Tag Archives: Dame

War On Uranus 9

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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.”

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War On Uranus 8

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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.

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War On Uranus 7

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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.

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War On Uranus 6

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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.

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War On Uranus 3

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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.”

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Manifest Screw Destiny 7

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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.

Next

Previous

Hare-Brained 11

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Previous

It didn’t help me get sleep. Maybe it was the lack of endorphins related to killing those particular people, but the tension was still there. Took something a lot stronger than Max’s medicated beer to help ease me out of it. Like some diazepam, and the soothing sounds of a Korean woman saying words in Japanese while moving around. Upon reflection, to people who don’t know about it, that probably looks like some weird fetish stuff instead of a way to relax.

I was quite surprised when I dreamed I was in some room at Master Academy. I looked down to see a pair of boobs I recognized, but only two arms, holding a power suppression collar. I looked up when I heard Venus saying, “This is a lot to ask me to believe.” We were in an office. She was seated across from myself and… Ares. I thought they found parts of his, but maybe that doesn’t matter so much. The guy had an arm of metal, as natural as if he was just made of the stuff. Perhaps he can regenerate eternal, shiny and chrome. He still looked old, but instead of wearing some old leather vest and sandals, the old man wore bronze hoplite armor, with a bronze helmet sat in his lap. Behind him, at the door, stood several other supers I recognized from around the school, and a few who I have to assume are newer ones based on context.

“After the murder of our peace delegation, I would have no other reason to come before you about this,” Ares said, glowering at her.

“That was Psycho Gecko, not me. He… she’s unreliable and paranoid,” Venus said.

“She should be. Barkiel tried to use my death to justify a measure we cannot take. When I showed myself, he called for the visitors to back him and do it by force. When that failed, he tried coup by robot and tried to destroy us with a small nuclear weapon. Something is very wrong, and I am here to offer our surrender on all your points that are possible while we uncover what has happened over the past months.”

“The god of war asks for peace,” Venus said. She took a moment to look at him. “You said he was trying to call for some measure. What’s going on? Are we about to be hit by some sort of weapon?”

Ares closed his eyes and massaged his nose with a pair of fingers. “There was a god who transgressed against the rest of us and sought to take control over the pantheons. He began consuming healers to absorb their powers and to cow us by keeping our peoples from healing. A group of them allied with the Hindu pantheon to lure him into an ancient prison for gods. The prisoners inside rebelled. It almost failed, but the last of them sealed the way out.”

“You wanted to put us in the prison?” Venus asked.

Ares shook his head, “When we first created our agreement with our human descendants and the visitors to keep our existence a secret and protect Earth, we realized the prisoner, Mot, could be what was needed to cull people with powers.”

Mot. FUUUUUCK.

Ares went on, “The visitors have been more aggressive ever since supervillains started breaking out of prisons all over the world. I think Barkiel’s snapped. Worse, he knows where Naraka is.”

“Where?” I asked as Dame.

Ares looked to me, then to Venus, “I would rather not say.”

“We can help guard it from Barkiel,” Venus said. “Consider it one of the conditions of your surrender.”

“The Hindu prison Naraka is underneath one our shrines in Varanasi, marked by a symbol of three hares chasing each other around in a circle.”

Within Dame’s mind, I got a flash of memory. Barkiel relaying a message on behalf of this Council. “Play along. Give him locations, but warn us first. We want to control where he goes instead of allowing him to pick randomly. Use this map, but not any of the sites I’ve crossed out.”

I remember the map he showed Dame on a monitor. Munich was one of the crossed-out sites. Others included the storage depot I told Venus about. Varanasi, India didn’t have any information about it, even for Dame to see.

“Dame, are you alright?” asked Venus. “Maybe you should put that back on.” She pointed to Dame’s power collar.

I smiled with Dame’s mouth. “Sure thing.” I dropped the collar accidentally on purpose, and reached for Dame’s cell while picking it back up. A ringing in my head helped bring me back to my own body that fought through the drug-induced drowsiness to answer hang up on Dame’s call.

So now I knew where Barkiel was. And, more importantly, I knew this had something to do with Mot. I injected myself with nanites to clear up the sluggishness while I put on my armor, two legs at a time. Because even when I’m a woman, I am a god among men.

I did two things on my way out of the palace. First, I left a note for Qiang, telling her I’ll be back and not to let everyone make a mess. Then I shut off the water to the kitchen sink and pulled it out of the wall. I carried it like a club as I headed to the missile base, where my ordinance technicians were already clearing space out of a missile. The techs all bowed as I helped myself into the rocket, with one ready to shut and seal the hatch of the capsule. But before he did, he asked, “Any further instructions, Empress?” I buzzed him with a pair of drones that I flew in.

“Yes, hand me those two rockets there,” I told him. He dutifully handed me a couple of those rockets a person could stand on that I’d never ended up selling as a means of personal conveyance. “Good, now prepare for trouble, and make it double, once this rocket’s blasting off again.”

He looked puzzled but nodded, “As you wish, Empress.” I fired off a message to his superiors anyway ordering Psycho Flyers deployed to India to pick me up and mop-up whatever was going to go down.

Rockets are fast, that’s for sure. You can get moving much faster than jets in these bad boys, and make all sorts of distance if you’re willing to hit the outer atmosphere. The reason they aren’t that popular a method has more to do with the fact that the human body has trouble going that fast and that high. Bones break, you have trouble breathing, there are pressure concerns. That’s not even touching on the landing. By the time the rocket itself broke off and obliterated itself, the nanites were having to extract my tailbone from my throat and patch me up. And while I could have made a capsule designed for travel given a little bit of time, I was rushing here. Venus, Ares, and the whole lot of people who are supremely pissed at me probably knew I was on my way to Naraka.

I had to beat them there, so I rushed the rocket and had to break my way out of the capsule. Two hands on the kitchen sink, and with a hand each on my rockets, I hopped out and let them slow my fall.

The Naraka Shrine was in another walled-off courtyard with tents and shakes. Folks were milling about, with the tall robots Barkiel used standing guard at the gates and doorway to the shrine. Black but for glowing red accents and a big red oval on their faces, they held up arms ending in plasma cannons as big as some people’s heads. And they were keeping them trained on the people in the courtyard, who had definitely noticed me. Some little kid was there, hopping up and down. “Look, up in the sky! Who is it?”

The robots all turned as one to aim at me, so I let go of the rockets and dropped, letting the blue plasma pass harmlessly overhead. I tried to land standing, with bent knees. The weight of the armor and force of the landing took me down to a knee. Not the best position to be in when eight big-ass robots decide you’d make a good torch.

The closest two got a rocket through their heads and collapsed. From out of my cape flew the drones, a pair of laser drones this time. They carved through the next pair who advanced on me. I used my stance to jump, then flying over a blast to knock the crap out of one of them, then turn and send the next closet smashing into the outer wall. Before it could pull itself out of the indentation it left, I had run forward and impaled it through the midsection.

Behind me, another pair of robots lined up for shots. I turned with the impaled one and caught a pair of blasts with its body, watching him melt away with each shot. The rockets looped around in the sky and came down, tearing through their heads and torsos to pin the wreckage to the ground. I dumped the remains of the impaled robot next to them and quipped, “Vlad to see me?”

I spun when I saw the Hares coming closer, but they didn’t SEEM hostile. One older man raised his hands up. “Thank you! We thought he would kill us before the Council could send help?”

“Who?” I asked.

He pointed into the shrine. “He’s one of the Visitors; said he was the Captain now. He ordered his robots to keep us under guard for what comes next.”

Food for Mot. Yummy. I shared Barkiel’s desire to see them dead, but if any of them had powers, it’d just make Mot stronger, IF he got out. And he wasn’t supposed to get out. I was supposed to have had 30 years to prepare for him, according to the Future Venus from that timeline who spared my life in the hopes it would change the future. So the timeline’s changed… yay.

I headed in and found more robots. Less sarcastic yay! I turned a corner and found myself facing a couple of them guarding a door. I jumped up and hooked my legs around one’s neck, twisting around to wrap a pair of my arms around the second’s neck. I’d hoped to twist the heads off, but I couldn’t bring enough strength to bear for that. Instead, we all tumbled down. They both aimed their cannons at me, so I grabbed them and kindly adjusted their aim just in time to see them put holes in each other.

That room had more captives who were eager to get out of there and I let them. Mot and Barkiel were more important.

Down the hallway, down a staircase, because if they’d imprisoned someone in the air I’d have noticed. Trailing drones, I found myself in a long, dark corridor with a pair of heavy stone doors halfway open on the other end and a couple robots on the other side. They spotted me. Instead of trying to fight, they started pushing the doors closed on me. The drones began to move in a circle, chasing each other in front of me, lasers carving through the door. I charged up the energy sheaths on all four gauntlets as I ran.

When I hit the cut portion of the door, it flew inward, nailing those robots to the opposite wall, which looked to be rough cave wall. To my right was a gentle stone slope that humanity hadn’t built, though it had left skidmarks on. Tread marks, I mean.

I also heard the sound of fighting from up ahead. I started charging the energy sheaths on my upper arms just in case. Around the bend, I saw Apollo hopping around, all nimbly-bimbly, like a cat. He had on a leather outfit with a skirt like something they’d expect me to wear in a fantasy game, but he just jumped around shooting his light arrows from his bow a gleaming blue and nickel machine menace.

It was Barkiel, I saw, in walker armor. Like with power armor, it’s my hands and feet in the boots. His armor was a good twelve feet tall, with his head sticking out of the neck. He probably had his arms and legs down the arms and legs of the armor, but he wouldn’t lose a hand if it did. I thought his exposed head would make him easy pickings until a light arrow sparked and disappeared against a dome that appeared out of nowhere around his head when it got close. Apollo reached out with his spare hand and another field lit up, glowing red, tight around Barkiel’s face.

The alien laughed. “Like my latest apparatus?” A grenade shot up from over his shoulder, bounced against the roof of the cave, and exploded into a thick cloud of black smoke. He jumped to the side, jets igniting on the soles and belt of the armor. When the smoke cleared, Apollo had taken up a new position but was firing nowhere near Barkiel.

The real Barkiel had raised both arms toward Apollo, the ends glowing. Trailing sparks, I skidded between his legs, bouncing my head off the invisible field as I passed too close to him. When he fired, the energy sheaths around my gauntlets absorbed some of the power for the suit’s back-up batteries and deflected the rest at the ceiling. We all looked up for a second to see if this stalactite was going to fall, but nothing. Then Barkiel looked past me to Apollo, who had now turned to focus on the real one. “Is she with you?”

“I thought she was with you,” Apollo said, eyeing me.

“Apparatus. Helping me hunt down you Hares, helping me escape, attacking your own people. You’ve been playing all sides here, haven’t you!” I yelled.

“Ha!” he spat the laugh at me. A quartet of missile tubes rolled over onto his left shoulder from behind his back. “You made such a great enemy, but if you’d like to make up, why not kiss under the missile?” He fired the tubes, but lasers spilled out from one of my flanking drones to detonate them close to him. His shield caught most of it, but I think a little bit was inside it. It looked like we scraped the paint on his ride.

The other drone fired at him from behind, aiming for center mass. The thing wasn’t really agile enough to get us along with it. Apollo leapfrogged me and fired his own arrows at the guy. I stepped out of his path and charged for Barkiel.

A wave of force went out from the walker in all directions, pushing me back enough to halt my run, knocking one of Apollo’s arrows into him, and throwing my drones into the walls of the cavern to their destruction. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Gecko!” I continued my charge and split off a couple holograms, one to dodge to my left, another to stay in place, and then me branching off to the right. Something flew off the chest of Barkiel’s armor and right through the middle Gecko, but I stopped, armor shaking, and flew back until I was suspended over it. I couldn’t reach out without getting pulled back into a huddled bunch.

“You sent the bomb, didn’t you!” I yelled at the extraterrestrial asshole.

“Yeeessss!” He said, sweeping his arms after Apollo. The god tried to outrun it, but then Barkiel just moved his left arm to the side quicker and took him off at the knees. At least Apollo ducked the second beam before it could take off his head. He disappeared in a flash of light then, leaving me alone with Barkiel. “See? He ran and left you to me.”

Barkiel looked at me and winked, then hit the jets on his suit and flew it to a wall I hadn’t been paying particular attention to. “I’ve been on this planet for so long. You have no idea.”

“Why are you letting out Mot? He’ll kill everyone!” I said. Weird to hear me object to something like that.

“I want to go home,” Barkiel said, stepping up to wall with actual stones laid out in around a round center stone, like a sun. He touched the center one, which slowly lit up with a glowing overlay of white light and ancient runes. “I never wanted to be stuck on this backwards planet. We have that in common, don’t we?” He tried to look back at me but couldn’t turn his head all the way.

Whatever this thing was, I had no access. None to his suit or that wall, either. The only machine I could still connect to outside of my suit was a drone that wasn’t getting airborne anytime soon. I tried it anyway, watching it hop around. The laser still seemed usable, though. “I’m trying to remember… this threat that some of the Earthlings believe in if they’re exposed or… Sam said if Earth got too advanced or there were too many supers…”

He cut me off before I could slowly work it out to cover up the sounds of my drone hopping around. “Yes. If Earth is a threat, my people will get off their lazy, aristocrat asses and deal with the upstarts. That is my ride off this rock of ignorant savages. You can leave as well. In fact, do you want to come with?”

“No,” I said. “I left my world, but my world sucked. It sounds like yours does too if they give so few shits about you. This is my home. I have a family here, and friends. How long have you been here stewing instead of doing anything?”

“Fif. Teen. Hundred. Years,” he said. The blocks around the central one lit up. He started tapping on one and the light flew into the center. “Fifteen hundred years with dirty monkey men. I could have had a family. I used to have friends. We could have reported the place as a threat, or advanced you to the point of getting us home. We could have even come forward during other alien attacks and taken their ships. Israkeel didn’t want to risk the stupid barbarians though.

He laughed as he worked on more of those perimeter blocks. A couple more went fast, but he had to stop some to consult a holographic display I couldn’t translate. “You were perfect. One day, you started breaking supers out of prison, and I realized what I could do. The others, they just wanted to use the collars, and I did pass relay orders to make that happen. I eagerly overstepped my bounds. I guided you and made sure you survived. Do you think it’s any accident you’re a woman now? I knew that would rile you up, the big bad supervillain and his fragile male ego, so I put advice in the right ear.”

Well, nice to know he doesn’t know me as well as he thinks. Hippity hoppity, little drone. One of these days you’ll get that laser facing me… “If I didn’t kill Centeotl, he’d have attacked Los Angeles anyway.”

“He agreed with me about the need to assert ourselves over the humans, but he would have been glassed like the rest. I relayed secure orders, always from superiors, to hire assassins. You had me worried when you sent that message back…”

There. I fired the laser of the drone. The drone caught on fire from something not quite being in alignment, but the beam shot out and burned enough that the device crackled and I fell to the ground. I hopped up in a hurry, but Barkiel didn’t pay me any mind. I split off more holograms to try and hide my approach, glad I still had a couple gauntlets ensconced in energy waiting to disperse into him. My free hands took up rocket knives. I jumped as the holograms all ran to catch up. He never turned back to me.

And then he suddenly was turned to me. He caught my in midair, one hand on my waist, the other on my head. The, fuck, the projection he’d left at the wall disappeared. Even the glowing circle on the wall faded. At least he had to stop whatever that was. I punched at his arm, but the attacks did nothing to dislodge his grip. The field stayed, glowing red. I shot a rocket knife into his face, but it bounced off, blade bent. Barkiel gritted his teeth and pulled with the hand on my helmet, aiming to take my head off.

“Fuck, this is good armor,” he said after a minute of straining. He let go of my head and held his arm to the side. A long, round rod of metal flipped out from under his arm and into his hand. A white trail rose out of the far end and formed a curving shape that could have been a one-sided blade. “Make this painless on yourself and hold still.”

That’s not how I roll, so I wiggled and reached up to try and keep his hand away.

“I told you!” he yelled and brought the blade down. Sudden pain shot through my left upper arm, right through the elbow and up near the shoulder. I still felt it even though I looked down and saw two pieces of what used to be that arm rolling to the ground. The uneven flesh of my arm wasn’t bleeding, but I saw smoke and felt a sudden coldness around those nerves. Barkiel tried to bring the blade down on my helmet, but my lower right shot up to grab at it. The blade split that arm and carved it in two. Between that and my shiftng, the blade only took off part of the right side of my helmet, and left that arm hanging useless. When he pulled the blade free of it, I got to see it flop to the ground, severed in the bicep.

“This could have been painless,” He said, raising the blade up to wave it in my face. He thrust it, but I moved my head. After three thrusts, there really wasn’t even a helmet left. “Stop moving!” he said before trying a sweep. I ducked my head under it like a limbo dancer ducking under a green snake in a sugarcane field, but he clipped a bunch of my hair. I could smell it as it burned.

“I don’t normally let this out,” he said, sneering at me, setting the tip of the blade against my breast. “But you things are disgusting to me.”

I flipped my fangs down and opened my mouth to spray hot sauce at him. It didn’t penetrate, but it did cover it for a minute. I threw myself to the side he wasn’t holding my hip from and twisted. It wasn’t the best way to hold a person and I tumbled loose, if not in good position, scrambling away. He stepped toward me, raising the blade. “Yeah, cute. Die now- oh shit!”

A bright light had flared up in the middle of the cavern, headed toward Barkiel. He raised the sword. I didn’t get a good look at what happened, the sword wasn’t there anymore, just as sparking rod and a field that glowed red around edges that weren’t closed around Barkiel. I leaped, but Barkiel kicked me away, into a wall where I could see Apollo, whole again, step out of a beam of light.

I heard footsteps, too. I turned to see Dame running down. “The fuck are you doing here so fast?”

She slid to a stop right by me as I struggled to sit up, probably tearing her skintight black tights. “Once I clued you in, they knew they had to come here right away.”

“Than-” I started to say, but she cut me off with a click of metal around my neck. Everything went black, and my hearing didn’t work right. I couldn’t do much of anything except feel. I felt hands wrap around my throat, squeezing. For some reason the ground was vibrating, but that probably had more to do with the big armor stomping around.

I tried to hit her, but the armor wasn’t working too well. My limbs were sluggish as parts of me didn’t want to function right, and without the armor being a real part of me anymore. When I got an arm up, she pushed it back down with one hand and slammed my head into the ground a couple of times, choking with one hand all the while. Of all the people to kill me, I didn’t expect Dame. And I was wrong.

My head jerked to the side and I could see again. I could punch again! I knocked Dame flat on her ass with a punch and reached for my neck. The collar had been blasted by something. A glow attracted my attention to the light arrow stuck in the cave wall behind me. I tugged the remnants off and threw them aside, then told Dame, “Kill me later. For now, we have to make sure he doesn’t release Mot.”

I scrambled up, but suddenly that shaking from before got a lot more noticeable. I looked and saw Barkiel, with a face full of smile, locking up with Apollo. “It’s too late!” he yelled.

The stones I thought looked like a sun slid inward and the wall slid up into the ceiling. Everything past that was darkness. Apollo backed away from Barkiel and the darkness.

“Quickly!” called a voice from higher up in the cave. I saw Ares running down, helmet on, spear and shield at the ready. He skidded to a halt when he saw the opening. “We’re too late.”

Venus was there as well, and Titan. Venus looked to Dame in particular, my neck, and the wrecked collar on the floor.

“Mot!” Barkiel yelled into the darkness. “It’s supper time!”

“Close the door, Barkiel, while there’s still time!” Ares said.

I crawled until I could get to my feet, running over to Venus and Titan. I had to fight through dizziness to stand there with them. “We have to go.”

“No,” Venus said. “We stop this here and now.”

“Nobody’s getting to this door just yet,” Barkiel said. A tendril of flesh wrapped around Barkiel as he grinned confidently at us. He looked down then and realized too late that he was the closest thing to a very hungry being. He tried to pull it off him, but it whipped back into the darkness, dragging the screaming alien along with him.

“I know what we’re dealing with here, and there is no stopping it. How do I access the door’s controls?” I asked Ares.

He looked to me, then shook his head. “It’s too late. Go, all of you.”

“I’m here,” Titan said.

“That’s a good reason to go,” I said. “Imagine something just as hard to kill as you, but it can absorb anyone it touches and gets their powers.”

He squinted at me, then at the opening. Apollo ran back toward us, and past us. Ares held his shield on guard and told us, “She’s right. Go. I fight in the rearguard.”

“What’s Mot do to people?” Venus asked.

“He’s got a couple thousand years of hunger to make up for. We need to go,” I said.

A burst of lightning flashed out of the darkness and floored Ares. He coughed and stood back up, metal showing through holes in his skin.”Go, now!” A long-haired, bearded figure stepped out of the darkness, tendrils trailing from his back. He wore rags that vaguely resembled Barkiel’s uniform and dropped one of the arms of Barkiel’s walker armor as he stepped out.

“This feels wrong,” Titan said, backing up.

Ares jumped forward and impaled Mot with his spear. Mot raised his arms and blasted Ares with more lightning that threw the old man back. Then his hands became icicles that broke off and flew at Ares. The Olympian got his shield up, but they penetrated, stabbing into his arm.

“Venus, slap him,” I said.

She jumped up and hit Titan across the face, then yelled, “We have to get as many people out as we can.”

I turned to head up the slope as well. I wasn’t as quick getting out of there as I was coming in, especially the way the floor kept spinning. I tried to get some nanites into me, but they flew out of my hand with all the spinning. At least I had time to advise the Psycho Flyers to hurry and take on as many refugees as possible so long as I was one of them. Then there was the rumbling, and I passed the fuck out as things began to collapse around us.

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Hare-Brained 4

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Everyone wants to keep me away from the fighting for all sorts of reasons. Mental health. Thinking up a plan. Signing off on laws. Clearly, my heroic and neutral allies, and those around here on my island, are trying to prep me for being the diplomat of the bunch.

One thing I did to try and work on my skill at diplomacy involved a nice dinner for some of the top Directors, just to help the flow of information both ways. I even cooked for them myself. I could tell these top brass were quite uncomfortable being in my presence at such an event, even more so that I personally saw to the food. I figured I’d break the ice with a little joke as I sat down at the table with the rest of them. I took my seat, raised my hands, and announced, “Truly, I tell y’all, one of you will betray me.”

All conversations and faces fell. Suddenly, one guy on the end jumped up, knocking over his chair. He ran for the door of the building I’d borrowed for the occasion. I grabbed the gravy boat off the table and threw it. Tricky as it is to throw something that’s spilling viscous fluid out of it, it clanged off his head and he fell down. A pair of the security detail stepped in, looked at the groaning man on the floor, then up to me. “Have this one eliminat- no, ya know what? He’s a Director and he might be useful. Throw him in a cell somewhere and find out who he works for.”

I looked around the table to all the other Directors I’d invited. The guys supposedly making laws about all the important things but who had instead gotten into fights subsidizing personal businesses and a funny fight about naming certain roads that has some walking along the intersection of Ug Lee Street and Wong Way. It’d be funny if not for the fact that part of the reason I’m getting so much paperwork from the courts is because they’re doing that instead of reinforcing the courts and writing laws to fill in the gaps.

“Now then, gentlemen, I hope the rest of you stay and enjoy this meal as we have ourselves a productive conversation about the proper place of the judiciary and why I value not having to spend all my time running Ricca.” I smiled around the table, prompting many a fearection from the gathered Directors. “After all, you’ll find I miss the gravy more in this meal than I do any one Director’s company.”

I think it went well, but it was only the first step in what I was doing. See, I’d gotten this idea into my head that perhaps I don’t necessarily need to destroy the Hares. I just had to sit down and have a proper thought about it while drinking some cocktail Max gave me. I dunno, it’s like things became clearer, though it gave me some terrible dry mouth.

So one thing I know is that the portion of them that are aliens have convinced the whole group to hide their supers. Because the aliens are just sitting around waiting to be retrieved, but their government’s liable to just blow the crap out of the whole place if it looks really dangerous instead. No wonder they targeted me. Being dangerous enough to justify orbital nuking is what I do best.

Dame didn’t like being kept under lock and key with that group, and they already kept most members out of the loop about what was going on. As a result, she doesn’t know what prompted them to start doing things now. She hadn’t really been brought in on anything until Master Academy called her up to help me. They left out the virus and the power collars, but the phone call started with “We are calling upon you to serve as one piece of our apparatus.”

That’s the same sort of language they used for Funhouse, who no one’s seen since the multiplier was apparently gassed for not following orders and leading me to a site that let me identify and hunt down the Three Hares.

That hands-off approach is why she was able to hang out with people who can literally read minds without problems. And it’s why, ultimately, I decided to give her to her friends in Master Academy. I even made a little ceremony of it.

I escorted her to the Cape Diem camp. A small crowd gathered around us, curious. Everyone likes a show, especially people working. I held onto her with one hand. She didn’t put up a fight and knew she couldn’t. Merely having the power to control her like a puppet with my fist up her ass didn’t mean I had to exercise it. I could do a lot of philosophizing about the nature of power, but it’s just a simple thing. I’ve spent most my life with a hankering for human life and the ability to kill almost everyone I’ve ever met. And I only tried to kill everyone on Earth the one time.

I slipped a scroll out from between my breasts and flicked it open. “Our lovely nation of Ricca has only grown stronger by the contributions of the best of all cultures on Earth and a few from below it. As an outsider to this island, I know this more than most. Ricca has given me family and a higher purpose. But this goodwill does not extend indefinitely. And so I am formally removing the supervillain known as Dame from the island and evoking my right to Jus Primae Calceus, otherwise known as the Right of the First Boot. Begone, woman!”

I stepped back and kicked Dame’s lovely, if skinny, ass over the border into the camp. She stumbled but caught herself and turned. I shooed her away. “Go. I’m sending you back to the heroes. Let them deal with you. You’re not my problem anymore.”

She was more than happy to run into the arms of nearby Cape Diem personnel who were to escort her through the portal. She might even miss the island. Sure, I was horrible to her, but I’m her enemy. That’s to be expected. She’s going back to people she’s known as friends who now know she was working with the Hares. She thinks she’s heading back to friends.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time in her head or because of my bout with temporary sanity, but I almost hope it’s not too bad for her. I sent off an email to Venus letting her know that, just in case they have irreconcilable differences, I might be willing to be the island of last resort for Dame.

Note to self: don’t do this brain and memory thing ever again if I can help it. It makes them way too sympathetic, and I found myself looking out from the wrong body more than once.

With that taken care of, the next thing I had in mind required waiting. It would have been less of a wait, but the Director who ran turned out to be working with the Chinese. Despite that setback, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be waiting long.

Yeah, right. In my dreams.

I was enjoying another night of overpressure and screams. Just being caught in an endless fight, bare hands, no armor, endless enemies and no way out. Dimensional bomb right there, and I understood I activated it. I was running to get away while people swarmed me. Every time I killed them, they’d rise right back up. I could tear off faces and they’d stand back up. Snap necks, up again. Pull out a person’s heart, stand right back up, hole and all. Just me being clawed at by a never-ending mass of undead who would claw or bite chunks out of me. When I finally got to the edge, there she was. The one who betrayed me. She smiled and waved. The shield went up and trapped me in there with the never-ending army and the bomb in the middle.

I just kept fighting, never knowing when it was going to go off or I’d finally be too exhausted to keep fighting. Now, all that was fairly normal up until I looked up and a giant bug stabbed through all of it. Think Tyrannosaurus Mantis. A big, stabby mantis. It carved through all of that, then turned to me and scooped me up in its arms and lifted me up to where a teen boy stood on top of the giant mantis. I was set on the insect’s head and just took a moment to breath and look around, but the guy reached up for me. It felt like we were jumping and things got fuzzy.

I woke up gasping as I tried to breathe, my body being pushed down into the bed. I looked up to see the same boy on top of me, hands around my throat. I went to move my arms, but then something stabbed through the upper pair that were outside the sheets and pinned them to the bed. Looking up further, there was a giant mantis again, though not dino sized. More like basketball-player sized, with me being bounced like a basketball while the little guy choked me.

This one, I didn’t want to give a laser lobotomy to. I opened my mouth and dropped the fangs I’d installed. Handy things. Also handy? Forearms, but less so when bitten by fangs. To my surprise, he kept choking with one hand and used the other to punch me in the nose. Which means no more mister nice bitch. My laser eye lit up and I took both his arms off.

He fell back screaming, and the mantis parked next to me growled. I didn’t know they could do that. It raised its claws brought them down toward my head, but I got all four arms up and grabbed them.

Now, a standard mantis body can’t content with a standard human body even if made bigger. Just wouldn’t work as far as things like breathing and circulation, but there’s also the neat thing about muscle becoming less efficient as the size of the animal increases. Humans have bones and muscles enough to support all their bones and muscles. I had reinforced bones and unnaturally strengthened muscles. And, after a moment of pushing, I also had a pair of torn-off mantis claws for souvenirs. I shoved one through the giant bug’s head, then turned to the screaming, cowering, pantless little assassin trying to crawl away from the foot of my bed.

I jumped off the bed and landed with my knee planted in his back, probably fucking up his bladder. Boo-fucking-hoo. I kept him pinned there as I tore his shirt open and began to carve. “Stop squirming, ya baby. If I make a mistake, I’ll have to cross it out and rewrite it, and you’ve only got so much skin.”

When sending a message written on the back of a living victim, it’s important to be as clear as possible. That’s why I broke out the thesaurus and made sure to use the most precise words possible, no matter how long. I decided to hurry when I noticed more and more flies and roaches gathering in the room. The guy commanded a big bug, so it occurred to me he might have the loyalty of smaller ones. They all scattered their own way when I finished and put the final exclamation mark on the matter by driving the claw through the guy’s skull.

The next day, I had Hu and the Intel people pick him up and prepare to drop him off at the site of the next raid. For all the time I took writing it, it’s a simple message, really. Just seeking to have a chat with folks from the Three Hares and see what we might do to convince them to stop the proliferation of both diseases and power collars.

But, while simple, no message is quite so impactful as the one carved on the body of the assassin sent to kill me.

“Dear crazy conspiracy asshats: I, the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, Empress of Ricca, Destroyer of Worlds, Mistress of Mayhem, cordially invite you to make the necessary arrangements for a diplomatic summit wherein we shall gather and discuss the terms of your surrender, nay your unconditional acquiescence. To that end, I also request that you stop sending assassins. If you do not, I will send one of my own and will not need to send another. Especially not another five. Get the message already. Hugs and blowjobs, Psychopomp Gecko, Empress of Ricca, Destroyer of Worlds, Mistress of Mayhem. P.S., Now I’m just fucking with this guy before I kill him.”

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Hare-Brained 2

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The Munich raid went well. The point of the thing was to blow a hole in that big ol’ privacy fence around their compound. The Germans are investigating it now, and finding all sorts of weird things scattered around. Drugs, a couple of stolen artifacts, uranium; all sorts of things that will draw a lot of attention to that compound and have people investigating. Expose them, force them to run again, exhaust them.

I’d had… feelings. Thinking of a plan, part of me remembered all the kids and innocents there. Attacking would risk killing civilians, even if a lot of them do have powers. I lived among them, danced with them. I drank beer with them and perhaps even Frenched one or two of them under the influence. I spent a night rocking back and forth in a chair, thinking about what to do. I was practically distraught.

But now, I had video showing they were all ok. The local news reporters provided that glimpse, but I quite enjoyed the view from various drones flying high above it. Can’t blow shit up in Europe without a few different militaries becoming interested. So seeing everyone come out of this fine and dandy, it was such a relief. Such a relief, I started laughing. And, my oh my, it seems my finger slipped on a button in the middle of all my laughter. Looks like someone shouldn’t send up drones for recon with their payloads.

It was so sad, I had to laugh about it. It’s a natural way to handle this sort of bad news, after all. Laugh so as not to cry.

If the cruel fate of the Munich compound wasn’t enough, the Hares themselves are playing on my emotions. I’ve letters expressing the feelings of the Three Hares. The night of the bombing, for instance. I got up to handle some business in the bathroom. I was going over plans for a new island shield and crapping when the jacuzzi began rattling. The nozzles burst out into the tub and streams of water stretched out and formed into a person, a woman with a metal visor with a single big, round glass eye on it and gems on either side.

“Psycho Gecko! Prepare to die!”

I put aside the hologram I was working with and reached for the rear of the toilet. “May I at least have a courtesy flush first?”

“I guess?” she said. Small gems began to light up leading to the glass eye, three on either side. I reached back behind the toilet. As I’ve mentioned before I often keep a gun there in order to clear up any problematic clogs. That’s why I whipped out the Smith & Wesson Schofield. I missed that first shot, causing the cyclopean assassin before me to duck and charge more of those gems up. Another miss, then a hit on her shoulder. When she turned, the final gems lit up, and that’s when I popped her in the central glass eye.

“Fuck shit!” she screamed, grabbing at the eye. I dove off, pulling my panties up. I wasn’t there when she took her hands away and instead shot lasers from the six gems leading up the glass eye. Three smaller beams shot out, putting holes in the marble toilet. But since these were three all along a band, beams were flying all over the place. They bounced off mirrors and mirrored surfaces, so it’s a good thing I was staying low and crawling behind her. When she stopped and looked around, I tackled her from behind and pushed her down.

She cracked her chin pretty good on the lip of the toilet where the seat didn’t cover. I grabbed a handful of her hair and pushed her face down into the bowl to let her gurgle on dinner. I had the Schofield still in hand and gave her a shot in the back. Then I lost my grip on her as she turned to liquid again and flowed down the toilet, flushing it in the process. I jumped up and pointed the Schofield down the bowl, then noticed the blood smeared on me and smiled with an idea. I wiped blood onto my hand and pushed it into the toilet bowl, making a minor programming change.

The pipes in the jacuzzi, toilet, sink, and shower began to rattle. A huge chunk of the room shook. Blood began to spurt from the sink. It started to fill the jacuzzi. The shower head shot off as bloody water rained down. Finally, the toilet reversed and sprayed water and blood all over the ceiling.

When those of the household who cared about my health came running, they found me laughing and soaking wet with blood and water. I shut the bathroom door as I saw Max and Silver Shark run up.

“What’s going on?” Max asked.

I pointed at the door in all my giggling, then waved my hand. “You don’t wanna go in there. Whew!” I couldn’t hardly finish speaking for all the laughter.

Speaking of funny incidents, another occurred as I was enjoying a quiet night in my study, just working on some new material for this joke I’m playing on the world. Mix N’Max walked in and passed right by me to address a chair. “Gecko, you’re doing it again.”

Dame fell to the floor as I awoke and she scampered out of there. I yawned and looked up at Max from my chair. “Whoopsy. Can you blame me for making sure an extra pair of eyes watched out as I slept?”

“I can blame you if they’re her eyes. Look, Gecko, we go back and I’m afraid I have to suggest something is more wrong than usual with you,” he knelt down in front of me to look me in the eye. Even his smile looked apologetic.

“I must use any and all resources to protect myself, Max. It’s the way of the world. Besides, I’m rehabilitating Dame,” I indicated his grin. “So turn that lack of a frown upside and around.”

“How is holding a woman as a slave in her own body rehabilitation? You’re better than this,” he told me.

“I AM better than this. I’m so good, I made Dame perfectly trustworthy. Never again can she betray me for anyone. Always there, in her mind. THAT’s why they wanted me. The world’s changing, and I’m like a god of the new world order.”

“You’re not a god,” Max said, pointing his finger at me. “Remember the rule on godhood.”

I rolled my eyes. “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes. Everyone knows the Aykroyd Rule.”

“No, the other rule. The one about supervillains who start declaring themselves gods. Does that ever end well?”

“Well-”

He held up one finger. “Nebuchadnezzar.”

“Gesundheit,” I said.

He cocked his head to the side in a look that said “Really?” even though he didn’t.

“Fine, tried to consume a ball of energy bigger than his own head a little too fast. Blew up.”

Max raised a second finger. “Aria.”

“Used a device to boost her powers, but someone managed to block them long enough and record her super voice to use it against her,” I answered.

“Following the pattern?” he asked.

“Technically it isn’t a pattern until there’s three incidents,” I reminded him.

Max looked at me, lowered the first two fingers, and raised the third one, the ring finger. “You want to be this one?”

“That’s hardly-” and then I shot up into space without crashing through roofs or walls. And it wasn’t really space. I’ve been there. I was being thrown with force instead of drifting without gravity.

I crashed into an asteroid and was thrown at another nearby one while the first one broke in half. The second did as well when I hit it. I bounced off and then stopped in the middle as the asteroids. Those four then crashed into each other, breaking in half. They kept colliding and breaking until a bunch of baseball- and basketball-sized pieces banged into me. Finally, one the size of a large dog slammed into me and sent me hurtling through space again. I landed on a small planet, or possibly one of those things Pluto is, and bounced off in further defiance of physics. The next planet I headed for grew a face and a pair of arms. It slapped me between both hands.

The planet on this trip through Disney’s Fantasia planetarium skipped arm day. I’ve taken worse hits. Didn’t even squeeze any organs out of me. The two arms grabbed hold of me from either side. The planet opened its mouth wide, exposing the glowing liquid hot magma. It unleashed a volcanic roar.

“Get some Jupiter!” I yelled back as it lunged for me.

Then I was laying down on the floor of the study, yelling at the ceiling, which looked to be missing a ceiling fan. I noticed books laying around and crawled off a broken chair. I found Max wobbling from side to side with a pencil-thick needle in hand, standing over a woman in a green catsuit who was foaming at the mouth.

“How’d you see through all that?” I asked. “I think I got beat up by a solar system.”

“Oh Gecko. Precious, vanilla Gecko,” Max said. He winked at me, then looked back down at the catsuit woman. “She has the Three Hares on the back in a shade of green barely lighter than the primary coloring.”

I staggered over to confirm it. “Another damn assassin. I think I need to send a message back to the Hares.”

“You’re mad with power and determined to kill them all. What do they have to lose in sending killers after you?” he pointed out. “That’s something else I wanted to talk to you about. Here, help me with the body.”

“She’s still dying,” I said.

“Give it time,” Max said, bending down to grab her by the feet. I took her shoulders and helped, with us stopping in mid-carry for Max to spray some air freshener when she shat herself in the throes of death. Outside, I saw a lot of the rest of the place jumbled up, with Citra and staggering around.

“Where’s Qiang?” I asked her.

She pointed upstairs. “In bed. Are we safe?”

I stopped beside her as we carried the dead woman around and kissed my wife on the cheek. “Safer than those who attacked us.” Then it was off to see to the respectful treatment of the dead.

We dropped the corpse onto a table in Max’s suite while Sam and Holly recovered with some drinks. “What you’ve told me about their isolation and heredity, the Hares’ DNA could provide amazing insight into superpowers as they relate to genetics,” Max observed.

“Plus, you want to do things with her beautiful corpse,” I added.

He patted her boots. “You know I only care about what’s on the inside. Pass me the scalpel?”

I tossed it to him and started cutting the woman free of her clothes for the autopsy. “I guess I’ve been a bit screwed up. They took my memories from me, and they’re mine. But for that brief time, I was clear of every fucked-up thing of my past. It was… clean. I had morals, and ethics, and I think even a conscience. They did it to use me somehow, and then that whole thing. It reminded me of Elizabeth, back in the other world. And a phrase Venus has been using lately.”

“Oh?” Max asked. He stepped closer to start carving into the sternum. “What’s that?”

“I’d rather not say, but it was the closest thing to washing away so much of what keeps me from changing and being better.” I looked down, which had me staring into the eyes of the corpse.

“It’s tempting,” Max commented.

I nodded. “Even for us. Sometimes the most dangerous thing you can do to someone is show them another way. A ‘what if?’ scenario.”

“I like to take the wrong lesson from my enemies,” Max said, peering inside the woman’s chest cavity. “They had more of an endgame than killing you. What’s your endgame besides killing them? Right now, you’re like a dog chasing a car. You wouldn’t know what to do with it if you,” he paused and took his hands out of the woman’s chest to pantomime catching something in midair. “Caught it. What do you want the world to look like at the end of this that doesn’t involve you trying to claim you’re a god?”

“Good question,” I leaned on my elbow, looking down into the woman’s eyes, my eyes taking the same turquoise tint.

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Hare-Brained 1

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“So as you see, Dame, information on my enemies is ever so important,” I said over tea. I had Dame across my lap, like a dog or a cat or some other manner of pet. After ensuring her civility, I also had her physical form reverted back. When she didn’t look right without the blonde hair, I threw in a quick hair bleaching, too, and threw her across my lap. I rocked back and forth with her, alternating between idle chatter with her and speaking with my forces elsewhere as we rested in an armchair in what turned out to be a billiards room, complete with guest smoking jacket. So I sat there enjoying a spot of tea and my new pet’s warmth on my lap, while having a video conference in my head to catch up on local events.

During my captivity, Intel found some of my guys seizing items off incoming and outgoing shipments for personal gain. They’re dealing with the guys, some of whom were in Security and Military. What’s really interesting is that they found some power collars in the mix. Nobody reported bringing those through the island.

Ok, let’s recap a little. Things have been confusing, time’s passed, and we all need a reminder from time to time. I held a birthday party for my daughter and people started getting sick. That shouldn’t happen, because I put nanomachines in the water to keep them healthy. We discovered a disease someone created that affects the brains of people, resists efforts of the nanites to clear it out, and interacts with these collars. When someone with this disease gets one of these collars on them, they’re incapable of doing anything an unpowered human can’t do. Training’s still training, but it even stops me using my extra arms or my in-born ability as homo machina to connect to computers.

The people behind the disease and collars are the Three Hares. I raided them plenty of times, even got briefly captured. I’d say I almost forgot about the collars, but they wiped most of my memory for awhile, so I definitely forgot about the collars.

No matter what, these collars aren’t allowed anywhere on the island, something that didn’t need to be made a rule to be understood. And while I’m extremely lax about what’s brought in and what goes out, this is a different matter that someone should have reported. And my first instinct, that involves blowing ships sky high, but Pagan, the head of my Intelligence agency, has other ideas. The official liaison between myself and Intel is Hu, former head of the agency, and he had the task of talking me out of my desire to blow some boats sky high, like a fucking Sputnik. But no, it makes sense. Follow them back to where they came from.

That’s good. That gets us into infrastructure. Finds me more assets of these Three Hares guys. Because so far, the only thing I really have on these guys are where they’re keeping people. The Munich compound, for instance. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

And that brings me back to the present, which I relay to you now in the past tense because it was only the present at the time. I held Dame, her brain having been messed with quite a bit. I could tap into her memories and see the delicate treatment she faced at the hands of my people. I was glad to see they kept Qiang out of it. I cut out after she got a boot to the stomach from Max. Dame wasn’t much of a fighter. But she’s not entirely who I thought she was either.

She was one of the kids. Not one of the “gods” who are just the really powerful supers with some form of immortality. All that stuff about being gods, the kids all know it’s bullshit. It’s what they were thought to be, once upon a time. When they had temples and cults dedicated to them. Before the aliens crashed, and the groups fought before working things out and hiding to avoid extermination by aliens. But the terms are all ingrained. Gods for the really strong ones, folks who’d be up there with Spinetingler or Captain Lightning if anyone knew about them.

Then there were the demigods, like regular heroes, and capable of infiltrating the superhero and villain worlds. Finally, you have the unpowered family members of the gods and demigods. Dame had been one of those, part of a New England branch. It goes back to how craziness is for poor people; when you’re wealthy, it’s called eccentricity. Old-school aristocrats are allowed to keep to themselves.

She acted out by stealing. Got good at it eventually.

I remember when I saw the news of an explosion in a suburb. Sitting in some diner after relieving a drug dealer of his stash. Didn’t know what I was going to do with it. Took a noseful for myself, but I didn’t like partying that way after that time I woke up at a dipshit’s house without my bra. Lindsey brought me there and told me to chill. I left that punk’s sorry ass behind. He called me later, a lot of times, but I ignored him.

So I’m in this diner, drowning a coke hangover with the best coffee. The news flash came up. Some dumbass in Golden Oaks blew his house up. Or Shady Willows. Hmm. If some survivalist blew up his house planning to blow up a courthouse or a Planned Parenthood, there might be good guns around. I bet I could get in there and steal whatever rifle he’d been jacking off to from under the cops’ noses.

They evacuated most of the families by the time I got there. They had vans, people in hazmat suits, buses, but weren’t too pushy with the lawyers and soccer moms. These people want to speak to your manager!

My dirtbike had been in rougher scrapes than the backyard sandboxes could give me. The house that exploded wasn’t hard to find. It was the one that wasn’t there anymore. I cut my bike a couple yards over and climbed fences so the cops wouldn’t be onto me. Tied my hair up and hid it under a violet bandana and zipped my black jacket up to hide my Taylor Swift t-shirt. The sun would be up in an hour, so I needed to get in and out so I could get home.

The house was wrecked, but enough of the walls stood to keep the cops out front from seeing me. There was a basement door in the backyard, blown off the hinges from where it connected to the house. I saw flashlights moving around down there. FML, right? I turned to check out the shed he had there and saw the beast of a lock on the door. Fuck it, I’d been reading how to do that and watching videos. I didn’t give a crap about school, but stealing gave me money the parental units didn’t control. Turned out I liked studying locks. It was so easy to find a lockpick set for sale, too.

“I kissed a girl and I liked it,” I sang quietly to myself. I hated that song since it came out last month, but I knew my mom would freak if I talked about kissing other girls. My dad almost choked on his OJ when he first heard me sing along. Then I got the song stuck in my head for real.

I thought the lock would put up more of a fight than it did but it was so awesomesauce doing that! This wasn’t a cheap padlock like the drug dealers had. This one had girth. I dropped the lock on the ground and opened the door.

I couldn’t see real well in the darkness, but I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. I turned around fast, in case something was in there with me, and kept an eye on the darkness while I reached for my flashlight. The small light’s LEDs lit up a work table on the opposite wall, and a pair of wood shelves built into the shed on either side.

I saw wires and shit. No guns. Like, electronics and other crap, but nobody wants to buy someone’s homemade vibrator. I opened the door to go when, I noticed lights aimed at the wall of the shed next to the door.

“Hey!” someone called out.

Shit, shit, shit, shit!

I closed the door, quick, then cursed to myself. I could have tried to run, but now they’ll catch me. I won’t get in permanent trouble. The family and the gods make sure of that. But shit, I’ll never hear the end of it if they get me. I reached around, shining my light. Maybe I could slip something in the door latch… oh yeah, that’s outside. Cockgobbler!

I looked around with my light and saw something glint. It was like a net sleeve made of wires and it gave me an idea. I slid it on and raised it up as the door opened. “Don’t come any closer or I’ll zap you with my super high tech death beam gauntlet!” I yelled. I closed my fist and hit a button on the inside of it, and suddenly I was dropping through the ground.

Oh my god, I screamed so hard. I couldn’t grab onto anything and I saw all sorts of freaky shit, like bugs and skeletons. I was clawing at the anything to climb up and I somehow came up in the backyard behind that house I’d been in. As soon as I got to the surface, I pushed that button again and clamped my mouth shut. I put both hands over my mouth and ran for my bike.

That’s the day I… fuck, she graduated to demigod. I was doing that the entire time, wasn’t I?

“Ugh,” I said, putting my hand to my face and shaking blonde hair out of my face. That caused me to roll out off of the person I’d been sitting on… damn. I looked down and realized I’d done it again. A moment later, I blinked with my real eyes, or at least the cybernetic replacements I use instead and stood next to Dame. I released her from my mental grasp for a moment and caught her as she fell, weeping. And there was that feeling I get sometimes when part of me doesn’t like what I’m doing. It’s been stronger since my memories got flushed and then returned.

I left her to rest, her still not wanting to talk to me. But, I mean, she gets a much nicer cell now, with good food and everything. With her skills, it’s not like it’d be difficult for her to escape from the residence. The difference is my being able to control her from anywhere around. That’s really handy for trust.

It’s why I had no issue sleeping in the same building as her, with my family there. It’s why I didn’t even worry when I left her there the next day and headed to the military base to oversea the briefing and departure of a raid team aimed at blowing open a hole in the wall of the Three Hares Munich compound. And it’s probably why Max left me a “Thinking Of You” card where he wrote, “We need to talk about how nuts you’ve been since coming back.”

Which I’d grabbed and read using Dame’s body because I was busy on the toilet at the time.

They’re called priorities, people.

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