“…anyway, they figure since birds are the traditional vector for the spread of chili pepper seeds, it’s useful to start the seeds with it. Just get some seeds, maybe wash them down with a tiny bit of bleach in there, then stick them in a mixture of bird poop and water. It’s supposed to be pretty good, and chilis need slightly more acidic soil anyway.”
The world passed by underneath my body as Omega checked the Empyreal City. The being that controlled my body hadn’t blown the whole city to hell. Mr. Omega figured out he would have to confirm a kill for it to mean anything to me. It would be difficult enough for him to search the entire world, but I’ve made it even tougher for him.
“Would that I could sew your mouth shut with a scorpion trapped within,” Omega muttered.
“You trapped me in your head, buddy. You don’t want me yakking away, feel free to let me out and give up this body,” I said. “If not, we can move on to another fun subject. Tell me, what do you know about snail husbandry? Because, let me tell you, it’s a slow fucking process.”
“Quiet down. I am hunting your daughter,” Omega said.
“You’re doing a shitty job of it,” I said. I know where I would have looked first, or the things I could have done to try and find Qiang. Evidently, our recent schism keeps him from accessing my brain, which is a handy thing to know. Omega’s got plenty of power, but he’s not tech savvy in the least.
Case in point, he asked me, “Why is there a twelve and two zeroes appearing and disappearing in my vision?”
I reset the HUD clock to screw with him. I wasn’t sure he’d still see it, but that confirms it. I’m a little worried he might be altering my body. Not in the good way, either, like when I planned to use his powers to zap myself pregnant by Medusa the next time I saw her.
While I mused how to take advantage of this and continued to try talking his head off, he decided to try using my technology. He stopped in Colorado, which is 99% composed of the middle of nowhere, and clenched his fist. An orb appeared in front of us in the sky and expanded out. My Omega power armor was inside. We floated toward it and passed right on through it, either us or the armor becoming intangible in the process.
“You know, if clocks are too complex for you, I’m not sure power armor is going to work as well as you’d like,” I teased.
“Armor is beneath me,” Omega answered. He raised my lower limbs, showing off the gauntlets that were equipped with portahole technology. It was similar to the Telechamber, but less powerful. “I have acknowledged your machinery can achieve that which I cannot. Now, it will.”
There wasn’t a lot of fancy programming work put into the portahole gauntlets on this end. Most of it is a matter of location and size. The difficult stuff was handled by Chu, also missing these days, who handled power management that was delivered using more portals. Omega didn’t have to worry about delivering power remotely. Omega had all the power these things could want. They still won’t do him any good getting through. They can deliver something person-sized, like me, but the power required to bring through someone the size of Omega’s ego would damage their hardware. “Can’t get through with those, Mr. Impatient.”
“I do not intend to,” he informed me. Omega lowered us to the ground. There, he created a portal and expanded it, but to about people-size. Out of that one stepped a robot, with limbs that looked like girders and a conical head flanked by radar dish ears. The head had a facsimile of a human face carved into it.
The robot swiveled slowly, taking in the scenery. Mr. Omega conjured an image of Medusa in what he’d seen of her costume without her power armor. He explained to the robot, “This is who I want you to find. She already has reason to want to find me first, but I want you to take her appearance.”
The robot’s body pulled in close and the radar dishes raised to the sky. The center of them lit up with blue light that shot out and expanded into a halo. The halo then fell over the robot’s body, stopped at its cupped feet, and rose again. The sequence repeated itself, growing faster and faster, until the Medusa faded into existence where the robot had been. It didn’t seem like a hologram, but I didn’t know what it was. Something as old as that automaton shouldn’t have been able to do that.
Fake Medusa nodded stiffly and said in a voice that sounded nothing like her, “As you wish, Moloch.”
“You will need allies,” Mr. Omega added. He created another portahole. Out of that one stepped a man in an all black coat, black pants, dark red shirt, and a wide-brimmed black hat. His eyes glowed red in the shade of his hat and he had wrangled his facial hair into a messy goatee.
“You rang?” he asked, smiling yellowed teeth. With the 360 cameras once again connected, I had a better range of vision and could see that that grass died off, radiating outward from where his shoes touched the ground.
Mr. Omega didn’t address him just yet. Instead, he opened one last portahole. From that emerged a little blonde girl with pigtails, dressed in yellow and green superhero tights.
The man in black looked her over. “I better not be here for child’s play.”
The girl stuck her tongue out at him and blew a raspberry.
“Silence!” Mr. Omega said. He conjured the image of Medusa again, and one of Qiang. “Epidemic and Stampede. I summoned you from the void to this Earth to aid me. I require you to bring me this woman and child. I believe them to be within this nation-state, in a city known as Empyreal City. Machine Man has taken the appearance of the woman to wreak havoc in her image. You will assist Machine Man and bring them to me.”
“That’s it, we’re hunting down this woman? This has to be the easiest payment either,” said the guy I took to be Epidemic.
The girl raised her head and howled like a wolf, her jaw and ears briefly elongating as she did so. Howls answered her from the distance.
Mr. Omega nodded once. “There are many on this Earth with powers beyond mere man, and your debt, those that owe it, will be wiped clean by this act.” He created a new portahole, then waved them through. “Go. Call for me when you have them.”
Machine Man, as Medusa, tromped through the portahole. I don’t know what that one could do to anyone it wanted to hurt, and I have no clue if Mr. Omega’s ignorance of technology extends to 1940s-looking robots. I’m completely ignorant of the other two, too. From the way he talked, Omega didn’t think they were used to the concept of supers, so it’s unlikely they’re from this Earth.
Still, I couldn’t just let the guy trapping me in my own head just run around with the ability to summon his minions into the world. I adjusted a few of the parameters and fired off a pair of portals while Mr. Omega was zipping back into the air. They were designed to be way too big for the portaholes to handle. I could have initiated a safety shutoff, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I watched as the subtle wrinkles in the air started to form, then the gauntlets sparked and blew out when the portals got big enough. The portals vanished while the gauntlets caught fire.
Mr. Omega looked down at them, my face pulling into a frown. Neither of us felt the heat, nor did he bother to put it out before he started heading back toward Ricca. “That was foolish, Gecko. You lash out when you should be thankful toward me.”
“You stole my body, so don’t expect me to thank you anytime soon.”
“You came through and made a life you feel is worth living. To deny me the same out of fear shows you have not changed,” he said.
“Oh fuck off, grandpa.” Wow, we got over Mu pretty quick. Mr. Omega finally got the idea to look over our various colonies on the lost and restored continent. Most didn’t give him any trouble, though the Bronze City sounded an alarm. The arrows fired by the guards didn’t reach anywhere near us.
Mr. Omega stopped and descended to where some of those same men bowed apologetically. “Forgive us, Empress-King. We did not realize it was you.”
Omega glanced down at my armor, quickly grasping the benefits of co-opting my identity around the last group of people who still considered me their sovereign. “Tell the soldiers to gather,” Omega ordered.
It didn’t take long before Omega floated in front of the city’s army, all clad in the bronze armor the city was famous for.
“You will do nicely,” he said in my voice, looking around. His view lingered on one particular shield that had been polished to a mirror finish. The reflection’s fists pounded the shield, much like I wanted to do and might have if I wasn’t thinking. I experimented by giving Mr. Omega the finger with my upper hands. The reflection did the same.
This time, Mr. Omega thought to himself, his mental voice thankfully not a copy of my own. I think it would have really pissed me off if he had my mental voice, too. “I see you. Maybe I should simplify this by putting you in another body. What is the name of that girl whose body you envy? The blonde one, belonging to the tribe of god-pretenders.”
I didn’t respond because I was tempted. I think he picked up on that. If he knew me any, he’d know I’d resist on principle alone. If I’m lucky, he doesn’t realize I have more ideas on how to sabotage him. “I think if it were so simple for you to just possess a body without a mind, you’d have done it. There are plenty of mindless bodies around.”
“I think if you knew anything about magic, you would not have built your power on machines,” Omega responded.
Out loud, Omega announced, “What do they say now? You should get an upgrade.” Omega waved my hand, not that asshole’s hand, and the soldiers’ armor changed color to the same red as mine. Their swords, spears, and arrowheads changed as well.
Omega rose into the air as a sphere appeared around the whole of the assembled men and my body. Everything pulled inward and then spread out again, and the soldiers were now assembled around the Telechamber site.
Shockley had taken cover behind a low wall, zapping the occasional brick that came close to hitting him. He smiled in relief at the site of Omega and the army. Omega pointed to the crowd. “Go home, or go to the grave.”
The army let out a roar that scared off most of the people protesting the Telechamber. The rest ran away when some of the soldiers rushed to take up positions at the street.
Mr. Omega examined the Telechamber and could tell the exterior was done. The interior had to be close as well, but he didn’t have my skill with tiny little robots. “Soon,” he murmured to me. “Soon, a new day begins. A new palace is in order for the new ruler. Don’t you agree?”
The ground rumbled and wood cracked. Off in the distance, a ruby spire sloughed off the palace it had arisen from underneath and stabbed into the sky, the center of a crystalline keep that took over the palace courtyard and former Directory building.
Now he’s in trouble. The bastard destroyed the best toilet I ever owned. And he doesn’t even realize I have plenty of spare bodies I can use to help thwart him, including a few Dudebots in Empyreal City.