I’m not just doing this out of contrarianism or a dislike of the exact circumstances Venus dumped me in. I actually feel pretty bad how much I’m neglecting just enjoying things with my family in a world where they’ve been given a happy ending; turns out I have professional masseuse training that Sam and Holly know all about. I’m neglecting people who love me and wanting to change their entire world, and I can tell they’ve noticed something. They’re worried. Sam’s a little hurt, even.
That’s why I suggested a day off before we make our move. The others took it. A day to relax before an intense operation. Let them gather up anything they need last minute, or just enjoy what they can of the world while we’ve got it. I think they truth serum has them pessimistic about our chances. I spent some of it with my neglected family.
I appreciate what Venus tried to do. She tried to give me the life she thought I wanted. Or that she thought that I thought that I wanted. Or that I thought that- I’m stopping this here. She tried to make a perfect world for us, where even a bunch of people I killed were brought back and given a second chance to be good people.
If I was the only problem, it worked against the notion that this whole thing is bound to fall apart on Venus. You know, except Max and Pestilentia were already back to the bad side of the law. Same for the Greens and the Reds. Venus messed with their heads to make them want to do good. Her idea of good failed.
Now, there’s Spinetingler and his daughter, Mindgame. She got caught hunting down Texas state officials involved in a shelter that was trafficking the kids for sex. The governor’s called out the Texas Rangers to hunt her down, which is going poorly for them. Mindgame can take over a person’s mind like it’s nothing. The Rangers investigated and claimed the sex abuse never happened. Other investigators looked at it and came to the opposite conclusion, probably because they actually talked to the kids in question. It’s a low bar, but Mindgame’s buried them under it.
The day after it was announced the governor was sending the Texas Rangers after her, video emerged of Mindgame leading the bunch of Rangers to a field where they all dug a big mass grave and beat each other to death with their shovels.
Spinetingler went in a different direction. The videos coming out of his haunted houses of people taking video of their journey turned into horror movies. People would go in expecting some out-of-season spooky fun. They got a bunch of scares tailored to their individual fears and secrets. It stopped being fun. For more and more, it stopped being survivable. The videos suggest a lot of people have literal skeletons in their closets.
The funny thing is they’re still following the spirit of Venus’s brainwashing. She wanted them to be law-abiding citizens and superheroes. Now, they’re more examples of what happens when someone interprets that the best thing to do involves going outside the law. And for others who require some restricted substances to live, they’re choosing to live rather than let the law kill them. I myself was able to pay someone to smuggle cocaine to Powder. Like, if a guy requires nuclear waste to survive, you can bet he’s breaking into places containing it.
With a little digging, I found it’s not just the former villains having that issue. Some of the forceably-reformed are doing well in their new lot in life. In contrast, some of the street-level superheroes are getting caught knocking heads. The problem with linking your moral concept of good to a system of justice and welfare is it won’t survive too well if that system is built badly. If she did what I think, Venus didn’t want to interfere too much with that. I think she had confidence that superheros could fix the problems themselves. All of that from a little online snooping.
Without my powers and with the less-refined algorithms I used, that “little digging” took me hours. I wanted the ammunition to try and convince Venus. It’ll probably fail anyway. She’s got power and an annoying tendency to think she’s right all the time. I’d wish we could give her anxiety, but sometimes the people who are the most anxious will press ahead anyway when they think they can make it work, just as stubborn as the ignorant ones.
Woops, think I got something that wasn’t truth serum on me while cleaning the armor. Nope, definitely not truth serum.
…Ok, so one potential back-up plan I have for when this fucks up is time travel. Don’t know if that means finding a time machine or someone who can run super fast. That’s why I stopped to ask Medusa as we gathered into my shop, “Hey, you know any speedsters?”
“You know any time travelers?” she asked back. She turned to offer help toward one of the ambulator mold slimes placing containers of Truth Serum around before stopping herself. “Feels weird without my team here. None of them know her, really.”
“I don’t know her either,” Pestilentia said. “Can I leave?”
“We need you here because you’re the closest to her power level,” Max explained.
“So I’m the ‘oh shit’ button,” Pestilentia confirmed.
“Do we need to stand any special way?” Max asked.
Medusa and I both shook our heads. Medusa answered, “She’ll listen when we pray.”
“You have to pray to your wife?” Max asked me, ever-present smile growing wider.
I raised my eyebrows and gestured with my head toward Max’s girlfriend, the goddess of decay and disease. He shrugged.
“Are we ready?” Medusa asked. Nods answered her all the way around.
“How does praying work?” Max asked.
“Oh Venus, goddess of boners,” I started. “Also, my wife. We would like a chat with you. That’s myself, and also Medusa-”
“Leave me out of the prayer, please,” Medusa interrupted.
“I would like to talk to you then all by myself,” I said. “As the baby momma of your demigod spawn, I desire an audience.”
“Last time, she responded a lot more quickly than-”
Suddenly, we were all standing in the courtyard of Master Academy, which had seen some better days.
“Shit’s on fire, yo,” Max said, pointing to a burning building.
While he was checking out the pretty flames, I noticed the fight going on nearby. Venus was in a beam war with some device that looked like a crystal ball held by an evil time traveler known as The Torian. She occasionally shot eye blasts at a speedster who tried to rush her. I didn’t recognize the speedster. There was also a glowing, flying coffin-shaped mechanical being with what looked like a humanoid robot torso hanging off it, also trying to blast Venus. The blast stopped before it touched her, but it was slipping.
“Can you help?!” Venus called out to us. Her head spun around behind her to blast the speedster.
“Hold up!” I said, raising my arms. “What’s going on?!”
“It has to be this way!” Torian yelled above the fray. “With her powers, she’s too great a threat to the timeline. She threatens to tear reality apart with her constant changes! I have to entrap her powers.”
Constant reality changes? I didn’t notice any of those. This all got way way more hectic since we left my pet shop back in Radium.
The speedster stopped by us, panting. He wore a white and blue costume. “Listen, I know this is confusing, and I don’t know what you’re doing here, but I’m from the future. I’m trying to help my mother-in-law, but she’s not listening.”
Waaaaaait a minute there… “She’s your mother-in-law?”
“Yeah, I came from the future using a speed-activated temporal anomaly inducer,” he pointed to what I thought was a harness on his costume. Then he pulled out a disk with some wires and a couple small lightbulbs on it. “I can displace her in time and give us time to talk it over. “
“We are-” the robot started to say.
“Enough!” I shouted. “Everyone stop! That means Torian, super speedy flashy guy, and you, alien machine god-thingy. Everyone calm your tits!”
And amazingly, they did.
I took my helmet off and walked up to Venus, maneuvering to stand between her and Torian. I actually had an idea for the speedster to take Torian back in time to steal the powers from me just before Venus got them, but that’s not what I was going to go with. Instead, I hugged my wife. “Hon, I think we need to talk and try to do better.”
I could hear the booing already. Max was upset he didn’t get to start a fight. He had a water bottle with a squirter ready, too. Instead, I hugged one of my favorite squirters, Isabella. I whispered to her, “You messed up, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the world.” Then I raised my voice, “And you don’t need to be beat up or zapped or whatever that thing was going to do,” I pointed to the freaky flying automaton, “over a mistake.”
Venus quietly cried, but stayed wary of the situation. I saw her concentrate on me, probably reading the plan I came up with in favor of the plan I’d had to talk to her.
Medusa also came up and hugged her, covering another area someone might come at us.
“I thought you brought me to fight,” Pestilentia muttered.
“I brought you in case of a fight. Can we just all calm down and talk? This isn’t a monster… this is my wife, Isabella. And not too long ago, she tried to get people to give me a chance instead of trying to kill me all the time.”
“She’s me,” Medusa added. “My sister now, but she’s just a younger me from a past timeline. Any mistakes she makes is one I’d have made in her place. If any of you want proof she can grow and change, I’m it.”
“She’s my friend’s wife!” Max announced. He stopped, not adding onto it, then started toward Venus with arms outstretched in the silence.
Pestilentia grabbed him by the collar. “Touching, but you don’t know her that well, remember?”
“I thought we were all doing it, “ Max explained.
“Wow… so you’re Qiang’s mom,” the speedster said, eyes fixed on me and mouth agape. “She’s told me so much about you. You really are a hero.”
If I’d had laser eyes, that speedster would have been dead in a flash.
The ground rumbled before I could come up with some pithy comment. A huge skeleton clawed its way free of the earth, eyes glowing green. “You will pay, Venus, for what you did to us!” It managed to free half of itself, a bony torso with a few scraps of viscera clinging to it, twice the size of anyone else there.
“It’s Spinetingler,” Venus whispered.
“Calm, Spiney. It’s Gecko, by the way. We talked her down. We’re going to resolve this without fighting. And back in the real reality, you and I had an arrangement about staying out of each others’ business.”
The skeleton sighed. “You better be sure about this, Gecko. But if anyone has a plan to kill a god, it would be you.”
If he only knew.
“That’s boring. I wanted to punch someone,” Mindgame said. The pale, wild-haired young woman climbed out of the hole as well, brushing dirt off her black tank top and pants.
“Are you a god?” I asked.
“No,” Mindgame said, causing the skeletal form her dad had taken to facepalm.
“Remember what we went over, sweety,” growled the skeleton. “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes!”
“I’m not going to use that line just because it worked on mom,” Mindgame whined. Though she turned and looked me over. “But if you’re real nice, I’ll be your goddess.”
I felt Venus sprout extra arms to wrap around me. Mindgame held up her hands. “Jesus, I’ll back off.”