I know it can take days to squirt out a baby. That’s not what’s happening here. I needed to get caught up is all. It’s been harder to write under the circumstance I found myself in and in the period immediately afterward. Tl;dr, you try keeping up with a blog while giving birth. Miracle of life my ass.
Now, after dealing with The Unwelcome, things were starting to fall into place. Isabella and Maia had been delayed by dealing with the aftermath of The Dark and the invasion of The Unwelcome. Holly had been out getting a signal to Mix N’Max, my old friend, letting him know about the momentous occasion. She’s also trying to hide from me a bunch of presents she’s been buying in secret since I never held a baby shower.
A hulking nurse with cybernetic implants poking out of his facial skin stopped in. “I don’t normally work here, so I’m not sure I have the right place. There are visitors for you. Is this the room of Psychopomp Gecko?”
Ah. Sam had forgotten to give them my alias. That’s an unfortunate oversight.
The nurse shook his head. “That’s Psycho Gecko…”
“Yeah,” I said, curious. My legs were still up in the birthing stirrups, but I reached over and grabbed for one of the panic bags.
The guy had a neck that wasn’t so much a column as it was a slope. Muscles on top of muscles. He could be the main character in a first person shooter. He shook his head. “You fought the space marine invasion, didn’t you?”
The former space marine ran at me. I whipped something out of the panic bag. Instead of my machete, I whipped a stuffed dog into his face. I then lowered my head and the sharp unicorn horn sticking out of it. When the former space marine pulled himself off it, he spurted blood all over me from the hole in his chest and one of his hearts. He got it all over the dog plushie, too. He turned and ran for it, dripping blood the whole way.
Other nurses found me like that, soon after followed by the whole family. “Uh…” I tried to come up with something snarky to say. Holly had me covered, blowing a noisemaker and waving around a couple of sparklers as she ran in, dragging around balloons tied to her arms. She ran over and hugged me.
“Watch the sparklers!” I said, careful of my hair catching fire. There was a lot of unwashed oil in those locks.
“Ew, bloody… so is the baby out yet?” Holly asked.
“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!” I said.
Some strange guy poked his head into the room. “Hi there, I’m with Nuclear Blast Records, and I’d love to sign whoever unleashed that phenomenal scream”
“Out!” Isabella said, closing the door in the heavy metal producer’s face.
Meanwhile, I hit the call button. “Get in here!”
I think I’m due a bit of privacy about what happened next. Which is new. Usually when a situation involves a bunch of screaming, crying, drugs, and pain, I’m all too eager to share it. But permit a blood-soaked babymaker to keep something to myself. And after all that was said and done, they even let me hold the little pain in my ass.
“Hello, Alexander. You’re going to have a hell of a life,” I said to my tired, crying baby. Then I passed him over to Isabella and Maia. Sam and Holly were out of the room, with Sam helping Holly recover from watching what happens when someone gives birth. I’d have warned her to gird her loins if I’d had time beforehand, but there was a lot of screaming.
They did have to take Alexander away from me and almost everyone filtered out to let me rest. The thing about your body being in pain every few minutes for like a day is you don’t get a lot of rest. I woke up to a thin, zombie version of myself sitting in a chair next to an abandoned balloon. Her hair was white save for the barest of my rainbow colors at the bottom. My split horn was longer, with the smaller rear portion twisting around a longer main horn until it came back behind the main one. I couldn’t tell where her hands ended and nails began. She was thin, deathly pale, with cloudy white eyes that stared at me.
“So who are you?” I asked this dead reflection.
“I am your Fate,” it said.
“Is that what you call yourself? Fate?” I asked.
It stood up.
“Since this is a joyous day for me,” I warned it. “I’m going to advise you not to do anything that causes me to have to stand up. So, what, are you here with the failed space marine, or is this another yahoo from beyond the veil of existence?”
“I am the Fate. The path of all living things is set in stone and beset by suffering.”
I flashed back, even moreso than my stress disorder caused once upon a time. I was a kid again, being beaten by others in the Psychopomp Program. I was being held in an armlock by Medusa, tearing my arm out to free myself. I was screaming as something the size of a baby forced its way out of something the size of my pussy. And then I was back there in bed, with that zombie of myself standing in the room. I pulled the blanket aside and swung my feet over the edge of the bed, sitting on the side of the bed.
When I stood up, I stumbled back behind a shield. When I lowered it, I was in a burning building, facing off against a pissed-off Venus. Her armor was slimmer. She retracted a double-headed ax attached to one of her arms and raised the double double barrels on each forearm. I raised the shield. Bullets pinged off, pushing me back as I tried to dig my orange boots into the ash. I was in a black and orange version of Captain America’s costume, but without the belly stripes and with a large G where the star would be.
Venus’s fire abarted. “What’s all this about?!” I asked.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t kill my son, you bitch!” she screamed at me. I looked over the shield. She was heading right for me with that ax. I threw my field at the floor, which it bounced off of to come at her face from below. She swatted it away and took my knee in her visor, diverting her to the side. I landed and shook my leg. Fucking hurt doing that to my knee.
When I looked up again, Venus was gone and I was looking at Qiang, just a little older. We were standing on the torn-open side of a building, like the windows had been blown out. She looked at me, then jumped out. I ran over and dove after her. She was splayed out, her tears splashing me in the face as she watched me bring my arms in close. I flapped my wings but the ground was so close. I didn’t have time to catch her. Instead, a glowing light pulled me up into it.
I stood up in the Mobian’s time vessel. “I have you. That wasn’t real. She’s messing with you.” He wore the same face as when I saw him replace the Torian, his evil counterpart, but was dressed differently. He wore a boring brown suit jacket with elbow patches, but a bright red scarf and a brown trilby.
“Oh, someone finally came to see what’s going on,” I mentioned.
“Everyone’s seeing it. Their own personal confrontation with every bit of suffering they’ve ever faced, sometimes changing their present to twist the knife. You have its attention. Good job with the Unwelcome.”
“Changing the present, but Qiang’s not dead?” I asked.
“Not where you came from,” the Mobian said.
“You can’t evade me,” zombie-me said. She now blocked the glowing white doorway. Her feet didn’t move so much as slide along the floor. I stood up, realizing I had gone from Captain Gecko to Unicorn Goddess as far as my costume.
“Who said I’m evading?” I asked. “I’m standing up now.”
“Your fate has been sealed.”
“Yeah, but I’ve still got a destiny to seize,” I said.
“I stand beside her,” the Mobian said. “Gecko, the time will soon come when I will disappear.”
“You kinda did already,” I said.
“Oh. Well, that’s wonderful news,” he said. He rushed up the dais toward a console and pressed a button. I fell out of the doorway and back into the hospital room. A bright light flashed by the window. I stood up, my costume fading away to a hospital gown now. Outside floated the Mobian’s time vessel. Nearby, my laptop crackled.
“The truth about time travel is this, Gecko. From the point of view of the future and of timeless, infinite beings, the past is set in stone. It has to be that way for us. It’s our present that can change. It’s your present that can change, and the universe has to reconcile that. I’ve devoted myself to helping stop people from changing it enough to bring the Fate into reality, but it’s found a way. So now I have to trap it, maybe even destroy it, but I need my vessel. You may doubt this, but I hope I see you again.”
The Mobian’s vessel flashed and disappeared. Trapping someone who wants to change reality to hurt everyone using a vessel that can travel through time. It’s like rain on your wedding day. Isn’t that ironic?
The gown wasn’t the only thing restored. My body went from a keyed-up Captain Gecko with an adrenaline rush to falling-down tired. I grabbed the wall and eased down into a chair. After a few minutes, I recovered enough to get back to the bed, trying to avoid laying on my deflated belly.
Wait, everyone had to be freaking the fuck out, too. I pulled myself up and stumbled out into the hallway, confirming that everyone else had had a hearty round of being fucked with. I found Qiang down near the cafeteria and hugged her, then carried her with me to go check on Alexander. The rest of the family, mostly hanging out around the cafeteria as well, caught up to us around then, in the middle of a bunch of babies cradling my newborn and my firstborn.
Unique Problems 3
Most county fairs I’m aware of wait until the end of the year when things are cooler. Unique, Iowa decided to hold its early as part of a big marketing and recruitment thing. The town’s much bigger than last time. I guess the speedster they’ve got enjoys construction. Not sure if they’re good at it yet, but there are many more buildings up.
I appeared with my daughter Qiang and my girlfriends Holly and Sam. Isabella and Maia weren’t able to get away on such short notice. Maia, aka Medusa, and the Exemplars have had an easier time of things since I culled the Earth, but there’s supposedly an organ harvesting ring they’re chasing down. Meanwhile, Isabella, aka Maia’s time-displaced younger self who stayed and decided they’d treat each other as sisters, aka Venus, is on the trail of a librarian gone mad and somehow unleashing monsters. They both know they need me, but part of the reason they first caught my eye is that they were a match for me in combat. That was several upgrades and one godhood ago, but I don’t step in on their cases unless they ask for my help.
So it was just the henchgirlfriends and the henchdaughter visiting Unique. Sam and Holly insisted on walking to the fairgrounds. I think it was mostly Holly. She was the one shouting out, “Oh my god, I want to see the little town!” Sam just rolled with it and I wobbled. I didn’t want to draw even more attention to myself by flying.
The fairgrounds weren’t far out of town because the town was still under construction. We’d heard the music since we’d appeared, and it only grew louder. The bass stood out in particular. Qiang danced along to it some while skipping and Holly joined in. I looked at Sam, who hid half her face behind a long set of bangs that didn’t exist on the buzzcut side of her head. “I’m good,” she said, refusing to join in.
“Me too,” I said.
“I wonder who these others are,” she said, nodding toward various cars and other pedestrians.
“They’re probably wondering the same about us,” I said.
Sam patted my belly. I laid my hand over hers for a moment, to touch her. She smiled at me and blushed. After a moment, she laughed. “I’m thinking of you flying around pregnant in spandex.”
“Careful, they probably think you’re the hero. You have the boobs for it,” I pointed out.
“So do you you!” she said. “Especially now they’re getting into milk mode. You going to let me have a sip?”
I rolled my eyes, then remembered to make them look normal. I went with brown.
“Pretty,” Sam said. “Oh yeah, you hid the rest of the stuff that makes you stand out.”
I shrugged and we headed for the ticket lines. Qiang got in free. My invitation was worth a free admission as well, except Holly stole it off me, so Sam and I had to pay. Holly laughed at Sam and I paying the price of admission. “Ugh, these thieves!” she teased. I stuck my tongue out at her but Sam flipped her the bird.
At least they gave us lots of awnings. Awnings everywhere. Awnings in front of the giant turkey leg stand. Awnings in front of the fried cheese stand. Awnings in front of the beer vendor where Sam bought a big mug full of the stuff and passed me root beer. Awnings at the rides where Sam too Qiang off to go get on something that would spin them around real fast or throw them upside down. Most importantly, awnings in front of the fried Oreo stand and the fried Twix stand. I nearly bit off Holly’s hand when she tried to take those away from me.
“This can’t be good for the baby. I’m pretty sure I can see bacteria in the air dying from exposure to all this deep fried shit,” Holly told me.
“I will devour a deep fried Oreo or I will devour your soul!” I declared in a raspy voice. I was in the middle of a pregnancy-induced feeding frenzy. Holly was lucky she had all her fingers left after she handed the Oreo back over.
She held up the invite though. “This thing says we have a little bit. How about we play some of these games?” She looked around. “You want to win me that big stuffed dog?”
I wanted to become a big stuffed bitch, but once the fried sweets were down and my hands were clean (I’d installed dermal teflon), I figured we could give it a go. First up, the darts. “$10 for five darts, get five color balloons and you get the biggest prizes. I saw your friend pointing out Mr. Pooch,” said the darts attendant.
I paid him his money and took the darts. “So where am I throwing these at?”
The attendant held up his hand to point at the backboard behind all the multi-color balloons. I threw. “Fuck- ouch!” The attendant looked at his hand pinned to the backboard. “What the hell, lady?!”
“I’ll take the big stuffed dog or the next one pops your balloons,” I said, lowering the angle of the next dart in my hand toward his crotch.
“Fine!” he pulled the dart out and wrapped his hand in his shirt, then handed me the dog. I handed it over to Holly.
“Fine work not giving yourself away, mistress of disguise,” she said.
“Ooh, I like when you call me Mistress,” I cooed.
“How about the strength test? Try not to go all out and break the thing,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. “You already got the stuffed dog.”
“Yeah, but I want Mr. Pooch to have a girlfriend,” she said.
I rolled my eyes. “Hey there, little lady. Your girlfriend going to show off for you?” the guy asked me.
“Actually, I thought I’d let her do the showing off,” Holly said.
I held out the money. The guy hesitated. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” I said with a smile.
He shrugged and took the cash. “Alright, I guess I’ll put it on the easiest difficulty for you so you don’t hurt yourself.”
I looked to Holly who mouthed, “Don’t.” I looked back to the guy. I took a long moment of consideration. Then I shrugged and knocked the bell off the top of the damn thing. Send the metal dropper thingy flying into the air. The guy practically threw the dog at me; a nice fluffy mate for Mr. Pooch.
Of course, then we passed by the weight-guessing game, with all its cheap, crappy prizes. None of them cost more than the price of playing it. It was a good game to dump newbies, but the person running it that night was over-confident. “Come right on up, lady, you’ve got plenty of weight to guess, don’t you?”
I looked to Holly, who nodded and pulled out her phone to record. I walked back over to the guy at the Test of Strength, tossed him some more money, and grabbed the hammer. I dropped it back off for him while carrying a whole bag of useless little toys. He winced and gave me a big plush caterpillar, too. I smiled and told him, “Thank you!” I picked up Holly again while she finished getting a closeup of the Guess Your Weight guy as he rolled around on the ground with his hands between his legs.
After all the fun and games, it was time to go see what this whole meeting was about. I texted Sam and Qiang who said they wanted to ride more rides. Holly and I went by ourselves, with the invite getting both of us in somewhere this time. With a nod of approval from the guy at the flap opening, we entered the hot, stuffy tent with a few dozen other people.
I didn’t recognize the guy who stepped up to speak, but he was well-built. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re here, there’s something special about you. You’ve dedicated your life to something higher. Something nobler. It’s tough, isn’t it? Not just the fight on the streets, but the fight at home. Worrying about jobs, rent, your family. The lies add up. So, partnering with some friends of mine, I came up with the idea for us to have our own place. A town designed to have everything to support us. A town full of superheroes, where no villain would dare go after your families. A town where we can even be a little selfish. Take a sick day. Use our powers to help our families. Attend ballgames and graduations. Isn’t it time the world paid us back?”
That got a smattering of “Yeahs” from the crowd.
“We’re completing new housing all the time, with affordable financing options that-” blah blah blah, that’s where they lost me.
At least it didn’t sound outright hostile, but I wish I hadn’t attended. Not like I was getting answers on whatever monster they crossed their crops with. Around the time I noticed Holly playing a game on her phone, I nudged her with my elbow. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” The guy at the flap gave me a card anyway, in case I felt like moving to Unique.
At least the rest of the fair was nice. Hot as hell, but nice.
So then I wake up the next day and find a letter from the City Council of Radium. “On the agenda this Wednesday is the issue of your eviction due to repeatedly bringing hostile situations to the town of Radium. We will give you a fair, private hearing.”
Oh come on, I haven’t- ok, yeah, there’s been a few different problems related to me. Mafiosos, time travelers, giant pepper monsters, horny teenage neighbors with frisbees…
Deals and Breakers 7
So here’s how it laid out. Lacastra was behind the plot to kill her brother, using Mickledorn who had a laundress poison him. Micledorn was then killed by her Security Chief. He was framed in part thanks to Grurn, who murdered the Butler for her. And now all this was revealed. It would be time to slap the cuffs on her in a police procedural, but she had her poofy-sleeved house guards who outnumbered us. Also, Grurn got his sword back, revealed he was working with her, and was also part of the people opposing us who were armed.
On the other side of things, there was the Mobian, his companion Lily, Sir Reginald the fighting fish, all the other guests who haven’t already been murdered, my girlfriend Holly, and myself. If not for the fact I need to worry about other people surviving, this is just a fun time with some future dead bodies.
“We don’t need to turn this into a bloodbath,” the Mobian offered.
“It would be difficult for the staff to clean up, but that’s what they’re there for,” Lacastra said.
“Except for the bit where you kill them freely in all this,” I said.
“They’re good for that, too,” Grurn said. I noticed some of the guards looking at each other. The beat-up Security Chief had crawled to the rest of his guys. He’d admitted to killing Mickledorne for Lacastra, and had not been treated well in return. The beating was my part, though. He decided to eliminate me for my suspicions. One helped him up and he whispered to him. The guards backed away from Lacastra and Grurn, then turned their polearm-rifles on Lacastra and Grurn.
“What is this?” Lacastra asked, outraged. “I demand you turn your weapons on them!”
Grurn slowly sidled over toward a side door of the garage. One of the estate’s maids closed and locked it before he could.
“Are you going to come easily, Grurn?” Sir Reginald asked from his fish tank on treads.
Grurn raised his Tarn blade, a local design to this water/swamp world. “Prepare to be sushi, Reginald.”
“No, he’s ours!” said a bunch of squeaky voices all at once. Guinea pig-like creatures swarmed out of the group of guests, headed toward Grurn. He swung and missed with this sword as they climbed onto him, nibbling enough to make him drop his blade, but carrying him to the ground, gnawing away.
Holly leaned in close. “I’m glad I didn’t eat one as an hor d’oeuvre.”
“So they were guests then?” I asked.
She furrowed her brow. “With the staff turning on them… I still don’t know.”
Regardless, the guinea pig things left us with the sight of an alien skeleton picked clean of meat and ligaments and fat everywhere that wasn’t covered by clothing. Grurn had become the prey of a vicious pack of appetizers. Or maybe some sort of hive minded rodent party guests.
“I think I’m going to barf,” Lily said, covering her mouth and looking away.
The Mobian edged toward Lacastra, who looked as shocked at the consumption of Grurn as almost everyone else. “You should come along peaceably.”
“Per my inheritance of my brother’s stake in the planet, I am the law here,” she said.
Sir Reginald blubbed. The front base of his water tank unfolded to reveal the barrel of some sort of projectile weapon. “I shall extradite you to my liege lords landholdings for trial immediately, followed by similar trials for the crime committed against the other gentry present.”
Lacastra made one last attempt at avoiding responsibility. She turned to the Security Chief. “Do something!”
“What’s my name?” asked the Security Chief.
“What?” the owner of the planet asked. “Why? It’s… Bob?”
“Stand down, men. Let them take her,” the Chief said.
“Letting someone live actually helped a situation,” I whispered to Holly. I noticed Mobian gesture toward Lily. They left the aristocrats to deal with their issue, and started heading down a side corridor. Holly and I followed. “Wait up!”
“Oh, you two,” Mobian said. “That worked out rather nicely if I do say so myself. And I do.” He smiled at his own joke. “You were both astonishingly useful, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
“If you’re ever on Earth, you’ll have to look us up,” Holly suggested. I gave her elbow an elbow.
“Oh, you’re from Earth?” Lily asked.
“Yeah, you’re from Earth?” Mobian wondered. “Bit early for that,” he pointed to my eyes.
“Well, we’re on a bit of a trip outside our usual time and place,” Holly admitted. “A friend said we simply had to attend this party.”
“Your friend has a weird sense of humor,” Lily said.
“I appreciate your help regardless,” The Mobian said. “Perhaps I will see you again.”
I nodded. “Yeah, you definitely will.” I held my hand out for a shake. He took it. I squeezed. He pulled back, but I puled him toward me, onto a nanite blade that pierced one of his hearts, then broke off and went after the other one. “Sorry about this, but you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.” After all, it was another incarnation of Mobian who made a deal to help me out in exchange for this attack.
“NOOOO!” Lily screamed. I let Mobian dropped and let her cradle him as he died. Except he didn’t just die. His skin began to glow. He looked like he was aging rapidly.
“Gecko, I left the watch in the room,” Holly said. She waved me on with her, then started running. I ran after. I think we’d both decided it’d be better to get out fairly soon after the assassination. I’m not sure if it’s really an assassination if it’s part of the plan for the target to come back to life, but that’s close enough for the Dark Brotherhood.
It didn’t seem all that necessary. When Holly and I barged into the room, her winded and me not so much, I checked the hallway behind us. “I don’t think anyone’s coming.”
“Fine, then I’m taking some of this stuff, too,” Holly said. She grabbed some of the shinier metal objects around the room. I shrugged and grabbed the fur rug from in front of the fireplace, as well as a painting I liked of a warped penguin with a beaklike-mouth on top of its head.
“I wish we’d planned this so we could have robbed everyone else,” I said.
“You’re the one who went and killed him right then,” Holly said. She sat on the bed. “Ugh, wish we could take this bed with us.” She sat up suddenly and lunged for the nightstand. She held up the pocket watch The Torian gave us to call him for our escape. “I got it!”
I rushed over with the rug and painting, then hopped onto her lap. She pressed the button on the watch.
We both dropped into time vessel. Amber colored walls and floors swirled with yellow energy all around us. We looked around toward the platform where Mobian and Torian control the vessel from. Torian looked a lot worse than I remembered. He staggered down the steps, coughing, the sat down on the steps. “Did you have to cut it so close stealing everything?”
I shrugged. “Not like Morigoth or Lacastra are going to notice it gone.”
He shook his head. “Not what I mean. That adventure took place quite some time ago to me. At the time, I didn’t understand. I held a grudge against you. This far along, I understand why you did it, and why you said that to me.”
“It was a shame to do it. That’s the nicest you’ve ever been to me,” I said. I stood up and helped Holly up as well.
The Torian, the villainous incarnation of the Mobian, laughed. “That was our first encounter.” The laughter turned into coughing. “And this will be our last, sort of.” He smiled at that. His skin began to glow. “The good die young, but I didn’t last forever.”
So we ended up getting a view of of the reincarnation process after all. When the glowing stopped, the old man who sat before us turned out to be a gawky, middle-aged man. Same clothes, but his coat was all the wrong size. “Hello, ooh,” he felt his teeth. “New teeth.”
“Hey, which one are you?” Holly asked enthusiastically.
The time traveling alien looked himself over. As he talked, I noticed his accent had changed quite a bit. Maybe a bit of Welsh in there? Space Wales, maybe? “So stuffy. I’m back to my old self, I think. Or my new self. But don’t worry, I don’t hold a grudge. It really had to be done, because it’s how it happened. You killed me, and then I incarnated as him.”
“So the Torian sent us to make sure he would be born, in a way,” I said.
“That’s right,” the newest Mobian said, smiling with some big front teeth of his. “It really hurt, you know. I should hit you for that, but, you know.” He gestured to the belly I carried.
“This explains something of the heretofore-unexplained tension between us, “ I said.
“Mm,” the Mobian said. He walked up the steps. “I better get you home then.”
“No offense, but I hope we don’t have our timelines so closely entangled going forward. Hope in one hand…”
“Actually, Mobian, I have an idea for a stop before you get us home!” Holly said, holding up her hand.
Cue the trip back to Vermont, years ago. The Mobian exited his time craft with us. “Vermont, home of the whitest of bread.”
Holly pulled me along. “I’m trying to remember… there we go.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
She kept pulling me along, though she had to stop. She’d already strained herself running around the Morigoth Estate, and we hadn’t gotten even a full night’s rest there. It bugged me that there was nothing for me to connect to, putting this firmly pre-wifi and bluetooth. We ended up stopping off near some park where a teenage Holly was arguing with a teenage boy.
“If you stopped being such a stuck-up bitch and just went with it, maybe you’d have some fun with your privileged life!” the boy yelled at her. He grabbed the younger Holly. She was crying and swaying.
The older Holly called out. “Hey! Let her go!” The boy panicked and let go of young Holly’s wrist, then booked it. We came running up.
“If Mobian were here, he’d say some weird stuff about timelines and interference with yourself probably,” I said.
“Just come on!” Holly called back. Her younger self had fallen to her knees and was crying to herself. The older one knelt down and hugged her. “It’s alright.” She looked up at me and said, “She’s high as fuck right now.”
“Who are you?” young Holly asked. She brushed her hair out of her face. “This can’t be real.”
“I’m you from the future, and I want you to know it gets better. You get out of here and you meet people who care about you.”
“And who’s that?” asked young Holly, pointing at me.
“That’s your girlfriend.”
I waved at young Holly, who gawked. “I’m a lesbian?!”
“More bisexual, maybe demisexual,” Holly answered. “But she’s a hot kickass cyborg assassin and she loves going down on you.”
“Can we phrase that in a way that doesn’t make me sound like I molest teenagers?” I asked my girlfriend.
“Come on, let’s get home,” Holly said. “The future’s going to be amazing.”
Deals and Breakers 6
Everything looked like Mickledorn the centaur had something to do with the murders. It’s even possible he did have something to do with the murders, except he himself was murdered. And while I know for a fact there’s more than one murderer around the Morigoth Estate, I know that I didn’t kill him. I considered it, because it would have taken suspicion off the Mobian, but I was considering killing a lot of people. Maybe not Sir Reginald, just because flushing him down the toilet would have left little to no evidence of a murder. Also, I think he’s funny.
The Mobian, his companion Lily, and I were investigating Mickledorn’s room, where we found proof of the poison used to kill Morigoth. We hadn’t found the sword he supposedly used to slay the laundress, though. I don’t think that was high priority for Lacastra, Morigoth’s sister. She already ordered the guards, who had been at this room when we arrived, to look for that sword. It was supposed to be a local type of blade, so I’m sure they’d find something. If Mickledorn came in his own transport, I have a feeling that’s where it’ll conveniently pop up.
I told Holly to keep an eye out for anything about Lacastra specifically. So, naturally, she snooped while I pretended to snoop. Or half-heartedly snooped. I was still curious about the sword, even if I doubted I’d find it. It wasn’t up the chimney, under the bed, or beneath the pillow. I was working on the rack of parasols when Holly got back to me.
“They moved the body before I could get a close look, but I saw him fall. Lacastra was in the middle of the room with the guards keeping anyone away. She had a few people escorted to her, but the lighs blinked off when Mickledorn was on his way back. You could see him start to fall in the dark. The captain of the guard, you can tell because he has a scarf on, ran up to check on him first, then pulled out the bloody quill.”
“That seems odd,” I said. “You said you saw him fall in the dark?”
“Yeah, he glowed a little, so he must have had that poison on him,” she answered. “I didn’t see a quill anywhere until after the head guard got there.”
“Yeah, shit stinks,” I acknowledged.
“I should examine his vehicle myself,” The Mobian suggested.
“I’ll go with you,” Lily said.
My first instinct was to separate myself and see who I could pick off or who would pick me off. I fought back the urge and decided to stick with Lily and Mobian. “Me too. I don’t feel safe separating.”
The security chief stuck his nose in it. “I think we had better escort you to your Mistress to check in.”
Mobian looked at me. “Go ahead. We’ll be fine until you get back. It’s not your fight, after all.”
I wonder if he knew what was going to happen when he said that. Regardless, he went his way and the Security Chief insisted on escorting me personally to meet Lady Snyders of Hanover, Holly’s alias. Funny thing was, we weren’t headed back to the ballroom where they’d isolated all the guests to be a witness to Mickledorn’s murder. Nope, and we didn’t even head back over to the room Holly and I were sharing. If they had any hidden surveillance devices, they probably realized Lady Snyders was fooling around with her servant. Not a foreign concept to this bunch, I’m guessing. Instead, we started heading up to the veranda, as the Butler called it. It was a large balcony, great for dining outside, with large windows to take in a planet that was all either water, swamp, or technologically-reclaimed land like the Morigoth Estate sat on. It could even be retracted.
I hadn’t realized it was storming. Water slammed into the window, drowning out all but the brightest bioluminescent lights of sea creatures in the water. Mysterious underwater moving lights, interspersed with the pounding of a light monsoon. The house is soundly build, with lots of sound dampening between it and the exterior. “Why would she come here?” I asked the Security Chief as I stepped out further onto the Veranda, standing next to one of the solid metal tables. It looked and felt like cast iron. I ran a hand along engravings that looked like waving aquatic flora. Everything was aquatic with this fucking planet, but then it’s not like they’re going to have orchids and deer. Seacows, maybe, but not deer.
I turned to catch a glimpse of the Security Chief leaving. The door clicked and the windows started to retract. I grabbed the table and hurled it into the door. It left a dent, but not a break. Damn them and their foresight for a broken window caused by a storm! That said, it’s not like storms regularly pack their own lasers like the ones in my eyes.
I threw the door off its melted hinges and stepped into the hallway. The Security Chief was there, meeting with more of his men. He looked surprised to see me. Fun. “Miss me, boys?”
I turned and hit the button on the inside that reversed the windows, moving them back into place, and meant I didn’t have to worry about catching a flounder to the backside while fighting. They lowered their polearm-rifles too slow. I got inside the range of the barrels. I grabbed one by the rifle and slammed him into the wall, pushing the gun’s frame through his chest. The other tried to aim at me. I pulled the rifle out and tossed it. It embedded in the second guard’s head. That left me and the chief.
The Chief was running away. Ok, that left me chasing the chief. I checked around for anything else to throw and found something small and metal. I grabbed it, threw it. A metal fish in the shape of a boomerang banged into the Chief’s back and knocked him down. By the time he got back to his feet, I was on him, grabbing him by the back of his poofy-sleeved shirt and smacking him into the wall a few times. “Let’s have a talk, shall we?”
He pulled a knife.
“What are you going to do, C-section me?” I asked.
“I’m going to clean you like a fish!” he threatened. I melted the knife out of his hands with eye lasers. He gasped and grabbed his hand, but I grabbed his neck and pushed him up against the wall behind him. He kicked, so I threw him to the other side of the hall, through a much weaker door than the one to the veranda. I found him crawling along in a room with a heavy table, as well as sticks and balls set up. I grabbed for a ball and threw it at his hand while he tried to get a stick. The next ball thumped him on the head. He stopped moving.
“Shit,” I said, moving to check his vitals. He was alive. His lungs breathed and his heart pumped. “Great, now I have to wait for you to wake up!” I took a moment to check in with Holly. “Hey babe, their Chief of Security just tried to kill me. How’s things there?”
“I was just curious who made those uniforms. The sleeves are such a stand-out fashion decision., all big like that. Say, give me one moment, let me get something from my purse…” Ah, she couldn’t respond just to me because of guards around.
Bam! Bam! Bam, bam, bam! Well, no more guards around anymore. “Sorry Gex, they were trying to escort me to the boss lady. I got suspicious.”
“That’s a pretty safe assumption. Where are you?” I asked. I prodded the chief with my foot.
“Corridor outside the ballroom. I don’t know where they were taking me, but this isn’t near the study or the rooms. Let’s meet up.”
“Last I saw of the guards, they were posted around Mickledorn’s room. May not be there anymore with everyone splitting up. Oh, that’s a lot of guards.”
“I’m on my way,” I said. I grabbed the Chief and threw him over my shoulder before hauling my ass out of there and heading toward the twin markers of the ballroom and Holly. I slipped one into her purse next to her Mauser. If she had the gun, she had the marker.
It ended up being pretty stereotypical. I turned a corner and saw her, then ran into her arms for a hug and a kiss. We even spun around a little, the security chief’s head and my girlfriend’s pistol swinging around with us.
I went in for the tongue, but Holly, giggling, pulled away. “Stop. Who’s that?”
I gestured to the Chief. “Head of security. He’s pretending to still be knocked out.”
“Right. Nice to meet you, Chiefster. What about Mobian and Lily?”
“Screw them,” I said, biting her lower lip. She gently pushed me, so I backed away. “Fine. Last I saw, they were going to the garage.”
That’s the name on the marker. The Butler, who I hadn’t seen in a minute, had a longer name for it, but he winked and said, “The garage for short.”
So, still carrying the Chief, we headed toward the garage. We picked up a tail. Some of the guests had left the ballroom by now and figured out something was happening. As we got close, we could make out Lacastra standing with her back to us, a line of guards to her front. All their backs were to us, as well. We had to sneak up on them to hear her declare, “Yes, it was needlessly convoluted; Mickledorn bribed the Laundress, then killed her when she’d finished. The Butler administered the same poison to Mickledown, but every step of separation protected me more, at least until someone decided to kill Mickledorn like that. Your friend the bulging pregnant primate must be some sort of infiltrator.”
“Hold up, I did all that for you and you’re not even grateful?” The Chief asked from my shoulder.
Lacastra turned toward us, as did the faces of the guards. The Mobian and Lily were in front of that group as well, Mobian holding his gadget. At his feet was the body of the Butler, impaled on a sword. I turned so the battered Chief could speak more easily. “You… I did it for you. I murdered that ass Mickledorn when he tried to extort you for more money. I got beat up by this land whale for you!”
“Hey, I can still break whatever your species has for a jaw,” I said.”I’m pregnant and not even that big for being pregnant.” I dropped the Security Chief. “Carry your own beat-up self.”
“Wait, so Lacastra did all this?” Sir Reginald said, rolling up behind us.
“I’ll take my sword back, thank you!” Grurn said. The aristocratic big game hunter started for the body of the Butler. The guards in the way raised their weapons.
“It seems we’re going to make quite a dent in the local gentry,” Lacastra said. “My brother always knew how to throw a party.”
Grurn kept walking. The guards kept their rifles up… but pointed at the rest of us. Grurn grabbed his sword out of the Butler. “I’ll thank you not to dispose of me before the uprising’s over at least, Lacastra?”
“Of course, partner,” she said with a smile, her guards aiming for the rest of us.
Deals and Breakers 5
Lily and I crept along the hallway. By now, she was deeply suspicious I wasn’t a regular servant girl. We’d taken an innocuous side door to get out of the ballroom where guests and servants were all being gathered. It was locked, but I finessed it by using my skilled fingers to break the lock with brute strength.
“So, that back there… you’re some sort of cybernetic robo-nanny, is that it? Part maid and part bodyguard?” she asked.
Sure, let’s go with that. “Yeah. Lot more to me than meets the eye. You’re perceptive.”
“Are you from Earth, too?” She stopped, checking behind her.
“Hey!” Someone called out.
Lily started to run, but I grabbed my belly and groaned. I leaned against the wall. She stopped, panicking. “What’s wrong?”
“The baby’s coming! My water broke!” I called out. The pair of guards who approached weren’t human, just humanoid. They had the same general shape, but one was the same sort with skin like a mosaic and another had big teeth and a fuzzy, tapered tail. They slowed as they got close.
“What do we do?” the rodent-like one asked.
The other shook his head. “I don’t know, get a doctor.”
“Down here,” I said, pointing below my legs. “Get a doctor.”
One of them leaned down. I captured his head between my thighs and squeezed, then grabbed the head of the other, the rodent. Him I threw lifted over head and smacked into the hardwood wall behind me. He crumpled to the ground. I then strangled the one between my legs until he passed out.
“Did you kill them?” Lily asked.
“Probably not,” I answered. I looked around and spotted a door that could have been to a closet. Opening it, I found it was a storage closet for taxidermied animals. A couple tied-up guards fit right in with the collection.
“That lot was heavy. I thought they had us there,” Lily said. “You’re pretty good at using that for sympathy.”
I shrugged. “Might as well. None of these guys know what human pregnancy and birth looks like anyway.”
I took the lead, taking us toward the basement. There were some guards posted. I looked around for anything I could use and a covered dish. I lowered it down to my skirt and let ‘er rip in it. “Just follow my lead.”
I turned a corner toward the guards. “Evenin’ gents. Here with dinner.”
The guards looked at each other and barred the door with their polearm-rifles. “Why did they send you two and not the regular staff?”
I acted surprised. “You hadn’t heard? One of the cooks was in on it. Gossipy lady, knows a nurse and something. They don’t trust the domestics, so Lady Snyders of Hanover offered our services.”
“I’ll check that,” one of the guards said. He lifted the cover, then got a waft of the trapped fart. He started coughing. “That smells horrible! Go on through.” He withdrew his polearm-rifle as much to have something to lean on as to give us entry. The other guard followed suit and we made our way downstairs.
“That was something. I don’t know what, but it was something,” Lily commented.
“It got us in. Getting us out won’t be hard.” We headed downstairs up until one gave way underneath me. I pitched forward, grabbed the handrail, and turned it into an uneasy flip, turning around so that when my forward motion followed through, it was my back hitting the wall and not my belly. Lily clung to the stairs further up while the Mobian came out from behind the stairs.
“Oh my, are you alright? I thought I would get a guard, not you. What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Saving you, you pain in the ass,” I backed away from the wall where an old nail had indeed poked out just enough to give me a sharp pain to my butt cheek.
“She’s a bodyguard or something. I couldn’t have got here without her,” Lily said.
The door at the top of the stairs opened. “What’s going on in there?”
“Damn stairs!” I called out. I nodded for Mobian to get into hiding and moved over toward the stairs with, pretending to be laying on my front down in front of the gap. “Owww…”
“Move, get out of the way,” the guard called out. They both came in, pushing Lily aside so they could get to me. One stepped over the gap, then put his polearm-rifle aside to bend over and try helping me up. The other stood on a step just above the one that collapsed. As the one helped me up, I saw Mobian using some device on the underside of the step that the other was on.
“Oh shit!” I called out as I “accidentally” pushed the guard back down the stairs. The one behind me reached out, but the step gave way and he fell through, collapsing onto the hard stone floor of the wine cellar. The one I’d pushed tumbled down, very nearly bonking his head on the nail that got my butt. Instead, he was knocked out on the wall. I begrudgingly checked him over, pressing my fingers to his neck as if to check for a pulse while a native colony of nanomachines transferred over to check his vitals. He had a little bit of an aneurysm they repaired real quick so he’d survive. Meanwhile, the Mobian and Lily struggled with the other guard until Lily knocked him out with a wine bottle to the back of the head that then bounced loose.
“Ok, brilliant job,” I said sarcastically. I stood up and brushed off my dress.
“Is he dead?” Lily asked. “Did I kill him?”
“No,” Mobian and I said at almost the same time. Then he looked to both of us. “Where is everyone?”
“Ballroom,” I said. “Rounding everyone up to be addressed by Morigoth’s sister, something like that.”
“We need to get back there,” Mobian insisted. “If she picks someone as a scapegoat, this could get nasty fast.”
“Fasty, some might say,” I added.
“What do we do? Do we know who did it?” Lily asked.
Mobian shook his head. “I’m not certain. Not yet. But whoever is murdering people, they want someone to think it’s connected to the locals. I saw the luminescence when Morigoth died, indicative of one of the local natural poisons derived from sea plants.”
“The person who was killed, the laundress, they got her with a distinctive local blade,” I said. “That one centaur guy, Mickledorn, he seemed surprised to find out she made it upstairs.”
“No way she did that,” Lily said, shaking her head.
“You think someone posed her there?” Mobian said. “But why?”
I answered that one. “So I could see if anyone was surprised she’d made it up there. Anyone else would just know she crawled up there. The killer, or a witness like Lily who saw it happen, would know that’s impossible. I figured it’d rattle them, give a reaction.”
“And?” Mobian asked.
I shrugged. “Mickledorn’s the only one I’ve seen with that reaction, but they don’t let me into the hobnobber groups here. Kept the staff and guests separate in the ballroom.”
“Let’s get up there. We won’t learn anything sitting around in a wine cellar,” Mobian said. “We should check Mickledorn’s room,” Mobian suggested. It was awkward getting back upstairs with so many of them out of commission, but we didn’t have to figure out a way past the guards anymore. We opened the door and got out of there, heading toward the rooms. I’d left a marker by Mickledorn’s. It sounded like there was enough excitement elsewhere to hide our approach.
“Gecko, where are you?” called Holly through our communicators. “Something’s wrong. Someone’s dead.”
“What?” I held my finger to my ear. “Did they execute someone, or…?”
We turned a corner toward Mickledorn’s room and ran into a rather large crowd of poofy-sleeved security guards with their polearm-rifles.
“I got this. They don’t know humans, right?” Lily said. She stepped in front of us and growled. “Out of our way, or I’ll burn you with my fire breath!”
Some of the guards raised the polearms, stocks and barrels withdrawing to make usable rifles, but immediately one of them with a sash draped over his shoulders pushed the barrels down. “Mobian, Lady Lacastra asks for your aid.”
Mobian brushed off his cuffs and stepped in front of us. “That’s good to hear. What changed your mind?”
The guard nodded toward the door to Mickledorn’s room. “Shortly after he finished speaking with the Lady in the ballroom, Mickledorn was killed. The lights went off briefly, and when they came back up, he was bleeding out all over the ballroom floor.” He looked to Lily and me as well. “These two were with you?”
“Yes, they were coming to get me. So that makes us three the only guests who couldn’t have done it. Other than the guards, of course.”
That rankled the guard, I could tell. “We do our duty to House Morigoth.”
“Oh do you?” Mobian asked. “So we have three dead people because you were doing your duty?”
The lead guard had to hold those rifle barrels down. Then he looked past us. “Lady.”
We turned to see a well-dressed gray-skinned alien with black hair approaching in a pale blue gown. She looked us over. “I am Lacastra.”
The Mobian once again pushed to the forefront. “I’m the Mobian, but you know that because we met briefly. My companion Lily,” he gestured to Lily. “And, uh,” he was at a loss for me.
“Delilah, servant of Lady Snyders of Hanover,” I answered.
Lacastra’s eyes flicked down to my belly briefly. “Right now, you are the only ones I can trust.” I could hear the rankling. “Come with me, let’s look into Mickledorn’s room. Perhaps you can tell me why my late cousin was killed.”
“How he was killed would also be useful,” I said as we moved past the guards into the bedroom of the dead centaur.
“He was killed with an enameled quill,” Lacastra said. “There is a type of fish that lives in the coral shallows, adorned with hardened quills from the coral they eat. The quills are used in various local weapons, including blow guns and concealed daggers.”
The room was messy, but well-carpeted. What confused me was the horse-guy-alien had so many spare sets of hooves. “What’s with these?” They looked just like his hooves, but more of them.
“Spares,” Lacastra answered as if that was enough. I bent down to see inside, then reached a hand in. They had a place to hold.
“He had hands in these things?” I asked.
“Yes,” Mobian confirmed. “His species don’t like to walk on their hands, though. It’s dirty, so when they walk on fours, they keep those spare shoes around. It’s hard to go around on two legs on a planet like this, but they can do it. They keep a pair of their front hands when situations require them to walk on those as well.”
“There!” Lily pointed toward a blanket hanging off the bed. “That’s the cloak worn by the person with the sword who killed the laundress!”
“So he hid under a blanket, walking on two legs to hide it, in case anyone saw him,” Mobian said. “But where’s the sword he used?”
“This didn’t take long to wrap up,” Lacastra said, even though we still had a weapon to search for. “I’ll have the guards start looking.”
I called Lily and Mobian together. “You know this is convenient, right?”
“There’s usually nothing especially complex about murder,” Mobian said. “Especially over long-lost love.”
“Yeah, but then who killed Mickledorn?” Lily asked.
Mobian broke the huddle to walk over toward a shady corner of the room, a sitting area with a small bookshelf all its own. Some of the books were on there unevenly and he pulled them loose. “Look at this…”
It was a pouch of some sea grass, a pale white one with beads of red fluid on it. “That could be our poison.”
“I feel like this is wrapping up. I’m almost embarrassed I had to call on your help now,” Lacastra said. She glanced at the door where her guards stood watch.
“Holly,” I didn’t vocalize the message where I was in case they heard, but it came through clearly in Holly’s ear. “I think this is a big setup, and it’s getting clearer to me who’s pulling the strings. Keep an eye out in there. Watch the guards, especially, but if you saw anyone else close to Lacastra especially.”
Deals and Breakers 4
In less than 24 hours on this planet, with days that apparently measure longer than that, there has been one party and two murders. The Butler had Mobian taken into custody over all that and sealed up the library. I had gone back to find Holly and Mobian’s companion, Lily. The companion had run off to see what she could do for him.
“Alright, so… we don’t really have to solve this thing… but who all’s at play here? That Morigoth guy was saying before he went to the eternal dirt nap that everyone at this shindig but you. He specifically mentioned Sir Reginald and someone called the Burgess of Meredith.”
Holly smiled. “I met that thing. Has a squid head, wears an outfit with big shoulders and a cape. He wanted to talk to someone called Lacastra. You said you wanted to try something else to get him loose. What would that be?”
I shrugged. “Considered offing someone else. Might break into someone’s room and see if anyone’s got a sword, but I don’t know if we’ll all be confined or not or if there are swords all over the place. These rich types keep weapons all over the place.”
We heard a knock on the door. I headed over to open it. “Yes?”
It was the house guards, wearing a combination of alien tactical and poofy decorative sleeves. “Oh my. Can I help you gentlemen?” I remembered them packing rifles, but now they had polearms of a sort. Actually… yeah, these were the rifles, just with the barrels and stocks extended.
“We’ve been asked to gather everyone in the ballroom. We need you and your mistress to come with us,” one of them ordered. I looked to Holly.
She put on her old time accent again. “There’s no reason we can’t accommodate this request.”
We let them show us to the ballroom, which was apparently not the large room from the first night. I was going to stick with Holly, but then the poofy-sleeves barred my path and indicated a group of servants, and Lily. “Over there.”
I made my way over to her. “You didn’t get far, did you?”
“No,” she said. “But I overheard them say say Mobian was being kept in the cellar.”
I thought back to my tour with the Butler. “Makes sense. They keep wines there and have a cage for temporary storage of valuables. They probably put him in the cage.” It had just been that, a simple metal cage set into the stone. Rusty in places, even. It would slow someone down and deter casual theft, someone clever enough could get in or out easily. Mobian wouldn’t be deterred for long.
Once I made sure Lily was fine and found out what she knew, though, I brought her with me to find someone I recognized as a cook. “What is going on? Why do they want us all here?”
“They say Lady Morigoth is going to address us. The sister, Lacastra, she is in charge now,” she told me. She looked around. She looked like the same species as the Butler, but yellow-skinned. Also, she expanded her throat like a frog, but I didn’t hear a croaking noise when it contracted.“She is not here. But I think Mister Donpre, the Head Butler, is with her. They say the Mobian killed Master Morigoth.”
“Had anyone looked into the cause of death for him?” I asked. “I don’t know the Mobian to kill.”
“Sadlie!” the cook called out to another young alien like this. This one was a brighter lime color, but I think was the same species? There were some differences, like a wild plume of hair that stuck up like Vegeta, the Prince of like three Saiyans. This one was smaller, even if the hair made her look taller. She walked over, bringing a friend with her. “This is…”
“I’m Delilah, servant for the Lady Snyders of Hanover,” I said.
And Lily joined in. I wasn’t going to introduce her in case the staff refused to cooperate with someone working with the suspected murderer. “I’m Lily, I’m with The Mobian.”
Sadlie didn’t seem bothered. “I don’t believe what they’re saying. Morigoth wasn’t poisoned by the Mobian, no way or how.”
“Poisoned?” I asked. “Any idea how it was administered?”
“I thought it was something in his cigars,” Sadlie said. “There are herbs on the planet that many don’t react well to and it leaves bioluminescent bacteria.”
“Impressive knowledge,” I complimented her.
The cook laughed. “All the locals know about those plants and bacteria.”
Sadlie nodded. “Yeah, but the difference is there’s no sign the poison affected his respiratory system.”
“He was foaming when I got there,” I said.
“You were there that soon?” Sadlie asked.
I nodded. “They were questioning me because I found the other body, the laundress. They sent me away when I asked about her. Mr. Morigoth thought of her death only in regards to his own safety.”
Sadlie’s friend made a gesture, like a religious sign. I think it was a pentagram, and ended with a hand gesture where all her fingers except the equivalent of the pinky and pointer were up. “Poor thing.”
Sadlie spoke up. “It was a local blade. Tarn marks.” Out of deference for Lily and I, she explained, “Tarn blades have a distinctive edge.”
“So either it’s someone local, or someone wants us to think it’s a local,” I pointed out.
The three staff shared looks among each other. The cook glanced over toward the other crowd, past a group of puffy-sleeves standing in the middle of the room. “There, the one strutting around in that leather top with all the patterns on it like he was one of us.”They’d indicated someone with the same gray skin as Morigoth, but with patchy blonde hair all over his face and head. And I mean patchy. His head looked like he’d meant to play chess on it. “That’s Mr. Grurn. His house has been a rival of Morigoth’s, but he fancies himself an amateur archeologist and environmentalist. Goes from planet to planet, shooting and stuffing animals to preserve what they look like, acting like he’s one with all the people he comes across. Bought himself a traditional outfit and tarn blade to act like he understands us.”
“So, a rival of one murder victim who happens to own a weapon matching what killed another. Possibly connected.”
“Probably connected,” Lily said.
I shrugged. “We don’t know for sure. For all we know, these are coincidences. Could always be more than one killer in the building.”
The cook swatted me on the arm. “Don’t go saying that or you’ll upset everyone over your own supposin’.”
I shrugged. After all, I knew for a fact there was more than one killer present. There was myself and at least one other person. I decided not to reveal that to the rest of the staff, but I contacted Holly via some nanites in her ear canal. “See if you can speak to Grurn, the fellow in the leather outfit there. He’s kind of a big game hunter who likes to dress and arm himself like the natives of wherever he goes. He owns a sword like the one that killed the first victim.”
I decided to keep the line open so I could hear everything and offer suggestions. While this gaggle of servants broke up over by me, Holly made her way over to Grurn, who was glaring at Sir Reginald. Sir Reginald may have been glaring back. It was difficult to tell due to the fish’s eye placement. He might have been glaring at a big, komodo dragon-looking alien in a dress with a huge back end. The lizard person licked its own eyeball but didn’t seem bothered by the fish glare, so I felt safe assuming this was about Sir Reginald and Grurn.
“Oh my god,” Holly said as she got close. “I heard you had a sword! That’s so cool.”
Grurn smiled and held himself up a little higher. “Why yes, madame. I own many weapons, but the one I have in this building is a genuine local Tarn blade from the Eastern Blood Swamp of Caar Ne Heeke.”
“Wow, do you have it with you or anything?” Holly asked.
Grurn’s smile eased up. “I’m afraid not. In light of the circumstances, I thought it best to put it up.”
“Going unarmed while a murderer’s afin?” Sir Reginald asked, easing forward in his treaded aquarium.
“Reowr,” I commented. “Looks like someone’s part catfish.”
“I understand you’re something of a fighting fish as well, Sir Reginald,” Holly pointed out.
Sir Reginald blubbed a bubble. “I was quite the duelist, once upon a time. In my youth, I was said to be quite the swordfish.”
Realizing I was more alone than I intended, I looked around for Lily. She was sneaking off toward the walls of the room. A tapestry had fallen over there, revealing a small side door nobody cared about. Could be a closet, but it could also be a way out. I quietly and surreptitiously made my way over. Stealth is at least as much about attitude as armor that turns someone invisible.
“Other sentients are predictable,” Grurn said. He patted his own chest with a closed fist. “I have fought dangerous creatures all over the known universe, and some unknown universes.” He turned his cheek toward us, showing off a scar. “Before I came here, I hunted a dangerous creature known as a jackalope infesting a backwater planet.”
“I know a place said to have those,” Holly said. “They’re a myth though. There are none.”
“Not anymore,” Grurn said with a grin.
“And yet a laundress was murdered with the same sort of blade you own. Truly, a hunter of the dangerous,” Sir Reginald poked.
Lily kept an eye out around her, so she spotted my approach. Good. Less risk of startling her. I raised a single finger to my lips to let her know I was keeping this quiet, too.
“I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t even know it was a laundress. If it was me, she wouldn’t have been able to crawl all the way up the stairs, that’s for damn certain!” declared Grurn.
That statement drew stares, but oddly startled was the centaur alien with the alien “hair” formed out of a bony headplate who had been talking to a faceless alien with a blank, veiny head and hands sticking out of a black jumpsuit. The centaur clattered on his hooves. “She crawled upstairs? It’s a wonder she didn’t call for help.”
Lily gently tried the door once I reached her. Nothing.
“It’s locked,” she said.
I bent down to examine it. Pretty simple stuff.
Grurn shrugged. “No one knows how they’ll react in a life or death situation until they’re in one.”
“Yes,” Sir Reginald agreed. “Be glad you’ve never had to be in one, Mickledorn.”
The Blank alien nodded and patted Mickledorn the centaur on his padded purple shoulder. The centaur brushed it off. “I need a drink and a think,” he said, heading off alone by himself.
“Well, wish I had a Belgian with a mustache to tell me about how they all fit into this,” I said to Holly, and also out loud. “Sir Reginald owed Morigoth money related to gambling debts. Grurn was some sort of rival of Morigoth’s.”
Lily looked at me, then back at the crowd with Molly in it, then nodded. I glanced at her to acknowledge her understanding of the situation, then turned my back and pressed my hands against the lock. The lock snapped under the strain of my superior strength. It wasn’t built to be all that secure, and who would believe Lily or I actually broke it ourselves?
“Mickledorn is a second or third cousin of Morigoth’s. He wanted Morigoth to write him a letter of recommendation to get him into the same college his girlfriend was going to, but Morigoth refused. Said it was better if he didn’t sully the family name or something. They broke up and moved on, but that was years ago. He laughed it off.”
“Anyone else?” I asked.
“No, but it’s cute you’re caught up in it like this,” she said.
“You mingle and be your usual amazing self. Lily and I are going to go find Mobian if he’s out already, or go down and ask him what’s taking so long getting out of the cage.”
“Sure thing, detective Gecko,” she giggled. I groaned.
As soon as we got through the door, which actually put us in a side hallway, Lily turned to me. “I knew it! I knew something was up. You’re undercover or something. You’re not really pregnant, are you?”
“You’re right. And these boobs aren’t really this big. Here, feel them,” I said. Lily raised a hand. I almost had her, but then she pulled away. I laughed. “Yeah, I actually am pregnant.”
“Aww,” she reached for my belly.
I slapped the hand away. “No time. As Sir Reginald would say, the game’s afin. Now, let’s find the Mobian.”
Deals and Breakers 3
Later that evening, in our nice room, Holly and I cuddled in bed. “You have a good time?” I asked.
She smiled and laughed. “This is all so cool. I say that a lot, but I mean it.”
“Still cool after all that time with Max?” I asked.
She kissed my cheek “Jealous? He was fun. Sam’s fun. You’re fun.” She ran her hand over my belly, rubbing it.
“So when are you going to take me home to meet your parents?” I teased, turning my head to see as much of her face as I could out of my peripheral vision.
She cringed. “My parents had me kidnapped to become less of a problem a long time ago. They might have a heart attack if they found out my girlfriend’s a pregnant trans woman supervillain who murders people. God, and if they thought the baby was their grandkid…” she traced a finger over my belly. I heard the smile in those words at the end.
“I remember something about your parents not approving of your lifestyle choices,” I said.
“Mostly they focused on the drugs. I picked up a habit living up to their high standards, no pun intended. I wanted something to take me away from them and everything. You know, my mom actually told me in high school that being Homecoming Queen was like being royalty, and that I needed to set a higher standard? That’s such bullshit!” She laughed.
“Huh… in the alternate reality Venus made, she had me be the alpha bitch, but lose out on being Homecoming Queen because of our rivalry.” I shook my head. “I mean, I guess it’s interesting when you’re in it, but…”
“Yeah,” she agreed. She sat up. “Did you hear that?”
We both swam for the edge of the bed. I nearly fell on my face getting out, but I turned into a flip and landed on my feet. Holly hit the floor hard on the other side. “I meant to do that!” I made my way toward the door, grabbing some knicknack off of a table next to the sofa. I hefted a small metal statue of a fish shaped like a boomerang.
I put my ear to the door. Someone was moving around outside. I stepped back out of the way and pulled it open. I expected someone to jump, but instead a blonde woman fell in. The human companion traveling with the Mobian. The Mobian joined her, stepping over her and helping her up. “Brilliant, thank you,” he said to me. “Oh, you’re…”
I glanced down. Right, naked. I closed the door and glanced out. “What’s going on?”
“Right-” Mobian started
The woman started. “Someone’s out there with a huge sword! They killed someone! Oh dear, you are naked.”
I closed the door. Holly walked over, pulling her robe around herself and handing a gown over to me. I slipped it on. “Thanks.”
“Are you going out there?” she asked.
“I don’t know that I should. We’ve got guests now. We should probably grab some refreshments for them. They seem quite shocked.”
Holly started for the mini fridge in the room but I silently waved her off while heading over for it. “We only have whatever came with the room. It looks like water, algae soda, peeper juice, and Scla. Doesn’t even say a flavor, just Scla.”
“I think water would be best,” Mobian said. He walked over to the door to listen out. I noticed him glancing at myself and the boomerang statue, then over at Holly. “You guests for the celebration?”
“Yes, I don’t believe we met,” Holly said, putting on her accent again. “I’m Holly Snyders, of the Snyders of Hanover. And this is my servant, Delilah.”
The human woman laughed just once when I handed her a water. I set the statue down as well. “Snyders of Hanover?”
“Shh,” the Mobian said. He was listening out. “I think they’ve gone.”
“What was it you saw?” Holly asked. “A murder?”
“I saw it. Someone in a big hooded robe, like a member of a cult. He, or I guess she, was talking with someone and then pulled out a huge sword and slashed the other person with it. I started to leave and then I ran into the Mobian.”
“I was looking for her. I thought she might be in trouble. And you two? Late to be attending your mistress, innit?”
“It is my custom to be available to her in the middle of the night,” I responded.
“Riiiight,” Mobian said. He looked to the side, toward the fireplace. We had a little bit of a fire going, not so much for the heat as the ambiance. Our nightly activities began on the carpet in front of it. There wasn’t anything left to see over there, but hopefully the fire helped with some of the other smell in the place. “We shouldn’t bother you long. We’ll just be going. You have a lovely time at the party. Come on, Lily. We don’t want to interrupt them any more than we need to.”
“Pish posh,” Holly said. “She’s obviously upset. Feel free to stay and calm down a bit.” She leaned down to pat Lily on the shoulder. “You’ll be alright here.” She stood back up. “Delilah, be a dear and check the hallway for the Butler?”
“I’m not sure you should, “ Mobian said, moving in front of the door. “You’re pregnant!”
I slapped him across the face. “Oi! The cheek. A woman puts on a little weight…” I muttered, before pushing him aside and opening the door. I smiled when he couldn’t see me anymore. That was hilarious.
“I’m sorry,” I heard behind me.
Holly laughed. “She is pregnant. That was her idea of a laugh.”
Lily joined in. With the laughter, that is, not the slapping. I shut the door and stepped out, becoming silent on the floor. I looked down the hallway. It ended not far to my left, and across the way was a section of wall between two other doors. To my right was a longer section that I traveled down until I came to a side corridor to my right. I didn’t see anyone, around, but I could smell some blood. I made a note about the blood smelling similar to a human’s, and the possibility of whatever bleeding having a similar composition due to the similar atmospheric conditions. There wasn’t a lot of difference between the air here and at home. A few ratios slightly off, like having more oxygen and less nitrogen, but not enough to kill. So it couldn’t have been the air accounting for the body I saw having crawled part of the way up some stairs. Whatever it was trying to get to was upstairs, not downstairs with all the guest rooms.
I knew that per my role, I should scream. That’s how the story goes, but I decided to do something cheeky, to use old timey servant language. I grabbed a clean portion of the victim’s outfit and gave it a bit of a drag. I put him right at the top of the stairs, then headed back downstairs to scream at the sigh to of a trail of blood having been dragged along the floor.
Of course, that made me the person to keep getting questioned by everyone. Morigoth did it, the Mobian did it, even the Butler did it. I was whisked away to this study, a large, grand room full of books and various recording media with an impressive desk before me made of a rich, dark hardwood. I didn’t tell the story about Mobian and his companion, just that I heard something and my lady told me to go out and check for the Butler. These were true statements, even if there were gaps in between. Mobian’s questioning was the shortest, and really seemed like a way to end my interrogation. Morigoth shook his grey head toward the Butler. “Get the dear some refreshment to help her nerves. The poor thing’s pregnant, after all.”
Mobian winced at that, but I did nothing. Coincidentally, we both took a look around the spacious study.
“My, but you’ve got a lot of stuff,” Mobian noted.
I was curious about the shelves around us. The wall behind the desk and across from that one were both clear of shelves. Behind the desk was a large window and a short liquor cabinet; on the opposite side of the room were paintings and a door we came through. The other two sides were floor to ceiling shelves for the books and so on, with one side even having them angle to create a pair of half-hexagonal nooks with tables and padded chairs.
That part with the nooks seemed like the most obvious section to have something behind it, which meant the better place to hide it was in the other side. Even better would be if the window was fake and a hidden section was back there. And probably the least-suspected place would be the wall we passed through using a door to get into the room. I’d be impressed if he pulled that one off. He deserved to keep a secret if he managed that.
“I own everything on the planet. It’s all mine,” Morigoth said. Groaning, he reached into the desk and pulled out something like a cigar. He took a couple of tries to tear a tab on the end that caused the cigar to light itself.
“It made you some enemies,” Mobian said. “That woman at the party, chief among them.”
Morigoth snorted, blowing a puff of smoke out over his cigar. “Everyone here probly’ has something against me. ‘Cepting yourself, this woman, and that Hanover woman.” He gestured to me in reference to the second in the list. “That woman was Eribelle Dawn. She’s been rallying the other natives of the planet to outbid me after the default on the planet’s debt. Sir Reginald owes me some serious clams from gambling debts. And then there’s the Burgess of Meredith.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re not dead. Who was the actual murder victim?” I asked.
Morigoth eyed me. “You can go now, miss.”
Mobian helped me up and ushered me toward the door, whispering, “She was a household servant. Ah, here you are!”
The Butler returned then, with a tray. He looked to Morigoth, then to me, then nodded. “Wait outside, dear, I’ll show you back to your room.”
I indeed did wait, making sure to pick a good spot for the marker before the Butler came back, tray-less. “You’ve upset Master Morigoth,” he said.
“He talked about a threat to his life. All I wanted to know was who actually died,” I pointed out.
“She was one of the servants. The personal laundress of the master. She knows… she knew much of the happenings here.”
We’d gotten a short ways down the hallway when the door slammed open. “Help, hurry!” Mobian called. We came rushing back, with the Butler pulling out a device and pressing a button. We ran back to find Morigoth in his chair, foaming at the mouth and twitching. The Butler attended to him, trying to see what was wrong. He grabbed the device and pressed something else before calling out. “Send a doctor!”
Meanwhile, the cigar rolled lazily away. The Mobian stopped it and picked it up, giving it a sniff. We both turned at the sound of rushing boots. In ran a doctor and a pair of guards, pink-skinned like the Butler who pointed now at Mobian. “What did you do?!”
“I think it was the cigar that did it. Who had access?” The guards pulled swords and surrounded the Mobian, who looked around wide-eyed and lowered the cigar. “I don’t suppose they believe in Due Process on this planet, do they?”
“Put him in the cells!” the Butler ordered. Cheeky bastard, doing the ordering. He calmed down somewhat, brushing a hand over his bald head. “Until the new Mistress determines what to do next, of course.”
The guards led the Mobian off. As for me, I wondered about the popcorn. With everyone preoccupied, I had to show myself out to get back to Holly and Lily. I informed them of the situation and Lily went running off.
“You want to follow her?” Holly asked. “We’re supposed to stick close.”
“Eh, you can if you want. I’m going to work on some alternative ways to get him loose, if need be. Not sure it was the cigar like Mobian things, but its’ not really our business solving this. Still, wish I knew who all’s here an what grudges they had against that guy. He even had something he was holding over the head of the fish, and I don’t mean food.”
Deals and Breakers 2
Holly had like a sixth sense for when I was ready. She met me down in the basement while I was just finishing my fitting into a bohemian number: loose, frilled tank top, sandals, and a boho skirt with whirling patterns and dots and shit. I looked like a hippie cyborg. Hmm, that’d make a good movie. “Killer Cyborg Hippies!” Sounds very grindhouse. Added bonus, it describes a lot of Republicans who’ve had pacemakers put in. At least, they used to be hippies. They dropped that shit long ago.
“Someone looks like she hangs up signs saying ‘life, laugh, love,’” Holly said. She stepped down in an old flapper dress. Not a bad choice, actually.
“I wanted something with a loose skirt. All the better to air out my ladybits,” I said,
“Yeah, you like airing those. You really surprised the doctor when he saw a pregnant lady packing dong.” She walked downstairs and over to the table with the pocket watch on it. One click and it’ll call Torian for our adventure into the past. “I’m coming with you.” She held up a small piece of luggage.
“Is that why you didn’t mention anything to the rest of the family?” I wondered. I hadn’t said anything about it and neither did she. I grabbed my own bag, which was actually bigger than hers but more of a giant handbag. I needed enough clothes to cover up one or two helpful implements I’d packed.
“You didn’t tell anyone either,” Holly pointed out. “You want to go and do this too, don’t you?”
“Well duh,” I said, pointing to the dress. I’m not running around uncomfortable while killing someone at the sight of some sort of space party in the past. I had some robots finish off a second braid on the right side of my head. “So, our little secret?”
She winked and checked that her Mauser was in her purse. “Our secret. Let’s go to the party then, my dear.” She picked up the pocket watch. I stepped close to her and put one arm around her so that one hand rested on her lower back. I wrapped the other around her hand and, staring into her eyes, clicked the top of the watch.
We were surrounded by a grinding noise and flashing lights, before resting in an amber orb with a raised dais upon which stood The Torian. “Would it be cliché to say it’s about time?”
I shrugged. “Time travel tends to be about time.” Holly and I separated from our embrace, but we held onto each other’s hands.
“We’re ready to go on an adventure!” Holly said, bouncing just a little in her slips.
“Morigoth House, Planet Eidos Alt 9. It’s a celebration,” I recapped.
“Yes, the Morigoth family purchased the last freehold on the planet. They’re celebrating ownership of the whole planet. I can provide you cover as some minor starfaring nobility. Your clothes will do; it shouldn’t be any stranger than any other attire or customs.”
“Oh, we can be sisters!” Holly said. She stopped and thought about it a minute. “…in-laws?”
“Perhaps you should be the noblewoman, and I’ll be your maid,” I said. “A put-upon, pregnant servant can get a lot of sympathy and leeway when she isn’t absolutely invisible.”
“And I get to boss you around?” Holly asked with a grin.
“So much so that you insist I sleep in the room with you, if we’re there that long.” I turned to Torian. “Is this going to somehow take a month?”
“A few days would be pushing it. It’s been so long, I don’t remember how long it took. Remember, you’re not there to solve the murder mystery. That’s going to be solved by the Mobian. You just have to fatally wound him at the end of it.”
“Any tips you can give us?” I asked. “Poisoned food to avoid or anything? Somewhere to avoid getting knifed for being a witness?”
“No, I think you’ll manage just fine without spoilers. Stay close to Mobian and you should be fine. No matter our difference in perception, he’ll move planets to keep the innocent safe. It’s why he’ll never see you coming.”
“I’d rather hope not. That’s the point of the us sharing a room,” I said.
“Are we ready for the party?” Mobian asked.
I looked to Holly. She looked at me and nodded, so I turned back and answered, “Take us to the ball, fair godmother.”
“Ha!” Mobian scoffed at me. He threw a switch on a console and the grinding started up again. When it finished, a white door opened in the side of the sphere we’d traveled in. “There. Keep the pocket watch on you. And remember, it’s a thousand years before you left Earth. Here.”
He hobbled down toward us and held out a card written in alien script that I could read. I took it off him. “Ah, we are formally invited. Will do, Mobian. See you before you know it.”
Mobian looked after us but didn’t say a thing.
We stepped out onto a swanky place, gilded and fancy polished stone with interesting natural patterns. I couldn’t call it marble. “It looks lovely and old! Look at these columns!” Holly said, walking along and running her hands along them. There was music playing, ethereal and broken up with a saxophone-like instrument on occasion. Maybe some other form of horn. I never learned the whole orchestra.
We emerged out of a side corridor. When I turned to look back, Mobian’s temporal vessel was gone. In place of it was a heavy, dark wooden door and frame. When I turned to look back where I was going, Holly had stopped and was looking to me as a bipedal, humanoid alien approached. It was bald, with bright pink skin. It wore a crisp black suit. “Pardon me, I didn’t hear you enter. May I see your invitation?”
“Yes,” Holly answered, “My servant girl has it. Here, Delilah.”
“Coming, my lady,” I said. It wasn’t hard to sound put-upon. I held the invite out. While I did so, Holly winked at me and put her luggage into my grip.
The alien butler looked it over, then put it away into his pocket. “Thank you.” I noticed he was only addressing Holly. “I can arrange separate quarters for your girl.”
“That won’t be necessary. I like to have her attend me when I sleep,” Holly said. She’d slipped into an old-timey accent and sounded like what you’d expect from a movie with a flapper in it.
“That is of course your choice, but the privacy of your affairs may become necessary. Please, let me know if that is the case,” the Butler said. He stepped to the side and beckoned us onward with a little bow. “Please, this way.”
I followed after Holly but when she brought Holly to a larger room with green wallpaper with golden leaf on it and various other well-to-do folks, he stopped me from following. “I’ll show you to your lady’s quarters so you may ready it for her.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said.
“You are quite with child,” he observed as we left the room.
“Yes. Another full-time job,” I said. “But it’s important for me to be near my lady.” And here I’d adopted an attempt at an Irish accent. It wouldn’t matter. They’ve never heard of Ireland on this planet. Hell, at this point in time, mine was the first Irish accent attempted in Modern English. The Irish would be doing bad imitations of me.
We started up some stairs, but the Butler lagged behind. “Please, allow me to take your bag.”
I was surprised, but let him hold onto my giant handbag as we ascended the stairs. Down the hallway, the doors all looked a bit different. Each one had a colored theme and different sorts of alien fauna around it. The Butler stopped at one with a predominantly dark green look to it, as well as a carved animals on it that looked like manatees with gas masks on. “Let me know if your lady shall require additional amenities.”
It was certainly a full room. Thick carpets laid over the floor, a huge fireplace carved to resemble plants climbing up to the ceiling, and a bed big and soft enough to drown in. I took back my bag from him and went over to the nearest table, an intricately-carved small one between two chairs instead of the larger one with a painting. It was from the perspective of someone peeking out of a forest of kelp down a drop-off to a plateau covered in red grass, with the surface of the ocean higher above.
“I’ll let you know when I’m done unpacking so that I can become acquainted with the facilities I will need to make her feel at home,” I said to the Butler. He nodded his head, with just the barest hint of a smile.
He left me to put away the clothes, at which point I snuck some little guide strips onto my person. They would pair with my augmented reality program and create markers that only I would see. In a pinch, they could also boost radio and cell signals, but they were incapable of listening out or providing holograms. They weren’t bugs. To anyone else, they would look almost like strips of gum.
After that, I headed downstairs. I didn’t see the Butler or notice a way to ring him, in case he asked, so I headed over toward the big hall where Holly had been deposited. Along the way, I left a couple markers in case I needed to find my way.
Holly was having a good time, chatting with a large red fish in a closed-off aquarium mounted on treads. The top of the tank came up to her midsection. She actually laughed at their conversation before excusing herself and heading over to meet me. “This is so freaky and cool!”
“Is that a fish in a tank?” I asked. “I mean, treads and so on?”
“Yeah, that’s Sir Reginald. He’s some kind of war hero,” Holly squealed with delight. “I get to say I talked with a fish in a tank. Well, you know, not in a tank tank, but a tank tank!”
I understood what she meant, even if everyone else would look at her funny. “I got our room all packed away. What do I call you as far as all these people are concerned?”
Holly cleared her throat and pressed her hand to her clavicle. “I am Lady Holly Snyders of Hanover, owner of Deep Space Nine.”
I nodded. “Solid, there’s no way they’ll get the reference. Plus, Gene Roddenberry and that pretzel company owe us royalties now.”
“Eh, eh?” Holly pointed at me. “Pretty smart, right?”
I nodded. A waiter passed by carrying guinea pigs in little square, clear containers. We both stared at it as it went before I asked, “Is that food or a guest?”
“I’ve been too afraid to ask,” Holly confessed. “Anyway, is it alright if I keep schmoozing?”
I nodded. “Yeah, for sure. Let me know if you spot the Mobian anywhere. I’m going to get a tour from Jeeves for later.”
“Yeah, I bet he’ll show you around the estate,” Holly said.
“What’s that about?”
“He was looking at you,” Holly said.
“I might could use that, but I’m not going to use that, ya know,” I said. “What about you, anyone trying to marry into the family?”
I followed Holly’s gaze to a centaur-like alien with a bony plate that curved backward and could have been mistaken for a cartoonish hairstyle. “That does it for you?”
“Eh, I could see it. He reminds me of a guy I used to date in high school before shit went belly-up,” she told me. She reached over for my hand and held it briefly. She jerked her hand away when we heard someone yelling at someone else in the room.
“It was a crooked deal and you know it! You have no right to this land!” a being with slick, see-through green skin declared. She was speaking to gray-skinned man with a buzz cut of white hair. “My people do not belong to you.”
“If you insist on that then I will have to ask them to leave my land,” the gray alien said. A pair of guards the same pink skin as the butler began to move up behind the woman, who didn’t notice.
“No need for all that, thank you!” said a third person. He looked human, spoke in some sort of British Isles accent, and was dressed in a brown coat with a rainbow scarf. “I’m the Mobian, so nice to meet you Mr. Morigoth.” He held his hand out for the gray alien. Meanwhile, a blonde human woman came up behind him and quietly ushered her away from the guards, who looked to Morigoth. He waved them away dismissively while having his introduction with the Mobian.
A cough came from behind me.
“I’ll keep an eye out for that, my lady,” I said, looking like I’d been doing my job before turning around toward the Butler. “Ah, there you are. I couldn’t find you, so I thought I would check on my lady here.” Holly had gone back to the party.
“This way, ma’am. Let’s get you acquainted with the relevant portions of the estate.”
I smiled. “Yes, I think I’d quite enjoy seeing the sights with you.”
The pink alien’s cheeks turned a little blueish-purple. A blush. Holly was right. Just hope she doesn’t Captain Kirk a centaur in bed with me.
Deals And Breakers 1
There’s so much pressure. Everybody wants something from me. And it’s called an ultrasound. It’s considered a scandal that I haven’t bothered getting one. Why would I need doctors when I have robots?
“I’m going to find you a doula,” Holly said while eating a sandwich in front of me. I kept staring at the buffalo chicken. The chicken wasn’t moist enough. It needed a good mayo. “Hey!” she snapped her fingers. “What did I just say?”
“You wanted to get some new age woman to rub my belly and wave incense around,” I said.
“Yes, but no, but yes,” she huffed.
“We could get a midwife instead,” Sam said. She didn’t come bearing food. Wait… no, that was eye shadow. “I’m worried how hungry you are. I’ve been talking with the sister-wives and they want a specialist. Medusa’s worried that with everything you exposed yourself to, the baby might be weird.”
I glared at her.
Sam held out a sandwich. “It’s for your own good,” she said. “We’re just concerned about the baby, like you are.” I still glared, but I bit into it.
“My body is the pinnacle of health. Not like I’m going to turn myself into a regular person after having godlike abilities,” I informed her. “Sure, that was before I ate all this crap, but I’m keeping an eye on myself.”
“And were they collaborated for pregnant women?” Holly asked.
Sam rolled her eyes, but Holly grinned at her joke. Sam made a good point as well. “Remember that time you messed up your chromosomes?”
I took a deep breath. “Fine. You may convey your goddess to the vagina doc.”
Sam scoffed. “Take yourself, bitch.” She smiled at me, though.
“I’ll go!” Holly said, jumping up over the counter to kiss my cheek.
Hoping on the sleepy town not being that busy, which wasn’t a good bet anyway, we decided to go see the place in person. Since supers have made Radium a haven for our kind and our families, the town has grown and updated dramatically. At this point, very little of the town is what it used to be. They’re working on an actual hospital now, but we’ve got some more doctors. An awful lot of superheroes and villains have doctors among their friends and family, or support staff, or some of them are doctors. For reasons of trust and security, they’re asked not to wear the costumes while practicing. It could be awkward if a hero goes to the doctor and finds out his nemesis is checking his prostate.
I decided not to do a background check on the doctor inspecting my vajayjay and its passenger beyond finding out if he’s good at his job. And I had Holly with me to provide snacks she hid in her purse and keep me company. She has this cute smile when we hold hands.
Instead of the OB/GYN, the Torian entered with his back turned to me. The human-looking time traveler was the evil incarnation of the heroic Mobian. He was also older, with grey hair, and a clean white coat over his usual tan one. “Good morning, Mrs. Gecko. Let’s take a look at that baby now.”
“You’re not looking up my cooch,” I told the Torian.
“I’m not the Torian,” he said.
“Yes, you are. You’ve even got his smell, like sour decaf coffee.”
“I’m a tea drinker, you-!” He turned, revealing a fake mustache that fell off. He grabbed it out of midair and held it back up to his face. “I mean.”
Holly pulled out a Chinese broomhandle pistol and held it up to his face. “You carry a gun?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s new,” I noted, looking at her.
She blew me a kiss. “I’ve never had a pregnant girlfriend before. I’m protective.”
“Alright,” Torian dropped the mustache. “I came because I need your help.”
“The favor I owe you, right?” I asked.
“Right,” he said, hesitating.
I sighed. “You came to me a short while ago in my timeline and gave me a crystal that stabilized an alien device that changes the size of things. You gave it to me in exchange for a later favor.”
The old time traveler thought about that. “I closed the loop. Yes. Well, you probably would have survived if I hadn’t, but things would have been much more difficult for you.”
I held up a hand. “Please, do not try to explain time travel. It’s nonsense, all of it.”
“Well,” he pulled the white coat off and tossed it aside. “Do you think your appointment can wait?”
“No!” Holly said, waving the Mauser she held.
“What’s going on here!” shouted the doctor as he held the door open.
“Wrong room,” Torian said.
Holly had her gun behind her back. “Yeah, grandpa’s getting a little senile. He was just leaving.”
“Yes, yes. I suppose I’ll go have lunch at that place I saw in town, Maskies,” he said and left past a suspicious doctor.
I looked to Holly and rolled my eyes. Maskies was a local restaurant with a super theme that started up a few months back. The staff have uniforms like costumes, and name food after various supers. I heard I’m on the menu somewhere. They put up signs announcing new hero merchandise. I’ve been avoiding the place. Holly and Sam have teased me about it. And since I don’t want to discuss getting my body probed by the human species, I’d rather skip to that place.
“It’s not that bad,” Holly said. “Regular women do it all the time. Besides, it’s good news!”
I maintained my grumpiness as I bumbled through the door into Maskies and was immediately greated by a host in a Captain Lightning cape. “Hey folks, welcome to Maskies. We hope you have a super time with us today. How many are we seating?”
“We’re meeting someone an old British guy here,” I said.
His face brightened. “Oh, him!” He pointed me over to the Torian, who was was “fighting” off some kids in complimentary masks who were celebrating a birthday.
The host showed us to a booth near the bunch. Torian took a break and walked over, easing into his side of the booth. “Ooh. Nothing makes you feel your age like children. I suppose I don’t need to tell you that.”
“Indeed,” I said. “So, what’s the job?”
“What, right to work? Don’t want to enjoy some food first? I hear pregnant ladies have all sorts of cravings,” he said.
Holly was already looking at the menu with a grin on her face. He had a point, I just didn’t want to see. Alas, I gave in and found myself looking down at a menu offering Forcelight fries, Claw fingers, and Venus Vegan burgers. I feel like Venus might be offended by that one. They had a Mix N’Max series of drinks with things like orange drink mixed with Sprite, root beer mixed with Dr. Pepper, or sweet tea mixed with lemonade. “I don’t see me on here,” I noted.
Holly reached over and pointed to the wing menu. “You’re a sauce.”
Sure enough, Psychopomp sauce was one of the offerings. Apparently mine was a spicy and sweet dipping sauce featuring mango, habanero, and honey. “That’s nothing at all like how I take my wings.”
“They’re just having a bit of fun,” Holly said. She patted my shoulder. “Besides, you don’t like this place anyway.”
“I thought I was a bit more meaningful than a sauce,” I said.
Holly was watching me with a cute smile. A teenage waitress stopped over, dressed in a costume I didn’t recognize at first. “Can I help you?”
“Do you have a discount for actual supers?” Holly asked.
I shook my head. “Don’t listen to her. She’s the sort who has a birthday every time we go out to eat.”
The waitress laughed. “You must be the hero.” Oh, how much fun they had with my expression. “We have a discount if you come in costume, but not when you’re in your civilian clothing.”
So I tried the Psychopomp wings with a side of Forcelight fries, which are thick, spiral-shaped fries seasoned with ranch seasoning with smoked cheddar and green onions. I devoured it. As soon as I came up for air after tearing through wings and fries, Torian cleared his throat. “No wonder Mobian found you terrifying. But the truth is, he knew you were going to kill him at some point.”
“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was the murder and genocide.”
He waved that off. “We’ve seen an eternity’s worth of that. No, there was a prediction you would kill him at some point. And you know he hasn’t appeared on Earth for some time. Something’s wrong, not that he knows it, and I believe now is the time.”
“Or you want it,” I said.
“I believe I am the last incarnation he has, and after a thousand years I’m quite feeling my age,” he said.
“You’re confusing me again. Let’s stick to the relevant bit: where and when do I kill the Torian?” I said. Holly reached over and dabbed at my cheek while I discussed assassinating a legendary hero of Earth.
The Mobian reached into his coat and pulled out a small rectangle. He slid it over where I could see alien lettering that, nonetheless, I could understand it. “Oh, those translator germs are still so handy.”
“Yes, that is another reason it has to be now,” Mobian said.
The card read that I am formally invited to spend an evening in Morigoth House on the Planet Eidos Alt 9 as part of a celebration. “He’s going to be at this party?”
“He will stop there with a travel companion and they will be caught up in a plot to murder everyone when no one knows who the killer could be in a party full of shady characters. You will fit right in.”
I laughed. I got a good feeling about this. “So go to a party, kill your other self, and get out somehow?”
Mobian pulled out a pocket watch. Holly grabbed it and turned it over. “Neat.”
“I built that to signal my timeship. As soon as you’re prepared, signal me, and I’ll get you to the party on time.”
“I’ll be sure to wear my laciest, prettiest dress,” I said.
He raised his eyebrows. “Please do. They’re aliens a thousand years in the past. Dress how you like. I’m sue you’ll be perfectly disarming.”
“Happy birthday to you!” sang a line of waitresses as they came over to our table. They put a domino mask on me. Holly had her camera out and recorded it, and my glare, as they sang to me in front of everyone.
New Normal 3
I hate being nice. I could have fixed so many problems by now just jumping in and not giving a shit about consequences. Maybe paint an M on my head and call myself Majin Gecko, then whine and blow myself up when I remember I like getting laid and having feelings. Then maybe beat up some kids who point out my references are as dated as the beginning of Naruto was to the end.
Enough being a cranky old woman. I was a cranky pregnant bitch who had to deal with a bunch of shitbags stuffed into suits. Like Senator Robson, a replacement for one of the many people I culled when I had the power to make life just blink out. He’s not as bad as the guy he replaced, but that’s a low bar. He got me a place on a diplomatic shuttle to the alien fleet. Sam, Holly, and the interns were excited, with Sam squeezing her eyes shut. She doesn’t like flying, and the lack of windows in this cricket-shaped vessel didn’t soothe her any. The interns and Holly strained looking for somewhere to watch the ascent into space from, but the aliens didn’t put windows in their spacecraft for some reason.
I played the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation to calm us all down. Meanwhile, a blue woman with cloudy skin you could see into just a little bit walked along and set out drinks and little bags of snacks. I popped off my helmet long enough to try the small carbonated liquid and the bag of some small starchy snack covered in tiny mineral crystals. As far as potentially-dangerious alien foods go, they were fine. They just weren’t enough. When no one was looking, I portaled in a fresh foot long corndog and a plate with some fun sauces like marinara, ranch, yum yum sauce, and mustard. Mmm.
One of the aliens looked at me like I did something weird, like eat them all at once. I hadn’t even finished by the time a calming noise reverberated through the vessel. “Welcome to the diplomatic battleship Odo, where peace happens or else.”
“That’s calming,” Sam muttered, opening her eyes at last. She leaned against me. “You better get rid of that.”
I winked at her and slid the remaining half-foot of wiener and breading down my throat, pulling the stick back out without the meat. I tossed the stick and plate through a small portal to the auto-kitchen. I added some robot arms to the kitchen. They’re very handy, and they double as an anti-intrusion measure.
As the restraints released, Sam and I both groaned on standing up. She had her dislike of flying and I had a belly that was messing with me even though the armor made sure I wasn’t sick. Uh, I swear my nanites are working overtime in my aching ankles. Who am I kidding? I think I graduated to cankles. I just wanted to be pretty and have the child I always wanted with Medusa and Venus, and now it’s made me a hungry horror with fucked-up hormones and time travel shit where I have to do it to complete loops.
I sniffled. Sam patted me on the helmet. “Aww, you crying again?”
The others were all filing off, leaving Holly, Sam, and I behind along with the blue alien woman who stepped up. “I must ask you to leave all of your weapons behind on the transport pod.”
“You let us get all the way up here with weapons?” Holly faked a gasp. “What if we need to defend ourselves against others you let come with guns?”
The alien didn’t catch the sarcasm. When she spoke, her mouth didn’t match the words we heard either. “We are aware of cultural differences regarding personal armament or the medical necessity of power armor for some species, but at this point you must comply with the ship captain’s non-aggression policies. For the good of everyone, except the ones who are dead.”
“Weird way to phrase it,” Sam said. “Hey, what’s your species called?”
“I don’t have a species,” she answered. “The Consortium created me to serve them.” I couldn’t read her expression to see if she was enthusiastic about that. She gestured with a slow wave. “Please disarm, or you will not see your loved one. We detect several weapons, primitive and otherwise.”
“I’m getting tired of putting this thing just to take it back off again,” Sam muttered. She and Holly looked to me.
I sighed and began pulling off the gauntlets of my power armor. “We’re being nice.” That got a triumphant hmph from the servant, so I figured she supported her masters after all. The energy sheathes don’t function without them. I set down the exploding knives as well. I didn’t keep a lot of extra weapons on me, and that meant I wasn’t that much disarmed. And they didn’t seem to understand my eyes had lasers built in. Hell, I barely remember I kept some other abilities when I gave away my god-like powers. Meanwhile, the girls had to get rid of shoe knives and so on. After a few minutes of that, they all let us go in.
Some of the Grau were waiting for us, a designation I use for lack of a better idea what to call them. They’re the main species in any position of power in the Consortium of Grau, so that’s what I call them. We got right out of this transport pod where the rest of the delegation was finished going through a customs check involving a scanner arch and a pair of bushes with eye stalks. I spotted that one silver-haired agent again having made his way through it. I know he noticed me, but a group of Grau were waiting for us.
“Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko. You can travel with us to the prison ship,” one of the Grau said. He was dressed in the nice, clean uniform. Two more behind him had darker outfits with clear armor padding. With them was a tripedal reptilian with these little flaps that moves on his head, who was paying close attention to a pale alien that looked like a giant maggot with eight little arms all tied up in cuffs. That thing had a metal disc covering what would be the chest area.
“This is a prisoner transport, not a tour,” the reptilian said. He pointed at my belly. “I do not need a pregnant mammalian on my prison ship.” Unlike the French accent of the Grau and their servant, this guy had a Spanish accent, complete with sounding like he had a lisp on some words.
“This is a matter of diplomacy. You do your job as you are paid to,” the Grau who was in charge told me, stroking his quills. I’m just assuming when I use “his” here. For all I know, none of these things even have different sexes. Or they have twelve. But the reptilian dude backed down and we got back on the transport pod with all of our weapons hidden on it. The weird maggot prisoner actually snuck away one of the boot knives. I winked at it, then went back to not paying attention to anything. Hey, a prisoner escape could be handy to me.
“So, it’s your ship?” I asked the reptilian.
“I am Skarzu, Commander of the Lethac, my ship. My living ship. A dedicated ship for prisoners so they are not kept with the soft ones who talk.”
And the grand prize for this test of blather and patience? Holly, Sam, and I finally got escorted down a hallway past solid doors with small windows for food until the Grau stopped and indicated a door. I stepped up and tested it with a shave and a haircut knock. I received two bits in return. “Boopsie?”
“Jesus, Gecko, you’re here?”
“I’m here, I’m queer, get over it,” I responded.
“We’ve been so sad without you,” Holly told her.
“Yeah, and none of these aliens are fuckable,” Sam said. Holly and I nodded along while Medusa laughed.
“I came to see what’s going on. I heard they’re looking for your sister, too. I guess they’re all pretty sure the person looks like you,” I mentioned.
“Well, I didn’t. I don’t know what’s going on, unless this is someone who doesn’t like me handing me over as a scapegoat. I walked over to the food slot and reached a hand through.
The Grau guards stepped forward. “Hands away from the prisoner!”
I rolled my eye, the other one slipped into Medusa’s palm. The suit provided me a holographic copy to fool these guys. I put my hands up. “Easy, just trying to touch her again for the first time in I don’t know when.”
The ship jolted. “What was that?” Sam asked.
Holly steadied herself on a wall. “Why did this thing do that? Shouldn’t the thing creating artificial gravity keep us from experiencing that?”
“What?” I asked, looking at her.
She shrugged. “I went to college, remember?”
“No!” I declared. Another jolt.
The guards looked at us, and one ran off. The other called out, “Stay here. Don’t touch anything!” then ran off.
A door nearby slid open and curly mess of tendrils grabbed the guard, pulling him in. Another door opened as well and some jiggly pink thing crab-walked out quickly, heading down the corridor. I looked to Medusa’s. No such luck. “Point the eye at the door, Maia.”
“Ok!” she called out. “Pointing!”
I created two portals back to back. Medusa stepped through one on the inside of her door and stepped out outside of the door. She jumped into a hug and asked, “I love you. What did you do?”
“Nothing this time, I think.” Alarms went off. They sounded a lot like human alarms. Makes me glad that the sound some other species uses for an alarm wasn’t the sound of, like, sex noises. “Prisoner escape! Harder daddy, harder, harder! All hands to battle stations. Pull my hair!”
I reached out and… did not see the fleet. The satellites around Earth no longer showed it present. Instead, it showed the massive maggot thing and the ship we were on. It rumbled all around us. “Lethac crew and prisoners. I, Prowbst the Grand, have broken free and altered the core of this ship to power my size-shifting technology to its full potential. I have stolen the rest of the Grau fleet and will hold them hostage. I will free all prisoners, who have a chance to serve me and go free. Together, we will take revenge on those who would lock us away.”
“Alright, let’s get out of here,” I said. “Huddle up, team!” Holly, Sam, and Medusa all joined the huddle.
“How do we get out of here?” Sam asked.
“Ready, break!” I clapped my hands together and stood up. The four of us were back in my basement.
“That was easy. We’re getting good at this,” Holly noted. She was shut up by Maia grabbing her and kissing. Sam too. Maia nearly knocked me down when it was my turn.
Of course, I got an incoming message on the public line from Senator Robson, the guy who did the favor of speaking up and ask for me to go on that little journey. Medusa popped my eye back into its socket while I reluctantly answered that.
After the first five straight seconds of screaming cut out, there was just that old guy yelling, “Ah, save me, save me, save me!”
“You probably should save them all,” Medusa said with a groan. “I hate saying it as much as you hate hearing it.”
“Fuck those guys,” Sam said. “Those French aliens were stuck up.”
“Yeah, but you think maybe that big worm is going to be a jerk?” Holly wondered.
I didn’t have an answer to that question until about an hour later, when the alarms started. Of course it was in the middle of fun time. “Pull my hair!” I yelled at Maia.
“Wait, you hear something?” she asked.
The computer switched from playing Fatal Attraction by Midnight Danger to the sound of that giant maggot. “People of this planet. I am your new ruler. All who disobey will be shrunk to the size of a small creature and squashed! Mwahaha!”
“Fuck!” I yelled, lowering my head where I could look back at my knees on the bedspread.
To my surprise, Maia reached her fingers into my hair and gave it a tug. The world could wait.
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