through the floor. The hunter’s sidekick raised the lit barrel of a flamethrower.
It was Blacklight who fired first, destroying the revolver with her blast and catching the sidekick on fire when she burst his fuel tank. The hunter was knocked through the wall behind him and into someone else’s suite, with the sidekick rolling around screaming and inadvertently trapping the other guy. Blacklight floated over to the door in time for Dame to poke her head up through the hallway. She pulled herself up, then went solid again. “You got them?”
“I got them. Listen, I’m going to need that bird statue for a deal, but I can wait a little bit if you want to use it first, alright?” Blacklight offered.
Dame nodded, then leaned against a wall. “Yeah. Thanks. Just give me a bit to recover.” I rushed over to help her walk back into the room, past a fleeing, screaming housekeeper.
A few hours after that, once word got out to the mob that the people they hired so far had failed, they decided to stop courting me and just made it an open contract. $12 million for the death of Dame and the return of the Shag to the Monacan mob. It’s showtime!
At least we were gone by the time they followed the clues from the other guys to the hotel, Dame and I were settled into a private train car heading west to Buffalo.
Over in the adventure with Dame, we’d been kept together through circumstances. We managed to sneak out of her hidden safehouse, when the French-speaking people after her sent a team to trash the place for good. We outran a fireball and everything.
Figuring people would hunt for the person I appeared to be so they could find out where Dame went, and to keep me from blabbing if I was opportunistic, Dame decided to stash me in this nice hotel room while she headed out to figure out who was after her for what reason.
It was a Monaco crime family, not French. She followed the guy in charge of scoping out her apartment back to where they were operating. There was long-established mom and pop ceramics business in Boston that was a front for the Monegasque mob. That’s the adjective for them, but I prefer to call them Monacan. If this van’s a’rockin’, don’t come Monacan. Wait, I’m being informed by my omniscience that Monacan is also a demonym for them. Or maybe I made it their demonym when I preferred it.
Dame was pretty good. I had shaken her confidence there, but she went in with her costume under regular street clothes. She didn’t go in directly; she had her choice of either an Italian olive shop on one side, or an Irish bakery on the other. Oddly enough, the Monacan place was the only mob front in that bunch. Dame went for the bakery and picked up some fresh bread, paying for it before heading to the bathroom.
Rather than pinching a loaf, she left the one she bought on a pile of her street clothes and phased through the wall. The gadget she uses for that has been refined. Technology advanced to the point where, with a good understanding of how the phasing works, she was able to make it more inconspicuous.
She appeared in a back office where the guy who had been hunting for her sat around laughing with a couple older guys. That’s where Dame came in, rushing in, grabbing a lamp, bashing that guy upside the head, and the phasing out through a wall. One of the older guys pulled a gun, a small colt without a hammer. She came up from underneath him, twisting his arm around and grabbing the gun out of his grip, leaving it embedded inside a nearby wall. She dropped back with all her weight, but let go. The momentum slammed that guy down onto the floor while she phased through it. That left the guy in charge, who was busy calling out while dialing his phone. She pulled it out of his hand and, when he turned to her, socked him in the belly.
To the old Monacan’s credit, he didn’t go down. Some of his gut absorbed the blow, but he stayed up and got into a boxing stance, throwing a straight right at her head. Dame didn’t dodge; the fist went through her jaw and disappeared. She wound up for an uppercut that was perfectly solid as soon as he pulled his hand back where it wouldn’t fuse with her head. He grabbed a nearby ceramic figurine of a boxer and swung it at her chest. She phased again and grabbed another figurine, a boot, tossing it at the old guy’s crotch. He flinched but didn’t double over, but Dame swept the legs and dropped him flat back onto his desk.
Not bad. I’d been considering a quick possession to help her out, but I’m also aware I have ulterior motives for an idea like that. I don’t know what my deal with stealing her body has been for so long, though, so I guess omniscience doesn’t include self-psychotherapy as a part of the deal.
“You blew up my apartment! Why?” Dame asked, grabbing a knife that was actually an Award for Excellence in Ceramic Knives and holding it to the old man’s crotch. As far as threats go, one of the few that affects hardened criminals more than the throat.
“It’s business, not personal!” the man said in a French accent. “You stole something important from the Monte Hall Casino vault. We want it back.” The man pointed to a ceramic figurine nearby. He really had a lot in this back office area. Problem was, he’d gotten a bit disoriented, or something had been moved, so he ended up pointing to a ceramic dildo. “Not that one, the thing behind it.” There was a figurine of a bird, a European Shag.
Dame brought the knife just a little closer. “The Monegasque Shag. In your dreams, you’re never getting that back.”
Yeah, I wouldn’t want to give that guy a shag either. And I’ve b lown the entire North Korean high command. Hmm, I should look up Silver Shark sometime.
Meanwhile, at her hotel room, I realized one of the decorations was that same figurine, but cast in silver and gold. A European shag bird sitting on a sapphire egg. Worth a hefty chunk of change form the look of it.
Back at the business, Dame’s interrogation was interrupted by a couple Monacan mob guys kicking in the back office door and pulling out guns.
“No!” the mob boss called, too late. Rounds from his underlings passed right through Dame and caught the old boss as he tried to climb over his desk, just absolutely wreaking havoc on him ass-cheek first. The only thing missing from the poetic death was dramatic opera music, but I didn’t want to let on that anything too supernatural was going on.
Dame fled through the wall, to the bathroom nearby, grabbing bread and tossing clothes on over her costume. She left, spraying air freshener right near the door and warning the old lady waiting on her, “Sorry, you wouldn’t believe what I just passed.”
Back in the office, the mob boss, badly-wounded but still alive, was dialing 911 on his phone. Funny thing happened then. A shelf on the wall above his desk came unsecured just a little bit. The ceramic trophy for Best Not Giving A Fuck slid off, a hand giving a middle finger falling smack dab on the guy’s face and finishing him off.
He leaves behind an ex-wife, a hotter, younger wife, a 10 year old she squeezed out for him, a 16 year old daughter, and a son who just turned 18 two weeks ago and is considering experimenting with a prettyboy at school who crossdresses some but says he’s one-hundred percent man. Also, an unclaimed son from a seedy stripper in France and a son who is a seedy stripper in Empyreal City. Wow. Curious, I traced back this Monacan mob boss’s lineage. He came from a long line of strippers. He even had an ancestor who once impressed the mayor of her village by cutting her clothes revealingly and dancing for the farmers while they threw her food, named Chastete.
I had to pretend not to know all that and instead ordered down for some room service. Dame wasn’t that far away, but she was about to have more trouble than she bargained for. She was in a rental car this time, stopped at a light. The car behind her didn’t slow down, plowing into her and knocking her into traffic coming from her right. Among them, a semi truck. The rental was t-boned harder than the boner of the rental place that realized that night they would get to charge the fuck out of Dame’s card for all the damage. The truck, no trailer attached, was a lot better off when it came to a stop. And Dame appeared to be, too, rolling along the street after ditching her doomed car.
The doors of the car that first pushed her out opened. A big, tall guy with an epic chin stepped out of the front, suit jacket blowing in the breeze as he pulled out a shiny, polished revolver. The guy who got out of the rear had a rocket launcher with him but then this little dog being walked nearby had gotten loose and tried to maul that guy’s pantleg. When the tall guy saw the heavy ordinance was occupied, he held up his revolver and whispered, “Dame” against the side of it, then pointed it and fired.
The bullet passed through her when she phased, then twisted and turned in midair to come right at her. It was a magic bullet, with the word “Dame” etched into it. Just like with that dog going after the pantleg, I made just a tiny change, making the magic bullet take a wider arc on a turn so that it merely nicked Dame’s heart rather than hitting it full on. Grasping her chest, she saw the bullet make a turn this time. It had lost some momentum, but had enough to hurt her. She phased through the street, stumbling off toward the hotel. By the time the guy with the rocket launcher got free of the dog and blew up the middle of the intersection, she was free and clear.
I finished my meal and waited around a bit, looking over that Shag statue. It had some lovely gems in it, but the sapphire was really the best part. No idea why they went for a shag instead of something more famous, like a falcon.
Dame stumbled into the room, bleeding, holding her chest. I saw her, grabbed the phone, and told the Desk, “She’s been hurt! Send up a doctor, quick!” Then I ran over to Dame, grabbing her as she fell. She lost a lot of blood and might have bit it without my intervention, but I wanted her to live. I healed the nick of the heart and gave her a little more blood to keep her stable. By the time a doctor arrived, she looked bad but was bound to live. I even had time to hide her costume and the new phase gauntlet she used.
After that, it was a matter of pretending to be concerned, at least until Dame woke up.
“Are you ok? What’s all this about?” I asked.
She laughed. “I’ve felt better, but I can’t let them get their hands on it.”
“On what?” I asked.
Wincing, Dame raised a hand out of bed to point to the statue of the shag. “That.”
“It has to be worth a fortune, but it’s just money, right?” I asked. Then I shrugged. “Ok, so more money than I would ever see in my life…”
“No,” Dame said, putting her hand on my cheek and guiding my gaze back to her. “It’s the secret to helping me defeat Psycho Gecko once and for all. It’s a prison. A prison for demons.”
Curious, I tried to read its past with my omniscience and got a nasty little surprise. I couldn’t. So while I didn’t know if it had the power to trap me, especially with Dame not knowing I’m a goddess now, I knew that it was a known unknown.
Elsewhere, I appeared in the form of the Unicorn Goddess to Blacklight as she was flying away from an interview about a bank robbery she stopped. I trailed a rainbow, because I wanted to. “Hey!” she yelled over through the air. “Thought about that offer?”
“It’s tempting,” I told her, honestly. There’s something about the idea of dating a superhero who hates me that gets me hot, which certainly explains a LOT about my entire relationship with Venus and Medusa. But even voluntarily, it still feels creepy to make brainwash her into that situation. So instead, I did something way more ethical. “But I have a different idea for you. I’ll help you, but I need you to get something for me.”
“I’m not a thief,” the dark hero told me.
I smiled. “Good, because it’s a statue stolen by a super thief named Dame. It’s called the Monegasque Shag. I just want you to recover stolen property.”
Blacklight thought it over a bit. “Too bad. I’m not into women, but I was looking forward to the date. Alright, deal.”
“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.”
Finally, the day we were to head back. I woke up, noticed I had an extra pair of arms in bed, and smiled at the thought of the body pressing against me from behind. I turned and pushed Venus’s brown hair out of the way before kissing her. She eventually woke up, returning my affection until she opened her eyes. She started and sat up onto her knees before smiling sheepishly. “Sorry, forgot who you were for a moment.”
I tugged the covers up over my chest. “Mmm, was a little longer than a moment.”
She smiled that lovely smile before she leaned in close. “No, I knew what I was doing then.” She kissed me once on the forehead.
I winked at her. “I’d say you did.”
She blushed, then bit her lip. She hugged a pillow to herself and looked over to where Dame had been propped up on a chair, still not waking. An earbud-like device rested on Dame’s thigh. “Trying that was wrong, though.”
I’d given her the gizmo for her as a surprise. It let her inhabit Dame the same way I could, but Venus wasn’t having anything in that situation. She got back out of Dame and we got into an argument. There was some light pushing, and I fell on the bed while dragging Venus with me. Before we knew it, the argument was over.
I rolled my eyes, then walked my fingers up Venus’s thigh. “If it’s so wrong, go grab some handcuffs and lock me up.” I started to kiss her knee, but she popped me with the pillow.
“I’m serious. What you’ve done to her is beyond the pale. And trying to get me in her?” She shook her head.
I pushed the pillow away and reached up to run my fingers through her hair. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I smiled at her, hoping temptation would override her morals again.
She got up and walked over to the other utilitarian chair by Dame, gathering her clothes up along the way and began pulling them on I slipped into Dame and sat on Venus’s lap. She held me for a moment but pushed me away when I moved in for the kiss. “No. And I don’t care what your nanites said about the damage. Fix her. Bring her back. Give her her brain back where neither of us can take it over again.”
It was more of a sad rebuke than angry. She followed it up by getting dressed and heading out to check on our departure details.
When the Buzzkills used some of our limited nanite supplies healing my stab wound up, I held onto a little bit. I reprogrammed them for diagnostic purposes, to tell me more about what was going on with Dame. They found damage throughout her lovely cybernetic brain. If anything, it’s a surprise it didn’t affect me more. Or maybe it did, like when I forgot who I was. After that, they focused on healing her injuries from the underground fight. You’d be surprised what organs can bruise, dear reader.
Either way, I figured I’d keep her fed and watered, make sure she goes to the bathroom in the right spot. I’ll get her fixed when we get back home. Probably. I’m tempted not to. It’s the kind of perverse transhumanist mayhem I so selfishly love. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she won’t be there when it’s fixed. Brain injuries are interesting like that, but doubt it’s the kind of thing that could kill her while leaving her intact enough for me to take over.
Speaking of taking her over, I can freely move back and forth again. Near as I can tell, something in my transceivers just… gave out. A power surge from the Domeship shouldn’t have affected me, so maybe it was residual damage left over from the mag-lev rails. I’d been dancing with those trains an awful lot. Fuckin’ magnets, how did they mess up my brain?
It took me longer to get ready for the day than usual, due to having to shower and dress two bodies. Maybe Venus wants to walk around smelling like stank, but I have some class. Travel looked to be more difficult, and I thought of grabbing some duct tape and doing a conjoined twin scenario. I remembered there was already someone who tried to kill me on the ship and figured that would probably add a few more enemies I didn’t need yet. Never know when you’re going to catch something bigger than a scalpel to the heart. I opted to tie her to my back, like a pack. I don’t actually want her hurt while she’s a backup body for me.
I still attracted dirty looks with Dame tied to my back by a bedsheet rope. Good thing I didn’t need to ask for directions. I got enough glares and “Fuck You”s from heroes I only cheerfully waved at.
We all met in the dome. We stood there among defectors and rebel crew to watch as the Senate renamed itself the Forum and appointed a three-person ruling Council to run things via the dome functioning like a giant round TV screen. Some of the rebels near me, who weren’t so much rebels anymore, muttered about how they thought the whole body should have been gotten away with and replaced by regular people.
I’m not sure what that said about the chances of this government standing up, but I felt a lot better when Warman met with the joint session of the Forum and Council to be presented with an armistice. I rolled my eyes at that one. We fought for peace and got a break. Now, we get to leave the peace treaty in the hands of some of the people who tried to sell us out and join the invaders. I sighed and texted Venus. “This is why I should have assassinated the Consuls. They’d be much more inclined to go ahead and accept a peace treaty if they knew how grave the situation was.”
“Bad gecko. Bhave.”
“We have to talk about your shortening problem.”
“L8r. Turning ship over 2 nu capn.”
“I may have to break up with you over the text speak.”
She didn’t reply for several minutes, either processing it or too busy with ceremony. After nearly ten minutes, I received he reply. “U! Break up w/ME after last nite?!!!”
What’s the point of all the shortcuts if you’re going to add so many extra exclamation points. Some believe more than three such pieces of punctuation are the sign of a diseased mine, and I can’t help but suspect it’s true after seeing it in action. “It is painful to read.”
“U tricked me n2 Dame.”
“She’ll never even know unless you tell her once she’s back to normal.”
“I no. That’s y its feels so bad.”
I frowned as I looked over the words in my HUD. I’m going to go ahead and take her at her word this really did make her feel bad once she stopped thinking with her vulva. I thought of all the confusing feelings and the way she used those. Her replacing her doppelganger and tricking me. Freeloading and getting close to my daughter. She tricked me into dates and cuddles and snuggles. Just talking and watching TV together. Dates. Her smile.
And even though she seems to have meshed well with her old friends, I still caught the clear disapproval about her being with me. I have no clue why she’s with me. And I realized that really mattered to me. Because if I knew why she stooped to slumming with me, it would give me an idea what I could do to keep her. It was truly an insidious plot.
“I don’t know what you see in me, Boopsie, but I wish I could live up to it enough to keep you around. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that to you,” I sent to her. Not exactly reminding her it takes two to make the beast with a billion backs, but she knows that part already. I’m giving her an out. A way to shift blame onto the villain.
They announced that the ship would be transitioning back to our world within one hour, pending the return of our delegation from the surface and the arrival of diplomats from the new government. I set my system to hold all incoming texts and calls for awhile. It seemed safer to stay out of the way. Instead, I stopped by the infirmary. They had taken good care of me, feeding me nutrients through IV. It could have been much worse. I chould have had to eat their shitty food.
The understaffed bunch who had been manning it were taking a well-deserved break. I stared at the bed where my body had lain. I’d already checked around it for anything to tell me what was going on, but they’d cleaned up already. It was a hygiene concern when you’re supposed to heal the sick and dying. The heroes signed off on it, said they checked the area over thoroughly.
There was no video surveillance of this hall of rest beds. It wasn’t expected to be a private area at all; it held seven beds. The report I cajoled out of Eschaton said they had hardly anyone else in the room with me. Of the two, one was zonked out on a sedative at the time and the other was in the bathroom. My paranoia wanted to tell me this was by design. My pragmatism said anyone waiting to kill me would have found that to be the perfect moment to go for it.
Still, I had to check.
The hero who’d gone to the bathroom had been identified in the quick report I’d been given. Almost two pages long, it didn’t have a lot of details, but it emphasized that Electrikitty had been cleared and had nothing to do with the attempt on my life. It took most of the hour to find out where she called her litter box. She didn’t have as good of quarters as Venus, which led me to briefly wonder why Venus got special treatment. Leftover goodwill, or a protective measure for being close to me? Probably just my paranoia acting up again. Either way, I walked into one of the eateries and sat down across from a superhero wearing an electric blue cat ear headband, and a white costume with blue electricity patterns over the chest, arms, and legs.
“Oh my god, is that a dead body?” she asked, looking at Dame on my back.
I glanced back, then shook my head. “She’s only sleeping. Say ‘hi’ Dame.” I inhabited Dame briefly to raise her head up. “Hi, Dame!” I jumped back into my body to look into the gawking, open-mouthed expression of Electrikitty. “Listen, do me a favor. I’m looking into that incident in the infirmary, the stabbing?”
“I already talked to the other heroes,” she said, squinting at me. “Have we met?”
She looked pretty convincing, not knowing who I am. I smiled at her, “Maybe in another nine lives.” I watched as she rolled her eyes at the comment, then I continued, “I was just wondering if there was anything you saw at all. Maybe something you remembered. Anyone you noticed between your bed and the restroom.”
She shook her head. “No. The only thing I can think of is to ask those guys in the colorful suits and the helmets. One of them had a crush on her or something. He was always watching.”
“But not that day?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Maybe?” Truly, Electrikitty was a font of knowledge. She legitimately seemed not to remember me the whole time. I dunno, maybe she was just that messed up at the time. Even her tipoff about the Justice Rangers was just pointing toward a direction I was already headed. I didn’t just suspect them of having something to do with it, but I did remember how often they liked to hover over me and watch me. They either almost certainly knew what happened, either by participation or observation.
I found them hanging out back under the dome itself. They mostly stuck together in a group and were all in costume. Justice Rangers inevitably stand out. They even usually wear their colors when out of costume.
I walked right up to the group, who were conversing with a group of Uranals in fancy dress and a few heroes, including Pinion and Warman. The group quieted as I approached, as if it’s unusual to see a four armed woman with a seemingly-lifeless woman tied to her back.
“Can I help you?” someone asked.
“Ricca Island Police. I need to ask someone a few questions about a murder,” I said. I dont know if my Security forces, the primary peacekeepers of the island, go by that, but it made for a good acronym: RIP. And I am in the chain of command, so it’s not really a lie. I’m at the top of the chain.
“Gecko,” Warman said, “May I have a word with you in private?” Warman’s shrewd party politicking caught me off-guard. I hadn’t taken him for the diplomatic type.
“No can do, Wardude. I need to have a chat with these guys, gals, and non-binary pals to see who tried to kill me.”
Warman pushed past the group, none of whom were smiling now. Or so I assume. You can’t really see into those Justice Ranger helmets. He caught me away from the group and put an arm on my shoulder. “This is the diplomatic entourage. We do not need any wild accusations flying now.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t have this peace if not for me and you know it. They’d have shattered Uranus. The food riots, the food relief, the Buzzkills coming to your aid during the protests; all me, baby. Hell, the Buzzkills would have been keeping a better eye on me, but I had them helping y’all out.” I poked him in the chest with one finger, staring him down.
“If you want to talk about all this after we get back to Earth and the diplomats are out of sight, have at it. Accuse whoever you want. Hell, accuse Elvis,” he gestured over in the direction of Honky Tonk Hero, who was having a picnic with Pinion. “But I’ll tell you now, you won’t find nothing. Nobody saw anything and nobody wanted to see anything because you’re a vile son of a bitch who half the people on this boat want to see knifed. To be quite honest, no hero here is going to throw their buddies under the bus over you.” He poked back, between the boobs.
He withdrew his hands as things got quiet. I was looking into his eyes, but thinking through the best ways to hurt him. He nodded behind me. “You want to give them a reason to put you down? Nobody here gives a damn about you but your bugs.”
Oh look. I just found out I CAN get even angrier. “You don’t call them that,” I told him.
“Hey Warman,” said a voice from the side. He turned to look and caught a fist to his jaw. It stumbled him, owing to the element of surprise and the enhanced strength of the woman behind the fist.
Venus stepped between us, rubbing the knuckles on her right hand. “Murder isn’t ok just because the victim is an asshole, asshole.”
Warman spat off to the side. “Look who’s talking. You seem pretty tolerant of murderers nowadays, Venus.” He projected his voice, making sure he was heard by those around us who were clearly following the action. I glanced around and saw many of my Buzzkills assembling in squads in case it came to it.
“My name’s Medusa,” she responded. “I for the people, not the law. There’s no one so wretched they don’t deserve to be saved.”
Whew. Terrible day for rain. Had to hold back and make sure none got on my face.
There was a bright flash, then a voice over the ship’s intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Earth, home universe.” I could even feel the familiar internet sync up with my brain, managing to spoil the entirety of the current season of Game of Thrones before I ever had a chance to watch it.
That got a cheer from the part of the crowd that wasn’t caught up in our drama, as well as the Justice Rangers and the Uranals.
Warman turned. “I have to go see to a lasting peace to a war that threatened billions. You go kiss that bitch who murdered your boyfriend,” he said by way of parting shot. He headed back over to the diplomatic entourage, who seemed to quickly forget the scuffle.
Medusa wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t worry. I got you.”
The absurdity of it got a laugh from me. I hugged her back, kissed the top of her head. After a couple of minutes, she looked up. “You want to round anybody up?”
I looked over her head at the Justice Rangers. The pink one stared at me. I raised one of Dame’s hands to give her the finger, then answered Medusa. “I want to go home to my family and hug my daughter.”
There I was, a woman on a mission, deep in Uranus. It got a bit hairy, I’ll admit. Even a bit nutty at times, some might say.
The heroes wanted to wait, but the revolution wouldn’t listen to them. It had too much momentum. The heroes talked to whoever was supposedly leading this thing, only to find out they were trying to write up declarations and constitutions. They didn’t even realize the mob they supposedly led started a riot in front of the Chair and the Tower.
“At least we know where this weapon or bomb is,” Gorilla Awesome told me. He loaded a hefty backpack onto me. They’d stuck at least one of pretty much any tool not nailed down in this thing, and a couple that had been torn off of where they’d been fixed. Unless something goes really wrong, I don’t know what I’d need a vice for. I have too many already. The oxygen tank was probably a good idea, though.
I don’t know how Dame had this thing upgraded, but I was glad she figured out a way to remain in contact with people while still going intangible. When I first encountered her, the intangibility had an issue with electricity. My internal power source had a heck of an effect on it once. Nothing like that to worry about in Dame’s body, just a computer brain. That’s what prompted me to improve it. Er, her.
Still a bit of a mixup from time to time, what with me sharing her brain at the moment. You can’t really make this work without some feedback from the other direction.
I could have dropped from the Domeship and gone intangible for quicker results, but I thought it’d suck to overshoot and keep going. From what the brain trust of heroes told me, it’d be a really bad idea to go too deep into Uranus. Something about portions of the mantle consisting of liquid diamond. I really want to see that kind of shit, but without being subject to the kinds of pressures that would liquefy diamond.
They flew me down while some of the heroes deployed to try to slow down the rioting. I hopped off, went intangible, and did my best to swim down through everything. Someone, keeping track of everything, noted, “Dame is loose. Alpha, Beta, Gamma team are deploying.”
It didn’t take too long to sweep through sewers and foundations. I was blind below that. “Further down,” Gorilla Awesome urged in my ear. “Left. No, the direction to the left of how you just moved.”
I had to stop and think that one through, then shifted. “Ok, I’ve turned so that’s my left now. Let’s get going.”
“I hope the light works,” he said.
It took a good hour of “swimming” through a bunch of minerals and ice I couldn’t see in the first place. I felt uneven, jagged things passing through me painlessly. The texture changed when I reached the end of that half hour. Solid and dense, then a layer of solid and slightly porous. I followed that down to a floor of dense metal. Past that was air. I tried to trace it out and found enough room to at least turn solid. I’d been so long without real mass and wasn’t used to the weight of the backpack I’d been loaded down with, so I fell as soon as I turned solid, cussing.
Gorilla Awesome was alarmed. “Dame, are you hurt?”
“Just wasn’t used to so much sass in my mass after all that.” I breathed in through the oxygen mask and turned on my headlamp. It’d be a big room for a house, like a living room, but square, with these columns built into the wall. In the middle was a big, black egg on a stand. “Congratulations… their secret weapon was a dragon’s egg.”
“Really?” Awesome asked.
I rolled my eyes, “Probably not, but it looks like an egg.” I started to approach, but I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I looked down. Nope, hadn’t been stabbed. I didn’t smell anything if there was something in the air. “Ugh, that’s not good.”
“What?” Awesome asked.
“I hope there wasn’t some kind of poison or viral agent down here… feels like I just got knifed in the chest.” I felt something warm spray all over me. “It’s for real like someone really, 100% stabbed me.” I fell to my knees, trying to take a breath even though I was fine on my end.
“Dame, what’s wrong?”
“Check on Gecko!” I coughed up. I took a minute or two to gather myself. I felt cold in spite of being deep underground. I crawled over to the stand and reached up to adjust the device attached to my ear, setting it to Venus’s frequency. “Boopsie, talk to me. Something’s wrong.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I think it might be my body, up there in the infirmary.”
“What? Gecko?” she asked. “Dame warmed me you could take over her. How long have you been in there?”
“The night I went into a coma. I don’t know how that happened. I just woke up in Dame when she had that head injury with you.” I took a second to remember her body didn’t have trouble keeping air in her lungs. “I don’t know why. I tried going back.”
“I’m on the ground. I can’t-, I’m nowhere near the infirmary. They’re checking on you. They’ll save you, alright. Stay with me.”
“Keep talking, Boopsie.” I focused on the sound of her voice as I forced my way to the stand and dropped the backpack. I fumbled around in there and pulled out a small blowtorch and a box of matches. When I looked up, I noticed a thin, vertical line of light cast on the stand that certainly didn’t match my head lamp. I turned to look and saw a column cracked open. Out stepped a nude, grey-skinned man. The column insides looked like a padded pod with some computers, wires, and tubes hanging up.
The clone looked at me. “You are here to activate the device?”
I nodded. “Yep. That’s completely why I’m here. I’ll handle the bomb. You go back to sleep and I’ll handle it from here.”
His eyes glowed red. Oh, well, if it’s a fight, that I might be able to handle. I whimpered as I stood up. Venus’s voice came through loud and clear in my ear, “You can’t fight. That’s Dame’s body. You’re already dying, please don’t take her with you. We’ll figure something out.”
With friends like this, it’s a wonder I’m even trying to stop this planet being blown up. I mean, I technically get everything I’d want anyway if I just kinda “Oops” the doomsday device into activation. I might have to sacrifice Dame’s body to do so, though, which would look like a lot better option if mine wasn’t dying. But then, if my body dies, my mind’s going with it anyway.
I started shaking my head from side to side, concentrating on a beat. “I got this feeling on a Summer day when you were gone. I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn. I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs. I crashed my car into the bridge.”
The grey man shifted so my back wasn’t to the egg, then flew at me. “I don’t care!” I yelled at him and activated Dame’s intangibility bracer. He flew through me and smacked into the hard metal walls. “I love it.”
Now, I managed to at least sway in time to the music. It helped me concentrate. I went solid and grabbed the goody bag they’d packed me. I tossed it into his arms and rushed him. He caught the bag and then had to put up with his attacker leaning on him. I pulled out a pair of pliers and squeezed his nose with them. “This’ll help with the smell. It can’t be pleasant this far down Uranus.”
He half groaned, half growled and grabbed my hand in an iron grip. Yep, definitely superpowers. He pulled my hand away and the pliers dropped. “You will diEEE!” he screamed and hopped up and down, dropping the bag. It hit my other hand that had caught the dropped pliers and knocked them loose, causing me the pliers’ hold on his exposed nut sack. He threw me at the opposite wall, hard. I phased through it.
He stepped away from the wall, looking around, then walked toward the doomsday device. My voice reverberated out from around him as I maneuvered through the solid exterior. “You’re on a different road, I’m in the Milky Way. You want me down on Earth, but I am up in space.” I poked my head out from above him. He looked up and zapped the ceiling with red lightning. I dropped down, only turning solid once I smacked into the floor, and scrabbled to grab the egg thing. Then the bracer went on again and I fell through the floor with it.
The next time I sang, it was from a corner. “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch.” He turned and tried to zap me again. He hit the egg, blowing a piece of it off and exposing circuitry.
He ran and slid on his knees to cup the egg against him, checking it over. I came out of the floor behind him and grabbed for that blow torch, then the matches. The flicking of matches got his attention and he turned in time to see fire. Glorious fire! He got an eye full, and practically screamed with joy at the sight. Or maybe that was pain. As happy as I was to hurt him, I still felt like someone was turning me into a sub sandwich, so the feelings were a bit confused in me as well. But I held him there, grabbing the back of his head to force his face against the torch. The first punch to Dame’s chest made my back pop. The second made something inside break. He didn’t finish the third, because by that point I’d burnt a hole through half his head. I was almost burning my hand, but I waited until his body stopped wiggling. I let drop to the side and I shut the torch off, falling to my knees.
I didn’t even have the decency to wheeze for as bad as I felt. I fell forward, over his feet and against the shell of the egg-shaped device. It sparked a bit, but zapped me. So, it still had power. I would have to handle this with delicacy. “Venus, I’m feeling kinda fucked. But not in the good way. I’m feeling like I got mounted by a horse and nobody bought me dinner first.” I began tugging stuff out, breaking shit. Truth be told, doomsday devices usually pretty sensitive. It began to whine at one point and I noticed vibrations, but then I got the blowtorch reignited. I held it up to the exposed portion and began to burn my way through it. It snapped, crackled, popped, and stopped vibrating.
I celebrated by tossing the torch aside and laying down for a nap.
When I awoke, it was to Venus’s voice in my ear. “Gecko? Are you still there?”
I groaned, putting a hand to my chest, by which I meant Dame’s chest. “Still here.” At this point, I couldn’t tell which body the pain was coming from, I just knew I was tired of it. “Tell the Buzzkills… have a syringe ready for me.”
I had been worried I was going to die there, next to some egg that someone buried in Uranus. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but neither was the thought of those dickweeds in the Justice Ranger outfits getting the last laugh, or being abandoned by heroes who loathed my presence, or the thought of what would happen to my daughter without me there. So I decided I wasn’t sleeping anymore until I clawed my way out of Uranus and into the light again. I vowed to rise again. Plus, coming back from the dead always gives a person serious cred for building their own cult.
Finding the way out was easy enough. I went up. It was all the time spent injured, even if it was made easier by phasing through crap. When I reached the surface, I left the radio sending an SOS and just laid there, trying not to breathe too hard.
I woke up this time and held myself with four arms in my own body, glad to be back. Fuck that whole “toppling the government” celebration the heroes were having with the resident Ewoks of the Butt Planet. I couldn’t get a good read on what exactly happened. There was talk of tarring and feathering, but also drawing and quartering.
Still no sign of Dame waking up on her own, though.
I don’t know why I felt like checking in on Psycho Gecko. They have us on a rotation system where we spend a few hours on duty, then come back to help. They have even less time out than when they go out on patrol. It used to be, they’d go out, hang out on rooftops, and eventually find something to stop. We’re all being zipped to and fro to hot spots where the work or fighting is almost constant. I’m mostly used for search and rescue, and scouting.
I was scared at first; I’m sure as shit not a fighter. I haven’t been scared since the head injury. More… sad, I guess? And angry. God, so angry. I didn’t think I hated them so much. If it was just the soldiers who shoot at us, that would be understandable. But I pulled a mother and her child from wreckage and wanted to slap the hell out of that crying baby. I wanted to yell at the woman and tell her this was all her fault, too. I didn’t want to be there, risking my life for people who let all this happen when I could be home.
I don’t know why I’m thinking of home so much. Home’s a penthouse paid for with stolen money because I didn’t want to live off money from those hermits with the god complex. But that wasn’t the only weirdness to happen to me. I had an incident while scouting.
They needed me to see how the soldiers were arrayed near this Perilous Tower place and the Consul’s Chair. They named their palace after a seat. I bet it’s because it had a humble name a long time ago. The oldtimers who say they’re gods talk about that stuff. “I remember when Stonehenge was nothing but a bunch of druids sitting around on rocks doing rituals.”
I got a good look, but I was sneaking around the streets circling the Chair when a group of armored soldiers with jetpacks landed around me. I normally play this safe. I could activate my bracer and go underground without issue. I turned it on and threw a punch at the nearest of the five soldiers around me. I had a thought that I didn’t know how many it would take to kick my ass, but I knew they didn’t bring enough.
I had ideas about grabbing guns, choking people, snapping necks, but the soldiers around me opened fire through me. Didn’t do shit to me, but they got themselves good. Their armor stopped most of it. I went solid long enough to grab for one’s gun. His strap stopped me from pulling it free, so instead I smashed it into his throat and sent him splaying. Another raised his gun, sans strap. I twisted it free of his grip, phased, and held the gun out so the receiver poked through his head. When I went solid, the gun did too.
He landed next to one of the people who hadn’t tanked bullets as well as the others, leaving me two more to play with. Play? The fuck am I doing “playing” with soldiers? No respawn, no GG. Like, when one of them pulled a knife and tried to stab me in the pancreas. I grabbed it, twisted his wrist, stomped on his ankle, then drove it into his throat. The warm blood splattering me snapped me the rest of the way out of whatever was going on with me.
I went insubstantial and ran. I stopped after what felt like a mile. I don’t know. I work out, but I don’t marathon run and why the fuck am I talking about my workout routine? I fucking killed those guys. They had visors and armor and I couldn’t see their faces but they were probably human people. Even those grey fucks are human, maybe.
It took a minute before the trembling stopped. I wanted to say it was emotion, but I knew it was adrenaline. I’d be fine. I probably didn’t even kill that one with how weak I am now. That thought convinced me that, more than anything, I needed to get off the ground. Because I realized, holy shit, I was critiquing that shit mentally. I knew I could do better, but thought that was a pretty sweet ankle kick considering the boots they had on. And that’s why I took a deep breath and screamed for a moment. Then I called up the ship and told them to I was done and to get me the hell out of there.
When I got back onto the ship, I headed for the medical ward. I heard someone calling for me back in the docking bay, but I needed drugs and shrinks and some electroshock therapy. Lots of electroshock. Lots of drugs. I remember when they wanted to put me on some when I was a teenager. They thought I was too willful. The people at the program… my parents? What program? I was remembering two different sets of events. What. The. Fuck?
I headed for the beds. I needed to lay down, that’s all. I ran over to the bed next to Psycho Gecko and tried to collect myself. I laid back, tried to take my mind off this, whatever this was. I started wondering if I’d see those guys in my dreams, but knew I wouldn’t. A weird little phrase occurred to me. I don’t know if I’m a woman dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am a woman. Don’t know where that came from. I know who I am. I…
A lot of shit hit me at once that made the whole “murderer” thing affect me even less than it already was. The me in the mirror didn’t match the me inside, again. This time, instead of being hairy and masculine, it’s because the me outside was Dame. I’ve spent a few days dreaming I was a butterfly. I’m a Gecko instead. I groaned, looking over at my body.
I sensed a presence and looked up near the doorway. It was one of the Justice Rangers, checking in on my body. He wasn’t paying me any mind. Kinda emblematic, I guess. My past is always there. I’m always tied to it. Venus thinks I could be better. Do I dare entertain the thought that she’s right? And what then? Give it an actual go? Abandon my daughter and my empire? Even abandon whatever this is with Venus? That’s the same thinking that drove me into my cowardice when I had a time machine. I didn’t make things better because I thought of what things were like now.
So leaving aside all that, I could just leave my body on life support. Let go of my past to try being a better person.
I know, I know, dear readers. It seems downright laughable for me to seriously consider. Of all people, I’m the one who pondered making a real and earnest change. Seeing what I could be if I let go and began again.
I sighed to myself, because it occurred to me that if any part of me really wants to be better, that means not hijacking some other person’s body and taking over her life permanently. I got up and pushed past the Ranger while telling him, “Stop staring, asshat.”
I found a seat in an area where people might not suddenly and catastrophically need beds, and tried slipping back into me. Nope. Well, shit. That couldn’t be good. I reached up and felt the stitches on my, or at least Dame’s, head. Maybe something got messed up in there, combined with falling asleep at the wrong time? Questions for later.
I went to go grab some food, giving my comatose body some side eye. I’m gonna be hungry as fuck when I wake up, but Dame needed to eat for now. It was there, while grabbing myself cloned, cooked meat patty and green beans so pale they were teal, that I saw Venus sitting and reading something on her phone.
“Surprised you get coverage here,” I said as I sat beside her at the table. Luckily, no matter the universe, humans sitting and eating leads to a limited number of options. It’s a lot easier to explain than all the English over here.
“Hey Dame,” she said, covering her mouth as she talked. She swallowed before shooting me a smile. “Heard you had some trouble.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like you wouldn’t believe. I actually need to tell you about something real quick.”
She looked to the doorway, where Gorilla Awesome bounded in. Gorillas running at you tend to draw attention. That goes double if they can talk and built their own jetpack. “I’ve found the reason they invaded! It’s that damn Gecko’s fault again, too.”
Venus sighed and looked down at her plate for a moment before collecting herself and asking Gorilla Awesome, “So Honky Tonk won that bet you two had?” Awesome snorted and pulled a seat away so he could join us on the other side of the table. Venus focused on him. “Did you run over here during my break just to remind me my girlfriend’s the devil?”
Aww… that’s the sweetest thing she’s ever said about me.
Gorilla Awesome shook his head. “Would that were the case. No. It was in the same series of messages that alerted us to a major problem. They were curious by the weapon used to attack Executor Paldrin’s province. They were relieved it wasn’t what they initially suspected it to be, but an attack that cuts them off from dimensional travel was still considered a grave danger to them. They are heavy importers of raw materials. They can’t survive otherwise. Most distressing for us, they suspected it was a mobile version of what they term the ‘Spite Solution’.”
“Let me guess, they kill everyone.” I volunteered. “You don’t call something a ‘Solution’ without a lot of people dying.”
Awesome nodded slightly. “Yes. There was an uprising on Earth. A political rival from a family with superpowers suddenly grew in strength and threatened to depose the Consuls. Because the rival, the Consuls, and most of the Senate were on Earth at the time, nobody ultimately knows if the Consuls used it to spite their enemy or if someone else used the opportunity. All these Consuls know is the Earth is a slowly-spreading lifeless asteroid field. Despite that, they have completed a similar device on Uranus.”
Venus jumped up. “Next time lead with the doomsday device they currently have!”
“Sorry!” Gorilla Awesome raised his damn, dirty paws. “But the good news is, we know where it is.”
“Where?” Venus asked, sitting back down.
“A mile beneath the Chair building. Completely surrounded by ammonia ice, blocks of methane, diamond cement, and metal plate so that no person could get in and out,” Awesome answered.
Venus looked to me. Gorilla Awesome did, too. After a moment, I figured it out, “Oh, right, if only we knew someone who could just phase down about a mile and do something to mess with it.”
Venus patted my arm. “Thank you for offering. You’re a dear.”
Thoughts of Dame and Venus were interrupted by a gorilla with a Ph.D. Telling me, “Don’t worry. We will talk you through the disarming process. This is an area where I would prefer having Psycho Gecko awake if at all possible, but it’s probably best we let sleeping bitches lie.”
Gee, thanks. Nice to know what people say when I’m not around. Little do they know the person they’re insulting is the one preparing to plunge into Uranus to save everyone.
I have to revise my opinion of these rebels. Or perhaps it’s the political rivals I shouldn’t have underestimated. They spread the word that the Consuls didn’t have that much force behind them. People demonstrated. It’s an odd verb to use, especially as protesters often have to hide their identities to avoid being attacked later by paramilitary forces. Nah, what they’re demonstrating is their displeasure. Light enough cars on fire, the people in charge start to realize they messed up.
They didn’t start with fire. First, there were shouts. When the cops started beating them, they brought out the sticks and bricks. Then the soldiers brought out guns, and the protesters went in with fire. Then the heroes arrived to save the day.
It was always something that annoyed me about them. Heroes save people, sure, but they’re mainly known for upholding the laws. Even if those laws are unjust. Refusing to take a lives, when it would be the best solution. I don’t have to think too hard to come up with a few people whose deaths would make the world better.
A better world… yeah, it sure did a lot of improving, didn’t it? Fuck, we went from being invaded by other planets to other dimensions. No use worrying about that distraction at the moment.
So the heroes arrived to save the day. They put themselves between civilians and soldiers, to save the citizens of an empire that tried to conquer them. They threw soldiers around, pulled guns away, whisked people from underneath danger’s blade. And they didn’t kill. I thought I changed them at one point.
So many had been brainwashed by the Claw. I couldn’t beat him, but I freed the heroes and villains under his control. They had the power to do what I couldn’t, but I figured they’d all get a thirst for blood in them. They’re saving their enemies. I saw it from the Domeship: a soldier tried to beat a protester with the butt of his rifle. A glowing acoustic guitar stopped it, and Honky Tonk Hero kabonged the soldier to the ground. He helped up the protester, guided them to safety, and stopped another one from smashing a downed soldier’s head in with a brick. It was like that all over the planet, including the capital.
And they were failing. I think they had just about everybody deployed. Heroes, most of their defectors. That was why I was there. They could either keep more folks around as bridge crew to make sure this thing stayed in the air, or I could take over. The only group they hadn’t used, per my orders, were the Buzzkills. The heroes were more than happy to put themselves in danger. They can’t make that decision for my gals.
I warped the ship over a city called Owa. An explosion blew apart something in the street. “Toasty!” I said to no one in particular. I called down to the team there. “Major Tom to Ground Control. Everything ok down there? It’s looking a bit hot on the streets.”
“This is Pinion.” Right, flying super. Purple and light blue costume with fabric wings. Likes to throw feather-shaped knives, but she’s a hero. “They broke out the mortars. We need help.”
Whoever had that smart idea wasn’t getting it out to their buddies, but that didn’t do much for Pinion and her team. I opened up communications. “This is Gecko. Pinion needs reinforcement. Is there anyone available? Also, beware of mortars.”
“Syncopate here. I think we have this. Give me-” He went staticy for a minute. Syncopate… the guy has these little dishes around his cuffs to help concentrate sonar powers. He sounded out of breath when he checked in a couple seconds later. “This clone unit is tying us down. I’m sorry. I think we need some help now.”
I looked over at the Buzzkills standing at attention, then looked back at the situation. I cut the transmission to the heroes and looked to the Buzzkills again. “This part of it isn’t our business, so I don’t expect y’all to follow orders without questions. This is voluntary.”
“Father Empress,” said one of the Buzzkills as she stepped forward. Quite an odd title there, made possible thanks to my gender situation. “We are not only drones. We have been watching the situation as well. What the heroes are doing helps all of us. I will assemble squads to deploy and help them, first in force at the most dire hot spots, then moving to the rest. We will make you proud.”
I turned to keep an eye on the Domeship’s view screen, even though I didn’t need to with my body directly connected to its central computer. “Thank you, daughter. Be safe. Let me know when you’re ready to warp to the next hot spot.”
She and the other guard bowed, and they left. I kept my mouth shut and digitally generated the transmission when I informed the heroes. “Buzzkills are preparing to deploy. Pinion, you’re up first. Then Syncopate. All teams, keep me abreast of any trouble that pops up. We’re working on the worst spots first, moving onto others.”
A text appeared in my HUD from Venus. “Nice to see ur joining fight.”
I rolled my eyes and texted back. “Aren’t you too busy punching to type?”
“How do u no I’m not braining it?” she asked.
“Because if you were using a connection to it instead, you wouldn’t be stuck in text-speak. Fight first. Flirt later.”
“Never stop u before.”
That gave me a brief smile before the Buzzkill runner came in. “They are away.”
“That was quick,” I said. The Buzzkill didn’t say anything. She was conspicuous in her lack of speech. “You were planning for this.”
“We want to make you proud and protect our hive. We run maneuvers, we train. We plan. We are ready to fight for what we care about, Father Empress,” she said.
Well, nice to see my half-bug bumble babies got brains. If I’m going to send them into a fight to help heroes save people who wanted me dead, at least one side in all this is doing some thinking. “Pinion, help is on the way.”
“Thanks, Gecko,” she said. I put her gratitude aside. A bright white light saw us over to the next hotspot, Poarch.
“Syncopate, Gecko,” I announced. “Still alive?”
“Alive and rockin’,” he said.
I tried to remain all business during the flight of the bumblebees.
The main fighting ended quickly in most spots. Others raged on. The people, emboldened by their new protectors, refused to back down. They encircled government buildings and garrisons. I lost track of everywhere I shuttled people. It just kept going, with me as a glorified ferry. Get up, disconnect long enough to go to the bathroom, grab some nutrient-filled cloned food, and back to being the ship’s brain.
The hardest nut to punch was the capital. The seat of the Republic’s power also held its largest concentration of forces on the planet. The protests and riots that broke out there were nearly stomped out while the Buzzkills were busy with the heroes forcing other guard units to surrender and lay down arms. And then while the heroes tried to arrange for some sort of protective force to guard those other areas that wasn’t going to start a new massacre.
Meanwhile, I stood, sat, or even knelt in one place. It got so bad, I actually passed out. I didn’t realize it until I heard Venus calling out. I opened my eyes and realized I was laying down in a building. It was night, things were on fire, and a portion of the wall was gone. A hand gripped the floor. I checked and that was where Venus’s voice came from. She was holding on with one hand while holding onto a person with the other. She tried adjusting he grip, but the floor bent a bit more.
“Dame, get her,” she told me. Just great. I can’t get a break even when I pass out. At least I was off my ass, even if it wasn’t my ass I wore now. I didn’t even think about it, hitting the phase bracer and passing through the floor to land on the one below. I grabbed the guy Venus held and pulled him away from the edge and the damaged structure. Venus landed near us, and checked the guy’s head and neck. “I think he’ll be fine.”
She turned to me and I saw a wince underneath her visor. “That looks pretty nasty. You should get back to the doctors.” She reached out, a flashlight on her wrist snapping on. “Get that looked at.”
“Tis only a flesh wound,” I told her.
Gorilla Awesome’s voice broke through what had been a nice moment that had me wondering if I could steal a smooch. Dame told Venus about the whole brain puppet thing, I’m sure. Either way, the supersmart jetpack gorilla told us, “Something has happened on the ship. We need a skeleton grew again.”
“What’s up, Awesome?” asked Venus.
“I found Psycho Gecko unconscious at the controls. I expect it’s sleep deprivation. She won’t wake up no matter how hard or often I slap her. The Buzzkills are moving her to quarters, but I require aid to fly the ship.” Well that didn’t sound good.
“Jesus, is this the first anyone’s relieved her?” Venus asked. A burst of light outside showed darkened smudges all over her power armor. I checked my own self out and found Dame’s costume had a few tears as well. My feet ached, my head throbbed, and my muscles were all sore from days of physical activity with little rest. I was all jittery, too. That’d be the adrenaline. I leaned against what had been a table and breathed in and out, trying to control this body.
Gorilla Awesome sighed. “I am going to implement full rotation. It will allow us to shuttle the wounded more efficiently, and allow us to rest outside of a warzone.”
“Good idea. Let the bees know,” she looked to me. “You should go up, too.”
“I-” I started to refuse, but then my head pain roared forward like a bull and I focused on wincing and getting through the pain. Even if it’s me feeling it instead of Dame, I decided it was a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, the heroes and my Buzzkills had pretty much run themselves ragged like this. Warman stayed to fight, along with some of the supers who didn’t need to worry about that so much. And I passed out when being flown back up.
I dreamed I was back on the ground, scouting out the soldiers and finding people trapped in buildings to rescue. Ugh, and I still felt like crap when I woke up, but at least I woke. I was getting some of the blood out of my hair when I heard some of the doctors talking about the casualties. That crazy bitch Psycho Gecko didn’t even do any fighting and she ended up in a coma.
I looked at myself in a mirror for a moment while my body as a whole complained. For just a moment, I thought I didn’t look right, like I wasn’t looking back at my own face. I shook it off, and headed off to grab some chow before I went back down. Whoever said there’s no rest for the wicked didn’t count on the egotistical empress of assholes snoozing while Uranus is on fire.
I don’t know much about the culture of this other dimension, or the history of their people. It IS another dimension, I’ve confirmed that much. This bunch we’re facing were a colony of Earth’s until something happened to Earth while one of the Consuls happened to be here for a visit. I picked that much up while skimming their version of the internet here. There’s suspicion that whatever happened to that Paldrin guy, and now our appearance, might be like that. Some of that involves a theory that we destroyed the Earth, but most people wonder if we’re being used to make someone inconvenient disappear. It’s a stretch.
That’s why, despite being snubbed by the heroes, I felt it was my duty to spy on their meetings with the local resistance. Seemed to be your standard bunch of bomb throwers. That’s not a statement against bomb throwers, but they’re always going to be a minority even among people opposed to whoever’s in power. I mean, if the people who want to use violence to overthrow a government are the numerical majority, then the situation’s usually either more openly violent or the opposition group is past tense.
I’ve thrown plenty of bombs before. The sheer magnitude of bomb is why I’m a pariah in my original universe.
After their little meeting of hearing all about how they will gather their allies and prepare to march on the capital, the heroes showed them out of the room politely and Gorilla Awesome pointed out:”That group is a cabal of extremists who would give up before they get within a hundred miles of the capital. We need mainstream support.” He turned to Raan, the defector, who was still in the room. “Has the government committed any atrocities we could exploit?”
Raan shrugged. “They’re wasting money and lives in multiple wars in other dimensions. Consul Gar Kiteer of the consuls used to frequent parties of a patrician found to be engaging in pedophile sex slavery, some of them at Consul Kiteer’s villas. Some of the victims came forward to attest Kiteer raped them at the parties, and are now in hiding after he said he would protect his followers if they made those accusations go away. Consul Ma’Du’He has persecuted the serfs, the women, and minority religious groups, putting many into camps meant to deport them to the provinces while tearing their children away from them and giving them to party supporters. Their political rivals in the Senate recently passed a non-bindng pledge to remain civil while opposing them.”
Gorilla Awesome sighed. “This is going to be difficult. We need to destabilize this world without causing reprisals or extensive loss of life.”
If that’s not the beginning of a “be careful what you wish for” story, I don’t know what is.
I stopped eavesdropping through Dame’s hijacked ears and sat up where I’d been slumped in an eating area. I had my armor again, but it’s a pain to clean at the moment, so I wore some of the coveralls like they have on the ship.
I looked around for someone native to this strange new world and found them. Crew discipline is shit now that they’ve defected to side that didn’t try to murder them last, so I found a guy out of uniform and in clothes. I don’t know if you’d call it a robe or a jacket; it could have been a greatcoat with a fuzzy collar and a loose layer of extra fabric around the hips that covered pockets. I just couldn’t tell if it was some sort of robe instead.
Regardless of what he’s wearing, I sauntered over and prepared to use my feminine wiles to charm the man out of information. I pushed his tray of food to the side and sat in its place, one leg on either side of his shoulders. “Hey, wanna talk to me?”
He blushed, looking me over, but especially between my legs. “Hey, “ I told him, leaning over and tipping his head up with my chin. “My boobs are up here.”
“I see that.. what’s going on? What is this?” He at least had enough sense after the blood rush to his crotch to know this wasn’t normal.
“I just need a little bit of information and I thought I’d use you to get it,” I said. I played with some hair on his head. “I just need to know where you Uranals grow food. When I look outside, I don’t see a lot of farmland.”
“Ma’am, we’re in the air.”
Huh. A bit too much of an erection-induced intelligence drain. I leaned back and folded both pairs of arms across my chest. “Well, I did figure you grow stuff on the ground, but where?”
Another guy approached and pulled me off the table and onto his lap. “I’ll tell you where the meat comes from if it’s a mouthful of protein you’re wanting.”
I smirked and shifted myself in his lap sharply. The man let out a high-pitched wail and fell back, trying to grab at his pained crotch. I got up and sat back on the table, leaving him to hold himself and feel sorry. “As I was saying, I want to know where food is produced on Uranus. I imagine it’s well-fertilized.”
“Uh… the plants are, I guess?” the first guy responded, not entirely comprehending. “There are farm settlements. Big domes the size of cities that grow plants. Uh, and there are only a few meat labs.”
“Meat labs, you say?”
He nodded. “Labs they grow meat in. Do you have meat where you come from? It’s really neat.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ok, I think I got enough info to try and pin this down on my own.”
I could have used more help, but I wasn’t sure if he’d actually know locations, and now I knew I was looking for something like a city. I found a few nearby, actually. The biggest near this city was the August Agriculture And Meat Lab.
It was far enough away, but services by rails, like any of them else. And, after keeping an eye on its deliveries, I found out it serviced a couple of cities in the vicinity. That’d be even better for my purposes.
Getting in took some patience. Once I had my eye on August, I could see they were linked into the high speed rail network. It criss-crosses the planet, moving rapidly. It mainly stops in the big cities or those areas like the lab that are centers of production. There are smaller stops along the way, but the trains just slow down while mechanical arms swap out containers or attach a new car to the train. The lab is always sending something off, so it’s always got some of its cars coming back. I just had to help myself to a bundle of heavy clothing and an abandoned jetpack. Next thing I know, I’m being shipped into the facility and sneaking my way past workers.
The meat labs looked like something out of hellraiser. On the outer edges of it, it almost looked like skinned skeletons without any organs, but the “bones” were some sort of fatty, stretchy substance, and it lacked things like skulls that people don’t eat. They twitched, which turned out to be from the frame it was in moving and stretching the meat. As I went further in, the meat thinned down. And here I was with nothing to blow it all up with. But I had a pretty good idea where to find some.
The fields were under a big dome that gave glowed red. Were I superman, I’d probably have felt a bit weak. The plants loved it. From a high view, I saw it all divided up into sections radiating out from the central lab hub. Potatoes, corn, various roots and shrubs and so on. And, right there near me, the supply shack. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff they put in fertilizers.
The dome got a big hole in it to let in the natural cold of Uranus. Cold, cold methane. Some sort of secondary shield came up to quarantine the area, until it failed for some mysterious reason that let a lot more in.That just ruined the veggies, but what about the meat? Well, I loaded up a train car with as much of my new special sauce as I could and shoved off, or whatever the engineer lingo is. I unfurled the sails, powered up the warp core, fired my thrusters, and the train left the station. Luckily, they built the things to be fairly user friendly. I got the hell out of there, waited until I got to a safe distance, then waited even further before blowing the secondary explosions.
I felt it. I think the people on the Domeship probably felt that one. It didn’t derail my train, but I was also disappointed it didn’t do more to the mag-lev line behind me. Because while centralizing a food supply is excellent as far as quality control, efficiency, and reducing pollution, it creates a heck of a chokepoint. Strike hard at just a few locations and it affects how much food a lot of different places get.
I road that train on and on, through a city without stopping, ignoring a lot of calls from Venus in the process. My goal was to get a bit closer to the capital, but then someone figured out it was me. I saw these things catch up to me in my loan car, like helicopters if they had a big disk instead of rotors and a cockpit like a jet. “Cease and desist at once!” called out a voice from within. I ignored it and kept going, but tried to keep an eye on methods of escape. If I had to escape, I’d be aiming for the ground. They’d shoot me out of the sky, and all these cyborg parts don’t mix well with hopping on mag-lev track.
Would they shoot? It’d still cause an explosion, but there’s a difference between an explosion way out between settlements and one inside a city. But there was still a lot of traffic around, zipping to and fro. The closest oncoming rails had a line of train cars oncoming. I tried to get an idea on timing and speed, overclocking part of my brain. And then, when the time was right, I fired off the jetpack.
The wind was killer, and the magnetic forces at play left me blinded and hurting in the cold. I was also really glad that however these packs worked, they didn’t ignite the methane around me. I bounced into the side of a train car, scrabbled, scraped my fingernails along it, and tried turning my body to keep up at least long enough to find the rear entrance. I flopped against a low rail, suddenly glad I no longer had nuts. Grabbing on (to the rail, not the area where I used to have nuts), I pulled myself over it and felt along. The door opened, letting me into a cabin where I could suddenly see again and fans vented methane out.
It was a cargo car. Consumer electronics, as far as I could tell. I gave us extra time to get away before I remote-detonated the car I’d just left, taking out a few lines of the track way behind us. I settled in behind some boxes and finally answered Venus.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I smiled. “Agitating. Figured I’d make myself useful.”
“Are you ok?” she asked.
“Perfectly fine, though I advise giving extra time on any detonators in this atmosphere.”
“We saw news of explosions at a food lab. Did you get what you were after?” she asked.
“Yeah. If people aren’t agitated, they will be when there’s less food to go around. And they’re not going to be too fond of damage to the transportation network. But I got an idea for you. I need a smaller craft, something where I can hijack some train cars but not destroy everything. Remove their food, provide it to allies.”
She laughed at that one. “You’re gonna be so much trouble. I’ll see what we can do up here. Maybe we can play good cop to your bad cop, pretend we oppose what you’re doing.”
“Just don’t forget the handcuffs. And buckle up, sweetums. Shit’s about to go down on Uranus.”
They didn’t try to hold onto Vietnam as hard as I thought. After I took down Universe Man, they began to pull back even further. Forget cullings in the countryside; they stayed to the cities, and then further to just few cities, moving north to try and extract from the country. The Vietnamese chewed them up along the way. They’re good at that.
They were less effective at dealing with the Praetors. There were still two left. One of them tried to cover the escape of a column with a premature winter. Fog, snow, and sleet bombarded anywhere but in front of them. Hail set off landmines in advance and made it rough for ambushers to set up or stay in cover. They don’t have winters like what he was doing to the place outside of Russia. I didn’t have to kill all the enemy myself. I just had to kill the guy keeping the Vietnamese away. He was a tough one. They told stories about trying to kill this guy. They’ve sniped at him and it doesn’t go through. They tried blowing him up with grenades and rockets, but he froze them. One brave son of a gun even tried to drive over him with a tank. The Praetor picked it up and threw it on top of an ice spike. Motherfucker impaled a tank.
Sometimes I wonder if all inhabited planets out there deal with this same shit, or if Earth is different like that. No wonder polite neighbors in the universe don’t stop by so often.
Sadly, the only well-mannered path to take involved a recent idea some of the Institute figured out. Smart guys. One fellow wanted us to have an accurate kinetic bombardment system that didn’t require orbital deployment. Another lady had developed a program whereby the nanites and autofactories based on nanobuilding could be used to clean the environment by extracting lead. Near as I can tell, they both went out drinking, him to stoke his creative side and her to celebrate successfully pulling lead out of stuff. There was a mixup with their papers, a bunch of papers tossed in the air, and someone ended up in the hospital after trying to throw an ash tray at a Flyer.
I only skimmed that incident report because I was eager to get to the good stuff at the time. The guy set about making updated versions of concrete bombs and lazy dogs. The first is a bomb that’s just a solid hunk of some heavy material used either for practice or whenever you need a non-explosive bomb dropped on something. Lazy Dog is similar, but smaller, meant for anti-personnel purposes. Imagine planes filling the sky with a bunch of lead spears or that are going faster than 200 MPH when they hit.
Now imagine the wonders of digital technology and miniaturization sticking guidance systems and rocket engines on lead spears 27 feet long. He called it the Dongyemochang. For our version of a better concrete bomb, there’s the Yong Ttong.
We’re going to have to get dedicated bombers and fighters someday, but I had a Psycho Flyer flew high above the blizzard moving through Vietnam and deploy the Dongyemochang first. I was keeping an eye on them from a safe distance away, spying through drones and satellites. The spears fell in a pair of bundles, a central one locking onto the target I’d marked. Fins adjusted where it pointed and rockets fired, increasing the bundle’s velocity. It finished quickly and unlocked, magnets spreading the spears apart a bit.
Most of the spears missed the Praetor, but some of them folded the retreating soldiers in on themselves. Vlad of Romania would be impressed at the way it put a man’s face through is anus. One caught the Praetor as well, but not lethally. It took his foot off. He created a dome around himself to guard against any other spears. They’d all landed by then.
I made a note that this really isn’t the best setup for spraying a bunch of enemies from above. It can be improved. As a method of assassination, it almost worked. Emphasis on almost, and then on the launch of the Yong Ttong. The Flyer loosed the bomb, which adjusted and aimed for the dome before accelerating to 18,000 mph. If it had been pointed the other direction, it could have escaped Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, the Yong Ttong made quite an impression on our invaders and the Earth itself. But, hey, no need to bury him.
I sent off my recordings to the Institute while pulling the Dudebot out of the dust cloud. The blizzard faded, but it’d still be a cold day under that cloud.
With the death of the second Praetor, the occupiers kissed an organized retreat goodbye. They were running. They were also looting. One village the Dudebot walked through had been robbed of as much food and valuables as they could carry. Women, too. Fortunately for that bunch, the Vietnamese insurgency caught them before I could.
I knew I had another Praetor to deal with. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the hysterical retreat meant we’d get a gunship soon, so I ordered in an escape rocket. That’s the rocket with a second rocket inside it that can get me out of a rough situation. I let them fight while the Dudebot waited in the escape rocket, set to fire and home in on intense light sources with an exception made for the sun and moon, if need be. Thus, the first I knew of the gunship’s appearance was when the rocket took off. I figured I didn’t have long for the ship to fully transition to our world. Lucky it wasn’t my actual body in the thing. Humans and homo machina aren’t meant to exist at the speed it reached.
I activated the short timer on the D-Bomb the Dudebot carried. Wouldn’t do me any good if it got over there and I couldn’t set it off. Almost as soon as I did, the, rocket smashed into the hull of a fully-transitioned gunship left behind when the breach disappeared. I cussed to myself back in Ricca and deactivated the timed bomb.
I didn’t have a way to stop the gunship myself and minimize damages to Vietnam. The rocket wouldn’t move it enough. So I kicked the Dudebot out of the rocket and checked around. It landed in some sort of compartment. I started to tear my way further inward, but alarms went off. “Attack Incoming,” a feminine voice said in a neutral tone.
They were really on the ball there. I’d barely set foot in there like that. The Dudebot carved through the wall with its Nasty Surprises and stepped out into a corridor where some young-looking guy in green coveralls skidded to a stop and fell on his ass. I grabbed him through the Dudebot and lifted him level with the helmet’s triangular “eyes”.
“Where is the bridge?” I growled.
The ship’s lights dimmed momentarily. In one ear, I heard Vietnamese chatter about Ho Chi Minh City. I pulled back a bit to spy on the situation from space and found the gunship had fired on the city. And a part of Hanoi was floating through the air.
Well, crap. At least the Chinese missiles would be impacting any second. Time to 3D print another robot copy, I thought. The view of the gunship was disrupted when a new breach opened up and surrounded it with bright light. I plunged back into the Dudebot, reactivating the timer, then got the fuck out. I’m pretty sure I won’t be tossed into another dimension with my mind inhabiting a robot body, but I’m discussing this during an invasion from another dimension where a giant bee-woman suplexed a feathered triceratops. Maybe the medicine Max makes me isn’t working; maybe the rest of the world made me sane by comparison.
The gunship disappeared. The nearest missile detonated itself. I know, I know, “The Chinese just set off a nuke over Vietnam?” Fun fact: blowing them up is a decent way to disarm a nuke. They have to undergo a specific process to initiate the fission process.
People talked on this frequency, yelled on that one, cried on another. Hanoi was still floating. Ho Chi Minh was a smoking wreck. It was getting hard to make sense of everything as a disembodied digital watcher, so I tried pulling back. My confusion remained when I blinked and looked up into a smoke-filled sky next to a car. I pulled myself to my feet, looking this way and pulling my hair out of my eyes when I did so. Blonde hair, two arms, and a gadget on my forearm.
Oh, wrong body. I must have been pretty discombobulated to end up in Dame, of all people. She was something of a thief who was pretty good at finding me and not too fond of bodycounts. She also turned out to be part of the Three Hares conspiracy, and played a part in my capture and memory wipe. When I got my hands on her, I “cyberized” her brain so that I could slip in and take control any time I wanted. It did come with the side effect of her memories popping up, though.
Something else popped up though. Some bird-thing that opened a fan of colorful feathers around its neck as it opened its mouth and hissed. The thing was only about the size of a dog, but it somehow reminded me of that thing from Jurassic Park that kills the hacker who messed up the security system. Instinctively, at least as far as Dame’s instincts went, I used her device to phase into non-solid form. The dinopeacock spat at me, the spit going through me harmlessly. I walked over and unphased long enough to grab its neck with one hand and ring it. I remember one of my boyfriends taking me along hunting once, showing me how to finish off a bird. No, Dame did. I learned that trick a different way.
I tossed it aside and turned, phasing by reflex when I caught a glint of light. A raider’s sword passed right through where my neck had been, and there were two more in two more hands waiting. With a trio of raiders right in front of me, I figured I’d keep Dame’s body for a little bit. I ducked, pulling the raider’s metal skirt up. I headbutted, solidifying just long enough to make contact, then phased again and rolled through him and his friends. I spun once I got past him and went solid long enough to reach up the skirts of the two in rear who were also turning around in a circle. I held my hands, and their balls, in one place. They didn’t react so quickly and did most of the damage themselves just by turning to face me.
A sword passed through me, but it meant letting go of their balls. I backed off while one of the pair doubled over along with the one I’d headbutted. The other’s must have been fucking brass because he swung wildly while advancing on me, teeth bared. I kicked at him, turning solid just long enough to make impact. I did the same when I grabbed for his sword arm, becoming solid only once I’d taken hold of it. I slammed his forearm down on my knee. Dame’s not as strong as me, though, so I think I only sprained it. I grabbed for his sword with both hands and pulled it free, leaving my back to him. He threw his free arm around me.
I slammed my head back into his nose while bringing my heel up between his legs and calling, “Tenderizer!”
I spun the sword around and stabbed it back next to my neck. Blood splashed on the back of my neck and into my hair as the man gurgled. I quickly pulled free with the sword and went insubstantial again. The other two raiders were starting to recover and rushed me. One tackled through me. The other tried to stab me in the head. I ducked again, and thrust my sword into his belly. He gasped and looked down, then laughed at the ghostly blade that stuck in him harmlessly.
He stopped taking it lightly when deactivated my gadget. I tried tugging the sword out, pushing it along, sliding it from side to side. Finally, with a great heave, I pulled it loose with a spray of blood and the stink of opened intestines.
My hair was yanked back. I went off balance, the third raider raising his sword to my throat. I threw myself back onto him and knocked him down. The blade shifted in the fall and he slit my forehead. Fuck, Dame didn’t have my tolerance for pain. I grabbed the sword’s blade and pulled it away. I’d dropped my sword in all that, so I turned and slammed his hand into the ground. I straddled the raider, who reached up to squeeze my throat with his free hand. Meanwhile, in Dame’s weaker form, I had to use two hands to keep his sword hand where it was. I growled, leaving that to one hand. The other reached in and pulled one of his eyes out. He screamed and weakened from the pain. I shifted around, shifted around, and stomped on his sword arm. I finally pulled the sword free and used it to saw through the arm he choked me with at the elbow.
I coughed and crawled away with the sword. I kept an eye on him in case he tried anything else. He cared a lot more about the bleeding limb. The difference between us is that I recovered more quickly from choking than he did from losing half his arm. He isn’t recovering from the blade in his brain he got when I felt well enough.
While resting after that one, I looked around and found a weird little power control collar like the one I’d so recently used against Universe Man. That one didn’t look like a smaller choker, though. I laughed and slice through it with the sword. After that, I wandered around, trying to look for a safe spot to let Dame have control again. A couple streets over, I heard someone call my name. Her name. “Dame!”
A man in an elaborate black and white outfit came running up, his chest two rows of black spades. He panted, but said, “You look like shit. What happened?”
I pointed with the sword toward the direction where I’d taken out the raiders. “Bad run-in with a one-armed bandit.” And all the better I was in control when it happened, too.