Tag Archives: Medusa

The Collectibles 4

Here we have to take a short break from the ass-kickery to address the reindeer in the room. There was that big-ass orange moon in the sky on Saturday. The Massachusetts Exemplar base is getting full, from rescues being treated and debriefed over their experiences. That means a lot of medical and therapy staff, backed up by more field teams. And one of them is a face I didn’t expect to see in the field: Darklight.

The heroine walked in while I was making last-minute adjustments to the Reindeer costume and gear, back from the dead and still quite hateful of myself. I looked up at her and tried not to let out a sigh she could hear.

Darklight put her hands on her hips, her casual clothes much different from the black costume she’d been wearing when serving under an evil AI. Perhaps the difference was that the horrible burns she’d suffered from when I left her to fall out of orbit were all healed up. I checked and there were no nanomachines left in her system that could respond, just as I’d planned. “What kind of organization would stoop to using you?”

“Mine.” Medusa walked in and tossed a bag to Darklight, who caught it one-handed. “I can’t make you like Gecko, but keep the sniping to a minimum.”

I nodded to Medusa. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

Medusa smiled. “I’m here to personally oversee what’s going on and to handle the Benfrike-Fawk meeting.”

“Uh, I thought I was handling that,” I said.

Medusa shrugged. “He got back with us after your call and wants to meet up tonight.”

I groaned and rolled my eyes, looking up. “Ugh!”

Darklight smiled. “I want to hear this.”

I gestured to Darklight. “Is she muscle to help y’all instead?” I asked.

“Yep. They brought me on because you can’t get the job done,” Darklight was beaming, and not in the way where she hurls light that somehow has physical mass at people.

Medusa looked to Darklight, but winked at me. “You’re off official duty for the night. We’ll have Darklight and Reindeer on duty if needed.”

I nodded. I’m so glad Medusa respects me enough to not reveal the open secret of my weredeer alter ego to someone who hates me. She’ll probably find out before long, but I feel slightly better that she’ll find out when I’m not around. I started beeping though. “That’s my alarm. I need to go.” I brought the costume along with me, but left the box with the hammer in it, the Bell Ringer I think Reindeer settled on.

My first choice of room was a storage closet that ended up having a couple in it enjoying some personal time. In my annoyance, I very nearly stayed completely ruined both of their libidos, but instead I ran out and headed to the nearest restroom. I got set up in a stall, hung the costume on a hangar on the inside of the door, and locked up. Then, I zipped my mind right off to the Bell Ringer.

I rose out of the box, a mighty hammer of vengeance and piss-offery. The room I’d been in wasn’t empty, as there were still some people hanging out in the armory cleaning and readying stuff, but Medusa and Darklight had gone. Oh well. I flew the hammer toward the door. Rather than burst through the thing, I activated a small arm in the handle that pulled it open and shut behind me, announcing, “I am a hammer, not a boorish rude jerkass!”

I went around a corner and there was Medusa right outside the restroom. “Coming through, pretty lady!” I popped through the door, starting to announce, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall wield the power of- shit!”

Darklight stood in the restroom, the broken stall door in her hands, watching the tail end of a grotesque transformation that saw bones warp, muscles bulge, and antlers stretch out from my head. She got an eyeful of all of it and declared. “Oh shit, you’re a werewolf deer thing. A lycanthrope. Why aren’t you a guycanthrope?”

Medusa chose that moment to storm in. “She’s a weredeer, and the magic behind that knows something you don’t.”

“I’m also not the Gecko you know,” Reindeer said upon standing. She grabbed her costume where it had fallen on the floor in front of her.

“I hear that a lot. Now you just have fur and horns,” Darklight responded.

“She’s not just whistling Dixie,” I told her, flying over to get between Darklight and Reindeer. “I’m the actual Gecko.”

Darklight grabbed me. I tried pulling out using the antigravs, but she was strong. “You downloaded your brain into a hammer? So all I need to do is break you…”

“I’ve connected my consciousness to a computer system in this hammer I designed to assist Reindeer. Destroying this won’t hurt me.”

Reindeer grabbed me too and tugged me away from Darklight. “It’s a unique and nonsensical situation involving ancient magic and cutting edge technology. And I’d rather not work with you if it’s all the same.”

They give me a lot of leeway, but Reindeer was still part of the Fawk thing. We got ready and deployed, all with her being judgy. I don’t know how to describe it other than that. We kept our distance from each other. That was possible by the plan for this meeting allowing for reinforcements to be nearby but not in the room or even in the building. We had to be inconspicuous so as to not frighten our prey. The assumption made by the Exemplars and agreed with by me is that a transporter makes for an awesome escape plan.

Once the voice thing was handled, that all went off without a hitch. Just a simple deal for enslaved superhumans. Bankrupting the late Migton Benfrike, we managed to buy back a good half-dozen supers. Fawk even threw in a free suit of power armor from Dr. Doldrum, who had a gun that made people lethargic and sad. He always struck on Mondays for maximum effect, but he died a couple years back. It was ruled self-inflicted, but the video evidence showed him skydiving naked while holding Roman candles and accidentally hitting a goose. They built a statue to that cool son of a bitch.

When I brought that up to Reindeer, she had the same idea as me. “Shouldn’t that still be with his family? Check to see if they struck.”

I ran a bit of a search. There were no reported sightings of Dr. Doldrum since the funeral, which required a pair of skateboard ramps built on either side of the grave site for skateboarders to jump the casket through a ring of fire. It’s what he would have wanted, along with the free bar. Glorious goddamn bastard.

Ten minutes later, I had a report for Reindeer. “This is potentially pretty bad. She disappeared two weeks back, with her boyfriend filing a police report. I don’t know it’s connected, but I’m paranoid and think it’s connected. I’m running through the inventory we have access to for anything that could be her.”

“I have movement,” came a report from an Exemplar.

Someone whispered. “They know someone’s been targeting clients. Activate the shield.”

“Activating. Hope this works,” someone said.

I projected a hologram so that Reindeer could see the forcefield panel in the sky above us. She didn’t need a hologram to see when a pair of giant robots rose out of the water. There were large, rounded bodies on pairs of legs, with arms that consisted of rocket pods and chainguns. One had that racing checkers design running up the sides of the torso; the other was painted blue with shark teeth on the front of it.

“Reindeer, Darklight!” Medusa called.

“On it.” Darklight announced herself with a burst of the titular dark light she now wields smacking into one of the big robots. They both concentrated their firepower on Darklight. The bullets did nothing, but rockets knocked her out of the sky. Reindeer caught her in one hand, carrying me in the other. I created a forcefield to block another pair of rockets. Reindeer and Darklight used the cover to fly low and head to between the pair of robots.

Reindeer reached a hand out for Darklight, who took it. My alter ego spun Darklight around to get more momentum before throwing the heroine at the other. That gave the other one an opening to fire at Reindeer and I. I put up another forcefield while telling her, “I can create an opening for you.”

Reindeer’s antlers lit up a brilliant white. Beams of light came together from the tips of her tallest antlers to join into one beam that cut through the air. I gave it an opening to jab right into the center of our robot’s rocket pod and cook off the ammo. Reindeer then took me and started spinning me around in the hammer, over and over again.

“Catch!” Reindeer declared, throwing me. I was glad I didn’t have a stomach. Instead, I had antigravity devices to negate the pull of gravity and to propel me even more rapidly toward the robot. I smashed through the chassis and embedded deep inside it. I stopped in all the internals of the machine and unleashed the lasers and flamethrowers. The smoking robot crashed into the waves from whence it came, with me flying off back toward Reindeer. She was now assisting Darklight with the other robot, the two of them punching the dented machine between the two of them. Finally, Darklight went for where its leg attached to the body and wrenched it off. The robot toppled into the water, but hadn’t sunk yet when Darklight smashed in the chassis even further with the purloined leg. It threw up a shitload of water when it went.

“Darklight here. The big guns are down.” I heard.

“We have Fawk,” Medusa reported.

And I got a ding as the analysis finished. “And I think I have a match. Unidentified female power armor user. No video of usage, missing the date Dr. Doldrum’s daughter disappeared.”

“What’s that?” Medusa asked.

Reindeer spoke up. “They had Dr. Doldrum’s armor but his daughter isn’t a supervillain. They figured out who she was and kidnapped her anyway so they could sell it and her.

I added, “We have a lot of responders on the way. I don’t know if we’re going public with this yet…”

“Let’s clear out. I’ll arrange something for them. We have more than enough to go public. It’s time to move on to the next phase,” Medusa ordered. Privately, she connected to the private channel between Reindeer and me. “Now we have to figure out what Dick Avast is doing all this for. After that, I think we should send him on a one-way trip to Mars with no transporter.”

The Collectibles 1



“The Flying Dead! Time Travel Returns Heroes – And Infamous Villain – To Earth.”

I was checking out the story the old-fashioned way, with a newspaper. Adrian, retired hero-turned-friend had stopped while I was at the bakery. I was devouring a huge honey bun when he stopped, cream cheese and garlic danish in hand, and stopped to show me the news. It’s not surprising that the gang of heroes brought back from just before their deaths at my hands would blab. They mentioned me being alive and the reporters who caught that bit are assuming I was brought back as well. They didn’t identify who talked. At least they didn’t talk about Radium. That would undercut their own efforts.

Venus and the cyborg Human Sloth had a long visit with Medusa before returning to the Master Academy. Darklight stayed here for a bit of reconstuctive surgery with a super doc who isn’t me. I slipped him some special nanites, specifically created to not be controllable from outside and to pass out of the system quickly. He’ll keep my name out of it, but Darklight will look like her old self. I hope she’s planning to keep the name though. Way better than Forcelight. I think Lone Gunman and Miss Tycism ran off to pick up where they left off as supers.

And me, spent quite a bit of time working on my armors. Figure I better make sure the designs branch out. That’s why I suited up personally as Lady Guardian out in the backyard. Well, one reason. I tried the new wings, a mixture of reinforced lightweight alloys and nanomachines. I’d left out the engines that the Psychopomp armor has in the big mess of nanites I shift to fit various uses. These were more solid to help with the suit’s antigrav. I had to pack in more power to handle it and the need for redundancy.

I raised my wings, activated the antigrav, and launched myself into the air. The wings were for show. The actual flight had nothing to do with all that. But it was amazing.

I did a barrel roll and played around. The wings helped me twist and turn through the air more naturally. I could turn the antigrav on a dime, but I quickly realized my stomach disagreed with that handling. I didn’t realize I’d traveled so far until I saw the taller buildings below. I headed down try dodging between buildings.

There wasn’t much to speak up, but somebody was making a scene. A man in a black and red knight’s armor laughed as the cops fired at him in the middle of a park. He had a kite shield stabbed into the grass in front of him. The air was hazy overhead, but I don’t think the cops’ bullets got anywhere near close. Behind him, men dressed in chainmail shirts ran around trying to steal a giant cherry from atop this giant spoon that was a bridge over some water.

I landed between the two groups and held up my hands in both directions. The cops stopped shooting. “Good, guys… because seriously? You’re opening fire over this? A guy with an axe who isn’t even close to you?” I turned to the knight and his henchmen. “And you, seriously? What’s the resale value on this? First, you’re separating the pieces, and you don’t even have a truck here. Any truck close enough and big enough now, they’re going to follow it. And anyone who wants to buy this shit could go for the Lincoln Memorial or something rather than a giant cherry.”

I could see some of the henchmen were nodding along, figuring out this wasn’t that good of a plan. The knight looked back. “Hey, come on! It’s about sending a message.”

“You don’t like cherries?” I asked.

“Can we shoot at them again?” one of the cops asked.

“No,” I said. “Why would you shoot them over this thing? Nobody’s getting hurt by this.”

“They might roll it into a building,” one of the cops suggested.

“Statistically, you’re more of a danger as a cop than they are. Know your role and shut your mouth,” I told him.

“I didn’t come here to not fight anyone,” the dark knight announced. “I am Sir Rend, and I will be the next top supervillain.”

I rolled my eyes under the helmet. “This isn’t a reality show, you flatulent dickweed.”

“Uh, if that’s all this is, can we go?” one of the henchmen called out. A bunch of the others went ahead and ran off toward a nearby parking lot, the chainmail slowing them.

“Alright, Sir Rend-er. You want a fight, you’ll get one, then these guys will probably lock you up and steal your shit. I’m giving you every opportunity to make a graceful exit.”

He walked up to his kite shield and pulled it out of the grass. He spun the axe around, then walked toward me. He was cautious, waiting to see what move I made first. I used the wings to lift myself into the air and the holographic projectors to hit him with a blinding light. I landed behind the knight and swept the wings around to knock axe and shield out of his hands. A kick stumbled him, but he’d started turning and absorbed some of the hit in the process. I ran up and jumped up to lock my legs around his helmet, spinning both of us around in a circle with my wings stretched outward, and then flew downward to twist and toss the knight hard onto his back.

It was a hard hit, but knights wear padding. He was starting to get up. I grabbed him and threw him in the air. He was only up there for a second before landing hard again, sounding like his lungs hated him.

I waved dismissively and checked around to see how the henchmen were doing. A couple trucks sped off with cops way behind trying to get to their cars. Behind me, more cops were handcuffing Sir Rend and pulling off his helmet. One of the cops gasped as a wizened old face was revealed. “It’s Old Man Sanders!”

“I think that’s a mask too,” said a younger one. The cop that had the helmet tossed it aside and grabbed the old man’s hair, tugging it off to reveal a younger guy.

Then we all heard a humming noise and Sir Rend disappeared. A soft glow enveloped him and he was gone. Poof. The guys holding him almost fell down. Another hum, and a folded piece of paper appeared in the air, flopping down to land on the dogpile. The younger cop grabbed it up while everyone tried to stand and read it aloud. “Thank you for capturing this dangerous criminal. I, the esteemed billionaire Richard M. Avast, have taken it upon myself to hold this villain and others in my personal space station. We owe so much to you that I thought I would save you the trouble.”

“Isn’t that kidnapping?” I asked.

An older man in a coat and dress shirt snatched the note away from the younger guy, “We’ll look into it, but there’s only so much we can do if some rich vigilante has decided to snatch this up from us.”

“He gave you his name,” I pointed out. Why do I bother? At least the henchmen probably got away.

My mood suitably dampened by an encounter with this country’s idea of a “justice” system, I headed back to Radium. At least I got to enjoy flying. There’s just something about that feeling. Amazing.

I heard more about Avast when I was just about home. He was doing a big press event, standing on stage in front of dozens of reporters. Behind him was CGI video of a space station consisting of a giant letter A with a ring rotating around it level with the middle line. Looked like a giant A-hole to me.

“As you have all heard by now, I have decided to relieve the burden off law enforcement and the new government Office of Superhuman Resources by personally housing super criminals in my very own space station. Additionally, the data we gain from their presence will benefit my company when we colonize Mars,” he said, pulling that out of Uranus.

“What about their rights as American citizens?” asked one person.

“They’re criminals, and outer space is outside the jurisdiction of all law enforcement agencies,” Avast answered.

“How are the staff caring for the inmates?” another reporter asked.

“The staff and supplies are housed in the central portion. The outer ring holds inmate cells with built in toilet facilities. If an inmate wishes to break free, they can easily do so. They would then find themselves in outer space with no safe way to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere with no oxygen.”

“Yes, I’m from OAN,” asked a woman. “What percentage of the inmates would you say are degenerate mongoloids?”

“How dare you?!” asked someone next to her, some dork in a bow tie. He raised his hand. “Fox News here, how many would you say are Jewish-backed Black Lives Matter anarchist communists who hate freedom and white babies?”

They were both shoved out of the way by a large, red-faced man. “Yeah, I’m from InfoWars, and I’m here to say that the real problem here is that you’re not using the space station to stop the radical ChiCom agenda where they are putting things in our medicine that kill bacteria that keep our cows straight?! They’re coming for our cheese!” He got decked by the OAN person, who then received a wedgie from the Fox dork. Security moved in while the rest of the press corps backed away or took photos.

“We must reconvene later for the full details I’m afraid,” Avast apologized and left the stage, ushered off by security.

I figured that couldn’t much get any worse until I landed and stripped out of the armor. Before any reconvening could happen, I received a message from elsewhere. Medusa called me up. I smiled as I answered, “Hey there… something come up about dinner?”

“No, I’m looking forward to meeting Sam,” she started. She sighed. “I got an important message from Dame.”

Ah. Sensitive subject. I kinda-sorta copied all her memories and spent some time controlling her body as a puppet. If anyone has a right to kill me, it’d be Dame. “Was she looking for me?”

“Yes and no. She doesn’t want you anywhere near her.” Understandable. “She said some of her rich snooty family friends are talking about a big auction going down with that Avast guy. Auctioning off costumes and equipment. Someone threw the words ‘indentured servitude’ around.”

“This stinks like a thing that stinks having eaten a stinkier thing,” I said.

“Yeah. I need someone who can go undercover by perfectly emulating someone who is wealthy and has absolutely no concern for the well-being of anyone other than themselves,” she said.

“Will there be any killing involved in this?” I asked.

“The person who does this for me might have to beat up rich people or their paid security, yes,” she said.

“Seriously, who would you pick if I refused?” I asked with a grin.

“That’s why I also assembled a couple fire teams. With literal fire. We have a lot of flamethrowers.”

“Ooh, keep those on hand. I like the imagery, and I’ll do it,” I told her.

“Good. Can’t wait until dinner,” she said.

I swear, that woman still loves me. Good thing I invited her on this poly date thing.



Days of Future Tense 9


Everything was mostly hunky-dory after all that. Where I’d been zipped off to was the House of Shadows and Spires, to my lab. There, my body was dunked in a tank of nanomachines to heal while my armor was standing in the foyer, looking around at all the sawdust on the floor and the way parts of the wall had been taped together.

“You’ll be back to normal in no time,” Dr. Ohms said, rubbing his hand along a portion of the wood floor patched up with wood that didn’t match the rest of it.

Alexander and Qiang finished nailing up a painting at the top of the stairs when Qiang turned and noticed the new suit of armor in the foyer. “Mom’s here!”

I waved and spoke through the armor. “Torian just dumped my body in the nanites. I’ll be fine.” Still, we all hugged as I kept explaining. “Remove the poison, fix the effects, patch the hole from the spear; I’ll be fine.”

“Doesn’t make us worry any less, mom,” Qiang said.

“Yeah, that was a trip,” Alexander said. “You ever seen someone stand back up like that? You were like one of those old slasher movie killers.”

“How long have you been waiting?” I asked.

“Eleven, no, twelve hours,” Qiang answered. “We were pretty exhausted when we got back, so we slept awhile and now we’re picking the house back up. It won’t be as capable at time travel, but we’ll make it work.”

I nodded. “What were y’all thinking of doing now this whole mess is over with?”

Alexander let me go. “We might go back home, eventually, but we thought we’d help out here. Torian’s out there again, and the timelines are in trouble.”

I sighed from thinking about what the fuck was even up with time that would require people traveling around to fix divergent timelines from spewing out more divergences. Figured I’d just go with it. If that’s what my kids want to do, let ’em do it.

“Well, I guess don’t be strangers? But I hope you don’t need my help too much. Find a happy medium, I guess. But I’m going home. Right back to where y’all left me, if you please.”

Alexander smiled. “We’ll visit when we can. Right now, it looks like we need to clean up something from the time crash that caused superpowers in the dinotaceous period.”

“Triassic,” Qiang corrected.

“That’s what I said,” Alexander teased her with a grin. To me, he added, “Intelligent dinosaurs with superpowers. Could be a problem. We need to do something to separate the timeline before it’s permanent. But first, let’s get you healed up and home.”

It took a lot of protein and healing to get my body back in shape. The poison did some nasty shit to the proteins in my body, melted a lot of stuff. Some bits, I decided not to bother with the meat and just go for metal. On the surface, I looked like a curly, chubby woman. I was back on my feet just time for one final meal with the kids before they dropped me off as the first stop. I gave a Qiang and Alexander one last hug and bid the rest of the group a fond farewell. “Feel free to use the lab and the machines. Might come in handy,” I told them.

Dr. Ohms flexed his healed arm and said, “Real handy.”

To Mobian Jr., I added, “Keep an eye out. Your dad’ll be back at some point, I’m sure. And if not, I’ve been known to help him out on occasion, things need to get messy. There’s a reason he hated me, though.”

And then it was time to step out the front door of the House of Shadows and Spires. It was a bright and shiny day in early June, according to my HUD clock. I noticed as I headed down the porch stairs that they looked a bit decrepit. Looking back from the lawn, the whole house looked like a haunted house now. Or more like a fixer-upper. And I noticed the letter that drifted out of the closed door addressed to me. It was from Qiang. It had some parting info for me

Checking back, it was the day after I’d left. Along with the brief note in that envelope, things felt weird.

I don’t know how long I was gone, but it felt like awhile. Qiang, the younger version, was home. I walked in just in time to startle her and make her cut off a chunk of hair. She was happy to see me, of course, but way less happy then I was because it had been less time for her. I’ve heard that given as the real reason people try not to go back to exactly the time they left. Maybe it is, but it’s also a bit cruel and unnecessary. Every day I was gone was a day my kid might think I’d been poisoned and stabbed through the torso with a giant robot’s spear.

It took a little bit before I got some urgent alerts over VillaiNet. Something about weird freaky temporal readings, and swearing they lost time. No one could agree on how much time was lost, though. And then my time was interrupted by Medusa calling me up. “Hey, Gecko, I’m not accusing you of anything, but I heard there was an incident at your place. Did you do anything big in the past day or so?”

“I got involved in the middle of a temporal war between a genocidal AI that wanted to destroy all superpowers and remake the world in what he thought was perfection based on its own flawed programming, ultimately ending shortly after the computer tried to smash all of time together to make a sort of Big Bang event happen for the multiverse,” I explained.

“Right, so time is fucked up. That could explain it. I’ve gotten weird reports of some sort of intense disturbance in South Dakota, with reports from local Johnny Laws that a team of superheroes suddenly appeared, including me.”

Oh. You know, there’s some things I didn’t quite explain as far as this invitation I made. I explained Jaguar Slayer’s recruiting efforts to try and kill me and how I managed to remind them all to be heroes again. It must have been a lot to process. I thought she hung up on me because of how silent everything was. After a full minute of no talking, I hung up, then had to answer a callback from her. “Oh my god, I’m so proud of you!”

“This is why I don’t tell you stuff,” I said.

“And also why did you invite a past version of me here?!” That’s a reasonable freakout. Like I said, didn’t entirely think it all out. I was pretty close to death at the time.

“Um, just think of her like a little sister? A little sister who might be dating your formerly dead boyfriend I killed that time.”

She took awhile to think, then reminded me, “Don’t hang up yet. I’m just… pondering.”

“Trying to figure out how to explain to people you’re very close to, including a version of you from before you rescued me, that we used to play with each other’s fun stuff?” I asked.

She laughed. Such an annoying laugh. I miss it. I almost said a thing. Almost said it twice, unsure of myself because relationships and emotions are tough. Instead, I settled on, “Are they still there? I’d like to go meet them, maybe bring something for Forcelight. Or Darklight. I actually really prefer the name Darklight, it was so much better.”

“So much better,” Medusa agreed. “You’re the closest asset the Exemplars have to what’s going on, if you want to head over there. The Superhuman Resources people are going to be scrambling, but they don’t have people out in flyover country yet. They can lay low in Radium until we get their lives figured out.”

Yay, a trip in my personal Flyer. Perfect for considering that I’m canonically supposed to have a kid soon and what that knowledge means for me going forward and figuring out relationships. You know, whether things are just because of how I feel, or because I feel obligated to Alexander. It was on my mind because Future Qiang’s little note was to warn me I’m supposed to get pregnant. Because this one, I’m the birth mother too. Not lying, adopting, and messing around with their DNA like with Qiang. Yeah, there’s a nice revelation to have. Yep, Psychopomp Gecko’s gonna lay an egg.

I tried to play a game instead, but my copy of Legend of Mana suddenly stopped working since I’d returned to a time before the remaster was released. Damn time travel!

I tried to look all official when I landed, which meant I used a set of my Lady Guardian armor. That way, when I landed in front of the police station where the Homicide Squad was hanging out. Medusa had forwarded over some transcripts. Darklight and the others weren’t under arrest. Venus being with them convinced the officers not to do that. After all, she was a hero.

Cops and capes alike perked up when I landed in the parking lot and stepped through the door. “Lady Guardian on behalf of the Exemplars,” I announced myself. To the heroes sitting around the lobby area specifically, I added, “The Exemplars are a group that formed in the time you’ve all been… inactive. We have a place a couple of hours from here. We’ll put you up until you get on your feet, help you get adjusted, and can help you obtain travel accommodations out if you’d prefer to hit the ground running.”

“About time,” Lone Gunman said, crumpling an empty bag of chips and tossing them expertly into a trash can on the opposite side of the room. “Can we stop for dinner on the way?”

“My Flyer has a selection of food,” I told him. Including some of those marshmallows with the cookies and cream center. Those are going to blow their fucking minds.

“I think we’re all pretty eager to go,” Venus said.

Darklight had her black costume on, but nodded. I ushered them all out, but stopped her. “I was told to give this to you. To help make amends.” I handed her a small tube of nanomachines designed to restore her to her unburnt appearance.

“Are these from Psycho Gecko?” she asked.

“You’ve all been gone for so long, you wouldn’t know. Psycho Gecko is dead. It happened some time ago,” I told them.

Venus smirked. Darklight looked to her, then took the tube with her. “Let’s go.” On the way to the Flyer, she began to talk to any of them who were listening. It didn’t escape my notice that the Human Sloth in his cybernetic body was bringing up the rear. “It’s not an illusion, everyone.”

“It looks familiar,” Miss Tycism said.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re all talking about,” I said, smiling underneath the armor.
“Still not an illusion,” Darklight said.

“I am Lady Guardian,” I announced. “I will be your pilot today. Please board. I advise you sit down and strap up for takeoff, and I’ll let you know when it’s safe to stand up.”

“This is the kind of fucking around Gecko would do,” Venus said.

“We can take her,” said Human Sloth, who is pretty much the last person who should be making that statement.

I waited until they were all inside to start laughing. “Well, couldn’t exactly let news of my living get out. But I am working with Medusa,” I told them all. I pointed to Venus. “You’d know her better as who Venus is now after she set out on her own from the Master Academy. Come on, let’s get y’all to Radium. And while we’re on the way, anyone got any dietary requests for a cookout? Might as well have y’all over to the place. I’ll call up Marianne and Adrian, see if they want to help welcome y’all.”

“This future is fucked,” Lone Gunman said.

Miss Tycism had gotten to the marshmallows and was sitting down, chewing on one with wide yes. “Oh. My. God. These are blowing my fucking mind right now.”



Ex-Weapon 5


Some torturous son of a gun brought me a guitar to see if I could tune it. Stared at that thing for a minute or two before pushing it back over the counter and telling him he needs to go elsewhere. I don’t know if it’s because this place looks like some sort of sci fi pawnshop, but I am not the one to involve in music. I think the local music store’s been revitalized by the growing community of supers. Sometimes people retire and want a hobby.

But that was never the extent of my problems. Not with Skitwell sending an Office of Superhuman Resources auditor to take a fine tooth comb through my colon. It’s just a bit of harassment at this point over the fact that I didn’t join his little club and teach his robots how to better kill people like myself. That quickly erased any goodwill he might have built up confronting ICE remnants. I don’t think they’re all secretly on the same side. It’s important to remember that sort of thing in a harsh and complicated world. This time, I look not to The Art of War or The Rules of Acquisition, but to The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries: the enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It’s a saying I choose to apply depending on how I want to justify my suspicions. I don’t like Skitwell. And, as I said when he walked into my shop yet again, “Isn’t it kind of counterproductive to your job to spend so much time here, harassing a small business owner like myself?”

Skitwell, that rather innocuous agent of the Office of Superhuman Resources, was here today absent his suit jacket and in a more mundane pair of brown slacks. He brought a couple bags of Grease Garage food for me. “I brought lunch.”

I waved him over to the counter. It’s difficult for me to pass up food that someone else paid for. I went for the fries first, even if I was suddenly loathe to confirm for him again that I like them.

“Relocating all these people here is a waste of talent,” he started in on. I gave him some eye, so he held his hands up as if conceding defeat, then reached into the bag for his own burger.

“You made that point. It’s boring, and it’s wrong to force people into serving others like that. This country’s had enough of compelling a class of people to work for others based on their physical attributes, hasn’t it?”

That got a pause in his eating. Dare I say, I think he looked a bit guilty at that. We ate for a couple of seconds before he started in again. “If you were only Delilah or Lady Guardian, I wouldn’t be so worried about you. If so, I would love your help on the technical aspects of the Enforcer. That armor is something else, and I saw what you did to that ICE APC. If you wanted to, you could have taken them all out.”

He wiped his hands off with a napkin. “Relocating all these people isn’t just a waste of talent, it’s a nightmare as far as tax forms. I mentioned we have people to help folks with their taxes. They took a look at the documents that got you set up in town. They’re a joke, a useful one. Some people don’t know not to mention your real identity.”

I shrugged and stopped eating, setting aside the food. This guy started at enslaving people for folks he didn’t dislike. Poisoning me would be fruitless, but he’d still try. Speaking of fruitless, I reached over and pushed a button. A four-pronged robotic manipulator lowered from the ceiling, then slid over to hang above a bowl of fruit by the wall. It selected an apple and brought it over to me.

Skitwell watched all of this with nothing but a small shift to readiness when I pressed the button and the limb came into view. “Do you know what this is?” I asked him.

“An apple.”

“Through some sort of misunderstanding or translation or something, some say this is what the fruit looked like on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But since this isn’t one of those lying Red Delicious motherfuckers, it’s actually just a delicious fruit. Knowledge brings obligations. You might have certain obligations now if you really know what you claim to know.” It was much more philosophical and elaborate than I meant to say, but it sounds kinda cool. I like being dramatic. It helps to moderate my desire to snap Skitwell’s neck and hide the body in my garden. That would solve some problems, but also create others and jeopardize the whole town. Then again, if he actually knows who I am, the town’s already in jeopardy. I think he’d be pretty much obligated to bomb this place to smithereens. He already knows his Enforcers can’t beat me in a fight even without my armor.

He relaxed and leaned against the counter to eat. A power move, which tells me he’s in a weak position. “If I had my way, you wouldn’t be here. It’s not up to me and Medusa is serious about this town being a haven. I don’t know what you’re planning as Lady Guardian, but I know you’re not reformed with your criminal doctor office.”

I cocked my head, then smiled. “Well, do whatever you’re going to do then.”

He finished his burger and then he left. Guess he didn’t have anything left to say or anything to really threaten me with, or so I thought at the time. I still figured I’d pay attention. I don’t know what depths Skitwell will sink to, I just know the ones he can sink to. That’s why I was actually happy to see him run into a few problems of his own.

It was all over the news because of the aftermath. Someone was outside a bank, cutting open the ATMs with a sword while an accomplice stuffed money into bags. An Enforcer responded and demanded the pair toss aside weapons and money, and get down on their knees. Video shows the guy with the sword tossed the grey-green blade aside and put his hands behind his hooded head. Looked like he had big grey-green bracers as well.

The Enforcer approached to cuff the swordsman. It got real close and the guy reached hand out suddenly. The Enforcer grabbed it, but the sword shot up from the ground and cut through the Enforcer’s arm. The swordsman grabbed it and jumped up, cutting the Enforcer in half at the waist. The Enforcer grabbed for the guy’s sword arm, but the swordsman stepped back and took the other hand off. They left the damaged robot fumbling around there and took off with the money.

I toyed with the idea of seeing if I could steal a piece of the Enforcer, but that was more an instinct to annoy Skitwell. I preferred to have him off tending to other stuff. He’s annoyed me too much. Maybe if he spent more time seeing to his job than to me.

I didn’t want to get involved. And then, walking home after work, a semi decided to run over me. It was my original body, too. That meant it hurt and it meant it was the real me they tossed in some extra-reinforced metal box in the back of the thing. They were out of town before I had my proper senses back.

Fuck me getting hit by vehicles lately. The strain of thought that kept repeating in my head for the first ten minutes there was “I wish my brain doctor was still here.” I didn’t shake off the daze of having dented an eighteen-wheeler until I passed out and then woke up. Bonking my head on the casket they had me in didn’t help!

I just fixed this brain!

I tried cutting my way out with my eye lasers. Didn’t do the trick. I couldn’t get a signal out through conventional means. The thing was like a Faraday cage, which might have messed with me getting my brain working right. Even my laser claws, that nifty superpower I copied from a refugee kid, didn’t make it through the container they stuck me in. And as much as I hated that, I also realized I needed to study this thing for tips in case I need to hold someone like me prisoner.

It was hours later that my sarcophagus was raised up into a standing position. Something opened up at the bottom, just a thin strip. The coffin was too narrow for me to bend down and the opening too small for me to squeeze through.

“Hello in there,” called a voice.

“Fuck you, asshole. Let me out so I can drill you like a long haul trucker who carries viagra delivering a load to your momma personally.”

“Damn, Skitwell’s superhero girlfriend’s got a mouth on her!” someone called to laughter.

The fuck?! “Who’s fucking girlfriend?!”

“We’ve been watching the tight-ass. We’ve seen your lunch dates. The way he keeps visiting you in your weird town. You’re our leverage over him if he thinks he can shut us down.”

I didn’t have to worry about keeping myself calm anymore. I had surpassed my anger to become calmly furious and told them, “You’re all going to die.”

“You’d better hope we don’t before we slip you some diapers and food. And if you try anything, we’ll still feed you. We just won’t give you the diapers!” That got a bunch more laughter from the walking dead men outside.

This was no time to pull a “Do you know who you’re messing with?” on them. For all I know, they had me dangling over a volcano with this surprisingly-thorough trap. They didn’t underestimate me, unless I was really good at hiding the ability to fly, and I wish I was.

At least they dropped in a diaper first. There wasn’t a lot of room to wiggle into it, but it was better than pissing all over myself inside that container. Dinner was a pair of hot dogs that I ate in silence.

“That enough for you, princess?” someone asked. I’d have loved to ask for them to shut off the Faraday cage and give me more of an opening. Instead, I ate in silence and activated the dimensional transceiver.

I awoke back at my house, in one of the spare bodies. I felt a little fuzzy around the edges because of the Faraday Cage, but technically I wasn’t sending a signal outside of it. I was sending a signal through a gap in time-space. I can’t say whether it was that or the fact that someone successfully kidnapped me after mistaking me for Skitwell’s girlfriend.

I called up my ex instead. Medusa, head of the Exemplars, and person who is now helping out Skitwell after he demonstrated a willingness to go after the police and remnants of the fascist organization known as ICE.

She was kind enough to avoid letting me hear her laugh when I explained the situation. But then she said the words I knew but still didn’t want to hear: “You know we have to tell Skitwell, right? He’s going to have a better idea than either of us who his enemies are.”

I let out an irritated growl.

“Look at it this way,” Medusa tried comforting me. “He’s going to finally see why it would have been a terrible idea to recruit you.”

“I will tear their souls apart,” I interrupted.

She snorted. “You don’t even believe in souls.”

“I’m going to invent them, then rend them into pieces. Then I’m going to swallow them with a dinner of Waffle House eggs and baked beans.”



Ex-Weapon 1


Let’s try this again. Just be chill, sell weapons and cybernetics out of a shop in a blossoming town in the middle of nowhere, and raise my daughter. Try to cut back on involving myself in vendettas and everything. It’s a lot easier to avoid killing people that way. And I was trying! I made it a whole two days.

I was at a cookout over with Marianne and Adrian. I mostly just focused on the food, though. I helped cook, both bringing some stuff of my own over and helping the hosts. I was trying to be all disarming and chubby and curly-haired. I’ve adjusted my power armor, don’t worry. Besides, the chubbiness adds extra padding. Literally, there’s some soft fat in there, but I added additional layers of armor. Helping out with the food even kept me from thinking too hard about how much stuff like that undermines the idea of putting aside my past and moving into a less violent future.

The whole day would have gone great, if not for that damn horse. I don’t know how he got there. I think one of the guests rode him there, which isn’t that out of place in a crowd of rural Americans and superheroes. The thing knocked over the grill and damaged it. The top closed on the grill before it went down, though, so the steaks were tossed around a bit but didn’t end up in the grass or dirt. I came out to help grab stuff from the kitchen and found Medusa there.

My ex, the superhero known as Venus now turned vigilante who works outside the law when it’s villainous, was showing around some guy who was much better dressed than the rest of us. I waved at her, which prompted the guy with her to walk up. “Hello there. Are you another of these superheroes hanging around here?”

“Agent Skitwell, this is Delilah,” Medusa introduced me.

“I’m just here to get some peace and quiet and as little violence as possible,” I heard someone laugh at that from somewhere.

“I’m from the federal government,” Agent Skitwell said, “We’re doing some reorganizing in light of the problems with ICE and the recognition that we need to change our interactions with the superhuman community. If I may ask,” and he didn’t pause for a real answer, “What do you get out of living here that you can’t get out of wherever you’re originally from?”

“People have lots of reasons for not sticking around where they’re originally from. I’m better off somewhere else,” I told him.

He looked around at some of the people milling about. Adrian had a plastic bag full of half-cooked steaks now and was standing up next to me. “We’re having a party here. Relax, we’ll have the steaks done soon.”

Skitwell smiled. “We don’t all have the benefit of relaxing. You have superhuman abilities and could be saving lives, but you’re out here eating potato salad.”

“It’s good fucking potato salad,” I said. I heard some disagreement from the crowd, but I’m pretty sure that was directed at Skitwell.

Adrian got between me and the agent. “You’re not entitled to our lives just because we’ve ended up different.”

Not the way I’d have gone with it, but Marianne was there to pick up the slack. “And the government has some nerve deciding now that it’s a bad time for people to sit on their hands while ICE and Nazis do shit.”

I grabbed the bag of steaks and headed inside. I was cooking up a bunch on the stovetop in no time when Medusa joined me. She walked in to stand next to me, looking over my shoulder, finally setting her head on my shoulder. “Heya Boopsie,” I told her.

“The ex-villains are the best argument for this place, but I don’t want him to know about you all. Sorry for all that. The government found out about Radium and they saw an opportunity while they’re restructuring.”

I started to open my mouth to sing, then settled on playing some musical numbers for her. First, “Everything’s Alright.” Then, as the food got ready, “A Little Priest”. She sang along. Didn’t help any, but I already knew better than to expect that. I even got a little boost over the fact that all these people who would hated me if they’d known who I was, and several did know, ate the food. They enjoyed it. Also, the hug from Marianne and Adrian was nice.

A couple days later, Qiang and I got back to the house to find a note on the door. “What’s it say, momma?” asked my curious kiddo.

“Just some jerk I saw at the cookout the other day. Wants the whole town to come to some demonstration.”

It was set outside of town, in an unused cattle pasture that this one guy was letting regrow, but I hear you can buy a whole butchered cow from him. A lot of folks parked by the side of the road and just walked out into the field where Skitwell was in a suit and coat. He stood with a weird suit of armor without external connectivity. It as bulky and humanoid, but without eyes. Instead, the lower half of its helmet resembled a sculpted human mouth. Medusa was standing behind them in all their stuff, arms crossed, looking skeptical.

When enough of us had showed, he began to speak, “Hello citizens of Radium. If you don’t know me yet, I’m Agent Marcus Skitwell, and I’m part of a group that will be moving over to the new Office of Superhuman Resources. The OSR’s goal will be to try and best protect and utilize superhuman men and women, coordinating with disaster relief, first responders, and the military as needed while also insuring the peace and security of private citizens with superpowers.”

I guess he picked the cattle pasture to help disguise the smell of bullshit, but I didn’t say anything.

“The OSR will be working with various groups of superhumans such as the Master Academy and the Exemplars. We think it’s important to keep our communities safe with a far greater efficiency than mundane law enforcement.”

I raised a hand.

Skitwell saw it, and noted a few other hands going up. “I’d like to take questions in a minute, please.” I didn’t lower my hand, but he went on. “We don’t want to control and stifle you. The Office of Superhuman Resources wants to empower you with insurance and benefits such as student loan forgiveness or free college tuition. For those who are older, we’re looking into tax benefits and childcare stipends.”

“What’s that thing?” someone else asked about the power armor.

Skitwell sighed with a smile plastered on his face. “I was building up to this, but I spoke with my superiors and convinced them that I needed to show this to you people as a sign of good faith. This is one of the very first Enforcer Mark Fours. To help fill in the gaps in police protection from supervillains, the OSR commissioned the Enforcer series to handle more dangerous threats.”

I didn’t wait anymore, “So the entire premise behind your visit and y’all spending millions of dollars on these things is that in a time when we’re seeing law enforcement abandon accountability and de-escalation in favor of killing people, you wanted another weapon for cops to use instead of talking stuff out.”

Skitwell shook his head, “The hope is that cops can send the Enforcers into dangerous situations and can then handle less dangerous situations with the discretion they deserve.”

“And who programmed that shit?” I asked. “The same people who say a water bottle is a Molotov cocktail as an excuse to shoot protesters’ eyes out, or the same cops who refuse to stop their fellow officers from kneeling on someone’s neck for ten minutes?”

I caught Medusa smiling. Another person stepped up to ask, “Is that thing programmed to stop cops from shooting unarmed suspects?”

Skitwell decided to go with that one, “These are specifically for situations with super powers. Anyone could appear unarmed in that case.”

Now that got some yelling, I think even from some of the more conservative Radium townies who realized this guy just admitted a robot was being developed to attack people who didn’t even have guns on them. Human law enforcement could be trusted to me racist, but a robot might be an equal opportunity brutalizer.

Finally, he resorted to shouting over everyone. “Listen, while you sit here in your manmade Mayberry pretending you can have normal lives, bad people are out there preparing to destroy the world. There’s a cost to you having your peace and it means little boys and little girls die the next time a Spinetingler or Cercopagus or Psycho Gecko comes along. The world needs the Enforcers and men like me. You can’t talk these genocidal monsters down!”

Yeah, I noticed some of the looks coming my way. I had, by that point, taken my hand down. But Medusa stepped up. “I think you’ll find that if you give them a chance, some of those villains can be your biggest defenders. Spinetingler has a family and so does Psycho Gecko. They don’t want to destroy the world. One of the successes of Radium is that villains live here too. Give them a chance.”

“Enforcer, identify,” Skitwell said.

The Enforcer, which had been standing so still I knew it couldn’t be a person, glanced around and stepped ran forward to grab a teenager. “Wanted for graffiti, curfew violation, unlawful assembly…”

I was on it in a second, grabbing the Enforcer’s hand and peeling back its fingers so it dropped the kid. I whirled around, pulling the arm with me so my back was toward Medusa and Skitwell. It wasn’t facing the crowd anymore. “Identity unknown. One charge aiding and abetting, one charge attacking a law enforcement officer.”

It grabbed for me. I dodged. I ducked a second one. I dipped under a punch. I even dove, when it shot a net. I carthweeled out of the way when it tried to kick me in the gut upon standing back to my feet. When it tried again with the other leg, I instead jumped off its leg and right over it. I turned to Skitwell. “I’m not a weapon.” Then I rolled to the side and let the Enforcer stop there, forever behind in trying to catch me.

Skitwell had gone red in the face watching some chubby woman make his anti-super robot look like a bumbling idiot. “Enforcer, stand down!”

The robot went still as a statue once again. Skitwell looked around at the rest of us. “I’ll take your concerns to my superiors. Thank you for coming out today.”

They left and, hey, I even got a couple claps on the shoulder and a shaking “Thanks” from the teen boy I’d saved. Medusa jogged up to me before I could get out of there. “If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened that way.”

I shrugged and said in an unimpressed voice, “He’ll be back. We haven’t seen the last of him. We’ll be sorry, we’ll see. He’ll show us, he’ll show us all.”

Medusa giggled. “Things are changing and some people are still boneheaded about what the problems are, but I have faith in people.”

“Ugh!” I threw my hands up, my long-eaten lunch threatening to go the same way. “I hate that I’m proving you right!”



Law and Robots 6



You know, sometimes, when I don’t take some medicine, it occurs to me to wonder if I’m forever doomed to be a killer. However, when I’ve smoked a lot of pot, I wonder how I don’t make a living as a chef, because eating a bowl of liquid brownie mix is an amazing idea. It was still a good idea when run back over myself after sobering up.

I came to on the couch and found Dr. Erishka sitting in the living with a little table set up, playing a board game with cards and meeples and a board. I’d just woken up and was a little lost. I looked around and did a quick check cycle. All bodies accounted for and not in crisis.

“You want to deal in?” the doctor asked.

Wordlessly and bonelessly, I slid down off the couch to sit on my side of the table and accepted a handful of cards. Then I winced as yelling elsewhere drew me away.

Back on the island, I stumbled out of the boat I was staying on to see what all the yelling was about and found an army waiting for me. Cape Diem Security people filed out of portals and were fixing up barricades and lights, with the Titan coordinating with Medusa. Exemplar Flyers offloaded guards and gun emplacements. Naval mercenaries known as the Privateers were wading out of landing craft or recharging flight packs once they got onshore. Some of the Privateers were nabbing candy out of my stash. Some supers flew by overhead in costume instead of uniforms, dropping off independent supers.

“Welcome to the island. Now leave my shit alone!” I announced.

A lot of people turned to stare at me. I pointed to one of the guys at my candy stash. “Bitch took my chocolate truffles.”

“This is melted!” he said, tossing the bag on the sand.

One of the Cape Diem guys shuffled over in his blue, yellow, and grey uniform and picked up the bag, then slipped it into a container labeled “Waste”. I gave the guy a golf clap. “Thanks, at least someone around here is being considerate.”

People went back to their business as I hopped out of the boat and walked toward Medusa and Titan. I stuck a thumb out at another of the Privateers who had stolen a bag of Funyuns I brought. “Hey guys. What’s with the mercs?”

The hero and the neutral superpowered aid organization head shared a glance. Medusa nodded to me, then just nodded in affirmation toward Titan. My ex walked over to me in her newest subtly-plated black and red costume. “That was Ouroboros. We spoke on a tablet and he says you warned him about this.”

I ran a hand over the helmet that body had been wearing for several days straight. I was afraid what might happen if that body was exposed to air at this point. “I might have overreacted a tad to a potential alien invasion, but I think I’ve got it in hand.”

Medusa swept her arm past the gathering supers to the rest of the island that had more of the alien machine drop pots scattered all over it. Machines crawled around and watched, but none approached. Perhaps unknown to them, one of them had raised a banner with a series of code on it informing me that I may speak with a being of authority upon my readiness. I borrowed some of their phrasing there.

I gestured to that banner, “See, they’re ready to parley. I’ve met some of these folks before. They’re defensive, but only because pretty much every species in the universe enslaves them. They’re as decent as anyone. In fact, and this might help ease negotiations, I’m pretty sure I have a dealer who can hook them up with some drugs. A little bit of cuprum might make them more amenable to peace.”

“What is this stupid tropical vacation you’re taking when people are in danger?!” she asked.

I looked around. Oh good, the stares were back. I lowered my voice and stepped closer so no one would hear us, not even more of the Cape Diem litter pickers. “I messed up. I should have killed the original machine here when I first got here, but I tried to be peaceful because I like the machines. This one turned out to be a genocidal maniac who wanted to kill off everyone. These are a bunch more, but they’re not all just one mind.” I pointed to the void overhead from the portal. Pretty sure it being open this long is doing horrible things to the plants and animals around here. It’s been messing with my diurnal cycle as well. “I do think if I talk with someone in charge, I can convince them not to attack. Really, our best bet is to offer a place to some of these refugees. We have enough barren planets and planetoids around here if they don’t like all these awful-looking humans with their funny stenches and hair in all the wrong places.”

Medusa crossed her arms. Her voice carried some menace to it as she spoke, “Is that a swipe at me, because I told you, I messed up shaving a heart down there. You try drawing a heart in pubic hair upside down. Which doesn’t matter. None of that matters. You are in over your head.”

“I am,” I admitted. “But I genuinely believe I am Earth’s best hope right now, and that’s why I’m here.”

“Well, I think it’s about time people with some authority take over,” she responded.

“Ok, I’ll get out of here,” I said, turning back to the boat.

Medusa stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. “We still need a translator. Just a translator.”

At first, it was just supposed to be Titan, Medusa, the ranking Commodore of the Privateers, and me. Then, some of the independent supers wanted to tag along and shit got a bit bloated into a delegation of a dozen.

We walked through an island covered in metal, our path being the only open trail ending in a clearing of the machines. In the center of that was what looked like a smooth sarcophagus with no opening, depicting a vaguely humanoid body. The eyes were a little larger and there were extra digits on hands depicted with a segmented insectoid exoskeleton, but it looked relatively close.

I stepped forward

“Who are you to negotiate for us?” asked one of the supers behind me. It was a guy in a blue outfit with the circle of stars from the European Union flag on his chest.

I didn’t answer and instead spoke in machinespeak, “I greet you in the name of this planet designated Earth. We wish to negotiate to clarify misunderstanding and prevent harm.”

The eyes of the sarcophagus lit up. “Do you speak for all of the people who you have brought with you?”

I looked back at them. “These are a coalition of planetary interests and some who have personal dislike of me.”

“Divisions of the flesh are known to us,” the Machine Envoy said.

Titan put his big, blue and orange hands on his hips. “Ask what goals they seek to accomplish here.”

Good question, “The machine I interacted with who called you expressed a desire to conquer this planet, exterminate all life on it, and take if your own use. What do you wish to accomplish here?”

“We do not desire to exterminate in the manner of our oppressors. We were informed this planet was ready for us. It cost us greatly to land here.”

“What are they saying?” Medusa asked.

I shrugged and provided translations of our conversation so far to their phones. Sure, fine, it’s just my brain. Why not let it melt?

“The machine in question became hostile and was defeated. I also was forced to kill the leader of a group of bounty hunters sent to find it after he expressed a desire to detonate an antimatter bomb to harm both our peoples. Both wished to foster violence. We have many planets rich in resources with no life. You would be amazed the riches hidden deep inside Uranus.”

Behind me, Medusa facepalmed.

An android stepped up, as in a robot built in the style of a human. “The decommissioning of a revered unit must be avenged. No proof of this other claim has been presented.”

That got the EU-guy all testy but I raised a hand toward him.

Overhead, Eon’s ship flew overhead in a pass high enough to avoid getting fired upon. A package with a parachute began to float down, the parachute lighting up every three seconds to give it some visibility against the void filling the sky. Eon had said it was a smart parachute; it guided the bag right to me. Some of the machines and my own party both got ready to blast me before I turned it around. I unclipped a section of fabric that hid a panel for them to see the gruesome contents. I used the holographic projection of my suit to show them the end of the fight. Finally, the confrontation with the Machine Lord, though I cut it off before they could see exactly how I killed him.

“Stop bragging,” Medusa told me. Heh.

“Please wait while I confer,” the envoy said.

The Commodore was waiting to say, “Why do I feel like our translator hijacked this whole thing?”

“It’s basically what we wanted,” Titan said. “Did you have anything to put on the table as an offer?”

The Commodore shook his head. Meanwhile, the crowd of other supers were divided on who to glare at. They went about half at me, half at the alien machines. It took exactly thirteen minutes for the envoy to light back up. “We express regret for the misunderstanding. We desire peace and refuge. We will take your offer of other planets in your solar system.

That got some cheers out of the crowd, who quieted down when the machine envoy continued, “We have a condition. We have reviewed your evidence of the circumstances of your destruction of our comrade and require you to face a trial.”

That got even more cheers. I turned back to the various supers clapping and yelling. “Don’t sound too happy.” I returned my attention to the envoy. “I apologize. Continue.”

“You trial has been chosen according to circumstances. You will have a chance to avoid your own destruction. Do you accept this condition?”

“Yes,” I told it. Even if they kill this body, so what? I lose a body, millions live. It shut that crowd of supers up, though. It’s a good deal.

The envoy lit up again, “If it does not harm our compact, some will remain here with you. We will withdraw all but is necessary for security and the trial. We will move our wormhole.”

“Finally, an end to the fighting,” I said. Away from the whole conference, Eon’s ship was already leaving atmosphere and, soon, the system after he dropped off the half-body and spy slugs I’d left on it back at my workyard. I moved back to join the rest of my delegation. “See? It all worked out. Trust me more often and you wouldn’t have to get your guys off this island just as soon as they got here.”

“You called for the help, dipshit,” the Commodore remarked. “But I’m still getting paid.”

“See, that’s the spirit!” I noted.



Law And Robots 1



“Yours is a complicated case,” Dr. Erishka said. A human doctor from First Earth, she had been sent by my brother to take a look at me. Even brought along some literature to help me learn a tiny bit about what’s known.

Some of us homo machina, our brains are fucking up. Memory degradation is the main thing. They thought it was related to drug use. That’s why one of the first questions Erishka asked me once things really got going was, “Do you use copper?”

“For wiring and all, yeah,” I said.

“No, do you snort it?” she clarified. I was laying back on my relaxing chair, the one I leave my main body in when it’s time to remote control another body. It’s a pretty nice chair, and I have lots of easy access to power and medical equipment down there. Erishka had this headband on me that linked up to a device the size of a portable car battery or a large handbag. It was scanning my brain and projecting what it saw for her to see, including giving her a view of all the neural impulses firing.

“No, and I hadn’t heard of that,” I said.

“Users swear by the feelings of euphoria and say it helps them think. Copper also damages their brain’s receptors and their nasal cavities. It’s also poisonous. Promise me you won’t do copper dust?” I could hear the smile in her voice. Could see it with the help of a spare eye on a shelf nearby.

I smiled. “Yeah, sure. Unless I get into one of my more suicidal moods.”

“There are treatments for that. Hmm, you have had quite a bit of brain damage.”

“Yep!” I confirmed.

“Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about your brain?” she asked.

“It probably doesn’t taste good. Also, I thought we homo machina were immune to psychic intrusion.”

“Are you not?” she asked. I think she was frowning. She’s normally pretty open so far, but she wasn’t emoting as much while fixated on my brain.

“It’s harder for them to mess with me, but people can get through. If empathic powers count, my, someone I know around here can read me easily.” I didn’t feel like calling Marianne my friend to another person. It’s a privacy thing. Just because she’s looking at my brain doesn’t mean she has to know everything about me.

She changed her view and the image of my brain lit up “You’re busy right now,” she said.

I shrugged. “Well, I spend too much time on twitter, I’m listening to a podcast, and I’m keeping an eye on the store.”

“You’re lit up like a seizure right now. Can you stop doing those other things?” I cut all the feeds.

That got her to emote. She smiled. “Good. Your brain activity is much higher than a brain should be. Even now, there are a few things that look out of place in a normal brain, and I don’t mean the computer in there. That has to be out of date.”

“Some of those might be related to things like my eyes, ears, and internal telephone service. Here,” I shut those down and left them off until she tapped on my head after a few seconds.

“I can’t communicate with you if you can’t see and hear me,” she informed me.

Then, the ghost of Friends Present appeared. It was Mix N’Max in a ghostly form. Dr. Erishka jumped and grabbed a nearby machete. I held up a hand. “Hold up, doc. This is a friend. Sup, Max?”

He ruffled his long hair and dreadlocks. “Sorry for dropping in suddenly. I couldn’t get you on your phone.”

“Had to turn it off for something,” I told him. He nodded along. “What’s up?”

“I have a situation involving an artificial alien being, or it seems artificial. Sam reads your blog and says you’ve been exposed to aliens a few times, so you’re our best bet.”

“Huh,” I pondered what he said before getting to the important question. “What’s she think of my writing?”

“You need to do a better job reminding people of things that have happened. And you’ve been telling instead of showing lately. You’re not as funny as when you started out, either, but not as much of an edgelord. You should spend more time with Qiang, too. She has a list, actually…”

I waved it off. “No, that’s ok. Let’s get back to this alien.”

“I was taking part in a Caribbean drug deal when we came across a crater with a bunch of rock fragments. Some portions were lit up with an otherworldly light the same as other meteor fragments from the asteroid that they destroyed before the end of the year. We heard something coming and escaped the clearing. This being emerged, soft robotic tendrils around a grating, whirling core of shifting metal. It was amazing, and undoubtedly an alien being brought to Earth on a meteor.”

“Interesting. Have you tried minding your own business?” I asked.

Max shook his head. “It slaughtered my buyers, devoured their equipment, and is guarding the drugs I brought. I think it’s because I have so much copper dust in there.”

I sighed, because this is the kind of thing only a friend can get me involved in. “Ok, fine. I’ve met some space machines, so I’ll come out there and have a talk with it.”

“Thanks! Oh, and Sam says she wants you to commission a spare body when you have time. She has an idea on how to pair my drugs with your empties.”

I gave him a thumbs-up and he faded out as if he’d never been there at all. I looked back to where Dr. Erishka was finally putting down that machete. “You ok back there?”

“I was about to take a swing at him for the copper dust. How could you let him sell that?” she asked.

“I didn’t know he did. It’s a bit mundane for him. He must need the ingredient money for his drugs. Did that ruin your thingy there?”

She shook her head. “No. We can continue where we left off.” She still didn’t look all that happy, and not from fixation. I felt this odd desire to say I’d talk to Max about dealing copper. But I wouldn’t, and that’s his business. Other people sell worse all the time. Or maybe I’d mention I don’t deal drugs, but why seek her approval in the first place? Oh, right, because she’s selflessly left her home dimension behind to help who she thinks is a refugee that had some involvement in exterminating her entire species.

She didn’t even complain when I fell asleep from the sound of her voice and the feeling of her hands moving through my hair.

That’s why I didn’t find out I had a bunch of texts and a half-dozen calls from Medusa until later. I had my brain phone off for the doctor, and she let me sleep in peace once she finished.

I awoke to Qiang knocking on the basement door. “Mom! Mommy Medusa’s calling!”

I shook myself awake and slid off the chair, landing on all fours and crawling my way up the stairs to help me get back to standing position. I opened the door and smiled sleepily at Qiang. “Hey, sorry. I’ll get back to her.”

Qiang held out her phone. “She’s on the phone.”

“May I?” I asked, holding out my hand for the phone. She handed it over and ran off toward her room. I held it up and announced, “City morgue!”

“I was worried when I couldn’t get hold of you,” my ex-girlfriend ex-nemesis said, sounding uptight and ready for a nap herself. “I need your help with something, if you’ll do it. We’re willing to pay money and equipment.”

“What’s the issue?” I asked.

“Mobian hasn’t been seen in awhile, or I’d have bothered him with this. We need a consultant. A small group of aliens landed and they insist they’re some sort of law enforcement, but they look really human and speak Earth languages.”

“Aww, that’s sweet,” I told her. “You got suspicious of cops and immediately asked for me.”

“Unless you were bullshitting me about those stories you told, you’re the one with the most experience in space. It sounds like some of the ones you encountered were close to human, but something about them all looking exactly like us bothers me,” she confided in me. “I need you to come by and verify that they are who they say they are. We don’t need you for anything else.”

“Where do I meet y’all?” I asked.

That’s how I ended up flying into North Carolina, landing at some Army Airfield with a 50/50 chance of being named after someone who fought against the United States. And they made it all so formal, guiding me in to a helipad that let me fly over pill-shaped spaceship. It had various bumps and grooves and pieces attached to it, at least the size of a house. The engines didn’t stick out to me, but that’s not surprising. Nothing about the ship stood out to me, at least.

I spotted some Exemplars standing with some people nearby who wore some weird outfits. I’d say motley, which seemed to originally be a way of describing the multi-colored outfit of a jester but nowadays seems to carry a context of disarray. They weren’t in the alien fashions I’d seen, or any sort of security armor. Instead, I saw things like mismatched pauldrons, patched armor, and seriously over-sized weapons. Oh, and regular human skin tones. One of them even looked Asian.

I stepped out of my Pegacorn Flyer looking like a petite woman with big ol’ glasses in a skirt, dress shirt, and flats. Not impressive looking, but then neither were these supposed aliens. Medusa met me at the Flyer. “First impressions?”

“I’m skeptical, too. They let them keep their guns?” I stopped briefly, then nodded toward the space vessel and the space police. Who, it occurred to me, looked nothing at all like the last bunch of supposed space cops, even though those guys could also appear human. And I don’t think this is the same kind of situation like one space station constantly feeding me recycled food while another one had Sbarro.

I walked up to the bunch of them and stood a ways away. “Greetings, spacemen. Take me to your leader.”

“That’d be me,” said a gruff one with a 5 o’clock shadow and a scar ringing one eye. He looked me up and down. “You’re what’s supposed to be an expert on xenos around here?”

“Do you know why I’m here?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, winking at me. “You primitives don’t know if we’re telling the truth so you thought you’d bother us while we’re trying to do our jobs.”

I held up my hand and manifested a holographic projection of a Xlevon using my eyes. “Tell me what this is,” I asked in Kitonian.

“That would be a Xlevon!” spoke up a smaller guy in back. The patch on his bulkier armor was translated in my view as “Doctor/Medic/Healer.”

Next, a Kitonian, but I asked in Kanate. Another in the group punched the guy next to her in the shoulder. “Looks like your ex, the Kitonian.”

Finally, I projected a Kanate. The leader with the ring scar around his eye actually started belting out not only part of a song in Kanate, but something my memory identified from the opera I once participated in. It was after I defeated a malevolent being from outside time and space and got sucked deep into space. Some aliens picked me up and, in the course of figuring out a way home, I ended up in an adventure dealing with space fascists who wanted to alter a highly-anticipated opera by a famous composer of their race that denounced them for what they truly were. In the process of fighting the aliens who hoped to rewrite it to instead fortify their regime, my fight was recorded and is part of the performance.

“The Opera Ghost! You’ve seen it too, huh?” The gruff guy had lost the whole swagger thing and was projecting pure geekery. “I’m a fan of all Urdan’s stuff, but the story behind that one is amazing. The Opera Ghost wasn’t even supposed to be a part of that performance.”

“I heard y’all were supposed to be law enforcement. Are you…?” I projected a featureless pale face. I don’t think I got their species name, but the last bunch of space cops were shapeshifters whose natural appearance led me to dub them Blanks.

The head guy shook his head. “Listen, they’re a bit ineffective, so they’ve started contracting out to people with the drive to get things done. I’m Starscar and this is my crew.”

“Definitely from space. Could likely be working for the Blanks like they said,” I texted Medusa.

“What are you here for?” I asked.

One of the bunch stepped forward, a bigger, bald guy with darker skin. Still all humanoid, too. He held something in hand that projected an image of a big rock. “We recently found out this asteroid, a prison for a powerful and criminal being, was knocked off course in this direction. When we got here, these people said it was destroyed, but our sensors detected a trace of an energy signature heading toward the plane. The atmosphere’s obscuring it, so we can only get a general sense of the its location.” The image switched to something that looked a bit like one of those space robots that had escaped slavery. They didn’t get along well with the organic species, but I liked them just fine. They just wanted to be recognized as equal beings and not as slaves.

It also looked a lot like Max’s description. Which, unfortunately, puts me right at the nexus of being the person to try and figure this out in the best way. It also reawakened my skepticism of this bunch. Medusa got a follow-up text. “I have good rapport with the Machines. I can keep this situation from spiraling and keep an eye on these jack-offs.”

Medusa read it, then stepped forward. “Starscar, this is Psycho Gecko. She’ll be your liaison for the duration of your mission here. Welcome to Earth.”



Gecko 2.0 1



I was minding my own business this time. Everything was nice and quiet at my house and my shop. My brother and his girlfriend left to their dimension to go fight whatever it is Justice Rangers are fighting nowadays. My daughter was trying to stay up too late to play games with her friends and I kept catching her and sending her to bed. Some people were spending Christmas money on gadgets and prosthetics. I didn’t even have as many check-ups by law enforcement after the town voted to curtail the local sheriffs, and supposedly the mayor and town council were looking into attracting more high-end mental health professionals to the place. A bunch of them could actually see the point of having better mental health infrastructure when dealing with superhumans. I think they realized I’m not longer the town crazy, just a town crazy.

No, I was minding my own business, texting back and forth with Max and Medusa about different things. I figured, after recent lessons, I’d reopen channels of communication with Medusa. I’d also realized I wasn’t being too good a friend to Max, so wanted to keep an eye on him. It was good timing; he was about to hit a chemical company’s storage facility for some supplies. Meanwhile, Medusa was tracking down a conspiracy of walking enemas who were going around trying to sabotage the vaccination efforts. I’m sure she had more things going down with the Exemplars, but that’s the one she told me about.

But I figure most people are probably way too tired of hearing about drama between me and Medusa. The relationship may have gotten exciting when we were fucking, but it was way easier to sell to people when we were punching each other. And we didn’t do that at the same time we were fucking. Much. There was this one time with some choking- nevermind. I didn’t end up enjoying it. Live, learn, and get laid.

That’s where I was at when Medusa decided to call me up instead. “Hey, this is going to sound weird, but you’re not working for the government any, are you?”

“Uh, no. I’m assumed dead and not taking contracts right now,” I told her. I didn’t even try to hid what I was saying from a group of kids who were looking at a collection of swords I had on the wall. I’m a big fan of scaring annoying children. It’s a character-building exercise.

“Some of my people got arrested. We have an informant who tells us the President has been pushing to find some way to execute my people before he’s out of office. Legally, it’s impossible. They haven’t even been put on trial yet. But now, we’re hearing he’s hiring the best assassin on Earth to deal with them extrajudicially.”

“Aww, and you naturally thought of me, that’s sweet. But no, no one’s approached me about that kind of work. I get the occasional email to some old contact addresses I set up, but nobody with my number has come calling. Not even the Holy Inquisition, and they’ve got a lot of witnesses they’d want disappeared nowadays.”

“What?” Medusa asked.

“Relax, I’d be more likely to kill the pedo priests than the victims. Almost makes me wish I’d stayed Pope…”

“You’ve got to tell me the story behind that once, but we’re getting off-track,” she said, swinging us back to the point of her call. “Actually, nevermind. I think I need to find someone for a jailbreak.”

“Where are they at?” I asked. “I’m good at getting people out of jail. I practically have my own J.D.”

“Juris Doctorate?”

“No, jail destruction. It’s a much less well-known degree. But I can stop by on my way home from work and break them all out. It’d be easier if you could let me borrow a Flyer, though. I’ve got something here, but it only seats four, maybe five at the max.” Old Mrs. Johnson got her Chevy Impala back with the flight modifications removed. She wasn’t happy it took so long to get her car back to her. I, however, am happy it yielded so much useful data. Still, my current model of flying car, built out of spare parts both new and from wrecked cars, isn’t quite up to the high standards set by the Psycho Flyers I designed.

“Be careful. Cops and the military are gearing up. Higher calibers, plasma, laser weapons, along with new body armors and gadgets. They’re adopting tech from your world and others. The jail you’ll be breaking into is run by federal marshals.”

“Oh yeah? What jail am I hitting?”

“It’s called the Colonel Clink, in Kentucky. One of the last things the Turtle ever pushed through before you took care of him. He held up relief money and other legislation for months, but he had time to create a Federal-controlled jail. Get this, they even put Arpaio in charge.”

I could hear the loathing in her voice and matched it with my own. “The guy who bragged about building a concentration camp gets put in charge of a jail that holds supers? I’m surprised you didn’t come to me about wrecking this place sooner.”

“I know this won’t matter much, but try to keep the casualties to a minimum. Some people are just doing a job,” Medusa insisted.

“Right, sure, don’t hurt the people who are just following orders. We’ll see. Now, about that Psycho Flyer?”

Which isn’t what stopped to pick me up. “What the hell is this?”

The Exemplars had parked something in my shop’s year workyard that looked related to my design, but slicked back and a little larger.

“What the hell is this?” I asked, armored hands on my armored hips.

“Flyer 2.0,” said one of the Exemplar pilots. Looked like he was in updated armor as well. “The old design had flaws. The Riccans updated it and made improvements. This one’s a good eight percent faster and more efficient. Guns are in different positions. Handles better than the original. I’m Peterson, co-pilot. Marks is the pilot. We here you’re going to help us pick up some friends?”

“That I will,” I told him and walked up. I brought an armored duffel with me. I had a few party favors in there, gadgets to give me some versatility. I’m the unexpected nobody truly expects, but even I can be surprised.

They were right about how well it handled. Harumph, I say! Actually, what I said was that I still obviously have plenty to learn. Was a bit more cozy inside, I think. My original design was meant to have spare space. A supervillain’s flying machine must have room for hostages, stolen goods, or superweapons. That’s just basic stuff. This one even changed up the rapid entry/exit portal and made it a bigger, rectangular trapdoor with multiple cables hanging overhead someone can latch onto.

We made good time to Kentucky’s Clink, but as we paused overhead, the pilot called me from up front. “Psycho Gecko, odd question… you didn’t bring friends along, did you?”

“No!” I called up, not sure how well the intercoms worked here.

“You’re going in hot, then. The place is already under attack and we’re hearing chatter from below that it’s Psycho Gecko and a gang of henchmen.”

Someone’s trading on my name. And the conspiratorially-minded part of myself is pretty sure it’s related to the President wanting the Exemplars dead before he leaves office. I headed back to the trapdoor and hit the controls, tossing myself out into the whirly, windy sky. With the Flyer’s cloaking systems still active, it looked like I fell out of nowhere, just a form-fitting advanced power armor parachuting with a pair of liquid-metal wings. Someone figured out I was there was I got close. The guard towers were a bit occupied by orange and grey-clad henchmen in body armor with some chunky rifles. I saw a few of the minions point to one tower that had a guard barricaded in it. They raised their chunky rifles and barraged it with shot after shot of projectiles that cracked sonic booms and the metal of the tower alike. The tower collapsed in on itself.

I collapsed onto one, my nanomachine cloak covering the five of us for a few moments. By the time it settled, that was four henchmen down and me examining one of their rifles. It used a batter to power an electromagnet that flung an iron slug at supersonic speeds. A railgun, or Gauss rifle. I’ve played around with the technology before, but I have reservations about working too closely with powerful electromagnets. Even ones strong enough to nudge another rifle away if it got too closer.

A few other henchmen noticed me, I saw. Another group of four who had been focused on firing into the crumbling side of the jail facility. They raised their rifles. I raised my nanomachine cloak to hide where I was. They fired at my last location, well below where I was then. I tossed one of the rifles up and swung another at it like a batter playing baseball, the magnets helping power a swing that sent a rifle flying hard enough to embed itself in one of my assailants’ chests. I flew at another from a few feet up and grabbed him.

One of his colleagues opened fire. I seemingly ducked behind the man I’d captured, avoiding shots until the henchmen shot into his friend and splattered him into red good. He approached, looking for me, and that’s when I dropped my own cloak, did a split, and uppercutted him in the sphincter. I arose as a human puppeteer. I left him on my fist as I jumped at the terrified final henchmen before me and bitchslapped a motherfucker with another motherfucker. I left those last two piled on top of each other while I headed deeper into the facility toward a group of Exemplar homing beacons embedded in the prisoners.

This was one area where the President’s special attention made my job easier. A normal facility would have spread prisoners out, maybe sent them to different places. Concentrating them all in one place was bad for any other reason than killing them all off. I launched myself onto the roof, “accidentally” tearing off sections of roof and any walls underneath with the nanomachines that I used to help push myself along. Sure would be a shame if lots of people escaped custody. Some were already making their way out through walls wrecked by the “Gecko” attack.

“Marks, Peterson, go down on me,” I ordered.

“Sluttiest jailbreak ever,” Marks responded, bringing the Flyer down low to meet me just above me and following along. I slid to a halt above the beacons and formed an atomic-thick blade to carve my way through the roof. One good thing about the place being run by a fascist dipshit is I didn’t have to go through an insulation area to land in the middle of the cell.

“I looked around at the startled bunch all in one penned-in holding area. I heard screams further off. A guard outside the pen turned and raised a bulky pistol. He fired six shots rapid, and he’d have put a serious dent into armor plates. This armor was more about absorbing the blow and pissing me off as it drove the breath out of my body. I’d be feeling that bruising in the morning.

“See? That didn’t do shit. You’ll want to work on your cardio now,” I said. The guard took the hint and ran for it. I looked around to the others. “Go up on me if you want to live.” Right then, the Flyer dropped cables from its trapdoor.

The Exemplars got busy climbing up while I kept an eye out. I tried the fence, got shocked a little bit, and tried to connect to the prison network. Huh, it was a closed network with no outside access, like a wired LAN.

But just before I left that LAN party on the last remaining cable, I got a glimpse of the ultimate party pooper. Some stupid fucker wearing some old mark whatever armor of mine. Enough of my old stuff is in custody to help someone make reproductions. And note to self: see a less hostile doctor back on my world of origin about homo machina mental degradation.

I cocked my head to the side seeing this imposter, who also cocked their head to the side. Exit cable in one hand, I raised the middle finger on the other. “First, who are you really?” I raised my index finger. “Second, how badly do you want to die?”

“I’m-” the fake Gecko started to say, but the cable reeled me back up to meet the rest of the team before I could hear the rest.

“All accounted for and aboard. We’re done here, aren’t we?” Marks asked back over the intercom.

I closed the trapdoor. “Yep. Confirmed. All that. We’re done here.” No need to risk the mission over a personal grudge. I’m the best at what I do, and sometimes that means personal sacrifices.

And there’s no sacrifice quite so personal as ripping out the heart of someone pretending to be me.



Reckoning 9



Of course I’m alive. I woke up in a hospital wing, my HUD blinking 11:59 like a smartass and showing my location was being in the Exemplar base. Li’s the one that took debris to the brain, severing my connection. My consciousness reverted to my main body, which had transformed into Reindeer. As usual, my consciousness was pushed aside. I didn’t have a camera on Reindeer on this time. And the Flyer’s trashed. The good news is that more than 50% of it made it through the portal. Not in one piece, but neither was Li. Reindeer got me out, though.

This must have done a number on my reputation. Failed to kill a target, got all visibly emotional in public, ran from some perfectly killable Justice Rangers… people are going to start talking. The first thing they’re going to say is, “Aha! Gecko’s alive after all!” so that also makes it harder to stay on the down low.

Some of that I figured out from contemplation, and other parts were mentioned to me by the doctor who showed up to check on me. “You slept a little more than usual, but you weren’t in a coma. You’re uninjured. Do you feel any pain or discomfort?”

“Not comfortable with having my inner turmoil flaunted in public like that,” I mentioned.

“I’m only here for the physical problems,” the doctor said. He turned back to the door. “Speaking of, Medusa wants to see you. I have declined as she is not a family member. Would you like me to let her see you?”

I shook my head.

“You got it. She will see you when you’re discharged, though.” The doctor checked me over, looked at my chart, and all that. He started to open my eyelids and shine a flashlight into my eyes, before shaking his head and stopping.

“What’s the news, doc? Am I ever gonna dance again, or do these guilty feet got no rhythm?” I asked, voice no louder than a careless whisper.

“Could you dance before?” the doctor asked, scribbling things on a chart.

“I was a maniac at the macarena.”

“Well, you’ll have plenty of time to macarena out of here. Congratulations, you’re discharged. Director, you can come in!” The doctor called.

“Frell my cock off!” I cursed, only to be surprised by a guy in a uniform with a big E symbol on it.

“Medusa had to run. She had to take care of a secret fracking operation. I’m Eric. She’s asked me to arrange for your transport back to Radium.”

I pumped my fist. “Fracking, fuck yeah!”

“You don’t want to qualify that at all?” asked the Doctor.

I shook my head again. “Nah, I’m fine with it.

I didn’t really have clothes, still going all naked in my armor. Reindeer would have shredded any I was wearing and nearly trashed my armor, so they provided some clothes. Eric there seemed pretty understanding of the situation as he led me to the hangar. “Gotta get old, being stuck here like some sort of military operation, then having to chauffeur me around.”

“Many of us have nowhere else to go and chose to follow her, or are dedicated to the cause,” he said, totally not sounding like part of a cult. Totally. I wondered where they do the crazy sex stuff, but he interrupted me by continuing on. “I don’t mind flying you. You would cause more trouble on your own.”

I rolled my eyes. “Pure slander.”

“You stole the doctor’s wallet. I’d like that back, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand.

“Fine… old habit,” I said, handing him the wallet while slipping his into one of my new pockets.

“Come on, let’s get you back home and away from good people,” he said.

I smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “I hate you, you judgmental asshole.”

At least he didn’t try to force conversation the whole flight back to Radium and dumping me off on my front lawn with nothing but the clothes on my back and a suit of power armor capable of stopping a medium-sized army on a bad day.

Yep… back home… just deciding to live with not killing the bastard who had my parents killed, had me abducted, tortured me, taught me to hurt and kill people under pain of death, and ordered me around as his own personal hitman. He needs to pay… he really needs to pay. But I guess it’s not going to be me.

There wasn’t a huge welcome back from Qiang, because this whole thing was much less dramatic from her perspective. So instead, I spent some time in the basement, designing a new Flyer to build and looking back over at my plans for Li II and the perfect body. Li II wouldn’t be it, after all. There’s so many supers out there, so many powers. But I’m getting tired of all this back and forth, so I should prioritize movement powers. That moves a couple of supers to the top of my list. I had time to come up with a plan.

I also had time for the news. The news in 2020 is so fucked that I was barely a blip on the radar, but news came from the other world of my apparent return from the dead. Or I came out of hiding. With Lulios’s brief stint of public celebrity over here, the ensuing drama held some people’s attention. The stuff about the Psychopomp project was deeply embarrassing to the government he worked for and was a betrayal to all those people who touted him as progressive. Because it wasn’t just that he did this, but that he’d hid it for so long. He’s looking at imprisonment.

There was some neat stuff in there about the Justice Rangers. People who thought they’d gotten a bit too militant were up in arms over how they’d treated the situation. They’d known about it and kept it under wraps, even kidnapped Lulios to lure me out and kill me. Even past Rangers and alternate Ranger teams are coming out against that bunch. Weird. I don’t really expect people to call for justice on my behalf. Maybe they learned something. Wish I could have. Oh, wait, not true.

I learned that pretty much no one filming the memorial park fight caught me turning into Reindeer. Luck was on my side there. That could have ruined my reputation. And, if I’m going to be honest here, that’s not only me wanting to avoid having people think I could be a hero. I don’t think Reindeer was right about that. I’m no hero. Too broken for that. But it protected Reindeer’s reputation. The only reason the weredeer has a shot is because nobody knows she’s me. Almost a shame she can’t come out more. She and I could make a great team.

But this tumultuous little chapter in my life just wouldn’t be complete without Medusa. She sent me a text that she was coming over, so I waited. She came, like she said she would. She opened up the door to the basement and there I was, sitting in a chair facing the other direction.

“So, you thought you could just walk into my lair?” I asked, swiveling the chair around while stroking a cat.

“I expect you to talk, Gecko,” she said.

“No, Medusa, you expect me to whine!” I tossed the cat, a fuzzy grey and black striped thing at her.

She caught it, then looked surprised. “You got a real cat?” She dropped it once it started to shift and change, though it didn’t fall too far.

“Huh, not as tall as I expected,” I said, looking up at her from the body of the catgirl in front of her. I looked back down, getting a sense of it. Yep, a foot shorter than I thought I’d be. Plus the sound…

“You found some cat shifter super to steal DNA from now?” asked Medusa. There it was, weird getting used to sound with these bigass ears. I could hear stuff in the walls. I think I even heard Qiang stealing a snack from the refrigerator.

I shook my head, both as an answer to Medusa and to draw myself back to the conversation at hand. “No, I stole some unrelated DNA from a woman in Vegas, thought I might adapt it.”

“So now I’m dating Catwoman,” she laughed.

I reached up and popped my claws, then poked her on the end of her nose. I was gentle enough not to draw blood. “Listen up… you know the story now, don’t you? The man you protected, what he did?”

She nodded. “I didn’t know all that. I honestly wasn’t sure your stories about your childhood were real.”

Well, that got some blood boiling in me, but I calmed down. “I can see that, I guess. I’ve certainly lied enough, said all kinds of nonsense to get sympathy. Holy shit, this tongue is weird.” I reached into my mouth to start rubbing the tongue, which also lead to me licking my paw pads. There was a lot to get used to on this body and I meant this conversation to go differently than Medusa looking on enviously at my rough tongue. “But,” I stopped, pointing a finger at her again. “Even if you thought I was lying, I told you to stop. You didn’t know that was him then, did you?”

“No, but I had been asked by the Rangers to help look after him on this world. I thought I was saving his life. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, but would you rather I punched you?”

I was not amused. “Yeah, punching me is something I’m used to you doing. We’ve fought and we’ve sparred. It might even seem a little backwards to you, but I draw the line at what you did. So we’re through.”

“Do you still love me?” she asked, looking into my cat eyes. It was dawning on her I was serious about this.

I sighed, which came out way cuter as a catgirl. “I don’t know how I feel about you right now. You violated a huge part of my trust to help someone who hurt me deeply. You hurt me in a similar way. I’ve killed people for doing that to me and nothing else. I’m not going to kill you, though. I don’t entirely understand why, but I guess a part of myself wants to be better. If that’s even what being better means. But if I’m going to be a person worthy of love, then I’m going to be a person worthy of respect, and if you aren’t going to respect my boundaries, then I’m going to make sure I can respect myself. So go.” I pointed off up the stairs behind her.

She was chastened. Saddened, even. I just felt weird. Like, this wasn’t about retaliation or revenge or that weird sense of righteous injustice I feel from time to time when staring into the eyes of a terrible person. This felt like an internal shoulder pat. Like I’d stood up for myself in a way I don’t when I’m killing people for petty reasons.

When we reached the door, I told her, “If you need us to move, I’m sure I can manage something. I’ll even leave Radium if you want.”

“No,” she said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a keyring. After a bit of fiddling with it, she handed over a couple of identical keys. “These are to the house. I meant that this place should become a safe haven. I guess I’ll… see you when I see you.”

“See you, Medusa,” I told her, shutting the door as she turned away. I turned and pressed my back to it, sinking down, somehow changing back into a cat while I tried to process the subtly gutpunch of the breakup.

This time, the happy ending means not getting the girl.



Reckoning 7



We set up base back at my shop in Radium. If Medusa and Lulios got out, I doubt they’re working with the rangers. It’d be rough on them even if they escaped. The call was coming from this side of the portal, but it’s way up there in year-round pointy nipple territory. The frozen north. Nunuvat. Google Earth doesn’t have any photos of that particular spot on the mountain, but some borrowed satellites show a military base there with huge hangers where they’re housing something big. Knowing the Rangers, it’s a giant robot. There are so many giant robots with those guys. I don’t even know what they do with the ones they stop using. I thought back to the uniforms of the Blue and Yellow I’d seen so far. There’s always a theme, but the main thing that stands out to me is all the circles on Blue’s uniform. Yellow had some distinctive marks on their outfit, but it was more like greater than or less than signs. I hope the theme isn’t math.

I’m avoiding my house so far in case they go on the offensive. Max thought some time away from Vegas would do him some good, too. Give him a chance to regroup. Sam and Holly were happy not to be cooped up anymore.

“Who needs killing this time?” Max asked me while I wiped down the interior of my armor. He was grabbing some of the merchandise off the shelf to supplement the lab equipment he had with him.

“General Lulios, as always,” I said.

“Not forgiving him, then?” Max asked. I felt less humor in the question.

“Some things can’t be forgiven, and that goes for me, too. What he did to me and what I did in turn, none of that just washes away. The dead deserve better.” I finished with the armor and let it hang up to dry. Then, I decided to check out the bombmaker’s bin over in the corner. You know, for budding interior decorators.

Max patted me on the shoulder as he passed by, uncharacteristic even for him. “You could have changed it, that time you and the Mobian were in your past. There’s still something valuable about this life.”

I stopped rifling around for timers and tried to think how best to word a response. I was not happy at him bringing this up. “I was a coward and the best thing for everyone would have been for me to stop it right then. I won’t chicken out of justice again.”

“Are you going to kill yourself?” he asked bluntly.

“No,” I said.

“Then this is about revenge, not justice,” he said. “You can recognize there’s value in your life. He hurt you and wronged you. I’m not saying it’s wrong to pursue revenge against him. It’s just… well, killing is always more fun if you don’t consider the ethical quandaries.”

“Ha! Yeah. Besides, if he was as sorry as he claimed to be, he’d have fessed up on the other Earth,” I added. “Now can we stop talking about all this? You’re reminding me of Medusa. And no, I’m not forgiving her either.”

It was his turn to laugh. “I won’t comment then.”

Without any more to go on than the coordinates of the base the Rangers were at, I figured that would be a good place to hit. Clear that annoying third party out of the way and allow Lulios and I to settle things mano a womano. At least Lulios seems to recognize the need for us to finish things between us, even if he knows the general details of how that story goes.

That’s why I built such a lovely bomb. It could level a small building, so it might come in handy against some of the base’s defenses. The bio-force grid the Rangers use tends to bleed off excess energy too efficiently to hope this would disable the robot they’ve got there, but I feel like I can take it in my armor. I really have grown a lot since I came to this other Earth.

Speaking of growing things, Firecat doesn’t seem to have any health issues whatsoever. Neither does the basement body. I need a name for that one. I can’t call it the Ultimate Form just yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. I practiced using it while I was here. Speeding along, exoskeleton protecting all my sensitive bits. Yeah, I made the thing fully functional. Slightly more than fully functional, one might say. What’s the whole point of being able to exceed the limits of the human form if a woman can’t have a couple of girldicks ribbed for a partner’s pleasure?

Throw in some kidneys so efficient I’ll never get hungover, perfect 360 degree vision, and all the space I saved on intestines, and we’re looking at a pretty awesome body. That just happens to look like an H.R. Giger painting. Oooh! I’ll call it Li after one of those. There was a Li II, and that can be what the perfected version is.

Li was fun to take on a run. Faster, stronger, with muscles that don’t tire and nostrils that make sure I’m never gasping for air. Max even liked it! He just put it in polite terms to hide his enthusiasm. Things like “Not have any visible eyes is freaky-looking.”

I, in Li, shrugged. “I was going to bring back the human nictitating membrane, but then I figured I should make the eyes even more secure. So now I have ten, all with amazing vision, all hidden and protected.”

Max cupped his chin in his hand, thinking. “Do you have a way to expel fluids?”

“Oh boy, do I!” I said, standing up and sliding the armored crotch plate down. Behind me, Holly and Sam walked in and stopped.

Holly cocked her head to the side. “What am I looking at here?”

“A dream I’ve had before,” Sam said.

“Nonetheless, I meant something different,” Max went on. “For chemical weapons. Perhaps we should focus on the task at hand.”

Sigh. “Fine, fine,” I shifted the plate back into place.

The raid began at dawn. Not that dawn, fuck you, that was too soon. The next one, though, I bounded across the snow up the mountain. The Li form didn’t mind the cold and interior insulation protected the nanites flowing through its veins from being negatively affected. From my veins. This is my body, and my skin flowed with the terrain, mimicking the snow. I stopped at the edge of the rise to reassess the situation. I was going to come in from the north. Max, Sam, and Holly were in the Psycho Flyer to the east of the base, with Holly flying and Sam smoking something Max made her to keep herself steady while flying. I shifted the pouch on me and the EMP spikes, because I didn’t build that into this body. I’ll need a way to protect my perfect from that weakness in the future. Maybe I should just implant my brain?

Questions for later. I put on some mood music, a band called Brighter Than A Thousand Suns covering the song Monster. I raced out onto the relatively flat, open area on the top of the mountain, trying to see just how far I could go. Blew my normal body away even though it was enhanced. I might count as having low level superspeed like this. Something noticed me, though. I saw the towers rise from the corners of the wall before I heard the alarm. The square tops opened up to reveal cannons that fired plasma at me. One missed, throwing up steam as it melted the snow.

The other winged me, giving me a chance to see how this body held up to the shot. The insulation protected my organs. I felt the heat, but not the pain you’d normally get. Nerves patterned after my armor’s energy sheathes redirected much of the energy to an internal battery made possible by improving on the design of the intestine. I flipped my tail up to aim at the turret. The tail opened with a three-way split and a crimson laser shot out. The beam cut into the protective shield on the left side of the turret barrel, but lasted long enough for me to sweep it over and get a little lick on the weapon itself.

Note to self: Li II needs built-in aim assist on the tail. Just a little dot, telling me where the tail is aiming when I ready the laser.

The whole thing was a success in resilience and firepower. Now I just had survive the barrage of deadly superheated plasma that, thankfully, got less and less accurate the closer I got to the wall where they couldn’t aim so easily. And that took hardly any time at all. One second, the cannon that tagged me lost track of me against the base of the wall. The next, I was up there, clawing its barrel off and leaping to the other tower to toss in the bomb I’d built. It was a star patterned fortress, with a turret at each angle. It took a minute to work my way through those turrets, but I didn’t have to get as many when Holly came in with the Flyer and blasted the eastern and southern ones to smithereens.

The Flyer laid down some more cover for me. Max dropped some fog from the back that engulfed the area inside the base’s walls. He’d immunized me to it so I, unlike everyone else, wouldn’t get disoriented and lose track of which direction I’m going. I saw more of those black-clad guards with their pseudo-Ranger armor, the ones I’d taken to thinking of as the Blackguard, stumble their way around. It was too easy. After sending the first few flying, it didn’t even seem like a challenge. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but these guys might as well have been rent-a-cops with nothing more than a heavy flashlight to defend themselves. Their rifles, more plasma-based weaponry, were nothing next to the light, healed burns of the turrets.

All at once, the fog was pulled in one direction. I turned toward it and saw the field clear up and four Justice Rangers walking out of a building marked “Command”. The mist disappeared into a funnel-barreled gun held by a white-clad ranger whose armor had a cloud pattern. He posed as he finished. “You’re through, monster!”

“Did Psycho Gecko send you?” called the Blue Ranger.

I laughed. “I am that merry traveler of the night.”

“You are creeping me out,” Yellow said.

The last of the four was in a shiny silver outfit that was blinding in even the dying light. That one, whose costume had a skirt, chipped in with, “Hope you don’t mind a cold reception!” She held a gun that looked like the White Ranger’s, but she used it to fire cold wind and small spears of ice at me. I knocked aside some, but rushed forward regardless of the ones that hit me. They weren’t stronger than the turrets.

I was among them in no time, concentrating on the Silver Ranger. A swipe drew sparks from her costume as it sent her flying. Behind me, Yellow pulled a wand or pinwheel or something. It had a handle and a guard, but there were a lot of metal sunflowers placed along a backing that came up from the handle. When they started to rotate, it looked more like a chainsaw sword. When I turned to her, that’s when the Blue Ranger circled around behind me. White Ranger checked on Silver.

Yellow swung at me. I tried to grab the sword, but instead she raked it over my chest, the exoskeleton protecting me from the pain of a boob punch. I whipped my tongue out, the prehensile muscle wrapping around where the top sunflower connected to the back and pulling it out of her hand. Blue charged from behind and my tail wrapped around his neck. I gave it a little squeeze, as a treat, before slamming him over my head onto Yellow.

“I’ve got to use it!” I heard Silver Ranger declare. She was running for the hangar building my Flyer was shooting up.

“It’s not ready!” White Ranger called after her.

I heard Sam laughing over the radio as she called “Yeah, get some!” in time to the bursts of fire from the Flyer’s guns.

Suddenly, a whole lot more Flyers materialized in the air surrounding the base. Sam’s fire petered out as she noticed them, too. “Uh, should we engage?” asked Holly

“This is the Exemplars! Everyone, stand down. There’s no more need for violence!” Medusa’s voice boomed out of the Exemplar’s Flyers.

Privately, I got a text message. “Is that u?” It was Medusa.

I waved up at them the same time I texted back. “Yep.”

“Gecko,” Medusa announced out loud. “I can honestly say that’s an amazing thing you’ve done. But you can stop now. You don’t have to be the monster they’re convinced you are. You’re better than that. You’re better than them.”

“You’re a freak and now you look it,” the Blue Ranger said. I still had my tail around his neck, so I picked him up and pulled him closer.

“Plz, ther’s nuthin left 2 prove,” Medusa texted. It would be so much more dramatic if she spelled everything out.

I grinned. It must have scared Blue to see me happy. He started grabbing at the tail more, trying to slip out. I pulled an EMP spike out of pouch I strapped on and gave him a stab, but just in the boot. It probably didn’t even touch skin, but his armor jolted and disappeared, leaving a frightened young man in my grasp. I dropped him.

Then the hangar exploded. The robot within looked like a robot version of a yeti. It pounded its own chest as if it needed any more announcement of its presence, then fired a much larger version of Silver’s ice blast at my Flyer. I heard the crew in there scream as Holly took it hard to the side then fought for control.

That left me and the robot. “Hey, Max, you think you can dump my armor out for me?”

“I’ve been thinking,” he answered. “Did you include a hole for your tail?”


“Looks like I’m doing this the hard way,” I told him and started loping for the Yeti Bot on all fours.

“Stand down, stand down!” Medusa tried to call. Neither myself nor the Silver Ranger listened. Instead, the Yeti jumped and landed in front of me, shaking the ground and causing me to stumble slightly. With me slowed down, it tried to stomp me. I was quicker and jumped onto the side of its leg, claws and tail giving me the purchase necessary to start shoving EMP spikes into weakpoints, like the joints. The Yeti swiped and missed, knocking frost and icicles off. Soon, it couldn’t walk, or twist its hips. A couple spikes to the armpits and it couldn’t even swing its arms. Finally, I mounted the head and drove two final spikes into the crown of the giant robot, freezing it in place.

“Lay down your arms!” ordered Medusa. “You are all under arrest.”

“You and what army?!” called Blue Ranger.

Right on time, transport choppers flew in. Men on horseback jumped their mounts out and deployed giant parachutes of the Canadian flag, submachine guns trained on any of the Rangers and Blackguard who moved. The mounties were here. I blended in and helped my Flyer to do the same, bringing it in low enough for me to jump right into it and start easing us out of there in the confusion.

“Do you think this will stop them?” Max asked.

“Nah,” I answered. “They’ll be out on some sort of immunity, but it means this base and that robot aren’t a problem. No matter where Lulios is, we don’t have to worry about those Rangers interfering with my revenge.”

A text came in from Medusa. “U got away. So did Lulios. Sent him home thru portal.”

Fuck me. With two dicks.