It feels so nice to just mind your own fucking business and not have any problems. After everything I’ve been through, this regular domestic shit and the issues surrounding it are easy mode. It helps having extra bodies and the ability to control robots from afar, sure. I have the anti-mosquito drones patrolling the backyard, my grow house is automated, and I have a small army of robots keeping the house clean. Correction, I have an army of small robots. Small army, small robots. They have a sort of mechanical spider shape, because they’re also programmed to swarm intruders.
On top of that, my store’s doing well. We got some PS5s in that fell off the back of a truck, and other gizmos are keeping up the appearance that my money is coming from legitimate stuff.
I know I give updates, but it’s not like I’m ever going to just have an update that’s nothing but me doing laundry and cooking dinner. Of course, that means something happened.
This time, it started when some out of towners came into the store. Unusual bunch, but I’ve gotten unusual before. The place is starting to get a reputation on VillaiNet and through the hero grapevine, so I sometimes get people stopping by who aren’t settling down but clearly have powers.
The first one to of this bunch to step in was a guy whose clothes had been torn up and patched in places. He looked like the sort of guy who would try something. The way he glanced around to pick out defenses, I thought he might. The next guy clapped that one on the shoulder and winked at him. The first guy relaxed a bit and the second guy headed my way. I caught a third and fourth member of this party entering, one of them staring at me while the woman with him tried to get him to pay attention to gizmos and electronics on display. The young man, probably in his early twenties, gave up and tried to be less obvious about his staring.
“One moment,” I told the guy who stepped up to the counter. He set his box down, which was fine by me. I had to get to a stopping point with the companion bot I was building. I was using some of the advanced thruster and hover technology from my home dimension, along with some really light materials, to make it a platform for a simple flying robot with a holographic projector and a tablet built into it. Power’s an issue, but the thing has a number of different plugs it can use to help itself to power sources nearby, including a car adapter. Once I got the tablet fixed back into it, I brushed it aside. “What can I do for ya?”
“I hear you’re good at fixing these sorts of things,” the guy told me. He pushed the box forward. It looked like a big metal tube you could fit all the way around your lower arm, and that turned out to be the case. The front end looked like some sort of barrel.
“Weapon of some sort?” I asked.
“Yeah. We don’t have a manual or schematic for it, so we understand if it takes time. We have as long as it takes,” he said. Come to think on it, his clothes were a little different, too. Not this Earth’s fashion, maybe a bit too clean and straight. Maybe folks from another dimension. Those refugees come to this Earth, too. There’s a portal in Empyreal City to a kind of mirror image world. Villains are heroes, heroes are villains, that sort of thing. The don’t have me either way, and the place is kind of boring if you ask me. I’ve caught myself wondering from time to time if I should raid it and show them how properly villainy is done, but I have to remind myself I’m trying to not do that.
“Let me take a look at it,” I said, pulling it out of the box. I reached in and found that my body went ahead and did its homo machina merging pretty easily. It was designed for it, with simple computer that gave me some details on its performance and issues. “What’s it do?”
The battery was still good. I popped that out for a look, wondering what kinds of batteries it would take, and this thing looked like a jury-rigged version of some of the stuff they’ve started shoving into plasma rifles. I already knew I could give them an improvement there, but that’s not what the issue was. Someone had put a failsafe into this thing, and they put it in easily-understood language for anyone who came along later. Some things called “director plates” were no longer sending or receiving signals indicating they were still functional.
“It’s a weapon, like you said,” the man told me.
I shrugged. “I think I can fix it, but if we test fire this thing, I don’t want it taking half the building with it.”
The man turned back to the rest of the bunch. By now, they were all staring at me. The woman, half Asian and half white, was shaking her head. “You don’t want to test fire it inside. We’ll test it,” she said.
I frowned. “I think we better talk about half payment up front then.” And maybe I’d steal some ideas from it.
The guy who’d approached me set down a bar of small bar of metal on a solid part of my counter. All he said was, “Rhodium.”
I raised an eyebrow and hefted the bar. The weight was exactly a pound. I gave it a light bite, just enough for nanomachines in my saliva to spread onto it and examine the molecules. It came back as pure rhodium, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars even as a single pound. I set it back down. “Good thing I take alternative payment like that, right?”
The man smiled and set down a second bar of the same size.
I put in some good work that night, because that thing was interesting. It worked along some principles connected to the stolen interdimensional knowledge I use, except more advanced. This focused the effect into a projectile beam weapon. A projectile of damaged time-space. I had the facilities to not only fabricate new and improved parts for it, but to build something on a smaller scale to test it out. My test dummy was a spare Enforcer robot with all its digital parts removed. Listen, I can’t help it if the Office of Superhuman Resources accidentally leaves the supply closet unlocked. They should know better. Someone might steal something.
There was the problem of limiting the range of the effect. I turned on the firing range’s force field. It’s based on one of those nifty ones from my original Earth as well. The shot is difficult to describe, like super fast bullet of pure darkness. A black far darker than anything else because it’s a complete absence not only of light but of existence. Also, it swiss-cheesed that Enforcer, and immediately suffered a similar failure as the bigger version. The wires melted. It was actually the same problem as the bigger version. So it looks like my new and improved wires weren’t going to cut it either.
I put a halt to the part about copper wire and decided to substitute in some silver, trying it on the little one first. It didn’t burn out after the first shot. Or the second, which I timed thirty seconds after the first. So I decided I’d test that little one to the breaking point.
I was so focused on it, I nearly missed dinner and my daughter telling me about her day. “And then a bunch of us were daring each other to run up and touch the house.”
I shook my head. “House?”
“The big haunted house that appeared!”
After dinner, I had her show me. Sure enough, at the end of a street that used to have an overgrown lot there, was a classic haunted house. Three stories, with gables and pointy lightning rods and old shutters and shit. Couldn’t see anything through the windows, but none of it looked rundown or broken. Just older than it should for the area, and out of place.
My daughter was surprised I just shrugged and headed back home. “What if there’s ghosts?”
“You’ve met ghosts before. If they want a house, why not let them? Did they hurt you somehow?”
“No,” she said, still sounding disappointed that I wasn’t kicking down doors to fight the Wolfman or something.
The next day, I was getting the weapon ready. I had new batteries, fully charged and with their own charger. Also included was a kit of some basic materials and tools for repairs. And just in case they decided to screw me over, I had a forcefield ready.
The young guy who’d been looking at me so much was the first one in. He ran in with a face that, now that I glanced at it, looked familiar. I didn’t know where I knew this guy from, but he started crying.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Now, because of the oddness of the situation, I showed restraint and didn’t kick his ass when he lunged forward and hugged me. Guy was ruining my dress, but one does not simply kill everybody who has a mental breakdown, hugs you, and calls you mom. Wait.
“Mom?” I asked
He sniffled. Ok, I figured it was time to put those nanites to work again. No nibbling on another person, though. These crawled down and performed a quickie DNA test that came back with this guy being homo machina and being my son. I didn’t know how to take it either, except to know that it was just about physically impossible for me to have conceived this guy that long ago. Plus, the other half of the test…
The door opened and it was that group again, along with two others. One was a robotic man, looking like someone had appropriated an unarmored Enforcer with a cyclopean head and stuck it in a suit with a bolo tie. The other guy was dressed casually, but his skin was lit from within by the occasional arc of electricity.
The Asian woman ran up and hugged the guy hugging onto me. I gave her a little closer look. Yeah, still don’t know what to think about all this, but at least confirmed my suspicion. “Qiang, what’s going on?”
“Shit,” she said.
“Perhaps I can explain,” the robot said. He stepped forward and a card appeared in his hand. “I am the caretaker of the House of Shadows and Spires, Investigator Wattson. Two Ts. And as you clearly have deduced, we are from the future.”
“We needed your help, mom,” my future son said.
Wattson put his hand on his shoulder. I waved them away and tried doing some of that maternal shit. I held him close. “Shush. What’s going on?”
Qiang answered, looking up at me. How did I not see it the first time? “Evil AI from the future is trying to destroy the past. It’s complicated, and you finding out might mess it up.”
“Why?” I asked. “Was I supposed to do something that I now won’t?”
“No,” the electrified man spoke up. “Because Wattson here says you’re definitely being monitored by our enemy, Jaguar Slayer.”
“We’re going to have to figure out a way around this,” said the guy who I’d negotiated with the day prior, with his too-neat clothes. “I hate this.”
Future Qiang nodded, and told me, “It’s more complicated time travel bullshit, mama.”