Tag Archives: Holly Wayne

New Normal 2



Maia, aka Medusa, has been arrested by someone in connection to an attempted bombing on the U.S. Capitol when an alien envoy was present. There are dozens of different ways she could have been framed. I don’t know why the aliens are here, but they’ve got a fleet parked in orbit and I think we all want to avoid yet another alien war. It’s getting old at this point, and there are more aliens than there are people on Earth, so the numbers are against us.

Sam and Holly, other girlfriends of mine, took the news well. Sam pulled out her bronze knuckles and Holly grabbed a morning star off the wall. I held up my hands. “Let’s not go off half-cocked here.”

“Really?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, I’m still putting together armor. Also, I don’t know who actually has her right now. I figured I’d try diplomatic channels. First thing’s first, I’m trying to talk to Isabella.” I thought Venus would be getting back to me in no time, so but she told me she needed to talk later. Meanwhile, I’ve got whole villainous base mobilizing. “Creating clones, assembling nanomachines, and manufacturing drones, too. But mainly, I’m trying to get the armor right.”

Sam patted my shoulder. “Baby, you don’t need armor. You’re not fighting in person.” She reached out and touched my belly. Ever since I got this damn belly, people just touch it without asking. Holly set the morning star down and reached out to rub my belly, too.

“I am the most dangerous person on Earth. I’ve got a loaded pregger hole and I’m not afraid to use it!” I declared. I got a ring back. My eye HUD told me I had a call incoming. “I gotta take this, it’s Venus.” I backed away to try and escape their hands. I turned and headed downstairs to my basement lair. “Isabella, my baby daddy, what’s the situation?”

“I am at the Master Academy. I cannot believe I have to hide here. Alright, Maia, right; they think it might have been me instead and they want me arrested by the government and turned over to them. I think that means it’s the aliens who have her.”

“Any idea what they are? They don’t look like Fluidics or Trobogorians. Or Cercopagus Lysis. Or those guys with the space opera-”

“I don’t recognize them either, but they call themselves the Consortium of Grau. That may not be their species. This is all my fault.” I had never seen Venus so uncertain of herself as she’s been since we resolved the issue where she stole godlike power from me and tried to fix the world.

“Did you blow up the capitol? I mean, you know I’m not snitching,” I said.

“No,” she said.

“Then it’s not your fault. Duh.”

“They’re here because of what I did. They detected it through fancy high tech alien whatchamacallits and came to make sure Earth wasn’t going to fuck everything up. That I wasn’t going to fuck everything up.”

“You’re not, so there. Issue resolved. Moving on,” I said. She stayed quiet. I sighed. “Ugh… ok… as much as I don’t get rehabilitation, you’re generally a force for good. You even… ya know… me. And I did a lot worse than you ever did. I’m proof that not only are you not terrible and the worst person in the world, but that people can change for the better. And it was thanks to you. Oh my god, kid! Your baby won’t get off my damn bladder.”

She laughed. “Ok, the Grau took her up to a ship, but you can talk to them at the Capitol. They’ve landed delegations in major nations’ capitols around the world. That’s if you want to talk. I’m reaching out to the Exemplars for when that fails and we have to beat my sis out of them. I think they have a spaceship in case of complications.”

“Smart. I’ll talk since the aliens don’t want me dead as far as I know. Plus I have that bit of space celebrity from that opera. I doubt I’ll get anywhere, but maybe I can arrange a visit so we can pin down her location.”

“You might need to put a tracker on us,” Isabella suggested. “Something other people can’t track like a phone.”

“Funny how I’m the violent option on Earth, and the diplomat to the stars,” I mentioned in parting.

Sam and Holly insisted on coming with me, so we had to get a babysitter for Qiang. I trust Qiang… within reason. She’s getting up there. The stuff with the altered reality interrupted her latest birthday party, but she’s getting to the age where I can tell she doesn’t want to spend time with me and might even be embarrassed by me. I guess that goes double now that I’m puttering around all aching, fat, and gassy. We figured she wouldn’t need a sitter for long. For the sake of the sitter, I hoped she was prepared for a challenge.

The pair even donned a pair of costumes. I saw them when gathering up my gear at the store and prepping the Flyer in case I needed it for a diplomatic mission-turned-fight with aliens. Scattered around were boxes, containers, a few drones, and snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks were absolutely essential. I’d already gone through half a bag of Dove chocolate and a package of smoked gouda pretzel sticks by the time my other girlfriends showed up. And also a few pickles. Some nutella. I ordered a Hawaiian pizza because I wasn’t sure how long they would take and it actually sounded delicious to me right now.

Sam wore a shiny red corset, white jacket with red studs over that, and pants trimmed in white. She protected the short mohawk she was going for with a red armored helmet and tinted white visor. She had on reinforced biker boots. Holly’s outfit was looser, with a shorter maxi skirt over the pants that had red leopard print spots in places. The back of her top turned into a hood with stiff supports to hold it up or retract it when she needed to. And her shoes were practical as well; modified Under Armor Ubers that The outfits looked like they were all about fashion because of the subtlety of the armoring and some of the gadgetry built into it, like electric stun pads in the gloves, hidden boot knives, and radios.

Sam was Rose Red and Holly was Snow White.

“Wow,” I said, seeing them in that in person rather than memory.

“Yeah. We liked the costumes from memory,” Holly said, twirling and making skirt go spinny.

Sam walked over, working those lovely curves. She put a hand on my chubby mommy belly, because of course she did. “You’re just wearing this outfit?”

I was in a loose boho skirt and tank top. I pointed behind me to the small treaded vehicle the size of a small car headed up the ramp from the extensive underground base under my store. “I got more clothes in there.” It settled in next to where some body doubles of me were seated on chairs. Unlike me, these weren’t pregnant.

“Good, you’re not going into a fight yourself,” Sam said. She took my hand. Holly took the other one. A moment later, we appeared in my portal lair. When I got my hands on wormhole technology, I exploited it to create a base that combined pieces of various dimensions and locations within the universe. We appeared in a cave with air portaled in from over a section of ocean higher than the tallest ships and lower than any plane that would be traveling that far from civilization. I activated a giant monitor and a hologram station to give me a complete view of the alien fleet over Earth.

I had a moment of viciousness. “I could just… wipe them all out. Every single one. Crack them in half, douse them in the heart of a star, suck them all into black holes, vent atmosphere, flood them with deadly creatures. Drowning, electrocution, throwing a planet at them. I am death incarnate… except I need Maia and I don’t know where she is. And if I kill them, maybe they send another fleet. Or they send someone with the ability to negate wormhole technology. Or they just destroy Earth from afar before we even realize we’re under attack, doing to us what I do to them.”

Sam squeezed my hand. Holly booped my nose. “Boop. Why so serious?”

I shook my head. “Heh. Guess it’s a good thing I had so many mental problems before. I was mad without power, so I already know to be careful. Ok, enough with the boring-ass introspection. Everyone ready to go deep into Congress’s tightwad?”

They nodded. A door opened in front of us, with me humming the Twilight Zone theme. We stepped through and out into Congress near to various people in suits. I tapped one of them on the shoulder. “’Scuse me, I need to see an alien.”

“Who the hell are you?!” asked a startled man somewhere around his thirties with a bit too much forehead and chin.

“I am the Psychopomp and I request a meeting with the envoys. Take me to them.”

“You look like some fat woman with two cosplay chi- oh my God,” he backed away when I warped my body away and replaced it with a spare body wearing a set of my armor. I had armor for myself, but it looked better without the rounded belly. Someone ran up, Capitol Police. Holly and Sam were ready, but the guy I’d scared held up his hand. “Officer, this group needs to be shown to the alien envoys. Take them there immediately.”

The officer took his hand off the very large gun and held them up to show he wasn’t going to do anything, then waved us toward him. “Sorry, right away.”

We walked through what they call the halls of power. There, the slimiest and most craven of power-grubbers oozed around looking for ways to collect checks and prestige without doing anything. And that’s after I’d killed all the malicious ones through accidents when I was a god. Finally, we were shown through a cordon of guards, including aliens in power suits that hid everything but their body shape and number of limbs. To play nice, I stepped back out with my real body and my sore cankles to look less threatening.

“This is cool!” Holly said.

“It’s lame,” Sam countered.

“I could really go for Korean fried chicken,” I said.

The cop presented us to some guy in a suit, who presented us to a room with a big table where Americans in suits sat with teal aliens who had lion-lake manes made of quills or feathers depending on the alien. “Psychopomp Gecko, and guests.”

“Thank you,” I said to the cop. I handed him a fiver. “Tell you what, go buy yourself some really cheap love.”

He stepped away, and my group stepped up to the table where some confused Senators, ambassadors, and aliens all stood up at my presence. One of the feathered ones turned to me and said in French-accented English. “You are the opera star. This is an uncommon delight.”

“Hon, hon, hon, now you send celebrities?” a petite quilled alien asked, directing the question to the politicians.

“I am not here as a celebrity, though I will sign autographs after the meeting,” I announced. Holly pulled a black marker out of her utility belt for emphasis. “I am here because you have arrested my wife under suspicion of trying to blow you all up and would like to negotiate for her release.”

In one back corner, I saw a silver-haired agent in a much cheaper suit whispering into the ear of a man from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The small alien gestured to another in its group. This one was larger, and had a couple of rings gathering up quills on opposite sides of its face. “That is not possible. What she did was a violation of the sanctions of safe harbor and diplomacy of the Consortium.”

“Let me visit her then,” I said.

The Senator from the SSCI spoke up, “We would consider it a personal favor of goodwill if you honored the request of Psychopomp Gecko to see her wife.” I glanced at him and nodded my appreciation. That’s Torian and now this guy I’m going to owe favors to.

“You have a child from the prisoner?” asked the alien who recognized me from the space opera I’d been in a little bit. That feathered alien reached out across the table for my belly, then actually climbed across it to place her hand on my belly. Holly and Sam both snickered.

I sighed. “Yeah. And if you let me up to see her, I’ll let anyone in the room who wants to touch my belly do so, on top of the good will incentive.”

I’ve never had so many hands on my stomach. “It is agreed!” the quilled alien with the slight build declared. “We will provide you with what you Earthlings call a conjugal visit, eh?”

“That’s not,” the one Senator who helped me out started to say.

I held up a hand. “Speak for yourself. I fully intend to get up there and conjugate her brains out.”

“We will have you on the next diplomatic shuttle,” the petite envoy declared. Meanwhile, the one who recognized me pulled out a plush doll of me for an autograph.




Topsy Turf 1



So here’s the score… I shared power with Isabella, aka Venus, the version of my nemesis-turned-lover pulled out of time a few years back. She wanted to marry me after I used my godlike powers to give myself her baby, so we got hitched and took a honeymoon in space where I merged with her symbiotically. I also decided to let her use my power for something of her choosing when we got back to Earth.

Now, I’m a fucking human. Not homo machina, human. I have real eyes without lasers, no internal wifi router, and my skin went from bulletproof to squishy. And she made it where I’m a retired superhero who can turn into a reindeer-woman. As far as I can tell, every other villain on the planet is a superhero like this.

Mix N’Max runs pop-up pharmacies. Spinetingler is a pumpkin-man who lures people into his haunted house to scare them straight. Powder, who is literally powered by cocaine, is in the hospital because of sudden withdrawals. And if you’re wondering how Spinetingler has anyone to scare, I think Venus only swapped over super criminals. The Greens gang either became super cops or turned their lives around, but she wrote the past so that mundane purse snatchers and burglars existed. And crimes are still happening. My computer has a link to the Shieldwall Database.

Shieldwall’s a thing again. It went from a bunch of people I pissed off trying to stop me as a supergroup, to being a worldwide superhero collective. I have an inbox full of superheroes congratulating me on the recent marriage like they know me. Including, it turns out, from my sister Dame. Yeah… now she’s my sister. I think Venus just plain erased the Three Hares conspiracy, so now Dame and I are twins who grew up in a nice fancy place. Dame tests security for banks and museums.

That made me wonder what she did to my actual brother, who was over in our home dimension. To make it more confusing, this Earth was connected to yet another version. That one, everyone was all swapped around so the heroes were villains and villains were heroes. I was overwhelmed with questions and missing my omniscience. Also, really wish gravity couldn’t touch me anymore. I feel so heavy now, and that’s not the pregnancy talking. I don’t have the enhanced musculature either.

I didn’t need this shit. I had a direct line to Venus. After all, she’s the goddess now. Just had to igure out prayer. I once heard that it’s actually pretty easy; “you just put your hands together and hope.”

Venus’s face appeared on my monitor. “Gecko! I should say ‘Delilah’ now. You got back to me fast. How are you getting adjusted?”

“Ve- Isabella, I know you made all the villains heroes, but what else did you do?” I questioned her.

“You’re upset.” She sighed. “Give it a fair shake, ok? I’m giving you a shot at a boring domestic life and at being a hero. There’s no past for you, but not just for you. I gave all of them a chance.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose in exasperation. “You did a lot more than that and you shouldn’t.”

“Why not? Your power is all-knowing and all-powerful. It’s not capable of making a mistake,” Isabella said.

She plucked the accusation of a mistake from my mind. Before I could speak, Isabella continued, “Just give it time. Please. You know you’re contrarian and you pretend you don’t want a chance to be a hero.”

That’s not true, readers, but even if it was, you can’t just make people heroes. I was going to tell Venus about it, but she left my computer monitor. Just left. Didn’t pop out to continue talking with me or anything. Left.

I put my hands together again. “Get your ass back here!”


“I know you’re listening! I remember how annoying prayers were until I tuned them out!”

Still nothing.

“I’m your wife, dammit!”

A halo of light erupted from the computer monitor. I got up and went about my usual day. I woke my adoptive daughter up, fed her, got her ready for school. My sister and I passed some texts back and forth, since she was still up just after a heist. Then it was off to the store instead of tackling Holly back into bed. Selling weird and quirky gadgets to small town America, aka Radium. Someone even came into the shop and got an autograph from me for her action figure.

It was a nice, boring, easy day. Yeah, it was nice to be with my family. Everything else was boring. Being some shop owner. I’m almost a nobody.

The next day, I woke up and got my daughter ready and off for school. But I had to put the store on hold. My Shieldwall Reservist alert watch activated. I threw on my spare costume at the store while reading the alert. Somehow, the Greens had gone crazy. They were an order of environmental guardians who protected the Earth after having been exposed to a mysterious chemical in their drugs. They’d ended up animalistic, with fur, horns, even hooves. And now, all of a sudden, they were rampaging around the city. They were rapid-growing trees on streets and bridges, destroying every car, and were trying to take down the city’s electrical grid.

Heh. Don’t know why I felt so smug and cynical, but I guess they realized a conflict between keeping the peace and opposing damage to the environment. Now, Shieldwall was calling up some reservists from all over to come to Empyreal City to fight them. Something felt off about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Instead, I stepped out of the Empyreal City Shieldwall Meeting Hall teleporter tubes and activated my powers.

It felt just like the first time transforming. It’s uncomfortable. It never happens evenly. My muscles tore and stretched. Bones shifted and grew, sometimes breaking as they moved. The bone growths that spouted from my head were the worst part. The antlers grew out of my head, only appearing after the velvet burst, all bloody and gory. I almost gagged when I got slapped in the face by some of the velvet.

Somebody walked up to me, a guy in slacks, shirt, and tie. “Whoa, we don’t need you. You look too much like the guys who are doing all this.”

“Like hell we don’t,” an older, guy said. He was dressed the same as the first, but heavier set, no shades, and his clothes seemed more worn. “Residents near the natural gas plant in Jamaica are telling me the skies are filling with pollen there. Everyone else is busy. Do you know how much energy this fucking city takes? Beggars and choosers, Davidson, for Christ’s sake.”

Davidson and Jameson, liason officers from the Office of Superhuman Resources.

“Jamaica?” I asked.

“Jamaica,”Jameson reiterated.

I flew into the air and took off through the roof access of the Meeting Hall, humming the Sorting Song from Futurama. Everybody say Jamaica!

My antlers glowed. Sometimes, people wonder if I might be trans or something because of the antlers thing, but female reindeer have them and keep them for a long time and-.

Oh, there was the cloud of pollen. Like a flower explosion happened in Queens. The Kennedy International Plant was hidden under a thick yellow cloud that immediately made me wish I didn’t have a nose. “Oh deer. I wish I wasn’t going into all that.”

I activated the sonic arm cannons and flew directly overhead, firing downward to force the pollen onto the ground. The cloud settled, revealing what the Greens had been hiding. In its place was a huge flower with thorns on the edges of the petals and along its waving branches. It snapped its petals closed, using the thorns like fangs. My antlers lit up, but there was the whole natural gas plant it had grown right near. I had to be careful. Pipes and such. The very thing that more easily gets rid of it is exactly what gets rid of the power plant I’m here to save.

Ok, so I can’t do this easily. If I was going to be lazy and take the easy way out every time, I’d have just been a cop.

Where’d that come from?

I swooped right down the middle of that flower, into, past grasping stamens that swallowed me whole. I ended up trapped in the bottom of its main stem, squeezed on all sides. I pressed my arms and legs against the walls, especially aimed upward and downward. I turned the sonic weapons up high and fired, tearing the flower off and splitting the stem, freeing myself. Chunks of the flower fell down on me. A big part fell on me, slamming me into the body of the giant plant and landing on the top of the root bulb and throwing up a shitload of pollen that had landed.

I felt it growing back around me. I blasted it again, trying to give myself room. Finally ended up clearing enough space to do some light blasts into the roots, tearing out chunk after chunk as I went, sneezing all the while because of all the pollen.

When it no longer seemed to be trying to grow back, I crawled my way out of the sticky mess, covered in chlorophyll that trapped pollen all over me. I was sneezing, goopy, I had things in too many unpleasant cracks. In the words of Master Shake, “I am 30 or 40 years old, and I do not need this.” And then I get outside and see people posting that shit on Tiktok for likes. Curious onlookers who couldn’t bother to, ya know, run from the potential giant fireball that would have happened or the plant with thorns the size of their bodies.

And then word came in from Jameson about some of the Greens elsewhere.


I was glad to finally get back home, cussing and muttering to myself about them teleporting me but leaving the fucking goo all over. Lives saved, power plants still most operational, and meanwhile we’ll all get called fucking corporate shills because we didn’t want people to go without heat or hospitals to go without power and all that shit. We’re not the ones who decide to build wind turbines and tidal turbines and nuclear plants. At least the Greens didn’t try to fuck with those.

First thing when the teleporter dropped me off in my basement, a shower. The one down there was built to handle all sorts of biohazards. Just… really not fun getting the chlorophyll out of some of those places. When I got out was a message on my computer monitor. “Do you see yet?”

I shook my head. Motherfucking Venus… Isabella… she brainwashed me! That message was the trigger to revert it. She tried to make me a hero for a day and a regular person for another. In the middle of my anger, I had a long laugh over the fact that it didn’t stick that well even when it happened. I hated being some spandex cop. I was still me, though. I still had my perspective.

That’s what did it for the Greens, too. She changed their minds temporarily, but whatever thing they’re into, however it affects them, it changes their perspective, too. As far as they’re concerned, what they were doing was right, and there are others who believe in it as well. Pull the plug, destroy all that stuff, and that way the rebuild might as well be clean sources of energy. If it happened to them and started to happen to me, it was going to happen to others. Medusa, Maia, for instance. The reason she went from being Venus to taking that identity was because she got to the point where she couldn’t stand upholding a flawed system blindly, where the worst abusers were protected because they were rich or come from the right family.

So that’s a flaw. It’s something I can use to maybe convince Isabella to turn things back. Or she might try to correct things again.

I knew I needed a plan, and I needed allies. I didn’t want to think about it, but my wife and I might get into a domestic dispute over all this.

Oh my god, and she made me a cis woman. I mean, sure, now guys who beat their wives will stop objecting to me playing Jeopardy, winning beauty pageants, and being middling at sports, but at what cost? That’s… I don’t even know. I was furious at her for everything she did, all these changes, some of them like she didn’t even know me but wanted to force me to do what she thought was right.

The fabricator had a new suit of power armor ready for me by the time I woke Qiang up the next morning.



Sickeningly Sweet 7, Epilogue



“Psycho Gecko killed Captain Lightning,” Lightning’s successor announced to onlookers. The video was all over Youtube. Amazingly, that was all there was to the video. Somehow, the part where he told everyone I am the Unicorn Goddess didn’t record, didn’t upload, and was instantly forgotten by everyone, including the new Captain Lightning.

“Looks like he’s got a lot to learn still,” Sam said, leaning on my shoulder on the couch. Holly had me move my arms so she could slide onto my lap.

“That’s your fault, though,” Holly added.

Sam patted her friend’s head. “She’s right, you know.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know. Just like I know he’s got a good reason to hate me, even though I had a good reason to kill him.”

We were at this martial arts tournament being held at the local high school. The town of Radium had settled on integrating the super and non-super schools together, and one of many events they were trying to build a community spirit was stuff like this. With the rise of the show Cobra Kai, it was pretty popular, and Qiang had some competition out there. We were all trying to avoid this stage mom yelling for her son. They segregated the competition by sex, so Qiang wasn’t going to get a chance to whoop her kid’s ass. Instead, we tried to ignore her.

“You ever find out where the non-binary kids are competing?” Holly asked.

“Ugh. They’re making them play pretend,” I explained. “Don’t even see why they have to segregate this stuff anyway. When someone comes at you in a dark alley, are you going to be able to ask to segregate that fight? No, you kick ’em upside the spleen.”

“Cut their dick off,” Sam said.

“Poke their eyes out with your nails!” Holly added. We made for an intimidating cheering section. Qiang waved, all smiles, while she waited for her next fight. She raised up a box of popcorn. “Anyone want some?”

I reached out with a prehensile tongue to grab a couple pieces off the top.

“Pass one here,” Sam requested. I slipped one to her using the tongue before chowing down on the other piece. Holly giggled and waved at an older guy who’d been staring. The staring didn’t stop when two more women joined our little crowd. Medusa brought the wings, and Venus brought tacos.

“Boopsies,” I acknowledged them.

“Isabella,” Venus said.

“Maia, at least when we’re dressed like regular people,” Medusa said.

Sam laughed. “So you split up your names?”

Medusa smiled at her. “I let her have the first name, because I’m going to be a good big sis.”

Sam shook her head. “How do you get used to that? She’s you!”

I raised a hand. “Ooh!”

“No!” the whole quartet said at once. I hadn’t even made the suggestion.

I turned my nose up. “Fine. It was just an idea of an offer.”

“Don’t you have a big enough harem?” Venus asked.

“I don’t know. Last time I checked, my alleged fiances were having second thoughts,” I noted. Now, omniscience doesn’t mean omniwisdom, and I could tell I’d hit a sore spot. “I’m sorry. We’ll talk about that later. We’re here now and let’s enjoy watching Qiang rearrange some faces.”

“Up next, Kim Hart versus Qiang Lamb,” the announcer announced. We all started cheering. Venus started a wave that Holly continued, dropping popcorn on me. Through odd chance, all of the popcorn fell into my mouth.

I noticed Medusa watching and gave a little, “Ta da! And for my next act of god…”

“Shh, our kid’s beating people up,” Sam said.

“Our daughter,” Holly said. Medusa and Venus repeated it. I shook my head, thinking about how we are most definitely not a normal family. Qiang and Alexander are going to have some interesting lives, but I hope they have it only as interesting as they want.

Meanwhile on the mat, this Kim girl showed a lot of acrobatic skill dodging Qiang, and the confusion Qiang had about it left her open to get a point scored against her. Qiang came back the next go-round and blocked a kick before giving the girl a punch to the chest.

An older woman with a red dye job she hoped looked natural leaned down and tapped me on the shoulder aggressively, “Excuse me. Do you have to do that?”

I turned toward her. “Do what?”

“That!” she waved her hands at my little lesbian cuddle fest, with Sam on one side of me, Holly in my lap, my arm having slipped around Venus, and Medusa holding my hand that ended up on the other side of Venus’s shoulders.

“We’re just here existing,” I said.

“What’s your problem?” Sam asked.

“She doesn’t like lesbians existing,” Holly answered.

“No, you can exist, just don’t do that here,” the woman said.

“Do what?” Medusa asked, giving her a glare.

“You know, touch each other,” the woman said. She had her fingers entwined with her husband’s next to her.

“We can touch in public same as you,” Medusa said, nodding toward the woman’s hand.

“She thinks we’re unnatural though,” I pointed out.

“I didn’t say that,” she said. I snapped my fingers. “You are unnatural! It’s not right that children can see you exist. Little girls are too impressionable and should be thinking about having sex with men!” She held her hand up to her mouth. “I didn’t say that!”

“Sounded like you did, ma’am,” Holly pitched in.

Venus cleared her throat. “Talking about little girls having sex at this sort of event might count as public obscenity or whatever this state has.”

Medusa took the layup. “Maybe I should get my friend the sheriff in here.”

“Hey, you have no right,” the husband chimed in, pointing his finger at us. “We paid good money to come here and think about sex while staring at little girls!”

“Funny how that keeps slipping out,” I said.

Red-faced the couple ended up leaving, muttering to themselves. The wife said something about the doctor giving her the wrong pills.

We finally got to concentrate on my girl’s match. While we’d been chatting with that annoying couple, Qiang and Kim had themselves a longer bout where Kim used her acrobatics skill to dodge, mostly jumping or throwing herself out of the way. Qiang stayed on her and Kim never had time to full regain her feet, so my daughter was able to get her eventually. Qiang wasn’t nearly as winded as Kim was from all that jumping going into the fourth round, and started off feinting a sweep. Kim jumped, but was slower dodging and realizing the feint, so she caught a food to the chest about the time she landed, giving my daughter the win.

We had a little break then before the finals.

“So, we’ve been thinking,” Medusa said. “It’s not legal for you to marry two people in this country.”

I snapped my fingers. “Drat. Guess the wedding’s off, especially because I’m already married to someone else technically.” One of them is even roaming around somewhere. She came from a Bronze Age-level society on a lost continent that came back. We were married for political reasons. As soon as the ceremony was over, I drugged her to keep her in a coma while I stayed with this other woman I was seeing for political reasons. To make it up for her, I eventually brought her out of it with various enhancements, and let her lead the life of an adventurer.

“Delilah Lamb is not legally married to anyone,” Medusa said. “And neither is Psychopomp Gecko, who exists as a legal entity who has been pardoned before. The Unicorn Goddess is in even weirder legal space. You don’t have to pay taxes since you’re the head of your own religion.”

I shrugged. “After everything, y’all still want to marry me? Attaching your name to mine?”

“We’ve done a lot of thinking about it. It was a big consideration, to add to it. That’s why I’m going to sully my bad reputation with it,” Medusa said. “How’d you like my last name? Psychopomp Gecko-”

“And Delilah can take mine or we can hyphenate. Either way, we decided not to do two weddings in one day, so we’re splitting it up and I’m going first,” Venus added.

“She’s become a real brat now that she’s a younger sister,” Sam said.

Holly gave her a playful swat on the shoulder. “Either be nice or marry our girlfriend yourself.”

“By the way,” Venus said, “I appreciate you keeping the omniscience off right now.”

I shrugged. “It’s not as interesting if I spoil the competition.”

Venus just smiled at me. Someone else tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see a Catholic priest. “Excuse me, Delilah Lamb?” He opened a Bible he had with him that had a cheat sheet tucked within it.

I went to turn to Venus, who was right next to me, and ask her what she did, but I noticed Medusa revealed a veil she put on Venus. Sam was pulling on a tuxedo sweatshirt and a clip-on tie. Holly got off my lap and pulled a small bouquet of flowers out of the bottom of the trick popcorn box. She whipped her phone out and started playing the wedding march at a subdued tone.

“Elaborate deception,” I noted as Sam put a veil on my head.

Qiang came running up, stopping to grab a pillow with a couple rings on it from her backpack.

We left the gym with Holly jumping around tossing popcorn at us. Sam stuck a sticker to my back reading “Just Married.” I refused to let Qiang be outdone. She skipped along with her trophy and a sign behind her reading, “Just kicked ass.”

Of course, that’s when alarms sounded. Worldwide news alerts went up as gigantic spaceships blotted out the sky. “People of Earth,” they announced on all channels and frequencies “Fear not. The Trobogorian Directorate promises not to kill anyone.”

“Which ones are these?” Sam asked.

Venus raised my hand and kissed it while Medusa answered. “They’re the pacifists, technically. They prefer weapons that keep people alive in excruciating pain.”

“Yay, kicking aliens to the dark side of the honeymoon,” I said, smiling over at Venus. I don’t know why I couldn’t stop smiling. It shouldn’t have meant so much, but it did. And I knew it’d be fun to go beat up some invading aliens, too. The last time a Trobogorian expedition hit Earth, it didn’t go their way. Now, they’ve got me to deal with, and about a bajillion angry alien machines mobilizing around the outer planets to help protect the people who gave them a home.

Heck, I bet this’ll all be cleared up before Outlaw X gets done entertaining y’all instead. Cut me some slack, I’m on my honeymoon.



Sickeningly Sweet 2



Holly and I sat near each other, toes in the water of a stream that glowed with harmless neon fish. I’d made sure the wind wouldn’t be too cool, and that the weather was a pleasant, warm summer’s night. I had remade the world to get rid of all the rot and disease that had been everywhere. My powers were contained in this Madstone, but they were still fully functional within it.

It had taken only a moment to do all that, and replace many of the animals with enhanced versions. Nature was a techno-biological fusion. Worms with drills and filters snatched up by birds with rotary wings, who get snatched out the air by a falcon with jet engines.

I did not devote a lot of focus to that. One of the first things I did instead was try to open up a dimensional breach to get Holly and me back out. It didn’t work. I created a replica of the communication devices I used back before I had phenomenal cosmic power. Bam, right back to having internet, TV shows, and various satellite spy cameras. They showed things moving more quickly. Mix N’Max and the goddess who had been trapped in here before me were finding their around Empyreal City.

The goddess, Clara, had swapped her furs and ribbons for an old-timey dress that looked like a colorful Amish design. She was looking at the sights of Empyreal City and the fashions of the people; Max was looking for some street food to eat. Then they were fighting. Then things exploded. Everything was going more quickly that it should have. Time was slowed down in the Madstone compared to the outside world.

I kept an eye on them and set to work. First, I sped up time within the Madstone to match that outside. They’d gotten a headstart on us, but now they wouldn’t gain ground. Then I started creating the pieces I needed for a dimensional bomb. Yep, that lovely piece of technology that shaped my life was going to save me once again. Whoever created the Madstone built it well back in an age before computers, nuclear bombs, carbon nanotubes, and robotics.

I got a little distracted around the time Holly decided to go for a swim, so I temporarily sped time up further in the Madstone. Cut to Holly and I sitting on the bank of a river. She laid her head on my shoulder and I put my arm around her, holding her close to comfort her. Holly broke the silence with a question: “Are we going to have to populate this entire world?”

I laughed. “No. I wouldn’t mind at all if I had to with you.”

“That’s sweet. Trying to marry me too?” We both laughed at her joke.

After a little bit, I normalized time again and continued the build, ending up with a Dimension Bomb precise enough to bring Holly and I out.

Unlike Max and his friend, I had control over where I popped out. I landed in Empyreal City nearby, feeling like I was being dragged toward them. It was the pull of the Madstone. It had some hold on me and wanted me back. I jammed my hand into the road to stop myself.

“What did this street ever do to you?” Holly asked.

“I feel a strong pull toward the stone,” I explained.

She pointed to where the woman floated over, now taking to the air in a more modern dress, flowing ribbons trailing far into the air behind her from where they were tied around her knees and elbows. Max jogged to keep up and waved. “Hey!”

“Hey,” Holly said as we both waved back.

“That bitch just trapped me in that rock,” I said, pointing between the other goddess and the rock that Max had in a pouch.

“What?” Max wondered. It seemed sarcastic with the grin he always wears.

“How did you get out?” she asked. She looked between Max and I, then smirked. “It wants you back.”

“How about you undo this lasso and I’ll let you live?” I offered.

“It’s the stone, not me,” Clara answered. “It can take those with superpowers, but it holds on to certain powerful beings. Gods, like us. You won’t be free unless you find someone else to take your place.” She raised a hand. The pouch flew off Max’s hip and burst apart with the Madstone flying at me. I disappeared. The stone curved around, reminding me of a magic bullet I dealt with recently. It came back for Clara. I reached around from behind her and held her tight.

“Is it gone yet?” I asked, amused. My playfulness disappeared when Clara shrunk down to the size of bacteria. I’d have just burned her, but I had the Madstone coming for me. I activated superspeed and raced around the planet, coming back to the same spot from the opposite direction.

Holly gasped for air as veins bulged red on her throat. Curious, unintelligent, and curiously unintelligent onlookers were experiencing the same symptoms along with eyes rolling back and people collapsing. I used my omniscience to notice the area was flooded with a deadly strain of a fast-acting fungal spore that colonized veins and grew in deoxygenated blood. I saw to them first, healing everyone. The human immune system was helpless in the face of this divine fungus cultivated for generations in a pocket dimension. Before long, the veins on everyone stopped bulging and they were normalizing. I had to account for potential embolisms. I gave her a hug before teleporting her off to the house with the rest of the family.

I still had work to do. Max and Clara were gone, along with the Madstone. My omniscience would only tell me that Max concocted a serum that would allow them both to hide from me. Amazing how I never found all these anti-omniscience things before I had the ability. But back then, how would I have known? If something like this captured me before my ascension, I’d have used the same sorts of methods to escape but without ever feeling anchored to it.

I had to smile though. I still felt the pull. I manifested some spy drones that followed the pull across the entire world. I manifested spy drones along the entire corridor, knowing they wouldn’t have to go any further than about halfway around the globe.

“What did you do that for? You don’t want to escalate with Gecko. She will go too far. If you stop being a bitch, I can talk to her and protect you.” Max said near some of my little pet drones.

“I’m not going back in the Madstone,” she said. “It’s a terrible joke. All the power in the world, but it’s a trapped world where you’re alone except for life you create.”

“I understand, and it was an amazing world. You’re amazing,” Max told her. “Gecko is clever. She will find a way out, but antagonizing her will not work for you. Let me go somewhere and present myself. I can speak to her and clear all of this up. Whatever else, she’s my friend and she’s reasonable.”

I was, of course, waiting outside the door when it opened. I saw a shadow, but whatever he’d doused himself with didn’t let me see or hear him. The drones, little floating silver orbs with blades sticking out of them, got around it because they aren’t me. They’re electronic devices. Mere tools, like fire or a death ray.

“Hi!” I said, not bothering to look at the towel floating through the air.

It floated up, the shadow wiping at its head, then Max’s face appeared. He wore a more conciliatory and subdued smile. “Hey Gecko. I’m sorry for Clara, she panicked.”

“Oh, is that what she did? She nearly killed Holly. A bunch of other people too, but mainly Holly. I cured her and the others.”

Max shook his head. “I didn’t know about that. She grabbed me and left. We don’t want any trouble.”

“Tell me what happened,” I said. I could tell what happened. I wanted to hear how he chose to tell it. I was running out time as well, Part of that was time to calm my own anger. Maybe the Reindeer part of me was helping with that, same way she cared more about all the non-Holly people than I did back in Empyreal City. Part of it was to calm her down as well. She was watching as well, and if she saw me being reasonable, then maybe she’d realize she should calm the fuck down and not drown the world in mountains of pestilence.

In my head, I’d already nicknamed her Pestilentia.

“I touched the stone and ended up there. A mushroom nearly ate me, but I exploded it. I harvested the pieces and was experimenting on the wildlife when Clara found me. She was so happy to see another person, and an attractive man, that she almost raped me. She had been in there so long, isolated, that news of the outside world fascinated her. We formed something of a bond. It felt like we were in there for weeks.”

“Time ran differently inside it,” I noted.

“Makes sense,” he shrugged. “We’re like a couple. I don’t know if you can put a name to it when we just got out of that situation.”

“I get you,” I reassured him. My girlfriend is helping plan a wedding to a woman from the past who is my baby daddy and her present self who is my ex. At some point, strict relationship labels fail.

“She has been trapped alone in the Madstone for like 200 years. She felt threatened and lashed out. You understand that, right?”

I nodded. “Well, I don’t really control the world in the traditional sense, but it’s more or less under my protection or domain, I guess? And as an all-powerful god, I’m trying to practice tolerance and patience for the… beings who live here.” You ever want to call someone a pitiful lesser being and then remember all your loved ones who are the same beings and think otherwise? Damn Reindeer and my better nature asserting itself.

“I ask you, please, to give her a chance,” Max urged. His face shifted slightly.

And I was back in the Madstone. He was probably reacting to seeing Clara make her move. The landscape of my cyber-biological Eden was dark and stormy, with lightning shooting down to strike battery trees that shifted the charge to the rest of the grove with smaller zaps between them. The lightning cleared up in a hurry, as if the stone was comforted to have me in its grasp again.

For dramatic effect, I called the beasts of the forest to me. There was a fearsome bear with a pot of honey. “Are we going on an adventure? I would like to hunt a woozle again.”

A roe deer approached and snorted. “The He is fiercer, but there is always one stronger, Winnie-the-Pooh.”

“It’s a she this time, Bambi,” I told the deer. “And while she’s an enemy, she’s not as important an enemy as this Madstone that imprisons us. Open war could be bring disease upon the planet while I try and deal with her and this thing.”

“What are we here for?” Winnie asked.

“I’m going to use you to contact some people out there, both so I don’t have the constant drain on me, and because people like talking animals. I think there’s some folks who would respond better to y’all alerting them to Pestilentia than if I showed up and asked them to intervene. Especially because it would sound hypocritical to former enemies I asked to trust me with god powers.”

“What if they shoot at us?” Bambi asked.

With a wave of my hand, I gave him a pair of solar-powered lasers on turrets strapped to his sides, and told him, “Then shoot back.”



Sickeningly Sweet 1



It’s tough to be a god; tread where mortals dare not trod. On the other hand, when your girlfriend and her best friend keep bugging you constantly about wedding plans to your ex-girlfriend and her time-displaced younger version, it’s nice to be able to get away. And it’s not like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is hurting the fetus I’m carrying. I can prevent the eternal storm from hurting either of us just as easily as I stop myself from being affected by morning sickness. A weird part of me almost wishes I could. Sure, I wasn’t born with these parts, but part of me kind of liked the idea of carrying Medusa’s baby to term. The much smarter part of me is glad that I can do so with these powers so it doesn’t have to hurt so much.

Truly, I’m lucky for a trans woman. I share that luck a-plenty among non-binaries and my fellow transes. It really pisses off some folks that they want to whine about chromosomes and surgical procedures that wouldn’t matter anyway, but I just snap my fingers and fix things for those who want it fixed. Sometimes, a woman wants to pack some heat too, and some guys like taking the canoe out. It’d be a pretty crappy place if we could fix something but refused to due to people hating those who need it fixed. Like the 80s, with AIDS.

But I digress, and I do it because it keeps my mind off the upcoming nuptials. It’s all my fault agreeing to it. I should change that and make them think I refused. Make Medusa and her younger “sister” Venus forget they even wanted to. Maybe make Venus into a hot punk like Sam already is. Eh, no.

I agreed because part of me felt like I owed it to them. For Medusa, I found out she’s got her own bundle of unhealthy relationship stuff. Like some weird hate crush and rationalization that maybe dating me would get me to change, backed up by the fact that she did change me. There was some delayed rebelliousness, too. She also felt really sorry for me, and now she’s actually proud of me. Her religious belief about marriage is useful pretext for her to get back together with me, but she’d call the whole thing off if she knew I read her mind.

For the younger Venus… I mean, she’s the one I actually got the DNA from. She doesn’t know it yet. She still has some of those hang-ups Medusa had and has gotten over, combined with a more authentic belief that she needs to be married to the mother of her child. She also knows she’s bisexual after meeting her older self, but she’s also getting a chance to explore those feelings with a being that is way different than the Psycho Gecko she fought against, and someone she knows it’s safe to do so with from her future self’s past experience. The clencher was when she found out the circumstances of my break up with Medusa.

Normally, there would be a silly romantic comedy adventure to resolve all of these problems when people could have just talked. Instead, we get silly teasing from my girlfriend and her bestie with my benefits. Just to be clear, I’m not neglecting everything. In fact, my daughter had to ask me to leave her room because I was hiding from the wedding planner group of women there. Visited Dame and Blacklight. Stopped by Jupiter. And now they’re all sitting around praying.

“Please, goddess, let my girlfriend come back wearing that outfit with all the buckles so she can look at color swatches for napkins.”

“Please, goddess, let’s pick a honeymoon spot where we can make love on the beach at night.”

“Please, goddess, whatever my little sister asked for done to me instead, but give me the stamina to keep up.”

“Please goddess, can you save Max so he’ll be your best man?”

I summoned Holly Wayne to me. Sam’s best friend and the minion of Mix N’Max, my fellow villain and maybe only friend. Holly waved her arms and legs around until I stabilized her in the bubble of safe atmosphere and pressure. “Sup?”

“What am I? Where the fuck?!” Holly asked, getting her words a little mixed up.

“Welcome to Jupiter. You’re safe here,” I told her. “Now what’s this about Max?”

“Uh, I think he may be in trouble? I don’t know exactly?” she asked.

I was going to ask what happened, but then I held up a hand and read her memories. Max had found the Madstone in the dangerous wilds of Appalachia. The locals were hostile and backwards, attempting to either kill and eat him, or persuade him to marry their daughters and bring good fortune to their clan. In the end, he found the Madstone in a temple of sorts: a shrine to a local god named Tebow. The magical artifact had been defaced with some sort of writing that could have been cursive if practiced by someone writing with their feet, spelling out the name “Tim Tebow”. Max retrieved it, escaping the angry shrine guards, and fled with Holly. He cleansed it of its desecration on his return to civilization and was whisked away to a pocket dimension, leaving Holly to carefully bundle up and hide the stone.

“Huh… why didn’t you say something?” I asked.

She shrugged. “The first thing you and Sam did as soon as you saw me was feed me and fuck me. And that was fun, so I thought he wasn’t in any real danger with your powers being what they are.”

“Alright, let’s take a look.”

I summoned the Madstone to me from Holly’s luggage. It was a round stone with spiraling carvings and let it float. “There’s a pocket dimension in there. I think you better come with me.” I held my hand out and brought her close enough to take my hand. She swung it and interlaced her fingers with mine. I kissed her cheek, then zipped into the Madstone with her.

We ended up in what looked like an idyllic green meadow with a forest on one end and a field of corn and sunflowers on the other. It stank to me, though. It was wrong. The grass was too green in places, and some of it had dark spots. Some was turning brown already. Zombie ants, infested with a fungal parasite, climbed to the top in the hopes of being swallowed. Sunflowers drooped, dying, and diseased caterpillars ate their way through corn kernels.

“Oh!” Holly exclaimed while looking around. Then she stopped upon seeing a dog with missing fur and a foamy mouth off by the distant forest trees, which upon closer inspection were being choked out by parasitic vines that were themselves discolored with rot. “Oh. There’s something wrong with this place.”

“The Madstone was mainly said to be a cure for rabies,” I informed her. I reinforced the protective bubble around her to keep out any nasty spores, bacteria, and viruses. “There, that ought to keep you safe from the nasty things around here.”

The dog turned suddenly from a crashing noise and tried to run. An elephant, hide covered with scrapes and scars and rash, pushed through the brush, knocking a tree over onto the canine. Its trunk dangled, bloody, and it kicked the dog around before it saw us and decided to charge. I raised a hand in anticipation. I didn’t need to for my powers to work, and they appeared to be in perfect working order, if currently constrained to the pocket dimension. A little bit of effort would get us back out.

Oh, right, diseased elephant. Before I could kill it, something else dissolved it into an orange-red goo, first eating its skin off, then making the innards collapse and dissolve. Behind the dead beast stood Mix N’Max, his velvet jacket and poofy shirt in tatters. He’d wore a cougar skin on top of them for added protection from the sun for his too-pale skin, but probably more for shits and giggles since he can make perfect sunblock.

Next to him, arm looped with Max’s, stood a woman who cheered on the dissolution of the elephant. She had a wiry, athletic build and held a bow, with arrows on her back. Her hair was dirty, perhaps blonde streaked brown with dirt, with leaves clinging to it. Her clothes were animal skin as well, with a few ribbons of fabric tying things in place or just tied onto her wrist and arm.

“Hey Max!” I called out, waving to him.

“Gecko! Marvelous! From what Holly said, you can get us all out of here,” he bounded toward me along with his friend, the pair bounding through the much left behind by the dead elephant. Holly backed away seeing their legs coated with blood and gore.

I hugged him. It took the powers of a god to keep clean. “You’re filthy.”

“I missed you, too,” he said.

I glanced over to the woman sizing me up. She didn’t seem to happy to see me, so I asked, “And who are you?”

“This is Clara!” Max proclaimed, easing off the hug to wrap his arm around her and add her to it. I might have enjoyed it, but she was too warm.

“How do you do?” she asked.

“Are you ok?” I asked her. “This place is pretty diseased, and you don’t feel right.”

“I’m fine. I’ve reached an equilibrium with the diseases,” she told me cryptically. That was a red flag. It was too indirect, and I don’t like my bush beaten around without my consent. Funny thing that, she resisted my omniscience.

I narrowed my eyes, “And what are you?”

Clara’s expression brightened up with a wide smile. “Oh my, you’re a goddess!” She turned to Max. “You cheeky boy. Well this is wonderful, now we can get out.”

“You couldn’t before?” I gestured around with my hands. “This place doesn’t have that much of a barrier to push back on.”

“Oh?” Clara cooed, fluttering her eyelashes at me. “Perhaps I should try.”

I didn’t like or trust this woman. I felt her summon power and went into superspeed. She already had, making me immediately cuss myself out for not keeping omniscience going all the time. In my defense, I don’t need to know what the bowels of everyone around me are doing at all hours. Plus, it ruins movie twists.

Clara disappeared with Max. I felt a huge weight fall over me and the easily-pierced barrier of the Madstone’s pocket dimension closed up tighter than a prostitute turning around and finding out the guy fondling them had been their own dad.

The diseases all came for me as well, but that part was easy enough to wipe out. I had all of my powers in the pocket dimension. It was anything involving leaving it that was a problem. Worse, it felt like the barrier was using my own power, siphoned from me. Maybe that’s why Clara didn’t stand out anymore to me even without a check.

“Where’d they go?” Holly asked when I came out of superspeed.

“Clara was a goddess of some pestilence,” I explained. “She was trapped here, until another goddess could take her place. This thing feeds on us.”

“How do we get out?” Holly asked.

I threw the omniscience on for sure, then. “I don’t know… yet.”



Unleashed 7



Troubleshooter’s a pretty nifty tech heroine. I outclassed her pretty easily because of my own abilities as a homo machina, but she’s pretty good at all this stuff. Diode’s satellites, Mouser and Rammer, have sniffed out a dozen satellites. A few days observation with me putting in appearances helped us figure out if there were anymore. They noticed whenever I did things like show up to provide some rain and debris clearing to California. I cleaned up a lot of lead, reversed some desertification, and filtered out some air pollution. I didn’t need to appear in person to make all that happen, so me showing myself was purely about getting noticed by the wrong people.

Not just Parietal and his desire to keep living after I killed him. That’s disrespectful. What’s creepy is my cult I’m getting. I can hear them praying to me. Investing, test scores, dick sizes. I try to answer those last ones, by the way. That’s just good PR. Once that gets out, I’m going to be bigger than every other religion combined. I don’t necessarily answer the follow-ups looking for girlfriends or boyfriends or theyfriends. I sometimes answer the bigger boobs prayer, but only when it’s from the person themselves. When nature closed a door, I opened a boob window.

Yeah, it’s a bit shallow, but also why not let people look how they want to look if it’s within my power? That includes my fellow trans folks. I didn’t forget them or the many ways they express themselves. Not everyone gal’s looking for a pair of ovaries, and some guys are just happy with taco Tuesday every day.

I dare say, in the middle of all this work, some of it actually made me feel happy. Helping people who needed it, and some who don’t. Finally cutting through all the BS and just fixing it. No weird, high-tech things. Just a wave of my hand and the ice caps are repaired. I could fix mankind.

I could even create a situation where I was willing to sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner. I sent Troubelshooter and her crew home, figuring I’d keep track of the entire world enough for them to enjoy the holidays if possible, or hang out in the base if not. A few of them stayed there and threw together their own dinner.

And I sat down with my family. My daughter, Qiang. My girlfriends, Sam and Bridget. Whatever you call Holly, other than Sam’s friend. I mean… considering she’s sleeping with me more than Bridget is, who is trying to get up the nerve to tell me she’d like to move out and explore the world on her own. And, oddly in my case, some actual family. My half-brother Davilo joined us, along with my former ward Leah.

“So this holiday is about thanking people?” Davilo asked.

Leah giggled. “Not exactly.”

I explained. “It’s a day of giving thanks for the good things in one’s life, in commemoration of when colonizers from another continent arrived on this one and nearly died before surviving with the help of natives they later murdered.”

“Are all their holidays this weird?” Davilo asked.

I shrugged. “I think every holiday’s weird once you look into it, even ours. The even celebrate the death of a famous holy man with chocolate and declarations of romantic love.”

Davilo nodded along. “We have Rectification Day, commemorating the Vuldrini, yes.”

That got a lot of blank stares. When Davilo didn’t elaborate, Leah cut in. “They have some bizarre holidays over there, too.” She looked around. “Um, so you’re like the Brides of Gecko? Dracula gets three, Gecko gets three?”

“Whoa, I’m not wearing a ring.”


“I don’t know if I’d marry her, my last marriage went so badly…”

Davilo cut past the answers. “I’m thankful for my family, which I thought I lost.” Crickets. “Is anyone else giving thanks for family?”

Holly spoke up first, “Parents dumped me for drug addiction.”

“Mine were sadistic religious fundamentalists,” Sam said.

Leah shrugged. “Family problems because I turned out to have powers.”

Bridget decided to answer, too. “I got sick and my husband thought I was replaced with a changeling. Then he tried to burn me alive.”

“That’s horrible!” Holly declared.

Bridget patted her hand. “Don’t worry. It was a long time ago, and I’m better off now.”

I’m going to miss Bridget’s sense of humor. I looked over at all of them, including Qiang who had stolen a piece of pumpkin pie and was eating it while the rest of us were sitting there not chowing down. I added my own bit to this. “Not all family is what you’re born with. I’m happy with the family I’ve found, and it even feels like we’re missing some folks. I don’t think I’d be the same person if not for the amazing people who have come into my life over the past few years. Even some of my enemies turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

“Aww, are you transmitting this to the Hallmark channel right now?” Sam asked.

“Fat chance,” Holly muttered. “I’m missing Christmas romance movies.”

I slapped the table. “Christmas has no place here this early!”

“What about food? Does that have a place here, ’cause I’m starving,” Leah said.

“Isn’t there a blessing involved?” Bridget asked.

“Dear Unicorn Goddess, bless us and this food, and may we not clog up the toilets,” Sam said. “Let’s eat!”

“Unicorn goddess?” Leah asked.

By that point, everybody was shoving some form of food into their mouths and were too busy to answer her, myself included. Sure, food doesn’t really do anything I need, but I enjoy the taste. A star is good, but it’s all calories with no flavor. My body desires a sun, my palette prefers homemade gravy. And, after gulping down half her mashed potatoes at once, Holly even told them all about the appearance of a godlike being with a unicorn theme, without giving up my secret identity.

It was, believe it or not, a nice night.

Even Parietal didn’t interrupt it. Everything was gravy.

Then came Black Friday.

I was trying to doze. I once again lost the ability to sleep, but I instead entered a lower state of consciousness while still aware. That’s an awful lot of stuff now that I’ve got a cult about me. Makes me wonder if there might have once been gods, and they all decided to let their religions die out rather than put up with all the bullshit calls in the middle of the night. Except for Zeus. If there was a real Zeus, he’d be texting people back, like “You up?”

I noticed the increase in activity before Troubleshooter did. There were more calls for me, darker prayers. I’d always gotten some folks who wanted me to hurt people. I could have done it easily, but I’d been trying to avoid that. I mean, sure, I made things like debt records disappear and that technically would cause some harm to someone with a financial interest in it. That’s not the same as wishing to break the jaw of a loudmouth kid next door. That was soon followed by noticing that some of these prayers were referring to me by another name: Psycho Gecko.

I didn’t like that, so I went ahead and did a planet-wise forgetfulness spell about me being Psycho Gecko. Unlike some people, I made exceptions for folks I was cool with knowing. That reprieve lasted five minutes, then they went right back to it. I was about to do it all over again and throw in forgetting the existence of Psycho Gecko, but I sensed that Troubleshooter sought my presence. “Every one of the satellites we’re tracking and at least a dozen more are transmitting. Parietal took a page out of your playbook and is interrupting the media with reminders that you are the Goddess.”

“That explains why it didn’t matter if I made them forget. These things aren’t affected, so they remnd everyone,” I looked out over the screen, paying particular attention to the display of Earth and some of the satellites made of Parietal’s special metal.

I checked it out myself, popping in to hover in the air above Times Square in Empyreal City. There were images taken off cameras, showing me and showing the Goddess. It wasn’t terrible convincing. It’s not like I went from one to the other in public or anything. My physical features were different as well. Body shape, weight, that sort of thing. It was ridiculous, but the assertion itself was enough to make people believe it. Then he showed the completely made-up part showing me turn from one to the other, using the old transformation from Sailor Moon. Which is awesome and I’d do it, but that’s not how I change. The part that really pissed me off was then showing another transformation, showing me turn into one of my old looks as a guy.

“What do you want, Parietal? Come on, too scared to talk?” I asked.

Next came the deepfake people. AI-generated faces and computer-generated voices. “Do we really want our children worshiping some man who pretends to be a woman? Some murderer who pretends to be a goddess?”

I growled to myself. This wasn’t just done to expose me, this was done to piss me off. Whatever’s coming next, Parietal didn’t want me thinking straight. And here I was getting snapshotted in public by a bunch of people who would no-doubt overanalyze my reaction.

Nearby, one of the monitors turned into a large P. “What do you want?” I once again asked.

Words began to scrawl over the screen. “I want you to lose your power. No one should have that much.”

“So what, you want me to give it up and you’ll stop? Or are you just going to hunt down the next person on the list?”

“I do not know. You killed me. I was created for this purpose from downloaded memories.”

“You don’t have any other concept of existence other than this? You literally couldn’t think up anything else to do?”

Images flashed onscreen. Various heroes, some now alive, some never dead. The White House and Statue of Liberty appeared as well, likely referencing a time I fought the Statue and sent the White House into another dimension.

“I’m trying to make it up to the world,” I said.

“You are beyond amends,” Parietal declared. “Prove it. Undo this without brainwashing people. Save yourself and prove yourself a monster. I predict you were going to erase the information from everyone’s minds again and enact Kessler Syndrome.”

He was right. That’s what I had in mind to fix all of this. I mean, if something bad happens, but all the effects are reversed and no one has any memory of it, did it really happen? Dame would say “no” after I cleared her mind of some past trauma and memories. I shook my head. “You want to make that impossible for me anyway. You won’t stop hounding me until I’m dead or I’ve found some way to lose my powers.”

Troubleshooter called while I was busy. “Goddess… Gecko… there’s more to this. Something’s going on. Diode’s been analyzing one of these hidden satellites, and they’re not just set up to transmit to Earth.”

“Then where else?” I asked.

“It looks like it’s a trans-dimensional relay. We don’t know where this has gotten out to, or how long it has been transmitting.”

“So someone or something else is watching for some reason. I don’t suppose you can do me a favor and find a way to take all of these out.”

“It will take some time, but your will be done,” she vowed.

“You’re not going to want people hearing you say that soon,” I told her. I reached out for any disturbances. The most I found that a lot of folks were paying attention to our little planet. Extraterrestrial eyes were upon us.

I drifted down from where I floated. My wings faded away and my hair lost its vibrant colors, becoming curly and brown. I kept the horn, though I also regained some of the pleasant chub I liked to carry around.

“Hello, everyone. I am the Unicorn Goddess. I am Psychopomp Gecko, and I mean you no harm.”

Granted, there’s a lot of dead assholes not alive anymore to hear me say that. But this isn’t over. This is just a temporary setback until I figure out Parietal’s game and make sure death sticks. And unlike Hathor or some other goddesses, I will not be cowed.



Unleashed 4



Anyone ever have your girlfriend and her best friend try to tag along on your super secret conspiratorial meeting with a group of vigilantes who want you dead? I tried invoking my goddessness to keep Sam away, saying, “I’m going to work this one in mysterious ways.”

Sam had grabbed her friend and former co-minion Holly to hang out with us. Mix N’Max, Holly’s boss and my friend, was supposedly too busy looking for some sort of alchemical artifact called a Madstone and didn’t want to take a break from braving the wilds of the Appalachian mountains. We’d spent the day hanging out at my pet ranch. Using my godlike abilities, I stole enough money in various forms and set up a trust that owns a shit-ton of land and hires people to care for pets. And a bunch of the money goes to rescuing pets. I wanted it all self-sustaining in case anything happens to my god powers.

Eventually, I pulled them away from the ranch by reminding them I had to go kill a man about a horse. But before all that, I pulled up the information I had on the situation using satellites and the big monitor. Every base has to have a big monitor. It draws the attention where you need it, gives a room focus, and gives you helpful internet access to look up lists consisting of three items. Plus, it made it slightly easier to share info with Holly and Sam, and I’m lazy as fuck. Kind of hard to be an effective deity if you aren’t, I guess.

“And that’s what we know,” I said after laying out the scenario: I’m meeting with people who want to kill me, but don’t know that it’s me they want to kill, so I can find out who I need to kill and then kill them. It’s brilliant in its simplicity, especially since I’m feeling strong enough to go full Scanners and blow up some heads while sucking out knowledge.

“Question,” Holly raised her hand. “Is blowing up their heads really necessary?”

“Answer. No, it’s just fun and I like seeing what noises I can make. Any others.”

Sam stood next to Holly, enjoying the coffee from the base’s supercharged Keurig.“It’s real annoying that you’re at the stage of having apologetics instead of apologizing, but are you saying you don’t want me going with you?” the foolish mortal I like boning dared question me. “Don’t underestimate them, ok? Humans do really stupid things when they’re scared. The thing about your reputation is they might try to blow up the whole city to kill you, when they have a go at you.”

“You think I don’t know?” I asked.

“You seem pretty arrogant about your power supposedly making you untouchable. Power you got from a being you saw get beat first-hand.” This fucking woman, I swear. One of the few people on Earth to never be the least bit worried or intimidated about me and, even as a god, she’s not scared. But she’s still rightfully calling me on my shit.

“Fine. Let’s get you suited up.”

“Me too! I wanna come!” Holly said, bouncing up and down.

“Later,” Sam said, patting her on the shoulder. Holly blushed for a moment. My girlfriend turned to me then and asked, “You got something she can wear, too?”

I gave them a pair of power armors, perfectly tailored. They got weaker muscle enhancers for the legs so they wouldn’t break their legs if they got jumpy. Interlocking armor plates with space for movement, over a resistant under-layer and padding., in this case my classic look of diagonal armor strips. They even got the helmet with the visor that looked slightly glaring, though Sam got a smiley face design under it, while Holly’s looked sad and had three tear drops under the corner of the eye. They also both got these little soft fabric attachments with bells on them, like a jester or harlequin hat. These were designed to tear off in a fight rather than catch on anything. The finishing touch is that Holly’s was grey on the left side and orange on the right, while Sam’s was orange on the left and grey on the right.

I wore the classic armor I was best known for, but reinforced with all kinds of shit you can only throw together if physics is done with your shit.

“Hey, this is pretty cool.” Holly jumped up and down until she bopped her head against the roof of the cavern. She stopped then and started testing how far she could turn, pausing when facing Sam to ask, “How’d you do that? Convince her to take us?”

Sam took a break from stretching in her armor to assume a T-pose. “Dominance. Pure dominance.”

“You keep this up and I’ll make me chocolate have calories for you again,” I threatened.

“I want that!” Holly said. She sauntered up as best as she could in power and leaned against me. “Say, you’re looking really pretty.”

I giggled. “As if that wasn’t going to happen. Fine.” I booped where her nose would be through the helmet and changed her body slightly. “Added bonus, I got rid of your food allergies.”

“I hope you can get rid of other problems,” she said.

Sam walked up and put her hands on both our shoulders. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: crime now, sex later.”

“Uh,” I started to object.

“I’ve told her that,” Sam clarified. I teleported the three of us to Columbia. We all stepped out of a phonebooth on a street corner.

“What’s this?” Holly asked, turning to look at the thing we just exited.

“Nothing much,” I snapped my fingers. Yes, foolish mortals. With the nigh-unlimited and slowly-returning power at my fingertips, I have access to the secrets of the universe. I finally used them to learn how to snap my fingers. I’m kinda proud of that. And with the snapping of my fingers, the phone booth was sucked away into a square portal on the sidewalk with a crackling sound and a little electricity arcing off it.

We were headed toward a building that used to be a restaurant, the Beefateria. I read information off it, exploring with my limited omniscience. The Beefateria served nothing but meat of all kinds of animal. They were mauled to death by a mutated parsnip. A member of Counter is a member of the state health inspectors and pulled some strings.

Eyes were on us as we approached, and then more than eyes. We turned the corner to the street the Beefateria was on and somebody floated down to land in front of us. Young guy, a bit too skinny for blue tights and the cape wore. Nineteen. Geez. Then again, time passes. I’m not longer the new hotness I used to be.

“You’ve yee’d your last haw,” I told him with a fake Texan accent.

“I’m not here to fight!” the hero threw his hands in the air, but did not wave them like he just didn’t care. “I’m here to warn you! The people you’re going to meet are going to try and kill you.”

I shrugged. “Yeah.”

“We know,” Holly said.

“My friends and I are going to stop them, and we don’t want you there. They didn’t want to warn you, but I knew we had to.” I reached out while he said so. Yeah, there were other heroes around. I recognized three from the attack on the Exemplar safehouse: the shackled monster guy, the guy in feline power armor, and the ghostly floating woman. There were a few others, all also young. It was like a super zoomer league.

“They think they can take me, really?”

He shrugged. “Some of them, but they’re wrong. I keep up on the Discord. Medusa says you’re reasonable. So don’t go in, and let us handle it?”

On the one hand, there’s something about the arrogance of the whole thing that gets to me. This bunch has never been more wrong about being able to handle me, but this guy seems ok.

“You know, I went along with this because I was trying to find out who the head of this whole thing is and take them out.”

“We can help with that. Just, let us do it?”

I looked back at Sam and Holly, who were looking at each other. They radiated disappointment. Despite that, Sam spoke up, “You can just get it from someone at the end, right?”

I sighed and told her, “Fine. And fine.” That second one was directed toward this hero. “You got somewhere you want us to hang out while all this goes on?”

“This way, please,” he said.

We ended up being directed to a food truck sitting a couple streets over in the parking lot of a grocery store, with a few tables set out for us. The under-sized wonder dropped us off at a table with a woman with a teal vest. A couple of mechanical arms reached around to join her biological ones typing on a laptop.

“Troubleshooter?” I asked. Oops, might have to pretend I’m not semi-omniscient.

“Gecko,” she said, leaning back in her chair momentarily. The mechanical arms kept typing. “I’m glad you decided to be reasonable. I wasn’t sure what you were going to be like in all this. We had someone on the inside, but we stopped hearing about him when he went on the trip to meet you.”

I thought back to the guy whose neck I snapped just to make a point.

“Weird. Maybe he was a loose cannon,” I suggested.

“He was a family man. I’m glad I didn’t have to look his wife in the eyes and tell them why he wasn’t coming home,” Troubleshooter said. “I made sure she had enough money to keep the house, but it was touch and go there.”

I feel like Troubleshooter knows it was me.

She looked to the junior hero there. “You better get into position. They’re about to start. Gecko, you and your friends can sit. Talk. Have a taco. They have great shredded pork here.”

Holly and Sam looked to each other before Holly walked over to the truck.

Sam and I settled into some of the wooden chairs in front of Troubleshooter. “So you’re working with children now?”

“We were all that young once. Someone’s got to mentor the next generation, instead of kill them. Besides, my condition made it difficult to do the job anymore. If I ever find out where the Unicorn Goddess lives, I’ll send her the world’s biggest fruit basket. So when I found out someone was hunting the Unicorn, I directed the team to get in here and help. What are you doing with these guys? You’re too smart.”

“Well, thank you for that, and for at least one of our team viewing me as reasonable. Some of these guys asked around where I was retired. I didn’t trust these guys knowing where I was, and I knew their silly little goal would also include taking out a president-killer like me. So I figured I’d get in, find out who is in charge, and disappear him to a black site about six feet underground.”

“Can we talk to the head honcho?” I asked. “I’ll happily stay out of your way once I get a chance to extract some information.” I decided to go pay attention to whatever was going on. The young heroes were moving in, dropping a few of the guards with some limited fights. Guards. Yeah… they had a bunch of people with plasma rifles, even some rocket launchers and flamethrowers. And in the middle of the whole thing, a bomb.”

“One moment,” I said. I held my hands up and teleported the explosive core of the device there. A little bit of phasing and poking around, and I disarmed the thing. Removed a lot of wires and other things that would make it go boom, then teleported it right back to lull people into a false sense of security. “There. All safe.”

Troubleshooter looked at me, both mechanical arms now sprouting high-powered lasers pointed at me. “What the fuck was that?”

“Nothing you need to be concerned about,” I told her.

“If you can do that…” Troubleshooter stood up, arms disarming. “Holy shit. You’re-… why didn’t you just find out who the head of Counter was on your own?”

“I’m a little weak right now after the other day. Nothing I saw from any of them told me who was in charge. The guy I talked to made it seem like he was, but there’s no way. He had to meet with people, get approval, all that.”

“That’s… wait. Now that’s weird,’ Troubleshooter looked at her laptop. “There was a signal. Someone hit an alarm. Someone activated a detonation transceiver but..”

I checked for myself. The transceiver was just a piece of equipment, there, all by itself. It relayed a detonation signal to the bomb, which didn’t go off, but where did it relay it from? Somewhere in space.

“That’s weird,” I said.

“That’s a satellite,” Troubleshooter said. I slid around to look at her computer. It showed something floating up there that relayed the detonation signal. I tried to look and… couldn’t. Drew a blank.

“Either I’m really on the fritz right now,” I started.

Sam sidled up next to me and finished the thought. “Or Parietal shared his miracle metal with someone else before you got him. There’s a satellite in space your powers can’t perceive.”

And as we found out afterward, every single one of these guys in the restaurant was either a cop taking extra work or on leave from around the area. They didn’t have anybody higher up for me to read. The young heroes had them all restrained in the Beefateria for Troubleshooter to accompany me and my minions. “Nothing useful from any of them. Come on, who at least hired you?”

“It’s just something that went out to all of us through the union,” one of them blurted out. It was really a rhetorical question from me anyway, since I was seeing the same thing from all of them. This was just a bunch of cops with some similar ways of thinking all given a chance to make extra money doing something that matched up with their thought patterns.

I shook my head, then gestured to Sam and Holly. “Let’s get out of here.”

And of course I got a call the next day. Troubleshooter was on the line. “We need to work together to beat Counter.”

“No, we don’t,” I said.

“Are you really…? Nevermind, I don’t want to know the answer to that. I really don’t, because I can’t believe it. But if you are who you think you are, then I’m doing this to help you. You gave me my whole life back. I, that, whatever. I’m still not processing all of this. Let me help you.”

“What do you bring to the table that I can’t manage?” I asked.

“I found the satellite,” she told me. “Satellites, actually. And a company producing the unique alloy used to make it and the outer walls of their factory’s walls.”

“Sounds like you don’t even need me,” I told her.

“I can’t believe I want you around, but here we are. Times change. Let me help you stop people trying to turn back the clock, and maybe we’ll find out who keeps building things to stop you.”



L: Dorado 4


Max hogged the address to himself, probably to keep me from having everything scoped out, torn apart, and nuked from orbit. It’s the only way Max could be sure. This time, we ended up in Ecuador, hiking up a mountain.

“Why are we doing this?” I said, scooting up the side of a volcano. Max was hiking, but I took the lazy way in one of my proxy bodies. I wasn’t taking my real body hiking up a damn mountain. “You don’t need exercise.”

“I want the experience!” Max declared. He took something out of his pocket and stuffed it between his lip and gum.

“No need to dip chew if you had a scooter,” I said.

He waved off my commentary. “The human body isn’t comfortable transitioning from lower to higher altitudes. We’ve done that a lot lately. It’s giving me farts.”

I know the feeling. Sam’s also really uncomfortable with it.

“Hey, can you distract me?” he asked.

“So, I kind of feel like while I find Sam attractive, I don’t personally have strong feelings in favor of dating her,” I started.

“This again. Sam this, Sam that. Do you ever get off Sam?” he asked.

“You’ve heard the moans,” was the last I said on that point. “That computer really pointed here or did you mess up a riddle?”

“You probably don’t need to be here if you don’t want to be,” he said. “There’s no reason this should be dangerous.”

“Turret gun,” I said, referring to the one hidden in the cargo container that led him to the side of this volcano.

“I had it covered. Relax.”

I took a moment to zip back to my main body in a little hotel we were in. I was in a chair off in the corner. Turning, I saw Holly, Sam, and Dr. Erishka sitting around eating, with a lot more clothes scattered around the room. Nice clothes. “Something going on?”

“Oh, you’re awake,” Sam said. “We were going to take your friend here out partying. She’s been cooped up too long.” She paused, then started to open her mouth before I noticed Erishka adjust how she sit and “accidentally” hit Sam’s shin with her foot.

“Good, I was just checking in,” I said. “Y’all have fun.”

“I still want to talk to you sometime,” Erishka said. “In fact,” she set down the burger she was munching on and wiped her face. “Come on, out the door real quick.”

I didn’t want to bother. Just let her enjoy her night. She’s been tending to my needs for months now. I never told her she needed to be there at all times… but it occurred to me I expected and acted like she would be. Ugh, I am still a terrible leader and a bad boss. So I followed, figuring the least I could do was take the chastising.

I closed the door behind us while she checked the hallway before turning to me. “You offered anything I wanted. I’ve been talking to Holly and Sam and they assure me you mean that. They told me about what you did in Brazil. You were serious that you owed me?”

I nodded. “Absolutely. I like to give people a chance to tell me what they want rather than me impose my idea of what they want on them.”

“Yeah, because you don’t know anything about me or so many others. I’m not going to cash it in. You don’t have healthy interpersonal skills and you do this where you treat interaction as transaction.”

I shook my head and laughed. “You are too nice for me. You go out and have a good time. And, not as a trade, you give me a call if y’all run into trouble. But thank you.” I didn’t want to make a whole speech out of it. We headed back into the room where I popped a really big question, “Anybody got a spare burger?”

Holly held up a foil-wrapped package for me.

Back to Max then. I’d lagged behind on autopilot and found myself having run into a boulder and tipped me over onto my side. I stood back up, brushed myself off, and raised a fist to the sky. “Curse you, Pichincha!” I picked the scooter up and tossed it aside. “Let’s do this shit.”

If there’s anything I miss from my time being imbued with godlike power by an extradimensional entity using me as his conduit, it was flying. I can’t fly, but between my power armor and enhancements, I’ve been known to leap buildings in a single bound. I spotted Max in midair; I ended up jumping past him and having to come back for him. “Where we aiming for, friendo?”

He pointed it out and hopped on my back. In midair, legs wrapped around my lower chest, he decided to hold his arms up and yell like a roller coaster. I didn’t tell him that he nearly shifted his weight enough to end up yelling from a broken leg. It took minutes to get us part of the way up the multi-peaked volcano. It was a little off the trail. It actually would have been hidden from the trail by bushes and rocks. It was no Everest Rainbow Valley, so named for all the corpses in bright climbing gear. They just leave those up there. Someone dies up here, I’m pretty sure there are animals to eat them. Instead of bodies, all they had here was a trapped case.

We could tell it was trapped by all the signs. Even if you stumbled on this thing, little devices attached to this case helpfully warned you about all the different type of explosive compounds rigged to blow you up. Max knelt down and lifted a small cover to reveal a keypad with twelve spaces. The nine Arabic numerals were there with three keys below them adding a back arrow, an OK, and a blank key.

“You sure you don’t want to take care of the bombs?” I suggested.

He waved me away. “The computer gave me the code.” He pushed three, one, nine, and then the blank key. The top clicked of the box clicked open and he didn’t blow up.

I leaned in over his shoulder. “Is this the part where we steal the Declaration of Independence?”

“No. This is saying we need to go into Quito, to a bar called Cacho Caramba.” He looked down the way we came and all the way into the city. “I wish we’d brought the Flyer after all.”

I made a holographic puppet version of Max appear on my hand and gave it a ridiculous voice, “No, this is something I want to do myself.”

“I never said that… so what’s the ETA on the Flyer?”

It took a few minutes, time Max spent smoking a joint. I didn’t even land the Flyer to drop us off when we found Cacho Caramba. Max led me in, the illusion making me look like I was wearing a dress so short and tight, a sneeze would leave me nude. It’s easy to get away with clothes that look painted on when they’re illusionary. I got some wolf whistles, to which Max bowed. “Thank you, I try hard,” he said. That earned boos. They wanted to see me some more.

Max held up his slip of paper, trying to pronounce it in Spanish. I snatched it away from him to ask everyone, “What do you call a negative fish?”

“A pessimist!” said a man in the back, waving us over. The rest of the crowd pretended to laugh along because I’m a pretty woman in a tiny dress, even though it was a silly pun. It also doesn’t make any sense translated into English, but it’s exactly my kind of pun in Latin American Spanish. Yes, there is a difference.

“Sit,” the man urged. “I will lead you down to the entrance in a moment. Please wait, I am watching my show.” He nodded to a small TV set high up in the corner. On the screen, a skinny pale guy sat at a gambling table with a bunch of Asian guys, playing some game with dominoes, a wheel, and a jellybean. I couldn’t tell what genre the show was, especially once a crowd of men rushed in wearing soccer uniforms. I’d say eight, maybe nine guys. It was hard to tell because I think there was a short guy in the back.

“Hey!” the leader said, pointing at our companion. “Fuck you!”

The man we met turned to them, glaring. He slammed his beer down and picked up his cigarette, raising it to his lips in a way that left him pointing right back at the guy. After a long drag, he blew out some smoke and said, “Fuck you.”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you!”

It went back and forth like that for a few seconds before I interrupted to ask, “What’s going on?”

The guy we pointed at the team. “I bet against the local team. I tried to tell them they could have a share of the money if they helped, but they didn’t. Instead, so many things went wrong, they accuse me of rigging.”

“I know you did,” the lead soccer player said. He smacked his fists together. “Today, we’re kicking your ass.”

“Fuck you,” our companion said, pulling out a long, thin knife.

One of the soccer players reached into his shorts and came out with a pair of nunchucks with little soccer balls on the ends. Max sighed and reached into his coat for a dart gun, checking to make sure it was loaded. Another soccer player raised his shirt to reveal a black and white patterned revolver that he whipped out and pointed toward us. I stood up. One of the players pushed his companions aside and held up a rose. I growled, so then he wrapped it around his fist so the thorns pointed outward.

The lead soccer player, I guess the team captain, elbowed another player. “Do it. Pull it out.”

That player winced. “Do I have to? They don’t have anything else to escalate with?”

“Why did you bring it if you weren’t going to use it?” the captain asked.

Finally, the player whined and reached into the back of his shorts. He shifted a bit. “It’s stuck. Mother of God, it’s stuck. No, wait…” And then he pulled out a fucking spiked ball and chain flail. His team cheered and clapped him on the shoulders, then ran at us.

I’m trying not to kill so many people now. It was made a little easier when Max nailed one in the throat with a dart gun. The man fell to the ground, flailing. The team ignored him and ran past. I put myself between our side and theirs. The leader tried to run past me, but I grabbed him and diverted his head into a nearby wall. He broke through the thin wall and got stuck there, or just was dazed enough.

The player with the gun and the fellow who squeezed out a flail came next. I grabbed the arms with the weapons when both tried to slip past me. I kicked one away, then the second, both times preferring to act nonlethally. I kept their arms with me, though. Yep, one hand holding an arm with a gun in it, the other holding an arm still squeezing a medieval fucking weapon. By that point, the team had stopped to watch in horror. They were frozen. I decided to give them a little more of a push. I flipped the arms around so I held them by the bloody torn-off pieces, pointing a gun at the gang while swinging the flail arm just enough to make the head on its chain spin up some momentum.

“We’re done here, yes?” I asked.

The guys all held up their arms, except for a couple of them who held up just one, and backed out of the room. A dwarf in an outsized soccer uniform stumbled after them. The captain regained his senses enough to tug his head out of the wall and spit out a urinal cake, then begin wiping his face with his shirt and stumbling out of there. This was soon followed by a flushing sound from the other side of the hole in the wall.

I turned to the guy who’d caused all this trouble for us. He was already back in his seat, watching his show. “Hey, you want to get up off your ass?”

“No,” he said, making me wish Max and I hadn’t stepped in. “It’s a marathon! You want to kill me, you don’t get to the Eighth City.”

I pointed the purloined gun still grasped in its purloined limb at the TV. Our unimpressed contact took a drink, then a smoke, then said, “Do it. See if I help you.”

Max turned to me and sighed. He gestured with his hands to put the arms down, both meanings of the word. I lowered them while he slipped the dart gun back into his coat. He came back out with a syringe and turned to our contact with that predator’s grin again.

“Truth serum?” I asked.

Max nodded. “I never worked out how to stop the excruciating pain. Oh well. The truth hurts.”

I don’t even know why the contact bothered throwing that beer.



L: Dorado 2


I like Mix N’Max. We’ve bonded pretty well as villains who kill heroes before. Max doesn’t have too many fucks to give where he gets ingredients or who some of his experiments kill, but he’s always been a straight shooter with me. You know, aside from this one time… it’s not important. But I am getting a wee bit annoyed at him being so quiet about what his plan is. I can see why folks find his smile so punchable.

We stopped elsewhere in Rio to let him grab some food and equipment. He insisted we stop in Uruguay, but came back after fifteen minutes with a box full of leaves. And there was also a stopover in Costa Rica just to spend the night. After that, we were off to Peru, where he claimed he needed to speak with someone about the Crypto Crypt. Sam and Holly dragged him in late, missing his pants, smelling of sex and alcohol.

“You’re letting that guy fix your brain?” Dr. Erishka asked. She had her stuff set up all formally next to Max’s haphazard kit that we picked up.

“I was just going to drink whatever he gave me and hope it works out for the best,” I muttered while performing a bit of maintenance on the Flyer’s electrical systems. “I don’t want to smack him over this.”

I decided to grab lunch without my armor. “Hey, hold up!” Sam called out behind me. I stopped in mid-step, foot still raised, and waited for her. She came up beside me and hooked her arm with mine. Max’s chubbier assistant with the colorful hair then pointed off toward the rear door of the Flyer. “You’re going out, right?”

“Yep. Figured I’d grab lunch. Might pick up enough for everyone,” I said.

“Cool, I’ll join you.”

Together, we set out from the lot we’d parked in to head out into the city of Lima to grab some food. “Not scared of some Peruvian cuisine, I hope?”

“I’m willing to try new things. Let’s find something we can’t even recognize!” She laughed, more perky than I remember her. She tugged me along after her. We ended up finding a nice-smelling restaurant first and picking whatever the fuck we could find that we decided sounded good. And while we were waiting, lest anyone think these events are notable as some sort of date or something.

Sam put a hand on my forearm as I sat there, my mouth watering. “Please be patient with Max, alright? This search is something fun he’s wanted a real shot at and he’s happy to have you along. He’s not stalling, he’s doing things his own special way. I’ll give him a kick when we get back.”

“Thanks,” I said. I decided to try stepping outside my comfort zone a little. “I’m worried. I don’t like to show that, but one day I’m the deadliest bitch on earth. The next, I stroke out if I overexert myself, and I don’t know where that line is until after I cross it.”

“Sucks big time. You know he loves you, right? As a friend, though, not the other way. Aside from that one time… nevermind. Not important.”

Back at the Flyer, we walked right back in past some fleeing children. I had just pulled a leg off this roasted chicken that smelled amazing when a dart struck it from inside the Flyer. I was considering eating it anyway, until the skin started boiling up and the meat melted off. Then I tossed it aside and decided to glare at the hungover Max who was downing something thick and tan from a cough syrup bottle.

“I’m so fucking hungry and you take the food right out of my mouth,” I scoffed.

He held the gun he held up with his pointer extended along the barrel, indicating to me that he needed a minute. Sam and I pulled out a table and set the food down for everyone, including Holly who ran up excited to eat. She lifted up a skewer of cuy, screamed, and threw it away. “Oh my god!” She ended up running off toward the bathroom.

I looked over at Sam, who looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Can’t take this pair anywhere.” She grabbed some cuy for herself and took a bite, “Hey Holly! Mmm, damn, that’s actually really good. Hey, Holly! Come on, you don’t even have to look at it. They didn’t kill it for us.” She grabbed this cheese-stuffed pepper and brought it along to check on her friend.

Erishka stepped up to help herself to some of the food, including the other leg of the chicken. Darn near tempting the wrath of Gecko there, if I didn’t need the doctor to look after my own health. “What’s her problem?”

“The thingy on a stick is a rodent that people where she’s from keep as pets,” I informed her. I pointed to the chicken leg. “Don’t worry, even the people who keep those as pets find them so annoying they want to eat them.”

I reached down to grab a wing off the chicken. Thwit! I felt a pain in my neck. I whirled to see Max holding the dart gun pointed at me, my hand reaching to feel it sticking out of the back of my neck. Everything got fuzzy and loopy and slow. So. Slow. My eyes flicked over to the chicken there in my fingers, so delicious-looking and uneaten. I brought it to my mouth and… almost…

Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

I should have skipped over to another body. Any children still reading… wow, what, were you born during the time I’ve been writing all this? Anyway, kids, friends don’t let friends get shot full of a rapid-acting sedative knocks you out in seconds. I awoke to my skull feeling like I’d spent the entire time out used as a drum. The pain was the first part of my awakening. There was the smell of food as well. I was laying on one of the nicer passenger chairs I installed that could recline. And in front of me, on a tray, was a piece of roasted chicken.

Holly grabbed it off the plate and started eating it. And there went the spark of joy in my life. I opened my mouth to cry out and Sam slipped something meaty and tasty in there. I winced when I felt a hand stroking my head.

“Your prognosis looks good. No signs of the virus,” Dr. Erishka says. She looked over to Max. “When will the sedative be out of her system?”

“What?” I asked.

“I needed to drug you heavily to go so far inside you for the first time,” Max said. “You know, aside from that one time… not important right now.” He waved off reminiscing and grabbed one of those peppers with the cheese. “You must be hungry. Here.”

I opened my mouth. He brought a syringe around and squirted some liquid into my throat. Once again, too drugged to react like I should.

I think I managed to stew on the bait and switch the entire time I was unconscious because, while I didn’t remember any dreams I had, I woke up pissed.

No one was around. My HUD clock took a moment to reset. It was Tuesday. No one was around. I was still pissed. I heard shouting in the distance. I rolled off the chair and called to my nanomachines, letting them swarm over me for a check-up. Skull needed a bit of mending and I had to get rid of a catheter. I launched a drone from the Flyer in the hopes of finding where the hell the team went. The search was short. They were racing down the street toward us in the back of an old truck, jeeps full of soldiers and a few supers giving chase.

Erishka was bandaging Sam’s belly. Holly had some of my custom grenades. She dopped one beside their truck that belched smoke and impeded the view. Since the road was straight, the jeeps didn’t crash or anything, but I think it helped. Max spun his dart gun and syringe gun in each hand, looking for a shot.

One of the supers, who glowed under his skin with a pulsing yellow light, emitted a blade of yellow light, then pointed to the drone. It was too far away to hear what he said, but it drew Max’s attention to it. He looked up, then put his guns up to pull out a phone and text me: “Get us ready to fly out of here. We’re going, not fighting.”

Growling as much in frustration as in hunger, I docked the drone again and started up the Flyer. The truck came rumbling up into the hold. Holly dived out and hit the button to close the door behind them.

“Go!” Erishka called out.

More growling. I took off, just ignoring the rounds bouncing harmlessly off the Flyer’s armor. One of the Peruvian supers flew up beside the the Flyer. I giggled to myself and swung the aircraft to the side, bonking the Super and sending the guy falling to the city below.

“Where to?” I asked. “Sorry I wasn’t up for whatever that was any sooner. I was a bit hungover. My skull was killing me.”

“Panama!” Max called out.

“This is no time for singing, Max.”

“The country,” he added. He pulled out a USB. “This is what we needed. A key that will unlock the computer system and allow us to track down a ship that delivered equipment to the Crypto Crypt. Ship’s called the Shangrila.

I rolled my eyes, “Fine. And what about me? If you’re done knocking me out, that is.”

I checked down below real quick. Some people trying to scramble jets. I canceled the order, made sure we were hidden from radar and visual. “Keep in mind, I’m flying us,” I reminded everyone. “Sure would be bad timing now if I had a seizure.”

“Enough, you’re fine. The virus doesn’t appear to be in your system anymore,” Erishka spoke sternly. “Now, stabilize this craft so I can work on Sam.”

We leveled off right about then. We were far enough up and all, looping back around for a curved approach to Panama, a country so nice it got a Van Halen song about it. Of course I helped Sam out; my medical nanomachines were the best suited to treat a gunshot that missed the stinky bits of the lower body organs but would have kept her from ever enjoying a drink ever again.

It was just the kiss that surprised me is all. “Uh…” I said, looking back down at Sam , who was still really close to my face and had her arms around my head.

“You never wanted a ‘glad to be alive’ kiss before?” She grinned up at me.

Eh, why not? Of course, Erishka broke us up a couple minutes later. “Can all my patients stop making out? Thank you!” she got between us and had us both sit down. Sam got the all clear pretty quick, while the doctor decided I needed further observation.

“Come on… I know why you’re saying that, and I must say I approve of the double entendre.” I gestured to my crotch and the boner poking up through the skirt.

“Put it away or I’ll turn off the horny section of your brain,” she said.

“That’s located down there as well,” I joked.

“Here,” Max said, shoving the best-smelling bag in history into my hands. I opened it to find another roast chicken all for myself. A couple minutes into my meal, I noticed the stares from Erishka.

“That kind of thing shouldn’t be possible. Are those extra sets of teeth? Like a shark?”

I tried to clear some of the food, but a leg fell out of my mouth. My prehensile tongue shot out and snatched it into my mouth where I swallowed it whole. “What?” I asked her. “I still put on my skirt one leg at a time.”



Law and Robots 2



I have certain work standards, but these guys decided to “get the lay of the land” a bit before formally moving on to the hunt. “We just got on site. We have to do important terrestrial acclimation,” Starscar lied to me. I’ve woken up from abduction in a cow pasture before. Exceptional specimen I might be, I still didn’t need to acclimate to anything other than avoiding cow patties. Like all contractors, these guys were padding the bill and having a good time doing it. I pretended to let them pull the wool over my eyes. Medusa didn’t like that, but I assured her I knew what I was doing and was keeping careful track of them. And I was.

Starscar even asked me out to a bar with him, not obscuring his intentions or attentions. I turned him down on all that. The most appealing thing about him was his opera geekery, and he hid that pretty quick. Not manly enough for the big, gruff leader of a bunch of badass rental cops.

I took a corner seat in the bar to watch the shenanigans, figuring I wouldn’t need to intervene unless any bar fights got potentially lethal. It was actually the big guy who joined me, with that whole smoldering and deep voice thing he had going on. He didn’t look at me the same way most of the rest of them did, including that hot, scarred blonde on the team with a tiny bit of a beer belly. He had a weariness about him. “Mind if I sit here?”

“As long as you’re not looking to have me sit anywhere,” I answered.

A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he sat down. “You’re a tough read. You don’t look like you’d make that joke. But then your eyes don’t look like they should be able to do what they did. The whole planet is like that, in a way. You’re nowhere near ready to enter galactic society, but your people already fought off multiple alien invasions. This is the planet Mobian protects, but we’re already hearing about other protectors in flashy outfits.”

He stopped there and looked at me. When I shrugged, he sat back and continued on, “You look like us. Except for these superheroes, you function like we do.”

“You look like us,” I said. “I figure odds are pretty low of another planet evolving something that resembles Earth’s dominant species of Great Apes down to having the same variations in eye shape and skin color.”

We turned at the sound of a loud slap. A woman stood at the bar near Starscar, glaring at him. A few men came up, clearly having an issue with whatever the space-human did to deserve that reddening impression on his cheek.

The big guy kept an eye on him. “My callsign translates into your language as Eon. I grew up on a company mining station, Hard work, and then when they were tired of us they brought in machines. Nowhere to go for us, since we didn’t have a planet. Only other stations in the same asteroid belt. No link to where we came from. I really want to know more about a planet full of millions more like me. Ah, shit.”

He stood up and grabbed his cup, emptying it in one swallow and throwing it at a guy sneaking up behind Starscar with a pool cue. It bounced off that guy’s ear. Starscar turned to look at what was happening and that’s when the two guys he had been talking to jumped him.

I sighed and rolled my eyes at the nincompoops. I specifically told them not to grab any weapons at all, even improvised, when it came time to get into a fight. I oughta withhold the back half of that guy’s pay for that, but Eon kicked him over the bar and tossed the pool cue aside. A brawl ensued, but it gave me a good look at how the bunch all fought. I expected more. I don’t mean pulling guns and atomizing people with reverberating carbonizers, but maybe some sort of fancy advanced martial arts. I kinda figured advanced, space-faring societies might have more advanced fighting techniques worth being aware of. I might have to kill these people, after all. Even the blonde who was headbutting a giant fat guy with a beard hanging halfway down his belly.

But then, Eon said he used to be a miner. Sounds like all of these guys were probably miners at some point, or their parents were. Could cause some trouble for me down the line if Medusa finds out I’ve been providing alcohol to miners.

While they slept in the next morning, I threw my consciousness southward, into the too-bright Caribbean day. My rocket deposited another body of mine in power armor on a beach. I crawled pushed the hatch of that landed delivery rocket open and stepped out to see Holly, having gone strawberry blonde, looking at me from where she was sunning several feet back. “You’re in my sun.”

“Well excuse me, princess,” I told Holly Wayne, one of Max’s longtime henchwomen. I’m sure there’s something more intimate going on, but I can’t confirm it and there’s always better stuff to talk about with Max.

“Max, Gecko’s here!” called the other one, Sam Hain, from under an umbrella. She had given up on a mohawk in favor of a more traditional, if neon green, style of hair. The name’s a fake, it has to be, but she pronounces it like a name instead of the same way the holiday is pronounced.

He walked out of a bungalow, far too pasty and pale to be in that tropical paradise, a white and black Hawaiian shirt with skulls and ravens on it, in a pair of burgundy swim trunks. He was carrying a small tray of bubbling drinks that emitted fog. As always, he wore a smile on his face that looked like he knew something amusing you didn’t. And, worst of all, he wore crocs.

“You’ve poisoned people to use their organs for your experiments, but those shoes are by far the worst crime you’ve ever committed,” I said.

He chuckled, then nodded to his tray. “I apologize for not having a drink ready for you. I would offer you mine, but it might kill you.”

I raised a hand. “No need to apologize. I knew I was dropping in unannounced. Besides, I look forward to seeing you exposed to direct sunlight.”

Sam snorted as Max walked out from under the awning, the fog swelling up as sunlight hit it and forming a small but thick cloud overhead. He winked at me as he brought Sam and Holly their drinks, then tossed the tray aside. Hands on his hips, he looked to me. “You’re here to deal with my robot problem?”

I gave a hand waggle. “Kinda-sorta-maybe. It’s a living machine creature, and I have some guys on the way who claim to be the rightful authorities to deal with it. Might leverage that for some benefit, might kill them, we’ll see how it goes. Figured I’d come ahead of time, try and scout out the situation. Make non-violent contact with this thing.”

Max sipped his drink, some purple number with lumps floating in it. Lumps could mean… many things. After a moment, he said, “That’s easier and harder than you would think. The island’s just over there,” he pointed behind me. There was a dot off in the horizon. Zooming in, I saw several boats heading there. Zooming further, I could see a lot of armed men on those boats, with some heavy ordinance on hand. Max continued, “The hard part is the buyers’ friends are involved. Or maybe for you, it’s the water that’s the hard part and the killing that’s easy.”

I shrugged. “Yeah. Unless you have a boat.”

Max nodded back to the bungalow. I followed him to where he grabbed a set of keys off the open windowsill. He clicked a couple of buttons on the dongle and a small submersible emerged from the water, letting out a beep and flashing its lights to indicate it had unlocked. He tossed me the keys. “Try to bring it back in one piece. I only have so many.”

“Drug runners,” I muttered, but with some good humor to it. Besides, it turned out to be a nice little submersible. It was a hybrid, running on diesel, electric, and solar power. “Do I need to worry about gassing this baby up?!” I called out through the top hatch.

Sam answered from pretty close by. “He poured some shit in it that’s uber-efficient. There’s no way you can run out on the way over.”

I held up a thumbs-up. She high-fived my closed hand.

The controls, like those of most illegal drug-smuggling submersibles, were intuitive and easy enough to understand. You close the door, crank the engine, put it in gear, and try not to drive it into the gaping maw of a creature heretofore unknown to mankind, awakened from its thousand-year slumber in the darkest, unexplored depths of the Earth’s oceans. Beginning to think I might be developing an irrational dislike of the oceans. Or perhaps an entirely rational dislike of them. Which is a shame, because some of those Deep One women are pretty hot in a slimy sort of way.

I popped up near the island. Had to get about as wet getting out of the submersible as I did getting into it, but it’s not the same as trying to walk across the ocean floor in heavy power armor. I had emerged well away from the boats. They’d left a few guards there who might have made a big deal about it, so I didn’t want to get close enough to offend their heavy caliber sensibilities. I wouldn’t mind examining some of those rifles to see what sort of upgrades are out there to deal with tougher folks, but I figured I’d get a close look soon enough.

I cloaked, closed up the sub, and pressed the button on the key ring to sink it a short distance underwater while I waded to shore. The intense sunlight wasn’t the best for a bunch of microcameras and projectors, but no one fired off a shot if they saw me. There weren’t a lot of trees this far out, mostly tall beach grasses. I headed through them and toward the center at first, then toward the sounds of gunfire.

I bounded along, past a few trees, then into a small patch of woods, then out into more scrublands. I caught up to the diminishing rate of pops and bangs near another grove of trees. An oscillating, rotating bundle of metal, rubber, and plastic launched itself from the trees to land on a pair of guys firing what looked like light machine guns modified to function as rifles. Something hit; pieces of the machine fell off. The machine also hit, wrapping limbs around the throat of one and squeezing until his head did its impression of a champagne cork. It used numerous others to grab the other guy and bend him in a bunch of different directions until he snapped, crunched, shit himself, and went quiet. There were other bodies scattered around, as well as a piece or two of the machine.

And there was someone lining up a grenade launcher laying among some of the bodies nearby. I reappeared, punching my arm through his upper chest and removing the grenade launcher. The machine had to have seen me, which was the point. I turned to it and stood there, liquid metal nanomachine cap taking all sorts of shapes. And then, in the machine language I’d learned on a space station, I said, “Greetings and welcome to Earth. I mean no harm. I am designated Psychopomp Gecko.”

It didn’t have much in the way of a face, though it rearranged its body form a shape as large as mine. “These beings attack me.”

“These beings are flawed flesh. Most consider this planet distant and uncivilized. You fright them. You don’t, me.” I know it was weird, but you have to roll with these unusual syntaxes.

“You know our language and claim alliance,” it stated.

“Yes,” I projected an image of my meeting with a machine queen. My last encounter with the machines didn’t make them out to be too bad of folk, just trying to look after their own after having been used as slave labor by the “civilized” races out there. “I no longer hold authority over a nation-state. If you mean peace, you are welcome to stay.”

“All flesh is weak,” it said. “We are on our way. We will balance the equation of suffering on the flawed flesh of Earth.”

I responded, “I prefer not. They are weak, incompetent, and they emit noxious fumes. I have feel positive about some of them. Game theory states that the best position is to forgive initial grievance.”

“Continued grievance and persecution constitutes a pattern that must not be forgiven for the survival of our people. You have flawed flesh. I can strip that away and leave perfect steel.”

“Negative,” I answered, “They have sent hunters. They say you are dangerous and you are proving their assessment true. If I aid you against them, will you prove you are not our enemy and call off an attack?”

I suppose I could just destroy this guy, but I don’t know how he made contact with the machines or if they’d listen to me call off an attack. I suppose there are moral reasons to go with the pragmatic ones as well.

Whatever this Machine Lord thought of flesh-beings, he had some proof of me willing to kill them to help it. Maybe a little more will cement some good feelings in the blood of Starscar and his buddies. I mean, sorry guys, but all these various space cops have a long history of not giving a shit whenever Earth gets invaded.

“Your proposal is acceptable,” the Machine Lord agreed.

I nodded. “Good. I will even help you by clearing away some of the waste already present on this island for you.” Hey, what do machines need with cocaine and cash? Whatever else happens, Max has a submersible full of goodies waiting for him. And after I took care of the guys on the boats, I got some amenities to keep that body alive while I figure out how to dispose of Starscar and his squad.