Tag Archives: Psycho Reindeer

Gone Fishing 7: Back Fishing

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As happy as I was to get back from my little space adventure, it seemed like the various aliens involved were more happy to see me gone. I tried to ask for some extra time in space, but Tarkington, Fort, and Dreiser weren’t having any of it. They were under orders to bring me back before my absence caused any more problems. And to obtain an autograph from me. Someone in the Blank ranks recognized me from that space opera I helped with where me really fighting people was accidentally included in the recording.

At least I got to have one last goodbye to all my comrades in arms. We were going to distribute out from the Xlevon ship, using their transit records to help direct the delivery ships and Blank vessels. Since my Blanks really wanted me to leave fairly soon, I got to address most of the remaining prisoners. “In the words of two great Earth philosophers… be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.” Then I pressed my handprint into a tablet-like device that said it was applying the handprint to the corner of a holographic still. Ng

I think Tarkington liked it. Dreiser didn’t. “They’re going to have weird ideas about Earth if any of them make it there.”

“I hope it’s a long journey,” I said, taking a seat.

“Scared of your fellows?” Dreiser asked.

“Some of them were afraid of me, but no. I meant I hope it takes awhile to get back. It’s about time for the full moon back home, and I’d rather miss it if possible.”

“Why?” asked Fort.

“You ever heard of werewolves?” I asked.

He got excited. “You’re a werewolf?”

“Not exactly,” I said.

“I don’t want a werewolf on the ship when the moon appears,” Tarkington said. “Sorry.”

“It’s more when I see the moon, not a specific time of the month. We could have had an issue before now if anyone had shown me a moon, I think.”

“A moon like this?” asked Dreiser. I cut my armor’s visual feed. I especially didn’t need to change while in my armor.

“I don’t want a werewolf on my ship, Dreiser,” Tarkington repeated. “You let our course drift.”

“Minneapolis isn’t that far from Radium,” Dreiser responded.

I stood up to try and find my way over for a swift kick.

“Whoops, emergency executive transport pod activated,” Dreiser said.

I fell, then landed in something. Restoring my visual feed showed I was on the inside of a padded sphere. I felt a dropping sensation for a second, until a hum surrounded me and it felt like normal, non-falling Earth gravity. I heard a voice from the top point of the sphere. “I apologize, Gecko. You will touch down in Minneapolis. I have to reprimand my pilot, and the moon is still out. The pod is programmed to avoid obstacles and slow your descent to the surface, but it appears your trajectory’s taking you near a lot of humans who might be respond to you falling out of the sky.”

I was unprepared for the pod deciding to let me see out all of a sudden. The voice announced, “Reconnaissance mode active,” and then there was the city and night sky. I got a full view of the moon and told my armor to release before I sent my consciousness back to the main homebody.

I did, of course, check in on my daughter in her room as soon as I got back. “Mom, you’re back!” she said, jumping up. I noticed she’d been snacking in here. And as I hugged her, I noticed a lot of snacking. All over the place. I had still been making meals and getting her off to school, but I’d been neglecting her while I was away and she used that time to smuggle snacks into her room and set them aside in places I couldn’t see from the doorway.

“Yeah, my body just landed in Minneapolis, but Reindeer’s got it now,” I explained. “It’ll be good to get a vacation from that vacation we took.”

“It’s good knowing the evil aliens didn’t get to keep you,” my daughter said.

“Yeah… sorry they ruined our vacation. You wouldn’t have liked the trip. The food on their ship tasted nasty. And the guys who abducted me, I think they expected all of us to fight and eat each other, because they didn’t leave food where they kept us. I accidentally ate something that made me super high. All of the other prisoners were from planets like ours that don’t go out into space much, and they were talking to each other thanks to a monster with lots of tentacles that can talk directly to people’s minds.”

“Did you rescue any alien princesses?” she asked.

“I consider myself the alien princess, sweetie,” I said. “And I sorta rescued myself there when I got another body and my power armor in there. They thought they killed me. Oh, but this one alien ended up dying while helping me. Don’t even know what its species was. It was a green blob.”

I told her about it while I gave that body something other than a nutrient IV drip for sustenance, but we were interrupted a couple minutes into it by a call from an unknown number. I don’t like to answer those generally, but I was expecting a call.

“It’s Reindeer,” my main body said now that it was transformed into a weredeer. “Can you come bring me clothes? Or you could even stop by if you want.”

“I’ll get the clothes to you, but after that bit last time, I don’t think I’m the partner you’re looking for on that stuff.”

“Fair enough,” said the heroic version of myself. “Throw in something for medical, if you can.”

“Gotcha.”

This was a Firecat body, so I grabbed up Qiang and fetched Reindeer’s costume from the basement lair. Outside, I tossed her into the air, changed into big cat form, and jumped up to catch her on my back before racing off toward my store. I could remote active some things to get the rockets in the back ready for deployment. I kept first aid kits in stock nowadays, along with bottles of Riccan Bottled Nanite Water and a gas mask fit for a deer’s muzzle. Still had to manually load them. The time I lost in doing things myself was made up for by how fast the rocket blasted off into high atmosphere and homed in on where Reindeer’s call came from.

I loaded up a spare rocket with more medical supplies if they needed it and kept it on standby, but Qiang and I went home again. I wanted to actually relax in my own residence while watching what was going on. She wanted to watch, too, but I told her we’d have to wait until her bedroom was clean. We got a good bit of it, but she rushed like most kids, so I’m thinking I’ll ask the nanomachines to comb through everything when she’s off at school.

Reindeer was with a crowd of protesters. I hadn’t been keeping much track except to know there’d been violence and there were way more protests than the news was covering. I’m still pretty sure the protesters didn’t need to be seen with a supervillain watching their backs, but people liked Reindeer. The rocket slowed its approach as well and deployed a parachute so the stuff inside wouldn’t be ruined. Reindeer passed out a few of the medical kits and waters before someone shoved the costume in her face. A few protesters formed a ring around her to cover her up while she changed out of a borrowed hoodie and makeshift skirt into her costume.

“You with me?” she asked one of the cameras.

The phone of someone nearby played a brief clip of a character from a TV show saying, “That’s a Texas-sized 10-4, big shoots.”

“See if you can’t help us out with some of these cops,” she said. I expanded my mind, directing some of this feed to the TV so my daughter could watch. They had a pretty big force of police in front of them, with some white supremacist paramilitaries flanking the protesters. Cops were wrapping around, trying to surround the protest, but it was too large at the moment. They’d need to stop them. I broke into the channel they were using to coordinate the flankers to the north and indicated that they’d need to head further north with the protest having moved off in that direction.

I noticed an issue at the rear of the group. SUVs and vans were riding up and people were snatching isolated protesters into them. Sure would be a shame if something in the vehicles’ computers messed up and their engines died on them before they could get away, huh? And look at that, electronic locks. The guys holding them had weapons, but they were also vastly outnumbered by the protesters looking to de-arrest their fellows.

While I ran electronic interference, Reindeer was walking near the head of the group. They put here there, not as a figurehead but as a blocker. Didn’t make any difference to the cops who they gassed, apparently, but people who saw photos or watched footage would see a hero getting attacked by militarized, trigger-happy goons.

The paramilitaries didn’t hesitate either, and that was a lot more clear of a distinction. Hero versus people with Confederate Naval Jacks and Nazi Swastika patches beside the authoritarian “Back The Blue” flag. They were getting in people’s faces and I could tell Reindeer was having some of the same control issues I was. She really wanted to punch these assholes. I wanted to fuck with their cellphones and make them explode. Both of us knew if we did that, a situation that might become violent would become violent. I kept the idea in my pocket, but went ahead and planted some fun little worms in their phones to track and siphon off data. Might be a rash of mysterious deaths in the next few days.

The tension didn’t quite drain away, not even when someone ordered the cops to withdraw despite the orders from on high telling them to stay there. That left the way clear for the march, and it left the white supremacists all alone with a much larger crowd of protesters. The paramilitaries took one look at the numbers difference and the retreating cops, and decided they didn’t want any part of a crowd that beat a militarized, million-dollar force using cardboard shields and leafblowers. They ran scared, their silly Hawaiian shirts flapping away.

A cheer went up, and Reindeer spoke into one of the cameras. “You’re pretty good at this. Tell me you got names and addresses.” She turned and looked into a phone nearby where someone was filming everything that was interrupted out of nowhere by an arena full of people chanting along with a wrestler, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The surprise to me came the next day when I checked the news and found out Reindeer wasn’t the only superhero who stepped up and started blocking for protesters. There was even a big deal where one had stepped in and captured a would-be mass shooter in Wisconsin who murdered someone and tried to kill more. This weaksauce president we have currently after all the fighting and political maneuvering may be a traitorous son of a bitch, but he cared enough about which way the wind was blowing to pretend he did something. Then the protesters paraded his goons from the vans in front of news cameras and he announced he’d be withdrawing federal agents from protests.

Ah Earth. Those “civilized” aliens out there may look down on us, but I think I’ll take those assholes in the streets over the ones who never go further than expressing concern any day.

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Cull Or Be Culled 6

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Yacht. Weird word. Probably some Scandinavian origin if I bothered to look it up. Like maybe a Viking wanted a new name for his really big boat. That, or someone’s pet camel spit near one and they thought the sound would make a good name. Words are funny like that. Like how the disease malaria is named after “bad air” because that’s what they thought spread it. And speaking of disease, the presence of it played something of a role in my follow-up pursuit of Howard Kuill.

The guy thinks he’s hot shit, but he’s really more of a steaming pile. And nothing showed that off more than his attempt to escape the plague-ridden United States, and any chance at accountability. Law enforcement swarmed over the Kuill offices and a few even found the Morlock Pit. Slemmer’s been taken into custody and they’re also looking at him for insider trading over the short-selling. Kuill fled on his yacht, though. Even if they caught him, he’d probably face less time than Slemmer, even. Killing people isn’t much of a crime once you hit a certain tax bracket. But play around with the stock market like Slemmer did and they’ll come down on you like an Incredible Hulk.

The laws fail a lot of people and let a lot of the worst go. Definitely not a status quo I’m fond of. But death is the great equalizer, and it seems the world still needs a Psychopomp to guide some souls to the afterlife.

It took some doing to find the yacht. He’d departed California, but there weren’t really any safe harbors to the west of him. I figured he’d either enter Mexican waters or Canadian, and the States’ more adversarial relationship to Mexico had those folks better prepared to catch Americans trying to jump the border. Canada’s been side-eyeing the U.S. as well, but there’s not the same history there of border shenanigans that would prompt Canada to be on the lookout the same way. I think some of these Americans even tried to overthrow a Latin American country within the last year using mercenaries.

But enough politics. It’s bound to come up when pursuing a fugitive across national borders, but in this case, the Canadians were ready enough. Seems a bunch of old Canadian retirees got upset at all the Americans floating over to gas up on Native lands in Canada despite travel restrictions. They’ve been keeping a close eye on folks crossing over into Canadian waters. I kept my ears open when the old people called in a sighting of Kuill’s yacht, The Sound Of Money.

I knew I’d need my water wings for this one. Sure, Batman gets a fucking batboat or a batplane or a batsub or a pool batnoodle. If he was Jewish, I bet he’d have had a bat mitzvah. But I have no furry-themed transportation. Even Black Sunshine, my tricked-out car, is sitting off in lock-up somewhere, and I’d probably have to reread everything to figure out what happened to my Minstrel Cycle.

So I needed transport, and the last yacht I stole ended up inside a building. But don’t worry, that was planned and is in no way indicative of poor boating skills.

I have the skill, but what I lacked was time. I had to get up there in a hurry and catch the fleeing douchenozzle, not to be mistaken for a Flying Dutchman. So I had to shoot my ass up to Canada in a rocket and go looking for a boat there on the west coast. People saw me walking around with a couple big bag of supplies hopping into a boat that wasn’t mine and the worst I got was some guy standing around, squinting, asking me, “How’re ya now?”

“Eh,” I waggled a hand. The size of those bags I was carrying should have been an indication something was up, but he didn’t mention it.

He was just leaning against a pole that went down through the dock to function as a support, smoking a cigarette. Checkered shirt and jeans, so not security. “Not so bad, ‘n you?”

“So this is some sort of routine question where my answer didn’t matter, eh?” I asked the guy. I started checking this thing out. Making sure it had some fuel, mainly.

“Would it matter if I told you you could rent a boat or borrow a boat or ask someone for a boat? No, but you didn’t do that, did you?” God, this guy stood so stiff.

Seemed to have fuel and otherwise be ready to go“Just trying to take care of a little business. Get rid of a guy bothering y’all from south of the border.”

“Ah. Degens from down-country,” the strange man commented. “If you wanted help, you should have asked.”

“I don’t need help,” I told him. “Just a boat to get to Kuill.”

He stopped leaning on the pole in one sudden motion. “Spare keys are under the driver’s seat. Please bring it back. Other than that, try to have fun.” He flicked the cigarette off into the water, which struck me as a bit callous toward the environment for a guy who just politely let me steal a boat, whatever.

I could have done a lot of this by drone and all, but I wanted to be personally present and I wanted to be sure I got the guy. I blow up his boat from afar, maybe I got him, or maybe he was off the side of the thing swimming with card sharks. Maybe he took a seaplane somewhere else. Those things strike me as an excellent way to get around border problems and airports, and I wanted to be prepared for the possibility of me being wrong. That meant being there in-person.

I saw a few sailors in short shorts carrying guns, but they dropped their guard when they saw I was a pretty woman in a swimsuit small enough to get me arrested for indecent exposure in most places. I waved at them all happily and leaned on my flawless acting abilities. By which I mean I took a swig of a bottle of gin and yelled out, “Oh my god, I’m here to see Howie!”

They actually helped me onto the boat, pretend-stumbling. Took my bags, tied up the boat, put a hand on my ass. Ok, the last one wasn’t helpful, but I let it go because it showed they bought the lie. I put an alternate reality mark on that guy, to remember him down for later. “Oh, thank you, thank you! Where’s Howie at?”

“He’s off the boat. You can wait for him over here,” one AK-toting sailor said, leading me away into this big-ass boat. I settled in near one of the bars that was part of this lounge where various other beautiful women were dancing around. I must have spent an hour dancing around white-girl drunk. If not for the fact that my notions of smug, righteous superiority is so tied to being better than the people I’m killing, I was tempted to kidnap a few of these hotties for myself. I’m surprised I didn’t slip for real; I had to be dripping.

Finally, Howard Kuill’s helicopter arrived to save me from having a slit slip. I saw the guy himself, stepping down in a white suit, throwing his long, wavy dyed hair around. Lucky me, he gave me a good 30 minutes before moonrise to get my shit together. That meant making sure my bag was nearby and adjusting the DJ’s playlist. I don’t care what anyone says, I am allowed to keep my flair for the dramatic.

The real test of skill was walking close enough to that helicopter to sabotage it without getting noticed. And as we established, I had some dental floss up my asscrack at the time. Took so long, I almost didn’t make it back in time for the howl at the four second mark of the song I made sure to put on signaling just before moonrise.

I had enough time to bounce on over to the dance floor and, smiling at the thought of what they were about to witness, get ready for the Thriller dance, but set to Scandroid’s cover with the robo-zombies and robotic werewolf.

It was nowhere near midnight, and this time the evil thing was lurking in plain daylight. But then I collapsed, drawing a shitload of attention to me. My brain was there, but my consciousness was off in a bag somewhere. I burst out of it and found myself looking at some confused sailors, neither of which were armed. I held a finger to my Spooklight costume’s mask and shushed them, then grabbed the other bag.

I opened the door and found myself face to face with the grabby guy, who hesitated to raise his rifle. I grabbed it and pulled, yanking him forward by the strap around his torso. He walked right into the knee to the groin. Then I grabbed his throat, tossed him up against the ceiling, and slid underneath him so that when he landed, it was with my knuckles digging into his sack. I took the gun off him and tossed that overboard for safe keeping, then hurried out to the deck where people were gathered around my convulsing body.

I saw an arm shoot up out of the huddle, growing brown fur. The people began to scatter then, with a handful of rifle-toting sailors running up to get a better look. I swung the back, knocking one of them to the side. Another two got a dropkick that sent them skittering. Of the other two, one focused on me, while the other aimed at Reindeer, who began to stand up. I tossed a light orb that guy’s way, shredding his gun in a small explosion. The guy above me opened fire, giving this body a lot of bruises through the bulletproof fabric of the costume.

In case I haven’t emphasized it lately: bulletproof doesn’t mean padded. And while I hadn’t built these bodies entirely up to the standards of the one Reindeer used to throw my assailant overboard, the ones that prove stable enough to keep around get some upgrades. Reindeer helped me up. “Got your bell rung, huh?”

“HUH?!” I asked at the time, because I’d gotten my bell rung and had a gun go off several times point blank in front of my face. Reindeer took the bag off from me, then pointed me toward the group of sailors recovering and forming themselves up into a firing squad. The easier not to shoot too a lot of valuables or guests. That’s why I went ahead and blew the floor out from under them with a light orb. Some flew back, but a couple fell into the hole as they scrambled to get away. I saw someone start up the helicopter, the rotor blades speeding up and then slowing down as the cockpit began to belch smoke.

I started into the ship to try and find out guy Howie, since I realized I’d lost track of him. There were still other boats he could take to escape. Instead, I got that Mr. Grabby coming at me with a big buck knife. “What the fuck is he paying you?” I asked while trying to avoid a blade to the throat.

“Don’t touch my balls!” he yelled, raising the knife overhand.

“Shouldn’t have touched my ass,” I told him, dropping to my back and driving a foot hard between his legs. The knife clattered to the floor. “Lesson learned?” I asked

In a high-pitched voice, he said, “They’re inside me now.”

I patted him on the head. “Yes, the real nuts were inside you all along.” Then I bounced his head off the floor to knock him out and rolled out of the way as Reindeer charged into the yacht looking for Kuill as well.

“You check the boats, I’ll check the armory!”

Well, at least we had the same idea. Out at the boats, I didn’t see any sign of Kuill and his wavy locks. Some people were pushing off in boats of their own, and there were the lifeboats from all over the deck. They weren’t the target. In fact, from the explosions I heard, jumped forward to raise a fist toward one boater who was trying to push off with just himself in a boat. “Good time to carpool, don’t you think?” I think he ended up enjoying the position I put him in when some of those dance floor hotties rushed him looking for a ride. I gave him a thumbs-up as he shoved off, which he returned.

Satisfied Kuill wasn’t getting away this way and knowing that explosions usually mean something of significance is happening, I decided to head back the way I came. Some parts of decks were missing or crumpling, so I had to hop down and hop up a few places until I found myself in the open part of a lower deck than the lounge, where Reindeer was locked up with Kuill in a bulky suit of power armor. He had giant speakers fixed on the shoulders and arms of his outfit, blasting Reindeer with soundwaves. Behind her, I saw people knocked off deck. I sighed and ran over to toss out some of those float rings, then backflipped and sent a light orb Kuill’s way. He released his grip on Reindeer to use one hand to blast the orb, detonating it in midair. Reindeer used that to reach in and tear something off his suit that caused the arms to fall limp at his side. She ripped him out of that suit and threw him to the deck. .

Howard looked up at us. “What? What is this? Who are you? I have money if you want money.”

“Justice, like lightning,” Reindeer said. “Ever should appear.” She turned her back on him and looked to me. “Finish it?”

I nodded and stepped forward. “To few men’s ruin, but all men’s fear.”

Reindeer knew what I did. Maybe my better half isn’t that much better. Or maybe sometimes better means some folks need killing.

“You saved us a boat, right?” she asked once I dropped Kuill’s corpse. “I’m not a flying reindeer.”

“Yeah. Might as well try to get the boat back to that weirdo at the dock.”

She put an arm around my shoulder. “I’m proud of you. Mostly nobody died. And you didn’t even have to steal a boat. We could make a good tag team.”

“Don’t push it, hero,” I told her.

“Wish you didn’t have to kill him,” she said, speaking somberly for a moment. “I catch a bank robber or a mugger, we know there’s a system. Maybe too flawed of a system for how it treats people. But that guy wouldn’t face a second in jail, so instead he gets oblivion.”

“The life of a hero’s hard,” I told Reindeer. “Come to the dark side. We have donuts. Some of them have sprinkles.”

That cheered her up a little.

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Reckoning 8

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My target: General Lulios, the prime asshole. The guy who started me on this path in life, as I’ve done nothing but blather about for the past month. That confrontation in Nunuvat was the last time Medusa and I spoke in all this and I got more detail about the situation when she dropped him off. I assume he’ll have protection.

I really should speak to Medusa again. No, I shouldn’t. She’s the one who kept going when I said not to. And she’s the one who didn’t seem to understand the importance of justice for what that bastard did to me. I want to speak with her again because she means something to me and because I’m in desperate need of a companion to pour my heart out too. But damn, I should have dated a friend instead of an enemy.

Max is still a friend, we’re just not like that. Even if… nah, still a friend. “I’m thankful you saved me, and I value our friendship,” he told me when I started planning the invasion of an alternate Earth, “But I can’t join you in this.”

I stopped and looked up at him. Sam and Holly flanked him and looked just as certain in the decision as he did. I sighed and got to a stopping point before responding. “Fine. Can’t force you. I hope we can still work together going forward.”

He shrugged. “You could just hang sometime. I’m still your friend, but this is a suicide mission.”

“Don’t know what you mean. It’s me, after all. Not the first time I’ve taken on the world.”

Sam decided to join in, “Technically it’s two worlds who oppose you killing this dude.”

“I can’t let him get away with what he did just because people like him now. It’s not right for folks to dismiss all the bad shit he did.”

Holly surprised me next. “But then you’d have to justify a need to punish yourself for all the bad things you did that weren’t his fault, and it almost comes across like this is an elaborate suicide-by-cop like you used to want.”

Max stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder to draw my attention back up and toward him. My gaze had drifted down as I pondered Holly’s words, not tried to hide from them and any inconvenient tinge of truth in them. “You don’t have to do this. We can help. You can do more of the therapy you quit or take the medication you stopped.”

I turned back to my work. “Y’all might want to get out of here before I finish this D-Bomb and zip on over there.”

They left, looking all sad at the thought that I wasn’t giving up on this vendetta. The gall, bringing up my mental problems. They should know my brain is ok now. I have a computer in there, a psychic superhero did stuff to it, and then aliens played around with it. My brain is perfectly fine! And so what if I die? They think it’s a matter of suicide. I buried hatchets and ended feuds because my daughter was worth living for. This vengeance is worth dying for. The world would still martyr him, but he would be dead. He belongs to the dead. Every future of everyone he had tortured and murdered in his sick Psychopomp program, every “what if” that could have been, they all cry out for a reckoning.

I am the Psychopomp. I am his final reckoning.

And by my reckoning, they have way too big a shitload of firepower at the portal to the other Earth for my liking. My drone shouldn’t have gotten through in the first place. Maybe they still could. Maybe I’m being overly paranoid. Maybe I’m a lot of things. Maybe I’m suicidal and crazy and alone without a community and friends after a lifetime of being the monster to everybody around me. I can’t fix it. No one can fix it, not without time travel. All that’s left is revenge.

Nobody left to miss me but Qiang and Max. And after that little bit earlier, why skimp on the brutal honesty? They’d get over it.

So, back at the house, I told Qiang I had something real important to do and I might be late getting back to Firecat for supper. I took her down to the basement for a laydown. Just before I pulled back, I heard Medusa calling a greeting. She called me while I was checking things over. Operating so closely out of two bodies was going to be hard enough. I didn’t need to forget stuff, too. Not a lot to forget though. It’s Li and my main body in its armor in a Psycho Flyer, with a big o’ bomb in the transport hold that’ll tear a hole in reality. I didn’t have time to bring Firecat, and the other body I put together died from where I left it. Whoops. At least it didn’t have a consciousness in it, but it just goes to show the importance of feeding and watering your spare bodies. Remember that down, kiddos.

And after all that, I get a call from her. I didn’t pick up, so I get a text. “Please, let’s talk.” I’d sooner celebrate that day’s Independence Day.

I was going to do the mean thing and tell her we could talk if I survived, but it was time to be professional again. Professionalism: be polite, be efficient, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. I blocked her, closed and sealed the Psycho Flyer, activated stealth mode, and detonated the Dimension Bomb.

Every damn time I do one of these with just myself, it tosses me through the Universe Divide into my original universe and this time was no different. And it always dumps me at the site of my original exit from the world, which my would-be victims at first turned into a memorial of my cruelty and victims. Upon my return and their realization I’m not dead, they fortified it. Then it became the site of the permanent portal connection these two universes. Meaning even though I bypassed the defenses on one side of this, I still appeared only a little off the ground in an area full of sensors and guns meant to keep me out.

Alarms went off immediately upon reappearing in reality. I gunned the Flyer and dropped chaff, then almost immediately had to bank upward to escape the wall around the area portal zone. I felt impacts and the panel showed damaged armor plating falling off from where something got me before I got clear of the wall. After that, I was free and clear. They didn’t seem to have so many guns and cannons pointed outward, and stealth mode seemed to protect me so long as I stayed low enough.

I parked on a hill overlooking the nearby city to reach out and see what I could see. Not literally; the morning light was as unwelcome to my cybernetic eyes as it had always been. I went digital.

The news was abuzz with recent revelations. The Justice Rangers had kidnapped General Lulios to use as bait to kill Psycho Gecko. Hey, I’ve heard of that person. And while many of the people seemed outraged, others sided with the Rangers all the more after Lulios told them why. He actually told them about Psychopomp. About kidnapping me and other kids to torture and abuse into the government’s expendable and deniable pet killers. About how the bigotry of he and his fellow soldiers caused the project to degenerate into sadism. He even told them about the scientists trying to break some of us out and dying when we were all caught. He was currently locked in public stockade in the middle of a memorial park to fallen Justice Rangers. That would mean Justice Ranger guards, but they’re mainly there to keep him in.

It was late afternoon when I snuck the Flyer in close and dropped out of there with my main body. I recalled some of the clothing I used to wear and my holographic illusion made me appear to be no different than another person there to look at the great general brought low. Most people maintained a good distance, but nobody minded when I stepped up closer to Lulios. “Why’d you come clean?”

“It was the right thing to do. I truly wish to make amends for what I did to Gecko and my responsibility for everyone he terrorized since,” he said. He coughed. Dude’s head was dirty, with some dried plant matter and seeds in his hair.

Be efficient. That’s what I was supposed to do. Move in and kill, then worry about talking. It was a great plan, and seeing him overrode it. I stepped closer to the stockade. A blackguard stepped up to put a hand on my shoulder. I grabbed him by the arm and threw him into his comrade on the other side of the stocks. Then I took hold of the metal stock and pulled, my armor amplifying the force applied by my muscles. After a long moment of strain, something let out a wiry snap and the stock opened. Lulios tried to stand up but fell on his ass while I approached, dropping the illusion and letting them all see my armor.

“You had to know this was coming,” I told him. Behind me, most of the gathered crowd decided it was a good day for a run in any direction but toward me.

Except one young woman. She started toward us until Lulios raised a hand and yelled, “Stay back!” He lowered his voice as he looked up at my helmet. “It doesn’t make it any less scary.”

“Any last words?” I asked. Behind me, the two blackguards had gotten to their feet. One called in backup while the other advanced on me from behind with a rifle aimed squarely at my head. I snapped my armor’s tail, knocking the rifle free, then wrapped it around his waist and threw him at the other man. They both crashed into an old statue nearby of the first yellow ranger. The woman from before was still there and pulled out a stunrod. Think baton that electrocutes someone.

“Please don’t harm my daughter,” Lulios said, nodding toward that woman.

I cocked my head to the side. “You really think I’d do that? That I’d take out my vengeance both on you and your child? What do you think I am, some kind of monster?” He almost looked relieved before I added, “Well I am, thanks to you.”

I was about to put my fist through his chest when I felt weird. Tingly. I looked around for what was causing my hair to rise on end and saw a moon in the afternoon sky. A full moon. I thought that was supposed to be for the 5th, but…

Quickly, hoping this would work, I jumped into the Li body in the Flyer. It’s still basically transmitted from my brain, but I was able to fall asleep in on ebody and keep going in another, so maybe whatever freaky neuroscience was going on would save me from the transformation. I opened the door to the Flyer to see my main body cry out in pain and pull itself free of my armor. Lulios backed away, his daughter rushing to his side to help him escape. They jumped at the sight of antlers spurting out of my head and my face elongating.

I jumped down in Li and raced for the group. If I’d just been efficient, this wouldn’t be a cluster in the fuckening. The pair got a little ways away from my transforming body before I caught up to them in the other one. I pounced… and stopped in midair before swinging around in a circle a few times and getting thrown down a grassy aisle between rows of statues. I gouged divots in the grass where I dug claws in to stop myself and snapped my jaws at Reindeer standing between me and my targets.

“Play 911 by Lady Gaga,” Reindeer said. My armor, laying mostly in one piece, began to blast it out. Reindeer launched herself toward me, then dug her heels in and skid while grabbing a statue of some beetle-armored person off its pedestal and throwing it at me. I ducked under it and wrapped my tail around it, swing it down low. I hopped up and released, throwing it right back. Even if Reindeer dodged it, Lulios wouldn’t have.

Reindeer jumped up over the statue and kicked down, knocking it into the dirt. It rolled, but stopped short of Lulios and his daughter.

“How’d I know we’d end up fighting?” I asked Reindeer.

“We don’t have to, but I’m you and you hate yourself still. Look, justice is being done. Lulios’s crimes are public. He was in a stockade. You won.”

“Not until he has his final punishment,” I growled at Reindeer.

“You can’t live in a world without mercy and forgiveness,” Reindeer said. “I know you don’t care for your own sake, but the reason you hate me and him and yourself is because you think a person can’t change and move past their earlier mistakes, because you don’t think you deserve that.”

As fun as it was to talk to myself, and it wasn’t, I scampered forward and swiped at Reindeer’s calves. She backed up, lifting her legs high, then caught my tail when it came around to pop her in the face. She landed and used my tail to swing me overhead, smacking me into a marble fresco depicting some Queen of Magic person. I grabbed onto it and dug in, then used my tail to fling Reindeer into the air. I activated the natural camoflouge of this form and rolled back, bringing my tail’s point up to impale Reindeer. I remembered at the last minute who Reindeer was, though, and instead batted her to the side, cracking a depiction of a little robot with an oversized head.

Reindeeer jumped to her hooves quickly enough, but was coughing thanks to the impact and some dust from pulverized stone. It gave me enough of an opening to remember why I was there. Reindeer had me seeing red, when I should be making someone see black.

“Do you want your daughter to grow up knowing if she wrongs you once, you’ll kill her?!” Reindeer called.

That stopped me from advancing on Lulios. I whirled on the weredeer that takes over my body once a month. “How dare you?”

“I’m you, you fuckbrain,” Reindeer said. “I’ve always been you, just the side that finally tried to do what we always wanted. You have a shot at a new identity and a new life, everything you claim to want, if only you can find a way. He took that away from you, but you don’t have to be the monster he made anymore. You are responsible for your own actions now, and nobody deserves to live in a world where one mistake means death. That’s not what we want for our child.”

I was silently brooding on all this, awash in emotions. Many of them involved anger. “I’m scared,” I told myself.

Reindeer approached, wrapping her arms around me. “I know. We’ll find a way to do the right thing. You’re smart and you’re strong. For all that she’s messed up, Medusa was right that you’re a person worth forgiveness and love. If you want it, and I know you do. All you’ve ever wanted was to be the good gal.” Her voice raised as she called out to Lulios, “I’m not going to be the creature you saw when you justified killing my parents and abducting me. I’m not your child soldier anymore, you husk of an old man!”

Reindeer kept her arm around me as she gathered up my armor. More blackguards were approaching, but so was the current Ranger team. “Stop!”

“The fight’s over… we’ll leave in peace,” Reindeer said.

“Get on the ground!” called the same Blue Ranger I’d beaten back on my Earth.

“Well, if you’re going to be dipshits about this, we’ll just leave!” Reindeer called out. We both jumped for it. They fired at us, but the only blast that got close, I intercepted with my tail before it got Reindeer. With Reindeer leaping and me climbing straight up the side, we managed our way up the building I’d landed on and scrambled into the Psycho Flyer.

“I wish you’d been less suicidal when you came here,” she said. “Would have been nice to have another bomb to get us back.”

“Looks like we’re taking this right up the portal’s poop shoot, then” I said. “Hey, you’re not going to insist I have to forgive Medusa next, are you?”

“I’m lost on that, too. I’m you, remember? She lost our trust and we’ll have to figure out what’s up going forward, but we weren’t going to kill her over it at least,” she said. “We both tried to hop into the pilot’s seat for a moment, causing a chuckle and me swapping into the co-pilot’s chair while Reindeer zipped off for the portal “I think they know we’re here and where we’re going, so let’s speed this up, shall we?” Reindeer said.

I used hands and tail to man battlestations “All tails on deck. We’re a little short on countermeasures from getting here.”

One of the first signs of resistance we encountered was a pair of missiles that blasted apart easily when shot. But the wreckage didn’t fall. Instead, little robots flew out of the wreckage. Some latched on as we passed through and began to cut and dig their way into the metal. One got onto the cockpit windshield, so I activated a different countermeasure. The windshield wipers slid out. The robot tried to duel with one, but it moved back and the one behind it swept its feet. Then the one it tried to fight knocked it around a bit before the robot dropped off the Flyer. Others were taking down more armor plates and putting enough dents in the adaptive skin and projectors to expose us in patches. I unstrapped and ran to the back, tying a cable around my waist and opening the rear hatch.

I swung out and around, grabbing for a handhold on the side of the Flyer. It was not fun, but I had some divots premade by those robots. One with the misfortune to be near where I grabbed one got sent off. I stabbed another with my tail. Really liking this thing. A hell of a learning curve, but humanity made a mistake when it got rid of this appendage. Another of the robots tried hopping onto me and bringing its sawblade down on the armor over my spine. I twisted one arm completely around and flicked it off. Ball joints. Another thing humans got wrong when evolving.

I spent the entire rest of the flight to the portal zone on the outside, trying not to get blown off while destroying saboteur bots. I didn’t end up having time to clamber back in, and Reindeer had to mostly shut the rear entry. “Hold on tight!” she called out through the external comms and took us right for the portal we shouldn’t have been trying with that big of a vehicle. We crashed through the awning, ions and all sorts of energy projectiles sizzling through the air. One popped me right in the chest, destroying one of my hearts. Good thing I had a spare. Except in all the crashing through the awning, we had shit flying everywhere. The Flyer was just sliding through the portal when a hunk of jagged metal jammed down and-

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Predator Ambush

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I want to start off by saying I had to end the vacation early for Qiang. I know, I hate staying separate from her, but I don’t actually want to bring her into a violent confrontation. That she can handle herself doesn’t mean I want her to. Still, she had some fun while we were up at that hotel. She missed the snow, but not the guys with knives.

I sold a pretty good amount for the folks back home battling for their lives against a tyrannical police state. I mean, they could have had ME in charge instead, but, ya know. Shit happens. I’m not bitter. Who said I was bitter? Not me, that’s for sure. A bit angry at the hotel. I had to fight with them to comp me a new room, and they still stuck a charge on there for cleaning the old one. Never shopping there again, 2 stars, might rob later.

Mr. Chester and I had a talk in the new room once I got him stabilized enough. I didn’t give him his arms back. He lost arm privileges when he tried to kill me. It also made it a lot easier to keep him captive, because then I only had to tie his shoelaces together. And he told me all about his colleagues who hunt African big game for profit. They supplement it with running safaris for people who don’t like a lot of rules and regulations on their hunts. So while my daughter’s vacation ended, mine didn’t. Once I’d sold everything and paid that insolent hotel’s charges, I stopped back home to drop her off and change outfits. Also, I stuffed Mr. Chester into a costume mermaid tail and threw him in a pool with some piranhas I borrowed.

The beginning of my exciting safari began in the Ivory Coast. Right out of the Abidjan airport, I was tempted to grab a phenotype for myself. I had plenty of nanites in me again, because they make such a lovely weapon and because I had limited space to bring any syringes. I also didn’t want to bring my armor for reasons that would become apparent later. Abidjan was a pretty good looking city, something I could see easily from my room in an entirely different hotel. One that, I hope, doesn’t mind covering the cost of cleaning dead bodies. My plan didn’t rely on that, but you never know when that service is going to be helpful. Even the piranhas leave some bones behind.

The downside to this lovely place was speaking French again. My least favorite of the Romantic languages, because Italian and Spanish don’t require an extra level of translation so I know which letters are silent and which aren’t. On the plus side, my accent sounding so much like that of the American South means I can actually skate by on ignorance. As far as they know, I’m a rich, white American. Had to pay more than I’d like for a bigass rifle and pistol to complete the look, but having those shipped in ASAP drew what I hoped was the right kind of attention if people check on me. I Private jet or not, they still checked over someone coming from a hotbed of disease like the United States.

That established some public record of my arrival, including my willingness to bribe people to try and bribe officials to get through quicker. They didn’t take me up on it. Smart man.

They set up a preliminary meeting that turned into a Zoom call. Normally, this sort of thing would involve a private meet-up, like at some restaurant or cafe. But better safe than sorry. They have enough reason to worry about me.

The man on the other end of the call looked back at me from behind sunglasses. “How did you get our number?”

I smiled. “I met a man while doing business in the Eastern bloc. He introduced himself to me as Mr. Chester. When I expressed admiration for his products and line of work, he suggested I contact you.”

“Payment up front required. Will that be an issue?”

I fanned myself with a stack of hundred dollar bills. “Pardon me, it’s just so much more warm here than I was expecting. As you can see, I came prepared.”

He was probably rolling his eyes behind those glasses at such a transparent way to show off my money. “We will be in contact.”

They got back to me the next morning, in fact. They sent a car for me, which blindfolded me while they checked over my weapon and a pack that had been much lightened from when I first arrived. I overheard a couple of amused remarks at the steak knife I’d brought with me, but I wanted to use it. The rocket I brought now stood on the roof of the hotel. And I didn’t need a phone with me for it to hone in on. From there, I was brought outside Abidjan, where they met me with a truck. Including what seemed like the same guy, though it gets more difficult to tell without seeing the eyes. “Our newest guest arrives. Meet Ms. Grey.”

Like the blindfold moments before, my eyebrow rose. “I never gave you my name.”

The man nodded. “As we prefer. To us, you are Grey.” He motioned to another car pulling up. A pair of men were let out of it, with hair so slick a match might have started an oil fire on their heads. And where I brought along camo designed specifically for the sort of brush and scrub you might find elephants in, they wore desert camo. Though, I suppose knowing the proper way to kill those cute wittle critters isn’t something to be as proud of this time. And, of course, we all had the rifles. Our hosts were packing AK-74s, with a machinegun laying in the bed of the truck next to a metal stand.

We made such a group of sporting hunters. But until the animals get guns, too, the idea of “sport” is just a hollow set of rules meant to pretend at nobility. Even animals like these types hunt, wouldn’t last long against the sort of weapons humanity could bring to bear if it was so openly hostile to them. Speaking of which, I checked my gear over again. “Where’s my knife?” I heard a laugh behind me.

“This will not help you,” said one guard, waving that silly knife around before tossing it away. In addition to the guy with the sunglasses, four more guards came with us. Sunglasses and a guard drive, stuffing us hunters in the backseat and the other three in the bed.

A couple hours later, we stopped and headed out. One of our hosts stayed behind with the truck and the gun, though I had to stop and tie my shoes. Really, I needed a way to puncture through a tire just the right amount. It would have been easier with the knife, which was my only one. I have my fingernails, but none of them were long enough to do the trick as well as I’d hoped. I had to resort to very carefully burning holes in a couple of tires with my eye lasers.

I made the absolute worst of hunters. I fell behind once and caught up just as the other two hunters were aiming at a lioness that was out hunting. “Hey guys! Wow, look at her.”

The lioness looked up at that, then ran off. One of the guys tried a shot, followed by the guards with us opening fire. The big cat had enough of a headstart. I couldn’t say the same with the next one, when one of the guys popped a shot off as soon as he saw the thing. He shoved his gun into my hands, saying “Make yourself useful and hold this,” with a New York accent before running toward it to take a photo. Nearly cost him when another lioness jumped out of where she was hiding in the brush. Unfortunately, the guards tore it up with theirs. At least the distraction kept anyone from noticing me plug the barrel of his gun.

He found that out the next time he went to shoot and it blew back at him, smashing into one of his eyes while the metal of the barrel blew open so close to where the round had loaded in.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck me, goddamn, I can’t fucking see, fucking medic!” the guy cried. His friend came to rush to his side, but one of the guards pushed that fellow into the dirt. I handed him back his rifle, too, while our hosts checked over the injured sportsman.

The one who looked him over turned to us. “This hunt is over. I can not help him here. We must go back.”

At that rate, we could have made it back before night, if we didn’t come out of the trail through the bushes to find the guard we’d left behind was arguing into a burner phone. He looked up, then told the person on the other end, “They are here now. You tell them why you will do nothing!”

“What is going on?” asked the head of our guards, the man with the sunglasses.

“The tires went flat. Clean through. I have not seen this before,” he explained.

The head of our expedition looked them over real quick, then took the phone away from the one who had been using it. “Come as soon as possible. We will be out in the night because of the time you have wasted.” Once he hung up, he turned to the rest of us. “It will be fine. We will patch your wound as much as able and wait here. We will send you back on the truck. Until then, we do not go far from this clearing. It is dangerous out here at night, even with a full moon.”

Oh, did I not mention that part? I feel it was more important information for them than it was for me. Why should I alone have all the fun?

Just as dark was falling, I wandered off on my own, calling out, “Going to beat the piss out of myself!” I heard chuckles behind me, and, shortly after that, the sounds of someone else following in the brush. The timing was delicate on this, so I went ahead and activated the rocket in town, which would fire off to my location. I looked up at the full moon and-

I don’t have a clear idea what happened between then and Reindeer pulling the costume out of the rocket’s capsule. The cameras showed her fur covered in blood and some gore hanging off her antlers. She snorted. “This isn’t how I wanted to work together, but it’s a start,” she said to the camera, then ran off. When she got a good distance away, she started to pull on the costume. “They were coming to investigate the noise. A hunting party? Good start.”

Reindeer ducked before I heard the shot, then began running, circling around, the person after her going full auto. She aimed and fired with the sonic gauntlets of her costume, creating an opening and pushing the guard onto his ass. She jumped, firing to keep him pinned down until she landed with her antlers in his gut. She whipped her head around to get him good and poked, slinging his rifle off to the side, then tossed him loose overhead. Another shot took a chunk of horn off. She bolted for cover under the bright round moon.

Reindeer hopped into the night sky to spy on what was going on. Everyone left alive was retreating to the truck. A burst from the machinegun in the back of the truck winged Reindeer. They spun her around, but it looked like they didn’t penetrate. Spun her around pretty good. She landed hard on her left arm and leg. She had to have trouble breathing, but crawled to her hooves to get away anyway before the firestorm started. The whole group concentrated their fire where she landed.

She stopped to take a breath and check herself. That’s when she found the detonator. She pulled it out, extended the antenna, and pressed a button. Back at the truck, my gun and pack blew up. She jumped into the middle of the clearing, which had gotten much more clear since the bombs went off. I tried to count it all up from memory… sunglasses guy, truck guard, the two hunters, and two other guards. She got two of the guards as far as I could tell from the automatic rifles as opposed to what the hunters brought. One of the hunters was blinded before all this happened, too. The tipped the truck over, and roughly half of machinegun guy was resting by his gun. The other half, if I followed the trail of blood correctly, was somewhere under the truck bed.

The other hunter was coughing and screaming. Reindeer brought her hoof down in an axe kick, then stomped his head in.

“All of this was a sabotage!” said sunglasses man. Reindeer turned. He had the sunglasses off now, showing off heavy scars around his eyes. His gun looked trashed, but he held a machete.

“No, this was a hunt,” Reindeer said. If I was her, I’d have been smirking when I added, “Did you enjoy the animals having a sporting chance?”

The last man standing charged, an enraged yell escaping his lips. Reindeer focused her sonic gauntlets at his legs and fired. His knees snapped backward and the yells turned more pained than enraged. Reindeer joined in until he stopped. “Did we get it all out of our systems?”

He threw the machete, which Reindeer went to deflect with her antlers. Instead, cut most of her right antler straight off. She grabbed him by the leg and threw him way up in the air. She looked up, keeping track, and rolled a couple of seconds later. She came up hooves up, the force tearing the man’s head and a little bit of his spine off.

Then, finally having a good rest, she checked on that machete. “I’m going to want to see this when I change back.”

Really didn’t like her talking about me as if she’s me. Movement at the edge of the clearing caught her attention. It was the blinded hunter. He’d survived everything so far, and was now crawling off, blind. “I should finish him off quickly,” Reindeer said. The man might have heard from the loud whimper I could make out after that.

But then the second truck showed up with a trio of guys. The last coherent words for a few minutes were French for “Mother of god, what is that?!”

Much of it after that is rather boring. It was a long drive back to Abidjan and my room. I woke up in the shower, Reindeer’s costume drying off nearby. I reached up to where I felt a phantom pain where Reindeer lost most of an antler, and a note that I considered way more chilling than anything Reindeer did to the poachers. “Don’t be afraid to let me in.”

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Near And Deer

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With crime way down on account of the pandemic, I figured I wouldn’t have as much to worry about from Reindeer. My weredeer alter ego was due to come out on the 7th, but most of the country nearby remains closed. That means fewer murders and robberies. Sure, the Exemplars and Cape Diem are doing their best to use nanites to clear the virus up, but a lot of people have it in their head that some sort of Illuminati group is going to stick microchips in them using a vaccine, to control their mind. I guess it makes more sense in a world where I have held the world hostage using nanomachines that let me control people’s bodies. The whole incident really set the world back as far as benefiting from nanotechnology.

And in this case, it means the world’s experiencing a slowdown in crime. Hard to burgle a house when the victims are present. And the only thing you have to do to scare off a mugger is cough menacingly in their direction. I figured Reindeer might frolic around the house or whatever deer do. Maybe go on a boring patrol where nothing happens. That didn’t stop the teasing from Medusa from annoying me. “Ready for your monthly visitor?” she asked while I laid out the Reindeer costume. I just grumbled to myself as I checked the batteries that powered the sonic wristbands and the sound-based jump-assisting bands on the legs of the red, green, and chrome costume.

I wish she realized how insecure I am about Reindeer. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but what if the world preferred Hyde? Would they have worked against Jekyll to find a way to put the doctor asleep permanently in favor of Hyde? Now there’s a theme for my life, wondering how much I have to die to become the better person people want. No wonder I preferred suicide-by-superhero as a concept.

I don’t know how much Reindeer shares my thoughts. But at least she still wears the cameras. I positioned one to get a view of my body when the full moon shone bright. The change looked painful, with bones warping and snapping. Fur spouted in clumps and filled in between that. My face wrenched forward and at one point my mouth opened to show my teeth pulling up into my skull and new teeth coming down make me a proper herbivore. I’m glad my mind doesn’t seem to be present for it.

Where I collapsed, the superhero known as Reindeer stood up and changed into her costume. She even played nice for me and put on her cameras I’d set there so I could keep track of her and what she did. I quickly found out some idea how much of my knowledge she shares when she went straight to where I hid my Psycho Flyer. She took it up in the air and set off for Detroit, spending a good deal of the flight programming in coloring on the camo skin of the Flyer so it looked all bright and cheerful.

She stopped at one point when it became clear that even though the zombies were gone, the braindead still roamed the Earth. A number of trucks had blocked off some key roads, trapping an ambulance. Big trucks, with bumper sticks that involved fishing or a comic book character peeing on things. They were led by a bright orange car with a swastika painted on the top of its hood. I guess that’d be the General Rommel. They had signs, and slogans written on their windows, talking about doctors are now all Hitler. One had that written on a sign.

But they weren’t moving for this ambulance, and there were some people in medical scrubs along the sidewalk yelling at them. From the signs those folks had, I think they were counter protesters. Well, when one of them decided to walk out in the crosswalk in front of the unmoving vehicles that were still refusing to let an ambulance through, that’s when the General Rommel drove forward a short distance. It bumped the person just a little bit. But the counter-protester smacked their hands down on the hood, so the orange car started coming forward, slowly, pushing the counter-protester.

Reindeer was out of trapdoor in a flash. She landed on the hood, denting it and causing the airbags to deploy. She punched her way through the windshield to reach in and shut off the car, then tossed the keys away. The driver stumbled out. “That was my mom’s car, you subhuman bitch!” So that’s when she tossed the driver away. And pushed the car up onto its side so it leaned on one of the others holding up traffic. She went down the line like that, clearing a path. Some of the protesters realized what was happening, then realized they couldn’t get out of the way because some assholes around them had clogged up the streets with traffic. Whoops.

So the ambulance got out of there and no one of consequence was harmed. Guess I can’t give Reindeer too much shit. Some heroes might have tried to claim some nonsense about free speech and so on. And when a bunch of the drivers crowded around Reindeer. “You can’t do this!” said the one who was driving the orange car. “We have freedom of speech! You can’t attack us like this!”

Reindeer pointed to the counter-protester that guy hit with his car. “Yeah?”

“That’s different, that terrorist attacked my car!” I found Reindeer and I had more in common when she punched the asshole for saying that. Instead of killing him like I would have, she zip-tied him and dropped him off, roughly, in front of the nearest police station with a USB containing a copy of the footage showing what he’d done.

I looked into that after I watched it. They released the guy. No arrests.

With that in mind, I was ready for the next disappointing bit of do-gooding that solves nothing permanent and saw that Reindeer’s patrol was mostly quiet. Things calmed down for awhile until just after midnight, when she heard a report of a disturbance along the police bands. Since it was a boring night and she didn’t realize the futility of aiding a status quo that appears neutral but is secretly built to favor white supremacy, she stopped by. Just to see if they needed a hand.

Turned out they weren’t doing anything. Just standing around, watching as burly guys grabbed everything they could out of a building. A different man ran out and tried to grab a vase out of their hands, but a couple of them helped push him off, knocking him down and dropping the vase. A family joined the man, helping him up and pulling him into a sad, crying hug. The son ran over to glare at the cops and point to the men cleaning out their home, but the cops just shrugged. One raised a thumb to another man overseeing the big guy.

Reindeer landed next to the cops and asked in an icy voice, “What’s going on?”

The cops turned to her. “It’s an eviction. We’re not allowed to assist, but it’s within the owner’s legal right.”

“That’s right!” said the overseer. He walked up to Reindeer with a piece of paper in hand. Reindeer’s much better at reading in low-light conditions than most people, so she could make out the wording of the eviction. She grabbed it from him and tore it up.

Then she headed for the building. One of the movers tossed a set of wooden shelves out the door that broke apart on the walkway in front of her. She stepped over it and pointed to him. “Put everything back.”

“Don’t listen to her!” called the landlord over Reindeer’s shoulder. My cameras showed him turning to the cops. “She can’t do this.”

“This is just a job for me lady,” the mover said. “I’m not hurting anybody.”

By the cops, the family they were throwing out on the streets during a pandemic continued to huddle together tearfully.

She heard or maybe even smelled another guy approaching who tried to wrap his arms around her. She stomped on his foot hard enough to crack a couple bones, then kicked him in the gut to send him sprawling. Another mover rushed out of the house with another vase, swinging the decoration at Reindeer’s head. She grabbed it from him and kneed him in the groin, then did a cartwheel that saw her set the vase on the ground, kick that guy in the face, and land on her feet behind the vase and away from the person who now clutched at their bleeding nose from the ground. The one she’d been talking to had grabbed a crowbar and came at her. She dove over the vase with a dropkick that knocked the wind out of him and put him on the ground sucking desperately for air.

Even I could hear the cops talking with the landlord. “I guess we should arrest her, that’s battery…” they didn’t sound eager, probably taking into account the three guys she just beat up.

“Gentlemen, if I may,” said a new voice, from someone who stepped out of the shadows.

This guy wore a teal outfit, broken up by yellow-outlined crenelations, like a castle. That is, they looked like the top of a chess Rook, with yellow lines on the outside, and blue coloring it in. That showed up on his thighs, biceps, and chest, except the one on his chest also had a yellow roaring lion head design there. Same one he had on this pointed kite shield he had, over a foursome of teal and blue squares. He wore a domino mask and had long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, so I had a lot to work with when I started up a possible search of his identity upon seeing all this.

“That animal is disturbing a lawful and, until she arrived, peaceful eviction.”

“This ‘animal’ is the one trying to stop you throwing a family out on the streets now, of all times,” Reindeer said.

The new person approached, raising his hands to the sky. “We don’t have to fight here. You’re a hero. I’m a hero, too. But this man has a legal right to the use of his property.”

“Unless you’re going to fight me for the right to throw them out, shut up,” Reindeer said.

He put up his dukes. “I don’t want to.”

I wish Reindeer had a phone to snap a photo of him with the crying family. I’d have left the flash on so I could suckerpunch him while blinded. Instead, she walked past him, giving him the finger. He looked disappointed at first. “Get out of here unless you’re going to throw the first punch or fuck with their stuff.”

She walked over the family. “Come on, let’s get your stuff back in. What wasn’t destroyed.”

“Beat her up!” the landlord said, running up to the would-be hero. He shook the landlord off. And when the family passed by, giving him a look, he slunk off back to wherever he came from. At least the gathering neighbors let him pass with a little bit of derision. When the landlord saw the crowd, he skedaddled out of there without looking after his movers. At least the ambulance who arrived looked after them and got them out of there past the jeers of the neighbors.

After getting the family and their surviving stuff inside, Reindeer addressed the crowd. “I can’t be here all the time, but the power is yours. You can be there for each other, if you show up. If you take that power. United.”

I guess she didn’t have a proper ending for the little speech, so she jumped up into the waiting Flyer. At least that story got a good ending. The landlord hasn’t been back. Apparently, he’s having trouble hiring reliable help to go in and evict people.

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Deerly Departed

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With everything on lockdown, a lot of crime has outright stopped. A lot more has continued, just in a new way. Humans are nothing if not innovative criminals. I think it has to do with having a bigger, more connected population of social animals. One guy tries something a certain way, messes up, and gets caught. The next guy learns from his mistake, tries something else. Maybe he gets caught, too. It works the other way around, too. People think up new ways to not be victims. Sometimes. And sometimes, I turn into a weredeer superhero.

Ugh. A superhero. I live in fear of an animal hidden deep inside me that comes out once every full moon to terrorize any of my villain friends it comes across. Oh, right, I don’t have but like one friend in the entire villain community, and his two henchwomen. Last time, I stuck a camera on Reindeer so I could keep track of what happened. My altruistic alter ego informed me that she’s not going to stop her heroics, but she wanted a costume. Well, I made her one.

“Nice,” Reindeer said. That hero’s not me. That’s the only way that can explain her love of the padded red and green costume with the shiny chrome accents. “Like silver, but not,” she commented on the chrome zippers and other metal pieces. She pumped a fist and gave a “Yes!” when she noticed the opening for her tail to slip out of the bottoms. There were also a couple of cameras hidden in the lapel to help me keep track of her. She waved at one of them before slipping the outfit on.

She put it on, then examined the wristbands I’d made. I shouldn’t have made them, but seeing her jump around gave me an idea for helping her movement around an urban environment. Then, I went off on a brainstorming tangent about this whole thing. As a result, the wristbands formed a small hill of metal with the side pointing away from the body ending in small concave divots. Dishes, actually. On the underside of the gloves were a pair of switches. The innermost buttons activated the wristbands and the direction-focused sonic weaponry within. The target would hear them and get a nasty headache along with disorientation. Someone next to them wouldn’t feel a thing.

The outermost buttons activated anklebands, if they can even be called that. Hooves are toenails. The divots down there are wider. When activated, those devices generate a sonic push with enough strength to help Reindeer jump even further than her superstrength would normally allow. It’d probably be a good idea if she used them on her landings. The whole setup was powered by a trio of batteries on the back and sides of her belt. The belt buckle flips down to show how much juice she’s got left. When she flipped it down the first time to turn on the system, a note I’d left her fell out. “Do try to bring it back in one piece, 007.”

The fact that I’m making jokes and extra weapons doesn’t mean I approve. That goes double for when she took off for my store and stole my Psycho Flyer I keep hidden in the backyard. “I’m just borrowing it,” she said to the camera built into the lapel of the costume. “If you got me a vehicle of my own, I wouldn’t need it.” She snorted. “How about a sleigh?”

I hate her. She set off for a nightly excursion, heading over to Detroit and disguising the Psycho Flyer. She retained enough of my own knowledge to handle the Flyer. I was going to joke about if she ever learned to fuck as good as me, but then I wondered what happens if she decides to get her own girlfriend.

The city wasn’t as bright as it used to be. Some buildings had no reason to be lit up now that their inner workings were being done at home now. No clubbing, except those done by people hoping to escape the clutches of the undead. I guess if Reindeer has to focus on anything, she might as well go after the small bunch of them making a slow takeover of the Detroit suburbs.

It would almost be funny. In the movies, there isn’t a lot of reason for folks to be loners. There’s usually at least one complete asswipe who gets dragged along even though the group would be objectively better off without them. In real life, an uprising by the mortally-challenged never really had a chance to become a threat until a mysterious virus forced everyone to isolate from each other. Instead of facing a neighborhood of people with barricades and weaponry, the zombies had time to tear into individual houses and chow down on the inhabitants. Reindeer hadn’t shown up in time to stop them all.

I guess I can relate to that. Part of my weird knowledge of chaos theory and multiverse theory has me think sometimes about all the ways things could have gone different. One word different. A tone here. Being friendly when someone felt like being a jerk. You don’t get second chances. Of course, I can always put that out of my mind and focus on blowing shit up. Reindeer wanted to hijack my body and be a goody-goody, so she got to ponder it.

Reindeer zoomed in front of a mass of zombies shuffling down the middle of the street and grabbed the gunner stick. The screen zoomed in on a few faces that had seen better days. Gnashing teeth, dead eyes, and skin falling off the bone… this wasn’t a pretty bunch. Reindeer caught sight of something though, and flicked the targeting reticule over. The zombies were passing by a Tesla Nitro. Designed personally by Elon Musk personally, the Nitro is said to be powered by an innovative engine combining electricity, solar power, and nitroglycerin. Reindeer took the shot and… holy shit, they’re right about the nitroglycerin part. The fireball knocked all the zombies around it down, threw shrapnel that took out at least a few, and caught a bunch of them in the blast radius on fire.

That still left a sizable chunk left to deal with, but the ones that stayed on fire would be dealt with eventually. Reindeer used the guns to mow through some of the rest. People aren’t all the same height, but she caught an angle and did her best to chop a few down regardless. At the end of it, the Flyer’s HUD showed a count of all the enemies moving. 87.

Reindeer set the Flyer to hover in place, set up a bright flashing pattern of lights, and turned on Weird Al’s “Eat It” through the external speakers. By the time she landed on that first zombie who had the misfortune of being right underneath the VTOL, that thing was a bright advertisement saying “Zombie Food Here”. And she didn’t even do it with a helmet or anything to cover her hooves.

Reindeer hadn’t given them enough time to gather in a horde that would negate her movement capabilities. Some of them crawled and got their heads stomped in. Others shuffled. Reindeer grabbed one’s head and smooshed it between both hands, getting blood all over the camera. She wiped it off the same time she wiped the hungry expression off the face of another zombie with a roundhoof kick.

She punched and kicked and stomped, but the horde slowly pressed in on her. With the benefit of not being in the middle of the action, I noticed when the clouds began to move in. She stayed changed without the full moon touching her still. She jumped up to catch the rope and scope out the situation. The wind howled, and leaves swirled about. “Sprinkling,” Reindeer noted. I couldn’t hear any rain at all over the moaning of the hungry dead. She turned her head and spotted a figure in a robe standing on a car.

The robed person held a rifle that glowed with engraved runes. The zombies assembled around them, not just as a crowd, but as an actual assembly. They were building something out of bodies. A large tube. “Oh!” Reindeer said and pointed a fist at the robed figure. The person dropped the rifle and began holding their hands to their ears. The zombies fell out sync. The guy directing them fell off the car he stood on, at which point. The crowd of zombies blocked Reindeer’s shot. Something changed with the zombies, too. The ones nearest the Flyer stared up at it and swayed. The ones by the robed person stretched out their arms and came after that one.

Unlike the other time I saw a mysterious hooded figure leading a pack of zombies, this one’s robe ripped and tore itself into jagged pieces. Two of them stretched out on either side as long wings and carried the necromancer into the air.

At this point, Reindeer got an idea. She climbed the rope and headed to the cockpit. There in the distance, the unknown mage dove, trying to reclaim the etched firearm from the middle of the remaining horde of undead. Zombies reached for their former master and mouthes gnashed. The wings frequently came away just a little shorter. One time, the necromancer flapped up… and the Flyer plowed into them. I looked on from inside as the person clung to the front windshield of the Flyer, wings unable to flap properly with interference from the jets.

Reindeer went over the loudspeaker. “How do I stop the zombies?”

The figure gave a middle finger.

“I can drop you into the middle of them,” Reindeer warned. The middle finger retreated and a pointer aimed at the enchanted gun.

“You reinstalled the guns on this thing, Gecko,” Reindeer muttered while looking over the console. “Where are the fireworks?”

She flipped a switch. An orb descended from the top of the cockpit and began to spin around, flashing multicolored lights all over while rave music played. Reindeer quickly flipped the switch back up. “The ravings of a madwoman,” she said to the retreating light ball, shaking her head. Another switch, she flipped more slowly. She felt the Flyer jerk as something fell, not realizing she flipped the anvil switch. Cameras below showed it landing on the head of a zombie and crushing it into paste.

“It’ll have to do,” she said, lining the Flyer up over the gun.

“You can’t just destroy a rifle!” called the figure on the windshield. “This is America!”

Reindeer snorted and pushed the anvil button. The Flyer jerked again as the second one dropped out and smashed the enchanted weapon beneath its weight. Immediately, all the zombies around dropped dead. Er, deader. Redead. Once bitten, twice dead. The zombies had ceased to be.

And in the morning, my girlfriend woke up to a hogtied necromancer on our lawn and a card with Reindeer’s lipstick kiss on the inside.

I loathe her.

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Privateer Party

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As Medusa promised me, we went to go see Beetlejuice the Musical where it was playing in Empyreal City. We brought along Qiang, too. The play about death was lots of fun for the whole family. We even stayed the next day over, just to enjoy ourselves and feel less rushed. The downside is when it came time for us to fly back, Medusa had sent her flyer off to go help some Exemplars dealing with other problems.

“Just call yours,” she said. I’d finally asked her about it, since it was getting later in the day.

“I did,” I told her. “The problem is, it might not get here in time.” It would be close, but I didn’t have my condition explicitly mapped out. As a weredeer, I know the full moon prompts my transformation into a half-woman, half-deer. I don’t know if I have to actually see the moon, or if its light has to shine on me, or if it has to be night.

Qiang skipped along beside us, playing with a tablet we got her, oblivious to the whole conversation.

“Nobody knows it’s you. Don’t worry,” Medusa said.

I rolled my eyes. “If you were trying to protect someone from a werewolf, would you bring them to the middle of a crowded city and stop worrying?”

Now it was her turn to roll her eyes. “You’re not a werewolf. You don’t hurt anyone.”

“But Medusa, think about all the innocent criminals!” I said, meaning to remind her about those people I hurt, but just causing her to laugh at the inadvertent joke.

“I trust your other half to beat up the right people,” she said. “I’ll tag along if you want.”

I turned and shook my head, putting my hand on her chest. “I don’t want you to see me like that. The full moon brings out a dangerous part of me that I’m not proud of. I become a danger to my loved ones.”

Qiang giggled. She was looking up from her tablet to watch us. While I was distracted, Medusa grabbed my hand. She kissed my fingertips, then entwined her fingers with mine. “Relax. If you don’t want me coming along, I’ll respect that. I’m getting you a body cam, though.”

We got right on that and headed back to the hotel room. I didn’t want to ruin the outfit I was in even if the dress didn’t look as good on me as I thought. I know, I throw money around like it doesn’t mean anything. At least I robbed someone straight-up instead of doing the dishonest thing and scamming them out of cash by selling colloidal silver to cure illness like that bipedal wart Alex Jones is doing.

Yeah, I said it. Sue me, you bloody cumwad. Send a lawyer and try to guess what I’ll send.

Anyway, I got changed into some less expensive clothes that would keep Reindeer warm, provide good mobility, and can be easily replaced. I don’t like what my alter ego does when I change. I’m still going to keep her dressed. Waking up with my clothes shredded in winter isn’t fun. With those precautions taken, I checked in on my personal Psycho Flyer. It wasn’t as close as I wanted. Thanks, bad weather. I set it to fly to the roof of our hotel instead of coming to find me and decided it was time to face the music.

I was pretty much ready, so I strapped the camera onto my head , turned it on, and just watched Medusa and Qiang for a bit. Qiang walked over to show me some clip of these guys playing some sort of hide and seek where someone hides in boxes that look like they’re from videogames, and the people searching for them poke the boxes with fake weapons looking for them. It was amusing.

I lose my memory of the change, and I guess the time immediately before it, so the only way I know what happened for the rest of the night after this point is the body camera. I’m glad I don’t remember it if the footage is anything to go by. It looked and sounded painful. No word yet on the smell. Things grew and snapped into place. Qiang started crying, so Medusa held her and they gave me some privacy. After experiencing the sound of my own screams changing to match a new muzzle, Reindeer stood up and had already ducked her/my way out the door. She caught the elevator at the end of the hall, and waved to Medusa when my superhero girlfriend poked her head out of the room to see what happened. She looked more worried than earlier.

Reindeer went on the prowl. I know, it’s a weird way to describe a patrol, but she was looking for action in the way that involves beating someone up. If she was looking for the other kind of action, Medusa was right there. We’d have had to set Qiang up with something to do elsewhere, but it was possible. Hell, my girlfriend’s dated a woman who is part dinosaur and a guy who was part sloth; I think she’s ok with some hot furry action. And come to think of it, she probably wouldn’t mind if I stopped shaving down there. She’s put up with way more hair.

Despite me turning out like this being connected to my occasional contracts for the Winter Spirit, Reindeer didn’t seem to be capable of flight. Instead, she’d jump into the air on legs that seemed about as strong as the pseudomuscles of my power armor that let me do much the same. I know the transformation to and from being a weredeer does a few odd things to my physique, but I wonder if the upgrades I’ve made to my bones and muscles are still there and help her out.

Reindeer ran and jumped everywhere. She’d land on a roof and jump off. Then she might come in close to a tall building’s walls and run along it briefly before pushing off. The city had been beaten up pretty well over the years, something I had a hand in, but it didn’t take her long to find an area where the lights were a bit darker, a bit dimmer. Fewer in number for one reason or another. She landed on one roof and then I heard a distant scream. Reindeer took off for it. When she got near, she peered over a rooftop to see a man and a skimpily-dressed woman in a courtyard. The woman was on the ground, kicking at him, all tears and blood. The man tried to catch her leg with his left hand, a knife in his right.

Reindeer jumped off the building and was looking down as she landed on the guy’s shoulders, smashing him to the ground. He screamed as some bones snapped, but wasn’t going to be doing too much more with his arms after that. “Are you ok?” she/I asked the woman. After the surprise wore off, the woman nodded, pulled herself to her feet, and hugged onto Reindeer, thanking her. I or she, whichever, didn’t stick around too long. She made sure the woman was fine and kept an eye on the downed guy while the woman ran off really fast for someone in high-heeled boots.

She didn’t take the guy in, but she also didn’t give him any medical attention. Instead, she jumped up to the rooftop and continued on patrol. After awhile, she stopped and sat down, just watching and resting. “Gecko, we should talk. This is my body, too. I’m a lot like you. I am you. The other parts of you that you bury. The part that wishes you had really been a hero. I’m glad you stuck me in better clothes, but I need a costume ’cause I’m going to keep going. I think you die if I die. And can you look into some sort of shoes?” She pulled her leg up to let me see the bottom of her hooves.

Before my evil heroic alter ego could continue on about her plans to to stick around and steal my body once a month, she dropped her leg and hopped to her feet. She set off with something in mind, heading in one direction, then adjusting her course. A few streets over, I heard the sirens. Running toward sirens to help the police. That monster. It’s hard, seeing what gets unleashed on the world by the full moon.

The police were chasing a shiny hovercar. Despite the braking issues of that form of vehicle, it held the advantage by being able to jump over cars on the road. Cops had to wait for folks to get out of the way. Drivers in this city didn’t getting out of the way for anyone.

It was the Privateers, riding around and occasionally firing back at the cops. And… fired off fireworks? That was weird. They’re a rogue military organization, but ultimately professionals. They’d only do something like that if they were deliberately trying to hold the pigs’ attention. “This is a distraction,” Reindeer said. She turned and headed in the opposite direction they were going. It was a simple way to go about it. “I don’t have your homo machina abilities, so I’m giving this a try.”

Ha-fucking-ha. She ended up being right. She caught a scent or a sound or something and turned toward this lab. They had another hovercraft there, cleverly hidden behind four pieces of painted cardboard. I sighed to myself watching that part. I use holograms! Why bother with fucking holograms when cardboard cutouts work?!

Reindeer landed in its open top and kicked in the console. She proceeded to tear out wires that looked like they did something. Before long, the Privateers rolled out a couple of carts full of expensive equipment. They all tossed the cardboard out of the way and one of them hopped into the hovercraft. “What the fuck? Someone sabotaged us!”

Reindeer lifted the hovercraft up like a boss. Are people still saying that? Fuck it, she’d be a boss character in a videogame, so I don’t care. Seriously, she lifted a damn hovercraft and overturned it on top of most of the Privateers. The equipment probably made it out ok, but it looks like Reindeer shares my disregard for collateral damage. A couple of privateers were left. One pulled out a military machete. The other whipped out a pair of pistols and squeezed the triggers.

I didn’t see any projectiles, but Reindeer screamed and brought her hands up. It knocked her over, but when she brought her hands back down, they were covered from blood. Her ears? She didn’t have time to ponder it before machete guy was in her face, swinging. She bent over, then raised her head. The machete was gone. Oh, she used her antlers. Then she dropkicked her assailant, sending him flying into the guy with the pistols. She got up faster than they did and ran over, smashing one of the pistols.

One of the others raised the other, but Reindeer jumped and landed. I saw from her point of view as the Privateer raised the pistol and fired at her. Poor guy forgot his physics, though. Sure, Reindeer cried out in pain again and it threw her off. But that meant she splashed onto the guy and slammed him back down onto his friend who was still on the ground. They struggled for the pistol, but she won it when her antlers cut into the guy. She tore the pistol apart and spun to her hooves. One kick and one punch, and those two were out.

If this was a movie, that’s when the cops she called beforehand would have arrived. Ugh, calling the cops. I can’t… I just can’t…

Ok, so the cops got the Privateers, and the rest of the night proved fairly uneventful until the morning sun vanquished this horrible curse.

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One Giant Duck

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Longtime readers know it’s been awhile since I woke up in a field covered in blood with no memory of events the night before. Not since I cut down on bath salts for getting in the way of my cocaine habit at least. Priorities, people.

So I woke up covered in blood, took one sniff of the situation, and said, “Something foul has happened,” and then… it’d be weird if I started things off this time by mentioning that and didn’t elaborate any further.

So, the other day, I asked Qiang about some of the pictures she had of me in her room. They were of me as Reindeer. For those in the audience taking some bath salts, that’s what I was called when I was turned into a half-person, half-deer being late last year due to a magical dick-measuring contest between St. Nick and the Easter Bunny, or whatever else Spring has. Some dispute between magic related to the seasons as part of a plan to raise awareness of climate change by turning people into half-animals and turning power plants into regular plants.

Then, the Spirit of Winter added to my misery by giving me a pair of horns like on a female reindeer. I also had some lost time that turned out to be me doing weird stuff that undermined the Spring side of the conflict. Mindful of that lost time, and naturally wanting to show an interest in my daughter, I finally felt like asking her about it.

“It’s from when you became a big deer last month!” she told me.

“You mean in December, right? Last month was January,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, you did it then, too,” she informed me.

“I don’t remember that. Did I do anything?”

She showed me where she got the picture from, which was a news snippet about Reindeer, framed in the light of the full moon, beating up some people who robbed a liquor store. Not even bank money. Who gets bent out of shape over liquor store cash? Whether you’re stopping it or stealing it from them, it’s a lot of work putting someone in the hospital for just a few hundred dollars. Anyone robbing a liquor store probably needs that cash for rent, or an abortion, or drugs. The real assholes rob pension funds. Beat them up.

The articles didn’t mention Reindeer burying her muzzle in anything that would explain why I don’t remember that. I don’t like losing control to the extent that I engage in what appears to be legitimate heroism. I didn’t find any strange bags of cash around the place, so I think I just gave it back. I don’t know, really.

It scares me, that my personality can shift so much.

So when I woke up Sunday morning covered in blood, I was a lot less worried about it than the other time it happened. You wake up covered in blood, you don’t immediately assume something good happened. First thing I did, after all, was call up Medusa to make sure I hadn’t decided to solve our relationship problems the easy way.

What I learned would shock me to my core, which risked exploding. It’s really unhealthy for anyone in at least a mile radius to try mess with that power core I keep in me.

“You didn’t kill me.”

“Good,” I told her, until she went on.

“You turned into Reindeer and ran off to the city. You said you wanted to do what you always wanted.”

I held out hope in this regard as well. “Murder… uh… no, I already killed the Pope that time. And the President…”

Medusa interrupted my ponderings to tell me, “You said you had been desperate your whole life to be a hero, that it was the fantasy that got you through your worst times as a living weapon on your world, and that a lot of your attempts to fix this Earth are a twisted reflection of what you wish you could do tainted by your pessimism and haunted by your past as a merciless killer.”

After a couple of dumbfounded seconds, I said, “Nah, that can’t be it. That’s way too poetic for me.”

“Regardless, you showed up right when a mad scientist was trying to take revenge on a bank that seized his house.”

“Wow, that’s a real dick move for me to defend. Maybe I was talking some hero nonsense after all.”

She got a little irritated at that response. “Hey, I’m not on the bank’s side either, but he didn’t come to me. He made a giant duck that was wrecking the whole city.”

“Why would a duck do that?” I asked.

“Because ducks are assholes!” she said.

That checks out. Ducks are assholes. So are geese. Ostriches, too. A lot of birds, really. Don’t even get me started on roosters, those cocky little bastards.

I was interrupted by the appearance of a helicopter overhead. The sight of it sent a chill up my spine, or maybe that’s because I was in a field, half buried in snow, with no clothes on but rags that covered less than most of your options at Victoria’s Secret. No, the chill was from recognizing the chopper as a news chopper. I was being filmed by the news. “Uh, Medusa, there’s news people here now.”

“Try to keep your face covered if you can. Tell them ‘no comment’ if they ask questions. Refuse to go on the record. Where are you?”

“I’ve activated an internal tracking beacon… weird that I got that despite the whole transformation. Why did it do that to my eyes, but not the internal stuff, do you think?”

“Wrong time to want the answers to questions. Don’t give them any. I have pickup on the way.” She hung up then and left me to fend for myself against the media.

The chopper landed, the cameraman ending his filming before they got a real good, close look at my nips and my tucks. The reporter leading the way came up, averting his gaze. He even took his coat off. “Hello there, miss. Cold?”

I was, and accepted it. “Thanks. Who are you and why are you out here?”

“You’re a story, young lady,” he said. “That was something, what you did there.”

“What did I do?” I asked. I could have gone looking on the internet, but it was snowy out and I was very nearly naked. I don’t usually mind the nudity, but it becomes somewhat distracting when your nipples get hard enough they could cut precious gems.

“We should get you in shelter. Would you like a ride in the news chopper?” he asked.

“Hasn’t anyone told you not to pick up hitchhikers? I’ll sit inside and you can tell me, but we better not go anywhere,” I told him.

He nodded. “Deal, let’s go.”

What they showed me was footage of a duck the size of a bus quacking its way down the road, overturning cars and snapping at buildings with its beak. Not even a lot of destruction in my estimation, and it was being steadily herded toward a nice, fancy bank at the end of the street by a man in blue scrubs, a welder’s mask that completely obscured his face, and bright yellow gloves. He would occasionally throw these grenades that would shrink anything in an area or grow things in an area, leaving additional destruction, but he seemed careful to avoid hitting people with it.

That didn’t stop the duck from managing to pull someone out of a restaurant. The duck tossed them up in the air and meant to catch them in its mouth, but then a brown blur came flying in from the side and grabbed the person before they could fall into the fowl gullet.

The various videos and the news chopper’s footage caught Reindeer dropped in, landing with a clippity clop as if she or I or whoever had been super jumping or even flying. The light caught my antlers and eyes in a strange way that made them look like they glowed white for just a moment as I landed.

Reindeer set the man holding his bag of groceries down. “Nobody has to get hurt! Just turn around and go home,” I called.

“Someone’s already hurt, and it’s payback time!” answered the scientist. He pointed to Reindeer, aka me, and ordered “The bill has come due! Quackers, attack!”

I grabbed a loaf of bread out of the grocery bag and jumped up, kicking off a wall to land on a roof on the opposite side of the street from the wall. Also, a song started playing. The cameraman interrupted to point out, “Phones started playing that for some reason. We’re trying to find out what the song is.”

“Boom Boom Boom by Grace Mesa,” I said.

The other guy with them flinched. When the cameraman looked at him, he said, “I used to live in EC, and that sounds like a song a villain forced to play everywhere one time.”

“Back to the video,” the reporter said.

I, Reindeer, waved the bread at the duck, keeping its attention. It tried to fly up and snap up the bread, but I gave it a kick with my hoof that helped enrage it. It had to rise above roof level to follow me as I hopped away, leading it out of the city. After several minutes, I found a good, clean spot, a field outside the city limits where there weren’t a lot of buildings around, not even suburbs.

I stopped and turned, taking a fighting stance. The shadow of the colossal duck swept overhead, but then the big bird seized up and started shaking. It fell, landing on top of me. After several minutes, Reindeer burst out, clothes a mess and covered in gore. I began to wander away, dazed, and jumped my way out into some other fields.

“We followed the trail and found you here. It’s a miracle you’re not in worse shape after you reverted, but we think you probably had fur on all night,” the reporter said.

“How did you kill that thing? Do you have some other powers that let you shoot laser beams?” asked the cameraman eagerly.

“If I had to guess, it was the Square-Cube Law that did it in. If you don’t adjust your growing and shrinkage, it’s a killer. Something that big can’t function with organs the same relative size as a duck. Probably had a heart attack.”

Outside came the sound of something heavy landing. I hopped out of the chopper and tossed the coat back to the news guys. “Leave my face out of this if you know what’s good for you.”

Well, Reindeer’s civilian identity being escorted away by the Exemplars didn’t exactly do anything to keep them from making a big story about the superhero Reindeer saving the day and definitely being a hero. The insightful part was the mention in the article of others, not many, who likewise seemed to have retained the ability to turn into their half-animal forms. It only seems to happen when the full moon occurs.

Dammit. Turns out I’m now a weredeer.

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Rein Of The Supermen 5

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With everything that’s happened so far, I never got around to decorating the house. Qiang may not have grown up with the holidays they have around here, but she’s been seeing her friends’ houses and wondering when we were going to do stuff like that. So I bought a bunch of lights and decorations. She got to have a lot of fun being impatient while I had to untangle the lights right out of the box. But at least I got to talk to Medusa.

“Greetings, puny mortal!” I greeted her.

“Hey there, super deer,” she teased right back.

I fought back a desire to go into how I’m not a hero and all that stuff in a conversation where she mistakes my disappointment at failing to rescue the burn victims with my childish contrarianism where I view myself as a villain in comparison to society. Which isn’t always childish, by the way. Sometimes, society’s fucked up enough that the best thing a person can be is a villain.

Instead, I went with, “How goes stopping the person who’s supposedly trying to fight to fix climate change?”

“Ugh. So frustrating. Prisoners keep saying we’re a bunch of neoliberal corporatists. I hate activist theatre. If you had some sort of magic gem that lets you transform things with nature magic, and you wanted to fix a problem, would you settle on turning people into furries?” She asked.

“If it was me, I’d probably start sabotaging oil pipelines and power plants in a way that doesn’t spew even more chemicals into the environment. Transform anyone who tries to stop me to keep them off balance. Maybe turn a trained minion into a more formidable animal-person to go provide a distraction or fight supers who try to stop me. Why, what are they doing?”

“One of them turned a bunch of trash at a hockey game into meat-eating plants. I put on skates and fought the one who had the control remote on the ice. I don’t know if it was Verdant. He turned one of his henchmen into a polar bear man and got away while we fought it. Imagine being able to turn trash into plants.”

“Wow. I could fix that big plastic island with that kind of power,” I said.

“Yeah, see? That’s the most disappointing thing about people like you with all your plans.”

“Wait, me?” I asked, wondering how this became about me.

“Villains like you have powers that could revolutionize the world in a good way and you use them to rob banks or mess up hockey games. I’m going to do better than the rest of you when it’s time for me to clean up the world,” she declared.

“Geez, I’m the one running into burning buildings, and you’re declaring you’ll show the world when it’s your turn to pull off an evil plot,” I pointed out. “We’re bad influences on each other.”

She laughed at that, then I heard an alarm from her side of the phone. “Oh, I’ve got to go. I’m going to take a break for the weekend if I can. See you then, ok?”

Yep… she’s beating people up, I’m playing homemaker. I seem to recall being critical of this kind of turn of events when she tried to say I didn’t have to run around and be evil. Joke’s on her, though. I’m being lazy as fuck.

The artificial tree, for instance, was a breeze to put up. Pull out the box, roll it into position, hit the deployment button, and watch as it rises up into position with a fresh puff of patent pending New Tree Pine Scent. It was barely unfolded when Qiang rushed around it, throwing balls and other decorations on there.

Boring. Safe, too, but boring. I’m a sick deer, though. So while Medusa’s out there supposedly fighting the people who did this to me, I get to sit around figuring if I want to watch repetitive holiday movies or news coverage of the “Animalization Wave” that has finally completed its first run around the planet.

I’m wrapping presents, they’re hybridizing people with other animals, my girlfriend’s trying to stop them. Oh, wait, there is one more thing I’m doing. I’m plotting. It’s nothing so big as all the environmental stuff going on. I could probably pull off something if I had my nanites, but they’re still not communicating with me. Which I guess is what Medusa meant. If I was serious about it, I could have cleaned the oceans by now. The power cores I build, and then the dimensional tech that enabled us to power Ricca there at the end, could end every bit of pollution related to energy production on Earth.

Later, later, notes for later. I have something more important to worry about. See, I’ve been keeping track of that asshole I caught back there in Detroit. I’ve slept since I’ve been looking him up, too, so if any of that with Santa was real, he’s had an opportunity to tell me this is Naughty List stuff. The pyro tried to call himself Crosshair, but they found out his real name is Conrad Thorne. Damn, guy actually has a cool real name. And Conrad Thorne is having himself a bail hearing the next day. It would be a shame if no one was there to give him a warm welcome out of jail again.

After a productive day of decorating, I was almost disappointed when I sat up out of bed to see the Spirit again. He was skinnier this time, and the coat was more of a robe, but the beard’s a dead giveaway. “Hey there, big guy. Here to tell me I’m doing the wrong thing?” I asked.

“I am here because of a magic in the air that blinds me to what I seek. I need your help, again,” he answered. “I require the chill wind of a killer, the smoldering death of a fire. In return, you shall be ill no more.”

Killing someone to be done with this sickness? Eh, works for me. I hopped out bed and found myself immediately doubling over thanks to a pounding in my head. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, you said you’d cure me!”

This pair of velvety lumps appeared out of my head. They grew and grew, then burst to reveal sharpened bone. Fuck me, I got antlers. It hurt and itched and otherwise felt really uncomfortable to have my skull suddenly grow out a bunch of boney spears. I let out a low moan, then felt a hand on my shoulder. “Won’t you slay for me tonight, Reindeer?”

I don’t even remember how I got out of my room. It was that hazy, dream feeling you get where you skip stuff sometimes and don’t notice. I was flying through a foggy gloom, despite the weather having been clear of fog. I don’t know how long I flew, or what direction, but the guiding hand of the Spirit let me know when I’d reached my destination. It looked like a bar just outside of another small town. It was a squat cinderblock building with a number of trucks and motorcycles out front.

I charged the front door. I didn’t remember much of anything until I stepped into a cramped back room. It was some sort of office space, though most of the desk was taken up by cash, a broken gold menorah, and a large scroll. A bald man jumped up from behind the desk with a pump-action shotgun. I jumped over the desk and lowered my head, feeling the satisfying thud as he hit the back wall and my horns sank into him. With the top of my head pressed to his chest, I felt him breathe his last. I put a hand on his chest then, and held him there while I pulled them free.

Turning, I saw the Spirit had carefully gathered up the menorah and the scroll. He sounded gentle, like I was a child to comfort, when he said, “We have what we came for.” He turned to go. I snorted and followed him, mindful of oil that dropped from the menorah. I caught the smell of burning as the oil droplets ignited on their own. Nothing in the bar area looked familiar to me, but it was certainly brutal enough to be my handiwork. Like the guy bent over the table with a pool stick shoved up his ass and out his mouth, lined up for a shot with the cue ball.

We left it all to the flames, and I woke up. My ear infection and all the rest of the sickness I’d had was gone. But I was still a deer, and I had antlers still. And I’d overslept. Thorne had his bail hearing and, I soon learned, had made bail with the aid of a bondsman.

Money isn’t everything, but it’s a pretty good way to get information when you’re dealing with overworked court staff and a bail bondsman who is fully aware some of his clientele are going to skip out on him. That’s what bounty hunters are for usually. What bail bondsman wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a volunteer bounty hunter who is paying for the privilege of keeping an eye on a high-profile murderer who fancies himself a new villain.

He was significantly less enthused when I checked out the place Thorne was supposedly staying at and found no trace of the killer at his apartment. It looked like he’d thrown his dresser drawers open and grabbed what clothes he could before leaving. But my enhanced reindeer senses told me I wasn’t out of luck just because I couldn’t see the guy. I smelled fear. And pee. Not like he pissed himself out of fear, though. It smelled familiar, like when I pee every morning now as a deer. Listen, the smell is different, folks. Of course I noticed the difference.

I noticed the smell of gun cleaner, too. It’s normally hard to smell after too long, but this was around here quite a bit. Most of it led to a closet where some large hooks on the wall suggested the guy kept a really big rifle around.

I don’t know a lot about Detroit’s gun laws, but I figured the guy was a hunter. Maybe that was why he decided to flamebroil some animal-people, or maybe he’s going to hide out in the country with a rifle until he think things have blown over.

Funny thing though. I realized when I left the room that it had a certain oily odor to it that I could still smell wafting through the air. That’s when I knew I had the perfect excuse for one of the most over-used cliches of all time.

I said, to no one in particular, “It seems the hunter has become the hunted.”

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