Most county fairs I’m aware of wait until the end of the year when things are cooler. Unique, Iowa decided to hold its early as part of a big marketing and recruitment thing. The town’s much bigger than last time. I guess the speedster they’ve got enjoys construction. Not sure if they’re good at it yet, but there are many more buildings up.
I appeared with my daughter Qiang and my girlfriends Holly and Sam. Isabella and Maia weren’t able to get away on such short notice. Maia, aka Medusa, and the Exemplars have had an easier time of things since I culled the Earth, but there’s supposedly an organ harvesting ring they’re chasing down. Meanwhile, Isabella, aka Maia’s time-displaced younger self who stayed and decided they’d treat each other as sisters, aka Venus, is on the trail of a librarian gone mad and somehow unleashing monsters. They both know they need me, but part of the reason they first caught my eye is that they were a match for me in combat. That was several upgrades and one godhood ago, but I don’t step in on their cases unless they ask for my help.
So it was just the henchgirlfriends and the henchdaughter visiting Unique. Sam and Holly insisted on walking to the fairgrounds. I think it was mostly Holly. She was the one shouting out, “Oh my god, I want to see the little town!” Sam just rolled with it and I wobbled. I didn’t want to draw even more attention to myself by flying.
The fairgrounds weren’t far out of town because the town was still under construction. We’d heard the music since we’d appeared, and it only grew louder. The bass stood out in particular. Qiang danced along to it some while skipping and Holly joined in. I looked at Sam, who hid half her face behind a long set of bangs that didn’t exist on the buzzcut side of her head. “I’m good,” she said, refusing to join in.
“Me too,” I said.
“I wonder who these others are,” she said, nodding toward various cars and other pedestrians.
“They’re probably wondering the same about us,” I said.
Sam patted my belly. I laid my hand over hers for a moment, to touch her. She smiled at me and blushed. After a moment, she laughed. “I’m thinking of you flying around pregnant in spandex.”
“Careful, they probably think you’re the hero. You have the boobs for it,” I pointed out.
“So do you you!” she said. “Especially now they’re getting into milk mode. You going to let me have a sip?”
I rolled my eyes, then remembered to make them look normal. I went with brown.
“Pretty,” Sam said. “Oh yeah, you hid the rest of the stuff that makes you stand out.”
I shrugged and we headed for the ticket lines. Qiang got in free. My invitation was worth a free admission as well, except Holly stole it off me, so Sam and I had to pay. Holly laughed at Sam and I paying the price of admission. “Ugh, these thieves!” she teased. I stuck my tongue out at her but Sam flipped her the bird.
At least they gave us lots of awnings. Awnings everywhere. Awnings in front of the giant turkey leg stand. Awnings in front of the fried cheese stand. Awnings in front of the beer vendor where Sam bought a big mug full of the stuff and passed me root beer. Awnings at the rides where Sam too Qiang off to go get on something that would spin them around real fast or throw them upside down. Most importantly, awnings in front of the fried Oreo stand and the fried Twix stand. I nearly bit off Holly’s hand when she tried to take those away from me.
“This can’t be good for the baby. I’m pretty sure I can see bacteria in the air dying from exposure to all this deep fried shit,” Holly told me.
“I will devour a deep fried Oreo or I will devour your soul!” I declared in a raspy voice. I was in the middle of a pregnancy-induced feeding frenzy. Holly was lucky she had all her fingers left after she handed the Oreo back over.
She held up the invite though. “This thing says we have a little bit. How about we play some of these games?” She looked around. “You want to win me that big stuffed dog?”
I wanted to become a big stuffed bitch, but once the fried sweets were down and my hands were clean (I’d installed dermal teflon), I figured we could give it a go. First up, the darts. “$10 for five darts, get five color balloons and you get the biggest prizes. I saw your friend pointing out Mr. Pooch,” said the darts attendant.
I paid him his money and took the darts. “So where am I throwing these at?”
The attendant held up his hand to point at the backboard behind all the multi-color balloons. I threw. “Fuck- ouch!” The attendant looked at his hand pinned to the backboard. “What the hell, lady?!”
“I’ll take the big stuffed dog or the next one pops your balloons,” I said, lowering the angle of the next dart in my hand toward his crotch.
“Fine!” he pulled the dart out and wrapped his hand in his shirt, then handed me the dog. I handed it over to Holly.
“Fine work not giving yourself away, mistress of disguise,” she said.
“Ooh, I like when you call me Mistress,” I cooed.
“How about the strength test? Try not to go all out and break the thing,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. “You already got the stuffed dog.”
“Yeah, but I want Mr. Pooch to have a girlfriend,” she said.
I rolled my eyes. “Hey there, little lady. Your girlfriend going to show off for you?” the guy asked me.
“Actually, I thought I’d let her do the showing off,” Holly said.
I held out the money. The guy hesitated. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” I said with a smile.
He shrugged and took the cash. “Alright, I guess I’ll put it on the easiest difficulty for you so you don’t hurt yourself.”
I looked to Holly who mouthed, “Don’t.” I looked back to the guy. I took a long moment of consideration. Then I shrugged and knocked the bell off the top of the damn thing. Send the metal dropper thingy flying into the air. The guy practically threw the dog at me; a nice fluffy mate for Mr. Pooch.
Of course, then we passed by the weight-guessing game, with all its cheap, crappy prizes. None of them cost more than the price of playing it. It was a good game to dump newbies, but the person running it that night was over-confident. “Come right on up, lady, you’ve got plenty of weight to guess, don’t you?”
I looked to Holly, who nodded and pulled out her phone to record. I walked back over to the guy at the Test of Strength, tossed him some more money, and grabbed the hammer. I dropped it back off for him while carrying a whole bag of useless little toys. He winced and gave me a big plush caterpillar, too. I smiled and told him, “Thank you!” I picked up Holly again while she finished getting a closeup of the Guess Your Weight guy as he rolled around on the ground with his hands between his legs.
After all the fun and games, it was time to go see what this whole meeting was about. I texted Sam and Qiang who said they wanted to ride more rides. Holly and I went by ourselves, with the invite getting both of us in somewhere this time. With a nod of approval from the guy at the flap opening, we entered the hot, stuffy tent with a few dozen other people.
I didn’t recognize the guy who stepped up to speak, but he was well-built. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re here, there’s something special about you. You’ve dedicated your life to something higher. Something nobler. It’s tough, isn’t it? Not just the fight on the streets, but the fight at home. Worrying about jobs, rent, your family. The lies add up. So, partnering with some friends of mine, I came up with the idea for us to have our own place. A town designed to have everything to support us. A town full of superheroes, where no villain would dare go after your families. A town where we can even be a little selfish. Take a sick day. Use our powers to help our families. Attend ballgames and graduations. Isn’t it time the world paid us back?”
That got a smattering of “Yeahs” from the crowd.
“We’re completing new housing all the time, with affordable financing options that-” blah blah blah, that’s where they lost me.
At least it didn’t sound outright hostile, but I wish I hadn’t attended. Not like I was getting answers on whatever monster they crossed their crops with. Around the time I noticed Holly playing a game on her phone, I nudged her with my elbow. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” The guy at the flap gave me a card anyway, in case I felt like moving to Unique.
At least the rest of the fair was nice. Hot as hell, but nice.
So then I wake up the next day and find a letter from the City Council of Radium. “On the agenda this Wednesday is the issue of your eviction due to repeatedly bringing hostile situations to the town of Radium. We will give you a fair, private hearing.”
Oh come on, I haven’t- ok, yeah, there’s been a few different problems related to me. Mafiosos, time travelers, giant pepper monsters, horny teenage neighbors with frisbees…
I hate being nice. I could have fixed so many problems by now just jumping in and not giving a shit about consequences. Maybe paint an M on my head and call myself Majin Gecko, then whine and blow myself up when I remember I like getting laid and having feelings. Then maybe beat up some kids who point out my references are as dated as the beginning of Naruto was to the end.
Enough being a cranky old woman. I was a cranky pregnant bitch who had to deal with a bunch of shitbags stuffed into suits. Like Senator Robson, a replacement for one of the many people I culled when I had the power to make life just blink out. He’s not as bad as the guy he replaced, but that’s a low bar. He got me a place on a diplomatic shuttle to the alien fleet. Sam, Holly, and the interns were excited, with Sam squeezing her eyes shut. She doesn’t like flying, and the lack of windows in this cricket-shaped vessel didn’t soothe her any. The interns and Holly strained looking for somewhere to watch the ascent into space from, but the aliens didn’t put windows in their spacecraft for some reason.
I played the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation to calm us all down. Meanwhile, a blue woman with cloudy skin you could see into just a little bit walked along and set out drinks and little bags of snacks. I popped off my helmet long enough to try the small carbonated liquid and the bag of some small starchy snack covered in tiny mineral crystals. As far as potentially-dangerious alien foods go, they were fine. They just weren’t enough. When no one was looking, I portaled in a fresh foot long corndog and a plate with some fun sauces like marinara, ranch, yum yum sauce, and mustard. Mmm.
One of the aliens looked at me like I did something weird, like eat them all at once. I hadn’t even finished by the time a calming noise reverberated through the vessel. “Welcome to the diplomatic battleship Odo, where peace happens or else.”
“That’s calming,” Sam muttered, opening her eyes at last. She leaned against me. “You better get rid of that.”
I winked at her and slid the remaining half-foot of wiener and breading down my throat, pulling the stick back out without the meat. I tossed the stick and plate through a small portal to the auto-kitchen. I added some robot arms to the kitchen. They’re very handy, and they double as an anti-intrusion measure.
As the restraints released, Sam and I both groaned on standing up. She had her dislike of flying and I had a belly that was messing with me even though the armor made sure I wasn’t sick. Uh, I swear my nanites are working overtime in my aching ankles. Who am I kidding? I think I graduated to cankles. I just wanted to be pretty and have the child I always wanted with Medusa and Venus, and now it’s made me a hungry horror with fucked-up hormones and time travel shit where I have to do it to complete loops.
I sniffled. Sam patted me on the helmet. “Aww, you crying again?”
The others were all filing off, leaving Holly, Sam, and I behind along with the blue alien woman who stepped up. “I must ask you to leave all of your weapons behind on the transport pod.”
“You let us get all the way up here with weapons?” Holly faked a gasp. “What if we need to defend ourselves against others you let come with guns?”
The alien didn’t catch the sarcasm. When she spoke, her mouth didn’t match the words we heard either. “We are aware of cultural differences regarding personal armament or the medical necessity of power armor for some species, but at this point you must comply with the ship captain’s non-aggression policies. For the good of everyone, except the ones who are dead.”
“Weird way to phrase it,” Sam said. “Hey, what’s your species called?”
“I don’t have a species,” she answered. “The Consortium created me to serve them.” I couldn’t read her expression to see if she was enthusiastic about that. She gestured with a slow wave. “Please disarm, or you will not see your loved one. We detect several weapons, primitive and otherwise.”
“I’m getting tired of putting this thing just to take it back off again,” Sam muttered. She and Holly looked to me.
I sighed and began pulling off the gauntlets of my power armor. “We’re being nice.” That got a triumphant hmph from the servant, so I figured she supported her masters after all. The energy sheathes don’t function without them. I set down the exploding knives as well. I didn’t keep a lot of extra weapons on me, and that meant I wasn’t that much disarmed. And they didn’t seem to understand my eyes had lasers built in. Hell, I barely remember I kept some other abilities when I gave away my god-like powers. Meanwhile, the girls had to get rid of shoe knives and so on. After a few minutes of that, they all let us go in.
Some of the Grau were waiting for us, a designation I use for lack of a better idea what to call them. They’re the main species in any position of power in the Consortium of Grau, so that’s what I call them. We got right out of this transport pod where the rest of the delegation was finished going through a customs check involving a scanner arch and a pair of bushes with eye stalks. I spotted that one silver-haired agent again having made his way through it. I know he noticed me, but a group of Grau were waiting for us.
“Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko. You can travel with us to the prison ship,” one of the Grau said. He was dressed in the nice, clean uniform. Two more behind him had darker outfits with clear armor padding. With them was a tripedal reptilian with these little flaps that moves on his head, who was paying close attention to a pale alien that looked like a giant maggot with eight little arms all tied up in cuffs. That thing had a metal disc covering what would be the chest area.
“This is a prisoner transport, not a tour,” the reptilian said. He pointed at my belly. “I do not need a pregnant mammalian on my prison ship.” Unlike the French accent of the Grau and their servant, this guy had a Spanish accent, complete with sounding like he had a lisp on some words.
“This is a matter of diplomacy. You do your job as you are paid to,” the Grau who was in charge told me, stroking his quills. I’m just assuming when I use “his” here. For all I know, none of these things even have different sexes. Or they have twelve. But the reptilian dude backed down and we got back on the transport pod with all of our weapons hidden on it. The weird maggot prisoner actually snuck away one of the boot knives. I winked at it, then went back to not paying attention to anything. Hey, a prisoner escape could be handy to me.
“So, it’s your ship?” I asked the reptilian.
“I am Skarzu, Commander of the Lethac, my ship. My living ship. A dedicated ship for prisoners so they are not kept with the soft ones who talk.”
And the grand prize for this test of blather and patience? Holly, Sam, and I finally got escorted down a hallway past solid doors with small windows for food until the Grau stopped and indicated a door. I stepped up and tested it with a shave and a haircut knock. I received two bits in return. “Boopsie?”
“Jesus, Gecko, you’re here?”
“I’m here, I’m queer, get over it,” I responded.
“We’ve been so sad without you,” Holly told her.
“Yeah, and none of these aliens are fuckable,” Sam said. Holly and I nodded along while Medusa laughed.
“I came to see what’s going on. I heard they’re looking for your sister, too. I guess they’re all pretty sure the person looks like you,” I mentioned.
“Well, I didn’t. I don’t know what’s going on, unless this is someone who doesn’t like me handing me over as a scapegoat. I walked over to the food slot and reached a hand through.
The Grau guards stepped forward. “Hands away from the prisoner!”
I rolled my eye, the other one slipped into Medusa’s palm. The suit provided me a holographic copy to fool these guys. I put my hands up. “Easy, just trying to touch her again for the first time in I don’t know when.”
The ship jolted. “What was that?” Sam asked.
Holly steadied herself on a wall. “Why did this thing do that? Shouldn’t the thing creating artificial gravity keep us from experiencing that?”
“What?” I asked, looking at her.
She shrugged. “I went to college, remember?”
“No!” I declared. Another jolt.
The guards looked at us, and one ran off. The other called out, “Stay here. Don’t touch anything!” then ran off.
A door nearby slid open and curly mess of tendrils grabbed the guard, pulling him in. Another door opened as well and some jiggly pink thing crab-walked out quickly, heading down the corridor. I looked to Medusa’s. No such luck. “Point the eye at the door, Maia.”
“Ok!” she called out. “Pointing!”
I created two portals back to back. Medusa stepped through one on the inside of her door and stepped out outside of the door. She jumped into a hug and asked, “I love you. What did you do?”
“Nothing this time, I think.” Alarms went off. They sounded a lot like human alarms. Makes me glad that the sound some other species uses for an alarm wasn’t the sound of, like, sex noises. “Prisoner escape! Harder daddy, harder, harder! All hands to battle stations. Pull my hair!”
I reached out and… did not see the fleet. The satellites around Earth no longer showed it present. Instead, it showed the massive maggot thing and the ship we were on. It rumbled all around us. “Lethac crew and prisoners. I, Prowbst the Grand, have broken free and altered the core of this ship to power my size-shifting technology to its full potential. I have stolen the rest of the Grau fleet and will hold them hostage. I will free all prisoners, who have a chance to serve me and go free. Together, we will take revenge on those who would lock us away.”
“Alright, let’s get out of here,” I said. “Huddle up, team!” Holly, Sam, and Medusa all joined the huddle.
“How do we get out of here?” Sam asked.
“Ready, break!” I clapped my hands together and stood up. The four of us were back in my basement.
“That was easy. We’re getting good at this,” Holly noted. She was shut up by Maia grabbing her and kissing. Sam too. Maia nearly knocked me down when it was my turn.
Of course, I got an incoming message on the public line from Senator Robson, the guy who did the favor of speaking up and ask for me to go on that little journey. Medusa popped my eye back into its socket while I reluctantly answered that.
After the first five straight seconds of screaming cut out, there was just that old guy yelling, “Ah, save me, save me, save me!”
“You probably should save them all,” Medusa said with a groan. “I hate saying it as much as you hate hearing it.”
“Fuck those guys,” Sam said. “Those French aliens were stuck up.”
“Yeah, but you think maybe that big worm is going to be a jerk?” Holly wondered.
I didn’t have an answer to that question until about an hour later, when the alarms started. Of course it was in the middle of fun time. “Pull my hair!” I yelled at Maia.
“Wait, you hear something?” she asked.
The computer switched from playing Fatal Attraction by Midnight Danger to the sound of that giant maggot. “People of this planet. I am your new ruler. All who disobey will be shrunk to the size of a small creature and squashed! Mwahaha!”
“Fuck!” I yelled, lowering my head where I could look back at my knees on the bedspread.
To my surprise, Maia reached her fingers into my hair and gave it a tug. The world could wait.
Maia, aka Medusa, has been arrested by someone in connection to an attempted bombing on the U.S. Capitol when an alien envoy was present. There are dozens of different ways she could have been framed. I don’t know why the aliens are here, but they’ve got a fleet parked in orbit and I think we all want to avoid yet another alien war. It’s getting old at this point, and there are more aliens than there are people on Earth, so the numbers are against us.
Sam and Holly, other girlfriends of mine, took the news well. Sam pulled out her bronze knuckles and Holly grabbed a morning star off the wall. I held up my hands. “Let’s not go off half-cocked here.”
“Really?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, I’m still putting together armor. Also, I don’t know who actually has her right now. I figured I’d try diplomatic channels. First thing’s first, I’m trying to talk to Isabella.” I thought Venus would be getting back to me in no time, so but she told me she needed to talk later. Meanwhile, I’ve got whole villainous base mobilizing. “Creating clones, assembling nanomachines, and manufacturing drones, too. But mainly, I’m trying to get the armor right.”
Sam patted my shoulder. “Baby, you don’t need armor. You’re not fighting in person.” She reached out and touched my belly. Ever since I got this damn belly, people just touch it without asking. Holly set the morning star down and reached out to rub my belly, too.
“I am the most dangerous person on Earth. I’ve got a loaded pregger hole and I’m not afraid to use it!” I declared. I got a ring back. My eye HUD told me I had a call incoming. “I gotta take this, it’s Venus.” I backed away to try and escape their hands. I turned and headed downstairs to my basement lair. “Isabella, my baby daddy, what’s the situation?”
“I am at the Master Academy. I cannot believe I have to hide here. Alright, Maia, right; they think it might have been me instead and they want me arrested by the government and turned over to them. I think that means it’s the aliens who have her.”
“Any idea what they are? They don’t look like Fluidics or Trobogorians. Or Cercopagus Lysis. Or those guys with the space opera-”
“I don’t recognize them either, but they call themselves the Consortium of Grau. That may not be their species. This is all my fault.” I had never seen Venus so uncertain of herself as she’s been since we resolved the issue where she stole godlike power from me and tried to fix the world.
“Did you blow up the capitol? I mean, you know I’m not snitching,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“Then it’s not your fault. Duh.”
“They’re here because of what I did. They detected it through fancy high tech alien whatchamacallits and came to make sure Earth wasn’t going to fuck everything up. That I wasn’t going to fuck everything up.”
“You’re not, so there. Issue resolved. Moving on,” I said. She stayed quiet. I sighed. “Ugh… ok… as much as I don’t get rehabilitation, you’re generally a force for good. You even… ya know… me. And I did a lot worse than you ever did. I’m proof that not only are you not terrible and the worst person in the world, but that people can change for the better. And it was thanks to you. Oh my god, kid! Your baby won’t get off my damn bladder.”
She laughed. “Ok, the Grau took her up to a ship, but you can talk to them at the Capitol. They’ve landed delegations in major nations’ capitols around the world. That’s if you want to talk. I’m reaching out to the Exemplars for when that fails and we have to beat my sis out of them. I think they have a spaceship in case of complications.”
“Smart. I’ll talk since the aliens don’t want me dead as far as I know. Plus I have that bit of space celebrity from that opera. I doubt I’ll get anywhere, but maybe I can arrange a visit so we can pin down her location.”
“You might need to put a tracker on us,” Isabella suggested. “Something other people can’t track like a phone.”
“Funny how I’m the violent option on Earth, and the diplomat to the stars,” I mentioned in parting.
Sam and Holly insisted on coming with me, so we had to get a babysitter for Qiang. I trust Qiang… within reason. She’s getting up there. The stuff with the altered reality interrupted her latest birthday party, but she’s getting to the age where I can tell she doesn’t want to spend time with me and might even be embarrassed by me. I guess that goes double now that I’m puttering around all aching, fat, and gassy. We figured she wouldn’t need a sitter for long. For the sake of the sitter, I hoped she was prepared for a challenge.
The pair even donned a pair of costumes. I saw them when gathering up my gear at the store and prepping the Flyer in case I needed it for a diplomatic mission-turned-fight with aliens. Scattered around were boxes, containers, a few drones, and snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks were absolutely essential. I’d already gone through half a bag of Dove chocolate and a package of smoked gouda pretzel sticks by the time my other girlfriends showed up. And also a few pickles. Some nutella. I ordered a Hawaiian pizza because I wasn’t sure how long they would take and it actually sounded delicious to me right now.
Sam wore a shiny red corset, white jacket with red studs over that, and pants trimmed in white. She protected the short mohawk she was going for with a red armored helmet and tinted white visor. She had on reinforced biker boots. Holly’s outfit was looser, with a shorter maxi skirt over the pants that had red leopard print spots in places. The back of her top turned into a hood with stiff supports to hold it up or retract it when she needed to. And her shoes were practical as well; modified Under Armor Ubers that The outfits looked like they were all about fashion because of the subtlety of the armoring and some of the gadgetry built into it, like electric stun pads in the gloves, hidden boot knives, and radios.
Sam was Rose Red and Holly was Snow White.
“Wow,” I said, seeing them in that in person rather than memory.
“Yeah. We liked the costumes from memory,” Holly said, twirling and making skirt go spinny.
Sam walked over, working those lovely curves. She put a hand on my chubby mommy belly, because of course she did. “You’re just wearing this outfit?”
I was in a loose boho skirt and tank top. I pointed behind me to the small treaded vehicle the size of a small car headed up the ramp from the extensive underground base under my store. “I got more clothes in there.” It settled in next to where some body doubles of me were seated on chairs. Unlike me, these weren’t pregnant.
“Good, you’re not going into a fight yourself,” Sam said. She took my hand. Holly took the other one. A moment later, we appeared in my portal lair. When I got my hands on wormhole technology, I exploited it to create a base that combined pieces of various dimensions and locations within the universe. We appeared in a cave with air portaled in from over a section of ocean higher than the tallest ships and lower than any plane that would be traveling that far from civilization. I activated a giant monitor and a hologram station to give me a complete view of the alien fleet over Earth.
I had a moment of viciousness. “I could just… wipe them all out. Every single one. Crack them in half, douse them in the heart of a star, suck them all into black holes, vent atmosphere, flood them with deadly creatures. Drowning, electrocution, throwing a planet at them. I am death incarnate… except I need Maia and I don’t know where she is. And if I kill them, maybe they send another fleet. Or they send someone with the ability to negate wormhole technology. Or they just destroy Earth from afar before we even realize we’re under attack, doing to us what I do to them.”
Sam squeezed my hand. Holly booped my nose. “Boop. Why so serious?”
I shook my head. “Heh. Guess it’s a good thing I had so many mental problems before. I was mad without power, so I already know to be careful. Ok, enough with the boring-ass introspection. Everyone ready to go deep into Congress’s tightwad?”
They nodded. A door opened in front of us, with me humming the Twilight Zone theme. We stepped through and out into Congress near to various people in suits. I tapped one of them on the shoulder. “’Scuse me, I need to see an alien.”
“Who the hell are you?!” asked a startled man somewhere around his thirties with a bit too much forehead and chin.
“I am the Psychopomp and I request a meeting with the envoys. Take me to them.”
“You look like some fat woman with two cosplay chi- oh my God,” he backed away when I warped my body away and replaced it with a spare body wearing a set of my armor. I had armor for myself, but it looked better without the rounded belly. Someone ran up, Capitol Police. Holly and Sam were ready, but the guy I’d scared held up his hand. “Officer, this group needs to be shown to the alien envoys. Take them there immediately.”
The officer took his hand off the very large gun and held them up to show he wasn’t going to do anything, then waved us toward him. “Sorry, right away.”
We walked through what they call the halls of power. There, the slimiest and most craven of power-grubbers oozed around looking for ways to collect checks and prestige without doing anything. And that’s after I’d killed all the malicious ones through accidents when I was a god. Finally, we were shown through a cordon of guards, including aliens in power suits that hid everything but their body shape and number of limbs. To play nice, I stepped back out with my real body and my sore cankles to look less threatening.
“This is cool!” Holly said.
“It’s lame,” Sam countered.
“I could really go for Korean fried chicken,” I said.
The cop presented us to some guy in a suit, who presented us to a room with a big table where Americans in suits sat with teal aliens who had lion-lake manes made of quills or feathers depending on the alien. “Psychopomp Gecko, and guests.”
“Thank you,” I said to the cop. I handed him a fiver. “Tell you what, go buy yourself some really cheap love.”
He stepped away, and my group stepped up to the table where some confused Senators, ambassadors, and aliens all stood up at my presence. One of the feathered ones turned to me and said in French-accented English. “You are the opera star. This is an uncommon delight.”
“Hon, hon, hon, now you send celebrities?” a petite quilled alien asked, directing the question to the politicians.
“I am not here as a celebrity, though I will sign autographs after the meeting,” I announced. Holly pulled a black marker out of her utility belt for emphasis. “I am here because you have arrested my wife under suspicion of trying to blow you all up and would like to negotiate for her release.”
In one back corner, I saw a silver-haired agent in a much cheaper suit whispering into the ear of a man from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The small alien gestured to another in its group. This one was larger, and had a couple of rings gathering up quills on opposite sides of its face. “That is not possible. What she did was a violation of the sanctions of safe harbor and diplomacy of the Consortium.”
“Let me visit her then,” I said.
The Senator from the SSCI spoke up, “We would consider it a personal favor of goodwill if you honored the request of Psychopomp Gecko to see her wife.” I glanced at him and nodded my appreciation. That’s Torian and now this guy I’m going to owe favors to.
“You have a child from the prisoner?” asked the alien who recognized me from the space opera I’d been in a little bit. That feathered alien reached out across the table for my belly, then actually climbed across it to place her hand on my belly. Holly and Sam both snickered.
I sighed. “Yeah. And if you let me up to see her, I’ll let anyone in the room who wants to touch my belly do so, on top of the good will incentive.”
I’ve never had so many hands on my stomach. “It is agreed!” the quilled alien with the slight build declared. “We will provide you with what you Earthlings call a conjugal visit, eh?”
“That’s not,” the one Senator who helped me out started to say.
I held up a hand. “Speak for yourself. I fully intend to get up there and conjugate her brains out.”
“We will have you on the next diplomatic shuttle,” the petite envoy declared. Meanwhile, the one who recognized me pulled out a plush doll of me for an autograph.
So here’s the score… I shared power with Isabella, aka Venus, the version of my nemesis-turned-lover pulled out of time a few years back. She wanted to marry me after I used my godlike powers to give myself her baby, so we got hitched and took a honeymoon in space where I merged with her symbiotically. I also decided to let her use my power for something of her choosing when we got back to Earth.
Now, I’m a fucking human. Not homo machina, human. I have real eyes without lasers, no internal wifi router, and my skin went from bulletproof to squishy. And she made it where I’m a retired superhero who can turn into a reindeer-woman. As far as I can tell, every other villain on the planet is a superhero like this.
Mix N’Max runs pop-up pharmacies. Spinetingler is a pumpkin-man who lures people into his haunted house to scare them straight. Powder, who is literally powered by cocaine, is in the hospital because of sudden withdrawals. And if you’re wondering how Spinetingler has anyone to scare, I think Venus only swapped over super criminals. The Greens gang either became super cops or turned their lives around, but she wrote the past so that mundane purse snatchers and burglars existed. And crimes are still happening. My computer has a link to the Shieldwall Database.
Shieldwall’s a thing again. It went from a bunch of people I pissed off trying to stop me as a supergroup, to being a worldwide superhero collective. I have an inbox full of superheroes congratulating me on the recent marriage like they know me. Including, it turns out, from my sister Dame. Yeah… now she’s my sister. I think Venus just plain erased the Three Hares conspiracy, so now Dame and I are twins who grew up in a nice fancy place. Dame tests security for banks and museums.
That made me wonder what she did to my actual brother, who was over in our home dimension. To make it more confusing, this Earth was connected to yet another version. That one, everyone was all swapped around so the heroes were villains and villains were heroes. I was overwhelmed with questions and missing my omniscience. Also, really wish gravity couldn’t touch me anymore. I feel so heavy now, and that’s not the pregnancy talking. I don’t have the enhanced musculature either.
I didn’t need this shit. I had a direct line to Venus. After all, she’s the goddess now. Just had to igure out prayer. I once heard that it’s actually pretty easy; “you just put your hands together and hope.”
Venus’s face appeared on my monitor. “Gecko! I should say ‘Delilah’ now. You got back to me fast. How are you getting adjusted?”
“Ve- Isabella, I know you made all the villains heroes, but what else did you do?” I questioned her.
“You’re upset.” She sighed. “Give it a fair shake, ok? I’m giving you a shot at a boring domestic life and at being a hero. There’s no past for you, but not just for you. I gave all of them a chance.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose in exasperation. “You did a lot more than that and you shouldn’t.”
“Why not? Your power is all-knowing and all-powerful. It’s not capable of making a mistake,” Isabella said.
She plucked the accusation of a mistake from my mind. Before I could speak, Isabella continued, “Just give it time. Please. You know you’re contrarian and you pretend you don’t want a chance to be a hero.”
That’s not true, readers, but even if it was, you can’t just make people heroes. I was going to tell Venus about it, but she left my computer monitor. Just left. Didn’t pop out to continue talking with me or anything. Left.
I put my hands together again. “Get your ass back here!”
“I know you’re listening! I remember how annoying prayers were until I tuned them out!”
“I’m your wife, dammit!”
A halo of light erupted from the computer monitor. I got up and went about my usual day. I woke my adoptive daughter up, fed her, got her ready for school. My sister and I passed some texts back and forth, since she was still up just after a heist. Then it was off to the store instead of tackling Holly back into bed. Selling weird and quirky gadgets to small town America, aka Radium. Someone even came into the shop and got an autograph from me for her action figure.
It was a nice, boring, easy day. Yeah, it was nice to be with my family. Everything else was boring. Being some shop owner. I’m almost a nobody.
The next day, I woke up and got my daughter ready and off for school. But I had to put the store on hold. My Shieldwall Reservist alert watch activated. I threw on my spare costume at the store while reading the alert. Somehow, the Greens had gone crazy. They were an order of environmental guardians who protected the Earth after having been exposed to a mysterious chemical in their drugs. They’d ended up animalistic, with fur, horns, even hooves. And now, all of a sudden, they were rampaging around the city. They were rapid-growing trees on streets and bridges, destroying every car, and were trying to take down the city’s electrical grid.
Heh. Don’t know why I felt so smug and cynical, but I guess they realized a conflict between keeping the peace and opposing damage to the environment. Now, Shieldwall was calling up some reservists from all over to come to Empyreal City to fight them. Something felt off about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Instead, I stepped out of the Empyreal City Shieldwall Meeting Hall teleporter tubes and activated my powers.
It felt just like the first time transforming. It’s uncomfortable. It never happens evenly. My muscles tore and stretched. Bones shifted and grew, sometimes breaking as they moved. The bone growths that spouted from my head were the worst part. The antlers grew out of my head, only appearing after the velvet burst, all bloody and gory. I almost gagged when I got slapped in the face by some of the velvet.
Somebody walked up to me, a guy in slacks, shirt, and tie. “Whoa, we don’t need you. You look too much like the guys who are doing all this.”
“Like hell we don’t,” an older, guy said. He was dressed the same as the first, but heavier set, no shades, and his clothes seemed more worn. “Residents near the natural gas plant in Jamaica are telling me the skies are filling with pollen there. Everyone else is busy. Do you know how much energy this fucking city takes? Beggars and choosers, Davidson, for Christ’s sake.”
Davidson and Jameson, liason officers from the Office of Superhuman Resources.
“Jamaica?” I asked.
I flew into the air and took off through the roof access of the Meeting Hall, humming the Sorting Song from Futurama. Everybody say Jamaica!
My antlers glowed. Sometimes, people wonder if I might be trans or something because of the antlers thing, but female reindeer have them and keep them for a long time and-.
Oh, there was the cloud of pollen. Like a flower explosion happened in Queens. The Kennedy International Plant was hidden under a thick yellow cloud that immediately made me wish I didn’t have a nose. “Oh deer. I wish I wasn’t going into all that.”
I activated the sonic arm cannons and flew directly overhead, firing downward to force the pollen onto the ground. The cloud settled, revealing what the Greens had been hiding. In its place was a huge flower with thorns on the edges of the petals and along its waving branches. It snapped its petals closed, using the thorns like fangs. My antlers lit up, but there was the whole natural gas plant it had grown right near. I had to be careful. Pipes and such. The very thing that more easily gets rid of it is exactly what gets rid of the power plant I’m here to save.
Ok, so I can’t do this easily. If I was going to be lazy and take the easy way out every time, I’d have just been a cop.
Where’d that come from?
I swooped right down the middle of that flower, into, past grasping stamens that swallowed me whole. I ended up trapped in the bottom of its main stem, squeezed on all sides. I pressed my arms and legs against the walls, especially aimed upward and downward. I turned the sonic weapons up high and fired, tearing the flower off and splitting the stem, freeing myself. Chunks of the flower fell down on me. A big part fell on me, slamming me into the body of the giant plant and landing on the top of the root bulb and throwing up a shitload of pollen that had landed.
I felt it growing back around me. I blasted it again, trying to give myself room. Finally ended up clearing enough space to do some light blasts into the roots, tearing out chunk after chunk as I went, sneezing all the while because of all the pollen.
When it no longer seemed to be trying to grow back, I crawled my way out of the sticky mess, covered in chlorophyll that trapped pollen all over me. I was sneezing, goopy, I had things in too many unpleasant cracks. In the words of Master Shake, “I am 30 or 40 years old, and I do not need this.” And then I get outside and see people posting that shit on Tiktok for likes. Curious onlookers who couldn’t bother to, ya know, run from the potential giant fireball that would have happened or the plant with thorns the size of their bodies.
And then word came in from Jameson about some of the Greens elsewhere.
I was glad to finally get back home, cussing and muttering to myself about them teleporting me but leaving the fucking goo all over. Lives saved, power plants still most operational, and meanwhile we’ll all get called fucking corporate shills because we didn’t want people to go without heat or hospitals to go without power and all that shit. We’re not the ones who decide to build wind turbines and tidal turbines and nuclear plants. At least the Greens didn’t try to fuck with those.
First thing when the teleporter dropped me off in my basement, a shower. The one down there was built to handle all sorts of biohazards. Just… really not fun getting the chlorophyll out of some of those places. When I got out was a message on my computer monitor. “Do you see yet?”
I shook my head. Motherfucking Venus… Isabella… she brainwashed me! That message was the trigger to revert it. She tried to make me a hero for a day and a regular person for another. In the middle of my anger, I had a long laugh over the fact that it didn’t stick that well even when it happened. I hated being some spandex cop. I was still me, though. I still had my perspective.
That’s what did it for the Greens, too. She changed their minds temporarily, but whatever thing they’re into, however it affects them, it changes their perspective, too. As far as they’re concerned, what they were doing was right, and there are others who believe in it as well. Pull the plug, destroy all that stuff, and that way the rebuild might as well be clean sources of energy. If it happened to them and started to happen to me, it was going to happen to others. Medusa, Maia, for instance. The reason she went from being Venus to taking that identity was because she got to the point where she couldn’t stand upholding a flawed system blindly, where the worst abusers were protected because they were rich or come from the right family.
So that’s a flaw. It’s something I can use to maybe convince Isabella to turn things back. Or she might try to correct things again.
I knew I needed a plan, and I needed allies. I didn’t want to think about it, but my wife and I might get into a domestic dispute over all this.
Oh my god, and she made me a cis woman. I mean, sure, now guys who beat their wives will stop objecting to me playing Jeopardy, winning beauty pageants, and being middling at sports, but at what cost? That’s… I don’t even know. I was furious at her for everything she did, all these changes, some of them like she didn’t even know me but wanted to force me to do what she thought was right.
The fabricator had a new suit of power armor ready for me by the time I woke Qiang up the next morning.
“Psycho Gecko killed Captain Lightning,” Lightning’s successor announced to onlookers. The video was all over Youtube. Amazingly, that was all there was to the video. Somehow, the part where he told everyone I am the Unicorn Goddess didn’t record, didn’t upload, and was instantly forgotten by everyone, including the new Captain Lightning.
“Looks like he’s got a lot to learn still,” Sam said, leaning on my shoulder on the couch. Holly had me move my arms so she could slide onto my lap.
“That’s your fault, though,” Holly added.
Sam patted her friend’s head. “She’s right, you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know. Just like I know he’s got a good reason to hate me, even though I had a good reason to kill him.”
We were at this martial arts tournament being held at the local high school. The town of Radium had settled on integrating the super and non-super schools together, and one of many events they were trying to build a community spirit was stuff like this. With the rise of the show Cobra Kai, it was pretty popular, and Qiang had some competition out there. We were all trying to avoid this stage mom yelling for her son. They segregated the competition by sex, so Qiang wasn’t going to get a chance to whoop her kid’s ass. Instead, we tried to ignore her.
“You ever find out where the non-binary kids are competing?” Holly asked.
“Ugh. They’re making them play pretend,” I explained. “Don’t even see why they have to segregate this stuff anyway. When someone comes at you in a dark alley, are you going to be able to ask to segregate that fight? No, you kick ’em upside the spleen.”
“Cut their dick off,” Sam said.
“Poke their eyes out with your nails!” Holly added. We made for an intimidating cheering section. Qiang waved, all smiles, while she waited for her next fight. She raised up a box of popcorn. “Anyone want some?”
I reached out with a prehensile tongue to grab a couple pieces off the top.
“Pass one here,” Sam requested. I slipped one to her using the tongue before chowing down on the other piece. Holly giggled and waved at an older guy who’d been staring. The staring didn’t stop when two more women joined our little crowd. Medusa brought the wings, and Venus brought tacos.
“Boopsies,” I acknowledged them.
“Isabella,” Venus said.
“Maia, at least when we’re dressed like regular people,” Medusa said.
Sam laughed. “So you split up your names?”
Medusa smiled at her. “I let her have the first name, because I’m going to be a good big sis.”
Sam shook her head. “How do you get used to that? She’s you!”
I raised a hand. “Ooh!”
“No!” the whole quartet said at once. I hadn’t even made the suggestion.
I turned my nose up. “Fine. It was just an idea of an offer.”
“Don’t you have a big enough harem?” Venus asked.
“I don’t know. Last time I checked, my alleged fiances were having second thoughts,” I noted. Now, omniscience doesn’t mean omniwisdom, and I could tell I’d hit a sore spot. “I’m sorry. We’ll talk about that later. We’re here now and let’s enjoy watching Qiang rearrange some faces.”
“Up next, Kim Hart versus Qiang Lamb,” the announcer announced. We all started cheering. Venus started a wave that Holly continued, dropping popcorn on me. Through odd chance, all of the popcorn fell into my mouth.
I noticed Medusa watching and gave a little, “Ta da! And for my next act of god…”
“Shh, our kid’s beating people up,” Sam said.
“Our daughter,” Holly said. Medusa and Venus repeated it. I shook my head, thinking about how we are most definitely not a normal family. Qiang and Alexander are going to have some interesting lives, but I hope they have it only as interesting as they want.
Meanwhile on the mat, this Kim girl showed a lot of acrobatic skill dodging Qiang, and the confusion Qiang had about it left her open to get a point scored against her. Qiang came back the next go-round and blocked a kick before giving the girl a punch to the chest.
An older woman with a red dye job she hoped looked natural leaned down and tapped me on the shoulder aggressively, “Excuse me. Do you have to do that?”
I turned toward her. “Do what?”
“That!” she waved her hands at my little lesbian cuddle fest, with Sam on one side of me, Holly in my lap, my arm having slipped around Venus, and Medusa holding my hand that ended up on the other side of Venus’s shoulders.
“We’re just here existing,” I said.
“What’s your problem?” Sam asked.
“She doesn’t like lesbians existing,” Holly answered.
“No, you can exist, just don’t do that here,” the woman said.
“Do what?” Medusa asked, giving her a glare.
“You know, touch each other,” the woman said. She had her fingers entwined with her husband’s next to her.
“We can touch in public same as you,” Medusa said, nodding toward the woman’s hand.
“She thinks we’re unnatural though,” I pointed out.
“I didn’t say that,” she said. I snapped my fingers. “You are unnatural! It’s not right that children can see you exist. Little girls are too impressionable and should be thinking about having sex with men!” She held her hand up to her mouth. “I didn’t say that!”
“Sounded like you did, ma’am,” Holly pitched in.
Venus cleared her throat. “Talking about little girls having sex at this sort of event might count as public obscenity or whatever this state has.”
Medusa took the layup. “Maybe I should get my friend the sheriff in here.”
“Hey, you have no right,” the husband chimed in, pointing his finger at us. “We paid good money to come here and think about sex while staring at little girls!”
“Funny how that keeps slipping out,” I said.
Red-faced the couple ended up leaving, muttering to themselves. The wife said something about the doctor giving her the wrong pills.
We finally got to concentrate on my girl’s match. While we’d been chatting with that annoying couple, Qiang and Kim had themselves a longer bout where Kim used her acrobatics skill to dodge, mostly jumping or throwing herself out of the way. Qiang stayed on her and Kim never had time to full regain her feet, so my daughter was able to get her eventually. Qiang wasn’t nearly as winded as Kim was from all that jumping going into the fourth round, and started off feinting a sweep. Kim jumped, but was slower dodging and realizing the feint, so she caught a food to the chest about the time she landed, giving my daughter the win.
We had a little break then before the finals.
“So, we’ve been thinking,” Medusa said. “It’s not legal for you to marry two people in this country.”
I snapped my fingers. “Drat. Guess the wedding’s off, especially because I’m already married to someone else technically.” One of them is even roaming around somewhere. She came from a Bronze Age-level society on a lost continent that came back. We were married for political reasons. As soon as the ceremony was over, I drugged her to keep her in a coma while I stayed with this other woman I was seeing for political reasons. To make it up for her, I eventually brought her out of it with various enhancements, and let her lead the life of an adventurer.
“Delilah Lamb is not legally married to anyone,” Medusa said. “And neither is Psychopomp Gecko, who exists as a legal entity who has been pardoned before. The Unicorn Goddess is in even weirder legal space. You don’t have to pay taxes since you’re the head of your own religion.”
I shrugged. “After everything, y’all still want to marry me? Attaching your name to mine?”
“We’ve done a lot of thinking about it. It was a big consideration, to add to it. That’s why I’m going to sully my bad reputation with it,” Medusa said. “How’d you like my last name? Psychopomp Gecko-”
“And Delilah can take mine or we can hyphenate. Either way, we decided not to do two weddings in one day, so we’re splitting it up and I’m going first,” Venus added.
“She’s become a real brat now that she’s a younger sister,” Sam said.
Holly gave her a playful swat on the shoulder. “Either be nice or marry our girlfriend yourself.”
“By the way,” Venus said, “I appreciate you keeping the omniscience off right now.”
I shrugged. “It’s not as interesting if I spoil the competition.”
Venus just smiled at me. Someone else tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see a Catholic priest. “Excuse me, Delilah Lamb?” He opened a Bible he had with him that had a cheat sheet tucked within it.
I went to turn to Venus, who was right next to me, and ask her what she did, but I noticed Medusa revealed a veil she put on Venus. Sam was pulling on a tuxedo sweatshirt and a clip-on tie. Holly got off my lap and pulled a small bouquet of flowers out of the bottom of the trick popcorn box. She whipped her phone out and started playing the wedding march at a subdued tone.
“Elaborate deception,” I noted as Sam put a veil on my head.
Qiang came running up, stopping to grab a pillow with a couple rings on it from her backpack.
We left the gym with Holly jumping around tossing popcorn at us. Sam stuck a sticker to my back reading “Just Married.” I refused to let Qiang be outdone. She skipped along with her trophy and a sign behind her reading, “Just kicked ass.”
Of course, that’s when alarms sounded. Worldwide news alerts went up as gigantic spaceships blotted out the sky. “People of Earth,” they announced on all channels and frequencies “Fear not. The Trobogorian Directorate promises not to kill anyone.”
“Which ones are these?” Sam asked.
Venus raised my hand and kissed it while Medusa answered. “They’re the pacifists, technically. They prefer weapons that keep people alive in excruciating pain.”
“Yay, kicking aliens to the dark side of the honeymoon,” I said, smiling over at Venus. I don’t know why I couldn’t stop smiling. It shouldn’t have meant so much, but it did. And I knew it’d be fun to go beat up some invading aliens, too. The last time a Trobogorian expedition hit Earth, it didn’t go their way. Now, they’ve got me to deal with, and about a bajillion angry alien machines mobilizing around the outer planets to help protect the people who gave them a home.
Heck, I bet this’ll all be cleared up before Outlaw X gets done entertaining y’all instead. Cut me some slack, I’m on my honeymoon.
I told my family. They deserved an explanation better than me ignoring it and keeping a doppelganger around to comfort them every time I popped out of the Madstone. And they knew something was up. Venus and Medusa both reacted pretty badly to the death of Captain Lightning, along with everyone else. However people felt about him alive, he’d been a superhuman institution. And the Unicorn Goddess had killed him.
So first, I pulled myself together enough to appear at home, then I summoned Medusa and Venus to me. Their surprise was quickly replaced with attempts to pummel me in anger and sadness. I was beyond their ability to help me, at least that early on in my escape. They knew it too, and it was Medusa who came to her senses first, grabbing Venus and asking, “Why?”
“Holly told you what’s going on,” I reminded them. I hadn’t left them completely in the dark. “I’ve been trying to get the stone into my possession and release myself. I asked Captain Lightning for help, but he refused because a fight between us would cause widespread damage and he didn’t want to encourage it by helping me. I almost had it, but he got there first and started adjusting the enchantment on the stone. He wanted to permanently seal me inside it. I guess I was no longer the lesser evil.”
They were still crying and processing it. Even with my powers slipping back into the Madstone, I could still have changed their minds and made them understand but I didn’t want that. I don’t want all my relationships to exist because I fucked with people’s heads and made them like me. I still had awhile. “I have at least an hour before I have to return to the Madstone and recover.”
“What?” Venus said.
I snapped my fingers and gave them, as well as my onlooking girlfriend Sam, my side of the experiences on the day I killed Captain Lightning. I won’t brainwash them, but it’s a lot easier to make someone see my point of view when I can literally give them all the knowledge of my point of view.
“I wanted to wait until you’d both attended his funeral. I’m sorry to… I don’t know. Ruining a lot of things, I guess.”
Sam came over and hugged me. Medusa hugged Venus. “Send us back where you got us. We’ll talk later. We need time.”
“I can pop out again in a couple days. I’m just… everything was going so well. Y’all were joking and planning a wedding. People weren’t dying in the streets with a goddess of disease running loose.”
Qiang had come out of her room to watch us. The course of these events had me worried, even saddened. It’s funny. Right back to killing superheroes and getting locked up, only this time it had a great deal more weight to it.
“I could bring him back… provided I get out of this thing. Kinda funny how that works,” the one thing keeping me from bringing him back. Perhaps I should have. It would have been more humane, maybe. Bring him back, wipe out everyone’s knowledge of how things went down, and just make him never think of doing the same thing again. Maybe the next time, after gathering my strength in the Madstone.
“You could go back in time, too,” Sam suggested.
“What are you suggesting?” Venus asked.
Medusa shook her head. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong even.”
“Who’s to say?” another voice cut in.
We all looked over at someone standing over by Qiang, but who made a show of stepping away. He wore a big, flappy yellow zoot suit and a wide-brimmed hat tilted back to show off the horn nubs on his forehead. He was clearly a demon, judging from the red skin and the fire burning in his eyes. “Call me Zazz; rhymes with jazz.”
It wasn’t his real name. He raised a finger topped with a black, pointy fingernail. “Uh, uh. No looking up a person’s name. You’ll use up the goodwill I have toward you for pissing off so many of my fellow fiends.”
What’s even the point of omniscience anymore if every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a way to circumvent it?
“What do you want, Zazz?” I asked. Qiang quietly palmed a knife. Venus, Medusa, and Sam were also getting ready for a fight, with Sam inching toward a lamp.
“I want to thank you for what you’ve done to ruin the plans of some of my rival demons,” he said with a smile. A too-white smile.
I shook my head. “No thank you. Especially time travel.” I raised a hand to wave him off, letting the palm glow a little as a threat.
Zazz winked. “Think about it. I’ll be in touch.” He disappeared in poof of smoke that cleared away.
“Well, I don’t trust him,” I told the family. After a moment, I added, “ I know things are fucked up, so I’ll send people elsewhere or just leave if y’all don’t want to, but can I spend some time with y’all before I get tossed back into the Madstone?”
Despite everything, we had a nice couple of hours together before they watched me pulled back into my prison. I rested up, little by little, because I needed all of my strength. It was time to stop fucking around and giving anyone any chances. I’ve been lazy. I’ve relied on senses that are nowhere near as powerful as I thought they were, and which are only getting weaker. And I subtly made everyone who knew forget about my spare bodies I could project my consciousness into.
So, emotions done. Riddles put off for now. Time for work, after a brief refractory period to regain my power. Once upon a time, I’d visited the pocket dimension created out of the remains of the entity Mr. Omega. I absorbed part of his essence to obtain my power, but other pieces of him gained various levels of existence in the dimension and went to war with each other. One that I spoke with explained it all to me in boring exposition before offering to escape with me by letting me absorb him and his power, in the hopes he would manipulate me from inside.
I’ve reached a part where that factors into a couple different plans I have. I appeared back in the Omega dimension.
I saw skies of red. Red roses, too. I saw them bloom for me and a herd of felines with antlers that looked up at me. Looked like miniscule shards of Omega’s core had joined with some felines. Barely any Omega energy there, really.
The place was a lot less warlike than I remember. I made damn sure to use my omniscience there and saw that the various Lesser Omegas that looked like copies of the original had settled into a stalemate. Some hibernated, others cultivated their lands and the life growing there, and the one I came to see had become an avid observer of the wildlife spawned by all those various shards joining with the discarded debris of the multiverse.
He appeared near me, a crimson man wearing a laurel of leaves and a toga. “Dammit,” I said, “Everyone’s gone hippie!”
He examined me for a minute, a minute of my power… not slipping away. I needed to test if this applied to other dimensions or just this little one my powers were associated with. It was refreshing to not be on a time limit. I just have to either drag my whole family away from their lives, or live apart from them here in a land full of nothing but the essence of a colossal cockthistle who I hate. The only way this could get worse was if it turned out Florida was immune to the Madstone’s pull.
“I once called you sister, but you’ve grown and changed,” the Lesser Omega said upon breaking the silence. “You are little like us.”
“Last time I was here, it was all war and gloom. Looks like the rest of you changed,” I said. It would almost be a shame to take his power for myself.
“This world has flourished into a peaceful world of burgeoning new life, unburdened by the grudges and conflicts of our past greater self. I have been watching to see how the world grows, what wonders arise,” he answered.
“So, remember that deal you once offered, giving up your power to me…?” I nudged him.
He tossed the toga and laurel aside. “I am ready when you are. This is the most boring place in the multiverse.”
“What’s this? Surrendering, are we?” asked someone else. It was another Omega clad in blackened armor with a green sheen on it. “If you wanted to die, you could have come to me.”
“Who’s this anal swizzle?” I asked the scholarly Omega.
“That is a more warlike aspect. He’s disappointed no one wants to fight anymore and tries to goad us,” that Omega answered.
“I’d like a fight, but you can let me kill you instead!” the armored Omega declared, materializing a spear in his hands.
“You know, it’s not the outside that matters so much as what’s inside,” I noted. With a flick of my hands, small dimensional portals separated his head from his body, then scattered pieces of his body to other dimensions. It left an irregular core there, what is known on my planet as an Omega Pearl. I approached it and laid my hands on it, absorbing his power into me.
The scholarly Omega backed away. “He’s gone.”
I nodded to him. “Yeah.”
That Omega shook his head. “No, he’s truly gone. Not even a personality inside you.”
I shrugged. I felt more powerful, but it was hard to tell if I was any douchier than before. I’m already pretty douchy.
“I am rethinking what we discussed before,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “You said this place was boring.”
“I imagine being dead is more boring,” he said.
“Good thinking. You should use that imagination thing more. This place could use some sprucing up.” I looked around. Most of the world was an unblemished wilderness, with the Omegas barely even creating shelter to live in. “Have you ever heard of Minecraft? Might give you some ideas.” I created a laptop with the game for him, letting him see it.
Mr. Omega had been banished back before people realized the Earth was round. These guys could use something telling them to build and develop.
The scholarly Omega leaned in and tried pressing buttons on the laptop. After a few tries, he figured a few things out and was playing around in it. After a minute, I realized he’d become less aware of my existence. I left a few more laptops for the rest, as well as a server for the bunch, all under a sign reading, “Get your creative juices flowing.”
Then it was back to the Madstone, now with twice the power at my disposal for when I hop out and murder my best friend’s girlfriend. I want to make sure that what comes next isn’t a fight, but a murder.
I’m glad I don’t have to sleep. It’s difficult. It’s weird. Sam woke up at one point and held my head in her lap. “What’s wrong?”
“Just wondering how real all of this is.”
“You should keep seeing your therapist. You know you need help.”
“I can fix myself if it becomes a problem,” I told her.
“How’s that going for you?” she asked, running her fingers through my hair. “I’m glad I’m seeing you and not the kid.”
“I eased things for them, but Godhunter convinced them they didn’t want to be my vessel.”
“That’s good. You two need to talk about your relationship.”
I tilted my head back to look into her eyes more. “Hmm?”
“Oh, you have a relationship with them. You each wanted it on your terms without thinking about it, and it isn’t a normal one, but you have one.”
I took her wrist and kissed it, then responded, “You don’t approve.”
“I don’t want another relationship where I have to help raise my partner.” She booped my nose. “But we’ll figure something out if you decide you want to be with them. And you’ll have to figure out your gender issues as far as possessing them.”
“Hey,” I said, putting my hands on her cheeks. “What do you want?”
“This isn’t about me,” she said quickly. Heh. Can’t blame her for not knowing. Who really and truly knows what they want out of life. “Oh, I know!” She flipped on the TV and landed us on an early morning televangelist.
“I thought I got these guys?” I asked. More than a few of these bozos had died under mysterious circumstances. Or as mysterious as could be. I think this guy’s show was hosted by some old fart I made sure had an overdose on the cocaine he was doing on his private jet. Which isn’t as funny as the one who had a heart attack while inside one of his congregants. He didn’t go nearly as painfully as some of the others. The Catholic Church in particular has so many positions to fill, they might have to let women be priests, bishops, and cardinals.
“New guy,” Sam said.
“Wish there wasn’t always a new guy.”
“There’s money in being the new guy,” Sam pointed out.
On-screen, the new guy was ranting now. “If sodomy and fornication and abortion aren’t sins, then may God strike me down right this instant!” He opened his spittle-rimmed mouth, red faced, finger pointing up in the air on an outstretched hand. Then his eyes widened and he reached for his chest. He collapsed to the concerned murmurs of his fleeced flock, who rushed to help.
Just before the program was cut off, someone ran onstage and called out, “Someone get a-”
“That was fun,” I said.
“Shouldn’t have pissed off a goddess who likes sodomy and fornication so much,” Sam suggested, then giggled. She put a hand on my belly. “I can’t speak for your views on abortion.”
“I’m pro-abortion,” I said. “Only way to be sure the anti-Christ isn’t born.” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Oh, is that who you’ve got there?” she asked.
“This is Alexander. And if you keep this up, I’ll dump him on you.” I turned and poked her in the belly.
“That’s a wicked idea,” she said, kissing the top of my head. “I can just imagine you showing up as somewhere as Gecko and when people threaten to kick you out or something, you point to one of the heroines and say, completely truthfully, that she’s carrying your baby.”
We had a laugh over that, before she whispered, “It’s going to be freaky enough once you finally tell-”
“I’ll tell her when it’s time. It’s not like I’m going to force her to pay child support.”
The conversation drifted off then and, somehow, I did sleep. It made more sense once I entered a dream and had enough lucidity to realize what was going on. “This is another of those things like Santa did to me,” I said as I stood next to a dusty old gas station. I looked around at it, a lot of things going out of focus. “Probably bits my brain isn’t bothering with.” I turned back around to see something speeding along my way. I looked down at myself, wearing my armor. I think that was just part of my self image. It became a dress so I could stick my leg out and hope to attract a ride.
The hovercycle stopped next to the pump and the guy on it got off to gas it up. He pulled off his motorcycle helmet to reveal a tusked alien like I’d hallucinated back when Godhunter’s harpoon was sticking through my face. He looked a lot like what I saw in that delusion, shaking knotty hair out over the black leather biker jacket he wore. He even had denim jeans. I think my brain was mixing the alien with the familiar to give me a point of reference.
The tusked alien stopped inside the gas station, trying to avoid looking at a little tusked alien kid. He tripped over a tower of legos. “Dammit, son! Nearly made me break my leg. Then what, I’d have to stay here, playing with you?” Just like with Godeater, it came through in English.
The kid got off the floor and ran into the back. The cashier, his mother, put her hands on her hips. “You don’t have to be like that with the kid!”
“Sorry, baby, but you know my first love is the open road,” he said, trying to play it cool.
“If I knew that was so literal, I’d never have opened my legs to you. Why are you even here? Needing more money?” She pushed a button to open the register. “I got nothing. It all goes to taking care of our son. You may love the open road, but you don’t have sex with it.”
The guy flipped his helmet onto his head and walked out. “I’m tryin’ baby.”
“This is terrible,” I said, a bucket of popcorn appearing in my head. “Show me more.”
The biker got on his hoverbike and road off down the road opposite the way he came. Then, from the direction he first arrived from, a trail of dust in the air. He drove up again, stopped, and got more gas. This time when he headed in, the door was stuck. He nearly fell opening it, but walked in. “Son, we gotta talk!”
“I got nothing to say to you,” the teenage alien child said. The biker took off his helmet, showing a little age. So if I had to guess, the kid was Godhunter. Last time I had dreams like this, it was a bunch of irrelevant backstory meant to posthumously humanize the beings trying to kill me. I’m pretty sure Santa’s doing it. He fears my power and wants me dead.
“I’m sorry I missed the funeral,” he said. “The news didn’t catch me until-”
“I don’t care!” the teenager bowed up at his dad. “You never know anything in time! Why come at all?!”
“Because I’m your dad. Come on, you need someone right now,” the father said. He held his arms open like for a hug.
The teenager snorted. “Oh, I get it. You think there’s an inheritance.” The teenager held his own arms open wide. “This is it! A rusted-out, piece of shit gas station! All mine, until I sold it.”
“Sold it! That’s great, son. How much did we get?” the dad asked, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
The son brushed them off. “We didn’t get shit. I got enough to leave and join the Rangers.”
“Son, you don’t understand what that’s like-” the dad started
“It can’t be too hard if you could manage it,” the son said. He walked outside. The father tried to follow, but the son slammed the door, knocking the father in the face. There was a sound of some engine starting. The father ran outside, throwing on his helmet. He turned to see a speck disappearing into the distance down the way he’d driven from. After a couple seconds, including kicking at a rock, he wandered over to his hovercycle, revved it up, and headed his own way.
The speck he’d been looking at started getting bigger as it got closer. Godhunter’s dad was back, the hover cycle not looking as pristine as it had in the past. When he walked in, the interior looked a little cleaner than it had before. There was an unfamiliar person working the counter, and a TV on the wall showing starships and other planets. “The war is going badly for the empire, but with the help of the Ranger Corps, we’re making them pay for every inch of soil with gallons of blood. Even today, imperial weapons engineers are refining the lessons learned by the Rangers to even the playing field. The gods’ will be done and their message be spread.”
“Your kid in that?” the cashier asked.
Godhunter’s father shook his head. “Probably dead in a trench somewhere.”
He walked back out while the cashier muttered, “Doesn’t even keep up with his war hero son…”
He hopped back on the motorcycle and this time I floated in front of him. By this point, I was trying out a look much like Morgan’s, but emphasizing my femininity. I didn’t care about distracting whatever this whole thing was playing out in front of me. I was just playing around with a notion. Still, I’m not Morgan. I’m Delilah. Yeah, this is going to take a talk. And while I don’t mind a bit of sexing things up, I also don’t want to help raise a girlfriend. Which, ew, sounds gross to even say.
When Dadhunter looped around again, it was night. He stopped at the pump again. The bike was… well, the bike was floating trash. The parts that weren’t caked with dirt and dust were barely held on. The dad checked the gas pumps, then jogged inside. His jacket was all cracked and his visor had a piece missing. The gas station didn’t look the best either. The interior was dark and dusty. One of the lights only half-hung to the ceiling. The dad reached across the counter to flick a switch.
The arm going for the switch jerked up and pulled him to the ceiling by a thin line. “Fuck!” he called, then twisted to put his feet on the ceiling. Instead of kicking off, hidden clamps activated and held him there.
Godhunter, looking about the same age as his dad had in the first part, was just there. It was like he formed out of the broken wood and metal of the counter into a man wearing a dark uniform, but not the advanced suit he had when he went after me. He pulled his old man’s helmet off, revealing an elderly alien whose tusks had shortened with age. “Son! Good to see you! You gotta get me out of here.”
Godhunter just looked at him. The dad tried to reach for his son’s shoulders, but Godhunteer took a step back. “Aw, come on. Get me down. There’s a reason you came back for me, isn’t there? You’ve got tickets on one of those arks, right? Come on, I’m the only family you got.”
“You’re not even family,” Godhunter said. The dad’s face fell. “But you’re the best I have.” And the dad smiled again. It didn’t last long before Godhunter’s blade gashed his throat, quick for someone without superspeed. The dad bled out, his blood glowing as it landed in some ornate jar. Godhunter raised a radio. “Beginning trial.”
The blood burst out in a small tornado that settled into the form of a red-skinned tusked alien wearing a toga. “You called to the gods with a debauched blood sacrifice!”
“I did,” Godhunter said. He clipped the radio to his belt and pressed a button.
The god in front of him advanced, then stopped, waving a hand. Lasers became visible. “Mortal tricks,” the god said, becoming transparent. It tried to step through the lasers, but was then shocked. That caused it to move too far back, getting shocked by something on that side. It ended up collapsing in pain. “I can’t call them. Why is it silent?”
Godhunter nodded with his head. “New thing. Scientists thought it up. Figured if we were going to lose this war and our planet because of some holy war, we’d get rid of the troublemakers that started it.”
“You can’t kill me! I am a god! I’m older than your species!”
Godhunter pulled out a blade that glowed green and rammed it through the head of the god,who went silent. “This knife is older than our planet.”
Godhunter carved off the head and brought it back with him, then called on the radio, “Test complete.”
With Jack o’ the Lantern warning us about Godhunter being around, I knew we’d have to tread carefully. So I just teleported everyone in the house out of there, except Jack. Really, just my girlfriend Sam, my daughter Qiang, and Morgan, the young non-binary hero whose body I’m possessing. I tried to stop, but they keep channeling me into her. They’re getting just a bit clingy.
We stopped off over at Santa’s place. A line of person-sized toy soldiers guarded the edges of the North Pole, which is actually in a pocket dimension. One of the nutcrackers nearest to me pulled its saber out while the next two raised wooden rifles. “Identify yourself!’ the first one challenged.
“I am that I am,” I said.
“Heresy detected. Identity confirmed. Welcome, Gecko the Unicorn Goddess.”
Sam snickered. “That’s still not old.”
Qiang smirked to herself, but didn’t laugh out loud the same way. I booped her nose. “Hey kiddo. You want to have some colorful hair like us?”
“I thought I’d go blonde,” she said. I did finger guns at her and bam! Her dark hair became a natural blond, even on her eyebrows. She grabbed her phone and immediately started checking herself out in selfie mode.
We were on our way back when I noticed a couple of things at once. First was the distinct realization that I couldn’t just know things about the place this time. I could before. I’ve gotten a bit dependent on my omniscience, sure. The conflict with Parietal was the swift kick in my brain’s ass I needed to get me out of that mindset. I sent out a swarm of nanites first. Second, I sent Qiang and Sam elsewhere, to my hidden extradimensional base. The things standing in their place were replicas I created with appropriate weight but no minds. I also teleported my armor onto me with the holographic projections already on and bolstered by my godly magics to keep from being detected.
The nanites told me that the nutcrackers who challenged us were already disabled, but left standing. And Santa had also detected something was wrong. I could tell he knew I was out here, and someone else. I created a double inside next to him. “What’s the scoop, Claus?”
He had a candy cane-striped shotgun and started at my presence. “Someone very naughty is out there, and you. Chimney secured, boys?”
Over at the hearth, a trio of elves finished bolting a metal plate to the opening and setting a bear trap.
“What about Morgan?” Santa asked.
“What about Morgan, big boy?” I asked. The room darkened as a spotlight appeared over Santa’s head. “What’s going on there? And don’t lie to me, Nicholas. I see when you’re sleeping and I know when you’re awake.”
“I’ve never been on the other side of this before,” he said, sweating nervously. “Isn’t this the wrong time?”
I nodded. “Yeah, good point.”
Back outside, my fake family and I did our best to approach slowly, with me seemingly none the wiser. I pretended to ignore the slight crunch of snow. The pain was a lot harder to ignore. There was a harpoon through my face. It glowed, preparing to explode. I teleported into Santa’s house with my double, but the harpoon came with me despite trying to leave it behind. Not good. I pushed the harpoon out with a sneeze, where Santa caught it in a box. The elves were on it and, in less than a second, it was a beautiful present that disappeared from Santa’s hands.
I healed up Morgan’s face and killed the pain, then ejected her from my presence. She stumbled free, leaving me in the armor and her in the clothes I’d been wearing under it. “What..?”
I didn’t have time for all that. I appeared on the roof, nanomachine cape flowing in the wind among jingle bells. The area immune to my omniscience had moved, but it gave me an idea. I dove into the snow, creating my little snow tunnels that showed on the surface. Others diverged as I created copies of myself, some later looping around to rejoin me. I felt the harpoons detonated as they struck into the powdery snow, throwing up a bunch of mist but missing me each time.
And then, I left nothing but copies making the visible tunnels. The nanites told me where the center was. They even told me someone was there. I arose from the snow behind him, silent, and realized someone else was utilizing cloaking technology other than myself this time. Something on his armor whirled around toward me and then he wasn’t there. In his place was a device that, when it went off, blinded my god senses.
I was at the edge of Godhunter’s sphere of anti-omniscience, vulnerable after some sort of deific flashbang. He was reminding me a lot more of myself than I’d like. The nanomachine said he was raising a new weapon. A burst of blue plasma missed me and hit the workshop off to the side, blowing it sky high. A nutcracker’s saber had knocked the barrel of the weapon to the side. A blade flashed into existence, cutting that nutcracker in half. The other raised his rifle and pointed it at center mass of Godhunter. If it hit my assailant, Godhunter showed no reaction but to cut the head off the solder and punt it toward me. I appeared behind him again, poking my head out. “Wow, you missed!”
He blinked again. I blinked right after him, appearing with a dress over my armor and a scythe in hand. Next time we tried this, I was in a hoodie with a trident. Then a deerstalker with a jacket and a khaki skirt. Then a black dress with a squid on my head. “Listen, buddy, I can do this all day.”
Another plasma burst, seemingly melting me. I let the double reform, then stepped out from behind it. “You ok, bro? How could you not kill me? I’m right here!” He raised his plasma rifle and found it sparking with its barrel bent around with the end pointing toward him.
I saw the flash of the blade a mere moment before it would have intersected, and then bisected, me. And as Sam can tell you from our bedtime shenanigans, a moment is all I need. You know, to get someone on their back. What other things would last only a moment? I can quite literally fuck for days now. Weeks, possibly, but we haven’t tested. Either way, the Nasty Surprise caught Godhunter’s sword.
It disappeared, but a net appeared around me, glowing, wrapping me up. The nanites went to work on it while a Godhunter stepped back, footprints in the snow telling me where he’d gone. He was still invisible to me, but now his weapons shifted again, forming a spear. And then my nanomachines got to it, eating away the tip just in time for him to ineffectually stab at me.
“Ara ara, did you- and he’s gone.” He left me another flashbang that I made a serving platter cover up. It went off without affecting me. So then the challenge was following all the links as he fled into the wintry forest. Oddly, my nanomachines had trouble breaking into the armor. He actually sealed it on an atomic level. They just had to eat into it instead, disrupting the shifting surface of it.
He materialized in a black suit with a rough, sharklike exterior to it. The helmet covered everything, without a mouth or visible visor. Instead, there was a white crosshair on a background of red splatters. He held a dark blue pole in one hand. A part of it slid open and a handgun formed into Godhunter’s other hand, with a barrel as thick as a forearm. He pointed it right at me, but I hit the super speed, dodging to the side once, twice, three times. The next thing he aimed it at was a Wanted poster of me on a tree, with the words, “Unicorn Season” written at the top. He shot that and the page fell off. The one after it had an image of Godeater and said “Godeater Season.”
He jumped and turned toward a copy of himself holding that gun to his own head. He ducked and popped his copy in the head, and through the portal hidden in there. The bullet fucking stopped itself in midair rather than impact the back of his helmet.
“Hold up, why’d that do that?” I asked. I appeared behind him and looked at the bullet. Of course, I didn’t have long even in sueprspeed because Godhunter fired at the ground and shot himself a chasm to fall into. Kept shooting, kept creating holes. I followed after, flying toward him while a grid pattern formed out of electricity around him. I didn’t know what that was, but I shrunk and flew through the grid to join my nanites on him.
A flash of light and we were somewhere. It looked like his base, because he jumped up and immediately stripped out of his outfit, tossing it into some sort of decontamination chamber that burned off my nanomachines.
The Godhunter himself was red-skinned, with a main of hair that stretched down to his shoulders and small nubs of tusks. He had a really short, hairy tail, and the muscles weren’t all in the places I’m used to. I appeared behind him and impaled him with my arm and-
A light appeared. A creepy, glowing face carved into a turnip. “Wake up. You’re trapped good, aren’t you?”
Jack O’ The Lantern, that raggedy personification of fall and Halloween, stood in front of me. Together, we were in a dark place. “I’ll give the lass credit, you used your brain. If you’d been more violent, he’d have got ya good.”
“What?” I asked.
He grinned his rotten smile and asked questions in rapid fire. “Where’d the present go? How come that one took so long to blow up but the others didn’t? Why weren’t there more flashbangs? Why does an alien have a human symbol and red blood on his helmet? Why did the bullet stop? Why were you playing around with Godhunter?” He paused a moment. “You’re a trophy.” He lifted his turnip lantern which morphed into a copy of the very harpoon that Godhunter had shot into my face. “And this is a sophisticated probe that alters brain chemistry and mimics stimuli on contact. Godhunter’s first shot trapped you in an illusion.”
A god-killing opponent who hides behind deception and illusion, using flashbangs and weaponizing connections between brains and computers? This guy was really getting on my nerves.
And with that, I woke up, shifting to and fro as Godhunter, in that same black suit minus the crosshair and blood feature. I still had a harpoon through my face… Morgan’s face. She… had not taken any of this well. And now she was conscious and paralyzed while her head was being sawed off her body. I felt it come loose with snap, my head rolling to the side. Godhunter looked away to grab something. I put the saw and the harpoon from my face through the back of his skull.
I knitted my body together, put Morgan to sleep, and sent my power through both of the objects until the hunter exploded into goo that coated the walls of the room and the skulls pinned to the walls by other harpoons. I didn’t feel anything left in them. Maybe they’d been living trophies at some point, kept alive in those lost little worlds. Maybe the delusions were strong enough they could convince gods to die. Maybe I didn’t feel like letting any of that place, a spaceship in Earth orbit, exist anymore. I unmade it and scattered the atoms.
Then it was back to the North Pole, where at least some of the fight seemed to have occurred. The workshop was blown apart. Santa poked his head out of the workshop, where he and other elves were digging to save more of their kin. “Where is he?”
“Dead!” I told him. “Not even a trophy left of him.”
Jack appeared accompanied by a wind carrying dead leaves on it. “I don’t know about that, I took myself a trophy.” He held up a mask: the front of Godhunter’s helmet how I imagined it, with the crosshairs. “And I’m glad we can part ways with treats, lass. Twas ever so pleasant to have a warm place to sleep, and to play a trick on a tricksy one like the Godhunter. I enjoyed the story you told in your head as well.”
“Truth is, it’s kinda got me worried more of this is another lie,” I said.
“You’ve got to set your feet on solid ground somewhere. Maybe it’s all a lie,” Jack said, trying at comfort without ending the mindfuck.
Santa lifted a piece of wood so that his nutcrackers could head down into a cellar. “There’s always a lie, whether it’s the space between solid atoms or the concept of justice. You’re in the real world, but Jack is Jack. His tricks are his treats.”
“Fine, you flabby party pooper. Steal her again from me,” Jack said, sticking out his tongue at Santa. Then to me, he bowed. “A pleasure, lass. Nicholas tells the truth this time. I have repaid the debt I owe to the both of you and will be off, unless you need anything else of Stingy Jack?”
I waved him off, then sat down on a chair I formed out of snow, clutching my head. Whether it was the hallucination or the pole shoved through my face, I had a splitting headache. But Godhunter had a corpse. And I had a daughter and a girlfriend. The latter of which, upon seeing me appear in my base, hugged me hard and asked, “You ok? How’d it go?”
“It was a trip,” I told her.
I’ve discovered how to sleep again. It turns out it’s not just when I’ve used up a lot of energy. I was pretty beat up by Godeater. He punched my head off at one point! Not the sort of thing most people experience and get to tell about it.
“Here, let’s let you rest,” Santa Clause said, patting me on the back while my loved ones embraced me.
The spirit of the season did something. That was a doozy of a dream, or I guess a vision. I was hanging over a planet with a blue sun. The flora and fauna were alien, but somewhat familiar. Like this one animal, a lanky wolf-like creature with its eyes spread further so they were on opposite sides of its head. It scratched at the grass before taking a nibble, then perked its head up. It started to bolt before it was set upon by a squirrel the size of a dog that sank a pair of large fangs into the wolf’s neck.
They had houses, towns, and cities, with a lot a of flags around on certain buildings. Coat of arms, that’s what they were. There were local lords in charge of land, even dividing up cities among them. And the people on that land looked a lot like Godeater, but with the antlers in different positions. A few had them down low against the jaws like his had been. They weren’t the big, beefed-up version, nor did they roam around in loincloths or anything. I was sure that’s what it was by this point, both from having taken Godeater apart atom by atom, but also because nobody else was drooping shag carpet from their crotch.
I ended up stopping over in a temple in a position of prominence in a grimy old city. I just knew it was a religious building. There, a holy man gave a sermon on the gods’ gift of blood magic. “Let others be your strength. That is the teaching of the holy consumption. Our blood is a shield for our fellows.”
Then the panic started. Someone in the crowd had stabbed someone else with blood in the same way Godeater had stabbed me. That one called out, “You lowhorns would say that! The gods favor the strong, that is why they gifted us!” With that, he hefted his victim overhead and threw it toward the altar where the holy man spoke. The victim exploded in midair. When it was all said and done, the holy man was among the shocked survivors. The person who initiated the attack had gotten away, but not before dragging a couple of the other attendees off with him.
The holy man tried to heal them as best as he could, taking from the dead to keep the living alive. That was stopped prematurely when others with weapons and armor arrived. They used spears to back the crowd up, and guns to take the holy man into custody.
Godeater, before he was Godeater, was imprisoned in a bleak cement hole. He read. He meditated. He shadowboxed. At some point, they let him out into a place meant for exercise. A bigger one of his species came for him. Godeater spat blood into his eyes, blood that blinded him and ate away his eyes. Then Godeater tore out his throat.
Outside, things got more and more tense and violent. And then there was some sort of big war between different factions of lords and monarchs. In the middle of that, you had ethnic and religious in-fighting that culminated in some of the lords then having to turn around and fight their own people. More and more, people began consuming their enemies.
Godeater was released in the middle of this. He barely got back to his temple before it was half-melted by a laser attack initiated by one of the lords’ forces putting down a rebellion. Godeater tried to preach but didn’t get much of a following until he invited some of the more popular folks like himself to dinner. In the middle of it, someone threw a bomb in through a window and Godeater shielded everyone from it, cutting an arm badly to call the blood forth. That got him some prominence for the next couple of months. Then came the invitation to speak with the king of those lands. There were protests over that as well, and a plot by one of the king’s enemies working with the highhorn supremacists in the area.
The king brought in representatives from that group and others, figuring he could just order them to shut up and make peace. The same person who had attacked the temple in the first place showed up as one of the representatives and detonated some of his own friends. It was chaos, but in that chaos, but Godeater survived it. And when guards came, they assumed it was him. He had enough, and used the blood around him to kill them. He feasted on them. By the time a group of lords arrived to see to their king’s safety, or regrettably take up the throne upon finding him dead, they found Godeater occupying the throne.
He was king for a day. Antimatter bomb stockpiles, meant to enforce an uneasy peace, were finally used. The only person not to unleash the ones under his personal command was Godeater, and it didn’t make any difference. They were left with a wasteland. In that wasteland, feeding on others to survive, was Godeater. He traveled from a broken and desolate feudal land to the seat of an ancient and untouched temple. There, he prayed, seeking to commune with the gods. Out of pity, a god and a goddess answered, appearing to him. “Why did you let this happen?”
“This was in your blood. We guided you, hoping your people would avert their own destruction.” The shimmering goddess leaned down to kiss Godeater between the base of his antlers. Godeater turned his head upward and kissed her, holding her there. The both of them were engulfed in a blood barrier, her eyes bulging as she squirmed.
The other god worked magic of his own, striking the blood with lightning again and again until it cracked and burned. When it fell away, he was faced with a toothmarked husk of a goddess, and a shimmering Godeater. The god didn’t escape either, but their essence allowed Godeater access to the realm of their gods, who were few in number but still possibly more numerous than the species that had believed in them. In the end, Godeater took the staff of a healer god and fashioned to it the antlers of a war god. He wore the vestments of the god of magic and tattooed beneath his skin spellrunes of protection from the goddess of defense and protection. Then he stole the teleporter and moonbase of the god of science fiction and began figuring out how to raid other planets for other gods.
His idea at first was just to go after the harmful ones, either tearing their worlds apart or standing by while they destroyed each other. But even Godeater knew at that point, he’d settle on any god. All of them were equally worthless, except as food. “The other gods will be my strength,” he vowed, hoping to fill the hollowness inside himself with revenge.
I woke up and blinked, feeling incredibly refreshed. The bed was soft, if small, and my mom was banging on the door. “Hey, get out here and help your brother!”
“My body parts aren’t right!” I called back. My omniscience needed a moment to kick in and tell me that was the mother of Axinomancer, aka Morgan, whose body I was in. I teleported myself out of them and back to my own house, where Sam and Qiang were hauling a decoration onto the roof. It was Santa Clause atop a skeletal horse, holding aloft He-Man’s sword as if heading into battle.
“Wow, Santa really went all out pretending to go to war,” I said.
Qiang got so excited, my daughter actually dropped her end. I raised it back up telekinetically before it could drag my girlfriend down the roof on the other end. Qiang slid down and hopped off the roof into my arms, hugging me. “Mama!”
“Hey, kiddo. I’m fine. Just had to spend a couple days resting.”
“Have an interesting wake-up call?” Sam asked. My girlfriend winked at me, her hair now dyed bright red and green in stripes. Made her look a little bit like that chewing gum zebra.
“Something like that,” I said. I peered back into the past. Shortly after my defeat of Godeater, I ended up drawn back into Morgan while Santa put me into a healing rest. He threw in the dream as a bonus, to help me understand the person I killed. I also saw Morgan flying around fighting crime a little bit, with my colors and my wings and my horn and my powers. In a moment of hypocrisy, the thought crossed my mind that I couldn’t trust her with my powers.
We don’t have time to unpack all of that.
“Whatcha doin’ kiddo?” I asked my daughter in my arms.
She slid to the ground and pointed out their festive changes to the yard. “We’ve been decorating!”
They’d put up some cardboard cutouts of Legolas and other Lord of the Ring elves with some green and white hats on their heads. A Jack Skellington blow-up peered up out of my fence. Finally, the lawn gnome with a bunch of anti-trespasser weapons had a sweater on that read, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.” It did have one of those.
“I think the only thing we’re missing is Home Alone,” I said.
Qiang pointed to the mailbox next. “Some jerks were putting smoke bombs in there, so I rigged it with a pellet gun.”
“It’s a two-fer! The door of the mailbox says they’ll shoot their eyes out!” Sam called out, hauling the sword-wielding Santa into place. I latched it into position for her. “Thanks! Can you help me off the roof?”
“Don’t worry, I warned the mailman,” Qiang whispered to me.
A snap of my fingers and she appeared in front of me, cups of hot chocolate floating in the air. It was all very nice, and almost Hallmark-y.
So of course, it didn’t last the night. We were awakened by such a clatter. How I had fallen asleep became apparent when I hopped out of bed and noticed Morgan’s reflection in the mirror. They’d done something at night. I took just a moment to adjust the body to my liking before seeing what was all the matter with my mind.
I couldn’t sense anything outside the house. Like a blank spot, as if the world ended at my mailbox. I blinked to the door and everything still looked just fine out there. Then that weird negation of my omniscience disappeared, except as far as telling me what it was. That I found out from the unicorn plushie impaled on a spear with the back end stuck in the ground.
There was also a carved turnip on our couch. I gestured to it and undid the illusion I sensed, revealing a lanky, grinning guy in tattered clothes.
Sam grabbed a seax sword off the wall. “How did Chester A. Bum get in here?”
“That’s Jack,” I told her.
Jack took his hat off and bowed to us. “Jack o’ the lantern, here to assist if you need it. The fat man said you might be stubborn, though, so tell me to fuck off if you want. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before.”
I nodded toward the plushie. “Was that you?”
Jack nodded enthusiastically. “I have a flair for the dramatic. You know, tricks and treats and such as that. The next one’s arrived and he falls part of the way into my domain. Hunters love the autumn, and the Godhunter’s here for game. I’m warnin’ ya.”
“Thanks,” I told him. “Anything I can do to pay this debt?”
He laughed and held open a small leather pouch hanging from his belt. “You could turn yourself into a coin if you’re feelin’ generous.”
I laughed. “Yeah, nice reference. You can stay three days on the couch if you’d like,” I told him.
Jack o’ the Lantern turned to it and let loose an excited little “Whee!” before hopping onto it.
“What’s that about?” Sam asked when I led her into the bedroom.
“The spirit of Halloween’s based in part on a legend of a conman forsaken by heaven and forbidden to be captured by hell.” I explained.
Sam raised an eyebrow, “You think he’s ok to stay here?”
“Guy doesn’t see a lot of hospitality, and we can’t entirely trust him, but if he’s warning us. And if Godhunter comes through the living room, maybe he’ll go after Jack first,” I finished explaining to her.
She still brought the seax back to sleep with next to the bed. It was kinda hot.
I’ve got three alien entities all gunning for me, all going to get here at different times. Godhunter, Godkiller, and Godeater. They’ve supposedly got experience killing things like what I am now, and specifically have ways to deal with Omega powers. Those being the powers I got by absorbing some pieces of a godlike being, that strikes me as bad.
But if there’s one lesson to take away from my back and forth with the twice-deceased superhuman named Parietal, it’s that I still have human ingenuity and my more mundane skills to fall back on. Also, I have Santa Claus.
I brought Qiang and Sam with me to Santa’s workshop, in the middle of a fluffy white wonderland of soft snow and cold that never quite seemed to penetrate enough to be harmful. The sign read North Pole but we seemed to be in something of a pocket dimension, just off to the side of Earth and connected to it. A copy of me was hanging out with them, tossing around snowballs and building snowpeople while the real me inspected the workshop.
“What do you want, young person?” Santa asked me.
I raised an eyebrow, then pointed with the unicorn horn on my forehead toward the factory assembly line putting together nutcracker soldiers. “An army capable of distracting these things hunting me. Figured you knew that.”
Santa, the personification of winter that seemed to reflect humanity’s reality and aspirations of the season in the form of a popular character, thumbed his nose with one coal-black glove. “I was addressing the other one.”
My eyes stopped glowing. My short hair maintained its two-tone color, blonde and red this time, but I left Morgan, the young non-binary hero known as Axinomancer, in charge. “Oh my god, it’s Santa!” They hugged the jolly old elf.
“Yes, it is. It’s nice to meet you, Morgan, but may we speak privately?”
“Fine,” I agreed real quick using Morgan’s mouth. I focused my attention elsewhere, like the satellite defense network. I didn’t forget all that recent satellite shenanigans. At first, I had the idea to arm them to try and catch the godmurderers on the way in, but then I figured it’d be better to turn the weapons inward. They were coming along just fine, a ring of death rays pointed at Earth. That can’t go wrong.
And then it was outside to dive under the snow. I left a trail Bugs Bunny-style, snaking through the snow toward my squealing daughter. I felt a couple snowballs land near me, then she turned and ran. My daughter screamed from all the fun as I caught up to her and pulled her into a shallow tunnel of the snow. When we next surfaced, I was jumping like an orca with my kid riding on my back. We landed with me swimming through the snow, but Qiang fell fof when raising her hands to avoid a loose snowball Sam threatened her with.
I then rose up through the snow, forming a unicorn of snow that I jumped out of. Which is right about when I heard Santa calling from Morgan’s body. I put most of my attention back over there, Morgan’s eyes glowing again as I took control. “You done with your private chat?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Being there in more than one perspective, it affected me. Through one set of eyes, I was watching Santa’s workshop gearing up for war. Through another, I watched my daughter and girlfriend both enjoying the idyllic winter fun outside. And something clicked. My omniscience isn’t complete or anything. It seems to be limited by distance, to an extent. But just to be clear, omniscience is about knowledge. This was about wisdom, which doesn’t seem to be an inherent Omega power.
“This is wrong,” I commented where Santa could hear.
Jolly ol’ Saint Nick turned his head to peer at me over his tiny spectacles. “What makes you say that?”
“Togetherness and joy and a light in the darkness, all that shit that at least a bunch of people associate with this season. But you’re here making soldiers for me, working on ways to fight a war alongside me. This is wrong.”
“It is survival,” he responded. “What would you do?”
“It depends. If I want to survive, I do one thing. If I want to do what’s right, I do something else. I really want to be selfish. I’m so good at it.” I gestured to the body I possessed. When he opened his mouth again, I raised a hand. “I’m not seeking your counsel. Your problem goes away if I do the selfless thing.”
I saw pity in Santa’s eyes.
“I swear, sometimes I think you know all of this is coming ahead of time. Like you knew I was letting all of this go to my head and needed something to bring me out of it.”
“The future is easier to see if you aren’t its maker,” Santa said. “Perhaps that’s why your knowledge is spotty about things to come.”
I sighed. “No, it’s kind of too clear right now.” I couldn’t see into the future. And maybe if I had more power I could. Every Omega Pearl for a couple solar systems was already inside me, but I knew a whole pocket dimension teeming with more. Problem is, that kind of power is supposed to be something these guys can already handle.
A hard winter’s wind kicked up a light pelting of snow onto us outside. Santa jerked around. “It’s here.”
I reached out for any disturbances. Something had just appeared in the solar system, out near the asteroid belt. It accelerated instantly into a beam of light. We didn’t have long. “Stand down, Santa. I think I should handle this on my own.”
I jumped out of Morgan and into my double. Sam looked at my face and her expression changed. “It’s time for us to fight?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No. It’s time for me to fight.”
I removed myself, and a lot of other things, appearing in the midst of the asteroid belt, staring at the beam of light and emitting a great red light. That was a bit tough, as my own wanted to come out as a mixture of violet and orange. I wore my armor, reinforced with some shit mortals can’t forge, a shimmery cape reaching out along the ground of the asteroid behind me. One difference was my unicorn horn poking out of the head of the armor, though it was sealed close enough to be safe if I somehow had to worry about pressure or oxygen.
The beam of light seemed to stop. I blinked to the side, avoiding the crashing mass that threw up chunks of iron, nickel, and stone.
He was a biggun. Nine feet tall, pale grey-skinned, with a mantle of black fur around his collar. It matched this loincloth he wore, so either it really needed some intimate shaving, or it was part of his clothing. On its feet were a trio of long claws that bent down underneath the feet itself, almost like natural running blades. Its two hands were three-clawed as well, but they were equadistant apart and looked more or less like a normal finger, just long and with pointed nails on the end. One of those hands held a staff with horns and antlers attached to it; they didn’t dangle like trophies but instead were embedded in it such that it they made the staff more of a weapon. Even fangs and jawbones were embedded in it, forming sawed portions in part.
The grey body in front of me lacked a tail, but had antlers of a sort. Rather than sticking up, they bent down and wrapped around the side and lower portion of the face, the pointed ends looking like a set of bony fangs protecting the mouth and jaw of the creature. Its nose was pointed and stuck out past the antlers, and above those were four eyes. Each was a different color, and looked all the more alien by having pupils like if a cat had another catseye intersecting it perpendicular to its own, like an X.
I reached out to find a way to communicate and found a long-dead language of a similar people driven to sapient sacrifice and ultimately a bloody breakdown and death as a few elites fought for power. This was the last one. “Which one are you?” I asked in that tongue.
“I am the strong who consumes the weak. I feast on deities and heroes,” it declared. Yeah, that’d be Godeater.
“We don’t have to do this,” I told him.
“I know,” he said, then puffed up. Well, maybe that’s a light-hearted way to put it, but he gained another couple of feet of height, body bulging with muscle. His antlers dug into his growing jaw, splashing some blood out onto the asteroid. More blood began to leak down his staff from the hand clutching onto it where a jawbone and teeth were joined to it. Mine would look positively puny in comparison to some of the pieces on that.
It’s a good thing I’m not a hero.
Godeater roared. I used my powers to teleport a puppy into his heart. Instead, his blood glowed and the cute lil Corgi pup appeared in space an inch away. “Aww,” I said, sending the puppy back to Earth.
Godeater sounded like he was laughing. I snapped my fingers and began to move at superspeed. When I returned to normal speed, He stopped laughing and bent over, reaching for that loincloth that was now poking up quite a bit. The roar he let loose was a mixture of pleasure and frustration as wet spot spurted onto the inside of his loincloth.
“It was me, Barry!” I said. I didn’t want to go into further details because he knew what I did in hand to handjob combat and wouldn’t get the reference anyway. With a swipe of my hand, I dropped another asteroid on him, the two hunks of interstellar rock and metal crashing together with a deafening sound and a shockwave that I resisted easily. Nothing like jerking off an alien and smashing him in the asteroid to make me glad I was wearing protection over most of my body.
“That’s what the people of Earth like to call ‘Beat Your Dick December’,” I said.
I barely got the words out before the asteroid was thrown off. Te bloody beast was still alive, and even more coated in his own bodily fluids. Some of that was still blood. A thin strand of it reached up to stab into the asteroid and blow it apart. Many of them hit me and bounced off, but more of those blood strands were coming for me.
I sped up again. So did Godeater, tearing a chunk of my midsection armor out with a free claw and spinning around to meet me as I tried to get behind him. He hit hard throwing a punch that would have just straight-up splattered the brains of anyone else on Earth. My head actually came off for a second and he swing his staff at my body.
I ducked under a swing from that staff and skidded, aiming for below his legs and hoping not to get dripped on. I popped the Nasty Surprise out from the right forearm of my armor, the miniature chainsaw blade catching on his grown and stopping my movement as it ground into the meat. I pushed myself out from under Godeater as he fell, holding his own badly-wounded parts, bleeding all over my cape. My body then grabbed my head and I willed it to reattach.
“You…dare…!” It declared.
“Fortune favors the daring,” I muttered to myself as my nanite cape rose up and formed a multitude of nanoblades that absolutely dissected Godeater. The process was pretty gruesome, throwing a hunk of antler toward me.
After the stopped, hairlike nanite protrusions reached into his body and pulled it apart, sending bloody chunks every which way. Except the blood reached for the blood, and drew all of it back together.
Well, shit. Tough fuck.
Godeater turned to me with wild eyes. “Blood pulls to blood!”
Huh. Having failed to go medieval on his ass, I decided it was time to go ancient Hellenistic on his ass.
I began to fly upwards, teleporting myself close to the sun. He appeared in front of me, bringing hunks of asteroid with him. He reached for me. I blinked past him and kept going, reaching out and causing a solar flare that I grabbed the end of and waved so that the solar flare was trying to fry through his leg. He kept coming, catching me in the chest with that staff. Alien horns buckled my armor plates. I headbutted the beast, but that didn’t get me the separation I sought. Instead, he came back with one that broke my horn off, and then another that smashed my helmet open. Another broke my nose, which I didn’t think was possible anymore.
Godeater got real close to my face and growled, “Fresh meat.” His fangy mouth tore off a hunk of my cheek. A plume of his blood stabbed me in the gut, tearing a hole in my armor and flesh, his blood pouring into my body to eat at my innards.
Ok, ancient Hellenistic ideas about hydras didn’t work either. If I was relying solely on my powers, that would have been the end of me. Guess it was time to pull some wacky sci fi shit that Zeus never would have thought of.
Carnivorous alien blood wasn’t the only thing flowing through my veins at that moment. Regenerative nanomachines swarmed the foreign body, small enough they’ve taken my own blood cells apart and repaired them. They didn’t bother repairing these, dismantling the eaters into base components that didn’t pull together. “Nanomachines, son! Your blood can’t do jack!”
Godeater grunted in surprise and frustration, swinging his staff for me again. I opened a portal, the staff flying through to hit himself in the back and drawing yet more blood. It’s a wonder he had any left at that point, but regeneration has been known to cover that possibility. Still, it stumbled him. He reached for my throat with his other hand and a new portal opened so that he grabbed his own throat and squeezed.
“Aperture Science. We do what we must because we can,” I taunted, but while I taunted, I created more portals. I couldn’t create them in his body or already around his body, but I could make them and move them into position for his flailings to catch them. Blood may pull together, but would it pull together when bits and pieces of him were being separated and sent into black holes, gravity wells, suns, and entirely other dimensions?
I slipped behind him and grabbed his own staff, creating a portal for his head that sent it to the Omega pocket dimension. One crack with the staff separated his noggin and threw it through that portal for them to have their fun. The body spasmed as much as it could as I tore it apart atom by atom and sent each one to an entirely other place. When I was done, there wasn’t any blood left to call to other blood.
I reappeared back in the North Pole, a bloody mess and with a ten foot staff of alien fang and horn in hand. Santa, Axinomancer, Qiang, and Sam all rushed over. “Well, that’s one.”