Baron Samedi had a great point about figuring out what I want. I don’t have a lot of ambitions that I’m aware of. I want to sit around and have a family. Get a big belly. Keep using my godly powers to suppress the urge to vomit in the morning. But, you know, I get those urges. Urges like taking Morgan up on her offer, or wanting to steal Dame’s body. Wanting to remake the world in my image, subservient to me, even a little bit.
I figured it might be worth it to explore things a bit. Explore me and some of these powers. Maybe get some of my lingering darkness out of the way, or figure out the balance. I don’t know, but that’s the point of this, figuring this out. Will I be god or monster?
I decided to teleport on over to the alternate Earth through the Empyreal City portal, the one where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are good. I had made the acquaintance of their version of Venus, Medusa. Then the heroic version I knew swapped places, sent her back to the other dimension, but she kept the name. She wanted a chance to be more than what the Master Academy had made her, be her own person, even if that wasn’t the squeaky clean hero they wanted her to be. She figured out what she wanted.
This other Earth was… something. My omniscience went to work, giving me an idea what I was looking at. Master Academy was training the masters of Earth. They were in the midst of a pandemic, much like our Earth had been before I solved that whole problem. They still had it. A two-year pandemic with no sign of slowing down because an awful lot of jackasses are siding with the virus. I’m remembering why I felt humanity was worth wiping out. I guess I should keep some perspective. It’s not all of them.
I floated there, above their version of Empyreal City, trying to feel out the situation, seeing if there was any of myself in it. I was the only version to appear on that Earth. It seemed worse off without me there. Sure, others had stepped up and fought some of the same threats as me. Some of those threats never appeared in the first place because I dragged them there.
Wish my omniscience gave me a better idea what I expected to even find, but it’s at the level where I have to know that part myself. Instead, I just got a bald and bespectacled Captain Lightning flying at me. Why even care about him?
I hopped Earths again. And again. It was a long time before I found an alternate version of myself.
This other Psycho Gecko had appeared in his dimension and, after some circumstances, decided to become a lizard person. Then he began converting other people to lizard personhood and is currently trying to conquer the world. I decided to stop by his center of operations in Guatemala. “Hello!”
“Oh shit, the mushrooms just started working!” he declared. His armor was large, more like a very small walker, but with a long lizard neck and head stretching out, and spikes out of the top. Nearby stood a pair of lizard women in casual Korean dress. Their heads were wider, but the shape of their eyes made them look more like geckos. They’d started out as Korean twins, apparently.
“No, actually, I’m just a ‘you’ from another dimension,” I told him.
“Oh, right, well in that case…” he turned away, but I noticed the armor shift. He leaned into the lizard motif by adding elements of traditional camouflage along with holograms that stick much closer to him. I still caught the spiked fist of the armor where he tried to jam it through my belly.
“Listen, I’m just here to ask a question or two, that’s all,” I explained, letting him go. I let the next attempt at a blow pass harmlessly through me using this neat trick I picked up about reality and physics. “But if that’s going to be a problem, I’ll just whip out my omniscience.”
That caused the Korean lizard twins to gasp while everything stopped from my perspective.
This Gecko didn’t have Venus or Forcelight to worry about. As a result, he got super bored at one point and decided to go beat up someone on a forum that pointed out that he’s named “Gecko” but doesn’t really make a motif out of it. Then he modified his nanomachines to enhance himself physically with reptilian features, before deciding later it would be a pretty neat way to help humanity ditch racial issues and some diseases.
I guess there’s a point there, but still based on responding to people and a misplaced desire to help people.
“Interesting,” I said as time returned.
“What?” he asked.
“You know, this might actually be helping me better understand myself and a lot of self-hate after all. Thank you.”
And I was gone. I suppose a better person with god-like powers would have done something to stop that Gecko and help protect that world. I’m just not that good of a person. And unlike that Gecko, I don’t hate myself enough to instantly try to kill myself the moment a second me shows up.
Rather than just meet myself and declare my problems solved, I wanted to visit these other Geckos in other dimensions. Plenty were dead. A lot, actually, especially in dimensions where events played out close to how they did for me. It made me feel better about the idea that had popped up before that my survival was solely due to temporal stuff or prophecies of the future. The corpses I left behind didn’t gift me with insight.
Instead, they left me dark and wanting to take advantage. I could pluck these alternates out of these dimensions and use them if I wanted. My own teams of alternative heroes and villains to do my bidding and help me turn my world and others into my own playground. Anyone objects, wipe their memory. Why settle on just this fun double marriage to Venus and Medusa? Take Blacklight up on her offer. Take Dame’s body like I’ve wanted to for so long. Start some sort of breeding program among the various supers I know to see if one of them can have my perfect girlfriend or perfect body to possess or even just to see what happens?
Maybe Samedi knew that’s what I would find out there. Gods, or entities as powerful as I now was, don’t have a lot of ambitions because they can do whatever they really want to do. That just leaves all the ways they can play with the world, and they have the power to get away with it. Or they’re supposed to.
That’s what went through my mind as I stared out at a ruined Earth where a Psycho Gecko took over as ruler using nanomachines and the heroes and governments teamed up to fire every nuclear weapon and doomsday device they could manage at once. The EMP effect in the high atmosphere toasted many of the nanites. Looks like a nova bomb toasted me. The survivors, down to two billion people, had to navigate broken civilization, radiation, bioweapons, monsters, and roaming nanomachine streams.
I was deciding whether to finish them off when an important meeting came up back in the home dimension. The one I call home now, I mean. Nothing so desperate or dramatic as finishing off a world. Really, meeting with Reindeer was still in the spirit of this same exercise with dimension-hopping.
I had let the weredeer inside stay outside since the last full moon. Let her live her own life, do things her own way. Along the lines of my own worthless, boring angst over what to do with my life, she deserved better than this half-life. So when she called out to me, I answered. I owed her. She’s me, too. The me that embraced those stupid, silly urges to help people.
She was standing on a beach, down on the Gulf Coast. It was a cold morning on the clear, white sandy beach, with the waves lapping up. Reindeer stood a little close to the water and hovered up to avoid the lapping of the salty water.
“Hey there, hero,” I said. I let my Unicorn Goddess appearance fade away, wrapping my wings around me to form my Gecko armor, the horn melting into a helmet.
“Hey there, villain,” Reindeer said. She turned, antlers briefly glowing in the sunlight. “Care for a swim?”
“A bit cold for it,” I noted. She laughed. I could boil these oceans away with a thought.
“You made up your mind. What were you thinking?” I asked what was basically me if I woke up as a half-human, half-reindeer. To some of my loved ones, she was just a copy. An alternate. Not the real me.
“You weren’t spying on me?” Reindeer asked. “I know you’re selective with your omniscience, but you weren’t curious.”
I shrugged. “I guess that’s an advantage to my chill, unambitious attitude.”
“I don’t know about chill. Reactive. Desperate when you need to be. Willing to go harder than anyone else. Audacious.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been aimed at the wrong thing. Killed the wrong people to get respect from even worse people,” I admitted.
“Dug yourself in because we were sure there was no going back, and got scared of ever making the effort.” Reindeer could have kept going but she stopped there. There was a pause for a few seconds, because we like drama and I let her have it. “I don’t want to go back to what we were before. You kept saying you weren’t someone’s weapon. We aren’t a weapon. And I’m going to prove it when we merge.”
There was something about that word that didn’t feel the same as just going back into me and ending the weredeer business. “Not subsumed, but you and me.”
She smiled at me without showing teeth. “We’re still the same person. You want to do something really fucking audacious? Something that’ll really throw them all off-guard?”
I said I’d respect what she wanted to do and I’m game if she is. “Let’s do this then.” I held my arms out, floating in the air as if waiting for a flying hug.
Reindeer turned to me and mimicked the gesture. “Let’s go then.”
I used my powers to merge us. She was my personality, the one with the courage of anonymity to embrace that she wanted to help people and drop grudges and excuses from the past. Physically, my unicorn horn returned and remained the one horn, but splitting a second branch off near the top, reminiscent of an antler. I ended up a bit hairier than before, but in tasteful ways that resembled a 70s porn star, with longer hair and tufts of fur at my wrist and ankles. My feet merged into hooves. As I hinted at before, the pubes got a bit out of control, but I trimmed that to a heart shape fairly quick, the first thing I did afterward.
The second was to return to that damaged, destroyed Earth I’d just been at, wrecked dealing with me.
I swept away the radiation, the unleashed diseases, and the monsters. I repurposed the nanomachines to heal and repair the world instead.
I don’t want to be an empress. I don’t want to rule or conquer. I know that much now.
And then there was one. One deity-destroying individual left, summoned by the downloaded brain of a speedster who hated me. And one nineteen year old who constantly wants me inside them. I have Godkiller to worry about, and instead I have Morgan to worry about. It’s hard to feel bad about it, because Morgan’s kind of adorable and because they actually channeled me for some help in a fight. Might have even been some climactic battle.
I was basically building a giant round armored ball with layers of the most powerful naturally and unnaturally-occurring alloys possible. The first guy tanked a solar flare, and not the useless one from the Dragon Ball series. Next thing I know, I’m in a train car that’s had its roof ripped off, helping shield a bunch of people from a gout of fire. Once it died away and the smoke was whisked out by the wind from the moving train, I could make out the Western dragon flying over us on the train. The glimmering-scaled beast flapped its wings and rose higher into the air, bringing a large pair of revolvers to bear. It inhaled a drag from the cigarette in its maw and blew a smoke ring, staring at us with a bloodthirsty gaze from beneath its mighty cowboy hat. “Alright, amigos. I’ll be takin’ that gold shipment now.”
“What’s going on?” I asked, standing next to Morgan. Known as Axinomancer when they’re acting as a hero, they held their axe aloft, using it as a focus to create the shield using my power.
“We’re trying to stop the Scaly Kid from stealing a trainful of gold!” Axinomancer said.
I pointed up at the dragon, who was busy using its tail and guns to fend off more of the crew. “Just a kid,eh? You know you have more than enough power right now to take down a dragon.”
“I need to keep people safe,” they told me.
I rolled my eyes and snapped my fingers. Axinomancer’s magic axe grew. “Take a swing at it.”
“It won’t reach!” they said, then swung anyway. A purple crescent matching the curve of the blade flew through the air and took off an ear, causing the Scaly Kid to lose his hat. The dragon roared and took off high into the sky.
“I think we did it!” Deathless growled. He seemed as happy as something that looked like a ravenous rotting corpse in shackles could.
A cheer went up, then we heard a large booming gunshot. Then the intercom came on. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your conductor speaking…. uh…. first, I want to thank all of you for riding with us today. We value your decision to ride the rails with us. Second, uh… cut us off at the pass. I always wanted to say that, but uh… yeah, we’re going to plunge to our doom in a minute and there’s nothing that can stop us, so…. uh…. yeah… if you could just pray to whatever gods are listening, that would be great. We enjoyed having you, please ride again.”
Morgan looked to me. “Please?”
“Weakest prayer ever,” I told them, then patted them on the head. I disappeared from the train car and reappeared trying to see what was going on. The Scaly Kid was gone, retreating through the atmosphere to his hoard. We were coming up on a pass, the train’s brakes squealing as the crew tried in vain to avoid the smoking gap dripping with melted steel. Yeah, easy stuff, I just created a replacement portion of track there. The passengers made it through ok, with a new announcement from the conductor.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have been saved. If you look out the northern side of your car, that is the right side, you’ll see a gigantic unicorn, the form of our lord and savior, the Unicorn Goddess. Suck it, Jesus, you waffler.”
It’s nice to get recognition. I popped back into the interior next to Axinomancer to have them wrap their arms around me and kissed me. I mean, I’m attracted to them, true. I just maybe should have focused on my armor. Instead, I seemed to have left a small exhaust vent without sufficient armor. A single shot in the right place and the entire suit of armor could go right up.
But it was better than nothing when I got word. Santa had been murdered. Well, a Santa had been murdered. I worried because I’m trying to keep an eye on the guy. I have stuff set up to keep watch for all sorts of figures related to holidays because of Santa being worried about assassination. St. John, Uncle Sam, the Easter Bunny, that Swedish cult they made the Midsommar documentary about, and Santa. Immediate social media reactions allowed me to find out almost the second somebody ganked a mall Santa.
I arrived using my powers to not look like a giant tree ornament and rolled on over to examine it. Yeah, seemingly suicidal move right? Especially with the only thing stopping my death being a barely-defended exhaust port? Yeah, that was on purpose. The big secret was to use myself as bait. Based on the last two guys I fought, I figured Godkiller would possess some ability to see through my illusions. I had a way to survive such an extermination attempt: putting a piece of myself into someone else. That means into Morgan. But just a piece of me.
We still haven’t discussed anything. A little bit of a reach, but I also still haven’t told my babydaddy that I made myself pregnant by her. Guess I don’t like inconvenient conversations. Life’s much easier when you can just ramble on at people who can’t interrupt. That’s not even the only surprise I’ve got ready.
I didn’t get so lucky as to snap my trap there. Instead, there were more reports of dead Santas. The fat man’s fat lady was singing all over the United States. I teleported around to them, but traced the pattern as best as I could. These were projectiles, oval shaped, made out of an unusual organic shell. There wasn’t anything inside, but the hardened shell penetrated and broke apart inside. No overpenetration, and breaking apart despite glass, wood, or concrete in the way.
The shots were all coming from space, and one hell of a sniper. I figured it must have been from real far out, since I hadn’t detected anything wrong in space. So imagine my surprise when a shapeless yellow mass was drifting toward Earth and had made it past the asteroid field without me detecting it. Zooming way in, my spy satellites spotted a sniper rifle clutched in the gooey embrace of one pseudopod. A slime sniper. A sliper, aka Godkiller.
I brought the armed satellites around, causing a bunch of military guys to shit some bricks. Still, I needed him closer. Range isn’t really limited in space except for if something disperses lasers or anything, but they still take time to head out. Godkiller could just dodge. I stayed in one place and resurrected not just the mall Santa dead in front of me, but all the dead Mall Santas, declaring, “He is risen!”
A shot rang out, and this time I got to see it. It was encased in an envelope of some sort. I couldn’t get a clear read on it, and neither could reality, I guess? The projectile skipped along, blinking in and out of existence until it slammed into the resurrected Santa in front of me. I brought him right back in time, then threw my hands together, quickly shouting, “Kamehame-” when a second shot hit me. It bounced into my armor and exploded, throwing shrapnel around at the gathering crowd and rolling me over. I teleported out of my armor in time to avoid the one that hit up the exhaust pipe. The satellites fired all at once, but their lasers, bullets, rods, and torpedoes disappeared with me.
I appeared next to the pseudopod holding the rifle. The projectiles all appeared as well, all at one point that let them dig into the amorphous body of Godkiller. I, on the other hand, released a column of intense, superheated plasma from my hands while finishing my cry from earlier, “-ha!”
It annihilated the pseudopod and the rifle with it. Part of the stump reformed into a smaller length that pulled a knife on me. I had a moment of surprise that it brought a knife to a god fight, but it’s the Godkiller and I’m just the gal who’s killed weaker gods than me. Ones who couldn’t encase me, except that one time. Godkiller folded its body so that it surrounded me while I deflected knife strikes. I tried teleporting out, but only got as far as its surface. A light appeared in the center. Didn’t know what that was about, but I knew I had superspeed and the ability to grow claws that I dug into the body of Godkiller. Even at that speed, I was making headway. Not enough to avoid whatever’s going on with that light. I didn’t like it.
And then that body was gone. Not my main one. Not one with my zygote carried along. Instead, I snapped back to reality at Morgan’s point of view, looking in a mirror to where they’d magically-lengthened hair.
I reached out my senses to that weird mass that is Godkiller, which just encased me and blew me up, I guess? It didn’t even look like I’d hurt the thing.
“That didn’t work,” Reindeer said over a radio I’d left with her. My heroic weredeer side was sitting in the seat of the world’s largest cannon, build specifically to take down something as powerful as I thought Godkiller would be. “Can I shoot this thing now?”
“I don’t know if it’ll work, but I’m excited to see what happens when we try,” I responded. “Let ‘er rip!”
I felt when Reindeer pulled the trigger. Hell, the birds and animals felt it. I could tell when everything that could sense an earthquake or a magnetic pole on Earth lost its collective shit like the Pope finding out his daughter was voted #1 on OnlyPorn in the week since her 18th birthday. The cannon was a special design, a combination of godly powers and more conventional engineering. Built into the Grand Canyon, drawing upon the metals of Earth’s core to use as a bullet pushed by a newly-birthed star transported via wormhole. The wormhole device itself was activated when Reindeer raised a reinforced transparent aluminum and punched a Big Red Button. Every doomsday device like this needs a Big Red Button.
And this is definitely a doomsday device. I channeled the excess energy of the star igniting with the Earth, devouring it. I converted that energy back to matter, stabilizing the Earth and refilling its core. My satellites in orbit fired everything they had, as quickly as possible, with me porting everything directly to Godkiller. Half the beast was blasted apart.
And then it was my turn. I, and Morgan, appeared in space, giant. I wrapped my hand around the half of Godkiller that remained. Godly power really is so limited when sometimes, all you need is a big enough rock. I squeezed hold of Godkiller, who lashed out with knife and spear and a holdout pistol. In my other hand, I summoned together the pieces of the asteroid belt, including Ceres the dwarf planet, and while it was less than Pluto or even the moon, it was still quite a large rock. I smashed it down onto Godkiller.
The beast squirmed free, growing rapidly, wrapping around my throat. Part of it opened to form a gnashing mouth. I stopped it with the mass of asteroids, then punched it as hard as I could, knocking it clear of the solar system and into the darkness of interstellar space.
I appeared behind it as it started to slow and kneed it in the back, but it wrapped around my knee. “I eat planets!” I heard in my head, mouth crunching through asteroid.
“Eat shit!” I thought right back. I couldn’t directly affect it with my powers. There was something about it, like it was so firmly anchored in reality that warping reality stopped at it. And while I can hurt it, it keeps growing and healing from anything I can do to it. Tendrils lashed around my head, trying to pull me in. That mouth opened again, and I felt the heat. It was trying to grow around me, and this time I didn’t have a back-up.
Or so I thought. I heard, impossibly, the jingle of bells and haunting laughter carried on leafy winds. A jack o’lantern exploded against the side of Godkiller, covering it with fire. Santa was there, and he’d brought Stingy Jack. And Uncle Sam, who pulled out a bazooka and yelled, “Fire in the hole!” I could feel the radiation from the small nuke he fired. Didn’t seem like it should have done much. Neither should the army of rabbits spreading over the surface of Godkiller, a death by a thousand nibbles and growing by the moment as they popped out new rabbits by the second.
Finally, there was Santa himself, the Yule Father. One half of his face cloaked in shadow, because fuck light sources making sense at this point, his coat became less clean cut as he reached into his bag. It looked more like red furs draped around him when he pulled out the spear. “Ha!” I boasted. “Yule be sorry!” It was at that moment Godkiller thrust its mouth onto my head, trying to take care of the biggest threat quickly. I felt it shake with pain as Gungnir pierced it somewhere. I used the opportunity to pull myself out.
Well, if it likes being a fixed point in reality so much… “Here, I reject your reality and substitute my own!”
I formed a club of dark matter and beat Godkiller off me. The matter flowed into a shell around him, it, whatever. Then I tossed him out of reality entirely, to his own pocket dimension.
I returned to Earth, and normal size, to find the planet was going through some difficulties. I appeared at the cannon where Reindeer was trying to get it under control. “The wormhole’s not shutting off!”
A woman in a white dress with garlands of flowers draped over her stood nearby. “I’m regenerating the core, but I’m getting tired. It’s not my season!”
Santa’s sleigh appeared, skidding to a halt, with the Spirit of Winter in more traditional garb. Uncle Sam hopped out and whipped up a pair of M60 machineguns, one in each hand. “We need to destroy the cannon!”
Stingy Jack conjured up a suitcase. “You lot have fun. Peace out!” and disappeared.
Santa concentrated, the sun throwing one eye into shadow again. “I can’t close it.”
“But I can,” I declared. And unmade the cannon and wormhole. The entire infrastructure put into place with my powers, was removed with them.
“Is Godkiller dead?” Santa asked.
I shook my head. “No. Couldn’t kill it, but I could remove it. Excised. It can kill every god in a pocket dimension smaller than the solar system, trapped forever with only itself.”
“You can do that?” Stingy Jack asked, reappearing. “I mean, of course I knew you’d win the whole time, but I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Surviving all alone in an empty void is pretty cruel,” Reindeer said without judgment.
“It beats not surviving,” Uncle Sam said, tipping his top hat off and hiding the guns inside it. “But will it hold the thing?”
I glanced at Santa quickly. “Guess y’all better keep someone like me around in case it doesn’t.”
I’m bluffing. I really hope that holds him. I expended a lot of power in all these fights. Maybe it was the space to rest in between, but I’m surprised I’m holding up as well as I am.
The PG Cast 3
I kept that spare body around Memphis in case Hawkins needed me. These extra bodies don’t seem to be afflicted with the same mojo that causes me to turn into an anthropomoprhic reindeer during the full moon. But all of this seemed just as important to include for me.
I stayed in the spare body. Back home, my real body answered the rising moon with fur and antlers and a monthly change that looks really painful and makes me glad I’m not part of it. Reindeer took flight to head the same direction, but I called and told her we didn’t have to meet up and work together this month. “I like it when we do. We make a dynamic duo,” she told me.
I didn’t say much one way or the other. I didn’t figure she’d catch up anyway and I could just lounge around. She wanted to stay on the line and listen along while I checked out whatever was playing. I ended up coming across a live stream from this one podcaster, a guy with a big following. He was smoking pot on air with someone who claimed to be a professor of folklore. “So you say this is supposed to be some demon everyone’s forgotten about from another culture?”
“A demon isn’t the right connotation. It was a dark god from a pantheon that’s been almost entirely forgotten. All we have are a few images and idols. We think this is the adversarial deity who tried to kill the other gods,” the folklore person said. He looked pretty standard. “Anyway, we think now that the evil gods were all representative of gay people and Black people. People back then hated gay people.”
“Bro, really?” the streamer asked. “Did they do a lot of mushrooms?”
“The priests would use incense we’re sure was drugs. Cannabis, probably,” the folklorist said. “They also practiced animal sacrifice and made sure to give the sick the first sip of water from the bucket. They were very intelligent people, which is why they opposed cCultural Marxism. The Thule Society researching ancient traditions for Hitler is why the Nazis were Cultural Marxists, you know.”
“They knew what’s up,” the streamer said. “Wait, did you say the Nazis were Marxist?”
“You’re taking me out of context. You should really buy and read all five of my books, promo code ChaosDragon5, for five percent off the price. Most people aren’t fit to have these discussions until they’ve also sat through my two hour seminar, which costs $80 at the door.”
“Cool, cool. Is that writing on the back of that stone dude?” the streamer asked.
“This is bullshit. Why are you listening to this?” Reindeer wondered.
“In light of the latest stuff going on, I figured I’d check some of the most popular stuff out there. This sounds like crap, though.”
“This inscription is a dialect of Sumerian. It’s said to be an invocation of the deity. Hey, can I have a puff of that?”
“Yeah, bruh, but you gotta read that out from me. I want to hear Sumerian. That’s like Muslim, right?”
The ignorance was staggering. I was going to switch away as soon as the invocation was finished, but the stream started to disrupt. As I watched, the skinny folklorist in his suspenders seemed to grow paler, his mouth opening wider than most humans can manage and his eyes going white. As soon as he finished speaking in Sumerian, he said, “I will tear your souls apart and swallow them piece by piece!”
The stream cut out.
Reindeer and I both sighed. Reindeer told me, “Where is it?”
I groaned as I looked up that the streamer was in Memphis, living it up at the Peabody Hotel. Where I was, I could hear the wind howl. Dark clouds gathered in the early night sky. It was like a thunder cloud had parked right over the Peabody.
I threw on my armor and headed over to the Peabody. It was Gecko-style armor, not Lady Guardian-style. I hid it and skipped along buildings to avoid the line of local supers trying to go in at ground level. I figured Honky Tonk Hero would be there by then, but there was no sign of him. I crashed through the windows of three wrong suites before I broke through the window into the right one.
The streamer was sitting at a table, passing a blunt between himself and the possessed folklorist, who coughed after his puffs and handed it back. “Nectar of the gods, filthy human. We did so many drugs but nothing can compare to three millennia of stronger cultivation. But as I was saying, our people did not hate those people you speak of. Many of us had the dark skin and bedded whoever we could. I hated the Galli priestesses, but that was because of who they served, not because of what they were. The truth is, I was forgotten because I was banished long ago to another world. Someone from your world opened the door, and now this fool has called me to you.”
The possessed folklorist stood up and grabbed the streamer’s head. “Bruh, seriously?” the man asked before his neck was snapped and his head ripped from its spurting neck. The folklorist turned to me, a sneer on his face. He squeezed and burst the head in his hands.
“Are you a god?” he asked me.
“I am death, none can excel. I open the door to heaven and hell,” I answered. Yes I know I’m violating the Stantz Principle: if someone asks if you’re a god, say yes. But if I am one, it’s a god of death. And Death doesn’t need to say it’s a god. It just shows up and kills a fucker. Instant respect. That’s why all the motherfuckers who try to mess with Death end up dead.
“Cease your prattle. Death cannot touch me.” Behind him, the dead streamer’s body stood up. He bent over and showed off a monstrous mouth of fangs from the neckhole of the body. His hands became as claws. Lo, did the streamer run for me, and lo, did I snatch that bitch up and piledrive him through the floor and into a suite of a screaming women. The streamer wasn’t moving anymore, so I gave him the ol’ Rule 2: Double Tap and tossed him out of the building. I think we were nine stories up, so a pretty good distance for a dead man to fall. I ripped the TV off the wall and hopped back up.
A couple of local superheroes were on their knees, a black lightning flowing from them into the hands of the folklorist. Then, they were gone. Just gone. Fucking vanished with their blue and yellow costumes.
The Forgotten God’s host turned to me raised his hands. I lurched forward and it felt like a bunch of my body’s nerves were on fire, but I didn’t have the whole lightning thing going on. I decided to give him what he asked for and charged my gauntlets. I’d switched my armor away from that void technology after the big blowout when I first tried to use it, so this was merely a charge of potential energy, some of which was wasted in light form, that would amplify my punches. I jumped at him and punched a hole right through his chest. The head and neck dangled there, then looked down at a torso that mostly didn’t exist anymore.
“Impressive. You could have been a god!” He grabbed for my head. I did a split and punched him with the other hand right in his banana. It went bye bye like fried chicken on a hot Sunday night, but all it did to the Forgotten God was make him laugh. He swiped at me, but I rolled to the side, popped to my feet, and dodged a pair of arms that were barely connected to the floating upper torso.
Other shadows appeared, smaller. Two of them wore the costumes of those heros. Another was puffing shadowy smoke from its mouth. “Bruh, where even am I right now? Did I drop some MDMA without realizing it?”
Even punching the folklorist’s head off did nothing. The head was gone, but a shadowy being was left there. I charged up my armor and shoved it into the middle of the shadow person. The air around me swirled in some sort of vortex of darkness. The Forgotten God’s voice echoed in the wind, laughing. It swirled past me and the voice on it told me, “I will feast on your flesh when I get through that armor!”
The whole damn exterior wall opened, letting in the light of a full moon that penetrated the darkness along with the glow of the antlers of my super-powered were-form that created the entrance. They became even brighter an instant before she fired her antler beam into the shadow people created by the Forgotten God. The vortex calmed down, but the Forgotten God was gone.
“I guess you could say he was magically malicious,” Reindeer said.
“I’m pretty sure I already made that joke. So it was the idol somewhere in there?” I asked.
“I think it was the light that did it. Jack told me I would need the moon,” Reindeer said.
I cocked my head to the side. “Jack? Who’s that? He give you a ride?”
Reindeer nodded. “Something like that. An old Irish dude named Jack, carrying a lantern in his hand. He said he’d get me here quick so I could stop something bad for all of us.”
“Wonderful, someone else I’ll have to run into again when it’s least convenient,” I said.
“We better find that thing,” Reindeer said. She handed me the Bellringer, a handy gadget-filled warhammer I created for her with enough memory to allow my consciousness to inhabit and control it. I took it and we headed out into the hallway.
There were more shadows. I flashbanged them, with simultaneous flashing and banging as the warhammer blinded and smooshed them at once.
“I don’t think this is going to stop until we take out the main incarnation. They’re all connected to that Forgotten God,” Reindeer said.
“You sure?” I asked.
“Fuck no,” she answered. “But it’s the best guess I got right now. I didn’t see that idol back there, either. Maybe it’s a weak spot or something.”
We fought our way to the elevator. When it dinged open, it was full of darkness from the cackling shadows.
“Hammer,” Reindeer requested. I set it in her waiting handpaw. She raised it overhead like she was ringing the bell at a carnival and slammed it on the floor of the elevator. It shuddered, then dropped. She leaned out long enough to fire her antler beam at the brakes so it wouldn’t stop, either.
“Going down?” I asked.
She nodded and we hopped down after the falling elevator, picking our way through the fresh wreckage to appear in the lobby of the Peabody. There was a large fountain in the middle, and the possessed Folklorist stood there atop it. All around him, shadow-consumed ducks flew, stopping to peck at anyone who dared get too close. The black vortex was reforming.
“You distract, I’ll finish,” Reindeer said. She held the hammer out for me.
I grabbed it and ran to the side, then jumped and kicked off a column to go flying right through the shadow ducks at the Forgotten God’s host. “By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!” I hit the flashbang effect, clearing the ducks away. The Forgotten God almost seemed to get more solid in contrast, but raised his arms to hold back the blinding light of the hammer. As much as it looked like a void with nothing in it, that darkness faded as I pushed the hammer closer. It’s like it was darkest just before the light.
“Mortal rubbish! You won’t stop me consuming this Earth as well!” he growled. I spotted the edge of stone where the heart would be. A hand-paw wrapped around it and pulled it back.
Behind the Forgotten God, ironically forgotten about in this being’s struggle with me, was Reindeer. She held the idol aloft in both hands and twisted. All the small scratches and imperfections seemed highlighted in the second before the idol broke in half.
The remains of the Folklorist fell into the fountain. The darkness was gone. Scared people, and a few remaining free ducks, littered the lobby.
Reindeer turned to me, “Want to just hang out in a hotel room for the night? Order some delivery?”
“You got it,” I said, bumping fists with her and tossing her the warhammer.
That’s where we were when Hawkins Mace called me up, sounding out of breath. “You won’t believe it, but I found it! It’s another dimension, not another plane. I don’t know if it was the moon, but the doorway was open. It’s like our worlds, only dark and disgusting and rotten. But it’s there. And it had a bunch of these statues.”
He sent me a photo. I displayed it via the armor for Reindeer. We both sighed again, seeing that the statues on the other side of this portal were larger and more refined versions of the Forgotten God’s idol.
“Bruh, you serious right now?” Reindeer asked, then laughed at her impression of the dead streamer.
The Collectibles 4
Here we have to take a short break from the ass-kickery to address the reindeer in the room. There was that big-ass orange moon in the sky on Saturday. The Massachusetts Exemplar base is getting full, from rescues being treated and debriefed over their experiences. That means a lot of medical and therapy staff, backed up by more field teams. And one of them is a face I didn’t expect to see in the field: Darklight.
The heroine walked in while I was making last-minute adjustments to the Reindeer costume and gear, back from the dead and still quite hateful of myself. I looked up at her and tried not to let out a sigh she could hear.
Darklight put her hands on her hips, her casual clothes much different from the black costume she’d been wearing when serving under an evil AI. Perhaps the difference was that the horrible burns she’d suffered from when I left her to fall out of orbit were all healed up. I checked and there were no nanomachines left in her system that could respond, just as I’d planned. “What kind of organization would stoop to using you?”
“Mine.” Medusa walked in and tossed a bag to Darklight, who caught it one-handed. “I can’t make you like Gecko, but keep the sniping to a minimum.”
I nodded to Medusa. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
Medusa smiled. “I’m here to personally oversee what’s going on and to handle the Benfrike-Fawk meeting.”
“Uh, I thought I was handling that,” I said.
Medusa shrugged. “He got back with us after your call and wants to meet up tonight.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes, looking up. “Ugh!”
Darklight smiled. “I want to hear this.”
I gestured to Darklight. “Is she muscle to help y’all instead?” I asked.
“Yep. They brought me on because you can’t get the job done,” Darklight was beaming, and not in the way where she hurls light that somehow has physical mass at people.
Medusa looked to Darklight, but winked at me. “You’re off official duty for the night. We’ll have Darklight and Reindeer on duty if needed.”
I nodded. I’m so glad Medusa respects me enough to not reveal the open secret of my weredeer alter ego to someone who hates me. She’ll probably find out before long, but I feel slightly better that she’ll find out when I’m not around. I started beeping though. “That’s my alarm. I need to go.” I brought the costume along with me, but left the box with the hammer in it, the Bell Ringer I think Reindeer settled on.
My first choice of room was a storage closet that ended up having a couple in it enjoying some personal time. In my annoyance, I very nearly stayed completely ruined both of their libidos, but instead I ran out and headed to the nearest restroom. I got set up in a stall, hung the costume on a hangar on the inside of the door, and locked up. Then, I zipped my mind right off to the Bell Ringer.
I rose out of the box, a mighty hammer of vengeance and piss-offery. The room I’d been in wasn’t empty, as there were still some people hanging out in the armory cleaning and readying stuff, but Medusa and Darklight had gone. Oh well. I flew the hammer toward the door. Rather than burst through the thing, I activated a small arm in the handle that pulled it open and shut behind me, announcing, “I am a hammer, not a boorish rude jerkass!”
I went around a corner and there was Medusa right outside the restroom. “Coming through, pretty lady!” I popped through the door, starting to announce, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall wield the power of- shit!”
Darklight stood in the restroom, the broken stall door in her hands, watching the tail end of a grotesque transformation that saw bones warp, muscles bulge, and antlers stretch out from my head. She got an eyeful of all of it and declared. “Oh shit, you’re a werewolf deer thing. A lycanthrope. Why aren’t you a guycanthrope?”
Medusa chose that moment to storm in. “She’s a weredeer, and the magic behind that knows something you don’t.”
“I’m also not the Gecko you know,” Reindeer said upon standing. She grabbed her costume where it had fallen on the floor in front of her.
“I hear that a lot. Now you just have fur and horns,” Darklight responded.
“She’s not just whistling Dixie,” I told her, flying over to get between Darklight and Reindeer. “I’m the actual Gecko.”
Darklight grabbed me. I tried pulling out using the antigravs, but she was strong. “You downloaded your brain into a hammer? So all I need to do is break you…”
“I’ve connected my consciousness to a computer system in this hammer I designed to assist Reindeer. Destroying this won’t hurt me.”
Reindeer grabbed me too and tugged me away from Darklight. “It’s a unique and nonsensical situation involving ancient magic and cutting edge technology. And I’d rather not work with you if it’s all the same.”
They give me a lot of leeway, but Reindeer was still part of the Fawk thing. We got ready and deployed, all with her being judgy. I don’t know how to describe it other than that. We kept our distance from each other. That was possible by the plan for this meeting allowing for reinforcements to be nearby but not in the room or even in the building. We had to be inconspicuous so as to not frighten our prey. The assumption made by the Exemplars and agreed with by me is that a transporter makes for an awesome escape plan.
Once the voice thing was handled, that all went off without a hitch. Just a simple deal for enslaved superhumans. Bankrupting the late Migton Benfrike, we managed to buy back a good half-dozen supers. Fawk even threw in a free suit of power armor from Dr. Doldrum, who had a gun that made people lethargic and sad. He always struck on Mondays for maximum effect, but he died a couple years back. It was ruled self-inflicted, but the video evidence showed him skydiving naked while holding Roman candles and accidentally hitting a goose. They built a statue to that cool son of a bitch.
When I brought that up to Reindeer, she had the same idea as me. “Shouldn’t that still be with his family? Check to see if they struck.”
I ran a bit of a search. There were no reported sightings of Dr. Doldrum since the funeral, which required a pair of skateboard ramps built on either side of the grave site for skateboarders to jump the casket through a ring of fire. It’s what he would have wanted, along with the free bar. Glorious goddamn bastard.
Ten minutes later, I had a report for Reindeer. “This is potentially pretty bad. She disappeared two weeks back, with her boyfriend filing a police report. I don’t know it’s connected, but I’m paranoid and think it’s connected. I’m running through the inventory we have access to for anything that could be her.”
“I have movement,” came a report from an Exemplar.
Someone whispered. “They know someone’s been targeting clients. Activate the shield.”
“Activating. Hope this works,” someone said.
I projected a hologram so that Reindeer could see the forcefield panel in the sky above us. She didn’t need a hologram to see when a pair of giant robots rose out of the water. There were large, rounded bodies on pairs of legs, with arms that consisted of rocket pods and chainguns. One had that racing checkers design running up the sides of the torso; the other was painted blue with shark teeth on the front of it.
“Reindeer, Darklight!” Medusa called.
“On it.” Darklight announced herself with a burst of the titular dark light she now wields smacking into one of the big robots. They both concentrated their firepower on Darklight. The bullets did nothing, but rockets knocked her out of the sky. Reindeer caught her in one hand, carrying me in the other. I created a forcefield to block another pair of rockets. Reindeer and Darklight used the cover to fly low and head to between the pair of robots.
Reindeer reached a hand out for Darklight, who took it. My alter ego spun Darklight around to get more momentum before throwing the heroine at the other. That gave the other one an opening to fire at Reindeer and I. I put up another forcefield while telling her, “I can create an opening for you.”
Reindeer’s antlers lit up a brilliant white. Beams of light came together from the tips of her tallest antlers to join into one beam that cut through the air. I gave it an opening to jab right into the center of our robot’s rocket pod and cook off the ammo. Reindeer then took me and started spinning me around in the hammer, over and over again.
“Catch!” Reindeer declared, throwing me. I was glad I didn’t have a stomach. Instead, I had antigravity devices to negate the pull of gravity and to propel me even more rapidly toward the robot. I smashed through the chassis and embedded deep inside it. I stopped in all the internals of the machine and unleashed the lasers and flamethrowers. The smoking robot crashed into the waves from whence it came, with me flying off back toward Reindeer. She was now assisting Darklight with the other robot, the two of them punching the dented machine between the two of them. Finally, Darklight went for where its leg attached to the body and wrenched it off. The robot toppled into the water, but hadn’t sunk yet when Darklight smashed in the chassis even further with the purloined leg. It threw up a shitload of water when it went.
“Darklight here. The big guns are down.” I heard.
“We have Fawk,” Medusa reported.
And I got a ding as the analysis finished. “And I think I have a match. Unidentified female power armor user. No video of usage, missing the date Dr. Doldrum’s daughter disappeared.”
“What’s that?” Medusa asked.
Reindeer spoke up. “They had Dr. Doldrum’s armor but his daughter isn’t a supervillain. They figured out who she was and kidnapped her anyway so they could sell it and her.
I added, “We have a lot of responders on the way. I don’t know if we’re going public with this yet…”
“Let’s clear out. I’ll arrange something for them. We have more than enough to go public. It’s time to move on to the next phase,” Medusa ordered. Privately, she connected to the private channel between Reindeer and me. “Now we have to figure out what Dick Avast is doing all this for. After that, I think we should send him on a one-way trip to Mars with no transporter.”
Getting put back meant I didn’t get to skip last month’s full moon, even though I’m only getting around to talking about it now. It ended up giving me plenty of spare time to design something else to help out my heroic were-deer alter ego. Changing things up a bit is all. Controlling the Platinum Hind armor felt too much like being a full-on sidekick. I guess after my most recent adventures, it might seem weird to suggest I don’t want to do that. Well, it’s my life, I can be weird and irrational if I want.
Now, the secret to me helping Reindeer out at all is that when I connect my mind to armor or what-not before my body changes, we can both be awake at the same time. That way, Reindeer can’t get my body eviscerated. It’s also easier to figure out where I am and what I did the next morning, even though I’ve got body cams on her costume. For her part, Reindeer isn’t one of those girl scouts who have a special badge for following and upholding all the rules.
When she woke up and emerged from the basement in her costume, she found me waiting in a helpful device I’d built and left for her in the living room. “Is this a Thor thing?” she asked.
It was indeed a hammer. It was not any version of Mjolnir, not even the movie one. For one thing, the handle was longer than that, as befitting a proper warhammer. Instead of a huge rectangular block, which is a choice that looks very hammer-y but doesn’t fit warhammers at all, I went with a rounded shape. If you hollowed out the big side, it would have made a good pot. The smaller side was more like a cup’s size, but both had flattened metal alloy instead of hollowed interiors. It looked solid, but there was cushioning and gadgetry inside to give it more tricks than it would seem. The base of the handle had a round orb containing the power source and CPU.
“This looks nothing like Thor’s hammer,” I said through the speakers on the handle. “If anything, he’d be jealous of the power of this hammer.”
“Can I use it to shoot lightning?” Reindeer asked.
“No, of course not. I have a built in flamethrower, fire extinguisher, and force field generator instead,” I told her. She should already know all this.
“And you can fly,” Reindeer knew the answer because I knew the answer. She walked over and lifted me up. “Lighter than I expected.”
“It’s about time I applied the antigrav technology I stole from my original dimension. They provided useful techniques for hiding so much in this, as well. But then, the guard orbs weren’t used to bash people, either.”
“I’ll take it easy on you, or try to,” Reindeer said. She looked at the hammer, then laughed. “I should get some of that bronze paint and call you Bellringer.”
“It’s a hard knock life for a hammer,” I mused. Reindeer laughed too. I added, “It’s not even Christmas time.”
“Maybe, but it’s winter somewhere,” Reindeer said. “I can feel him.”
Right on cue, the cold air drifted out of the fireplace, accompanied by sleigh bells. Reindeer walked over with me in hand and jumped up. We popped out in Johannesburg, South Africa. The afternoon was chilly. On a nearby lounger lay Black man with a long white beard and a big belly that jiggled when he laughed like a bowl filled with jelly. “Nice to see you both again,” he called, sitting up and setting aside a book called Pig Perfect.
It was the Spirit of the Season, or at least the Spirit of the Winter Season. I should have figured he’d hang out in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year.
“Howdy, Santa,” Reindeer asked. “What’s with calling me up? You know I’m not one of your sleigh deer.”
He nodded, and I wondered how much of his form was just my perception and expectations of the thing. “True, no you aren’t. You are a part of my domain, and I have a favor to ask of you.” He reached up and adjusted these small, round spectacles on his nose.
“I remember part of the reason I’m a were in the first place is you taking revenge on someone acting outside of the appropriate season,” I reminded him. “It’s not the holiday season down here.”
Ol’ Saint Nick smiled at the hammer I inhabited. “No, but it is winter down here. My actions are in line with the agreement between the seasons. What do you say to one quick night’s favor in exchange for my guarantee that you will be left alone this holiday season?”
“Sold!” I said.
Reindeer held a hand over the head of the hammer. “Allow me to have a moment alone with her while we talk this out.” She leaned in to talk to me, hand hiding her face from Santa. “Maybe we should try to get more.”
“He does gifts, not negotiations. And he can almost certainly hear this,” I pointed out.
Reindeer looked up at Santa. “And by you leaving us alone, that includes Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or anything else there right?”
“That is the deal!” the happy fat man proclaimed.
“What do we get if you break your end of it?” I asked.
“Then you will have more power than you know what to do with,” he said.
“You’re not going to turn us into a djinn, are you?” Reindeer asked. It’s a legitimate question. I don’t know if djinn are real, but the thought of having all that power and being cooped up in some tiny object like a lamp or a ring, ugh. It would have given me the shivers if my mind wasn’t inhabiting a warhammer at the time.
“Alright, who’s bells are we whackin’?” I asked.
“If that’s amenable to your better half, you mean. And it is, I’m in,” Reindeer agreed.
“You aren’t whacking anybody,” Santa Claus told us. He waved his hand, leaving behind a shower of snowflakes. Even in Johannesburg, that was out of place this time of year. The snowflakes joined together to form an icy lens hanging in the air, which isn’t how snowflakes work either. But he’s magic.
“There is a man in this city who is teetering on the edge of a decision. He doesn’t know it yet, but it is the decision that will send his life down an inescapable decline.” An image of a man with a decent comb-over and a thin mustache appeared on the ice lens.
Reindeer put her hand on her hip, tossing me up and down in the air. “And?”
“Yeah, where were you when I was growing up?” I asked.
“That would have been for your Spirit to see to. The reason this is important to me is that I received a letter from his son this past Christmas urging me to help Daddy out and keep him on a decent path. There was nothing to be done that December, and next December will be too far. The December after that… is best not discussed.”
Talk about a red flag. “Uh, why? What’s happening then?”
Santa shook his head. “It doesn’t concern you. Focus. You must aid the man, Walter Schawly, tonight.”
“Aid with what? This briefing’s taking forever?” Reindeer wondered.
“Walter owes money to a man you don’t want to owe money to. Through a series of unfortunate and humorous events, he has failed to pay off this debt every time he was given the chance and it has accumulated interest. The loan shark is pissed at Walter, whose attempts have brought unwanted attention to his business. This job is death or glory. Stealing a weapons shipment smuggled through a food company on behalf of the mercenaries. Either he succeeds and pays off far more than he owes, he’s arrested, or he dies.”
“Let me guess, he fails and gets arrested,” I jumped in.
“Bet you he dies,” Reindeer said. Neither of us was going to go with him succeeding.
“Actually, he’s meant to succeed,” Santa ruined everything once again. “He goes on to become a vicious crime lord, toppling all organized crime in Southern Africa in a bloody war that sees his wife and son die before he hooks up with a big-tittied gold digger who kills him when he’s fifty years old and has a heart attack having sex.”
“Oh no,” I said in a monotone, “Being rich, powerful, and having so much sex you die from it. Sounds like a horrible fate.”
“Death, destruction, and his child dies the December after that. In the end, a man who has love to give will be turned into a jaded, homicidal crime lord with nothing to show for his life but a bodycount.”
“Is this supposed to be personal? It feels personal,” I said.
“That’s part of the reason we should be more willing to help, but we’ll take the deal. You leave us alone later, Santa,” Reindeer declared.
No matter what he was destined to become, Walter wasn’t a hardened criminal yet. According to Santa, he had a part-time job working breakfast at a hotel. Business wasn’t going well for him during the pandemic. It did mean he knew a guy who had some access to the depot where they stored the food boxes, which happened to be the same one the mercenaries were shipping their shit through. The box says bananas, the inside is bazookas. Another crate is labeled for coffee; instead it holds maser rifles. That sort of thing.
Reinder and I flew across Johannesburg to a neighborhood where people keep warehouses for food and so on. Not next to the really important stuff, but close enough where the little people can fetch it easily. Place looked a little full to me. Hospitality and service industry not exactly rebounding yet.
They’d have had to hire a deaf man to miss Walter’s approach. He came around a stack of boxes toward the section with the smuggled guns. He had a crumpled piece of paper in hand and looked up to see Reindeer there. “Who are you?!”
Alert the whole place, why don’t you? He risked waking up the guards we’d knocked out. “I’m your fairy godmother,” Reindeer answered.
Walter tried to back away but bumped into the hammer hanging in the air. He turned around and almost gave himself a concussion he almost hit me. “Bippity boppity boo!”
Walter tried to run to the side, but Reindeer used the sonic boosters near her hooves to knock his legs out from under him. He was a little banged up, but unharmed. Reindeer hopped off the box she sat on and walked over to Walter. She held out her hand and I flew the hammer over to her palm. “You’re in trouble, Walter. We’ve been sent to set you straight. Keep you from getting into anymore trouble. It’s tough. I don’t know how…” she shook her head. I know what she meant. How the hell was he supposed to have pulled this off?
“They’re going to kill me if I don’t do this,” Walter groaned, pushing himself up and taking a seat on the floor. He was watering up already. Clearly, this guy was an amateur when it came to people trying to kill him. Most people are. The ones who survive end up professionals.
“No, we won’t let them kill you. We won’t let you be arrested, either, but we can’t let you steal those weapons,” I said.
“Why is your hammer talking?” he asked, sniffling.
“You know how a picture is worth a thousand words?” Reindeer asked. “She figured that if a photo can do it, a hammer can too.”
“I’m pretty good at making things stay in one place,” I mentioned. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
We got Walter up and toward the door, where he poked his head out, then pressed himself against the wall next to the door. Reindeer nearly poked her head out, then thought better and held the head of the hammer out so I could spy for her. “That’s a lot of cops and a lot of guns.”
“I’m beginning to understand how this was supposed to turn out,” Reindeer said. My guess: Walter was supposed to get caught, somehow get his hands on some of the firepower he was sneaking out and fire it in a blind panic that thrashed the police.
“I wish you could call down lightning,” Reindeer said to me.
“This might be a good time to avoid fighting, for their sake. And for his.”
Reindeer turned to Walter, who had gotten a faraway, determined look in his eyes. “Catch!” she called out.
Startled, he almost didn’t catch the hammer. I made it easy and hovered so he could handle the weight.
Reindeer started in on a little poem I’d heard once, “A flea and a fly in a flue were trapped so what could they do? ‘Let us fly,’ said the flea. ‘Let us flee,” said the fly. And they flew through a flaw in the flue.”
Reindeer jumped into the air, being a flying reindeer who didn’t actually need the hammer to fly.
“But I can’t fly!” Walter called up.
“Stop whining!” I ordered. “Hammertime!”
I encased him in a force bubble and raised him up into the air after Reindeer. Reindeer slowed and let me go first, since I had the bubble to protect Walter. We burst through the skylight with Reindeer maing her way out more carefully to avoid the shards of glass.
I was spiriting Walter away when Reindeer stopped and turned back to the warehouse. Her antlers lit up with a pale light that stabbed through the air toward the warehouse. An explosion set the warehouse ablaze. I’m guessing those weapons won’t be a factor anymore.
“Did you really have to barf in here?” I asked Walter.
“I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die…” he kept repeating in between dry heaves. The wet heaves already happened. Just sloshing around down there. Really tempted to use that flamethrower, but I promised Santa Claus.
Reindeer also promised Santa, but not so much when it came to someone letting off a stray shot at her. I should really find out what sort of energy beam those antlers fire that they can blow shit up, too. It shouldn’t be that easy to blow up a car. When she caught up, she just looked at me and said, “Nobody died.”
That covers a lot of things. Torture. Broken bones. The Rise of Skywalker.
We set down at one point to let me empty out the bubble and so Reindeer could get some whiskey for Walter. That way, we could ease his nerves and slip that lottery ticket into his pocket. It’ll be an outright pitiful win. Santa says they might even investigate the anomaly in the lottery, but people will get the money. It’s safe and sound tucked into a Christmas card that says “Pay what you owe and have a Merry Christmas.”
It was hard, but I used the hammer to add an additional note. “And don’t get too hammered!”
“You can’t be allowed to stay in anything with that much pun potential,” Reindeer told me before we lifted off.
“I don’t know, I think I nailed it.”
The full moon, my true monthly visitor… I wasn’t sure if being on the actual moon would do something there and bring Reindeer out. Like what if I’d transformed into my weredeer form from simply seeing the whole moon on approach? Thanks to me, the entire were- community now knows more important things about the condition that various people were afflicted with after some magic environmentalists tried to hijack the Northern Hemisphere’s wintry time to make the Earth greener.
I don’t think the spirit of Winter is in bed with the oil companies, I just think he’s territorial and big on balance. It’s the season of death.
I had time to finish dinner and the dishes before my alarm went off. The moon was coming, and it’s been taking more time from me before and after. My body stayed behind while my mind took control of the Platinum Hind armor. I still don’t like power armor capable of opening this way or acting on its own, but it was a necessity in this case and Reindeer isn’t out long enough for people to take advantage.
The alarm was set thirty minutes before official moonrise. Twenty minutes before, Reindeer changed, and changed quickly. The hero deep inside bounded down the stairs. “I feel incredible! You think the moon did this?”
I shrugged. “I think lycanthropes and other such animal-thropes are the very definition of something that’s not a science.” Reindeer was bouncing, which I found funny enough. She recently discovered an ability to fly and fire beams of light from her antlers. “You sure that’s moondust you sniffed?”
“You’re getting drug names all mixed up,” she told me. She stopped bouncing up and down, though. “Are you ready? I can’t wait to go.”
I made sure my complement of non-lethal armament was still as ready to go as when I put the armor and Reindeer’s costume away, then tossed the costume to her. She had it on in no time, then went ahead and stepped into me, setting the helmet on her head. Instead of the stairs and the front entrance, she went right to the trashcan tunnel, shooting into the still-light sky. Below us, the trash can swung over from on its side to stand up over the hole again. That’s the power of science and magnets.
As heavy as the armor was, Reindeer wasn’t using the suit’s rockets at all. She flew quickly, and in an arc through the high atmosphere where she would have difficulty breathing. We came down in Minneapolis and soon picked up that something was wrong by the sight of a person on fire flying too close to an airplane trying to land.
“However good you feel, remember that jet turbines feel considerably less good,” I reminded her. She’s too buoyant and happy for my taste. It’s hard to trust a version of myself that isn’t at least partially miserable.
“I know,” she said. “Do you have to be such a backseat driver?”
“It’s my backseat that gets cut off if you take a shortcut through them there engine tubes,” I pointed out. I made sure to highlight the engines on the HUD as the “Danger Zone”. I also showed avenues that would likely get us sucked into the engines, dubbed the “Highways to the Danger Zone”.
“Who are we dealing with?” Reindeer asked.
“She’s a real Firecracker. That’s her name,” I explained. “Fireproof and able to fly using fire. Can project it out a bit as a result, of course, and I wouldn’t give her a hug.”
“You need to come up with more nonlethal gadgets,” Reindeer advised. “I’ll have to hoof her.”
Reindeer gave the armor’s rockets some juice on approach, trying to come in overhead Firecracker. “Might I remind you which direction heat travels?” I asked Reindeer. She responded by diving down and flipping around to plant her hooves hard in Firecracker’s upper back, sending the flaming super head over heels past the airplane. Reindeer directed herself away from the tumbling super and came around.
“Figure out how we intercept her to keep her from splatting,” Reindeer advised. I came up with a few plans for that based on how Firecracker fell. We kept close, but then Firecracker turned her flame off, flattened out, and flamed back on once she had her fall under control.
Firecracker turned to us and shouted, “Tag, you’re it!”
“Neat,” I told Reindeer. “Piggy radio says arson and other trouble in Minneapolis today. Looks lik the Fire Gang’s in town.”
I know I’ve mentioned them at least once. A group of supers with fire-related powers who hang out together. They’re a real niche group because if you can counter the strongest of them, you should be able to counter all of them, but the powers express themselves in different ways and with different quirks. Plus, they have numbers. Fire is a fairly common power.
Reindeer followed after Firecracker. Kind of easy to track of woman on fire as she flies across the sky. My better half came around the side of a building and bodychecked Firecracker. “Tag!” she called out.
Firecracker bounced back a ways before getting control again, but I could see she was smiling. She lowered down to the ground and Reindeer followed. When they were both safely grounded, she put her hands on her hips. “You’re playing?”
“What? Playing Tag?” Reindeer asked.
Firecracker smiled, her bright red lipstick going well with the all-red outfit she was in. “Yeah. If you can handle that, hero. You get to be It, but tag us and we stop doing whatever we’re doing. I’ll call it in to the others. Or you can do things the hard way.”
“Sounds fun,” I told Reindeer.
Reindeer nodded. “Sure, I’m in.”
Firecracker reached up to an earpiece. Her power definitely has some sort of area it works on other than just skin and hair-deep. “We have a player, Gang. Reindeer’s It and she’s already tagged me.” She looked around at where she was, focusing on a café nearby. “Anybody needs me, I’m going to get a smoothie. It’s hot out here.”
“Hey, who all’s playing?” Reindeer called out.
Firecracker didn’t say. She just held up a hand with all but her thumb out. “There were four, now there’s three,” she explained while folding her index finger in.
I checked around for more signs of distress. “Alright, good one, I’m picking up that someone’s leaving flaming trails at the Elko Speedway. Additionally, there’s a guy spouting flames at Capella University, and then there are little burning bipeds running around the Mall of America causing havoc. We are closest to that one.”
“Point me to it,” Reindeer said. I brought up path on the HUD showing her toward the Mall of America.
We found a man in burnt dark red robes inside the M&M store, cackling. Fire moved at his beckoning, fire in the shape of tail-less monkeys. They hopped all over the place, tossing M&Ms and trashing displays. The floor was becoming a mess of oozing melted chocolate. “Now you see the lie, Mall of America! This candy’s reputation is but a hill of lies. Lies!” When I had enough to identify him, I flashed his name onscreen: “Banisher.”
He turned around and jumped at Reindeer’s approach. With a wave of his hands, his smaller creations disappeared and a giant one appeared between Reindeer and Banisher. Reindeer pulled out one of the various helpful grenades I made her but didn’t activate it before tossing it in front of the sonic weapon on her forearm and firing it. The air it generated through the metal ball at Banisher’s robed chest and bonked him, knocking him over into the hot chocolate. Reindeer then ran and skidded between the large fire creature’s legs to grab hold of Banisher’s leg.
Banisher huffed and dismissed the fire monster. “Help me up?” We did and let him walk off to drown his sorrows in the Cinnabon.
Next stop, Capella University. It was an online university, but a fellow out front was trying to make it live up to the name in person. A thick-set fellow stood out front in scaled armor, singing a capella. He had clawed gloves on his hands. Gouts of fire sprayed from devices he’d set up that provided backing sounds to his take on “Ring of Fire”. A hunk of metal around the man’s neck looked like a bear trap worn as decoration.
“That is Fafnir,” I informed Reindeer. “Big fan of pyrotechnic devices.”
Reindeer watched all this, then told me, “I have an idea.”
I landed the Platinum Hind armor in front of Fafnir just as he finished his song. Fafnir snapped his head toward me, the “bear trap” closing up and forming a fanged metal helmet around his head. The helmet spit fire at me, and it would have been fearsome for a being of flesh. It wasn’t too fun for someone relying on circuitry, but it didn’t kill me.
Fafnir turned at the touch of a hand tapping him to find Reindeer there saying “Tag. You’re out.”
The metal helmet unfolded back around his chest. “Damn. Spent too long setting things up.”
Reindeer patted him on the shoulder sympathetically and walked over to me. Before she could enter the armor, a large fireball knocked her into the building and knocked me down. Fafnir was unharmed, but scrambled to get away.
Standing before us was a man in a black leather motorcycle getup with a flame decal on the top rear of his jacket and a fireball on the helmet.
Reindeer’s furry hand-paw thing raised up out of the side of the building. “I’m ok!”
“Hello Nitro,” I said more for Reindeer’s benefit than mine. It wouldn’t help her much as she didn’t have access to the wiki page detailing Nitro’s enhanced durability and usage of firepowers to propel him in intense bursts, enough to count him as a speedster. Plus, the black leather outfit looked badass.
Reindeer threw herself out of the building and landed on her feet, firing off one of those air pulses real quick. Nitro turned to her, a fireball building up behind him. And as we’ve previously established, fire isn’t so bad for me when I’m possessing a suit of power armor. I wrapped the Platinum Hind’s arms around him from behind and turned my back toward Reindeer. I German suplexed Nitro in that direction and rolled with it, coming up in time for Reindeer to slide into the armor from behind and announce. “Tag!” We finished it up with a second suplex, then left Nitro there, the flame petering out like a fart.
He stood up, seemingly glowering, then pulled the helmet off. Guy had an overbite, a bit nose, and some really bushy eyebrows, so not nearly as hot as the costume would suggest. “That was pretty awesome, like a wrassler!” Also, he sounded like a Cajun. “Want to play again sometime?”
The Vax and the Qurious
“Ready… steady…” Reindeer said. My philanthropic deerthrope alter-ego said as she aimed a special rifle at the back of a man who was banging on the window of a restaurant. My mind inhabited her power armor, the pseudomuscles correcting for the natural sway of her arm and keeping it perfectly still. My helmet provided a helpful targeting cursor showing where she’d hit, even if the night was so nice and bright from the full moon. I’m even the kind of gal pal that anticipates an awkward trigger pull based off prior experience. The dart thwipped out and got him off to the right of his spine, right where she was aiming. He turned around, reaching for the dart as he went. He made it 180 degrees before the sedative went into effect.
Reindeer walked up, the Platinum Hind armor colored in urban camo. Reindeer slung the tranq rifle over her shoulder and walked up to the guy. She tugged his sleeve up, rubbed it with some alcohol, and put down one of those sticker thingies. Then came the vaccination. Then she pulled out a small printer attached to the utility belt around the waist of the armor. I had it plugged in and printing out a note she stuck to the guy letting him know what happened.
“I’m surprised you’re good with hunting the least intelligent game like this,” I told her right in her ear. As a supervillain, the weredeer who emerges from me brings out qualities I’m not proud of. Qualities like self-sacrifice, humility, and an insatiable desire to protect the innocent. I change and people get saved. It’s a dangerous side of mine.
She still shares everything I know, including history, ethics, and chili pepper farming. That’s why she responded, “I know. Vaccinating people against their will has some ethical issues after Tuskegee, but these are real vaccines and you checked the guy’s medical history.”
“You make it sound so easy,” I said. It was kind of easy compared to most people. These bellends can’t just go to normal doctors; they concentrate around quacks and pill mills who tell them what they want to hear. I found a few of those quack doctors and cross-checked their patient records with people whining about lockdowns and masks to find a few who’d be out during the Pink Full Moon for a relaxing hunt with my other half. I had other options, but Reindeer picked this one. So a-hunting we went. And this time, we’re not the ones being hunted!
“Who’s next?” I asked
“Let’s take a photo of this one for the mantle, then go after another one. Didn’t you spot a Karen in the wild?”
We snapped a photo and then tried the next person on the hunting list. So, as we jumped, I had to note, “Does this still count as heroism at this point?”
We landed on the side of a medium-sized building, hanging off the side to stare down at an older woman in workout tights who ran around screaming at skateboarders. No mask, naturally. She was a little tougher. The guy at the window mostly kept pounding and licking on it. He might end up sick from that alone. This woman just walked fast to try and knock off skateboarders, which made me wonder how smug she’d look getting sued if one of them fell off and hurt themselves. I knew what she had to lose. She drove forty-five minutes from the suburbs to get here just to run around and be a jackass. Kind of amazing, she came all the way out from the segregation of the suburbs to tell people in a city they shouldn’t wear masks to keep from getting a disease.
Well, one of the advantages of an AI assistant is having someone who can use the power of mathemagic to estimate where she’d be, but Reindeer lowered the rifle. “Make me look like a skater.”
Reindeer came jogging along, the armor projecting an illusion that she was a woman in red and green with horns on a helmet. Karen, called such by me due to her resemblance to the stereotype of the busybody white woman who likes to stick her nose in places it doesn’t belong and call the cops on Black people just for existing.
Karen tried to get in my face. Thwip! “Drop the illusion,” Reindeer said. I did, probably not even giving Karen a chance to see it before she flopped to the ground. Reindeer wasn’t in a hurry to break her fall so she wouldn’t land hard on the pavement the way she’d been trying to get others to. “Whoops, guess I was too slow there.” She went through the whole thing with giving her the first shot and I stuck a note on the fallen woman’s chest. She’ll be up after some relaxing sleep. The note even tells her where she can go to get an additional shot in a month, or places where she can schedule a second dose.
Reindeer raised her hand and caught a high five from a skater nearby. “She’ll be up in an hour, so you want to be gone by then!” she informed them. To me, she asked, “Isn’t the next guy the terrorist?”
“Correct!” I pulled up the target’s profile. “Mr. Cotton. A former member of the Question movement. They played a prominent role in the coup that was put down and a few kidnapping attempts, murders, and mass shootings. He’s the leader, or Quaestor as he fancies himself, of a breakaway group calling itself the Qlan.”
“Really not trying to hide it anymore,” Reindeer noted. “Where we going?”
The Qlan hideout was off in the suburbs, masquerading as a club at a golf course. It was night, so not an ideal time for golfing. We still found plenty of people’s cars in the parking lot. A teenager in a red vest stood watch over the parking lot and jogged over. “I’m sorry, whoever you are, but the course is closed except for an exclusive event.”
I noted the lack of a mask and zoomed in on his chest, where a red, white, and blue Q with a question mark inside stared back at me. I brought it up on the HUD for Reindeer to see.
“Hey kid, what are the fourteen words?” Reindeer asked.
“We must secure the existence of our pe- fuck!” That last bit was from when the dart got him in the chest. He reached up to take it out, then fell onto his face when he passed out.
Reindeer checked the ammo pouches. “This many cars, we’re going to need more ammo, and maybe a better rate of fire. I won’t be able to get them all. Can’t vaccinate them all, either. There’s no way we can check this many people for allergies, either.” She walked over to the boy and gave him a vaccination jab. I dropped off a note next to him. Reindeer fingered the question mark pin on his vest and found it had an edge that came up. The underlayer showed the red, white, and blue and the question mark symbol replaced with a red and black swastika.
“I mean, they barely count as people… but I have an idea on that. Something I cooked up on my own time for reasons.”
Reindeer nodded and stood up. “I know… better call in the big guns.”
Back at my hidden underground base back in Radium, machines whirred to life, making an adjustment to equipment and loading a backpack with both a power core and compact dart rounds made for rapid-fire. I started to hum along to myself, causing the computer system to start searching for appropriate music.
“There aren’t too many war songs about keeping people alive, you know,” Reindeer said.
“Yeah, you’d think there’d be some music about badass medics. Then again, you wouldn’t think I’d be involved in such an aggressive attempt to save people’s lives in spite of themselves. We could be giving these to those who want them and can’t get them.”
Reindeer waggled her hand. “Yeah, but those people are actually trying to get them and I feel confident they’re going to get vaccinated. These walking upperdeckers are putting a lot of other people at risk, people who can’t get it and rely on others around them not carrying the virus to stay safe. Stay frosty and let me know when you’re ready. I’m infiltratin’”
Reindeer hopped the fence and made for the clubhouse. The lights were on and golf carts surrounded it. Reindeer skidded to a stop next to it and pulled out a tube of recon drones. “Set these to get sneak in, stay out of the way, listen, and do a bodycount?”
“Boom, as requested. Versatile and handy little critters.” The drones flew around for a bit before finding some ways in. They’re small. They got in thanks to windows and doors left just open enough for them to zip inside and hold close tot he ceilings or hide in corners.
Quaestor Cotton stood in front of the room wearing his Q mask that members of the Question were known to wear instead of question mark masks. His had the Confederate Naval Jack design inside the Q that ringed the outside. The crowd of white men and women wore a mix of similar masks. Most were regular grey Question masks, with the Q design or question mark around the outside. Others were modified like the pin of the valet, meant to look like the flag of the United States, or the Confederacy, or the Third Reich.
A stir started in the crowd. Someone called out, “There’s an intruder on the property! Someone was spotted knocking out the boy who parks the cars!”
“Stay read,” I informed Reindeer. “We have launch, so you’re almost ready to rocket.”
Reindeer burst in through the door. “Hey everyone! Hope you’re ready to take your medicine!”
Quaestor Cotton pointed. “It’s one of those degenerate animal-people. Not even human, brothers and sisters!”
“And non-binaries!” said one Q-masker with trans flag colors.
“Shush, you’re just here so we don’t look like we hate you people,” Cotton responded. He pulled out an American Eagle large-caliber rail-handgun. Most of the crowd had guns, mostly conventional small arms, but I noticed some ICE-issue plasma rifles and pistols among the bunch.
“Some of those can actually hurt us,” I warned Reindeer, who already knew very well about how energy and heat transfers off plasma projectiles.
“Just say when,” Reindeer replied.
“When,” I told her.
I could tell Reindeer was living as she yelled at the crowd, “Eat shit and die, queefs!”
The top of the clubhouse blew open, shocking most people. There were a couple shots and the Qlan began to scatter. Into Reindeer’s armored hands dropped a minigun, the backpack landing on a cushion next to her.
She squeezed the trigger, the barrels winding up with a whir before reaching speeds where they began to rip a quiet thwipping fury of darts. She fanned the crowd from left to right, taking down people. Quaestor Cotton reached down and grabbed a screaming baby out of its mothers arms and held it up as a shield. Reindeer aimed low on him because there’s major artery in the crotch region. I sent in the drones to catch the baby and ease it to the ground as it fell.
Reindeer let the minigun spool down. “Looks like Jonestown in here,” she observed of all the bodies fallen all over each other. “Please don’t tell me you fixed up another one with vaccine doses, because that’s not going to work.”
“Better… I give you… bees!” A bit metal beehive coptered down on a rotor and settled in outside. Reindeer watched as little robotic bees swarmed out and began to land on various people. She started to move closer, then realized she was standing in a pile of the same note, over and over again, about getting a second shot, one for each person.
“You should call them vees,” she laughed.
“That pun would hurt too many people,” I observed from our position near a crowd of sedated and forcibly-vaccinated people, a minigun in-hand and robotic bee minions jabbing everyone. “And if there’s anything tonight’s taught me, it’s the value of helping people as aggressively as possible.”
Reindeer and the Man Sanitizer
“You want to test out some of those new powers?” I asked. My consciousness inhabited the Platinum Hind armor, freshly painted to look shinier and glossier. A look for a new name that doesn’t define myself in part based on someone else. I’d say nobody should define themselves based on someone else. Then, no matter how much you accomplish, you’ll still have to remember something you hate. And then, several years down the line, you’ll find yourself possessing a suit of power armor near your weredeer body while y’all inspect a scene below.
“Having superpowers is bullshit,” Reindeer said. Dressed in a costume of red, green, and gold, the heroic weredeer who takes over my body during every full moon had pulled new powers out of her ass last time. “I don’t trust these. But we better give them a go. What do you see?”
I leaned out to get a better view of the building below. I had remote access to the Flyer we were in and kept it nice and steady while zooming in on the site with both the armor’s and aircraft’s sensors. Below us was an old bottling plant, abandoned due to who knows how many potential economic factors. There were things wandering. Something clear I fired off some recon bots at a couple of them. “Let’s get a closer look.”
“Let me see,” Reindeer said, reaching up and tugging off my helmet. She slipped it over her own head, allowing her to see what I could see. These recon bots dropped in a convenient package and separated 50 feet overhead. They sank slowly after that until they hovered overhead and let us see these big masses of clear goo moving around. The bottoms were just a big pile of goop, but from the waist up was a melty chest and a pair of arms with a blob of a head up top.
“Slimy minions,” I commented. “That tip-off didn’t mention anything about these things.”
“Maybe they didn’t know,” Reindeer said. “Probably didn’t know for sure I’d even get that email.”
“Well, ’tis the season for people to tattle on people they know fucking around,” I noted.
“You handle the slimes, I’ll go inside.” Reindeer said. She took a breath, then jumped right out.
“Coulda given me back my head!” I called out. I set the Flyer on autopilot so it would keep itself up there without my brain being involved and jupmted out after Reindeer. I used the jets of the armor to try and catch up, but hung back when I saw Reindeer’s antlers light up with a glow of moonlight to them. Then, rather than fall, she flew forward, then downward. She tried to pull up when she got close to land, but misjudged her momentum. She landed harder than expected, hooves clapping off the asphalt and splaying beneath her. She shot back up for just a moment before coming to a stop and latching onto a handrail near the entrance hear her for support.
A slime noticed her and made its way toward Reindeer. It reached out with arms that formed into needle points. But unlike whatever inherent power let Reindeer fly, I knew how my jets and the armor worked. I came in for a three-point superhero landing right on top of the slime that splattered it everywhere but didn’t do anything to me.
As I stood, I saw Reindeer wiping goo off herself. She paused at one point, rubbing it back and forth in her hands. “Feels like…” she paused and sniffed. “That’s hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer slime people.”
The email didn’t mention the villain’s name. It was just an anonymous email forwarded to an address Reindeer set up from a throw-away account. I could have traced it back, but Reindeer thought it was more important to follow up on the contents. Just that a guy the sender knew had been moving a lot of weird equipment into an old bottling factor and had talked about “purifying” the Earth. That’s one of those instant red flags, along with terms like “cleansing,” or “degenerate,” or “adult human female.” And I’m against genocide these days. I guess. Technically.
“I wonder if we might have misinterpreted what was meant by purifying the world,” I suggested.
Reindeer shook her head. “It’s probably a gimmick.”
“You good?” I asked, gesturing toward her legs.
She nodded, the helmet of my armor still over her face. “Yeah. I’m going to keep the extra armor if you don’t mind.”
I shrugged. “Kinda wish I had a Jack o’lantern and a horse now, but fine.”
Reindeer started for the door, then jumped up into the air and floated toward a window on the second floor. I turned away and looked across the empty parking lot to see another slime working its way toward me. I pretended to be staring at my watch. “Anytime you want to slime your ass on over here…”
It stopped a ways away and turned into a gout of slime of that flowed into the empty armor. I’m glad I waterproofed, but it filled me up and tried to jerk the armor around. I didn’t expel it, but it couldn’t overpower everything I used to give me enough power to move the armor on its own. Fighting back as it did slowed me down, though, so I activated the jets to fly myself around. I repurposed the recon bots to spread our and spy on anything else moving nearby, catching sight of a pair of slimes oozing around the perimeter fence.
I dropped a concussion grenade, then dropped low and aimed for that fence. I had to time this just right, reversing jets and crashing into the fence that gave way a bit while the slime sloshed out. Or maybe threw itself out. I knocked the fence over stopping myself on it, but it slime went further and reformed. It reached out its arms and pulled up the splattered remains of the slimes I’d taken out. It got a lot larger as it sucked in the additional slime, and another pair of grenades courtesy of me.
I ran off with one arm over the empty hole where my helmet should go while the slime turned into a wave and flowed toward me. A jump helped me keep far enough ahead to avoid getting invaded by a more powerful slime minion before it exploded and flung sanitizer everywhere.
Clear for now, I checked indoors.
Reindeer had found someone. She was untying a teenage boy from a crane over a giant tank full of what looked like more sanitizer.
“You’re too late!” a voice called.
It was a man in a bright white hazmat suit that glowed light blue from the inside. He held a large remote in his left hand, and a block with a two-pronged claw in the right. “This is months in the making. My coherent sanitizer gel destroys all bacteria. And soon, it will cleanse the world of the human virus. The world will be clean. Nature will heal. Perhaps you would have time to stop me if you weren’t so worried about disgusting human life.”
“I kinda like this guy,” I told Reindeer through the helmet.
She didn’t hesitate to untie the hostage and pull him out of the way. A geyser of gel erupted from the tank below. It would have gotten the guy if Reindeer hadn’t pulled him out of the way and got her tail eaten off. “Gaaaahhh dammit fAAAAAck!” yelled the were-hero.
Reindeer limped away, pushing along the hostage to try and get him further away from the floating gel. The fluid formed into a larger slime body, but with a pair of legs where much of it congealed. The goo golem’s big, rounded fist was the size of Reindeer. I took flight and headed for them.
Reindeer fired sonic bursts that shook the body of the giant. She followed up with a stun grenade that erupted inside the giant monster with a bright flash and a hormonal teen’s fantasy’s worth of jiggling. “I could use some armor here,” Reindeer said. She added to the boy, “Move your ass!”
“My legs are asleep!” the boy yelled back. He lurched along toward a door. Reindeer glanced back to see the goo golem start on an slow swing. Reindeer turned to grab the boy and pulled him to the side, choosing to outrun something large by getting out of its way real quick. It was a good plan. Then the giant gel monster’s arm shifted to the side in a way that only a bunch of fluid could.
I burst through the wall and skidded to my feet, landing in front of the punch. The goop split along either side of me and shielded Reindeer the the hostage. Reindeer grabbed him and zipped through a window higher up.
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t stop the Purifier!” the man in the hazmat suit said.
“Why can’t I?” I asked, I flew right for him. He raised that box with the claw on it. The claw extended on an arm and reached out for my open neck hole. I landed and batted it aside, then grabbed the Purifier. I had him off the ground and anticipated an ironic end to the situation when the giant slime smashed its fist down on top of me and caught the Purifier in the blow as well. I was fine, but so was he. When the thing removes its fist, that just left me staring at Purifier. “What was the point of that?”
“It’s not the smartest creature,” he answered.
“Yeah, and if it was smart enough, you’d have to worry about it betraying you,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s why it’s so hard to get good help,” he commiserated with me. I adjusted my grip suddenly and opened the rear of the armor. Reindeer flew in, antlers glowing. A slice of lunar-white light shot from her antlers and separated the goo golem’s arm from its body. It tried to clothesline her but she dropped under it and skidded along the floor to slide into the armor. I hoped the sanitizer that got inside had dried up already. The helmet closed up around her and the antlers.
She grabbed the remote from Purifier. “A ‘Self Destruct’ button and an ‘Emergency Shutdown’ button? Whichever do I choose?” She pushed both. The goo golem fell away… and lights on support pillars lit up red.
“That didn’t mean my beautiful creation self-destructed,” Purifier said. “Please get me out of here! It’s hard to run in these pants.”
Reindeer laughed and tucked him under our shoulder. My jets and her newfound flight abilities pushed us out and right through a window. We landed near the hostage who was now resting out across the street, trying to wave down cars.
We all turned to look at the factory.
“I think you might have gotten ripped off on your self destruct explosives,” I mentioned. Then the factory blew the fuck up with some fireworks-style blossoms and blooms in the mix.
“I just wanted to be pure,” Purifier said in a sad voice.
“I just want my tail back, you flaccid ass,” Reindeer said. “There are ways to cut back on environmental damage. Unleashing a giant monster made of acidic slime that kills everything it touches isn’t the way.”
Ice Cold Light Deer
For some reason, the full moon has gotten marked down as a family bonding night. Which is kinda ironic, considering the importance of the night is that I’m a weredeer who transforms at the full moon into a heroic alter ego. I don’t have a lot of friends in the villain community these days, so I guess it’s not so much attacking my friends. I think Max decided to spend some time at Isla Tropica after spending some time with his sibling in the South, so that’s not an issue. I don’t have many friends period, but I guess the people I spend the most time hanging out with for awhile are Marianne and Adrian, and they used to be superheroes.
I was a little on edge the whole day leading up to it, even though I’d been making peace with Reindeer on an intellectual level. I guess that’s a part of me. One day a month, that deep-seated desire to help people doesn’t come out all twisted. It was still unusual to be so tense.
Tonight’s agenda was to fly into a city along with an Exemplar shipment. The Exemplars were helping with the official vaccination efforts. They had the manpower; transport was getting to them. And I just happened to have built my own flying machine to help get around.
“Are you sure this thing’s safe?” asked Davilo, my brother. He was already transformed into a Justice Ranger. I guess he had something of a break right now. Leah, my former ward and apprentice, didn’t hesitate before running into the side door of the vessel. It was a more compact version of one of my Psycho Flyers, with some of the upgrades to speed and stability of the new ones, sadly offset by it being a little less rounded an aerodynamic from the materials I used. It’s stable; I wouldn’t fly around if it was going to fall apart on me. Instead of three jets, it had four oriented on the sides but at a lower angle that reduces its profile a bit. Along with concentrating some weapons at the front, I dub this… the Pegacorn. It’s like if a unicorn and a Pegasus were mashed together. Still has the same cloaking capability as the other Flyers.
We had some Exemplar help loading up. They had on white power armor, scuffed or dirty in places, but there were prominent red crosses on them. Medics, in other words. They didn’t carry weapons, though the armor that helped them carry such heavy loads also meant they’d be more than capable in hand to hand against most people. In between using my shop as a stop-off for villains needing a place to lay low or seek medical attention, I also let the Exemplars stop over. Somehow, I’ve become neutral ground.
We were all ready and in the air when my internal alarms went off. I left my body behind a curtain with Reindeer’s costume. The Iron Deer power armor came online with me at the helm wondering if I might change the name. It seemed ok at the time, but now we’re bordering on tying my identity too much to that Marvel comics guy. I went to fly the Pegacorn while pondering such ponderous thoughts.
Leah, Davilo, and the Exemplar guys crowded into the cockpit. “It sounds weird back there,” Davilo offered. “What do you think?”
“Metal Deer? It sounds so generic. Metalbeast is better, but isn’t properly descriptive. Might be fun to mess with the fans of that sci fi movie, though.”
“What are you talking about?” One of the Exemplar medics asked.
“Thinking up new names. Iron Deer was a bit hasty of a moniker to take up. Means I picked a name too fast. Too many associations with a comic book character for my taste.”
“Maybe we should call you Psychopomp Deer?” Leah teased. At least I think it was teasing. She seemed happy with herself at that suggestion.
“No offense, but I’d rather not drag my good name through the mud by associating it with heroism,” I told them all.
“You actually like your reputation?” asked a medic.
“A lot of people died to make that reputation. Doesn’t really fit to know I can kill anyone in between helping save kittens from trees,” I said.
At least my brother had some sense. He asked, “What is wrong with cats on this Earth?”
“It’s an expression,” Leah said.
“It’s a waste of a perfectly good feline,” I answered. “Climb up onto stuff, then refuse to get themselves down even though they could just survive the fall.”
One of the medics peeked back. “I don’t hear anymore bones snapping. It might be safe to go back.”
“Golden hind!” called Reindeer from the rear of the Pegacorn.
“…An ass?” asked Leah after a moment of silence.
“No, a creature from Greek myth that Heracles had to capture. A hind is an old term for a female deer. I get tired of the Greek stuff.”
The medics filtered back as Reindeer made her way up, costume on. “It’s that or try to build a new name. Like Bronze Hind or,” she tried to snap her fingers, failing just as much as I always do. “Platinum Hind. Titanium Hind.”
“Ununbium Hind?” I asked.
Leah cleared her throat. “Titanium Hind would look like Tit Hind if shortened, if that makes a difference.”
“Platinum Hind it is then,” I said.
Reindeer tapped me on the head. “It needs a ‘The’.”
“The Platinum Hind… I feel like I should be shinier,” I said, glancing down at the metal body of the power armor that could move on its own.
“If people think you’re platinum, it might mess with their expectations,” Davilo said.
Leah clapped. “I could shine you up!”
Davilo blushed. “That must mean something different here.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s suggestive on this Earth, too.”
Reindeer laughed as Leah went red-faced and shouted, “Just get us there already!” before stomping off toward the back.
Our destination was St. Paul. The Exemplars were running it 24/7 to catch people who needed it but couldn’t come in regular business hours. I’m 99% sure they’re vaccinating everyone possible in-between the “appropriate” vaccinations. We off-loaded everything and then, I guess, Reindeer’s plan was to help with the vaccination. So I guess we were helping vaccinate folks. Reindeer and I had enough medical knowledge to aid the medics with the technical stuff. Leah and Davilo stuck around with us, Davilo sticking beside me.
“You should stop by First Earth and do stuff like this,” he said at one point. “But I understand if you want to avoid it.”
I didn’t get a chance to answer when the action started. Because it’s always going to fucking happen. I swear, my power is attracting useless conflict. The clinic we were operating in started to shake. The ceiling split apart, but a portion of it fell in toward us. I pulled the patient in the room toward me and opened up, protecting the guy in the inner cavity built to hold Reindeer.
After a few seconds of debris falling on us, everything seemed to quiet down. “Davilo, you ok?”
“I’m alive, sis,” he answered. “Doc?”
There was a muffled sound for a moment, then the doctor turned on the speakers of his power armor. “I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but I made it.”
“I’m going to push,” I said. I started standing up, creating enough room for Davilo to squirm around and get his feet underneath him. He helped me and the both of us got enough up for the Exemplar medic to untangle himself from around a chair.
The medic coughed, then asked, “Where’s the patient?”
“In here! I’m fine,” came the muffled reply from inside me.
“Good. Once we get you out of here, give the vaccine two weeks to reach full efficacy and you’ll be good to go.”
“Thanks!” he called out. “For all of this.”
We got out from under the debris. “I’m going to check on who did this, you want to dig people out, doc?”
The medic nodded. Davilo joined me as we jumped clear of the place. It was like the building had been pulled apart through the middle. Some parts of it were coming up at an angle, confused people wandering out or looking for each other. We happened to be in the large part of the middle that fell apart when it came down. My brother and I hopped clear to . I paused long enough to open back up and let the relieved patient run off.
“I knew it! Robots are trying to take control of us!” Davilo, the patient, and I all turned to see a man in a hoodie and cargo pants. Could have been anyone without some special costume. He didn’t even wear a mask. I got a great look at his face for later.
“Did you do this?” I called out.
“I don’t see a badge. Per the United States Naval Code, you have no right to detain me,” the man said, bowing up at me. I jumped over the building to land in front of him. Davilo made his own way involving kicking off the damaged building. Just before he landed, the man threw his hands up in front of me. I grabbed them and broke his thumbs.
“Agh! Fuck! You’re not allowed to do that!” He grabbed at his hands with, well, his hands.
“What about this?” I asked before kicking him in the crotch hard enough to lift him off the ground.
He landed and doubled over, sounding like he was trying to avoid a dry heave, “No! What kind of hero are you?”
I stepped behind him and grabbed him by the boxers, lifting him up in a wedgie. “The kind that doesn’t talk and let you do something. Now what’s your deal?”
He didn’t answer at first, the pain from the nutshot catching up to him. It wasn’t until I was spinning him around me by his boxers that he made some noises other than pain. “Stop! I’ll talk!” Meanwhile, my brother and the patient I’d saved were helping extricate others from the damaged building.
“Good,” I said, holding him up so I could look him eye to eye by the back of his pants. His boxers were a mess by this point. “What’s your deal?”
“I have to stop the global cabal of pedophile reptilians who operate out of a pizza place,” he said.
“What’s this have to do with vaccines?” I asked.
“They’re not vaccines, they’re microchips that keep track of you.”
“Are you aware you have your phone in your pocket and that its global positioning is activated?” I asked.
“That’s…different?” he asked. Then his head exploded and a dent appeared in my chestplate.
“Snipers!” Davilo called out. Suddenly, they went from getting people out of the building to trying to get people behind as stable of cover as possible. Dong! Another shot bounced off my head this time, but it gave me an idea what we were looking for. I pointed. “Thataway!” The sniper was in the back of a pickup truck down the road, more hoodie-dressed people back there. It was all a similar getup, but these were packing guns and had stayed less obvious. Some kind of fall guy bullshit, probably thought they were clever. The two guys in the truck still had their phones with them.
A silvery light shot into the sky. I stared as Reindeer floated into the air but not using the jets or the sonic equipment on her costume. They couldn’t have let her hover that way. They wouldn’t have lit up her eyes or antlers so they looked like they were filled with the light of the moon.
The sniper aimed at her. The others, realizing they’d been made, raised their rifles toward her. The truck’s engine roared to life, so the driver at least had enough sense to realize something was up. With a flash, twin silver beams of light shot from Reindeer’s antlers to knock them all back and scatter their weapons. The driver gunned it then, tires squealing as he tried to race out of there. I gave him a moment before I self-destructed his phone. He lost control then, probably concentrating on a pants pocket. The truck smashed into a postal box, then into a traffic light pole.
We had them all tied up by the time the cops finally rolled up. They rolled to a stop, rolling the window of their cruiser down to look agog at the weredeer and robotic deer sitting there with a truck that had a bunch of humans tied to the hood. “Sup,” Reindeer said with a nod.
“You got a hunting permit?” the cop behind the wheel asked as he stepped out.
“These fucks just attacked a bunch of people getting the vaccine. We better not hear any bullshit about letting them go because you think prosecutors won’t charge them,” Reindeer said.
That cop’s face got red at the implication he’d be biased.
I held up a hand. “Shove the indignation up your ass. You want to say there are good cops, prove it.”
“Yeah. Hunting season ain’t over yet,” Reindeer finished up for me.
Once the cops finally took those guys into custody and started taking witness statements, though, I pulled Reindeer aside. “What was that with the horns and the lightshow?”
Reindeer shook her head. “I don’t know. Something feels different. Maybe because it’s winter. Maybe I’m getting stronger the longer I stick around. You know you didn’t have to do all that to the first guy.”
I shrugged. “I know, but he annoyed me. I wanted to hurt him and somebody doesn’t like me casually murdering folks.”
“It’s not any better if you do it in a tuxedo, either,” Reindeer cut me off before I could joke about formally murdering people.
The night was ruined, but no one else died. And I found some evidence to suggest Reindeer is getting stronger. Found that out when I woke up around noon, wearing a towel in my bedroom with a note in hand that Reindeer had written explaining she’d woken up in Reindeer form the morning after the full moon.
I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m going a bit crazy and paranoid, but I’m fine.
Happy New Deer
There aren’t too many years quite like 2020. Good. After all we had to go through this year, this big asteroid showed up. Can’t say I was surprised that a shitload of heroes and villains got off their holiday-padded asses to fly up there and blow the shit out of it someway or another. They got a lot of power, just not much killer instinct unless you interrupt their holidays and celebrations over the year end. I don’t blame ’em one bit.
Lucky, too. I’m not saying I couldn’t blow up an asteroid if given a little time to prepare, but everything I have ready right now is more for dealing with fleshies. Asteroids don’t care about knockout gas, laughing gas, or ass gas. That last one’s an experiment in stink-based warfare, meant as an area denial weapon by smelling bad enough to force people to get out or start hacking. I could have managed a D-Bomb before it hit us, but I’m working with a lot less infrastructure nowadays. If I keep expanding my basement lair any further, I’ll owe the neighbors rent.
Anyway, the asteroid couldn’t handle the power of however many pissed-off superheroes were ready for a break. We were all hanging out in the living room, watching the wall monitor showing supers around the world handling debris from the asteroid. Some pieces were small enough not to worry about, but I guess there were a few that people thought could wreck orbital infrastructure.
“Wow,” Davilo said. “This world’s potential is astounding.”
“We’re not as far ahead technologically, but we’ve got some things going for us,” Leah said, smiling at Davilo, then turning to glance at me.
I noticed and figured I’d contribute to the conversation, “Just glad I never crossed the threshold that gets me splatted by the power of a thousand suns.” One sun would do it, though. Like that time a super whose powers would have let him consume the world couldn’t do much once I teleported him into the heart of our local star.
“Thank Medusa for that,” Leah said.
“That a deity over here?” Davilo asked.
I shook my head. “Lots of the supers like to use the names of mythological figures, but the original myth has her as an inhuman being who turned anyone who looked at her to stone. This one is one of the few who can keep up with me in a fight, and my ex.”
“I’m not gonna lie, that surprised the hell out of me,” Leah said. “But she was also your biggest cheerleader for so long. I don’t think she wants to give up on anyone, but there’s something special about you to her. Too bad it didn’t work out.”
“Yeah, well, there’s way more interesting stuff going on than my love life. Like asteroids,” I said, steering things back away form that conversation.
That only lasted a little while before my Reindeer alarm went off. I set an alarm in the house to keep me updated on how long to go before my monthly visitor arrived. Two hours at the time. I assured my guests it was nothing, then told some of my helper robots to check the Iron Deer while I pulled out Reindeer’s armor and went over it for a last check.
“That’s some new armor,” Leah said, eyeing it curiously.
“Ok, so you know how about a year ago a bunch of people were turned into animal-human hybrids, and then afterward a bunch of people became, like, lycanthropes and felinthropes and whatever other -thropes you want to call them?” Or in my case, a misanthrope.
“Oh my god, you’re a werewolf?!” Leah asked, excited.
Davilo turned to me finally to see what the commotion was about. “Werewolf?”
“Nowhere,” I answered. I held up the helmet and poked some fingers through the antler holes. “I’m a weredeer. A werereindeer. She’s called ‘Reindeer’ and she’s a hero, unlike me.”
“Aww, that’s so great,” Leah said. I fought off the urge to full-body shiver. She doesn’t have the same hang-ups and associations I do with heroes, despite her own history with one. Medusa got to her in time.
“Well, it’s complicated for me, knowing every month that I’m going to transform and potentially attack my own friends and other people I least wish harm upon. On the other hand, she’s smart, reasonable, and has the affection of the people.” And if she took over, everyone I know except maybe Mix N’Max would prefer her to me. Just letting y’all know, I’m insecure about that.
I finished getting them up to speed and made the final flight checks remotely. It wasn’t a full-sized flyer, but I was able to put together a smaller replacement using more car parts and some of the experience of converting Mrs. Johnson’s Impala into a flying sleigh.
Five minutes before moonrise, I went ahead and took my body downstairs for the big change. These kinds of transformations tend to be unpleasant to look at. I skipped over to the Iron Deer armor, turned its eyes temporarily, and waited until all the snapping and fleshy squishing sounds stopped.
“You done?” I asked, cutting my eyes back on.
Reindeer arose with a yawn. “Yeah, sure. Hey, do you have any normal clothes that would fit me?”
“You know you can’t really blend, right?” I wanted to get the question out of the way before this turned into some sort of comical misunderstanding. Reindeer can’t exactly do undercover work outside of a forest.
“I thought I’d take the night of superheroism. I don’t get a lot of time to hang out, and our brother’s in town. You haven’t been catching up with Leah, either,” she said.
If I had lungs, I’d have sighed. “I’ll see what I can find.”
I tromped upstairs in the mobile power armor and pointed back down with a thumb for the benefit of Davilo and Leah. “Looks like she just wants to hang tonight. I’m gonna grab some clothes.”
“You’re a robot now?” Leah asked.
“I transmit my brain signals to certain transceivers and control them like my own body. For some reason, it lets me stay conscious whenever the change happens,” I explained at increasing volume as I headed back deeper into the house. Qiang was in her room, listening to loud music and playing games with her friends. And I found out that I had a few outfits stretchy enough to fit Reindeer’s larger frame. At last, my love of faux-leather pants that show off the ass comes in handy.
“And we’ll see if this top fits,” I said, tossing one to Reindeer that I thought might handle her. That dream was dashed when she tore the top while pulling it on over her head.
“Good news,” I said, grabbing a pair of heavy duty scissors. “Looks like you’ll be wearing a crop top tonight.”
So they all went out. I let them drag me along, but did my best to just stay out of things. The locals and heroes all seem to love Reindeer, so I let them all enjoy their time. Then the bar went quiet and someone turned up the TV for breaking news. Police were doing a big manhunt for someone running around Milwaukee leaving big fleshy mounds of tentacles clinging to stuff. Some of the bar patrons left then to fly over to help or speed or whatever. This little super enclave, Radium, is way far out from everywhere, so the only way anyone was assisting the cops was if they could get there fast.
“I can teleport us if you want to go,” Davilo offered to Leah and Reindeer.
“That’d be awesome, bro,” Reindeer said.
“Four person super team for the evening? Sounds great,” Leah added, but without the sarcasm I’d have used.
“You want to come?” Reindeer asked.
I didn’t, but as both the only supervillain in the bunch and the only sober person, I figured someone had to be there that could help the person they’re looking for escape. Like a designated escape driver. I shrugged and followed them outside where Reindeer and Leah stood with their arms out on Davilo. “Come on, I’ll teleport you,” he insisted. So I reached out and put a metal hand on his head.
Justice Ranger teleportation reminds me a bit of cross-dimensional travel, but whatever thing we’re looking at isn’t alternate universes. In minutes, we flew from a pretty dim area to collection of many more lights of all different colors packed into a tighter space. We landed in the middle of the street, with a car coming right for Reindeer. I jumped for her, taking the hit and falling right back against her as it just barely got its hooves on the ground. The back of the armor opened up and ensconced Reindeer, who lifted up the front of the car enough to redirect its energy away from herself, then set it back down at a little different angle.
“You ok?” our companions asked.
“Didn’t even touch me,” Reindeer said.
“And Gecko?” Davilo followed-up.
With a background accompaniment of drums and guitar, I added some distortion to my voice as I declared, “I am Iron Deer,” before dropping toning it all down to answer, “And I’m fine. The damage was superficial.”
“So you’re like a suit of armor Reindeer can wear, with a voice that helps out,” Leah noted. “That’s cool.”
“Let’s split up though,” Reindeer said, hitting the release. “This isn’t a horror movie; more bodies means more chance of finding him.”
While she slid out of me, I did a quick search and found the area everyone was searching was to our east. “Thataway,” I said. “A man, Caucasian, in tan and brown clothing. Unarmed, but superpowered. Seen carrying a small bag, contents unknown. I’m going to jump in and say I don’t like helping the cops with their job, especially after this year.”
Reindeer set her hand on my shoulder. “All the more reason we should find the guy first instead of them. We can’t trust them to do right by this person, but we can trust ourselves.”
Davilo did his morphing sequence while I was looking at Reindeer trying to come up with a snarky and pessimistic reply. I turned to see a teal-colored Justice Ranger standing there with some new team symbol hanging diagonally over a breastplate with a pair of attached shoulder pads.
“I’m not dressed for superheroing as much. Can I go with Iron Deer?” Leah asked.
And that, finally, is what led to Reindeer, Iron Deer, and the Teal Justice Ranger jumping around the streets of Milwaukee looking for someone the cops were after. And I spent that time teasing Leah.
“After all that time having a crush on me, you finally got inside me,” I said.
“Oh god!” she laughed from inside. I was trying to check things out from atop a building while spying on police scanners. Some of them mentioned Davilo and me, but none spotted Reindeer yet. Damn, and her costume was still at home because we were out drinking.
“Keep an eye out for Reindeer, too.” I tried heading to the nearest mass of tentacles this super had spawned. The police had left up some tape to try and keep people out of its reach while they were busy dealing with all the others. There were a few gawkers at the mess. It was like someone stuck the bottom of an octopus to the side of a building, but gave it way more tentacles and none of those little suction cups on them. They were different sizes, too. When I got there, they were mostly slow and inactive, with only the biggest ones raising themselves toward the closest rubberneckers.
I skipped around toward the rear of it and headed toward it from the roof. The tentacles got nice and wild before I could get too close so I doubled back and broke into the building, a clothing store, to head for the wall that way. “Why are you so focused on these tentacles?” Leah asked.
“Trying to see if one of these that gets loose might try to crawl back to the person who made it,” I explained. “It happens sometimes.”
Well, one trashed side wall later, I pulled a squirming smaller tentacle into the store and tossed it back toward the front of the store before it could latch on. “Fly free, little tentacle! Or tendril! Or cephalopod, maybe? I need more words for these things.”
It didn’t fly free. Instead, it squirmed and writhed and pulled itself toward me. I ended up grabbing an incendiary device and activating it, letting it grab hold, then booting it out onto the street where it exploded into flames.
“That’s why we don’t play with creepy, slimy tentacles,” Leah said.
“Oh, is that why?”
Suddenly, I got an unknown number texting me. “It’s Reindeer. I found him. Home in on this number and find a way to distract the cops.”
“Will do!” I said. I at least took the time to leave the building before rocketing into the air with Leah’s fun screams reverberating through my metal body. I pinpointed the phone pretty quickly, just past the edge of the search cordon. Then I heard someone call in that they think they spotted him. I gave it a few seconds afterwards, then did my best with audio distortion to mimic the voice. “False alarm. Cancel that.”
“That’s all it takes to fool them?” Leah sounded like she could hardly believe it.
“I swear it’s getting easier to fool people.” As I approached, I saw a couple cars of cops with guns trained on a building. I loaded up some stink gas rounds into a grenade launcher. I popped one through the open door of one of the cars and the other onto the street near the cops. They looked up, then began to cover their noses, running to get clear. One of them tried for his car, the one with more stink gas. He abandoned it to catch up to the other ones running away, with me dropping more stink grenades to keep chasing them away.
I sealed up the helmet fully so my passenger wouldn’t get a noseful when I skipped to a landing and jogged into the building. Reindeer was kneeling in front of a man who had a few smaller, thicker tentacles piercing his jacket. Looked like the kind of thing they leave veterans with, especially those dog tags.
Reindeer held up her hand. “Wait there, Iron Deer. Just wait.” She turned to the guy. “That’s a friend. We’re all friends here. No one here is going to hurt you.” She turned back to me. “He’s having a PTSD episode. He was in the pharmacy trying to get medication when things went bad.”
I sat down then, well away. “Don’t worry. With me around, you’re as safe as can be.” Inside me, I heard Leah muttering to herself.
“Why?” croaked the man. “I’m a villain now, aren’t I?”
“You’re a victim,” Reindeer assured him. “And heroes save victims.”
“Davilo’s on the way,” Leah said. “We’ll get you out of here, someplace safe.”
“Where’s safe for someone like me?” the veteran asked.
Reindeer smiled. “Let me tell you about a unique little town called Radium.”
Just breaking in here to say that since this is the last update before New Years, I hope everyone’s 2021 is better. Well, everyone with a few particular exceptions.
Happy New Years, y’all.
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