Ok, so maybe this power is tempting me. Upon the monthly reminder that I’m a werereindeer, I considered, merely considered, only considered… blowing up the moon. Now, dear readers, before y’all get upset at this, I was going to replace it with something else about as dense. I had some ideas for certain people I could use instead. They wouldn’t shine as bright because these are some pretty dull, dense people. But they’d be there and we could hopefully still have tides. Those are important, right?
Other ideas that occurred involved sending it to another dimension and all that, blocking the light from it for a night, or spending the night on the backside of the big cheese itself. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time on the weredeer stuff when I had these disappeared Omega pearls to deal with. For all I knew, someone else figured out how to merge with them. I even thought of not even doing it this time. I had a lot of control over my own body, and that included the ability to snuff out this magic condition I’d been stuck with.
I’ve gone a little soft. Usually I mean with the belly I’ve added. Makes it even more fun now, being a chubby gal flying around with my superpowers. But on top of that, I like Reindeer. If someone told me when I started all this that I’d like some aspect of myself, especially a part that wants to be heroic, I’d probably have torn off that person’s ass and made them it eat. I’m reluctant to say this, but maybe all these people fucking around in my brain fixed things by accident. Or maybe I fixed it somehow when I had infinite cosmic power. Like how when I thought about it, I checked and found I was no longer infected by the disease engineered to shut down any powers above the human baseline when in contact with certain collars.
I went ahead and made that permanent for myself before hearing the alarm letting me know it was almost full moon time. Then I split off a body just for Reindeer to manifest through. We were in my base, not the Skylab. Sam was with us, using a large computer system and some of the recon drones I’d built to check a few areas I remember pearls being in. One of those areas was Technolutionary’s portion of the SkyLab.
I wanted to handle it myself, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to revert to Reindeer in the middle of all this. And I didn’t. Though Sam did comment on all the screaming and snapping and stretching. “That’s gross to hear.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to feel it,” I told her.
Reindeer stood up. Whereas most people who turn into some sort of were-thing find themselves consumed by instincts and evil desires to tear other people apart or what-have-you, my alter-ego decided to become a hero. My therapist says it has to do with buried desires to be a hero that fueled my villainous rampage and desire to save the world in my own twisted way at times. But weredeerism isn’t treatable with pills and techniques, at least none I’m aware of.
“You get used to it,” Reindeer said, shaking herself off and grabbing her costume. “You’ve got a problem. Things going missing. You know this is probably Technolutionary, right?”
“Or the demons,” I said.
“Or the Exemplars,” Sam contributed.
“Yeah, and we have to remember there are a lot of unknown unknowns,” Reindeer warned. “But we already know one untrustworthy supervillain who has the ability to track down every single pearl on the planet. We’ve been expecting him to betray us.”
“True,” I said. “And he was experimenting on materials to resist the effects of Omega energy.”
Sam joined in. “And he already told you he wants to weaponize the pearls instead of hiding them. And his section of the lab is emptied out.” The monitor showed us both that his part was missing. There goes the longshot that it had something to do with that one guy in the chair powered by a pearl that time. I lost track of him pretty quick.
I shrugged. “I thought he’d be able to keep it together longer than this. Ok, Sam. We’ve confirmed he’s gone. How about some of those other pearls?”
“Gone,” Sam said, switching to a bank of views. The views didn’t show anything, which was the point. If they’d showed pearls, we’d know the pearls were where we left them.
“Ok, let’s activate the trackers,” I said.
“We planted enough of them,” Reindeer muttered.
Sam pulled up the global view and activated the numerous bugs I planted all over Technolutionary’s gear. Never on his armor itself, because I figured he’d find those. Instead, my nanobots got them all in the guts of his machines. I left a few really obvious ones on some of the equipment for him to find and disarm, figuring he’d let his guard down if he thought he’d already gotten all of them.
They all lit up in the same location: Empyreal City. The place had seen plenty of problems from the last time the pearls were in action there. “Let’s go,” Reindeer said. She grabbed some of her gear, like the grenades that looked like Christmas ornaments.
“You don’t want to take the night off?” I asked. “This is my problem. You got your own life.”
“Right now, we got a pile of shit to clean up. You could use all the shovels you can get if she’s figured out how to use these things.”
We both kissed Sam goodbye before leaving. Here I’d been worried Reindeer would have my body dating someone else, turns out she’s got at least some of the same taste as me. And I don’t mind Sam being a bit of a furry.
But before we went, I access the vaults. There were a lot of pearls out there. I had my own misgivings. I can tell because Reindeer, who is also me, voiced them. “You know you shouldn’t do this. It’s risky.”
I know,” I said. I grabbed pearl after pearl, absorbing their power. Not all of them. Just enough that to make me feel like we’d still have an edge over Technotutionary. And from there, I took us right to our partner.
This base had been built into the sewers, inside a half dome of metal. It was a pretty wide open space, widened and torn apart to make enough room. All of Technolutionary’s equipment was there. Technolutionary, I found, was inside a metal cage hanging from the ceiling, his armor on the floor below him.
“Gecko,” Reindeer called, looking at an armored throne with mechanical legs. The man seated in it had his own armor. More than that, he had a chair powered by Omega energy, and a mess of tendrils all with their own. Even just looking at him, I couldn’t feel the pearls.
“Gecko? The Psycho Gecko? Welcome. As you can see, I’ve beaten you to the rest of your prizes, but we can leave this where it is, yes?” the man said. His face was covered in a smooth white plastic mask, or some other material that looked like plastic. Some people have a lot of fun creating stuff that looks like plastic. It’s an aesthetics thing. People are like that.
“Who do I have the displeasure?” I asked.
“I am Parietal, the fastest brain alive,” he introduced himself. “I became interested in the potential of the Omega pearls. You ended my most promising experiment, providing their power to others and watching the chaos that ensues. I planted a tracker on your friend, Technolutionary. From there, it wasn’t difficult to-”
Parietal was interrupted by a crunch. Reindeer raised a hoot off some sort of bug-like device that had been sneaking up on me while he drew my attention. “Sorry, did I ruin that plan?” Reindeer asked.
“Who are you and why are you here?” Parietal asked.
I made a show of turning to look at Reindeer, then disappeared and reappeared behind Parietal’s chair. I punched my hand through it, feeling more resistance than I had since gaining this level of power. Fast brain over there must have figured out some nifty materials. The tendrils whipped around and tried to fire on me but I absorbed the energy. I didn’t need to sense the pearls to drain them. I cracked that throne like an egg and pulled out the ones it used as an energy source of its own. I absorbed that one, too. All mine. The machine burst open with a crimson explosion.
The man in the throne stood there. His jumpsuit had neon red lines running along the arms and legs, but he seemingly knew when he was beat. Reindeer kept an arm pointed at Parietal, sonic weapons armed, but was busy tearing the lock open. Technolutionary practically jumped into her arms, I guess a bit of a furry himself. I don’t know if he knows about that curse of mine.
“It’s fascinating, but I wonder what will become of you as you gain more power,” Parietal mused, turning around to face me.
“A means to an end,” I said.
“What a glorious end,” he said. Guy was kind of creepy.
“Behind you!” Reindeer and Technolutionary both cried out.
Spheres rolled over the inside of the dome, spreading out in a semicircle. They didn’t fire at me. They fired near me, all of their beams converging. I caught the expanding blast, draining it before it expanded and blew the hell out of me, Reindeer, the city, and that other guy we were working with.
Technolutionary and Reindeer dropped down, Technolutionary’s armor standing up and sliding onto him. “Turn it off!” the other villain ordered, raising an open hand to Parietal. He had lasers built into each finger.
“I don’t think I will. I need to run,” Parietal said. The red lights intensified and sprinted out of the way of both the lasers and Reindeer’s sonic blast. The lasers nicked him, damaging the suit enough for me to feel the power from another pearl beneath. The others tracked him, trying to blast the super smart speedster, but they ended up blasting off a part of the metal dome instead. Parietal raced toward that section, leaving a hole in the wall behind him. So a super tough super smart speedster. Or at least smart speedster. Let’s not give the guy too much credit here.
Reindeer flew after Parietal, but Technolutionary lagged behind, keeping his lasers trained on me while I drained the energy from this weapon system. That’s what it was, a nifty means of defense and a way to blow the whole base up if Parietal lost. It also meant I had a fuckton of pearls we hadn’t already collected feeding me energy all at once.
“Gecko. Can you handle it?” Technolutionary asked.
I nodded, realizing then that I’d become a glowing person and once again burnt through my clothes. And I had an idea, then. I didn’t just contain the power, though that’s what I was doing. I had held almost all of it at one point. I used it. Might as well, and it would take some of the strain off me. I wiped that power-controlling disease off the face of this and every other Earth planet infected with it by us. I cured… everything. AIDS and HIV? Gone. Cancer? Wiped out. Diabetes? Eliminated. All injury, all disability. The only thing stopping me from all transitions was not wanting to delve into every individual mind and find out the level of transition they wanted to go to, but I’d have time for that. I didn’t wipe out the homo machina mutation, either, nor the others inflicted with the unique condition that gave me Reindeer.
“What’s going on?” Technolutionary said. “I’m connecting to my satellites, what are you doing?”
“What a god should,” I answered, head snapping around to stare him down.
“You’re not a god,” he said.
“I might as well be. Isn’t this what you wanted? A weapon to scare off everyone who would come after our home?” Ok, I was a bit intimidating there. But this guy wanted to use this power. I use it to fix something and suddenly he’s scared of me?
Enough jerking off. I reached right back up those converging beams and yanked all of those remaining pearls I couldn’t feel right out and into me. The residual blast was weak, really just blowing the lights out. I had enough light on my own. I sent Technolutionary to his lab and followed after Reindeer.
I appeared near her, up on the surface. “Where did he go?” I asked.
Reindeer shook her head. “I don’t know. Got away. Still can’t track him?”
I hated it, but… “Nope.” I tried expanding outward, even looking for wind disturbances, things moving at high speed. Either his shielding was that good, or the fastest thinker on Earth put some distance between us and is laying low. “But I’ll find him again. People don’t lose obsessions that easily.”
“Are you ok?” Reindeer asked. “Something’s different.”
“I had to absorb a lot more energy,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”
“Really? Because you’re flashing everyone.”
Oh yeah. Nude. I created a costume real quick. Didn’t mean to create an omega symbol on it, but fixed that real quick. “I’m great. Never better. And so long as I have the power, I think a lot of people are going to feel better than ever.”
“That sounded kind of ominous, girl,” Reindeer commented.
“Ugh, I prefer it when the doubting voices stay in my head,” I whined. Then, on a whim, I teleported some beer cheddar cheese to me to enjoy with my whine. This “ultimate power” shit is handy when I’m not completely homicidal.
I don’t even need to sleep. It’s a little annoying. As busy as I am, I do enjoy resting. You’d never know it to read all of this dren, but I do like a good sleep or cuddle or even some sex. It’s just that sex isn’t the most important thing in life. Not when you’ve recently gained minor reality-warping powers by absorbing fragments of a dead extradimensional conqueror.
Attacks are ramping up, too. People are posting stuff online. At least with the Facebook posts, they mostly just blow themselves up somehow. It’s gotten so bad, that hearings are scheduled sometime next year to speak to a representative from Facebook, if they decide to send one, to discuss the problem of people posting instructions on how to blow stuff up on there. At least VillaiNet has better threads that actually work.
The heroes aren’t blameless, either. Some of them are using the same stuff, even if the collateral damage isn’t so bad. They might be some of the ones blowing themselves up. Some people have this idea that if you give everyone the ability to destroy a building as easily as a sneeze, the world would be better off and force people to cooperate. These people know nothing. Every day, people do stuff because they’re angry, sad, depressed, frustrated, or out of conspiratorial beliefs. And the people crying about how folks need to act rationally turn right around and act the same way, especially if the “rational” and unemotional decision is one that harms them. So what I’m saying here, I guess, is it’s kind of a bad idea to give everyone such power. Maybe that’s how other civilizations can manage to live outside their own initial solar systems: having some sort of responsible way to handle advanced powers and technology.
All I know is, you give enough people the kind of power I was wielding, you’d have plenty of people doing worse than I ever did. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s sobering to realize I’m still more responsible than way too many people out there. Fuck, I was even left in charge of a kid.
So it’s getting worse. Technolutionary’s just decided to leave confronting the people with that stuff to me. He’s going after ones that seem to have been left alone. His device tracking the things worked, but it took a lot of processing power to load everything at first. So he runs out, grabs one up that landed in the beach or a mountain somewhere, and brings it back. At base, he’s found a way to use one as an energy weapon and has built a detachable, expendable pod onto the Skylab. There, he’s decided to try various alloys for anything that offers resistance to their powers. He’s even gotten some thunderbolt iron to give that a go.
I would be more worried about him having his own Omega pearls off in that lab, except I can track them now. I did make an alteration to my multidimensional base. Sam helped me out and moved all of the pearls I had stored in various obscure spots and reprogrammed the algorithm in those accessways to store them all in dimensions Technolutionary doesn’t have access to. Preferably, no one has access to these. I prefer dumping these in Earths devoid of sapient life. Quite a few of those wiped themselves out with nuclear weapons, or were killed off by plagues.
Part of me wonders what I could do with so many planets with no one else to claim them. The rest of me is busy with stuff like bodyslamming a humanoid walker powered by a heart of Omega energy. The guy behind this one was smart, but he was also destroying half the bank stopping a bank robbery. The robbers were huddled up behind a counter… no, nevermind, they were dead. The guy in the big robot didn’t realize it yet. He kept firing his minigun. Guy must have been using up more money than the corpses on the floor possibly could have stolen. They all looked like regular guys in sky masks and all, no costumes.
I swooped in over the police barricades and through the ruined doors that the walker stomped through. The walker got enough of a heads-up on my approach to activate a scarlet forcefield, clear with veins of energy crossing over the surface. I brought myself to a stop against it, drawing the energy out. The walker turned and opened fire on me, nevermind I had the street and people behind me. I blocked it all with my body and wings while funneling the Omega energy into me. That’s really all these “pearls” are: his energy, crystallized and contained. It wouldn’t hurt to draw it into myself. I once handled way more, and it’s not like it gives me a huge boost. It’s a pretty convenient way to handle this. Even the crystal shell, also from Mr. Omega, was drawn up into the flow of it and pulled into me.
The walker came to rest, powered down. The minigun couldn’t fire anymore without a power source. And I felt a rush. Not as overpowering as back in the Blasted Place, but I can’t lie that it felt good.
“Hope you bothered to install a failsafe for a power outage,” I told the walker’s pilot. “Or a way to breathe. You gave the guys robbing the place a few extra vent holes, too. I wouldn’t expect a lot of sympathy from the dead. Or the people you just shot at.” I nodded back to the street with my head.
I left him there, flying out and disappearing into the glare of the sun. Didn’t need to go deposit another pearl, so instead I went back to looking all civilian-y and picked up Qiang from school. Despite her being pretty damn smart of a kid, she’s running into some trouble. Smart as she is, she’s been neglecting her education. It’s been a few weeks since she turned in any assignments in one of the classes. She’s bored, sounds like. Would rather do interesting stuff. So I picked her up for a chat. Carried her around on my shoulders while we looked into some of the storefronts. The bakery here makes some damn good donuts.
“Ok, kiddo. I know it’s boring and you can just pick it up quick, but you won’t always be able to. You gotta have a foundation, like with martial arts. Gotta punch before you can spin kick.”
“But I don’t wanna! I want to play games or hang out with Dee and Cam. You didn’t have to do homework.”
“Yeah, I never did homework. That means there’s a lot of stuff I had to work even harder at as an adult. You get all this, you’ll grow up to be even smarter than me,” I told her. “And if you don’t go ahead and get all the homework for Social Studies done by Friday, I won’t let you see your friends or have internet access anymore. And you know I can cut you off. Maybe if you were smarter than me I couldn’t…”
She didn’t like it.
Medusa spoke up, having approached while we were examining giant cookies in the window. “If you don’t make good grades, you can’t be an Exemplar like me.”
I turned around and saw Medusa… and Venus. Same person, but Venus was pulled from another, now-alternate timeline a few years earlier. They were there in civilian clothing, but Medusa wore a black leather jacket and shades, while Venus had a long wool coat on.
“She has a kid,” Venus noted, probably to avoid asking a silly and suggestive question like “How?” Instead, she took a sip of some sort of cold coffee drink.
Qiang was a little bit confused, but I pointed to Medusa. “That’s the one we know. The other’s a copy from the past, before she ever met you.”
Qiang held out her hand toward Venus. “Hi, I’m Qiang. You look just like other momma.”
Venus held a hand over her mouth and nose, her cheeks bulging for a moment before she turned away. Medusa patted her on the back and gave me a silent laugh. I received a text from her. “Now I no y u tzed me so much.”
Points for hands-free communication, but that grammar…
Qiang was smiling, too. If she didn’t do that on purpose, she’s probably going to from now on. She looked at Medusa conspiratorially when the woman lowered down to talk to her. “I got bored in school, too, but now I know all sorts of stuff that helps me save the world. You want to help me someday?” She made a fist. Qiang made one right back. “Alright! Then try more in school, even if it makes you want to sleep.”
“I think I need to use the restroom. Do they have one in there?” Venus asked.
“Of course,” Medusa said. She looked to Qiang. “Why don’t you go in and pick out a treat, just one. If that’s ok with your mom?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
Qiang and Venus both went in, leaving Medusa and I outside.
“So, what were you wanting to talk about?” I inquired.
“What’s this with you and Technolutionary?”
I have her the quick run down. I could tell she wasn’t happy to know I’m supercharged again. Last time I had anything close to this level of power, I let it go to my head and killed a bunch of her friends.
“I’m going to work on a contingency,” She told me.
I nodded. “I know. Not just for him, right?”
“Sorry,” she said with a sad little smile.
I nodded. “No, don’t be. It’s smart.”
“We’ve been trying to track some of the seeds. That’s what we call them. You don’t trust us to hold them?”
I shrugged. “It’s a little late to let you have all of them now, but some of these people I’m stopping are heroes. Some of them, you never even would have seen coming. Too late now anyway.”
Medusa sighed. “No, yeah, I know. You don’t run to me over everything. Just prove me right about you. Please.”
And I totally intend to, as soon as I figure out where all of the pearls went. They all disappeared when my mind, and choice parts of my body, were occupied in bed with my girlfriend. You suck on a great pair of tits and suddenly a bunch of super-powerful artifacts go missing all at once.
In the course of liberating Omega Pearls, small portions of the power of a godlike being that had once possessed me before being banished from the universe, I went to Hell. The Hell Dimensions didn’t end that encounter better than they left it. They were testing the ability to bond the pearls. This caused a dangerous explosion. When they realized I was there, the demon scientist in charge decided they would take care of me the same way. The difference is, I didn’t die. Instead, I made an example and then I let the demons and prisoners go. Then I tried to head home.
Somehow, I ended up in the crimson pocket dimension remains of Mr. Omega himself, on a great plain and facing a lesser version of Omega who greeted me as a sister.
“I’m not sister of yours. Why did you bring me here?” I asked.
“You are meant to rejoin me,” he said.
I laughed. “You aren’t even the real thing. You’re like a tiny reflection in a shattered piece of mirror.”
Lesser Omega nodded. “I am the most powerful remnant, but there are many others. You have a number of the smallest pieces inside you, your body adapted to the power. Most can not directly harness this energy.”
“This power is dangerous for them to use,” I said. I glanced down at myself, checking myself over. The bonding process had overloaded me a little, leaving me naked. The addition of some demonic body parts was my idea of mocking the demons. I curled up my tail and its tiny end spade. I created a simple dress, long but sleeveless. I also tried toning down the scarlet glow and the demon parts. “And I’m not too fond of giving Mr. Omega a chance to reform.”
“I think you will,” Lesser Omega said. He swept his arm along the plains we stood upon. “You may even claim this entire space as your own, in the end. You proved your worthiness once before.”
“Flattery’s a nice change of pace from most enemies,” I informed him. Even now, my heightened senses allowed me to see things happening all over these smaller planetoids all floating in what had once been Mr. Omega. There were beings, an entire ecosystem born out of the power seeking a form, or attaching itself to multiversal detritus. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks. Some of them are things I sent through the cracks with my blatant abuse of dimensional technology.
Part of it included humanoids. Some humans, maybe? Some elf-like beings were around as well, their forms made that way based on pop culture ideas about them, making humans into a thing they wanted to be. And some of them weren’t far, an army waving a banner with an omega symbol on it. The Lesser Omega’s army of conquest. This was just the closest one. There were other armies as well. In the sea was another army. The dead rested in wrecks and rock formations, bodies animated by Omega energy tethered to another Lesser Omega. An Omega leading machines. A gargantuan forest advancing slowly at the behest of an Omega that gathered an army of creatures and plant people. Even an Omega that seemed to be a large worm, underneath a mountain, sending up worms to parasitically capture people.
“Hell of a world you have here,” I said. “I’d rather go back to my own.”
“Take my power. Bring me with you,” he offered. He didn’t even buy me dinner first. Not like buying someone dinner first was an impediment for giving them my “power” though. The thing was, if he’s stuck here, that kind of does the job for me. He’s contained. That’s the reason I’m involved in all of this. These powers are already showing themselves to be destructive to my home. That’s what that Earth is. And sure, it’s wildly imperfect. I want to kill at least half the people there myself. But it wasn’t about power for myself. I didn’t grab this stuff for myself.
It’s like he could read my mind. “Think of all the good you could bring to your world.”
“That’s not what you’re thinking of,” I told him. Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. And every time I try to force the world to be the way I want it, things go bad.
“No,” he admitted. “But I accept the trade-off if it means the ascendancy of myself with you. If it means coming being part of the winning side.”
I wondered what to make of that. Mr. Omega seemed set on hating me with an undying passion last time I saw him. Now, a remnant of him is willing to give me his power under the assumption that, when faced with a conflict involving other Omegas, I’m the one that would come out on top. And he’d rather be part of that than deal with another Omega winning out.
I shook my head. “This isn’t my conflict. If I accomplish my goals, none of you will come out on top. Unless we’re going to fight about this, I should get going.”
The Lesser Omega looked me over. “No, I don’t think I will. Go. You will return on your own or one of us will find a way to your planet. You have all of eternity to feel the call.”
“Could be awhile cleaning up this whole mess. Looks like a lot of creatures could end up with Omega’s power so easily.”
The Lesser Omega shook his head. “No. The power here changed other beings or formed remnants representing aspects of Mr. Omega, if we are advanced enough to have a personality. The ones on Earth may do the same, but you are one of the few who can handle it without further changes. You were already altered by our source to be vessel that can wield it. You will be just fine.”
He was lying. I’m sure. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made a deal with an Omega for vast amounts of power. This version of Omega is clever. He’d influence me into gaining more power, him growing stronger, with me losing more control.
I did fingerguns. “You’re pretty good. Don’t pull me here again.” I turned and opened a breach. As I left I could feel something pull me back. It wasn’t the Lesser Omega, but some sort of binding. Magic, that’s what. I knew it thanks to what the power had done to me, but that same power is why I was dragged back. I had a lot more “me” in me than anything else in the Omegaverse. Not to say I’m special and somehow capable of doing things by sheer uniqueness, just that I could tell these bonds didn’t respond as well to someone who wasn’t just another part of Mr. Omega. I slipped them and ended up on Earth, back in my own front lawn. I took a step and noticed that I’d accidentally materialized with my leg merged with the lawn flamingo and popped it back out. The flamingo went back to keeping an eye on the law, hidden laser ready for any trespassers like Jehovah’s Witnesses or mosquitoes.
I reached out to recreate the exact same connections I had digitally. These powers I have, they warp reality and impose my own on the world. Not enough to just take over the world, but enough to let me repair the stuff this burnt out in me once this power had been thrust upon me. As soon as I had control over my cave and all, I checked on my daughter Qiang and my girlfriend Sam. Qiang was fine, Sam was jabbing Technolutionary with adrenaline to help him get part of a building off his crushed leg while medical nanobots healed him.
I pulled my focus back a little.
Empyreal City wasn’t looking too hot. There was one guy flying around on a metal throne with tentacle-style robot arms coming from it, blasting everything around with beams of Omega energy. Down on the street, a man in blackened metal armor with six glowing red pearls set in it was blasting it out with someone who wielded a sword and gauntlet in one hand that had six of his own spread across them. Those two would blast at each other, with the resulting effect wrecking everything around them.
I needed an alias. I dropped the demon traits entirely and covered myself in a thin but armored costume, enough to cover my skin. Metal angel wings grew from my back because in the moment I figured I’d go with something like Lady Guardian.
Technolutionary was at least stable at the moment. Meanwhile, armor guy and sword guy were getting ready for another round. They fired, straight on. I appeared between them, floating over sand that used to be a street, and caught a beam in each hand. I absorbed them, then turned. I threw metal feathers at the guy in the armor. The dimensional teleporter’s aiming computer had a little trouble latching on in the middle of all this, but my new powers helped. I took the pearls. God, I’m overpowered. And I could be more so. Just gotta eat these pearls… I hid them in my base again.
When I looked up for the other guy, he was just gone. Nowhere around, nor could I track him. So I’m sure that’s a great sign of things to come. So then I flash-stepped on over to Technolutionary and Sam. They were still recovering, but Technolutionary raised a gauntlet toward me and jumped to his feet.
“Relax, it’s me,” I said, opening the mask up.
Sam ran into my arms, hugging me, but then also slapping me. “Where the hell have you been?!”
“Got a little sidetracked with Hell, and, uh, turns out I am a bit different when it comes to these pearls.”
“From my readings, they should have vaporized you in a massive explosion,” Tecnolutionary said. “That’s why people need some other way to harness their power.”
“Well, the good news is that’s not a problem with me. One of those bunch here got away, though. Couldn’t seem to track him, and I can track things you wouldn’t believe right now.”
“This is all worrying,” Technolutionary said, probably also meaning the idea of me being given these sorts of powers. He’s not entirely wrong. But I can hold onto these for a little bit, right? I can already feel more of the pearls out there. Should be easy enough to grab them all up and find some way of keeping them out of the wrong hands.
“Hey,” Sam interrupted my thoughts. “You’re back, right? You, not all this?” she motioned toward my wings.
“Yeah,” I told her, wondering how much I was lying, and how much I was actually myself.
I was once imprisoned in a complex underground prison called the Cube, like a Rubik’s Cube. Been thinking about that now that I’ve actually managed to put together the control for my own base. I need a name for the base itself but for now it goes everywhere. One little cube lets me connect to every seam in the place and change it up. A self-sufficient, transdimensional hideout with access to energy and resources beyond the reach of anyone else. I gave Sam a key that I can turn off from a distance, in case Technolutionary doublecrosses me.
I consider it more of a “when” instead of an “if” situation. My goals and his sometimes cross over enough for us to put aside past betrayals and work together, but it never lasts long. In this case, I don’t know how long he expected me to think we’d work together. There are so many of these Omega Pearls around. They’re just little bits and pieces of this overwhelmingly powerful being that had been trapped between all universes for a long time. He got into our world through a situation that involved possessing my body, and getting kicked out seemed to have left bits of his power around.
The situation’s ripe for shit going wrong. That’s why I have a base that transcends space and the universe, accessible from a control cube floating in the main cave. It was a wonder of technology that could revolutionize the world. I kept it to myself and used it to steal some computer parts real quick. I hefted the box, adjusted the exit to send me to the Skylab.
The Skylab, our cooperative lab, gets its name from the fact that it’s flying. Maintenance robots keep it functioning while, on the inside, we were working on a way to find out the enormity of our task and make it much easier.
We don’t know how much, but Technolutionary and I have come up with an idea. We’ve figured out enough about how people can access the pearls that we believe we can plug it into a computer with a mapping system. We’re going to use the power of satellite technology to try and track down the rest. Worst case scenario, instead of some inherent connection, we analyze its unique energy signature and try to find that around the world minus any hidden deep underground or in lead. Or in other dimensions, like in the Hell Dimensions.
With nothing but hard work, determination, old-fashioned grit, sayings people have heard a thousand times, and an army of robot minions, we assembled our new supercomputer. We threw the code in there, and Technolutionary slapped one of the pearls we had in the “Omega chamber” as he called coffeepot-sized container.
“I thought there’d be more electricity shooting out. You mad scientists love that,” Sam said, sipping on coffee.
Technolutionary cleared his throat, then pressed a button. The entire wall behind our supercomputer revealed itself to be a monitor that flashed lightning across it, thunder echoing throughout the lab. “Does that meet your approval?”
Sam gave him the thumbs-up.
“Good,” I said. “Let’s get this bad boy scanning.” I walked over to the side of the supercomputer tower, packed full of computing goodness, and flipped a switch. The computer’s fan started and the light turned on. A holographic projector in front of the tower turned on, showing a hologram of Earth. Overlaid on top of it was the word “Scanning…”
And it kept on floating there like that. After a couple of minutes, Technolutionary went over to open the tower and look into it. “It’s working, right?”
I brought up the holographic keyboard and the task menu. “Yep. Taking up the entire CPU, too. I think it’s just taking a long time to work.”
Five minutes after we activated the seeker program, a red blip appeared. “We got one!” Sam declared. “And at this rate, you guys can go collect one every time it pops up!”
Technolutionary grumbled to himself. “I’ll grab it if you want.”
I shrugged. “If you want. Looks like this is going to take awhile. I might duck out, go for some I know of in another dimension.”
“Might as well,” Technolutionary agreed.
“What about me?” Sam said, leaning on me.
“I’m going to Hell, and I don’t want to take you with me,” I said.
“Like, a sexy hell, or lake of fire hell?” Sam asked.
I waggled my hand. “I mean, I thought some of the demons were hot, but the place was a floating crag of rust and metal used for target practice, so…”
Sam nodded, took a sip of coffee, and pulled a chair out from the wall. “Looks like I’ll be watching the hologram. You have fun, babe. But if you find a sexy demon…”
I nodded. Just like with how I tried a couple dates with Medusa again, Sam and mine’s relationship is polyamorous. It’s kind of like being polygamous, but without the marriage or the pedophilia.
I barely even needed to get ready. I mean, the power of these portals was at my fingertips via a wireless electronic link. I could drown them in lava, or an ocean. I could drop a blue whale on my enemies, or cast them into the heart of a collapsing star.
Recognizing the signs of a power trip in myself, I decided to slap myself a few times and armor up. I’ve killed too many people who thought the exact same things. I hadn’t even set up a forcefield generator that could project one through a portal to cover me. I checked and rechecked the armor, and made sure all the equipment was doing ok. I even upgraded winrar from the demo to an actual purchase just to make sure something wouldn’t go wrong in the heat of battle. And I expected heat in Hell.
I reappeared, armor computer racing to analyze the situation and project a cloak of invisibility around me. I was back in the big egg-shaped building where I’d disappeared. The damaged globe was gone, as were the pearls around it. There were a few lights left on, but it all looked abandoned and dusty. I hopped outside for a better look, appearing on top of the egg.
A large number of vehicles were parked a ways away, around a set of clear cubes with metal along the edges and corners. Inside, I could see people. Outside, I saw demons. Some more of the ones with all the tendrils, and even a pack of the feral ones that looked humanoid with odd proportions and claws. There were also more conventional demons, with different skintones, spade tails, and a pair of horns up top. They wore suits and labcoats as one of them, a demon with a pair of welder’s goggles on, stepped forward to one of the cubes with a huge batch of Omega pearls.
They were all forced together, a basketball-sized bunch levitating out of reach of his hands. That they moved where he wanted suggested they were under his power in some way. He forced them through the clear portion of the cube somehow, and then they flew at the human. While they glowed red, he made a gesture that left an imprint of azure in the air in front of him, around the pearls, and on the prisoner’s chest. The pearls flew into the human.
So I guess they got impatient with whatever they had planned and tried another weaponization. It was the eyes of the person in the cell that were subsumed into crimson first, then their skin. The clothes they had on were rough with clawmarks, but they burned off as the floated… and then the cube was just gone, prisoner and all. An explosion off in the distance helped me track it again. I looked over there and zoomed in, finding nothing left but a floating mass of pearls and scraps of the cell the person had been in. A child-sized demon in a biohazard suit appeared, scooped them into a plastic container, and then teleported back to the demons at the cubes. I did the same, staying hidden so I could figure out what was going on.
The demon who had done the insertion was babbling to the others in a language that my translator program hadn’t yet figured out. I didn’t have a complete enough sample last time. Then, he approached the other cube and spoke English. “Greetings, mortal. Don’t be afraid. Soon, I will give you more power than you can possibly imagine. You can become a god unto yourself, in the service of elevating us. We are finetuning the spells we use for this, so we will be with you momentarily. And know that if you die, your death will not be in vain. You will have given us the greatest gift of all: knowledge.”
The prisoner in the cell stayed on his knees, praying, trying to drown out the demon. When the demon stopped talking, I could hear he was speaking Spanish. A demon walked up to the head scientist demon and said something to him, who sighed. “It worked in the movies, where all humans speak the same language. Fine. Are we ready? I’m not explaining it to any test subject twice.” He turned around to look at the imp carrying the container, which I was sneaking up on.
The demon scientist raised a finger, pointing one long nail at me. He spat something in his language, then moved his finger around in a circle, leaving yellow symbols in the air. I kicked the biohazard demon out of the way, who disappeared with the container. Its body reappeared nearby, in a crowd of more of the little ones in protective gear. Meanwhile, all the demons around me looked my way, noticing me at once.
“Who are you?” asked the scientist. “Get her!”
Two larger, bony-plated demons with no horns stood nearby in black suits. Flames engulfed their outfits and left them in spiky armor, holding swords. With a wave of my hand, I created a portal from the tips of the swords to the inside of their skulls. The demons guards fell. I turned and opened another portal, bringing me the container of pearls.
Suddenly, I noticed the blue glow on my chest and the container. The pearls flew into me.
Everything went red hot. My awareness exploded. Like instead of having your consciousness focused in your head, through your eyes, everything expanded outward. Past that land mass, past the other islands of the Blasted Place, out from the cluster of dimensional flotsam that is collectively called Hell. I’d been there before. When Omega possessed me, there was far more power than this safely ensconced in my body. I willed myself back to myself, finding myself naked with scarlet skin. I was also in one of the other islands. Doubtless, the demons expected an explosion.
And to think, I hesitated? I feared the power. It felt so good. Familiar. Like sliding back into a bodysuit of godmode. Just for fun, I decided to add a spade tail, pair of horns, and a couple tiny wings. Just a bit to mock them. I realized I could no longer feel my dimensional network, but that’s ok. I took a step from a barren floating island of rust and reappeared in the middle of the demons.
“What did you think the good result was going to be if you turned someone you hated into a god?” I asked. They understood. I had put understanding into the words, regardless of their language.
The head scientist’s lab coat fluttered like a cape as fire and electricity built up in his hands. I raised a hand and dissipated the energy. Then I spread his atoms out until he fell apart like ash.
All the demons lost their shit. I took a look at a few, wondering if I ought to grab one… no… no. That’s not who I am, not even with this power. And I don’t mean because there was a female guard demon and I was wondering how those bony plates work in mating.
I let them go. They couldn’t do anything to me, even use me as a suicide bomb. Instead, I turned to the cubes, and the people within. I thought to myself that I’d like to find out where they came from. Lines appeared in the air, probably only to me. I sent them all back home. I was going to go back myself, but then I got a fitting little idea. I flew far above the whole area. Yes, flew. It’s different even than with the antigravity. The control and the feeling of physics being my bitch… it’s my way of telling the world it doesn’t own me anymore.
A lot of the demons were still fleeing. I shrugged and sent them to other islands. Then I imploded the one they all had been on, smirking. The Blasted Place… I wasn’t done with it yet. I gathered up all the remaining demons. All the little imps were gone, leaving guards and scientists. I brought the entire crowd to me in a protective bubble and let them watch from above this pocket dimension. I intended to wipe out the rest of the land here.
Then I hesitated, thinking of Sam and Medusa and Qiang, and everyone else I care about. “Go home,” I told them. “Leave us alone.” I sent them away. Then I left the Blasted Place. I meant to go home, but something else drew me in. I’d seen it before, a red blemish in the divide between universes. I recognized it now as the remains of Mr. Omega from when he was drawn out of ours. There was another pocket dimension there, a vast expanse of land. I appeared there in front of Mr. Omega himself. No, my newfound awareness told me this wasn’t just a smaller Mr. Omega. This was a piece of him, in the same way the pearls were pieces of him.
“Hello sister,” the Lesser Omega said.
Teleportation is an amazing power with many forms. The version I have lets me walk through a door in my basement and step out into a cave with no entrance to the surface, deep beneath the Earth, with weird stalactites in part of it that look like snow hanging from the ceiling. A corridor from there leads to an old, abandoned military base on a Pacific island near the returned continent of Mu. I’m building more doors. There’s one that leads to the inside of an asteroid where busy automatons of mine chip away at heavy metals and bring them back to be used. Another takes me to the base hidden underneath my shop; it serves as a refuge for criminals and supervillains who need to lie low. Finally, there’s the door that I open to get to the Skylab I share with Technolutionary.
I don’t even need the doors. They make it easier recognize where one place ends and another begins. It’s incredibly powerful, even if it doesn’t sound like it. Sadly, it was used for something like saving people. I mean, it was technically what I was trying to do. It just interrupted me in the middle of stealing really valuable shit.
“Hey!” Sam said, coming up behind me. My girlfriend/minion wore some nice short black jeans with fishnets for me. Well, she wears them because she likes them and I just go along appreciating how they make her look. “What have you been doing?”
I stood at an arch, looking into a bunch of cubbies. I whirled around, holding bonds in one hand, a brick of cocaine in the other, and a pearl necklace of the nonsexual kind around my neck. “What?!”
“First, don’t what me. Second, I’ve been trying to reach you. Technolutionary has an alarm on a big monitor and he says he needs your help.”
I had to be the saddest woman anyone had ever seen in a pearl necklace with a brick of coke and a fistful of one million dollars in someone else’s money. I reset the arch to a more neutral destination: the inside of a space station my robot builders were putting together. The arch has five different sensors that will turn it off in case of hull breach, solar flair, or other dangers.
Sam and I took the door to the SkyLab where Technolutionary was adjusting the view on his Big Monitor. It was divided up, different camera angles focused on a fight going on. He wore his close-fitting power armor, the armor plates adjusting subtly to account for weight distribution. His face was far more recessed in the helmet he had, his faceplate still in his hands.
“What is it, where is it, and why do we care?” I asked.
“Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the where.”
“Now I don’t care,” Sam responded.
Technolutionary brought up one divided window and ran it back. “I was running tests on how to utilize the Pearls. I’ve made advancements, and so have others.” That window framed a still shot of someone in brassy armor with a softball-sized Omega pearl in a backpack firing crimson energy blasts at another super. That one had a trio of smaller pearls, one in a necklace and the other two on leather gloves he wore. He was dressed like some sort of wizard, flying through the air, hurtling fireballs and red lightning at the other one.
I got facial recognition on both, but Technolutionary had already run it and put it on screen. “Brash is the man in the armor. The wizard is Lord Shadeheart.”
Sam gave a golf clap. “Not bad.”
I glanced her way. She shrugged. “Better than your evil villain name being Gecko without a lizard gimmick.”
I squinted in an exaggerated look of hurt and betrayal. She stuck out her tongue at me.
“They’ve been in the local Tuscaloosa news for some time. Shadeheart is a nobody former archeologist who got arrested for stealing and selling minor magical artifacts before he appeared one day with his three magic stones and started hurling thunderbolts. No one had the context when he first appeared to realize what the stones were. Then there’s Brash, who was known for his engineering and exoskeletons in high school that he tried to turn into a superhero career. He managed to rig some good power sources in recent years thanks to recent advances, but then a few months ago he shows up with that red backpack, using it as a source of energy. He probably tapped the core and is lucky he found a way to contain it for now.”
“So one hero, one villain,” I noted.
“Both are walking time bombs,” Technolutionary said. “They’re fighting and this time they both have that Omega energy. Look what’s happening.”
He showed video real quick of Brash firing a beam that hit a squiggly red line of false lightning from Lord Shadeheart. It unleashed a hell of an explosion. The two seemed to be protected by the pearls they used, but cars were blown away and buildings, or what few Tuscaloosa has, shifted and fell. Shadeheart focused his magic on keeping one from smacking into him, while Brash tried to lower one down.
“I suppose we oughta steal those from them,” I said.
“This looks like a job for Supergirl!” Sam said, clapping me on the back. “One hero for the villain, one villain for the hero.”
“What hero?” I asked.
“She means Lady Guardian. Yes, I know it’s you,” Technolutionary said.
“I’m no hero,” I declared.
“Babe, you can be anything you want to be,” Sam whispered in my ear.
I blushed and decided it was still a good time to wear some armor. The Lady Guardian armor zipped over to me and encased by body, hiding any expressions from the world. “So I’ll take Shadeheart?”
Technolutionary sighed and pushed his faceplate into place. “I would prefer to face off against Shadeheart for the challenge and study, but this works better. Let’s get our channels tuned.”
“Same bat channel, same bat time?” I asked. It was really him making sure our encrypted communications were on the same wavelength.
“I’ll stay here and monitor the monitor,” Sam said. It was better than having her out there near falling buildings and massive energy blasts.
I turned to the doorway I used to walk in. “Time to… ugh… save Tuscaloosa.” The door shifted destinations I dove out first, coming out of the sky overhead. Technolutionary ran out and took flight, catching up to me briefly during my free fall before peeling off to find where Brash ended up.
The vaguely-angelic, semi-organic Lady Guardian armor’s shimmery wings were more nanomachines, but I had built in the same antigrav tech I’d stolen for use in the other armor. I adjusted course, aiming to come down right on top of Shadeheart’s head. He surveyed the mess around there and fired off a few scarlet magic bolts that tried to collapse more buildings on Brash. He didn’t notice the growing shade until just before I got there, turning his head to look up.
I crashed into him, feeling one of his shoulders make a snapping noise. We both spun out of control for a moment. He reached at me with one gloved hand that glowed carmine. My “wings” slipped underneath it and yanked the glove off. A burst of red pushed us apart, throwing us in different directions as he used his remaining glove to separate us.
I oriented myself upright and saw he’d encased himself in a maroon orb, naked hand now holding the shoulder of the arm that had a glove left. I unleashed a blinding flash with the suit’s holoprojectors and swooped down below, avoiding a burst of what looked like blaster fire from his glove and necklace.
I came up below, my wings forming tendrals that spread over his orb and guided him upward, rapidly. I opened another gateway just for us and passed through it, releasing the orb into space, the final frontier. Lord Shadeheart didn’t react well. Lots of people don’t under those circumstances. He looked at me, then began to fly toward Earth. He ended up slowing before that, the orb faltering. I caught up to him as soon as it went down, my nanomachines crawling over him to both see to his health and separate him from the sources of his power. We passed through the gate again, coming to rest in the woods near Tuscaloosa.
I’m not fond of what he used that power for, but I’ve done worse. “You’ll live. You’ll be sore for a bit, but you’ll live,” I told him. Gave him a little slap on the cheek. He groaned and stirred. “I’m keeping your gloves, though. Gonna find out how you’re tapping onto these things.”
I changed the destination of the gateway nearby and tossed the gloves and necklace through. “Ow!” Sam said over the radio.
“Sorry!” I called out. “Didn’t realize you were that close.”
Technolutionary broke in. “Watch out! There’s a chopper around, with guns. They’re taking shots at me.”
I took to the air and scanned the disaster area. There were a couple of helicopters, one black and one with the Tuscaloosa Police Department decal on the side, right next to the open door and the rifle barrel. The black copter had something similar going on, but the rifle looked to be much heavier caliber. I flew into the air above the whole chaos. The police sniper trained the rifle on me and let a shot go. The bullet bounced off my tit with an annoying pain, but better than it going into the middle of that. I opened another gateway, appearing immediately in front of that open door and grabbing the rifle from the deputy. I handed him back just the scope. “You can have the rest when you can prove you’ve grown up.”
Then I did the same quick two-step on over to the black chopper. I immediately had an OSR badge thrust into my face. “Lady Guardian, we’re not here for you!” yelled one of the agents inside. I had to read it more than hear it under the circumstances.
“There are better ways to handle the disaster down below than adding bullets to it!” I warned them, pointing down at stunned bystanders in dust and debris. Nearby, I noticed Technolutionary, straddling the back of Brash’s armor and carving off a support strut for the larger pearl. It fell off, Brash’s armor stumbling and jerking. Technolutionary encased it in more of that goop from the Skylab and stuck it under his arm. I opened a gateway behind him that he dove through back to safety. I dropped down below the helicopter, through another one that left me in the Skylab well. I closed up all those ways to get back to us.
Sam stood in front of us, oversized gloves and necklace on. “Mwahahaha! Now I shall be the mistress, foolish mortals!”
Behind her, the monitor declared “Bum bum bum!” and let out old time dramatic thunder.
“Actually, these things aren’t working for me,” Sam said, pulling the stuff off. “Don’t know why, but I’ll go put them in one of the new scrambled cells.” She walked off to go delivery them to safe holding in these small randomized caves all over the world that this one particular portal accesses randomly.
“You didn’t kill Shadeheart, did you?” Technolutionary asked, popping out his faceplate.
I shook my head. “Might be worth one of us visiting, finding out how he could make those work.”
The other villain nodded, then tossed me the ball of goop. “Yeah. This thing looks like it was drilled into. We might learn something from it, but it’s clear we’ve run out of time. That’s three small-timers who figured this out and ended up with the ability to level a city by accident. Imagine if it was someone else like us. Or someone who wanted to do more.”
I nodded, remembering the scale model of Earth in that one Hell dimension weapons testing area. “Yeah. We’ve got a lot more ass to kick on our hands.”
“You want to rethink your phrasing there?” Technolutionary asked.
“Why do you need to do this?” Sam asked me. She was helping me assemble this thing, a dimensional breach device like the island of Ricca uses to harvest infinite power from the stars. They’re doing some great research there, and I tap into all of it. I could go back if I wanted, but I respect the will of the people who deposed me in a coup. It’s not an election, but it was a pretty good indication that they did not want me in power anymore. I figure me stealing their research for my own nefarious ends is just a decent retirement package from the position of Empress.
As long as you have a big enough power source to open the initial gateway, you can then access the very core of a star and harvest the radiation for more power output without anything messy like radioactive waste material. And at that point, you can just open more portals as needed. I’ve already got an idea on how to use M.C. Escher and alien antigrav to design a demo room. That demo room is not the answer to Sam’s question.
“Everyone seems really complacent with this idea that someone else will fix the problem when it comes up. Mr. Omega’s powers are broken. I think everyone really underestimates not only these powers, but the ways they can be harvested. It’s a lot the same with the full grasp of portal technology and transdimensional technology. Power, as in energy and electricity, opens up so many things. People make too many assumptions about saving the world. The things I could do with this in its current form, if I was trying to really raise some hell…”
Just like with thoughts of bases and traps, my mind wandered to building perfection in armor. Infinite energy. A middle layer laced with portals that divert projectiles and such. Filling any space I’m in with whatever toxic gasses exist out there, or firing a solar corona.
Sam jiggled my hand. “Wake up.”
I blinked. “I’m awake.”
“The lights were on, but you were elsewhere. Busy? You had a thing, right?”
I shook my head. “I have a little while before I need to be in Lightning Crack. My consciousness was here, I was just daydreaming about things I could do with this if I was more inclined. Maybe I should, to be prepared. Same reason I’m doing all this.”
“Well I don’t think it’s complacency. It’s just knowing that one person can’t solve all the world’s problems alone. That’s not your problem. You have problems letting anything be someone else’s problem. The rest of us poor humans have to sit around and know that the fate of the world is being decided by gods like you.” She bumped my hips with hers. I bumped right back.
Sam decided to get under my skin by getting her hands all on top of my skin. There’s something nice about just being touched by someone sometimes. It’s not the same touching myself. She wasn’t doing that, dear readers. Not with Technolutionary doing his creepy thing where he pretends not to be focusing on us.
Technolutionary had just brought in one of the Omega Pearls in a transparent aluminum cube and set it into a device with a bunch of little arms. Sam was distracting enough, especially when she put her mouth close to my ear and blew. The pearl made things worse, drawing my attention. I felt the heat off it when it came in. The other villain tapped a few buttons on the side of the cradle he set the cube in and a set of four robot arms began to fire small lasers through the cube and over the surface of the pearl.
“If we can do nothing else with them, at least they make good heaters, right?” I asked.
“How would you do that?” Technolutionary asked.
“I can feel the heat this far away,” I said.
Sam stopped messing around with me as Technolutionary straightened up. Sam told me, “I can’t feel it and I’m here with you.”
“It’s giving off no heat,” Technotutionary said.
“Y’all kidding me right now?” I asked. “How does it look to y’all?”
“Red and glowing,” Technolutionary answered.
Sam patted me on the head. “Yeah. What do you see?”
“The same, but it’s hard to look away,” I said.
Technolutionary looked to her, then to me. “Sorry to interrupt, but we need to test this.” So I ended up sitting in the corner, letting them know every time I felt them approach with one of the pearls. This was then followed by Technolutionary having me pick out the pearls from a bunch of gimmicked minerals or crystals. I could pick. Every time, I was drawn to the pearls.
“So you have some special connection with these, and it’s not just your eyes, or your race,” Technolutionary concluded.
Sam folded her arms. “It’s probably because you were possessed by Mr. Omega.”
“Makes the most sense so far,” I said. “And one other way we can test it and get more insight into all this is something I need to run do.”
“Lightning Crack?” Sam asked. I nodded.
“Do you need my help?” Technolutionary offered.
I laughed it off but brought Sam along in my Flyer that my won personal maintenance bots checked and rechecked for sabotage first. Assistant robots and more recon bugs stayed behind to make sure Technolutionary didn’t get up to no good and start making trouble in the neighborhood.
Lightning Crack was a small town I visited not far from Radium. Through sheer happenstance, the night myself, my family, and the weredeer I turn into went bowling there was when some local villains decided to rob the bowling alley. One of them blasted things apart and was wearing a suit with the same coloring and properties as these pearls. I didn’t know what it was then, but now I do. And more importantly, it looks like someone figured out a way to do something with the pearls that gave him some access to their power.
We brought the Flyer high over the Lightning Crack Sheriff’s Department building. Dead pine needle brown, it had one story aboveground and maybe a basement. I’d find that out once I went in.
“You’re not going to turn this into a big massacre, are you?” Sam asked.
I shook my head. “Figured I’d cause some panic and mayhem, but not particularly try to kill anyone.”
“hat’s more you wanting fun. What about your new leaf? Come on, I’ll help you fake credentials.” She led me over to one of the storage lockers and pulled out some bags of clothes and wigs that I had not stashed there.
“Just make yourself at home,” I quipped.
“Thanks, I will.” She blew me a kiss. With the help of a wig, suit, and briefcase, she went from Sam Hain, amusingly-named minion and girlfriend, to Samantha Hainsworth, single female lawyer.
It wasn’t hard to whip up some official-looking law firm letter and use my armor to appear as her partner in law. We walked in there, Sam taking the lead and slamming the letter down. “This is ridiculous! I’ve been trying to see the evidence against my client for weeks!”
“Ma’am, calm down” the night desk officer said. “Who are you and who are you here to see?”
“Not who, what,” I said.
“What are you?” the officer asked this time.
“I’m pissed is what I am,” I said, exaggerating my accent to sound even more Southern. “It’s all there in black and white from the judge. If you don’t show us that evidence, the prosecutor’s case is getting thrown out onto its hind end!”
“Wait a moment, let me call the Sheriff,” the deputy said.
“You do that, and while he’s on the phone, we’ll walk right on out, call up the judge, and get this whole case thrown out,” Sam said. The officer looked at us, then at the phone, then sighed. “Fine, I’ll let you in.”
He led us into the back, near the evidence lock-up. “What, exactly, are you here for?” he had the letter with him, which didn’t specify anything.
“A red suit, from the incident at the bowling alley,” I responded.
“That thing, yeah. I heard… nevermind. We still have it.” He stopped off at the door to the evidence room. “Stay here, alright?”
I nodded and he left Sam and I there while he went in. Sam stole a kiss from my helmet real quick. And I whined. “I can do this stuff on my own, you know.”
“Yeah, but this way I got to go with you.” She winked at me. She separated from me before long, making sure the officer wouldn’t catch us canoodling. Not that it would affect things, but we want him paying as little attention as possible. In retrospect, both of us being pretty worked against that.
He re-emerged after a couple of minutes with a box. “This is that costume the fellow was wearing. Weird red suit. It’s in a protective, lead-lined cover we got from Department of Homeland Security, in case it might be radioactive. Anything else I can do for y’all?”
I took the box from him. “That’ll be it.” Sam smiled, shaking his hand. “Thank you, officer.”
“Oh, just sign for me please,” he said, grabbing a clipboard off a plastic shelf on the wall. Sam went ahead and put her Jane Hancock down.
Once we got out of there, I called the Flyer closer. “And that, my dear, is what we call Social Engineering. Because the most vulnerable aspect of any system is usually the people.”
“All you do is talk about work. You’re probably going to put your hot minion to work instead of having any fun once we get up into the air.” She pretended to pout, pulling off her wig.
“Darn right,” I told her. I grabbed her around the waist and hefted her over my shoulder, carrying the evidence box under my arm with the other. “I’m not going to let you rest until we explore what’s in this box together.”
“Promise?” she asked. Then she let out a nice, “Ooh hoo!” when I patted her ass. She screamed pretty good when I jumped up into the Flyer, too. My favorite screams of the night came after that.
It’s been a little bit since my brother Davilo stopped by for a visit. The Justice Rangers of my home dimension can get busy. But he decided to stop in, timing his visit for right around the time things typically wrap up for me, which is also just before the full moon.
“Never want to visit me when it’s just me, eh?” I asked as we pulled back from our hugs. Yeah, he’s Justice Ranger, but he’s also the only surviving family I know of from back there. And he is Qiang’s uncle. I have to go by things I see and hear, mostly from entertainment, on how these familial relationships work. We’re figuring it out.
“This way, I get to see both my sisters. You’re twins of a kind,” Davilo said.
I rolled my eyes. Leah came up and gave me a hug, too. My former ward and protege is dating my half-brother. I’m sure that Freud guy would have some stuff to say about all that, but he’s busy being dead.
Qiang, meanwhile, was hopping up into an embrace with Davilo. “Little lizard!” he called her while hefting her up. “You’re getting so big!”
My daughter giggled. Leah looked over at them. I whispered to her, “Qiang’s got more than flesh and bone to her, too. It affects her weight a little.”
“Looks like your weight is affected, too,” Leah joked and poked me in the belly. I made a Pillsbury Doughboy sound and gently pushed her away.
“Careful, that’s my battle fat, for when I lose my arms and legs, and have to smack someone around with my gut,” I grabbed it and gave it a little wiggle. “Plus, they’ll never suspect I’m a superhuman because, supers are never gorgeous women who are down with a thiccness.”
“Hey-,” Leah started to say. She narrowed her eyes, pretending to take offense. “Thank you for the compliment.”
Sam came up behind me and wrapped her arms around me. I felt stress melt away that wasn’t even there. Maybe it was the smell of pineapple from her body lotion. “Hey, Leah, Davilo.”
“Do I know you?” my brother asked, looking at the girl with the mohawk from purple in the front, green in the middle, and dark red in the back.
She offered a hand. “I’m Sam. I’m Gecko’s girlfriend and minion right now.”
“You have a minion?” Leah asked.
I shrugged. Sam kissed the back of my hair, then answered. “I’ve offered, but she prefers to work on her own. Starting next week, I’m going to hog-tie one of her clone bodies and take over at the store. Isn’t that right?”
She had to scratch my head right there. I melted. “That’s a yes,” she said. “She doesn’t like to admit defeat. Or when she’s in love.”
“I’m not-” Sam put her finger over my lips.
“If I don’t talk about myself, she’ll try not to mention me,” Sam kept going.
So we had a pretty nice night catching up. Nothing wild happening in Radium, apart from the beginnings of special mayoral election ramping up along with talk of integrating the super and non-super schools.
“It’s so quiet,” Davilo mentioned at one point. “The cities feel different and aren’t as loud, you know? But out here especially, how do you keep up with everything?”
“I knooooow,” Sam said, leaning on me. I kissed her head where she had a little bit of fuzz growing back after her latest mohawk look.
“Quiet isn’t bad. Keeps me out of trouble, helps me curate stuff. Not so good for when Reindeer has to come out or I need to actually go to an important place. I think that’s part of why Medusa picked it. World-changing plots don’t generally happen in the middle of nowhere like this. Or if they do, a band of plucky young adults or angsty teenagers save the day before it draws in anyone too capable.”
“Gecko watches lots of TV,” Leah warned Davilo.
“It’s how I became an expert on this Earth,” I nodded, deadpan.
“Anything exciting planned for tonight?” Davilo asked.
I shrugged. “Everything’s ready if we have to do some throwing down. I guess it just depends on what Reindeer wants.” My internal alarm went off letting me know we were close to the change. “And I better go on down to the basement.”
This time, I swapped into a spare body, one that looked a lot like the semi-chubby look I’d gone for, but I threw on some fake glasses, a pink top, and some dark blue jeans. I focused on that until the screaming stopped, then turned around and held up a dress and a costume. “Work or play, which is the Reindeer doing today?”
The tall Reindeer woman snorted and picked the dress. She comes out every full moon after I ended up with a case of reindeer-thrope, or whatever you want to call it. I’m a were-Reindeer, only my alter ego is driven to stop crime. We share a body, so I keep her safe when she does all that. “I don’t lots of time to relax. Come on, let’s go bowling.”
“Bowling?!” I asked.
“Bowling?!” asked the crowd once we got upstairs and Reindeer told them the plan.
“Is that a form of ritualized combat?” My brother asked.
“Not really. It’s a game where the humans throw a heavy balls around,” I said.
“Pretend combat,” Davilo nodded. “Where do we find bowling?”
“I don’t think there’s even a bowling alley around Radium,” I mentioned. “Maybe someone ought to put one in.”
We ended up running across one at a nearby small city that I had never heard of. To be fair, I haven’t heard of most of Minnesota. I hear they do weird things to fish here. Lighting Crack, Minnesota seems like one of those towns, but it was the closest bowling alley to Radium.
“Welcome to Lightning Lanes,” said one of the workers who greeted our part as we walked in. He gaped at Reindeer, who wore a dress, then looked down at her hooves. “You may not be able to bowl, ma’am.”
“Relax, I brought my own,” she said, holding up these rubber booties I’d thrown together real quick at Reindeer’s request. She’d anticipated the problem. The rest of us had no problem renting shoes, though we had to explain the concept to Davilo.
“My Earth does not have your primitive bowling!” Davilo declared playfully.
“Did you have to do that?” Leah asked, swatting him gently on the arm.
“I wanted to take some of the attention away from the rest of the group,” Davilo declared. He wasn’t wrong. I think my cybernetic eyes were some of the least outlandish things to those folks. We grabbed our shoes, lane, and snacks, and set about having a fun time, interrupted at one point by a few kids wanting to say hi to Reindeer. Davilo, Reindeer, and I all got showed up by Sam, Leah, and even Qiang getting some strikes. These lightning bolts would light up above the lane, with an animation of a lightning strike on our monitor each time. Then I’d drag myself out of Sam’s comfy lap and her sweet humming to go make three of those ten pins sorry they ever met me.
I sometimes wonder if my life was curse, but this particular night, with Sam doing her absolute best to embarrass me in public, had a bright point. Because that night was when Lightning Crack’s local criminal element made a hilarious mistake.
In walked a man with a green metal helmet, holding a pair of hammers in his hands. I’d say he was in his twenties, as was the guy in the red suit who walked in alongside him in a red suit that pulsed. I could feel the power in the suit somehow, like a wave of heat getting closer, but not actually affecting the temperature of anything. The others who stormed in along with them looked to be a bunch of regular folks with store-bought Halloween masks over their faces, carrying things like chains, bats, and claw hammers.
“Give us your money!” shouted the hammer guy.
The guy in the suit waved his hand toward a laser light ball hanging from the ceiling. Crimson crevices spread across the device an instant before it blew apart. The shards ended up hurting some people in there.
A bunch of people screamed and hit the floor, or started emptying pockets. Our group didn’t. Reindeer cracked her knuckles. Davilo got his transforming device ready. Leah took a fighting stance I taught her. Sam aimed a plasma crossbow at the nearest chain-carrying mook. And behind me, the ball I’d loosed just before they walked in hit the pins and knocked some of them over.
“Who are you?” asked the red-suited guy. I grabbed a bowling ball and hurled it at his head. He exploded it just before it hit him, but one of the shards grazed his head and drew blood. The guy with the hammers screamed and ran at us. I think I saw his eyes go white just before he tripped over a raised platform.
“That’s what happens when you change the color of the eye’s lens,” Leah said. I am so glad I taught her creative uses for the super power of changing things’ colors.
Davilo morphed, with Reindeer and him meeting the charging minions to get to the guy in red who was using whatever powers that suit conveyed to close the wound on his head. Sam stuck by me while I knelt next to the ball return, pulling open an access panel and doing some creative rewiring. She raised the plasma crossbow and blasted a baseball bat into burning wood splinters.
The berserker guy with the hammers rose and swung wildly around. By then, Leah had closed. She kicked him in the shin, the balls, and stomach. When he doubled over, she pulled the green helmet off his head and watched him get pulled to the floors by his hammers. Leah figured out there was thunderbolt iron at play, that weird alloy from a destroyed meteor that has telepathic and telekinetic properties. When the hammer guy tried one last time to let go of the hammers and do something, Leah grabbed a pair of bowling shoes nearby and smacked him upside his bearded face.
The guy’s minions weren’t doing well, but most of them were at least doing a good job getting in the way of Davilo and Reindeer for long enough. Red turned, the wound on his face now a raw scar, and raised his hands. Davilo and Reindeer were lifted into the air, then screamed when the villain began to squeeze his hands into fists.
My ball made its way up the ball return with me kicking the mouth of the return over to the side. The supercharged machine emitted a burst of sparks and caught fire. The ball shot out of there with the speed of a professional baseball pitching machine. Redsuit guy had time to widen his eyes and try to bring his hands together. It knocked Davilo and Reindeer into each other, but the ball had already passed by them and gave the guy in the red suit a splitting headache. A seven-ten split, I’d say.
“I guess you’d call that a hole-in-one,” I said.
“My girlfriend, the Earth expert,” Sam said. “Hey, who’s a lady gotta kill to get some cheese sticks around here?”
But seriously, the whole family event was kind of ruined with that. We didn’t get our cheese sticks. They didn’t let me strip that guy’s suit off so I could figure out what was going on there. “It’d sure be a lot easier to loot the corpses if y’all listened to me and we came in the Flyer,” I said, pouting, while the cops held us off to the side for some questioning.
“Who won, anyway?” Sam asked.
“I did,” I whispered to her. “Gave myself a score of 69. A perfect bowling score.”
“You sure you’re ok up there?” Sam asked me over the phone. I may not exactly be with Mix N’Max’s assistant but we figured we’re staying in touch. Medusa’s keeping tabs on me too. Adrian called too. I ignored the call from a hungover Senator Goatse because I don’t care what he’s calling about but the best case scenario was being upset that he paid for my trip into space. The SpaceSex rocket has been remarkably well-maintained. And it’s been a lovely experience once you get over the realization that you’re a tiny bit of metal from certain death. I’ve loved most of my life in that kind of situation.
“You’re humming again,” Sam said.
I laughed. “Was staring out a window again. I keep thinking of that Aladdin song about showing Jasmine the world. I’m actually seeing it, all of it.”
Sam sang a few lines for me before stopping to say, “I wish I could see it.”
“There’s always the feed from the International Space Station, but it doesn’t do it justice. It’s not the same as when you cross the Universe Divide, either..” I pushed off the side of the service module and toward the command module to check on the distance to the moon. “It’s been nearly three days now.”
“I’m surprised it takes so little time. We just never go anymore,” Sam said. “You bring a flag along?”
“Let’s see, I got power armor, food, toiletries, and a spacesuit with its own thong. I’m fully prepared for pretty much every situation that could come up on the moon. And for the record, it turns out the fake engines they strapped to the side were completely unnecessary. It’s a good thing they fell off with the first stage. Barring anymore modifications like that, I’m good to go.”
“Not yet you aren’t. You’re thinking of Disney tunes. You need something to get your head in the game,” she remarked.
“Ha! Save it for the lander. Which, according to this thingamabob, is actually in good condition. To be completely honest, I was half sure this thing was going to pull itself apart when the first two rocket stages fell off. Like, though when the second part fell away, it’d take part of this one with it. I headed out of the command module and through the service module. I’m also super glad I actually took the time to read the manual and some instructional videos. There’s a whole thing where the third stage separates from the part that goes to the moon and you have to flip the the ship around and dock with the lunar module. I nearly missed that. Wouldn’t want to be without the beauty I now headed for. I opened the door and got a face full of sex toys, a veritable rainbow of dildo. A plethora of peggers. A variety of vibrators. And a surplus of strap-ons, too.
The shifting mass did something. I felt something break away. I don’t know, but I made sure the door back to the command module was just fine. I think I heard something, or it was the shuddering of something breaking. In space, nobody can hear me cuss and dive into a lunar module full of sex toys. “Sam… looks like I’m on approach.”
She started playing “Fly Me to the Moon” from the Bayonetta soundtrack.
I had to dig my way through the toys to the computers and cross-reference the data it gave me with my brain’s info on the base. The register in my store has a more advanced computer than this old thing. The base we were looking for was on the other side of the moon, but those manuals made it pretty clear I had to get this lunar bit away from the rest before I could even think of bringing it down. I wasn’t able to tell Sam I had to let the lunar module get miles away from me until the song was over.
Despite all that, the descent mostly went ok. Took me a long time before I came around on a course for the ICE base, which seemed unaware of me. I was quickly relieved of that thought when I saw through the windows that the base was looming close and various pieces on the outside of it were rotating around toward me. They had at least spotted me. “I could use that music now, Sam.”
There was a brief snippet of her voice, followed by just silence. Oh, right, we were on the dark side of the moon. I guess I’ll have to supply the music. “Gloryhammer” by Gloryhammer ought to do nicely. I believe it’s from their album Gloryhammer. Perhaps a key why was in the belting of Angus McFife XIII: “Galaxies swarming behind me, nebulas lying ahead. This can only mean, that I have arrived into space, oh yeah.”
While Angus sang about feeling the astral fire inside him, I was noticing that the moonbase didn’t fire on me. Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they didn’t have exterior turrets set up for people invading. They’d have to get them at some point, but much of this moonbase looked like they’d taken prefabricated buildings and worked them in with moon cement in a ziggurat with a wide, flat top on it sporting radar dishes and communications towers. A pair of large metal engines poked up from the dusty moon’s surface on either side, almost like a sci fi power plant. I brought the module in for a landing on that roof, right near one of the things that was watching me. I hopped right out and kicked the thing away, it turning out to be nothing but a camera.
“Well, maybe this will be easier than I thought,” I meant to say, but the intense cold hit me like a bucket full of ice cubes got shoved under my skin through all of my holes. I saw a huge thermal signal nearby and headed toward it. My HUD identified it as a heat exchanger. An important piece of equipment, it kept my nibbles from flaking off and I knew there’d be an access point. Sure enough, they had a roof-mounted airlock for all the sensitive equipment up there. I quickly let myself in and started cycling it.
Just like that, I was in and using the power of holograms to blend in with the environment. I managed before a gaggle of guards in spacesuits came running up with ICE-issue plasma rifles. I clung to the top of the corridor, which wasn’t that far above everything, and projected a hologram of someone cutting into the airlock from the other side, throwing up smoke that didn’t hang around. The Icers readied ther rifles and spread out for maximum lines of fire.
The cutting stopped suddenly, as did the appearance of any effect on the door. As one, I and my nanomachine tendrils pantsed the entire group. I grabbed the two nearest me while they were trying to figure out what was going on and slammed them into the others, creating a bloody, panic-firing mess of guts and flesh. I left them all behind and headed to the next section, thinking, “Suck it, Vader, I’m not even breathing hard.”
The next room, the door behind me sealed shut magnetically as soon as I was through. Visible or not, the doors still open and close. According to my suit, the atmosphere outside was thinning out. The room wasn’t hit or anything. They were venting the corridor on purpose, which was a neat way to make an advantage out of their use of prefab building sections. They didn’t count on me appearing and charging up the energy sheaths surrounding my gauntlets. Weight is an entirely different thing on the moon, but mass and energy are universal. I smashed a hole right through the floor, and the next floor, and into some sort of large, impressive command room. I bounced off a statue of someone on the way down, but I don’t know who. Ended up coming to a comfy bounce next to a man in a uniform with way too many medals. He even looked like the statue.
“Who are you?” I asked the guy near me as I came to a comfy bounce. I was going to ask their wifi password, too, but I’d cracked that easily. I guess they didn’t figure someone else would just come in off the street up here and steal internet from them.
Various people in ICE spacesuits and DIE jumpsuits surrounded me with a variety of weapons. One guy even had what looked like a pointed drillhead spinning between two chainsaws. Nice. Impractical, but nice.
The man drew himself up to look more imposing. He also edged away slowly. “I am the Supreme.”
I left a holographic double of myself in place while following this Supreme guy. Didn’t like the way he was leaving me standing in the middle of a bunch of armed, hostile people.
“You have come here to the moon and invaded our base,” the Supreme declared. “Surrender now, and we shall allow you to live while we analyze your armor.”
The hologram of me looked around at everyone, then up to the Supreme. “Nah. Guess you better kill me.”
“Do it!” I yelled from Supreme’s position with a sample of his voice. I clamped my glove over his mouth while the various people charged forward. I shushed him and showed off a pair of my round orb grenades, a regular old blower-upper and an incendiary. I tossed them into the puzzled crowd, who were watching as the guy with the drill-saw combo tried to take the hologram’s head off.
“So, Supreme guy… what are the,” I for the explosion and resulting screams. I went ahead and threw a third one over my shoulder to silence those. “Neat place here. Must have taken a lot of work interfacing with the alien systems. But what I really want to know is where are you keeping your prisoners. Like, a big metal box in a Faraday Cage.”
I moved my hand away to let him answer. “The girl has friends in high places.”
Yeah, about 238,900 miles up. “I’m her best friend. Now, not too long ago I’d have killed everyone just for making me come all the way up here, but I like to think I’ve changed. I don’t know if I have, but I like thinking it and am going to try a more peaceful method of resolving our conflict. Give me the woman you captured and we will leave.”
A piece of one of his minions plopped off the nearby statue to himself.
The Supreme raised a hand slowly, then offered a handshake. “Dangerous stranger, you have a deal.”
I shook. “The name’s Gecko. Psycho Gecko. And I fully intend to keep my side of the deal.” I glanced up at the statue, “Say, who’s the loser who needed a giant statue to himself?”
I was shown to a room with four Tesla coils surrounding a metal cage with a big metal egg inside it. The coils were powered down, the cage was opened, and the sides of the egg glowed as they were split apart. My prime body fell out, looking a little more trim and a lot more stinky. I swapped, letting my prime body put on the power armor. The guards were curious, but stayed too far away for harassment when the proxy body transformed into a large panther. My prime body, armored up, mounted the panther form as it began racing down the hallways.
I was passing through the corridor where I’d killed the first set of guards when the alarms went off. “Danger! Evacuate! Self-destruct triggered!”
They really ought to have done a better job keeping people off their wifi. And for fuck’s sake, don’t make your self-destruct internet accessible, even on the moon. Still, they gave me the woman and I am leaving. By that point, they were too busy trying to get into their own rockets to worry about us squeezing into the lander and tossing out a few to-go gifts on the way up. Oh, neat, the bottom legs and such of the lander stay there when you launch it from the moon.
The bad news came when the fuel light came on as soon as we made liftoff. It went off about halfway up, when the fuel ran out and we began a long drift back around. Swung us far enough around the moon that we didn’t get caught by the explosion. The kaboom was not earth-shattering, but it tossed one of the escaping rockets into our orbiting command and support modules, blowing the whole mess up.
I didn’t want to be stranded. I expected other fallout. A facility that used abandoned alien space engines to hurl projectiles at Earth’s surface is a game changer. All military forces are restricted from space by international treaty. They can get around that, especially if the possess such a military facility already created by a third party. Possession of giant guns is 12/10ths of the law. But just like I’m not weapon anymore, and the moon won’t be either.
And, seeing as I did a good thing, the universe is making me pay for it, leaving me stuck on the moon with no food or water. All the times I’ve been to space and this time is the one to do me in. Gave me time to contemplate and speak to myself: “Shit. Fuck. Blown on up. So that’s it. Trapped on the moon, three days away from Earth.” I paused for awhile. A minute, maybe. “I regret killing Forcelight. Lone Gunman, too. Miss Tycism. Good Doctor. I don’t even know all the names, but there are a lot of folks who could have done much better without me in existence. So many possibilities and so much potential lost because I was so powerless I had to kill everyone. And now, because I kept being so kill-happy, I’m stranded on the moon without any food, water, or fuel.” I let out a sad laugh.
Imagine my surprise when I got an answer. A jittery see-through image appeared, like a big green mass of pixels that became a rough face. I noticed other shapes moving in and out, forming little green humanoid ghosts off back behind the face. “Psychopomp Gecko, I can save you in return for your fealty.”
The face continued. “I need agents in your time. Serve me, kill for me, and you do not have to die.”
Figures. Fucking figures.
I shook my head and tossed a vibrator at the face. The toy bounced off the window and drifted back, wagging back and forth past my head in the low gravity of the moon.
“Is this a no?” the big green pixelated face asked.
“Correct,” I said. “I don’t know what you’re up to, but you’re gonna lose. Maybe not because of the me, but there are people who can fight you in ways I can’t. You’ll never see them coming. As for me, I’m nobody’s weapon anymore.”
“Pathetic,” the big green head said before disappearing. One of the humanoid ghosts stayed, for a moment before the images completely disappeared. Weird, but I’m due for some sort of time travel adventure this year still.
All of a sudden, a teenager appeared behind me, my HUD labeling him as Dean from Radium. I turned to glance at him. “Hi. Welcome to the moon. The fuck you doing here?”
He shifted uncomfortably, tossing aside a big latex horse dong. He tossed it aside. “I’m glad I didn’t end up with that in me.”
“Anyway, hey, I’m Dean. You saved my life the other night,” he introduced himself. He held a hand out for me. “Medusa and Radium thought you could use a hand getting home.”
“How’d they know where to find me?” I asked.
“You’re still transmitting,” Sam said on the line with me. “I let Medusa and a few people listen in.”
I didn’t like the sound of that, but I grabbed Dean’s hand. Everything darkened around me, and then lightened back up. Myself, my panther double, and a load of adult toys fell into the streets of Radium right near my house. Adrian and Marianne ran up to help me up and hug me. Dean’s parents helped him up and beamed at me. Even the moon, very nearly full, looked a lot happier since we left so many toys for the man in the moon to play with.
Sam hung up before I could start asking who all heard my little confession of regret.
Max hogged the address to himself, probably to keep me from having everything scoped out, torn apart, and nuked from orbit. It’s the only way Max could be sure. This time, we ended up in Ecuador, hiking up a mountain.
“Why are we doing this?” I said, scooting up the side of a volcano. Max was hiking, but I took the lazy way in one of my proxy bodies. I wasn’t taking my real body hiking up a damn mountain. “You don’t need exercise.”
“I want the experience!” Max declared. He took something out of his pocket and stuffed it between his lip and gum.
“No need to dip chew if you had a scooter,” I said.
He waved off my commentary. “The human body isn’t comfortable transitioning from lower to higher altitudes. We’ve done that a lot lately. It’s giving me farts.”
I know the feeling. Sam’s also really uncomfortable with it.
“Hey, can you distract me?” he asked.
“So, I kind of feel like while I find Sam attractive, I don’t personally have strong feelings in favor of dating her,” I started.
“This again. Sam this, Sam that. Do you ever get off Sam?” he asked.
“You’ve heard the moans,” was the last I said on that point. “That computer really pointed here or did you mess up a riddle?”
“You probably don’t need to be here if you don’t want to be,” he said. “There’s no reason this should be dangerous.”
“Turret gun,” I said, referring to the one hidden in the cargo container that led him to the side of this volcano.
“I had it covered. Relax.”
I took a moment to zip back to my main body in a little hotel we were in. I was in a chair off in the corner. Turning, I saw Holly, Sam, and Dr. Erishka sitting around eating, with a lot more clothes scattered around the room. Nice clothes. “Something going on?”
“Oh, you’re awake,” Sam said. “We were going to take your friend here out partying. She’s been cooped up too long.” She paused, then started to open her mouth before I noticed Erishka adjust how she sit and “accidentally” hit Sam’s shin with her foot.
“Good, I was just checking in,” I said. “Y’all have fun.”
“I still want to talk to you sometime,” Erishka said. “In fact,” she set down the burger she was munching on and wiped her face. “Come on, out the door real quick.”
I didn’t want to bother. Just let her enjoy her night. She’s been tending to my needs for months now. I never told her she needed to be there at all times… but it occurred to me I expected and acted like she would be. Ugh, I am still a terrible leader and a bad boss. So I followed, figuring the least I could do was take the chastising.
I closed the door behind us while she checked the hallway before turning to me. “You offered anything I wanted. I’ve been talking to Holly and Sam and they assure me you mean that. They told me about what you did in Brazil. You were serious that you owed me?”
I nodded. “Absolutely. I like to give people a chance to tell me what they want rather than me impose my idea of what they want on them.”
“Yeah, because you don’t know anything about me or so many others. I’m not going to cash it in. You don’t have healthy interpersonal skills and you do this where you treat interaction as transaction.”
I shook my head and laughed. “You are too nice for me. You go out and have a good time. And, not as a trade, you give me a call if y’all run into trouble. But thank you.” I didn’t want to make a whole speech out of it. We headed back into the room where I popped a really big question, “Anybody got a spare burger?”
Holly held up a foil-wrapped package for me.
Back to Max then. I’d lagged behind on autopilot and found myself having run into a boulder and tipped me over onto my side. I stood back up, brushed myself off, and raised a fist to the sky. “Curse you, Pichincha!” I picked the scooter up and tossed it aside. “Let’s do this shit.”
If there’s anything I miss from my time being imbued with godlike power by an extradimensional entity using me as his conduit, it was flying. I can’t fly, but between my power armor and enhancements, I’ve been known to leap buildings in a single bound. I spotted Max in midair; I ended up jumping past him and having to come back for him. “Where we aiming for, friendo?”
He pointed it out and hopped on my back. In midair, legs wrapped around my lower chest, he decided to hold his arms up and yell like a roller coaster. I didn’t tell him that he nearly shifted his weight enough to end up yelling from a broken leg. It took minutes to get us part of the way up the multi-peaked volcano. It was a little off the trail. It actually would have been hidden from the trail by bushes and rocks. It was no Everest Rainbow Valley, so named for all the corpses in bright climbing gear. They just leave those up there. Someone dies up here, I’m pretty sure there are animals to eat them. Instead of bodies, all they had here was a trapped case.
We could tell it was trapped by all the signs. Even if you stumbled on this thing, little devices attached to this case helpfully warned you about all the different type of explosive compounds rigged to blow you up. Max knelt down and lifted a small cover to reveal a keypad with twelve spaces. The nine Arabic numerals were there with three keys below them adding a back arrow, an OK, and a blank key.
“You sure you don’t want to take care of the bombs?” I suggested.
He waved me away. “The computer gave me the code.” He pushed three, one, nine, and then the blank key. The top clicked of the box clicked open and he didn’t blow up.
I leaned in over his shoulder. “Is this the part where we steal the Declaration of Independence?”
“No. This is saying we need to go into Quito, to a bar called Cacho Caramba.” He looked down the way we came and all the way into the city. “I wish we’d brought the Flyer after all.”
I made a holographic puppet version of Max appear on my hand and gave it a ridiculous voice, “No, this is something I want to do myself.”
“I never said that… so what’s the ETA on the Flyer?”
It took a few minutes, time Max spent smoking a joint. I didn’t even land the Flyer to drop us off when we found Cacho Caramba. Max led me in, the illusion making me look like I was wearing a dress so short and tight, a sneeze would leave me nude. It’s easy to get away with clothes that look painted on when they’re illusionary. I got some wolf whistles, to which Max bowed. “Thank you, I try hard,” he said. That earned boos. They wanted to see me some more.
Max held up his slip of paper, trying to pronounce it in Spanish. I snatched it away from him to ask everyone, “What do you call a negative fish?”
“A pessimist!” said a man in the back, waving us over. The rest of the crowd pretended to laugh along because I’m a pretty woman in a tiny dress, even though it was a silly pun. It also doesn’t make any sense translated into English, but it’s exactly my kind of pun in Latin American Spanish. Yes, there is a difference.
“Sit,” the man urged. “I will lead you down to the entrance in a moment. Please wait, I am watching my show.” He nodded to a small TV set high up in the corner. On the screen, a skinny pale guy sat at a gambling table with a bunch of Asian guys, playing some game with dominoes, a wheel, and a jellybean. I couldn’t tell what genre the show was, especially once a crowd of men rushed in wearing soccer uniforms. I’d say eight, maybe nine guys. It was hard to tell because I think there was a short guy in the back.
“Hey!” the leader said, pointing at our companion. “Fuck you!”
The man we met turned to them, glaring. He slammed his beer down and picked up his cigarette, raising it to his lips in a way that left him pointing right back at the guy. After a long drag, he blew out some smoke and said, “Fuck you.”
It went back and forth like that for a few seconds before I interrupted to ask, “What’s going on?”
The guy we pointed at the team. “I bet against the local team. I tried to tell them they could have a share of the money if they helped, but they didn’t. Instead, so many things went wrong, they accuse me of rigging.”
“I know you did,” the lead soccer player said. He smacked his fists together. “Today, we’re kicking your ass.”
“Fuck you,” our companion said, pulling out a long, thin knife.
One of the soccer players reached into his shorts and came out with a pair of nunchucks with little soccer balls on the ends. Max sighed and reached into his coat for a dart gun, checking to make sure it was loaded. Another soccer player raised his shirt to reveal a black and white patterned revolver that he whipped out and pointed toward us. I stood up. One of the players pushed his companions aside and held up a rose. I growled, so then he wrapped it around his fist so the thorns pointed outward.
The lead soccer player, I guess the team captain, elbowed another player. “Do it. Pull it out.”
That player winced. “Do I have to? They don’t have anything else to escalate with?”
“Why did you bring it if you weren’t going to use it?” the captain asked.
Finally, the player whined and reached into the back of his shorts. He shifted a bit. “It’s stuck. Mother of God, it’s stuck. No, wait…” And then he pulled out a fucking spiked ball and chain flail. His team cheered and clapped him on the shoulders, then ran at us.
I’m trying not to kill so many people now. It was made a little easier when Max nailed one in the throat with a dart gun. The man fell to the ground, flailing. The team ignored him and ran past. I put myself between our side and theirs. The leader tried to run past me, but I grabbed him and diverted his head into a nearby wall. He broke through the thin wall and got stuck there, or just was dazed enough.
The player with the gun and the fellow who squeezed out a flail came next. I grabbed the arms with the weapons when both tried to slip past me. I kicked one away, then the second, both times preferring to act nonlethally. I kept their arms with me, though. Yep, one hand holding an arm with a gun in it, the other holding an arm still squeezing a medieval fucking weapon. By that point, the team had stopped to watch in horror. They were frozen. I decided to give them a little more of a push. I flipped the arms around so I held them by the bloody torn-off pieces, pointing a gun at the gang while swinging the flail arm just enough to make the head on its chain spin up some momentum.
“We’re done here, yes?” I asked.
The guys all held up their arms, except for a couple of them who held up just one, and backed out of the room. A dwarf in an outsized soccer uniform stumbled after them. The captain regained his senses enough to tug his head out of the wall and spit out a urinal cake, then begin wiping his face with his shirt and stumbling out of there. This was soon followed by a flushing sound from the other side of the hole in the wall.
I turned to the guy who’d caused all this trouble for us. He was already back in his seat, watching his show. “Hey, you want to get up off your ass?”
“No,” he said, making me wish Max and I hadn’t stepped in. “It’s a marathon! You want to kill me, you don’t get to the Eighth City.”
I pointed the purloined gun still grasped in its purloined limb at the TV. Our unimpressed contact took a drink, then a smoke, then said, “Do it. See if I help you.”
Max turned to me and sighed. He gestured with his hands to put the arms down, both meanings of the word. I lowered them while he slipped the dart gun back into his coat. He came back out with a syringe and turned to our contact with that predator’s grin again.
“Truth serum?” I asked.
Max nodded. “I never worked out how to stop the excruciating pain. Oh well. The truth hurts.”
I don’t even know why the contact bothered throwing that beer.
I like Mix N’Max. We’ve bonded pretty well as villains who kill heroes before. Max doesn’t have too many fucks to give where he gets ingredients or who some of his experiments kill, but he’s always been a straight shooter with me. You know, aside from this one time… it’s not important. But I am getting a wee bit annoyed at him being so quiet about what his plan is. I can see why folks find his smile so punchable.
We stopped elsewhere in Rio to let him grab some food and equipment. He insisted we stop in Uruguay, but came back after fifteen minutes with a box full of leaves. And there was also a stopover in Costa Rica just to spend the night. After that, we were off to Peru, where he claimed he needed to speak with someone about the Crypto Crypt. Sam and Holly dragged him in late, missing his pants, smelling of sex and alcohol.
“You’re letting that guy fix your brain?” Dr. Erishka asked. She had her stuff set up all formally next to Max’s haphazard kit that we picked up.
“I was just going to drink whatever he gave me and hope it works out for the best,” I muttered while performing a bit of maintenance on the Flyer’s electrical systems. “I don’t want to smack him over this.”
I decided to grab lunch without my armor. “Hey, hold up!” Sam called out behind me. I stopped in mid-step, foot still raised, and waited for her. She came up beside me and hooked her arm with mine. Max’s chubbier assistant with the colorful hair then pointed off toward the rear door of the Flyer. “You’re going out, right?”
“Yep. Figured I’d grab lunch. Might pick up enough for everyone,” I said.
“Cool, I’ll join you.”
Together, we set out from the lot we’d parked in to head out into the city of Lima to grab some food. “Not scared of some Peruvian cuisine, I hope?”
“I’m willing to try new things. Let’s find something we can’t even recognize!” She laughed, more perky than I remember her. She tugged me along after her. We ended up finding a nice-smelling restaurant first and picking whatever the fuck we could find that we decided sounded good. And while we were waiting, lest anyone think these events are notable as some sort of date or something.
Sam put a hand on my forearm as I sat there, my mouth watering. “Please be patient with Max, alright? This search is something fun he’s wanted a real shot at and he’s happy to have you along. He’s not stalling, he’s doing things his own special way. I’ll give him a kick when we get back.”
“Thanks,” I said. I decided to try stepping outside my comfort zone a little. “I’m worried. I don’t like to show that, but one day I’m the deadliest bitch on earth. The next, I stroke out if I overexert myself, and I don’t know where that line is until after I cross it.”
“Sucks big time. You know he loves you, right? As a friend, though, not the other way. Aside from that one time… nevermind. Not important.”
Back at the Flyer, we walked right back in past some fleeing children. I had just pulled a leg off this roasted chicken that smelled amazing when a dart struck it from inside the Flyer. I was considering eating it anyway, until the skin started boiling up and the meat melted off. Then I tossed it aside and decided to glare at the hungover Max who was downing something thick and tan from a cough syrup bottle.
“I’m so fucking hungry and you take the food right out of my mouth,” I scoffed.
He held the gun he held up with his pointer extended along the barrel, indicating to me that he needed a minute. Sam and I pulled out a table and set the food down for everyone, including Holly who ran up excited to eat. She lifted up a skewer of cuy, screamed, and threw it away. “Oh my god!” She ended up running off toward the bathroom.
I looked over at Sam, who looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Can’t take this pair anywhere.” She grabbed some cuy for herself and took a bite, “Hey Holly! Mmm, damn, that’s actually really good. Hey, Holly! Come on, you don’t even have to look at it. They didn’t kill it for us.” She grabbed this cheese-stuffed pepper and brought it along to check on her friend.
Erishka stepped up to help herself to some of the food, including the other leg of the chicken. Darn near tempting the wrath of Gecko there, if I didn’t need the doctor to look after my own health. “What’s her problem?”
“The thingy on a stick is a rodent that people where she’s from keep as pets,” I informed her. I pointed to the chicken leg. “Don’t worry, even the people who keep those as pets find them so annoying they want to eat them.”
I reached down to grab a wing off the chicken. Thwit! I felt a pain in my neck. I whirled to see Max holding the dart gun pointed at me, my hand reaching to feel it sticking out of the back of my neck. Everything got fuzzy and loopy and slow. So. Slow. My eyes flicked over to the chicken there in my fingers, so delicious-looking and uneaten. I brought it to my mouth and… almost…
Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.
I should have skipped over to another body. Any children still reading… wow, what, were you born during the time I’ve been writing all this? Anyway, kids, friends don’t let friends get shot full of a rapid-acting sedative knocks you out in seconds. I awoke to my skull feeling like I’d spent the entire time out used as a drum. The pain was the first part of my awakening. There was the smell of food as well. I was laying on one of the nicer passenger chairs I installed that could recline. And in front of me, on a tray, was a piece of roasted chicken.
Holly grabbed it off the plate and started eating it. And there went the spark of joy in my life. I opened my mouth to cry out and Sam slipped something meaty and tasty in there. I winced when I felt a hand stroking my head.
“Your prognosis looks good. No signs of the virus,” Dr. Erishka says. She looked over to Max. “When will the sedative be out of her system?”
“What?” I asked.
“I needed to drug you heavily to go so far inside you for the first time,” Max said. “You know, aside from that one time… not important right now.” He waved off reminiscing and grabbed one of those peppers with the cheese. “You must be hungry. Here.”
I opened my mouth. He brought a syringe around and squirted some liquid into my throat. Once again, too drugged to react like I should.
I think I managed to stew on the bait and switch the entire time I was unconscious because, while I didn’t remember any dreams I had, I woke up pissed.
No one was around. My HUD clock took a moment to reset. It was Tuesday. No one was around. I was still pissed. I heard shouting in the distance. I rolled off the chair and called to my nanomachines, letting them swarm over me for a check-up. Skull needed a bit of mending and I had to get rid of a catheter. I launched a drone from the Flyer in the hopes of finding where the hell the team went. The search was short. They were racing down the street toward us in the back of an old truck, jeeps full of soldiers and a few supers giving chase.
Erishka was bandaging Sam’s belly. Holly had some of my custom grenades. She dopped one beside their truck that belched smoke and impeded the view. Since the road was straight, the jeeps didn’t crash or anything, but I think it helped. Max spun his dart gun and syringe gun in each hand, looking for a shot.
One of the supers, who glowed under his skin with a pulsing yellow light, emitted a blade of yellow light, then pointed to the drone. It was too far away to hear what he said, but it drew Max’s attention to it. He looked up, then put his guns up to pull out a phone and text me: “Get us ready to fly out of here. We’re going, not fighting.”
Growling as much in frustration as in hunger, I docked the drone again and started up the Flyer. The truck came rumbling up into the hold. Holly dived out and hit the button to close the door behind them.
“Go!” Erishka called out.
More growling. I took off, just ignoring the rounds bouncing harmlessly off the Flyer’s armor. One of the Peruvian supers flew up beside the the Flyer. I giggled to myself and swung the aircraft to the side, bonking the Super and sending the guy falling to the city below.
“Where to?” I asked. “Sorry I wasn’t up for whatever that was any sooner. I was a bit hungover. My skull was killing me.”
“Panama!” Max called out.
“This is no time for singing, Max.”
“The country,” he added. He pulled out a USB. “This is what we needed. A key that will unlock the computer system and allow us to track down a ship that delivered equipment to the Crypto Crypt. Ship’s called the Shangrila.
I rolled my eyes, “Fine. And what about me? If you’re done knocking me out, that is.”
I checked down below real quick. Some people trying to scramble jets. I canceled the order, made sure we were hidden from radar and visual. “Keep in mind, I’m flying us,” I reminded everyone. “Sure would be bad timing now if I had a seizure.”
“Enough, you’re fine. The virus doesn’t appear to be in your system anymore,” Erishka spoke sternly. “Now, stabilize this craft so I can work on Sam.”
We leveled off right about then. We were far enough up and all, looping back around for a curved approach to Panama, a country so nice it got a Van Halen song about it. Of course I helped Sam out; my medical nanomachines were the best suited to treat a gunshot that missed the stinky bits of the lower body organs but would have kept her from ever enjoying a drink ever again.
It was just the kiss that surprised me is all. “Uh…” I said, looking back down at Sam , who was still really close to my face and had her arms around my head.
“You never wanted a ‘glad to be alive’ kiss before?” She grinned up at me.
Eh, why not? Of course, Erishka broke us up a couple minutes later. “Can all my patients stop making out? Thank you!” she got between us and had us both sit down. Sam got the all clear pretty quick, while the doctor decided I needed further observation.
“Come on… I know why you’re saying that, and I must say I approve of the double entendre.” I gestured to my crotch and the boner poking up through the skirt.
“Put it away or I’ll turn off the horny section of your brain,” she said.
“That’s located down there as well,” I joked.
“Here,” Max said, shoving the best-smelling bag in history into my hands. I opened it to find another roast chicken all for myself. A couple minutes into my meal, I noticed the stares from Erishka.
“That kind of thing shouldn’t be possible. Are those extra sets of teeth? Like a shark?”
I tried to clear some of the food, but a leg fell out of my mouth. My prehensile tongue shot out and snatched it into my mouth where I swallowed it whole. “What?” I asked her. “I still put on my skirt one leg at a time.”