“I find it hard to believe you’re this powerful, able to keep an eye on me and check messages from me, but you don’t know where these guys are,” I said, perched upon a neon-lit skyscraper in Tokyo. Always Tokyo with Japan. I had Mr. Omega in my HUD.
“You procrastinated and they escaped,” he said. “I am searching. When they do, you will find the power you need to destroy them.”
“Uh huh,” I said, though it did interest me to learn a little more about how long it took him to find things. Anything that gives me an idea about his powers is helpful, including the fact that he sometimes needs an avatar on Earth to focus his power through. Why he does is a mystery to me at this point, but maybe the Dusk Club will clear that up. Awfully convenient of Omega to ask me to hunt down people who can help keep stop him. But if some group of do-gooder superheroes are going to confirm that I helped cause all these problems and am working with Omega, even temporarily, I won’t mind wrecking them.
The thought also occurred to me, as I watched some people leave a nightclub for a nearby themed love hotel, that I could also bring Medusa here and go on a public date while we claim to be cosplayers. It’d be a whole lot easier without the extra arms, but I could pull it off.
Even with cloaking activated, I kept an eye out for any Justice Rangers. The ones from my home dimension had kept a close eye on me but I don’t have any more trust for the ones from this Earth. Their enemies may also complicate matters. Most Justice Ranger teams tend to mop up whatever threat they were activated for within a year before standing down. And since they tend to keep to themselves, nobody’s got them on VillaiNet. I’d prefer if they didn’t butt in on my attack with one of their own. Plus, ya know, it being THE main city where superheroics happen in Japan means I have to watch for random superheroes or giant monsters. If it happens in Japan, it happens in Tokyo.
“I found it,” Omega said. “There.”
He didn’t make an arrow appear or anything, nor did he bring a hand up into his image to show me. He just said, “There.”
“There where?” I asked, looking around.
“That way. Left. Left!” he instructed.
“Do they have left in your direction? I’m turning left,” I said, turning and leaning out over the side of the building.
His face didn’t betray any frustration. “I know. I will show you, but you must open yourself up to my power.”
“If you’re suggesting you need to get into my pants, and skin, and give me some of that raw power of yours… well, I might be open to that,” I said with a grin.
I felt like I jammed all my pointy bits into separate electrical sockets. I lit up with power. My armor became a blinding flash of red and held steady. My fleshy bits jolted with energy, and it was at that point I realized I’d fallen from the building in my preoccupation with the power.
I decided I didn’t feel like hitting the ground that evening, so I stopped falling. “Ok, where we goin’?”
I began to fly down a street, but it wasn’t really me doing the moving. It wasn’t like I was being forced to do it, but almost like that’s what my body decided to do when I didn’t tell it to do anything. I landed in the middle of the street near an odd structure.
It was a tower of sorts, with a garage door in the middle of the base. It looked like a tower of blocks, three blocks wide and one block deep. I realized what it was when someone walked up to a screen and keypad outside. They typed in a code, swiped a card, and the tower let out a little rumble. Then the garage door opened and there was a car. “Hey, Omega, this is a parking garage. A little smaller than I thought they had. Are they in one of the blocks?” I looked it up and down. Twenty-three stories. Not hard to take apart.
“They have hidden their lair within the top floor of this parking tower,” he answered.
I heard a roar behind me, which is when I realized all the glowing made it harder to see through the 360 cameras. I turned and saw a Tyrannosaurus rex standing on the sidewalk at a table by a 24 hour ramen shop. It set aside its tiny bowl, grabbed a book off the table, and tugged on the chain of its monocle to adjust it. “What devilish dispute dares disrupt dinner?” it asked in a British accent. Under its breath, I heard it lament, “Why must these occurrences plague my every holiday to Tokyo? Always whilst in Tokyo!”
“Oh wow, it’s The Saurus!” I said.
“Is this being a threat to our plans?” Omega asked.
“I mean, he’s a hero. He’s lost us the element of surprise,” I answered.
“No,” Omega informed me, “the lair is empty. You may deal with this foe if necessary.”
“Go back to eating, King Tyrant Lizard. You don’t want any of this,” I ordered The Saurus. I turned, ignoring the honkings of annoyed drivers, and raised a hand to the building. I aimed for the base, and imagined another lovely explosion. The tower rumbled as the middle square blew outward, followed soon afterward by the block to its right muffling a secondary explosion. The tower began to sway, then fall.
The Saurus was up and by it faster than you’d think a T. rex could move. He braced against the side of it, calling out in Japanese for people to move out of the way. I believe the exact phrase was “Save yourself, mammals!”
It was going to topple no matter what, but he eased it down as best as he was able by sidestepping with as much weight as he could hold on his back until, at least, he had to race out from underneath it and let it fall the last weigh. The lab might have been destroyed if it had fallen unimpeded, but I doubted I wiped it out this time.
“All you had to do, was nothing,” I said. Then I looked down at myself. That was difficult as well. I was one bright motherfucker. “Let’s see if I can find someone your own size to play with.” I was scrambling for an animal for the theme as I felt myself growing larger and warping, slightly. My hands on either side came together and my armor kinda spread out like a membrane between them, forming wings. The hands were covered over by a fists. The membrane extended up and down to join at my head and at a spiny tail growing from my ass.
I was now a giant red sea ray. I shouldn’t have tried to think of animals. I’m lucky I didn’t turn into a sea pig. Hell, with my track record, I’d have probably become a giant penguin. There’s a reason you don’t see penguin kaiju. I looked down at myself, then up at The Saurus and tried to sound as menacing as possible when I pointed at myself and said, “It’s Do Ray Me, motherfucker.”
“I observe your ponderous transformation and raise you a swift beatdown!” the eloquent British cloned T. rex said. He hoped over the downed tower and came ran at me. I… put a hand on his head and held him back. He swiped his little claws and tried biting, but I held him at bay. This was ridiculously more simple than I expected, so I uppercutted him under the chin with my free hand. I grabbed his head then with both hands, one above and one below, and swung him over me to smack into a car. He lay there stunned as I grabbed another car and slammed that on top of him.
“Look at that, a prehistoric chicken sandwich!” I said.
He started to squirm to get out, so I decided to see if Omega’s powers included anything with some heat to them. I put my hands on the cars, concentrated, and watched as they glowed and melted together where metal touched metal. With The Saurus sealed between them, I turned and hopped onto the tower, approaching what had been the top floors. “Now, let’s see what all the hub bub was about…”
Before I could do that, a beam of energy erupted from my head and tore into them. My hed moved side to side, again in the same way I recognized from Omega flying me around. On top of that, my perspective shifted as I shrunk back into my on form.
In the end, the only thing left was a runny puddle of melted cement and metal in a trench carved through the Tokyo sidewalk. I at least wanted to see what all they were doing. “Dammit,” I wrote in a text message for Omega to read. “If I got a good look at whatever they were doing, I could have maybe guarded against it. Without the heroes here who did it, they can always warn others and lead them toward the same observations.”
“Then we should hunt them down, one by one. I think you find the though fun,” he suggested.
I did, but I also promised to look over some proposals from Medusa. I thought maybe I’d be legalizing some polygamy, but when I brightened up, she stopped to tell me she meant policies and reform. But I figured I’d look at them, and not just in the sense of trying to get her into my pants. I intend to take a good faith look at this “Badass Plan” of hers.
“Your miscalculation, Omega. I don’t have time to hunt them down right now. Check in with me later,” I told him.
In response, I felt the heat and the electricity abandon me. I was there, standing on the tower, in full view for just a moment before I disappeared as well and made sure to get away from the angry dinosaur trying to escape his melted containment.
I had to call in a Psycho Flyer for pickup, but I made it in time for some policy planning with Medusa. The things we do for the ones we love.
With most of my spies tied up undermining the United States, we’ve had to transfer a lot of valuable people away from China, Hong Kong, and Japan. We can’t just fly people in to hunt for whatever supers are experimenting with the dimensional veil. Other villains on VillaiNet can only tell us so much.
Took a bit of work to get Apollo on the horn, too. “Yo, god-dude. I had some questions. You ever hear of something called the Dusk Club? Or some group like that?”
I couldn’t see his expression as he paused because we were on a standard phone call instead of a video call or smell-o-vision. “I will have to check? What are they?”
“I think they’re mages, unless they also somehow have advanced technology. They were active during the 20th century, but I’m not sure what they really do. Supposedly stop threats that cross the dimensional barrier, but they disbanded or died off before I ever showed up. I’m honestly surprised so many groups keep managing to sneak around for so long with nobody finding out about them. Like you guys, somehow managing to avoid detection for hundreds of years.”
“We use magic,” Apollo said. “There are spells that can prevent people from speaking about secrets and spells that can alter memory. The latter are fearsome if mishandled and wipe the mind of the sorcerer foolish enough to have tried them.”
Hmm. Interesting. I mean, yeah, it makes sense that the Hares used literal magic to avoid their conspiracy getting out. That’s an option NASA wouldn’t have if they filmed the moon landing on a sound stage. But more than that, Mr. Omega claims the people who evicted him from this dimension used that kind of magic. I wonder how much the successors of that group made use of that magic, if they had access to it. As was figured out by The Claw, being able to screw with people’s memories can open up all kinds of fucked manipulations.
“If you can ask around for me, it would be appreciated,” I told Apollo.
“How appreciated?” he asked.
“You like diamonds?” I asked. “I got a diamond here the size of your head.”
“That exaggeration is so common,” he said.
I looked to a stand in my study holding a small part of our mining operation on Uranus in the other universe. The diamond there could have been cut into a basketball. We can’t access anymore until the Telechamber is rebuilt, but it’s coming along. If it wasn’t for Omega, that thing would be such an awesome source of power and riches for us. Just look at Elvis. The old redneck’s sold out a new tour.
So despite all the power at my fingertips with Omega on my side, I have nothing to aim it at, a concern I expressed aloud in the hopes he or it was paying attention.
I had an easy day, with nothing to do but wait for everyone to get back to me. I was a few drinks into waiting when I got a report from the military base that Medusa was spotted sneaking around. So I figured I better go see what that’s about. She’s got the run of the place pretty well anyway, so sneaking means she’s doing something she doesn’t think I’d approve of.
I threw on my armor real quick and pointed an arm at my study wall. I holographically projected a tunnel on the wall and set a portahole in it so that I could walk through. Because when I get the chance to pull that shit, I do it. I stepped out near the outside of the base, looking up at the wall nearest to the base. If this was a movie or tv show, I’d have arrived just in time to catch her in the act. But this isn’t fiction. It’s dirty, wild reality, far stranger than any fiction.
I had to wait a few minutes before a rope latter came tumbling down the wall off in the distance. By the time Medusa shimmied down, she found me leaning on the wall next to her. “Hey there, beautiful. Who’s your friend?” I pointed up the shaking ladder at the prisoner climbing down after her.
She sighed and crossed her arms. Looking me right in the eye, she said, “A spy.”
“Why, my dear, are you breaking spies out of my prisons?” I asked.
I reached over as the spy in question came down and hopped the last few feet. He was a fairly round man despite not being fat, with wispy hair that lifted off his head easily in the breeze. His eyes seemed just a little too small. If this man was an international superspy who went around seducing beautiful women, he must have a hell of a talking game to make up for the handicap his body and faced gave him. He held a hand out toward me. I took it and he bowed, giving my armored hand a kiss on the back. “’Ello. Carter Brendleton. A pleasure to meet you. You a friend of ol’ Venus?”
Not a smooth talker. I pulled up his file from my guys. He’d been caught snooping around one of our “fishing” warehouses. An awful lot of interesting things get swallowed by fish. USB drives, gemstones, even some misplaced treasury printing plates. You never know what my guys will turn up when searching the fish. And you never know what spies will turn up when searching fish.
“You could say that,” I told him in regards to his question about being a friend of Medusa. “Psychopomp Gecko. I’m kind of a big deal.”
“Oh, Empress Gecko. You run the place. Very good. I don’t mean to be a bother,” he leaned in close. “But could I persuade you to not throw me in prison for inspecting fish?”
I put an arm around his shoulders. “Buddy, you’re accused of being a spy.”
Medusa walked up and put her arm around my other shoulder. “Babe, he’s actually a British fish inspector.”
“That’s what they all say,” I told her. “It’s clearly a cover story.”
“I am. Her Majesty has authorized me to investigate unusual fish imports that could endanger the British Isles. The Crown takes reckless fishmongery as a serious threat. First, the Krauts came for our fish. Then, our chips.” He held up a fist, getting a far off look in his eye as he locked his jaw defiantly.
Medusa nodded toward the Brit. “Why don’t you tell us about your favorite fish?”
“That is a complex question, of course, because most people think of osteichtyes, what are commonly referred to as bony fishes, but there is so much to love about chondrichtyes, or cartilaginous fish. And the amount of diversity between bony fishes is an added complication…”
Thirty goddamn minutes later, I had to put a stop before he could go into extinct species. I felt the distinct need to install a liquor dispenser in my power armor to make up for situations like this. I’m pretty sure the grass around us died of boredom. But Medusa’s point was made. She was fairly certain this guy was nothing but some sort of fish inspector, and now I was too. Problem was, we actually are smuggling things using fish. Forget coffee, there’s nothing that throws off anyone’s ability to smell like fish. And if you’re lucky, they don’t smell worse when they’re dead.
As an island nation, Ricca naturally has a long tradition of fishing. As a nation run by a supervillain, it also has a long tradition of smuggling drugs and other illegal goods either within fish they export, or in fish canned for export.
I left Brendleton to wax nostalgic about the good old days of giant bottom feeders to pull Medusa aside and quietly tell her, “This guy’s still dangerous to our business.”
“He’s a fish inspector. How dangerous is fish inspection?” she asked.
“It depends on if they find something fishy,” I said. I holographically projected secret film of a wild shootout at a dock that looked like an action movie, up until the amphibious tank tried coming to shore to fight guerrillas in yellow uniforms and white facepaint. It was blown apart by multiple anti-tank missiles and doused with flamethrowers to make sure. “That’s what happened the last time someone tried to figure out how McDonald’s sources the McFish. You don’t even want to know about the McRib.”
I started to show her the video of the Ghurkas heading into a deep jungle ambush but she waved me off. “You know you don’t have any reason to worry about a fish inspector. Stop wasting time on him and expel him from the island.”
“It’s the principle of the thing!” I said, holding up four pointer fingers.
She put her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the helmet. “Gecko, I know you can be better than this. You know you’re better than this. It’s time to be better, in the way only a badass can. Is it that you’re scared?”
I covered her mouth. “Not in front of the spy, honey.”
“I am barely a spy!” Carter said. “I do not even have my license to kill. I have a fishing license, however.”
Medusa moved my hand. “There’s no need to be afraid. I believe in you. And you have me by your side.” She winked and smiled, which felt awesome. But I didn’t like all this talk of me being afraid. That’s not what it was. I just had people to look after, and a family. A little girl counted on me to survive. Sure, I’ve hidden away millions of dollars worth of money to take care of her if something happens to me, but money can’t buy a p- you know, money can buy you a parent, but she’s too young for that kind of roleplay. She wouldn’t want to go back into the diapers.
More to stop from having this particular discussion, I relented and let Medusa officially deport the fish spy, with a warning that Ricca would prefer if the United Kingdom kept its grubby fish watchers to itself, lest they sleep with the fishes.
At that, Carter Brendleton stood up just a bit straighter. “I would never! I don’t know what rumors you have heard, but I do not shag that way.”
I left a message written on my HUD where Mr. Omega normally pops in at when he contacts me, letting him know that if he can show me roughly where those experiments in Japan took place, I’m more than happy to engage in a bit of widespread destruction. Me, afraid, hah!
I’ll show her. I’ll show them all!
I also need to tell Medusa to get her head off that arm. It’s starting to fall asleep.
My destruction of the Hephaestus labs serving the Feds caused some shockwaves. Enough news went out about the exposed project in the government that some of the informants I have sent reports on to my agents. They considered it worse than a clusterfuck that they were warned about me coming and still couldn’t handle the situation. That was some lovely information. Then, of all things, the Hephaestus offices told me the dude I talked to went on a sudden vacation out of town.
Of all the… yeah, I knew the guy wasn’t trustworthy. That’s why I offered him a bribe. But I didn’t think he’d be so untrustworthy as to not honor the bribe. I mean, that was a deal between the two of us. Someone working for Hephaestus should know better than to violate a deal with me. I have some of my guys looking into where he may have hidden so I can deal with him personally. I was hoping it would be a quick job, so I could use him for weapons testing.
I had to make due with a fellow Pagan was more than happy to deliver. He called me out yesterday, said my presence was necessary at the proving ground range, a section of the island reserved for blowing things up to see how well they blow up. I don’t like that we waste our limited land area on such things, but they’ve been doing it for a long time. The Interior Director, with my approval, is trying to have the land surveyed to see how much work it would need to be safe for other use, but there’s something of a pissing match going on. Something about artillery running tests every time the surveyors go to do their job. Sometimes while the surveyors are out there.
I took a rocket, missing the effortless flight I had with Omega’s power running through me. Next to that, an oversized firework was a little bit of a letdown. I came with my armor, too, which still had the red color scheme and the Omega on it. Works like a charm, though the little wormhole gloves needed a going over and recalibrating. Chu told me the stack overflow wasn’t the whole problem, and wasn’t even most of the problem. The power surge was related to the portable holes themselves. That got the physicists hornier than a big bang, and while they set up a system to better regulate the power, they’re still studying the effects.
As I approached the proving grounds, I saw Pagan’s group. He stood flanked by a trio of other agents who kept their guns trained on a man in a suit. The man in question had been roughed up a bit. He had blood on his shirt and in his mess of hair. His hands were bound in front of him with a zip tie, and he had no shoes or socks on. I liked those last touches. While it’s more difficult to do things with your hands tied behind you, it’s easier for someone with a knife to cut them without being noticed. Leaving his feet bare also makes it tougher for him to run for it. They even had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He could still palm something, but it’d take some serious legerdemain. That’s a fancy word for all that palming and other hand work that prestidigitators do. And that’s a fancy word for a stage magician. But don’t defenestrate yourself just yet, dear reader. That means throwing yourself out of a window, and if you did that, you wouldn’t find out this man was a leaker.
Hell, so much for keeping that secret. Now, I don’t mean the man had a bladder problem, though he had certainly wet himself at some point in their handling of him. I landed near Pagan and remotely directed the rocket to continue on, curve up, then plunge into the ground a safe distance away. “Howdy,” I told my Intel Chief.
“Empress,” he said with a bow. The other agents staggered theirs so someone was up and capable fo dealing with the guy in the zip tie.
“What did you need me here for?” I asked.
“After the Fluidic alien infiltrator attacked the power plant and Telechamber to bring through the remains of his fleet, I knew someone helped him. He knew too much to have worked alone, and knew to avoid the water. These men I trusted to find how,” Pagan explained. He motioned to the prisoner.
“After extensive investigation, we discovered this man had provided details of the Telechamber problems and the layout of the nuclear plant to a third party via TOR browser. We believe the third party was the Midnight Man or a group he was part of, though they claimed to be a collective dedicated to aiding whistleblowers and exposing the secrets of corrupt governments. Per further checks, we found that the leaked information has not been released to the public by any such group. It was merely a front for infiltrators to further their own imperialist agenda.”
“Tsk, tsk… whistleblowing state secrets? For what, for morality?” I turned to the man.
“You stole the nuclear plant and kidnapped those men. Your experiments threatened the world,” the man said with a shaking voice. The agents started toward him, but I held a hand up and they stopped.
I shrugged. “Yeah, I am indeed a bitch, like any other leader. Nobody’s hands are clean, and maybe it’s wrong to think that’s the only way. But something you should have remembered is that information like that is never free. It’s always got a value, and if you’re not getting paid, you’re getting duped. You got duped, big time. So, tell me now, is what Pagan said here true? I don’t like scapegoats either, so I’m willing to hear your story, too.”
“I thought Ricca was changing, that if my mother lived, she would have been able to return to her people. You are just as bad as The Claw. Your insanity threatens to destroy the world. You are as bad as any Soviet or American with Mutually Assured Destruction,” the analyst said.
I sighed. “Sorry to hear you feel that, and sorry you felt it was more important to hurt me than to help yourself.” Turning to the agents and Pagan, I said, “You’ll want to stand clear of this one.”
Pagan nodded and the four of them began to walk away.
“You will kill me,” the analyst said, no doubt in his voice.
“Yep,” I told him. “No matter how merciful I might want to be, it’s what I have to do. You helped someone attack us. People are dead. Other people’s kids and mothers are dead because of what you did. For all you think I’m just like the evil alien conqueror, you unleashed a whole ‘nother band of evil alien conquerors on the planet to destroy people just like yourself. So you die here today.”
I activated the portable holes. I need a shorter name for them. Portaholes is the obvious portmanteau, but it makes me think of portapotties. I’ve talked about all kinds of portals and breaches. Wormhole just feels inappropriate to me, but it might be the best option.
I suppose I could have given the guy an easy death with some dignity. Or I could have done something really brutal to make sure people knew not to fuck with me. Vlad the Impaler came to mind, except I now had the ability to impale this fellow on anything in the world. The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Sputnik on top of Joe’s Liquor’s sign in Memphis: the world was my boner.
Instead, I reached out with my mind, looked up a few things, and used some GPS info. I created a pair of wormholes and punched the man, once from above, another from behind. The next thing to hit him through a wormhole was a gloved fist from a boxing match, then a footballer’s cleated foot caught him in the balls, followed by a portal above him dropping an anvil on his head. It was significantly less survivable for him than it is for Daffy Duck. You couldn’t much hear the bones break because of all the squelching.
For the final cleanup, I tried double the holes, and much bigger than I’d done before. Chu’s not monitoring them all the time, but we’ve still got a full-time staff with a direct line to me if anything goes wrong. That they didn’t speak up when the train appeared, plowed into the anvil and the remains, and then went back through a portal almost as quickly as it appeared says good things.
I had a lovely dinner with Medusa, Qiang, and Citra. Citra had been on a break between semesters, but finally stopped here for a little bit. She did some important schmoozing in Belgium and she’s not really into the whole lesbian thing, so that all explains her absence lately. Perfectly reasonable stuff. I’m certainly not disappointed with the fact that I partnered for political reasons and not for amazing, clothes-tearing lust. Or love.
I woke up early thanks to a voice whispering in my ear. “Psychopomp… wake up. You’re missing the fun,” Mr. Omega said.
“What fun?” I asked groggily. I’m a morning person like Elton John’s a ladies man.
“You have done amazing, but our enemies gather.”
That woke me right up, though I stopped talking out loud so as not to wake up- nevermind, Medusa was already up. Huh. I thought I did a better job tiring her out. Should I be worried? Anyway, enough about sexy times. I talked in my head. “What’s going on? Someone about to attack the island?”
“Yes. Gifted humans in the Empire of Japan have studied the breaches in the dimension and the weakening of the barrier. They suspect a connection between this and your island. They drew my attention when I observed their testing. They are not the only enemies. I feel the Dusk Club has reunited.”
“That’s that group you pretended to be a part of. They’re real?” I asked.
The face in my HUD nodded. “They are the successors of the ancient tradition that banished me to the void. They have been in decline since the conflicts of the last century. They sense the veil is weakening and will rebuild.”
“What’s that mean for us?” I sent off a text to Apollo of the Hares to check on some group called the Dusk Club. If I still had the number for The Trust over in Los Angeles, I’d have asked them. That family is supremely fucked-up, but they’re involved in the magic world. And the magic bar on Beale Street in Memphis might get me where I need to go.
“It means I will soon have need of you to serve as my avatar again, channeling my power to further our goals,” Mr. Omega said.
Bingpot. Ok, Gecko, play it cool… “Yeah, sure, I suppose I could if you think I’ll need all that extra power.”
Mr. Omega smiled. “Those without power, risk. Those with power, rule. All we have to do is but find them. Then, we crush them.”
I mean, yeah, he’s vicious, but so am I. And I like the idea of flying like that again, with all that power. “I guess we’re hunting the Dusk then.”
“I could destroy them for you. It would require minimal effort,” said the featureless white face of Mr. Omega in my HUD. I was suited up and checking over elaborate gauntlets on my lower arms. They had been built to attach to my usual gloves on the lower limbs. Because of that, those arms now lacked the redundant energy sheaths, or the Nasty Surprises that I liked to hide there. They can punch without damaging the devices, so I’m not completely disarmed. Times like these make me wish I had a cybernetic tail, though. With a sharp blade, shooting lasers out of it… Fuck yeah.
Rather than focus on building my perfect body, I had to respond to Mr. Omega. The extradimensional deity had popped in to offer his services. It wasn’t a bad idea. I don’t trust the guy still, even if he did help save my daughter. Part of me doesn’t like the idea of being so mean to a guy who saved her, but so it goes. The Evil Overlord’s List doesn’t say anything about giving someone a free pass for saving your daughter’s life, after all. So I might have him do some of the destruction for me in a very flashy way. He’ll look like a big oncoming threat and make people more worried about him than me.
I did inform the VillaiNet that I might be going after some of those Freedom Legion dweebs and would likely kill a few. The villains are usually ok with it being open season on cops. The other way around, cops have gotten away with countless abuses by claiming they felt threatened and thought the person they were stomping on had powers. But they didn’t like the idea of me bumping off supers as often without good reason. The Legion being a more formalized version of a supercop complicates that set-up, or so I thought. Turns out, the Legion’s been a bunch of asswads to villains around the States, so most of them are pretty fond of the idea of me thinning the herd a bit.
I took a Psycho Flyer all alone this time to help facilitate my plan to blame it on Omega. One good thing about this plan to trick him is that I’ll really enjoy using the Telechamber again. When I eventually build it, and if I eventually kill him, it’ll be really nifty to have that mode of travel available when it comes time to kill people.
I set the cloaked Flyer down outside some small town in Maryland. Probably a bit close to D.C. For the government’s taste when they found out about it, but they might have already known. That asshat with Hephaestus made it sound like a partnership, but he’s probably saying the same about the deal I worked out with him.
I double parked the Flyer off in a wooded area outside of town and left it camouflaged as a cottage standing on a pair of chicken legs so as to scare people off. I camouflaged myself as The lab looked like any another unnamed office building in a commercial district. Nothing too special, as far as most people are concerned, until I noticed the food truck was hanging around late in the afternoon, and the guy at the order window looked really attentive. I didn’t see the cook, but I figured he was in there, too. They also had a guy acting like he was picking weeds in a flowerbed out front.
I walked past and headed down another street. “Okily dokily. Chu, you ready?”
“Empress, I must reiterate my sincere concern that we have not adequately-”
“Yeah, I heard you. Let’s get this party started,” I told him.
“As you wish. We are making the initial stellar connection… now.” I could practically hear the wince in his voice as he waited for it to all blow up in his face. After a couple of seconds, he reported back, “Power is holding steady so far. This might actually work. I knew it would, but I wasn’t ready to do this for real yet.”
“Ok, let me know when it’s time to get my suit powered up,” I said. I walked a bit and turned a corner, swapping holographic disguises so I could walk back the other way as an old man. That gave me an excuse to take my time. I felt the connection being made before he reported back to me. The new stream of power was a huge boost. I activated the telegloves… no, they needed a better name. I was throwing “tele-” on everything now. I dubbed it… the Portahole.
Damn. I decided to hold off on giving the gloves themselves an official name until I learn to name things better. Instead, I used them to create a portable hole off in the food truck. It looked like a line in the air. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like if you had a surface-level scratch on the surface of a piece of glass. I shoved my hand through. My helmet agreed with what the cameras on my glove showed; my hand now stretched out inside the food truck near the stove. I grabbed a nearby pot and smashed it hard over the head of the observant cashier. He went down next to a sack of potatoes. Through microcameras on the armor, I caught a glimpse of someone else grabbing for the hand with one hand while holding a gun in the other.
I felt resistance, but pulled my hand through easily. Over at the food truck, I could see the guy standing over the stove with his back to the window. The other guard’s hand joined mine, coming through the air in front of me. Then his head came through. The guy gritted his teeth and shoved a gun in my face. “You’re under arrest!”
I smirked under my armor and created a second hole while snatching his gun away. I had hands to spare, and while one disarmed him, the other shoved his head through the hole. Over at the food truck, his body jumped and jerked. His pants strained and tore. I stopped the holes, leaving me with a bloody chunk of flesh on my side, and the guard with his head up his ass in the food truck. I saw his body flop to the floor.
Over near the flowerbed, the guard there had heard something and was looking around. He looked toward where I was, but only saw an old guy and something on the ground near me. I created another pair of portable holes and reached through with two arms. I wrapped one hand around the guard’s mouth and used the other to break his neck. I tossed him as far behind a bush as I could and pulled myself together.
The first test went ok, but it was time to really put this new weapons system through its paces. I showed myself through the door and up to the desk next to the metal detector and security door. I looked like a homeless man at the time thanks to the power of holograms. I came up to the desk as he asked, “Can I help you, sir?”
With the power of portable holes, I reached for the gun holstered on his hip. “Yes, you can help me… by dying!” I said, releasing a cackle from my armor’s speakers. He reached for his gun with his right hand and found me there, holding it down. I uppercutted him from below and pulled my arms back as he tumbled down onto his chair. I hopped the desk and kicked him in the head as he stood up. Hs face disappeared into a hole and reappeared over his back. I grabbed his hand and twisted it around to slap his own face. I pulled up on the back of his shirt and tugged him out of the hole while I repositioned it, then shoved it back through. It was cold up there in the Arctic circle. It’d be handy if I could dump the whole guy there, but Chu had advised me not to crank up the settings too high on the first go. I don’t want to push my luck too much.
I left the bombs in the Flyer this time until I needed to pluck one out of midair, noting, “I need to carry a top hat around with me.” I set it up behind the monitor on the guy’s desk before heading deeper. Even the door behind the guard’s desk was locked, so I just opened it from the other side. Breaking and entering made easy.
I disappeared from view, though I needn’t have bothered. People seemed to prefer staying in their offices. It was better this way, as the halls were narrow, but I did want more of a fight for a better idea how the results worked. I could already envision some neat tricks, putting one hole in front of me and the other behind someone’s head so that shooting me became suicide. Oh, and it’d be awesome if I kept a tank of hungry piranhas around to send someone’s head to. Maybe a shark tank, even.
I set a couple more around, including in the stairwell I took up to the second floor. Remember, always take the stairwell in case of emergency. I came out and found a hallway loaded with a dozen soldiers in full-on tactical gear, all aimed at the elevator nearby. They turned and opened fire at chest height in front of the door. I let myself become visible and held up one hand, because while I am badass enough to dodge bullets, I no longer have to. I quietly guided the other portable hole around the room as they opened up. As they dropped, I got a frantic call from Chu.
“Empress, we saw a spike in power output.”
“It’s fine. I had to expand one of the portals a bit to catch a hail of gunfire. How we holding up?”
He took a second to answer. “I think… No, something’s wrong. The power drain is continuing to grow. What are the portals doing?”
“I’d rather not call them that. They’re portable holes, like Wile E. Coyote used,” I said, but checked on it. I thought I’d turned the portable holes off, but they were there and growing. I switched them off but they didn’t turn off. “Yeah, we got an issue.” From a side door came a man in a gown. “But it might be good to have it anyway. I think I got a super here. Psycho Gecko vs. Gown Man!”
The scratches in the air disappeared. The devices still had power. No sparking or anything, no smoke. Internal diagnostics had some sort of error in the processing. A stack overflow that wouldn’t resolve, something like that. “Uh, Chu, you didn’t do anything remotely, did you?”
“No. Shit, I will get on this immediately. Please don’t kill me for my failure!”
“Fix it and we’ll be cool,” I told him. Then, nodding to Gown Man, I said, “Looks like I’ll have to kill you the old fashioned way… with power armor.”
He opened his mouth and his hands. Metal flowed through the air from all around, including the guns of the downed soldiers and my armor. Sensors reported loss of armor integrity all over the side facing him as specks of it flew off toward him. I tried to hit my helmet lasers but they did spark and catch fire as parts of the mechanism also fled. I ran forward and popped a Nasty Surprise whip. It fell to the floor. I punched him in the side of the head, not knocking him down, and came away with the metallic portions of my gauntlet stripped away, flowing over the area where I punched to form a second skin on him. I saw it when he turned back to me and smiled.
I reached for his throat but I flew back. It was like magnets, if magnets included non-ferrous parts of my body all pulling backwards. Ever had your eyes force themselves back into your skull? It’s a good thing he tossed all of me backward. And just think about my brain. It’s hard to feel what your brain is doing, but I have plenty of metal in there.
A fucking… metallokine? Fuck if I know the term. A guy who can move metal. Someone draws that fucking card in the game of life and gets enough of a drop on me that they dismantled my armor. I tried to lunge for him again, but my eyes and other cybernetic organs protested by holding me back.
My HUD was screwing up too. I tried not to think about what he was doing to my insides. I wondered briefly if he could control the iron in my blood along with the steel in my chest. But Mr. Omega’s face appeared for sure. “I offer my aid again.”
“Yes. I need it,” I said.
Instantly, my body lit on fire, but only in the metaphorical sense. I was hot, and painfully so at first, but I got used to it. The pressure on my metal parts lifted. I laughed in relief as I stood, noticing my body wreathed in the same shade of red from Omega’s body. On my chest, where I’d had four tendrils arcing downward had been eaten away along with my armor until you could barely see it. Now, the design formed a glowing white omega symbol. I looked to the metal manipulator, whose gown was apparently backless based on the load he dropped directly on the floor behind him. I was on him in a second, his throat in my hand. I lifted him up as if he was weightless. You always still feel some resistance when you use your muscles, but this wasn’t like this. He might as well have been a balloon.
I focused on him, almost like seeing him in a different way. That freakish nose and those weird lips and skin. Humans are disgusting-looking if you really look at them, and I mean even the ones with what they’d consider normal features. This guy wouldn’t have been too bad looking, but in my eyes he was gross. I wanted to annihilate him.
He blew apart in my hands, leaving a few motes of red light behind. “Ok, awesome,” I said to no one in particular. I wanted my armor back. I knew it intimately. I wondered if wanting it back worked anything like wanting that guy gone had been.
“Allow me to help,” I felt my own lips move on their own. Little glowing lights, like fireflies, appeared around me, then pressed close to me. When they faded, I wore my armor again, but with the omega symbol on the chest and most of it blood red in color.
I laughed as I waved all four hands, envisioning the same effect as my bombs. I blew that building apart, watching from the inside as explosion after explosion tore the place apart. And none of it touched me. Nothing could touch me. Forget punching above my weight class. I was so far beyond anyone’s weight class. I flew out of there, a streak of red. Actually flying, with no resistance, no friction. Like a balloon with a will and speed. Ok, so it sounds slightly less awesome when compared to a balloon, but I haven’t felt my body tell physics to go fuck itself that hard even when I had control of Forcelight’s body.
There’s a thought… a bit late to take her body. I really like having Dame, though.
Lost in thought, I didn’t realize I’d swerved and curved through the air back to the Psycho Flyer until I saw the chicken-footed cottage in the woods below me. I set down in front of it and felt myself drain. Gravity took hold of me again, which was annoying more than anything. Seriously, gravity, go fuck off.
The omega symbol and I both stopped glowing. Mr. Omega’s face appeared on my fully functional HUD though. “Is that all?”
“I don’t suppose you can take care of the other two buildings, can you?” I asked.
Mr. Omega smiled. I received alerts from my watchers of the laboratories being smashed flat by large red hands. Could have been my hands, too. Might be again. I wonder if I can grab some of that power again. Stretch goals.
This thing is going to be awesome while it lasts.
We have faced our enemy, and it is mush. My guys did the most thorough autopsy they could on the guy who tried to kidnap my daughter, but being smashed by a pair of giant fingers has a way of obscuring a lot of information. Facial reconstruction’s a no-go after the way the skull got pulverized in places, though Dr. Creeper assures me the person wasn’t the sort to blindly follow authority based on pieces of his skull that Creeper saw. I told Creeper to stop reading those phrenology websites.
No facial recognition, the guy’s DNA isn’t on file, and his fingerprints aren’t on in any database. We know he had a wang at least. Aside from that, we know the guy had been altered quite a bit. We found cybernetics, including a damaged bomb that was unable to detonate because of the damage to it. The big revelation they came back to me with was evidence of Hephaestus’s work. One of the lab techs used to work with them before losing their sense of smell and nose after creating a super who was nicknamed Stinkbomb.
So Faustus/Hephaestus is involved. Power sellers, even if their methods can be experimental and risky. Faustus provides magical items and spells to empower people. Hephaestus tries things through more scientific and technological means. Both sides have their fair share of casualties in the name of refining the process, providing a monetary discount for people willing to put their lives on the line in the name of super science.
In days past, when I was more uptight, I’d have broken into their offices to either steal files or gently interrogate someone’s head in a copier until I got the answers I wanted. Maybe something even whackier, who knows? But I’ve chilled out some. I had a kid given to me as a bribe, then altered her DNA so she was related to me. I have a house without a mortgage that I stole after stealing a nation that I also stole. I’m a changed man. Well, a changed woman, since I also got rid of muh dick.
In light of that, I decided this could be solved with a simple phone call. Hephaestus likes to post advertisements and job offers on VillaiNet. Getting in touch with them is easier than ever with how they make offers for villains to send minions over to be upgraded.
For fuck’s sake, they could pirate any music in the world, and the hold tone is The Girl From Ipanema. I’m going to have that song stuck in my head for days, the evil bastards. A woman with a high-pitched voice answered. “Human Resources, Hephaestus desk. I’m Gina. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi, my name is Psychopomp Gecko, Empress of Ricca. I was recently attacked by some people working for the United States government showing signs of having been altered by Hephaestus and I was hoping to get more information about the project.”
After a brief pause, she asked me a new question, “What would you like me to do?”
“Connect me with someone important who talks to supervillains so I can get some questions answered.”
“Alright, I can look into that. May I ask what you are hoping to speak with them about?”
Ok, just because I’m on meds to balance out my homicidal tendencies, in addition to my suicidal ones, that doesn’t mean this flies with me. “If you don’t put me on the phone with somebody whose job position got fished out of a can of alphabet soup, I will find the city your offices are based in and I will shoot a cow laced with growth formula out of a cannon so that its bovine ass takes your building up it like a gay conversion pastor in a gay bar. Then, if you’re lucky, I’ll blow the city and the cow up. And when whoever’s the head of Hephaestus asks me why I personally cut the throats of everybody working for him, her, or them, I will answer… ‘Because Gina’s so incompetent, nothing she touched could be allowed to survive.’”
“Alright, my supervisor has indicated he wants me to send you through to his phone line since you sound like you’re being a bit touchy. Have a good day now, buh-bye!”
I’m gonna kill her. I’m gonna find her and kill her. Screw the meds, screw not destroying the world. They’re damn lucky I got connected to someone helpful before I could tell the labs to cook up the sarin. I got ex-cultists on staff who know how to cook that stuff. Throw in the recovering meth head and they can put it together in a dumpster.
Anyway, this guy got me where I needed to go. They bumped me up to a VP, then a right to the P. “Well, well, Psycho Gecko. How the tide has turned.”
“Person whose name I don’t know. So we speak on the phone again. Maybe? I really don’t know who the fuck you are. Did I almost kill you?”
“I never met you, but I survived your fight with us last time. It must really grind your gears. You failed to kill us and now you’re crawling back,” he said.
I shrugged. “Whatever makes you feel good for the accomplishment of ‘surviving’ a fight you weren’t even involved in. If you’re feeling bad about not seeing action, your HR call person has given me plenty of motivation. Anyway, unless your shit’s still all wrecked from the last time I had anything to do with y’all, you should have some records I need to check on. I’m looking for information on y’all doing work for the United States government.”
And the phone went dead. I blinked, focusing again on where I was and grabbing some sushi off the woman laying naked in front of me. Medusa was scooping some of the sushi into a carryout box between the woman’s legs. “You’re back, fantastic. I was just about to go.”
“You don’t like eating here?” I asked.
She looked down at the woman on the table in front of us, who tried to avoid looking back at either one of us. Medusa cleared her throat. “I don’t like this. Do we have to eat off the front of a naked person?”
I motioned to the woman. “What, would you rather we ate off her backside? That’s unsanitary.” I looked to the woman. “No offense. We just don’t know where your ass has been.”
“It is fine, Empress,” she responded quietly.
“You said this was an artsy restaurant, but we’re eating off strippers,” Medusa said. She stood up and started out with the carryout box.
I scoffed at that. “It’s a culinary and artistic experience to draw attention to the objectification of women while making a statement about how much of the work that goes into growing, preparing, and serving food is on women. You’re going to offend our table if you keep this up.” I stood as well. “Do you take a card?”
Our table flipped over to where the reader rested between her ass cheeks. “Completely unhygienic,” I said as I swiped.
For Hephaestus’s sake, I gave that guy the opportunity to reconsider and call me back. When they didn’t I decided to pay them a completely friendly visit with all my best diplomatic skill. Given my usual level of understatement, this is usually when I reveal I blew a wall open and started kicking skulls out of asses. I assure you, dear reader, I did nothing of the sort this time.
Instead, delivery people at one of Hephaestus’s hidden-in-plain-sight offices wheeled in six gigantic cakes so big, everyone knew a stripper would had to be jumping out of them. A caravan like that going to the floors with all the Ps, VPs, CEOs, CFOs, and COOs isn’t going to be stopped. A bunch of them actually came out of their offices to gather around, wondering who the lucky guy was and what the strippers would look like.
The delivery people tore their uniforms off, except for one whose uniform faded away to reveal my power armor on. “Surprise!” I yelled as my soldiers held them all at gunpoint. A couple of the executives tried to make a break past us when more soldiers popped out of the cakes, these also in power armor. One of them actually grabbed the guy, pulled into the cake, and was beating the crap out of him when his superior stopped him.
“We need them conscious for now,” the officer said. The soldier nodded and tossed the guy he’d been hitting out of the cake to stumble back to the line of suits and ties my guys were spreading out around.
“Ok, listen up. I’m Psycho Gecko. I’m here for a little bit of information, not mass murder. Tell me what I need, we all go home fat, happy, and alive. I might even leave you a cake. First thing’s first… where is Gina from HR?”
Pagan, who was listening in, interrupted me to point out, “Empress, Gina is low priority. You said you talked to a President.”
“ I was just testing you,” I told my Intel Chief, taking it as a face-saving lie without realizing the grain of truth in there. “Ok, nevermind, new question. I spoke with someone here the other day. Who was it? Come on, don’t be shy… the life you save could be your own.” I barely got the words out before every one of them turned to look at one fellow who had a full beard and a professional cut. His eyes went wide and he turned to run, but he took headbutt to the face and collapsed like a drunk possum.
He woke up after a minute, groaning in the chair we had him set in. His buddies were enjoying some cake while soldiers made sure they didn’t make any surreptitious phone calls. “Hey, there, buddy. How’s it going? It’s your old pal, Psycho Gecko. Our call seems to have gotten interrupted the other day. I figured we could have a little heart to heart in person, and I would absolutely hate to make that literal. It’s just a hassle that way, because it takes slightly longer for me to find things out and you have to die. So let’s have a little chat and you can go on your way as someone who survived a personal encounter with Psycho Gecko.”
I took my helmet off, shaking out my long hair and letting him see my beautifully made-up face. Then I reached out and put a hand on his knee. “What do you say?”
He was happy to see me after that. Along with a reasonable bribe, he agreed not to cause a big scene by involving security and he gave us a copy of the files about the United States Freedom Legion, also known as the Rogers Project. The current President didn’t care about survival rates or impact on long-term living standards. A few labs on the East Coast are handling all the work running Legionnaire candidates through the sequence and installing any cybernetics to help manage their new powers and physiologies.
They’d make good targets. If Chu’s tests go well, I might even be able to try out the new teleweaponry taking them out. I just have to give Hephaestus a little bit of notice so they can play along and try to save most of the important stuff. It was a heck of a bribe. But, hey, it’s less suspicious if I also wreck their stuff.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, I am proud to present the new official metahuman protectors of the greatest nation on God’s green Earth, the Freedom Legion.”
Cue polite applause from party officials, staffers, and a few members of the press as a men and women in red and white uniforms walked out on stage. The outfits were padded with body armor, red with groups of four white stars forming a cross on the chest, hips, and thighs. Their gloves and boots are white, but their helmets, which don’t appear to have any openings for breathing or seeing, are red with a white panel from the top of the head to the chin. Reporters hands went up, but the Secretary of Defense, or at least the one belonging to that administration, told them, “Direct all questions to the proper channels.”
There are two different people claiming to be the rightful President of the United States. One is the guy who took over after I tossed the nincompoop-in-chief to another dimension the first time around. The second is the nincompoop’s VP. The cabinet’s divided on which one is right, and that’s complicated by some of the ignoramus’s cabinet having been in the White House and just recently returning to find someone else claiming to the same title they have. It’s a real Pope and Anti-Pope situation. Just like with those crises in history, I expect legitimacy will be retroactively determined by whichever one wins the conflict.
Still, even Congress agreed that the government needed its own team of domestic law enforcement supers instead of relying on the private market and regular vigilantes. One of the presidents rushed through his own version of it, this Freedom Legion. The other one’s probably working on something similar, and he better work fast. I expect one of the first threats the Freedom Legion is going to deal with is the rival administration.
I don’t really feel threatened by these guys. I can deal with regular ol’ supers. It’s things like Mr. Omega I worry about. And as an assassin, even one so good I usually kill for myself instead, it’s my business to have a plan to kill everyone I meet. Even my new buddy Chu. The guy’s allergic to peanuts, so I’ve already made a knife out of peanut brittle. Well, I’ve made a couple dozen because I keep munching on the things. But anyway, these Freedom Legionaries are a good thing for me.They give me an excuse.
I can claim the Legion is all about trying to destabilize Ricca. Plenty of people will believe it even if they never do get used for any of the U.S.’s overseas adventures as their military so often has. And I’ve had a reputation of being insane, so plenty of people can excuse my focus on them as an extension of that. That gives me all the cover I might need to justify my weapons programs in the eyes of any prying extradimensional entities. Why do I need the ability to shoot a star at my enemies? Freedom Legion. Why do I need something to help me fight giant robots? Freedom Legion. It’s perfect.
All in all, the flaunting of American power in a time of internal conflict makes it incredibly easy to strengthen my own power using them as a scapegoat.
I went ahead and let Intel Chief Pagan in on the masquerade, even if I didn’t tell him why. His lack of any real response to me wanting to build superweapons has been noted personally. While having someone antagonistic heading up my intelligence service would be dangerous, I also don’t need a yes-man there. I need the truth. I’ll keep an eye on my interactions with Pagan from here on out.
Chu, the guy working on other applications of teleportation for energy and firepower, has been given high priority. He’s getting his own team, way more lab space, and all the funding he could need. If that works out, it’ll take my armor to another level. Or it’ll fuck things up even worse than the Telechamber did. I’ll scorch the Earth permanently by losing control of the power of a star. Or there’ll be some kind of creature hiding in the heart of a black hole I let loose who empowers people that want to kill me. Or something. I’ll have to kill that bridge when I come to it. Be nice to have another break from crises at some point.
For now, there’s no rest for the wicked. You know, aside from sleeping in bed with my hot superhero girlfriend who likes me for some reason I haven’t yet figured out. Ever since our little connection via electronic medium the other day, I’ve had a desire to randomly throw my hands up and squeal, “She really loves me!” Was real embarrassing when she caught me doing so alone in my room.
The strict “Do Not Disturb” status I put out in the aftermath of her catching me is why I was late to hearing some news from our neighbors across the pacific. The non-Freedom Legion president had fled to Canada, which was refusing to extradite him and the remaining cabinet-in-exile back. I considered it a hell of a victory.
Then, the next day, we got news that a nuclear submarine identified by sonar as one of the U.S. Navy’s high-priced toys had gotten awfully close to the island. It wasn’t violating our sovereignty, but it was close enough to know they were up to something. Pagan had the alert level of the Security and Military raised in case of attack or infiltration, and the island’s shield was on standby. Just as he was starting to hear reports about power surges from the shield people, which he summarized and set aside for me to see, he also got reports of an attack at the nuclear power plant. That put us on full alert and immediately jumped to the top of my priority list.
I ran out of the Institute of Science in my armor and ran to a long case I left sitting on the ground outside. A button press blew the sides off and shows a rocket with straps on top. I slid my boots into them and they tightened automatically before blasting off. That’s right, in order to help me cross the island more quickly, I’ve got the personal rockets going on again. It got me to the power plant in no time, where I found my guards firing on a black-clad individual who was trying to get into it.
The super had these energy tendrils emanating from their belly that formed a shield from gunfire, but a grenade exploded behind the individual and knocked them over. That one was standing up again when he or she took a rocket to the chest that pounded them back onto their back. I had flipped off of it and landed over their chest. Before I could go for the kill, a bloom of tendrils wrapped around all of my arms and held them. I stomped the person in their masked and goggled face. The tendrils didn’t weaken, but a new one grabbed my legs and held them splayed out.
Next to me, another black-clad person of indeterminate sex stepped through the wall, twirling a sword in hand. I turned my head and fired off my helmet’s laser at the ghostly swordsperson. It passed through his head without making it explode into steamed chunks of brain, but he fell back and through the ground. His sword, meanwhile, spun through my neck, through the head of a nearby guard, and disappeared into the ground as well as gravity somehow took hold of a thing that appeared no more substantial than light.
But then, lasers are light too. And the guard who was hit ended up falling, his armor unscathed. I knew right away what got him, as blood filled my throat from where my flesh had been sliced under my untouched armor. The tendrils tossed me high into the sky, quite likely expecting me to be too busy dying from decapitation to do anything to save myself.
Tendril person also threw him or herself out of the place, trying to flee while most of my guys fired after them. Another couple of them looked after the downed soldier, while a trio stared up and tried to guess where I’d land.
I concentrated more on the landing, which I figured I could take easily enough. The fall wasn’t high enough to splatter me, especially not while regenerative nanites flooded my neck, absorbing stray blood while knitting blood vessels, flesh, and bone together again. By the time I landed, I was in shape to chase our friend. I only had to follow the sounds of gunfire and flash of laser rifles. And the big explosion that took out a furniture store.
“Report,” I ordered as I landed near the place, finding soldiers picking themselves up off the ground and sweeping the area for survivors.
An officer came up and bowed. “Empress, we cornered the intruder in the store as he tried to escape. We managed to wound him with laser rifles and were closing in to capture him, but he detonated an explosive device. We’re searching for casualties and remains.”
“Thank you,” I said, checking around. Reports came in that the sub was heading out of the area, so I doubted they’d find them, but the real report came in that there had been another incident, this one at the children’s school.
I hugged Qiang tight when I got there. She cried as she squeezed me as tight as she could. “Shh. It’s ok.”
Nearby, one of her protective agents was talking with Pagan, who came personally to oversea what the hell went wrong here. Seeing me with my daughter, he opted instead to text it to me. “It was another individual dressed like the intruders at the plant. He used claws to quietly kill members of her hidden detail, then captured Qiang. Your daughter stabbed him in the neck, without effect. Agents pursued until a large red finger appeared and flattened the intruder. We’re checking the crater for explosives and any evidence we can gather before one may go off.”
A large red finger. Sounds like Mr. Omega actually did me a solid this time. It also sounds like the threat I thought would give me all the excuse I needed to fight Omega turned out to be a real threat to me and mine. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if I might reevaluate this relationship with Omega. Either way, I’m not stopping the weapons development program. Someone’s about to get their ass kicked, and it’s either a godlike being from outside this dimension or a superpower.
To celebrate the rescue of so many refugees, we tried throwing a little bit of a concert. Just something to help them feel welcome while associating good things in the eyes of the people who were already here. I have no clue who inhabited the island back when the various ruins were created. It may be that the Claw, who fulfilled his role of “Dictator For Life,” wiped out a bunch of indigenous folk in order to build a nation of East Asian immigrants under his rule. Even I can’t do anything about that. But I can make sure I capitalize on the mistakes of others.
I need people and they need to go somewhere better than a country living under the legacy of being a third world plaything of the Cold War, then either neglected or intervened in during the 90s and Oughts. I can’t control whether people complain about the States intervene militarily in South America or those same people then complain that the States didn’t intervene in other countries down there. And I’d hardly be a good contrarian if I copied the assholes in power.
Which is really too much of an explanation for why we had a Led Zeppelin cover band rocking out while Dr. Creeper flew around a small blimp with a red balloon and tossed down treats. It did make it a little hectic giving out gift baskets of some of the essentials people might need, like shampoo and toothpaste, but I think it worked out. Mostly. Gotta tell Creeper that t-shirt guns are appropriate; t-shirt howitzers are overkill. That guy will be fine once the nanites patch him up, but the car was totaled.
While they focused on that, I checked on the Telechamber progress. Creeper wasn’t happy, but he acquiesced over the objections of the scientists specifically studying transdimensional physics. I pulled rank, which is one advantage to being the dictator. And I can dic tators like it’s nobody’s business. They’re finding all kinds of odd hold-ups, though. Some of the guys tried to go ahead and lay a new foundation as soon as the old one was cleared off nearby roofs, but sugar seems to have gotten into the cement mixers. The darn stuff didn’t want to dry after that. They’ll have some problems with rats eating the wiring too, when they get around to that. Then I expect I’ll complain about them doing the same flimsy construction as last time once they’re about halfway done and force them to redo it.
I need time in the hopes I can come up with something to wiggle out of this. At the moment, it feels beyond me. In the past, anything I couldn’t kill by more conventional means was eaten or transformed by nanomachines, or I used a D-Bomb. Except this thing, Mr. Omega, is already outside the universe and has some ability to move things in and out. And nanomachines have their own weaknesses. Spinetingler was able to keep from being completely eaten by them, and I don’t want to rely on just the one weapon that’s failed to kill before when dealing with a guy so big he can crush me and the entire building I’m in with his pinky finger. That’s not getting into whatever else made people scared of him so much they stuck him between universes.
So even though I was mussing up my daughter’s hair while watching the show, I think she could tell I was worried. I didn’t used to be worried so much before I had loved ones. You know, people I might theoretically care for, in a hypothetical scenario where I had feelings like a person.
But, dear reader, do you know the good thing about being a supervillain tyrant? If you said “Doomsday weapons,” you are right! My guys practically expect me to ask them for toys to kill people on a huge scale. I just need to secretly convey to them a need for a weapon to kill one person who exists on a large scale. This is no time to rely on my usual level of subtlety, either.
I reached over and put my arm around Medusa, who was also watching this from atop the building with myself and the others. She put hers around me as well and pulled my head onto her shoulder. I smiled, which was just because she seemed to know who and what I am and accept me anyway, and let my fingers dance over her opposite shoulder. She giggled. Her smile began to fade as my fingers kept tapping away, three times quick, then three longer rubs, then three more quick taps.
She turned her head toward me and I kept my own smile fixed, moving my face in close to hers. We stayed close like that, my fingers drifting over her skin and through her hair, starting to tell the tale. I didn’t get all the way through it because of the stage pyro that went off. She jumped as it went off and I lost my place.
“Hey, where’s your phone?” I asked, trying to salvage the situation.
“Uh, right here,” Medusa said, pointing down between us, where she’d left it on the lip of the roof.
“Just making sure you don’t drop it from up here,” I said with a wink that also shielded me from the brightness of the lead guitarist’s flamethrower guitar going off. I turned to watch, setting one of my hands down. It just happened to touch her phone and begin to connect with it due to my homo machina biology. Venus looked to me, then noticed where my hand was and set hers on it, and on the phone.
With the medium of her cell phone between us, I was able to share the whole thing as I played back my memory, including my thoughts about making sure I betray Mr. Omega, my paranoia about him watching me, and the need to be secretive. I could feel her surprise, her calculation, and her understanding. Even some weird, fuzzy feeling. That might have been related to the greatness that was our guys starting their cover of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.
With Medusa brought in on this, my next step was to find a way to get Max in on this. As my only surviving friend I haven’t murdered, we have both a bond of trust and a knowledge of each other’s killtastic abilities that will significantly improve my chances of taking down Mr. Omega.
But how? That’s the thought that plagued me as I sat upon my throne. The porcelain one, that is. I find that the bathroom is the ideal place to do my thinking, in contrast to the study where I instead like to work.
He approached me as I headed back down to the kitchen. “Hey, Gecko. Sam told me about, ya know, that thing that happened.”
I cocked my head to the side. “That thing that happened?”
He nodded off to elsewhere. “Sam reads your blog. She knows it has a lot of sensitive information and spoilers, so she’s being discrete. She told me about the last couple of entries.”
I held up a finger. “First, how is she reading it?” Then a second, “Second, she didn’t say anything about it, has she? I know the early stuff’s kinda rough.”
Max held up a hand in a “so-so” gesture. “She keeps up with it, but she keeps complaining there isn’t more explicit gay sex or non-explicit gay sex. She wants to see you top me.”
“Hey, I’m having plenty of lesbian loving!” I yelled.
“Not with that attitude you aren’t!” Medusa called from elsewhere.
Max winced. “That’s not what she meant. She asked me to see if you could write a homoerotic love scene between as a guy again, and me.”
I shrugged. “I mean, I could write about that time…”
He waved it off. “Don’t give her the satisfaction. It was a wonderful night and next day, then another night, but I don’t want to lose what we have as friends.” He put his hand on my shoulder.
I pulled him into a hug and whispered, “Think that’ll do her?”
“It’ll have to, because you’re way happier as a woman,” he said. Aww. See, there’s a friend.
Well, it was easier letting Max find out than I thought, even though it means Sam is constantly peering over my shoulder and fantasizing about me being a lady in the streets and a man in the sheets. She’ll have a little less time since Max decided to travel back to the States to see about some goodies he left baking over there that might be of use.
That’s a good idea, too. I need all the weapons I can get, so it’s off to the Institute of Science. I pulled up the files in my head and scurried about, looking through the most menacing files. Like Project: Unspeakable. I pulled a crate out of storage and opened it to find Furbies. It turns out a supervillain created the annoying late 90s toy as a way to spy on people. Unfortunately, the learning program the Furbies already came with caused people to start being real cautious what they said around a creepy little puffball that can repeat what you say around it.
The second time around, I at least looked up a synopsis of the project. That eliminated a few more projects with meaner names than abilities, and instead I paid a visit to a storage room said to house equipment related to Operation Plague Rat. It was designed to spread disease that would hinder the NATO nations. I flicked on the lights in the room and found three stasis containers holding naked Jenny McCarthy clones. Huh. And here I thought she was just a gigantic fucking moron.
The idea did occur to me to see if Medusa wanted to activate one of them. Or all of them.
After that, I remembered that secret code names for evil projects are often a bit different. Like the Manhattan Project, Operation Paperclip, or water tanks. That last one is where the name “tank” comes from for the treaded, cannon-wielding vehicles of war. With that in mind, I settled on BEIGE123, the most plain and innocuous-looking of the files.
I found a lone researcher tucked away in a corner somewhere, adjusting a piece of circuitry under a microscope. He jumped when I entered the room. “Lao, did you finally remember I was back here?”
“No clue, I’m Empress Gecko,” I told him.
The man jumped up and bowed deeply. “My Empress! Nobody informed me you would be visiting.”
“At ease, smart dude. What do I call you?”
“Smart dude’s fine, i-if you want. Otherwise, I’m Chu,” he straightened up, having broken out in an insta-sweat while bowing.
“Ok, Chu. I’m taking a look through some files, looking for any super weapons I think are fun, and whatever you’re doing has the absolute most boring name ever thought up in the name of science since John W. Dildo thought a device he intended to please women. But enough about the invention of the electric dishwasher. What is it you’re working on here?” I looked down at the circuit and the other pieces on his desk.
“Wha-well,” he turned, “Most of the team are thinking of ways to use transdimensional tech for travel and infiltration within the same universe. It’s useful, very useful, very, very useful, but I thought of other ways we could use it. First, I theorized we could use smaller breaches targeting stars to use their radiation and heat in a combat capacity. If the breach on our side can function like a portal that expels solar plasma directionally, it can be a powerful tool.”
“That’d take a heck of a lot of power,” I said, thinking how awesome it’d be to open up my hand and shoot a tiny piece of a sun at someone. This was something I could work with, but the power cores for the Telechamber were prohibitively large and unwieldy. This wasn’t the kind of weapon I’d be able to fit on my suit. “How could you lug a suit around to do all this?”
“You wouldn’t have to,” he said, grinning. He reached around and pulled up a set of schematics to show me. “I think I’m close to a breakthrough on miniaturizing the transceiver for use by a single person. That is the hard part, because power is as simple as opening a portal to a star to use it as the world’s biggest nuclear reactor. Then, more breaches can be used to send the electricity wherever you need it. It’s completely self-sustaining once the initial energy investment is met.”
“Oh Chu,” I said, putting all four hands on his shoulders, then pulled him into a hug. “You and I are going to blow up so much shit together.”
“Gecko, let me in!” Medusa said, banging away at my door. I’d locked myself in my study, hanging upside down while my consciousness raced through computer systems to collaborte with my science guys and steal info from around the world. The Fluidics hadn’t done anything yet. Yet.
Normally, the solution I’d resort to is a D-Bomb. Oops, looks like there’s no guarantees that’ll keep working, and what the brainiacs said makes me think I should ease off on those. Considering we’ve got a couple of permanent holes to other dimensions around this world, they seem to have a point. That’s really going to fuck up that contract I had to drill Uranus while providing things like food and consumer products. That’s a miner concern at the moment.
I was trying to ignore Medusa while I dealt with bigger, deadlier concerns, including the aftermath of the Telechamber explosion. She didn’t want to let a sturdy door get in her way, though. I heard it rattle from an impact, then dear Medusa’s voice a she yelled “Fuck that hurt!” I should have installed a window with the words “In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass” on it.
“There’s a door knob!” I called to her, unlocking it remotely with an audible click. I nearly locked it back just before she could open it.
“You are really worried about this,” Medusa said as she opened the door. I couldn’t really see her as I’d put a blindfold over my head to help me concentrate
“I’m surprised you aren’t,” I answered.
“There are a lot of heroes who will help fight the big stuff,” she said. “I have to trust in them if I’m going to do what I do now. You should trust that you have people who will fight for you if they come for revenge.”
That caused me to pause for a moment. “Well, normally people don’t. They’re more than happy to see me die. That’s one of the downsides of my Machiavellian, fear-based respect. And on top of that, if they come for me, I need to make sure a lot of other people don’t get caught in the crossfire. The Fluidics won’t care who they have to go through. I got some ideas for things to do, but this kind of shit is always a gamble. There’s always a chance they’ll move faster, or have some advantage I can’t overcome, or that they’ll simply know stuff I can’t know.”
“I get that you’re used to that, but you’re not alone. What can we do to help?” Medusa asked.
“Yeah, you got friends in low places,” I heard Max say from further, probably around the door.
“Not like you can do much about the remains of an alien fleet lowering themselves slowly into the atmosphere,” I responded, watching that happen over various feeds.
Sam spoke up, “They may not want to kill you. You should be open to the possibility of giving people a second chance.”
“Yeah, that’s why you have a girlfriend,” Holly added.
“True, I gave her a second chance after all the times she tried to thwart my plans, but I don’t think we can risk that kind of trust for murderous aliens who want to take over the world. Or at least, I can’t as an Empress,” I said, which attracted snorts for some reason.
After a second that I was using to check data on the island’s forcefield, Max decided to expand on this whole thing, “You are a murderer from another universe who once took over the world. You even killed The Good Doctor, who was our friend.”
“That’s not the same,” I said.
“I remember when you made stupid jokes about assuming gender even though you and Max’s sister are, ya know…” Sam said.
“Remember when you jumped up and tanked a rocket for a little girl you took in as your daughter?” said Holly.
I didn’t quite know what to say, so I tried to keep looking things over. I had ideas about the island’s shield, but it’d be dangerous to pull off with people around and it wouldn’t really come up unless the aliens came at me with their ships. I figured I could repurpose the nanomachines in the waters to handle a ground invasion, though.
A caress of my cheek drew me back out of those thoughts, and Medusa told me, “If nobody trusted you, you wouldn’t be here to argue about protecting people you feel responsible toward, or smuggling people out of concentration camps to safety. Does that sound like someone who deserves to die?”
“That’s not the whole story and you know it,” I said.
“Yeah, but what you think is justice is sometimes revenge and paranoia. The Academy and too many heroes get confused about that, and I’m tired of seeing that. If you want to be no better than the heroes, though…” Damn, this is what I get for dating someone with a sense of morality.
“I’m still going to plan on how best to kill them,” I said.
“You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t,” Sam said. “Also, can you put on some clothes.”
“Hey, I’m not the one who barged into my private study. Besides, it’s not anything you haven’t already seen.”
“We need to talk about all the public nudity, while you’re at it,” Medusa said. “It’s making everyone uncomfortable that you don’t wear a hair net when you cook.”
You miss one Brazilian…
Just because my family doesn’t want me committing preemptive strikes or walking around with no panties on taco night doesn’t mean I stopped thinking of how to take the Fluidics out the second they step out of line. It didn’t hurt they only had a handful of ships, and those didn’t look good. Pieces were missing or blackened with burns. I could take them, it’s just a matter of how many casualties they cause before I send them on to another great beyond.
They didn’t take long to make an announcement, breaking through on every TV and radio channel out there, even the smutty ones. I was watching a guy in handcuffs say, “Punish me, daddy,” to someone wearing all black, when suddenly my attempt to learn how that murder trial turned out was interrupted by TV snow. It began to shift as a digitally simulated voice began to speak. “You call us the Fluidics. We came to conquer. You banished us to another dimension.”
I knew where this was going, or so I thought.
“In the space between universes, there is a greater threat. It called itself the end. Extinction. It did not kill us slowly. An anomaly allowed it to escape to the universe it had drawn closer to. We found ourselves here, again. That is why-”
That feed cut off. I immediately cut back to my bootleg view of their ships from all the angles. Every country on Earth’s got eyes on these guys, and I’m tapped into as many independent sources as I can. Cameras on the ground, satellites, drones; everything.
The sky split the fuck open. I can’t express what the fuck that looks like, but I’ll try. Imagine the sky, and then it’s pushed apart like it was wallpaper. Instead of seeing anything on the other side, even a black void, you just see a red hand and wrist hanging in the air. Its fingers were curled around the Fluidic ships. It squeezed, then pulled back into the sky, leaving little scraps of metal to fall to the ground while it and the ships disappeared.
That wasn’t the end of my unpleasant interruptions, though. Once again, my view of things was hijacked. It was just a face, as generic and hairless as human faces come, and not even in color. “Hello again, Psychopomp Gecko.”
“Is this going out for everyone?” I asked, wondering if this thing would answer.
“No, this is between the two of us. Do you recall who I am?” it asked.
I thought it over, glad for my facial recognition software. “Mr. Omega. You wouldn’t happen to be the guy those Fluidics were talking about, are you?”
The face grinned. “I promise, I come in peace. I defeated the Fluidics for you, did I not?”
“You scared the shit out of a lot of people while you did that, and I still know so little about you.”
“I have offered to help you once, and defeated your enemies for you another time. I am a powerful and grateful friend.”
“What about that Dusk Club you claim to be part of? I thought you were already defending the Earth?”
“I was banished from the universe long ago for the crime of having ambition. I didn’t want to stay in my place, so I was banished by those jealous of the power I tapped into. So great was their jealousy, they forced even my closest allies to forget me. I nearly went mad alone in the aether, but I found the power to watch and, eventually, the power to make myself heard. I owe you a debt of gratitude for weakening the veil between worlds. Continue to do so, and you will have a place of honor and protection.”
I know this pitch. This is not a good pitch. He’s basically asking me to betray the world, much like the invaders from Uranus did, in exchange for being one of the slightly higher-placed servants. Everything that’s come through might have even been his doing, which explain why so many of them were threats to me. Normally, I’m disinclined to accept anything like this, but I also just saw a giant hand rend the universe to grab a fleet of spaceships and pull them out of our universe. This is a heck of a power imbalance I’m on the wrong side of. So that left me with an important question.
“And if I don’t, you’ll reach that big red hand right up my ass and pull my spinal column into the universe divide, right?”
“Do not be so crude. There are so many ways I could punish my enemies, or our enemies. Nobody needs to know it was you, Psychopomp. Not your loved ones, not your rivals. Wouldn’t you like to have a god on your side? A true one, not the petty pretenders.”
“In some ways, it feels like I already have one. I think I need to speak with my people about our deal with the Uranuses in that other dimension. I have people over there and important resources to trade with them. Luckily, the power cores weren’t breached.”
“Hmm,” is all Mr. Omega said, a toothless smile stretching his face.
I don’t know how I’m going to pull this one off, but it looks like I get to try and betray an extradimensional being that can literally squash me like a bug. Ah, how I long for the days when I kicked Cthulhu’s ass off my island.
Oh, and for added bonus, I have to do all this without tipping off the entity watching me. Kinda wish I was telepathic, now.
My private pit of darkness and relaxation was interrupted by a blast of light from the door opening. My eyes automatically adjusted to keep it from hurting my sight, allowing me to pick out the curves of Medusa, my renamed nemesis. “You’ve walked right into my trap!” I told her, pointing right at her.
She smirked as she turned on the lights to my study and shut the door behind her. “It’s not much of a trap when you’re stuck in that back stretcher.”
True. She looked upside down to me, but that had to do with me being held by my ankles from one of those things that flips you upside down and helps you stretch out your back. “I had a headache and I thought it’d help.”
Truth was, it did more than just help with headaches. I’ve made improvements to my physiology many times over the years and I’m beginning to realize I’ve neglected a few important parts of the body that don’t normally see a lot of improvement. My cartilage isn’t meant for the kinds of impacts I take regularly. I’ve got some bio guys at the Institute working on some formulations to help pad my body better. In the meantime, I decompress. And try to digest the data the brainboys gave me. “I asked them to walk me through how they figured the Telechamber was causing problems and they did. I feel like I gave birth to a quantum physicist through the center of my forehead.”
“Were they right?” she asked, walking up beside me. She bent down to kiss me, which eased my pain quite a bit too.
I shrugged, still upside down. “I don’t know. It’s over my head. We’ll have to wait longer to really tell, because more of these crossovers are bound to come to light as more people realize what’s going on. They’re not sure what might drift in from the Sargasso.”
“The what now?” she asked, settling into a chair in front of me and crossing her legs.
“The Sargasso. It’s short for Super-Sargasso Sea. This guy named Fort presented it as an idea he didn’t actually believe in to account for lost things. He presented it as another dimension that lost things somehow slip into. The guy wasn’t very highly thought of in his time, but he talked a lot about weird concepts that don’t match up with conventional science. Unfortunately for all the scientists who prefer a nice, orderly world, neither do superhumans. I got a lecture from an evolutionary biologist earlier today insisting that there’s no way my species of human can exist because evolution doesn’t work like that.”
“You make an awful mess of everything,” Medusa said with a smile.
I crossed both sets of arms. “If the entire world can be so moved by one jackass, then it’s a lot more fragile than they’d all like to think. Speaking of jackasses making a mess of things, how’d your trip go?”
“ICE missed a lot of quotas and I beat the crap out of some border patrollers who need a better hobby,” she said. “It’s a lot of work being a criminal.”
I threw up, er, down my hands. “Finally you get it! You wouldn’t believe all the work we put into this stuff, just for the heroes to show up at the last minute and wreck things. You have any of those?”
“No. I knew the government had some heroes, but they freaked out and started rushing to Miami and Washington. Do you know anything about that, Little Miss Assassin?” She gave me an exaggerated questioning look to make it perfectly clear she knew I was responsible.
“All I know is that if being criminal makes you tired, you should toss those clothes away and we’ll go on crime spree.” I winked at her. She laughed and stood up, tossing her mask aside, walking to the door, turning the lights off… and then leaving the room with me there hanging upside down still.
It wasn’t all fun, games, and good feelings around the house, though.I don’t just mean the unflattering pictures of me on the news for having assassinated the once and never again President.
But, hey, things were great. The Telechamber was shut down. There wouldn’t be any more of these things popping in to ruin my day. It wasn’t even all bad, if the new Tupac concert is anything to go by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed we didn’t get Kurt Cobain back, but you can’t hold Kurt Cobain. He goes where he’s needed.
Annoyingly, it was a late midnight dinner when I got the call about a weird big arrival. A passenger liner had arrived, one of the ones bearing some of our newest citizens. They received their passports and visas special thanks to my trusty agents in the United States. For some damn reason, ICE nabbed them thinking they were illegal immigrants from Central and South America. Don’t know what that’s about, but my Foreign Service, in full cooperation with my Intel agents, were diligently plucking them out of camps and prisoner convoys, usually aiming to keep families together.
Finding room, food, and clothing for them is a little tougher, but I’m sure my guys will manage a whole lot better than shoving hundreds of them in a cage.
Well, it seemed to be going well, except this one came back a bit… dead. The ship drifted in close without responding, so my Deep One marines boarded it. They found a fuckton of bodies. I usually like people dead, but I specifically ordered these ones to be breathing and mostly intact, so that caused a stir. They managed to find a survivor, an older ship’s hand who knew some good spaces to shove himself into to protect himself.
According to the report from our debriefers: “There was a passenger that stayed covered, until he didn’t. His skin was black as midnight and slick. His clothes obscured what he looked like and he never came out for meals or showers. He managed to hide among the refugees, until he didn’t. The first sign was a family torn apart. Then an ensign went missing. We started a search, and that’s when he stopped pretending. He killed them all, and neither bullet nor blade stopped him. The one to put up the best fight was the Agent onboard. I saw them fighting while I was fleeing. The Agent was tasing him and going for a fire extinguisher. I stopped and almost helped, but the Midnight Man recovered and pulled the Agent back into his arms at the last second. I can still hear the defiant scream.”
So… that’s a setback. I have my people on alert, though. Pagan sent me a message, another dark file asking, “Stop the refugees?”
“No,” I sent along. Because, sure, you can occasionally get some freaky super killer among any group of people, even refugees. The refugees clearly aren’t this guy’s friends either, and I know my people can handle the guy. If it comes down to it, I’ll take his heart out of his chest and pop it in a blender myself. So the patrols went out with some idea of what to do.
They’re pretty sure they found evidence he came ashore. There was a warehouse area near the docks full of consumer electronics that “fell off a truck” somewhere in the middle of being shipped from Japan to the Americas. Being the kindly people we are, we took in these lost electronics and figured we’d hold onto them until their rightful owners came looking. We might even send them off with some people to help find their rightful owners, so long as they present some ID in the form of currency.
We’re a generous people.
Security didn’t know what to call this break-in until they’d been briefed about Midnight Man. I snuck a peek at the detective’s notes, and he pointed out, “It isn’t the superhero menace. He takes from the government. It isn’t the thieves. They pay their cut for protection. It isn’t the people, because they already have these.” Among the unusual items found was a wet and bloody sweatshirt with bullet holes and tears in it.
The mystery of what he needed with flatscreen TVs and wireless phone chargers would soon be solved. I was sleeping when the power plant was attacked, but I had video off drones and helmet cams. The first sign of a dead body, they were all deployed. If he went to shut it down or send the nuclear core into meltdown, he didn’t manage it. By the time the video started, a jet black man, not African, fucking black, was punching a Security officer through a wall. His t-shirt and sweatpants were riddled with burns and holes from the laser pistols the Security guys were using.
I stopped it and zoomed in as much as possible to catch a glimpse as he took a shot through the head. It didn’t stop him… but it did go through and burn the wall behind him.
Bullets didn’t do much either, so my guys switched to grenades. Why do my police have such ready access to grenades? That’s not rhetorical. I actually sent that message along to the head of Security, because while the explosives did manage to drive off Midnight Man, they also blew some shit up inside the nuclear power plant. That’s generally not a place I want explosions.
I studied that footage quite a bit. Even adjusting for different skin tones, Midnight Man’s face didn’t show up on any facial recognition. We couldn’t find any DNA, blood, skin flakes, or even loose strands of hair. If he even had had hair. He either had a misshapen skull or an obsidian hairdo. No matter what, this guy didn’t show up in any records or seemingly on any cameras whenever he was moving around the city. I figured that meant he traveled by sewer system, so it should be easy to take him down with nanites. Even if he didn’t, the water around here is inundated with regenerative nanomachines that I can order to start eating him the moment I can give the ordr
I figured we had another hero on our hands. I thought I’d have a little fun taking him on personally.
Then I got word that the Telechamber was firing up from Creeper. “It’s not just on. We’re detecting an energy surge of unprecedented proportions. It’s using more power from its own power core, and it has tapped into the nuclear plant!”
I brought up the nuclear plant. “We need a shutdown or something. We need to stifle power to the Telechamber.”
The plant manager didn’t sound calm. “Empress, we don’t know what’s going on. We detected an unusual drain. The controls aren’t responding. We will attempt an emergency shutdown.”
By now, I’d rushed into my armor and was leaping out into the city toward the Telechamber complex, which glowed a blinding white light all around it. I sent an alert to all Security and Military to evacuate the Telechamber area of all civilians, while also sending out a general evacuation order myself. I heard the plant manager yelling in my ear, “Empress, it’s not responding!”
And then a column of white light soared into the sky toward the sun. The Telechamber complex exploded, throwing up dust, flattening the adjacent buildings, and tossing pieces of the Telechamber building all over the place. But I was a bit slow to respond to that because the sky had gone pretty dark.
There, up in the sky, wasn’t a cloud, wasn’t an eclipse. It was a small fleet of alien spacecraft in high orbit. I knew them from a couple years back, when they had more ships. I’m the reason they’re down to so few. The Fluidics are back. Seems just about everything I tossed a D-Bomb at is coming back to bite me in my shiny fleshy ass.
I returned to Ricca glad to know that the colonies we had over there weren’t in too bad of shape. The rest of the tour didn’t feature any more trouble from whatever we’d been dealing with. As an added bonus, I found out I could just teleport all my problems to the moon. That’s… something. It actually feels kinda disappointing. Takes a lot of drama out of the situation. Feels like I don’t even need to fight. The military isn’t even needed. Hell, why bother with missiles and drones?
If it was really that easy, I also have to wonder why the people over in that other dimension didn’t do it so much? They could have teleported the island of Ricca into deep space and saved themselves a lot of trouble.
Something to ponder. I know we’re still studying the Telechamber. They haven’t reported it if it had some sort of negative effect on anything, but I really shouldn’t hope for one. It feels too easy, but making things easier is the point of progress.
I might as well whine about elevators making it less noteworthy if someone can climb stairs really quick. The other way around, though, I don’t like the idea of a future where anybody with an elevator can drop it on my head the instant I have an issue with them. This kind of power shouldn’t be in the hands of just anyone, because people are untrustworthy, short-sighted, stupid, and blinded by idealogies. Plus, most of them hate me. That’s a really good reason to make sure this kind of technology doesn’t get out.
I’ve had other things to worry about. First, the news came in from Toyotomi, who has talked with the old people and the palace staff of the Bronze City. They had no idea who this Eld person was. “The only child they knew King Garth to have was Elda,” Toyotomi told me over a phone call. “They concede Eld could have been a bastard.”
“I’ll say. Guy totally stole my thunder in that arena,” I answered.
“The King wasn’t known to have a mistress. Should I continue my inquiries into this matter?” he asked.
“Nah, you’ve done enough work on this. Let me know if the situation changes. There may be more of these weird visitations,” I said.
In my head, I scrolled through a list of incidents collected for me by the Intel people. Some of them could be nothing, just odd stories online that can’t be verified. It’s hard to say that about a train that appeared and crashed into the exact same train heading the opposite direction. After trying to figure out what time it would have had to leave the last stop based on its speed and pulling records, they had to conclude an entire train somehow appeared out of nowhere. On top of that, an octogenarian Elvis Presley showed up in a casino in Vegas, claiming he had a show scheduled.
Still things that could be considered part of this weird, weird world, I suppose. Then the White House reappeared and the same President I thought I’d dealt with turned out to still be alive. I’d have believed it was just a different version of the same asshole, but it wasn’t just him. It was the whole White House and all of the people in it. I’d be worried about some other enemies I tossed away coming back, but at least I threw Mot into the sun. If he can somehow survive that long enough to reappear, then he might just deserve to win.
That pretty much settles it. We’re not talking the undead or time travel. This is interdimensional mess. Lucky me, I have some of the best scientists around when it comes to the multiverse and traveling between universes within it. If there’s anybody who can figure out some sort of answer for why people from other dimensions are suddenly appearing, it would be them.
I had something to take care of while they dealt with that. I had a target to go after again.
After giving a press conference where he talked about how lucky he was to have been in the White House when it came back, the President of the United States left for a vacation. That worked out for me, I guess. It would have been tougher to get to him in the White House, though he really should have stayed in Washington to work out issues surrounding the succession of the government and the fighting that’s gone on. Nope. Instead of staying around the capital during a crisis, he went off to Florida.
The President owns a hotel and golf course there. It used to be his favorite place to spend time before I sent him on an extended stay out of town. It’s probably a thousand times better than the state the White House has to be in, not even having electrical power, but it’s also not a secure location where he can easily meet with members of the other branches of government to resolve the problem of who is in control of the nation. Also, I have a lot less information on the interior of the White House than I do that hotel.
The Telechamber dropped me off on the roof. A couple of men were standing there in black suits. One went to call it in with his wrist radio while the other went for a gun. He was fast, too. I grabbed the one calling it and yanked his wrist away from his mouth. I jabbed my other hand at his head. One finger in each eye and the thumb in his mouth. A shot rang out from his partner that actually hurt, even through the armor. It didn’t penetrate, but this wasn’t your average pistol. I tore the one guy’s head off and tossed it like a bowling ball at the one with the gun, who fired again. That shot gave me a headache and had me seeing stars. When I lowered my head from looking up at the night sky, I saw the bowling ball had hit him hard enough to stumble him. I rushed him, grabbed his gun hand, and tore the arm off. Then I spun and hit him in the side hard enough to launch him off the top of the building to his screaming death below.
Between the gunshots and the dead body on the pavement below, I knew I’d lost the element of surprise. I also knew where the President’s penthouse was: one floor down. I put on a song as I charged up my armor’s gauntlets, a nice little choir hymn called “Turn Down For What”. When the gauntlets were glowing nice and bright, I jumped up and made sure to land fists first on the ceiling. It collapsed inward and I landed in a bedroom full of gold leaf on everything except the four poster bed on which a tubby orange guy had been railing a woman wearing a Barack Obama mask in the ass.
He was turned to me as I stood up, insulation and drywall dust falling off my armor. “Who are you?” he asked.
I stalked over to him. Behind me, several more Secret Service agents rushed into the room. One shot some sort of grappling hook at me. I reached back and snatched it out of the air with one arm that began to tense and as an electrical current tried to zap me. Rather than turn my pubic hair into an afro, that fist began to glow as it absorbed and repurposed the electrical energy. I yanked him toward me, then punched right through his chest, pulping a good chunk of the man’s torso.
Another ran up with a bulky metal sleeve over his arm. I tossed the body of his friend on him and turned back to the man I came for in the first place while the others pulled a variety of firearms. The President had managed to slide out of the woman he had, who couldn’t quite extricate herself from the handcuffs keeping her trapped on the bed. He ran… well, no, he didn’t run. He hobbled toward the window where another Secret Service agent waited with a jetpack.
I swiped with one arm, extending the energy whip hidden on the underside of that arm. The razor-thin flexible blade wrapped around her arm. I pulled and jumped toward her. The whip couldn’t pull me to her because of how easily it cut through the limb, spurting blood all over the place. Lightning stroked my armor from behind, so I swung the whip around in a wide arc. The agents behind me took cover.
The President latched onto the wounded agent. I pulled him off and handed her the body of a rubber chicken. Tearing the head off, I kicked her out the window, holding the President over the edge enough so he could see the explosion far below us.
“Don’t kill me. I can make you famous and rich!” he pleaded.
“I don’t care,” I told him.
“This is political, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter,” he whined. “They did everything I wanted without me. You can’t stop it by killing me.”
“Let him go and we promise leniency!” called the agents behind me.
I shrugged. “I’ll let you go, but only if you spill your guts.”
“Whatever you want,” the President assured me.
I withdrew the whip back underneath one arm. Then I popped the blade out from under my lower right and eased sliced the man’s belly. The blade snapped back into place under my forearm before I reached in and grabbed hold of intestine. I held tight to it while kicking him out of the window, too. I had plenty of time to tie it down to the leg of a cushy padded chair. I stepped back as it reached the end and the chair was pulled against the window. Gravity wasn’t for the weak, though, and the flesh of that man was weaker than the chair it was tied to. He didn’t make a pretty sight when he was all unrolled, but I wasn’t there for that.
I disappeared in a flash of light and stepped back out into the Telechamber. I was immediately approached by Dr. Creeper. He didn’t look happy. “Mein Empress, I have distressing news about what we believe to be the cause of the multiple dimensional infractions occurring worldwide.”
“And you came yourself?” I asked. Looking around, I saw the whole place was less active than normal. It looked like nothing but arrivals, with no outgoing ports in the circular room with multiple offshoot chambers.
“The doctors believed you would be angry. They believe the cause is this place, the Telechamber. Ve are destroying the barriers between our universe and the space between, attracting any number of lost things and beings. Ve don’t know vhat vill happen to the vorld itself if we continue.”