The End is nigh. It’s not just for preachers to shout anymore.
The Grau gave us as much time as possible, more even. We had to rush a lot of diplomatic shit with my old world, and take in as many refugees as possible from the portal in Empyreal City. In the end, it was time to turn it off.
The Grau had a device for that. Teneceroni actually got the order himself when we were all gathered up at my house. They were still using it as a meeting spot, even after the unfortunate events getting rid of The Perception.
“Ding dong, the bitch is dead!” Captain Lightning celebrated.
Miss Tycism took the beer he’d grabbed out of his hand.
“You’re not happy?” He asked her.
“You’re not twenty-one,” she responded.
I decided against letting them know that Morgan had channeled me into their body. Instead, I decided to play at being Morgan still. I already let the family know. They’re all used to so much weirdness from me already, except Alexander. He’ll learn. And since this body’s not producing milk like mine was, I was feeding the newbie with a bottle instead of a boobie. Morgan preferred it that way, too. So one good thing about losing these portals, no one will be watching this kind of stuff going on.
Anyway, as far as the world’s concerned, Psychopomp Gecko bravely sacrificed herself to trap the Perception. So yeah, I’m hiding the unicorn horn and hooves right now and appear to be nothing but Morgan.
Teneceroni put his communication device down onto his belt. “They’re going to cut the portals now. We’ve given you as long as possible.” And I took steps beforehand. I went to my interdimensional base shortly after reabsorbing my godly powers. I’d used wormholes to meld different places all over the multiverse together for different reason and had to instead use them to quickly excavate a sub-basement and fill it with various equipment, including a lake of medical nanomachines. Then I shut it down.
“Let’s fuckin’ gooooooo!” Max Muscles yelled.
With the power of my returned godly power flowing through my body, I could feel it when the shutdown hit. Knowing what I did about the situation, I checked on the dark stuff: matter and energy. The flow had stopped.
I closed my eyes and reached out. I was going to clear as much of this shit out as possible.
“What are you doing?” Teneceroni asked.
“I can sense the phantom energy. The End may not be an entity in a recognizable sense. It may simply be the influx of phantom energy that causes a Big Rip effect locally, meant to spread outward,” I explained.
“You’re different. What happened to you?” Captain Lightning said.
“Some upgrades from the late, great Gecko,” I explained, truthfully. “She explained what she’d been able to scan for. Dark energy and phantom energy, specifically. They don’t play well with physics and can have some interesting effects, but too much phantom energy is dangerous. While the Ancient Horrors were present, they were able to be trapped because coming here still weakens them. They have to play by our universe’s rules, like the Perverse was talking about. They use loopholes and bend them, but enough dark energy and the rules change, because the universe flips toward their advantage.”
Teneceroni raised an eyebrow. “There are theories, but we haven’t been able to test.”
“Yeah, let’s not experiment on that. I was going to absorb the energy.”
Teneceroni got defensive about that. “It would still be a present and threatening the collapse of the universe.”
He had a point. It would make me amazingly powerful. Phenomenal cosmic power… at the risk of an itty-bitty tiny living space like the Ancient Horrors. And being a Psychopmomp, I suppose that would make me another End.
“Hmm…” I thought it over. Earth had an excess of dark energy. I supposed I could part with some and still be feared. A smile spread over my face.
“That’s a scary smile,” Max Muscles noted. He rolled up his sleeves to show off some runic tattoos in case he needed to magically wrestle me into submission.
“Don’t worry. This is bad news for someone else,” I said.
The objects containing the Ancient Horrors appeared in front of me, floating through the air. The only one not present was the Perverse who, true to my orders, was still lost. And seeing as that was an impossible task for him, he must be really fucking lost.
“This isn’t good,” Teneceroni said. He was right. The close proximity of the contained Horrors, formed of dark matter and the gathered phantom energy were distorting reality. They couldn’t control it in general, but they had just a little bit of an opening. A literal opening. The flash of light was more because of light running away from the tear in reality that appeared. “You need to stop this. Keep them separated.”
“Opportunity,” I said. “They want us to play by their rules. Let’s return the favor. Conventional matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only change forms. Of course, dark matter and energy don’t play by the same rules necessarily, with things like negative energy values and negative mass. So, why don’t we use these properties of dark matter and dark energy, and create some positive energy and baryonic matter.”
Floating in front of the portal, I gathered as much of the matter and energy together as I could, including the objects containing the captured Horrors.
A wave of pure blackness swept out at me and wrapped around me. After a moment, it settled into a bunch of arms all grasping, clawing, and punching me. “My house, my rules,” I muttered to it. One arm reached out and plunged into Teneceroni’s chest without disturbing the flesh or clothing he wore. The awestruck alien fell to the floor. I stopped him telekinetically and raised him back up, restarting his life processes. He and everyone else with some sense retreated. Even Captain Lightning, with his teenage hotheatedness, used some of that magically-endowed wisdom and backed off. I suppose after this show of power, I’ll need to gentle massage some memories into not making the connection between Morgan and the Unicorn Goddess persona I used.
The arms grabbed the edges of the portal that hung in midair as an impossible gap in reality and pulled. The darkness that emerged coalesced into a pale form in a black robe with the fabric wrapped around its face except to show where a pair of eyes looked out. “Now I get it,” I told the thing. “You’re not the End like the inevitability of death. You’re just hungry for the life force of the living.”
“You cannot contain them and myself,” the End growled.
“I don’t have to,” I said. “You want life, right?”
“Why is there music?” Miss Tycism asked. She was hiding behind my turned-over dining room table, chugging the beer she took off Captain Lightning. No time like the present.
“Big Bang Attack!” I yelled, shooting the collected ball of transforming energy through the End and into the portal. The End bent double, then stood up and felt himself.
“I’m…” he started.
“Mortal. Let there be light, motherfucker,” I finished for him. Then I walked up and kicked him through his portal. It was shifting now as things on the other side changed. Anyone able to observe the dark matter and energy would have noticed a shift as the flow of any of that from the portal completely stopped. We were actually a little lower on the ambient stuff, but not enough to cause actual issues. I just wanted a little extra oomph for this particular thing I did. And speaking of oomph, I forced that portal closed.
“What was that?” Teneceroni approached.
“The magic was shifting the nature of the energy you gathered,” Captain Lighting said.
“Yes. Shifting dark matter to conventional, what we call baryonic matter. Same for energy. Massive amounts of matter that breaks the rules of conventional physics, suddenly converted into an even larger amount, packed into the smallest possible space. It’s making quit a big bang over there.”
So yeah, when they say, “In the beginning, there was the Word,” the Word was “motherfucker.”
“You’re converting where they live into a space more like the universe,” Teneceroni observed.
“Yes. At the very least, I’m trapping those entities that threatened us in it. Except for the Perverse, I guess. So now, we have to pass through a universe to get to another universe in our multiversal cluster, if we reopen the portals. Which we actually could do safely now if we so choose.”
“No. Not yet,” Teneceroni declared. “Not until we study what’s going on. What you just did is unprecedented.”
I nodded. “To put it mildly, yeah,” I laughed. “I don’t know if it fully ended the threat from these things. I think it’s a shift in existence they’re going to spend a lot of time getting used to, but change is inevitable. And the truth is, even as many differences as well had here,” I looked especially at Captain Lightning and Miss Tycism, who I think figured out what had happened and who was now occupying this body. “This wouldn’t have been possible without all of us. Even without Gecko, the world still managed. It doesn’t need any of us, as individuals. But maybe it just needs people altogether fighting for their world. And maybe a little luck, no offense to our alien friends.”
It was awkward. That was like a speech out of nowhere, and one that didn’t make sense unless they knew, I think. I followed it up. “So that got weird. I just think I’m going to take some time off now. Anything else we need to do here?”
“No,” Teneceroni said.
I headed out to the backyard.
“So, that’s it then?” Sam asked, following after me while carrying little Alexander. My girlfriend wrapped me in a one-armed hug. “Or were you just lying?”
I shrugged. “Maybe this is a good place to end my supervillain career. I’m on top, we’re safe from oblivion, and I got a couple kids need raising. Maybe the world needs a healer, instead of a DPS or tank. You still going to love me when I stop punching people? I mean, folks like Captain Lightning have pretty good reasons to hate on me.”
Sam rolled her eyes and brushed some stray, teal hair out of her eyes. “I’ve yet to meet anyone who isn’t a fucked up person. I’m fucked up, my parents were fucked up, and my best friend is fucked up. You got all the power in the world and instead of sitting on your hands, you fixed things. And when you get wrong, you try to be right. You’ll even apologize and admit you’re wrong. You are a rare, fucked up gemstone.”
“You’re a gemstone,” I told her, getting some warm fuzzies.
Her watch’s alarm went off. “Come on. Let’s go pick our daughter up from school.”
“Our daughter?” I asked, eyebrow raised.
Sam smiled. “That girl’s going to rule the world some day and she’s going to call me mom.”
When we were leaving the house, the whole gang of mystic heroes had finally vacated from farting on my furniture and eating my food. They were standing out on the front lawn, staring at a magical projection of a large robot in rusty red armor, dripping lava, with a pair of bony girder bat-wings on the back. All around it, demonic figures streamed out of the hole it had clawed its way out of, all in the middle of L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.
“Aw shit,” I said. “Here they go again.”
“Are you coming, Axinomancer?” Teneceroni asked. I doubt he was oblivious to the fact situation.
I shook my head. “No, y’all have fun. Have a nice life.”
There were some lingering looks, but they vanished out of there after a spell from the alien mystic.
Sam and I walked on to go get our daughter, trying to have a normal day. We passed a house where one guy was receiving a package. “What, my eccentric recluse of an uncle? And all he left me was a weird glowing ring?” asked the man at the door from a delivery guy who was just doing his job. At the Burrito Bell up the street, a woman and a dinosaur appeared in a staticy burst of electricity, right in front of a pair of plumbers I recognized as former heroes. She threw one a heavy ion rifle and they started grabbing their tools to go with her. Passing a basketball court, I watched as a couple guys played nonchalantly while some teenagers wandered over toward a reflective orb hanging in midair.
I gotta say, it was a good day.
And so there was one last, tiny portal to open for the purposes of giving people some closure. It’s maybe not a good ending, but at least for now, it’s where this ends for now. I mean, a person’s story isn’t over until they die, and even then they can leave a legacy. Sometimes a complex one.
“Oh, I should fix manicotti. You think the others would like manicotti?” I asked Sam.
See you, space cowboy.
While they were all here, the liaison, who also came to help deal with updating the trans-dimensional technology, has been telling me about all the changes I need to make to my lifestyle. Which happened while we sat around eating grilled pork chops, baked beans, salad, and grilled asparagus. I had called up some super plumbers in town to go about installing extra toilets for the occasion. To my knowledge, neither of them could change sizes or throw fireballs.
“If you want to communicate interdimensionally, we can try to get you set up with a method that won’t damage the fabric of reality,” Mystic Teneceroni told me.
“Who would want to read something you wrote anyway?” Miss Tycism asked.
I shrugged. “They’re probably getting tired of me.”
“I read it,” Sam added. “It started off a lot darker, like Garth Ennis. Cruel dark humor.”
“I once got compared to The Boys,” I said.
“Wonder if it’s because you fucking killed me,” Miss Tycism added.
I shrugged. “Safe to say I’ve had some very negative thoughts about the usefulness of superheroes. But you probably didn’t deserve it as much as I thought.”
“Do we really need to keep her alive?” Miss Tycism asked Teneceroni.
“I’m with her,” Captain Lightning II said.
“I don’t know how your system of justice works,” Mystic Teneceroni explained. “But if you fail, your world will be consumed by some manor of conceptual horror and risk the rest of the solar system, galaxy, and universe unless we cauterize the wound your world used to belong to. Since I’m on this water-covered rock with you, I advise you to suck it up until after this is over. There aren’t many left.”
“Wait, there’s a finite number? And you know how many there are?” I asked.
“Three more,” Teneceroni said. “We’ve never found a way to outright stop the last one. No matter what, no matter what problems it might cause, we have to seal the rifts before the End arrives.”
“Tell me about this End,” I said. Sam came up and put her arms around me. Morgan, the magic hero called Axinomancer, adjusted her lawn chair to be closer to mine. Meanwhile, Max Muscles was trying to impress everyone by putting up a temporary fabric awning.
“Technically, its process has already begun, but it accelerates when the others have come through already. I suppose in their own way, they all are part of the process,” Teneceroni explained. “It involves dark energy, specifically something your people call phantom energy.”
Before we could get too far into a conversation designed to melt my brain out of my ears, I noticed the awning Max put up seemed quite a bit taller than it should have been. And not like someone made a mistake, more like why would anyone create a small, two-story awning for the backyard. Looking back down, I had to shake my head because everything looked off.
Distantly, I saw Captain Lightning throw his food away and ask indignantly, “What did you put in the food? Did you drug us?”
I tried to answer, but he was moving away. Everything was moving away. My backyard stretched on for miles at least. I now sat in a vast never-ending grassland with no shade, no cover, and no clouds. I pulled out my phone. And no bars.
A change in the light drew my attention back to the sky, that little trapped bit of atmosphere that eventually faded into the void of space. The moon now hung high in it, pulling closer. I watched ad it went from a distant celestial object to filling the entire sky, giving the naked eye a detailed view of craters pockmarking its surface. I could even see various moonbases, some left behind by countries, others by supers. I swear I could even make up the abandoned cheese factory where they used to make moon cheese. The shipping and handling was bullshit.
A darkness spread over the surface of the moon. In the darkness were glittering lights from stars and distant galaxies. The mass split into three long bands around the moon, like fingers. The moon was moved out of the way and there was a face made of the same void, with dark empty impressions where the eyes would be.
“I take it-” I started, then stood up and cupped my hands around my mouth. “I take it you’re here to surrender?!”
This big thing opened its mouth to reveal teeth of blazing light as it laughed, the Earth trembling. When it spoke, I didn’t so much hear it as feel it. “”I. Am. The. Vast.”
“Say it, don’t spray it, you vastard,” I remarked.
“You unleashed more than you ever could have comprehended, childish thing,” the Vast retorted.
“Why don’t you come down here to my level and say that, big guy?” I pointed at the grass right in front of me. Then I pulled out my phone and opened a remote wormhole link to my interdimensional base. It’s held together by wormholes, which isn’t helping things overall. But now, it could be the key to beating this asshole.
Sure, the whole gang of mages could probably just suck this guy into a rock or something, but the Vast put a wrench into that. None of the group are around. Even Sam and Morgan went from invading my personal space to being out of sight. And even if I had my powers, I could have implemented this pretty easily. I was worried he’d just splat me flat but I guess he was drawing time apart as well.
Power-wise, there were no restrictions for me to make more wormholes: I’ve been harnessing direct star power. And while it would be environmentally friendly to have Tom Cruise use an exercise bike to make my equipment work, I meant wormholes that open directly into the hearts of stars. Which is great for power, but I have to do it elsewhere due to the gravity issues.
I also activated the redundant wormhole devices. All of them. I keep plenty of them around because shit can go wrong. So without power being an issue, I just had to make as many wormholes as possible: wormholes in stars, wormholes in gravitational singularities, wormholes in black holes. Most importantly, I opened wormholes in The Vast, which I was able to do thanks to the advances space-time targeting system of the wormholes made possible by the very technology that allows them to punch holes in the universe.
Sometimes, I’m really glad I broke into alien computers and occasionally used my omniscience, limited or not, to spy on distant galaxies in space. I was hoping to see some star wars, or perhaps some ship on a long star trek.
The Vast swung a fist at me, but it was taking forever. Perhaps I could have theoretically evaded it since it was taking minutes to land, but this is the same fist where the fingers were large enough to wrap around the moon. That’s a punch so big, it could wipe out the dinosaurs. It was taking long enough to get here, though. Meanwhile, I filled it up with every damn source of gravity I could find, all concentrating in the middle of that damn head. A shrinking head. A head that, along with its own gravity, collapsed in on itself.
The Vast being whatever the fuck it is, it didn’t die. But it sucked that whole thing into itself with what I feel was probably a tormented wail.
“What was that?” I called out. “Couldn’t quite hear that!” Meanwhile, grass moved around me, pulling in toward me. I looked and it was like the landscape was getting sucked into my feet. And thanks to the power of advanced technobabble behind the reckoning of mortal man, I brought the Vast to myself, using the wormholes to keep the gravity from leaking out and affecting me. By the time he got to me, he was marble-sized.
“Not so vast now,” I said. “Now to figure out-”
Sam’s hands wrapped around me. And Morgan’s. “Hey, watch it, y’all, I got an Ancient Horror here.”
“Where?” Captain Lightning stomped up to me. Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni joined me as well, examining the little floating lattice of compressed wormholes. I was able to close most of them and shut down the redundant systems. Meanwhile, Sam grabbed my face and stole a kiss. I even let Morgan do the same, which prompted a competitive Sam to grab me and go for it again. And then Morgan again. I let Sam get one more in before I had to raise my hands.
“Stop it, please, we need to figure out how to contain this thing, especially if wer’re turning off the wormholes.” I explained what I’d experienced and done to the Vast. Captain Lightning sulked, but Miss Tycism and Teneceroni went to work immediately trying to work out a way to create the same effect without the portals. They had to call in the rest of the mages, who were already on their way from the nearby motels and AirBnBs. By the time they arrived, I was just finishing sticking the Vast inside a snowglobe I had laying around from a recent trip I took to Disney World.
“Here,” I said, tossing it over to Teneceroni. “It’s a small world, after all.”
After that whole ordeal, I could have used a break. Instead, I ran to go check on the kids. Alexander was upset, and I don’t blame him. Poor kid hasn’t known anything but the Ancient Horrors since before he was even born.
So it wasn’t until the next morning when I had time to look into the information Teneceroni gave me. Negative energy and phantom energy. I had some knowledge of all that from my time with omniscience. This solar system had elevated levels, I remember, but I never looked into it more. I knew enough to modify some of my trans-dimensional tech. I had made spares of the devices that open wormholes in case anything happened to the main ones I used.
The targeting equipment was less precise without my direct neural interface, but the point was it had an amazing ability to scan space-time, which was just what I needed. Even space was warped by a gargantuan Ancient Horror, it was able to map it to precisely target With some modifications and a little lingering goddess know-how, I fixed it to detect energy and matter that otherwise isn’t observable to beings of conventional matter and energy.
The monitor I hooked up didn’t so much show dark matter and energy around Earth as it showed Earth drenched in dark energy. The physicists are going to kick themselves when they realize it. But that’s also the issue, because this is more than I think I remember, and it’s growing. I think that’s what Teneceroni meant about the process having begun and accelerating. I don’t know if The End that he spoke of is an actual being or not, but this amount of phantom energy flooding the area so quickly is going to fuck with space-time and could cause a Big Rip with a bunch of smaller ones first. The End is coming through every wormhole on Earth, flooding it with energy that’ll tear the bonds between atoms apart. Not just between atoms, but the bonds between the parts that make up atoms.
It’s one of the ways the universe could end. It could definitely take out Earth. So I’m going to have to close the portals and cut myself off from all of y’all. So I guess this useless little blog is going to have to end.
That’s another one down. But now I’ve got another problem. I’ve got a baby, and a little kid, and too many people visiting my house.
Medusa tattled on me. She warned me real quick, too. She called me up, “Hey hon. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t important. You know how you keep playing a role in stopping these things that keep attacking?”
“Last I heard, they’re being called Ancient Horrors. Not exactly horrors in the conventional sense after the Perverse, though,” I told her.
She cut me off before I could go off on a tangent. As if I’d just do that. “I talked to that Liaison. She knew other people were fighting back. She still has the Dark with her, and she knew someone had to have trapped the others. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think this was important, but you made it sound like they’re gunning for you.”
“None have used guns so far, but I may have wedgied my fair share of Ancient Horror dorks. Maybe gave one a swirly.” This is called bravado. It looks real funny to people if you have it and then can’t back it up.
“We’re on our way to meet you. We’re going to be there in a couple of hours.”
“Are you cleaning up the living room?” I asked. I looked out at a floor scattered with some clothes from everyone but Venus and Medusa. I had Alexander with me, ready for a diaper change. Little stinker’s got a lot to learn, but he picked up shitting early.
“I don’t think they’re gong to worry about the house being clean. I’m sorry, I know you’re supposed to rest, but this is important.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice,” I told her. “Just make sure we’re not going to do the whole thing where someone threatens me or tries to fight me, will you? I don’t have time for that shit. I had to deal with Alexander’s.
I was a bit down, so things weren’t that bad. Sam and Holly woke up and helped out. They’ve been adjusting as well, with thick ear muffs. I’ve been letting Qiang stay with friends more. She’s happy to see the cute little baby, but her other senses don’t care for it. Senses like smell and hearing. And Sam’s been great. She even watched Alex while I took a shower and washed my hair and cried about what my life’s come to and how I wanted this but I hate it and what kind of a person am I really?
I needed that shower. Left it feeling refreshed and put on some disposable clothes. It’s easy to go out looking nice when you don’t have to risk getting puke all over yourself on a regular basis. But the family’s helping. I knocked them for not doing so, but they’re helping a lot with cooking and cleaning until I can get in tune with the automatons again. Which reminded me, I rushed downstairs to the basement to shut down the automated defenses on the house. Would be a shame if these aliens who were bothering me got shot down by a lawn gnome packing a bajillia-watt laser and a flamingo with atomic-bladed talons.
When they arrived, I was at least nice enough to have some snacks ready. I opted for an outfit that would allow me to subtly intimidate the newcomers, too. But, I mean, I just dropped a baby out from between my legs. It’s still sweatpants and a loose shirt, but the shirt says, “Bad Mother.”
I made quite a sight sitting on the porch, sipping tea and eating a dill pickle spear, bouncing a flip flop-clad foot on the porch. They hovered overhead in an alien shuttle. I grabbed a remote and activated the landing strip on the driveway that I never really use. Usually, people just parallel park next to the yard without daring cross the picket fence. It can open to let someone in or out of the driveway, but I think only I know that.
I think I killed the vibe they were going for when they all stepped out in costume. There was Miss Tycism, the resurrected magical heroine I once killed, in kind of an indigo robe number. Captain Lightning II was wearing his usual getup. I briefly wondered if he needed to stop and pee in that or if his superpowers just did something with it. Medusa was there as well, along with a blue-skinned Grau with feathers on his head and a jumpsuit on. There were others with them in various costumes or even just regular clothing, but there were two others who stood out to me. One was Axinomancer, a young but legal non-binary mage who used axinomancy, with an ax as a focus of their magic. And the other was a meaty, muscular guy in a muscle shirt with slicked-back hair.
“Max Muscles?” I asked.
“Yo yo yo, who that is?” he asked.
“We met before, but you wouldn’t remember me,” I told him.
Medusa, in a casual Exemplar outfit, hopped out past them. “Hey babe.”
“Hey boopsie,” I told her. After a second, I stood up. “Welcome to the Gecko Household everyone. Y’all are the ones trying to fight the Ancient Horrors?”
“Is that what they settled on?” the Grau asked. He stepped forward. “I’m Mystic Teneceroni.”
“Bonjourno,” I said.
He approached and offered the standard human handshake, which I accepted. Meanwhile, the rest of this field trip of magic superheroes and Max Muscles approached. I nodded toward the house. “There are drinks and snacks inside. Pizza.”
“I’m glad to talk to you,” Mysic Teneceroni said. “I’ve heard you played an important role in dealing with Earth’s problem.”
“Seems that way.” Despite the look of clear suspicion from Captain Lightning, and the way Axinomancer eyed me, everyone else shuffled into the house. “Whoa, pizza!” Max Muscles called out.
So, in the tradition of many of Earth’s peoples, we broke bread together. It was the beginning of them attempting to woo me into an alliance, I thought. But Medusa pulled me aside at one point to tell me, “They’re here to protect you.”
“Really? You told Captain Lightning about that?” I was skeptical.
“I think he’s hoping they fail, but he’s well aware how much is at stake. Guess it’s about time for another generation to be infuriated at you.” She put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Now, I’m going to get more of that pizza. What is that black stuff?”
“Tuscan herbs. It coated the outside of this cheese I sliced up and put on there.” She left me there.
As for me, I needed a little break from all the people for the moment, except I turned and saw yet another one. I didn’t remember ever meeting this guy in my life. It was like the black of his pupils glowed just a little, or like a strong light reflected off them right in the center. White guy, pretty generic looking, brown suit, glasses, comb over, mustache. Geeky-looking fellow, which would fit for some of the mages.
“Hey,” I said, nodding toward him.
“Hi there,” he said. “Nice place.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You’re one of the biggest and baddest villains ever. Is this,” he gestured to the home around us. “really what you wanted out of life?”
“Bold question,” I said. I thought about it a bit. Good food, good shelter, a loving family, and the ability to destroy the world with a wave of my hand. I nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Really? You don’t need, I don’t know, money?”
I shook my head. “Psssh. Just don’t ask about my revenue stream. Money’s fine. There’s always more of it out there.”
“Don’t you ever miss being Empress?” he asked.
These questions felt a bit weird at this point. “It was nice, but I don’t need it.”
“You were a goddess!” he said.
“I mean, some of the kinky shit was nice,” I said. I shook my head. “I guess, once the trauma’s gone, I’m just not that complicated. I don’t want to, like, be an Olympic gymnast or star in movies. I just want a good life. Right now, the only real threat to that are these Horrors. You got a way to get rid of them?”
A hand spun me around and pushed me against the wall. Axinomancer’s mouth found mine. I enjoyed myself for a second, then pushed her away. “Right here and now?” I asked. I looked over to the guy, but he was gone.
“I want you,” Axinomancer said. Morgan, I should call them. They’re a bit young for me and I didn’t see anything in the relationship. We had some enjoyable times with me possessing their body as a goddess, but I didn’t want to make it an ongoing, long-term thing. They’ve got her whole life ahead of them, too.
Morgan turned my face back toward them. “I want you in me.”
“I don’t have those powers,” I told her.
“I know a way. Your brains, my body. We’d be perfect,” they said.
“What’s gotten into you?” I asked. I’d pretty clearly ended it and thought I made it fine with her. There were some nice perks to being a goddess.
“You, I hope,” Morgan said.
I looked around for a little delicate diplomatic help. Max Muscles was scarfing down pizza like it was nobody’s business. Mystic Teneceroni was discussing something with Miss Tycism, both of them creating little magical lightshows as they shows off to each other. I didn’t see where Medusa was at, but Captain Lightning was chatting with the geeky guy. Then Lightning turned to look at me and started over. The dork disappeared quickly when Lighting’s stride hid him briefly from view.
Oooooh. Yeah, I gotcha. Dorky guy’s doing this.
“Hey, Pepperoni!” I called out. Max looked up, but so did Miss Tycism and Mystic Teneceroni. “Is there one of these things that offers you whatever you want?”
“Enough talk and enough lies. The world doesn’t need you!” Captain Lightning II said. He reached for me.
Axinomancer turned, summoning an ax into their hands. “Yeah it does.”
Medusa came out of nowhere to stand in front of me. “Damn right.”
“You asked a great question,” Teneceroni said, oblivious. He created more of a light show, this one more of a turquoise laced with violet. “One of the Ancient Horrors is the Desire. It finds what people want most and amplifies their desire, feeding on the chaos and death.”
Captain Lightning grabbed Medusa and pushed her into a wall. She grunted in pain. And Desire got to me a bit. I wanted my family to be safe. My mind did its calculation. I stood up to Captain Lightning. I looked him right in his angry eye and said, “Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!”
He winced and held up his hands. “It’s in my mind’s eye. It burns!”
I pulled out the phone I’ve got to use while my powers aren’t working and pulled up an image. I showed it to Morgan, which backed them off, too. Soon, the image of that evil woman had shaken everyone out of their desire. As for me, I then found the dorky guy chatting up Sam, dragged him into the restroom, and started giving him a swirly. He disappeared on me before I could drown him on it, but it gave me enough time to think on how we were going to catch this walking armadillo turd.
“Computer,” I called down to the basement. “One small talking statue of Thatcher.”
“We can catch Desire and bind it,” Mystic Teneceroni informed me.
Morgan shrugged. “It’s kind of what I had in mind for you.”
“I mean, what you said is what I was going to go with,” I told my admirer. “But I want to make sure nobody goes searching for the Desire.”
Luckily, this whole ritual didn’t take long with such trained mages around. I mean, sure, the world was going to hell while we did this, but that’s common now. Just weeks now of everything going bad out of nowhere in a world where people superpowers and guns. Perfectly fine for someone to whisper in your ear and go, “Hey, live out your secret desires.”
Meanwhile, we were all crowded around in my basement, me in black robes like this was the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, chanting. They did most of the work, which was a mixture of various languages’ magical chants to the effect of ‘Come on if you think you’re hard enough.”
Axinomancer had regained their memory some time back and, eventually, found a broader way to channel other beings. I was no longer a goddess, so I couldn’t be called upon the standard way, but this other method, while dangerous if it wasn’t specific enough, was still possible. And with this many skilled practitioners and Max Muscles, it worked. They drew the Desire out and to store it in the last place anyone would go looking for Desire: a statuette of Margaret Thatcher that plays “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” whenever anyone pressed the button.
A bit dated, I suppose.
I found out Max’s role in all this when the dorky guy appeared in the circle and Max flexed. Mystic runes glowed on his arms and chest as he ran into the circle, grabbed Desire, and threw him into the Thatcher statuette. “Boom! That’s how Max and his Magic Mind Muscle crew do it!”
“So, is that it then?” I asked when Desire seemed to be safely tucked away.
“We’ll put it somewhere safe,” Mystic Teneceroni said. “Thank you for allowing us to stay here. We would like to stay longer, if we can.”
“I mean, at least one of you wants me dead,” I said.
“Yes,” the alien mystic said. “However, while these Ancients are attacking everyone, they’ve focused on you specifically. Allowing them to manifest against you and then catching them gives us a way to prevent this crisis while my people work to repair the dimensional barrier. Do you have room for all of us?”
Oh boy. I sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Unless anyone wants to stay in a house with a screaming newborn?”
Of course Axinomancer volunteered. Too bad for them that after the trauma my fun parts just went through, I’ve gone temporarily celibate. And, ya know, the news certainly got interesting when people leaked that basically every country with nuclear weapons had a guy guarding them who really, really, really wanted to fire the things.
And as smoothly as Desire went down, unlike the others, his effects seemed to be permanent. People recovered from the Dark and the Unwelcome. The Fate’s and the Perverse’s changes reverted once they were sealed away. But it was humans who shot places up or rioted this time. Which means that dork has the highest bodycount of any of these guys so far.
I know it can take days to squirt out a baby. That’s not what’s happening here. I needed to get caught up is all. It’s been harder to write under the circumstance I found myself in and in the period immediately afterward. Tl;dr, you try keeping up with a blog while giving birth. Miracle of life my ass.
Now, after dealing with The Unwelcome, things were starting to fall into place. Isabella and Maia had been delayed by dealing with the aftermath of The Dark and the invasion of The Unwelcome. Holly had been out getting a signal to Mix N’Max, my old friend, letting him know about the momentous occasion. She’s also trying to hide from me a bunch of presents she’s been buying in secret since I never held a baby shower.
A hulking nurse with cybernetic implants poking out of his facial skin stopped in. “I don’t normally work here, so I’m not sure I have the right place. There are visitors for you. Is this the room of Psychopomp Gecko?”
Ah. Sam had forgotten to give them my alias. That’s an unfortunate oversight.
The nurse shook his head. “That’s Psycho Gecko…”
“Yeah,” I said, curious. My legs were still up in the birthing stirrups, but I reached over and grabbed for one of the panic bags.
The guy had a neck that wasn’t so much a column as it was a slope. Muscles on top of muscles. He could be the main character in a first person shooter. He shook his head. “You fought the space marine invasion, didn’t you?”
The former space marine ran at me. I whipped something out of the panic bag. Instead of my machete, I whipped a stuffed dog into his face. I then lowered my head and the sharp unicorn horn sticking out of it. When the former space marine pulled himself off it, he spurted blood all over me from the hole in his chest and one of his hearts. He got it all over the dog plushie, too. He turned and ran for it, dripping blood the whole way.
Other nurses found me like that, soon after followed by the whole family. “Uh…” I tried to come up with something snarky to say. Holly had me covered, blowing a noisemaker and waving around a couple of sparklers as she ran in, dragging around balloons tied to her arms. She ran over and hugged me.
“Watch the sparklers!” I said, careful of my hair catching fire. There was a lot of unwashed oil in those locks.
“Ew, bloody… so is the baby out yet?” Holly asked.
“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!” I said.
Some strange guy poked his head into the room. “Hi there, I’m with Nuclear Blast Records, and I’d love to sign whoever unleashed that phenomenal scream”
“Out!” Isabella said, closing the door in the heavy metal producer’s face.
Meanwhile, I hit the call button. “Get in here!”
I think I’m due a bit of privacy about what happened next. Which is new. Usually when a situation involves a bunch of screaming, crying, drugs, and pain, I’m all too eager to share it. But permit a blood-soaked babymaker to keep something to myself. And after all that was said and done, they even let me hold the little pain in my ass.
“Hello, Alexander. You’re going to have a hell of a life,” I said to my tired, crying baby. Then I passed him over to Isabella and Maia. Sam and Holly were out of the room, with Sam helping Holly recover from watching what happens when someone gives birth. I’d have warned her to gird her loins if I’d had time beforehand, but there was a lot of screaming.
They did have to take Alexander away from me and almost everyone filtered out to let me rest. The thing about your body being in pain every few minutes for like a day is you don’t get a lot of rest. I woke up to a thin, zombie version of myself sitting in a chair next to an abandoned balloon. Her hair was white save for the barest of my rainbow colors at the bottom. My split horn was longer, with the smaller rear portion twisting around a longer main horn until it came back behind the main one. I couldn’t tell where her hands ended and nails began. She was thin, deathly pale, with cloudy white eyes that stared at me.
“So who are you?” I asked this dead reflection.
“I am your Fate,” it said.
“Is that what you call yourself? Fate?” I asked.
It stood up.
“Since this is a joyous day for me,” I warned it. “I’m going to advise you not to do anything that causes me to have to stand up. So, what, are you here with the failed space marine, or is this another yahoo from beyond the veil of existence?”
“I am the Fate. The path of all living things is set in stone and beset by suffering.”
I flashed back, even moreso than my stress disorder caused once upon a time. I was a kid again, being beaten by others in the Psychopomp Program. I was being held in an armlock by Medusa, tearing my arm out to free myself. I was screaming as something the size of a baby forced its way out of something the size of my pussy. And then I was back there in bed, with that zombie of myself standing in the room. I pulled the blanket aside and swung my feet over the edge of the bed, sitting on the side of the bed.
When I stood up, I stumbled back behind a shield. When I lowered it, I was in a burning building, facing off against a pissed-off Venus. Her armor was slimmer. She retracted a double-headed ax attached to one of her arms and raised the double double barrels on each forearm. I raised the shield. Bullets pinged off, pushing me back as I tried to dig my orange boots into the ash. I was in a black and orange version of Captain America’s costume, but without the belly stripes and with a large G where the star would be.
Venus’s fire abarted. “What’s all this about?!” I asked.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t kill my son, you bitch!” she screamed at me. I looked over the shield. She was heading right for me with that ax. I threw my field at the floor, which it bounced off of to come at her face from below. She swatted it away and took my knee in her visor, diverting her to the side. I landed and shook my leg. Fucking hurt doing that to my knee.
When I looked up again, Venus was gone and I was looking at Qiang, just a little older. We were standing on the torn-open side of a building, like the windows had been blown out. She looked at me, then jumped out. I ran over and dove after her. She was splayed out, her tears splashing me in the face as she watched me bring my arms in close. I flapped my wings but the ground was so close. I didn’t have time to catch her. Instead, a glowing light pulled me up into it.
I stood up in the Mobian’s time vessel. “I have you. That wasn’t real. She’s messing with you.” He wore the same face as when I saw him replace the Torian, his evil counterpart, but was dressed differently. He wore a boring brown suit jacket with elbow patches, but a bright red scarf and a brown trilby.
“Oh, someone finally came to see what’s going on,” I mentioned.
“Everyone’s seeing it. Their own personal confrontation with every bit of suffering they’ve ever faced, sometimes changing their present to twist the knife. You have its attention. Good job with the Unwelcome.”
“Changing the present, but Qiang’s not dead?” I asked.
“Not where you came from,” the Mobian said.
“You can’t evade me,” zombie-me said. She now blocked the glowing white doorway. Her feet didn’t move so much as slide along the floor. I stood up, realizing I had gone from Captain Gecko to Unicorn Goddess as far as my costume.
“Who said I’m evading?” I asked. “I’m standing up now.”
“Your fate has been sealed.”
“Yeah, but I’ve still got a destiny to seize,” I said.
“I stand beside her,” the Mobian said. “Gecko, the time will soon come when I will disappear.”
“You kinda did already,” I said.
“Oh. Well, that’s wonderful news,” he said. He rushed up the dais toward a console and pressed a button. I fell out of the doorway and back into the hospital room. A bright light flashed by the window. I stood up, my costume fading away to a hospital gown now. Outside floated the Mobian’s time vessel. Nearby, my laptop crackled.
“The truth about time travel is this, Gecko. From the point of view of the future and of timeless, infinite beings, the past is set in stone. It has to be that way for us. It’s our present that can change. It’s your present that can change, and the universe has to reconcile that. I’ve devoted myself to helping stop people from changing it enough to bring the Fate into reality, but it’s found a way. So now I have to trap it, maybe even destroy it, but I need my vessel. You may doubt this, but I hope I see you again.”
The Mobian’s vessel flashed and disappeared. Trapping someone who wants to change reality to hurt everyone using a vessel that can travel through time. It’s like rain on your wedding day. Isn’t that ironic?
The gown wasn’t the only thing restored. My body went from a keyed-up Captain Gecko with an adrenaline rush to falling-down tired. I grabbed the wall and eased down into a chair. After a few minutes, I recovered enough to get back to the bed, trying to avoid laying on my deflated belly.
Wait, everyone had to be freaking the fuck out, too. I pulled myself up and stumbled out into the hallway, confirming that everyone else had had a hearty round of being fucked with. I found Qiang down near the cafeteria and hugged her, then carried her with me to go check on Alexander. The rest of the family, mostly hanging out around the cafeteria as well, caught up to us around then, in the middle of a bunch of babies cradling my newborn and my firstborn.
If I were to transcribe the screams, there’d be at least eighteen pages worth before we get to the action. I’d say it was the fun stuff, but y’all will soon learn otherwise. I went to the hospital shortly after my water broke. I was ready to embrace the fact that I don’t know everything and go to a hospital. The Darkness had been trapped by a circle of mages, including Captain Lightning, so my acknowledgment of that wasn’t more of the depression caused by that thing.
Sam called everyone: Holly, Maia, and Isabella. I think she even called Max, just to spread the news even further. But it helped, because Maia and Isabella definitely needed to know. They had to head back to the house after dropping me off at the hospital, though. They’d brought the wrong bag with them, and the hospital really didn’t like me having a suit of power armor, a grenade belt, and a sharpened machete.
In an ideal scenario, I’d have been looking into the people who took the Darkness or find out more about why it came after Earth now. It’s really inconvenient timing for me. So inconvenient that I was focusing on the contractions and breathing and stuff. This was made worse when the doctor examining me looked up from my cooch to tell me, “Looks like you’ve got awhile. The contractions are six minutes apart and thirty seconds long. I’d let you out, but I know you’ll run off and-”
“No, I’m staying,” I assured him. “Fuck the world, I’m about to unpreg!”
“I don’t know if I’d call that a good attitude, but I like your enthusiasm,” the doctor said.
I waited, annoyed, and focused on playing something to take my mind off of everything. I was on the second level of Power Wash Simulator when Sam and Qiang came rushing in with multiple bags. “I couldn’t remember which was which for the hospital!” she said.
She set down a bright pink one. “This should have your clothes.” She pulled out a dildo. “Nevermind.”
“Yeah, not helpful right now,” I said. She put it back and pulled out a bluetooth speaker. “Much better.”
Not sarcasm. I could at least put on some soothing music, starting with “Hip to be Scared” by Ice Nine Kills. There was even a laptop. With my powers on the fritz due to pregnancy, I needed some way to stay connected to the wider world. I couldn’t access my usual tools, which really just left me with public speculation and remote access to VillaiNet. Someone had reached out to VillaiNet. They were putting a lot of blame on me due to my rampant use of dimensional tech, but the main thread had someone liasing from the Consortium of Grau.
The Darkness, they said, was one of a number of timeless, eternal beings. They could be timeless because they weren’t alive or dead. They’re physical and metaphorical entities who had been locked out of all universes despite contributing to the first one. For various reasons related to their own aspects, they want to re-enter, kill everyone, destroy the universe, and feast on the remains.
Sounds bad. I’m still busy pushing out my offspring. Heh. That got a rare smile on my face in between contractions. I mean, I love Qiang and went to some weird lengths to make us biological family even though she was already my daughter. There’s just something a little different about combining my DNA with Isabella’s. Even better since she approved of the kid!
This whole situation was weird and I hadn’t even been given drugs yet. I still had to laugh at the situation. Everything about my life has been the most abnormal shit. Of course I’d be giving birth in the middle of an attack by hostile concepts from beyond time and space. At least they took their time. I stayed in that room, letting the contractions come closer and closer, looking at stuff and playing games. I even caught up on some podcasts I’d forgotten about. I barely noticed when the doctor had to rush out to look at something else.
I got impatient a bit. Not over the kid; I wanted to be done with this but I wasn’t eager to get split open like a melon just yet. I texted my wife, Isabella, and her older self, Maia, in a group text. “Where y’all at?”
“We’re on our way, but something’s happening. These Grau want us focused on the Ancient Terrors.” Isabella responded.
Maia added, “I’m sending Isabella on. I wish I could be there, but I think one of us has to help deal with this. They’re assembling teams to try and fight what’s going on. Wish you could help.”
“Maybe don’t knock me up so much next time,” I responded with a smiley winky emoji.
“Get a room, you two,” Isabella joked.
“Sure is lonely in this birthing suite,” I sent back, to eyeroll emojis. Sam had taken Qiang out to get some food and keep her occupied. My daughter didn’t need to spend her whole day watching after me.
Between contractions, it occurred to me that I’d seen and heard an awful lot of folks running around in this hospital. “Hey!” I called out to a nurse. She ignored me. I spotted my OB-GYN, though. “Pussy doc!”
He skidded to a stop, nearly falling over, and poked his head in. “What? What’s wrong? Have you noticed any strange growths?”
“I mean, I have a baby inside me.” I motioned to my belly. “What’s going on? Why would I have growths? What’s happened?”
“It’s like an outbreak of cancers and other growths,” he said. Well, that didn’t chill my blood. I pulled open the nanite command prompt, double-checked the exceptions for Alexander, and ordered a full-body scan. They flowed into me from one of the bags Sam and Qiang dropped off.
“That should check me. I wonder if this is like that Darkness thing,” I said.
Laughter came from the laptop, where the pixels on the screen weren’t changed, but moved like a laughing face. “You’re right, Gecko. I think we’re simpatico. You’ve got a lot of me in you,” the thing said. The copy of my latest anti-virus pulled up but crashed. “Don’t touch that dial,” said the computer.
The doctor joined me. “What is that?”
“You met my sibling, the Darkness. I’m the Unwelcome. Everything you didn’t want to see where it shouldn’t be. I’m the roach infestation in the wall. I’m the raccoons nibbling on wires in the attack. I’m the virus that snuck past your immunse system. I’m the tumor growing in your brain.”
“Sounds like you get around,” I said.
“I’m a natural part of all life,” he declared.
“You’re a parasite!” the doctor yelled at the screen.
I nodded, having grabbed a bag of popcorn. “You tell ’em.”
“How do we beat this thing?” the doctor asked me.
“Hell if I know,” I said. I gestured to my belly. “I’m in the middle of giving birth here.”
That said, I had an idea. The rampant viruses reminded me of my time inside the now-broken Madstone. I called up Sam. “Hey, babe, you still panicKKKKKKKKIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAGHing? Yeah, contractions are still happening. Ok, I know you’re really upset and there’s probably a lot of shit going on out there.”
“I just saw someone growing a conjoined twin!” she answered.
“Yeah, kinda glad I’m stuck in here. Listen, I need you to go to my house, to the basement, and to the safe. Ignore it, and open the wall behind the safe. There’ll be a number pad. Hold down the number 0 and it’ll connect you to a call center in India. Tell them your name and they’ll open it for you.”
“Is it something that can stop all this?” she asked.
“Yeah, I…. whoa… yeah. Bring me the box. It might be a little heavy, but it’s got wheels on the bottom. Should be a broken rock and a pair of gold-plated gauntlets inside.”
“Is it an Infinity Stone?” my girlfriend asked.
“No, but do hurry up before we’re all wiped out.” I looked down. The reason for my odd “whoa” had come when I realized my fingertips changing color. I leaned over to look at my feet and saw the same thing happening to my toes. I looked from them to the doctor and told him, “You better go prioritize other people right now. I’ve got this covered, I think.”
For the next half hour until Sam arrived, I got to watch as my skin slowly turned a pale, shiny grey. The Unwelcome showed me the nanite prompt on-screen, changing my body to suit him. I waved the doctor off when I first realized what it was, since there was nothing he could do about it anyway. By the time Sam ran into my room with the box, there wasn’t anything I could do either. “I got it!”
“Well, I’m going to need some more from you,” I told her. My hands were typing away at my laptop, but I couldn’t feel anything or do anything. They were moving of their own accord, to the Unwelcome’s will. It had taken my arms and my legs, but it would never take my spirit! It also wasn’t as far as as my womb. That was good. The Unwelcome had repeatedly taunted me by flashing that part of the diagnostic diagram on-screen, letting me know he was aiming to get to my baby and do things. I don’t know what things, but it wouldn’t have been good.
“Oh my god!” Sam said, looking at me. My arms reached out for her. I twisted my torso to keep them away.
“Stay away from my arms and legs.” It’s a good thing my legs had been strapped in. “Open the case, power on the gloves, take the pieces of the Madstone, and press them together.”
“Got it!” Sam fumbled over herself while she popped the case open. She flicked a switch on each gauntlet, then shoved her hands inside. The gauntlets were large on purpose, but air was suctioned out and the padding inside inflated to fit her hands. Electricity arced over the fingertips. And in the middle of the case was the Madstone.
The Madstone had once been sought after as a magical means of removing illness after it had captured a super with godlike power over germs. I freed her and got trapped in her place as a goddess, but was able to escape and break the Madstone, freeing myself. I kept it in case it was useful. I had pieced some of it together, but a gel kept the remaining parts separate.
My arms tried to pull me up out of bed. The nanites flowed out of my body and toward her, the command prompt on my laptop changing to show her twisted into a mass of extra arms and a body of obscene growths.
The palms of the gauntlets glowed crimson while Sam forced the Madstone together, backing away from the shimmery ribbon snaking through the air toward her. It shot at her suddenly, and she raised her hands to block. That would be the hands smashing the Madstone back together right when the nanomachines.
A flash of light. When it cleared, my laptop was normal. The anti-virus popped up and quickly scanned it, declaring it virus-free. The clammy grey skin began to drain away, being replaced by normalcy. Well, that’s nice.
“Is that it?” Sam asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, better put the Madstone back in that case and lock it up. We don’t want that thing breaking again.”
I feel terrible. Absolutely shitty. How dare biology make humans do shit like this for nine months? More than just moral upgrades, humanity needs more biological upgrades. When I’m done with genomes and cybernetics, babies will slip n’ slide out of there. This is a highly inconvenient process! No wonder pregnancy’s the leading cause of mortality for women. It would be for trans men and non-binary folks, but transphobes are number one there.
I’ve been down ever since I lost my powers. My nanites are keeping me healthy, but I think they missed handling the effects of the hormones on me. They were specifically ordered to let hormonal changes happen. That’s important for the kid. Blocking them would have hurt Alexander’s development, but I was trying to avoid all the crying and shit. I guess I should have had the OB-GYN help out with that, because I did a shit job.
I’m really lucky I didn’t fuck over the world more, because the truth is I’ve gotten super lucky. Or I’ve been able to recover. Or people covered for me. Somehow, amazingly, the world survived me and my arrogance.
Yeah, so I’ve been in a bad mood. I know Holly and Sam are losing patience. Qiang wore her armor in once when she came in to bring me a tray of food. It wasn’t enough food, either, but I had to pee first. I had to pee while eating. I had to carry in the last of the food to finish it off while sitting my bloated body on the toilet to pee some more. Please, I just want to stop peeing. I need a cork, but they won’t let me into the basement to design one.
I figured this would be a lot of boring stuff to write down and then never send, like so much other crap. Hell, probably a lot of what I sent is deserving of just never being talked about. The change happened when the lights went out.
I was in the garden, humming to myself while checking on my peppers. I had some gorgeous golden cayennes growing this year, but a section of Boston pickling cucumbers wasn’t doing shit. They had a few flowers, but nothing was turning into a cucumber. So when I got to the cucumbers, I dropped the happy humming, leaned in real close, and yelled, “Why aren’t you growing, you little cuke?!”
“Stop stressing!” Sam called from the back porch. My girlfriend was sipping a bottled water and keeping an eye on me. “It’s not good for your health!”
“You hear that, plant?” I asked the cucumber vine. “You’re hurting my health. You want to put me in the hospital?”
“Holy shit, you’ve gone full mom,” Sam said. “This is awakening strange new feelings in me, babe.”
I groaned as I stood back up, having noticed the shade fall on me but then realizing it wasn’t from clouds. The sun was just dimmer. So was everything else. “What’s going on?”
Sam shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know if I ever know. I think you’re just with me because you want to be and you don’t actually care about me and my life. I’m interchangeable to you, just like I was interchangeable to Mix N’ Max.”
I fucked up and upset her. I’ve done that a lot. With my fucked up life, I’m shit at romance or letting people know how much they mean to me. “It’s not your fault, babe. It’s mine.”
While things got darker metaphorically, they got darker photonically as well. The lights went out. I tried moving to low light mode with my cybernetic eyes. Sam pulled out her phone and turned on the flashlight. Her light went out, and my eyes just couldn’t penetrate the growing darkness. At 1:13 in the afternoon, it was darker than the darkest midnight. “Sam?” I called out.
I didn’t hear anything. I couldn’t even hear the wind through the plants. I reached out and felt the planter, but then it was like it pulled away. There was nothing. A nothing surrounded by nothing. I put my hands over my belly protectively. No wonder everyone from the future acts like I’m not around. I probably die before Alexander gets to know me. That’s been a constant. Or I’m in prison, where I deserve to be. Or maybe I’m as much of a deadbeat to him as I am to the Buzzkills.
My thoughts weren’t pleasant. And on top of that, I had a growing headache. I thought I heard a scream in the distance, but then I got a transmission through my internal radio. “This is a repeat of the psychic message I just sent, in case anyone couldn’t hear me. People of Earth, you’re under attack. The dimensional barrier failed and an entity has entered our reality at Earth. It’s- just think of it as the Dark. It is darkness, the end of all light. Everything good and everything you can see. It consumes all light and all positive thought. Before long, it isolates everyone it comes into contact with, but you’re not alone. You must rage and hope and love. You must stand, now, or Earth will disappear. Maybe more than Earth. Use whatever you can. Think of those you love. Spite it. Think of your hopes and dreams. Try everything you can and fight it while we try to stop it.”
I laughed. Look at that, I fucked up physics so bad that some “thing” that just exists to be contrary to the functioning of the universe decided to pop in and eat us. I never would see my family again after all. I’d never see the new Thor, or see if I could get my girlfriends and wives to dress up in harem girl outfits. Or dress myself up in a harem girl outfit for them.
And it was funny because I deserved this shit, but a lot of people didn’t. Alexander, who at this point had been baking in my lovin’ oven for like 9 months, didn’t deserve this. Qiang is a good girl. Sam, Holly, Venus, Medusa. Leah. My half-brother Davilo. Hell, people I’d actually helped and saved. It wasn’t fair, and that’s life, but it was more than that. It wasn’t right.
I began to get pissed when I realized how unjust this was. And I began to mutter to myself, because I talk to myself plenty. “Death comes for everyone and life isn’t fair, but some of us can make the world just.”
I didn’t even realize I’d sunk down to the ground, which didn’t feel like much of anything. But I stood up. I could do that. This bastard didn’t deserve to have me make it easy for them. My powers might not have been working right, but I tried everything. I tried to create a light on the end of my unicorn horn. I tried to shine floodlights from my cybernetic eyes. And with enough pushing, the darkness began to brighten.
At the risk of seeming all “Old Man Yells At Cloud,” I raised a fist to the sky. I didn’t even have anything really coherent to say that would sound good. I felt like a Karen thinking about how it didn’t have the right to do this, but it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right for me, it wasn’t right for Alexander, it wasn’t right for everyone. And yes, I realized it wasn’t right to me. I deserved worst, but not from this thing. I didn’t even wrong it. Yet. Give me an opportunity, though…
I stomped off toward the house, able to see a short distance ahead of me. It was like I was a light in the darkness, just not a very good one. Which, I had to concede, makes sense. Through the door and onto the porch stood Sam, who recognized me as I got close. She grabbed me and kissed me, hard. After she decided to come up for air, she told me, “I love you.”
“I love you, too, and I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve the life I have, but I love you. You’re amazing. I choose you, understand?”
She nodded and kissed me again. Together, we lit up the entire porch. I grabbed her hand and entered the house. I glanced over my shoulder to see my path from the garden and through the porch was still lit up. The whole kitchen joined us in the light. And nearby, I heard Qiang screaming from her room. She came running at us, all lit up on her own.
“I have an idea!” I said. I hugged Qiang and the three of us made our way to the storage closet for a lightbulb.
“You don’t have powers dear,” Sam said.
“But I have knowledge and knowledge is power. I know how to summon the darkness.” We headed downstairs to the basement, Sam and Qiang helping me gently down the stairs. I had to run a cable from my armor and the house’s hidden power supply to the lightbulb, which I quickly programmed the nanites to reinforce. I have to use a computer for something like that now, but I needed to make sure it wouldn’t burn out. I also wired in some replacement energy sheath pieces from my armor’s gauntlets It took awhile. Meanwhile, Sam was calling Holly.
“Do you want me to call the other mommies?” Qiang asked.
I kissed her on the top of her head. “No, dear, they’re probably working on stuff right now. If they text you, let them know you’re fine and that I’m working on something. But if I’m right, they’ll figure that out soon. Everyone, close your eyes!”
I finished tightening one last plastic screw. The room became as bright white as was possible. It was incredibly light, incredibly bright and focused in a lightbulb.
Sam yelled because the light was so loud. And I guess there was a noticeable hum to the bulb, but not enough to justify yelling. “How does this work? You light a big light and that gets rid of it?”
I shook my head, then remembered the whole blinding light thing. “No. Now, we get its attention further.” I started chanting. I still remembered some stuff from my omnipotence days,. It was a tiny bit of a gamble considering powers went haywire for me now. As a goddess, I could access magic just fine. As a homo machina, that was always an issue. My body now doesn’t quite count the same way, but apparently it’s close enough. The chant was the magical equivalent of “Hey dipshit, come on if you think you’re hard enough!” And I believe it heard me.
I was no longer connected to the rest of the world, so I don’t know what resistance the Darkness faced, but I knew that it wasn’t just us three in my place. For all their faults, humanity can fight back like nobody’s business. Like with that chant and me using magic; in the heat of the moment, I couldn’t even feel a strain.
The lightbulb went from brightest light to darkest black. It was a complete void, the darkness fuzzy at the edges. “Got you,” I told it.
“I am the darkness that makes the world. I am back to judge, to consume all,” a whispery voice vocalized.
“You have no right to judge me,” I told it.
A portal opened, occult in nature. I looked through to see a circle of people in a cave. Miss Tycism and Captain Lightning II stood out to me, along with a Grau in a tight suit. A ghostly astral projection of Captain Lightning flew toward the portal and grabbed the lightbulb. “So this is where our spell forced it. We’ll take this from here, amateur” he said, then he looked closer at me. I guess my chanting didn’t have anything to do with catching the Darkness. Lightning’s eyes narrowed. “You.”
The portal snapped close, leaving the lightbulb and the Darkness in the care of a whole team of mystics. I relaxed. Sam caught me. “Well, that was easy-” I stopped because my crotch was wet. And as I looked down, the growing wet spot on my stretchy sweatpants was replaced by more liquid just flowing freely from me.
“Mom, did you just pee yourself?” Qiang asked.
“Nope, your little brother’s on the way,” I answered.
Unique Problems 3
Most county fairs I’m aware of wait until the end of the year when things are cooler. Unique, Iowa decided to hold its early as part of a big marketing and recruitment thing. The town’s much bigger than last time. I guess the speedster they’ve got enjoys construction. Not sure if they’re good at it yet, but there are many more buildings up.
I appeared with my daughter Qiang and my girlfriends Holly and Sam. Isabella and Maia weren’t able to get away on such short notice. Maia, aka Medusa, and the Exemplars have had an easier time of things since I culled the Earth, but there’s supposedly an organ harvesting ring they’re chasing down. Meanwhile, Isabella, aka Maia’s time-displaced younger self who stayed and decided they’d treat each other as sisters, aka Venus, is on the trail of a librarian gone mad and somehow unleashing monsters. They both know they need me, but part of the reason they first caught my eye is that they were a match for me in combat. That was several upgrades and one godhood ago, but I don’t step in on their cases unless they ask for my help.
So it was just the henchgirlfriends and the henchdaughter visiting Unique. Sam and Holly insisted on walking to the fairgrounds. I think it was mostly Holly. She was the one shouting out, “Oh my god, I want to see the little town!” Sam just rolled with it and I wobbled. I didn’t want to draw even more attention to myself by flying.
The fairgrounds weren’t far out of town because the town was still under construction. We’d heard the music since we’d appeared, and it only grew louder. The bass stood out in particular. Qiang danced along to it some while skipping and Holly joined in. I looked at Sam, who hid half her face behind a long set of bangs that didn’t exist on the buzzcut side of her head. “I’m good,” she said, refusing to join in.
“Me too,” I said.
“I wonder who these others are,” she said, nodding toward various cars and other pedestrians.
“They’re probably wondering the same about us,” I said.
Sam patted my belly. I laid my hand over hers for a moment, to touch her. She smiled at me and blushed. After a moment, she laughed. “I’m thinking of you flying around pregnant in spandex.”
“Careful, they probably think you’re the hero. You have the boobs for it,” I pointed out.
“So do you you!” she said. “Especially now they’re getting into milk mode. You going to let me have a sip?”
I rolled my eyes, then remembered to make them look normal. I went with brown.
“Pretty,” Sam said. “Oh yeah, you hid the rest of the stuff that makes you stand out.”
I shrugged and we headed for the ticket lines. Qiang got in free. My invitation was worth a free admission as well, except Holly stole it off me, so Sam and I had to pay. Holly laughed at Sam and I paying the price of admission. “Ugh, these thieves!” she teased. I stuck my tongue out at her but Sam flipped her the bird.
At least they gave us lots of awnings. Awnings everywhere. Awnings in front of the giant turkey leg stand. Awnings in front of the fried cheese stand. Awnings in front of the beer vendor where Sam bought a big mug full of the stuff and passed me root beer. Awnings at the rides where Sam too Qiang off to go get on something that would spin them around real fast or throw them upside down. Most importantly, awnings in front of the fried Oreo stand and the fried Twix stand. I nearly bit off Holly’s hand when she tried to take those away from me.
“This can’t be good for the baby. I’m pretty sure I can see bacteria in the air dying from exposure to all this deep fried shit,” Holly told me.
“I will devour a deep fried Oreo or I will devour your soul!” I declared in a raspy voice. I was in the middle of a pregnancy-induced feeding frenzy. Holly was lucky she had all her fingers left after she handed the Oreo back over.
She held up the invite though. “This thing says we have a little bit. How about we play some of these games?” She looked around. “You want to win me that big stuffed dog?”
I wanted to become a big stuffed bitch, but once the fried sweets were down and my hands were clean (I’d installed dermal teflon), I figured we could give it a go. First up, the darts. “$10 for five darts, get five color balloons and you get the biggest prizes. I saw your friend pointing out Mr. Pooch,” said the darts attendant.
I paid him his money and took the darts. “So where am I throwing these at?”
The attendant held up his hand to point at the backboard behind all the multi-color balloons. I threw. “Fuck- ouch!” The attendant looked at his hand pinned to the backboard. “What the hell, lady?!”
“I’ll take the big stuffed dog or the next one pops your balloons,” I said, lowering the angle of the next dart in my hand toward his crotch.
“Fine!” he pulled the dart out and wrapped his hand in his shirt, then handed me the dog. I handed it over to Holly.
“Fine work not giving yourself away, mistress of disguise,” she said.
“Ooh, I like when you call me Mistress,” I cooed.
“How about the strength test? Try not to go all out and break the thing,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. “You already got the stuffed dog.”
“Yeah, but I want Mr. Pooch to have a girlfriend,” she said.
I rolled my eyes. “Hey there, little lady. Your girlfriend going to show off for you?” the guy asked me.
“Actually, I thought I’d let her do the showing off,” Holly said.
I held out the money. The guy hesitated. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” I said with a smile.
He shrugged and took the cash. “Alright, I guess I’ll put it on the easiest difficulty for you so you don’t hurt yourself.”
I looked to Holly who mouthed, “Don’t.” I looked back to the guy. I took a long moment of consideration. Then I shrugged and knocked the bell off the top of the damn thing. Send the metal dropper thingy flying into the air. The guy practically threw the dog at me; a nice fluffy mate for Mr. Pooch.
Of course, then we passed by the weight-guessing game, with all its cheap, crappy prizes. None of them cost more than the price of playing it. It was a good game to dump newbies, but the person running it that night was over-confident. “Come right on up, lady, you’ve got plenty of weight to guess, don’t you?”
I looked to Holly, who nodded and pulled out her phone to record. I walked back over to the guy at the Test of Strength, tossed him some more money, and grabbed the hammer. I dropped it back off for him while carrying a whole bag of useless little toys. He winced and gave me a big plush caterpillar, too. I smiled and told him, “Thank you!” I picked up Holly again while she finished getting a closeup of the Guess Your Weight guy as he rolled around on the ground with his hands between his legs.
After all the fun and games, it was time to go see what this whole meeting was about. I texted Sam and Qiang who said they wanted to ride more rides. Holly and I went by ourselves, with the invite getting both of us in somewhere this time. With a nod of approval from the guy at the flap opening, we entered the hot, stuffy tent with a few dozen other people.
I didn’t recognize the guy who stepped up to speak, but he was well-built. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re here, there’s something special about you. You’ve dedicated your life to something higher. Something nobler. It’s tough, isn’t it? Not just the fight on the streets, but the fight at home. Worrying about jobs, rent, your family. The lies add up. So, partnering with some friends of mine, I came up with the idea for us to have our own place. A town designed to have everything to support us. A town full of superheroes, where no villain would dare go after your families. A town where we can even be a little selfish. Take a sick day. Use our powers to help our families. Attend ballgames and graduations. Isn’t it time the world paid us back?”
That got a smattering of “Yeahs” from the crowd.
“We’re completing new housing all the time, with affordable financing options that-” blah blah blah, that’s where they lost me.
At least it didn’t sound outright hostile, but I wish I hadn’t attended. Not like I was getting answers on whatever monster they crossed their crops with. Around the time I noticed Holly playing a game on her phone, I nudged her with my elbow. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” The guy at the flap gave me a card anyway, in case I felt like moving to Unique.
At least the rest of the fair was nice. Hot as hell, but nice.
So then I wake up the next day and find a letter from the City Council of Radium. “On the agenda this Wednesday is the issue of your eviction due to repeatedly bringing hostile situations to the town of Radium. We will give you a fair, private hearing.”
Oh come on, I haven’t- ok, yeah, there’s been a few different problems related to me. Mafiosos, time travelers, giant pepper monsters, horny teenage neighbors with frisbees…
New Normal 3
I hate being nice. I could have fixed so many problems by now just jumping in and not giving a shit about consequences. Maybe paint an M on my head and call myself Majin Gecko, then whine and blow myself up when I remember I like getting laid and having feelings. Then maybe beat up some kids who point out my references are as dated as the beginning of Naruto was to the end.
Enough being a cranky old woman. I was a cranky pregnant bitch who had to deal with a bunch of shitbags stuffed into suits. Like Senator Robson, a replacement for one of the many people I culled when I had the power to make life just blink out. He’s not as bad as the guy he replaced, but that’s a low bar. He got me a place on a diplomatic shuttle to the alien fleet. Sam, Holly, and the interns were excited, with Sam squeezing her eyes shut. She doesn’t like flying, and the lack of windows in this cricket-shaped vessel didn’t soothe her any. The interns and Holly strained looking for somewhere to watch the ascent into space from, but the aliens didn’t put windows in their spacecraft for some reason.
I played the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation to calm us all down. Meanwhile, a blue woman with cloudy skin you could see into just a little bit walked along and set out drinks and little bags of snacks. I popped off my helmet long enough to try the small carbonated liquid and the bag of some small starchy snack covered in tiny mineral crystals. As far as potentially-dangerious alien foods go, they were fine. They just weren’t enough. When no one was looking, I portaled in a fresh foot long corndog and a plate with some fun sauces like marinara, ranch, yum yum sauce, and mustard. Mmm.
One of the aliens looked at me like I did something weird, like eat them all at once. I hadn’t even finished by the time a calming noise reverberated through the vessel. “Welcome to the diplomatic battleship Odo, where peace happens or else.”
“That’s calming,” Sam muttered, opening her eyes at last. She leaned against me. “You better get rid of that.”
I winked at her and slid the remaining half-foot of wiener and breading down my throat, pulling the stick back out without the meat. I tossed the stick and plate through a small portal to the auto-kitchen. I added some robot arms to the kitchen. They’re very handy, and they double as an anti-intrusion measure.
As the restraints released, Sam and I both groaned on standing up. She had her dislike of flying and I had a belly that was messing with me even though the armor made sure I wasn’t sick. Uh, I swear my nanites are working overtime in my aching ankles. Who am I kidding? I think I graduated to cankles. I just wanted to be pretty and have the child I always wanted with Medusa and Venus, and now it’s made me a hungry horror with fucked-up hormones and time travel shit where I have to do it to complete loops.
I sniffled. Sam patted me on the helmet. “Aww, you crying again?”
The others were all filing off, leaving Holly, Sam, and I behind along with the blue alien woman who stepped up. “I must ask you to leave all of your weapons behind on the transport pod.”
“You let us get all the way up here with weapons?” Holly faked a gasp. “What if we need to defend ourselves against others you let come with guns?”
The alien didn’t catch the sarcasm. When she spoke, her mouth didn’t match the words we heard either. “We are aware of cultural differences regarding personal armament or the medical necessity of power armor for some species, but at this point you must comply with the ship captain’s non-aggression policies. For the good of everyone, except the ones who are dead.”
“Weird way to phrase it,” Sam said. “Hey, what’s your species called?”
“I don’t have a species,” she answered. “The Consortium created me to serve them.” I couldn’t read her expression to see if she was enthusiastic about that. She gestured with a slow wave. “Please disarm, or you will not see your loved one. We detect several weapons, primitive and otherwise.”
“I’m getting tired of putting this thing just to take it back off again,” Sam muttered. She and Holly looked to me.
I sighed and began pulling off the gauntlets of my power armor. “We’re being nice.” That got a triumphant hmph from the servant, so I figured she supported her masters after all. The energy sheathes don’t function without them. I set down the exploding knives as well. I didn’t keep a lot of extra weapons on me, and that meant I wasn’t that much disarmed. And they didn’t seem to understand my eyes had lasers built in. Hell, I barely remember I kept some other abilities when I gave away my god-like powers. Meanwhile, the girls had to get rid of shoe knives and so on. After a few minutes of that, they all let us go in.
Some of the Grau were waiting for us, a designation I use for lack of a better idea what to call them. They’re the main species in any position of power in the Consortium of Grau, so that’s what I call them. We got right out of this transport pod where the rest of the delegation was finished going through a customs check involving a scanner arch and a pair of bushes with eye stalks. I spotted that one silver-haired agent again having made his way through it. I know he noticed me, but a group of Grau were waiting for us.
“Greetings, Psychopomp Gecko. You can travel with us to the prison ship,” one of the Grau said. He was dressed in the nice, clean uniform. Two more behind him had darker outfits with clear armor padding. With them was a tripedal reptilian with these little flaps that moves on his head, who was paying close attention to a pale alien that looked like a giant maggot with eight little arms all tied up in cuffs. That thing had a metal disc covering what would be the chest area.
“This is a prisoner transport, not a tour,” the reptilian said. He pointed at my belly. “I do not need a pregnant mammalian on my prison ship.” Unlike the French accent of the Grau and their servant, this guy had a Spanish accent, complete with sounding like he had a lisp on some words.
“This is a matter of diplomacy. You do your job as you are paid to,” the Grau who was in charge told me, stroking his quills. I’m just assuming when I use “his” here. For all I know, none of these things even have different sexes. Or they have twelve. But the reptilian dude backed down and we got back on the transport pod with all of our weapons hidden on it. The weird maggot prisoner actually snuck away one of the boot knives. I winked at it, then went back to not paying attention to anything. Hey, a prisoner escape could be handy to me.
“So, it’s your ship?” I asked the reptilian.
“I am Skarzu, Commander of the Lethac, my ship. My living ship. A dedicated ship for prisoners so they are not kept with the soft ones who talk.”
And the grand prize for this test of blather and patience? Holly, Sam, and I finally got escorted down a hallway past solid doors with small windows for food until the Grau stopped and indicated a door. I stepped up and tested it with a shave and a haircut knock. I received two bits in return. “Boopsie?”
“Jesus, Gecko, you’re here?”
“I’m here, I’m queer, get over it,” I responded.
“We’ve been so sad without you,” Holly told her.
“Yeah, and none of these aliens are fuckable,” Sam said. Holly and I nodded along while Medusa laughed.
“I came to see what’s going on. I heard they’re looking for your sister, too. I guess they’re all pretty sure the person looks like you,” I mentioned.
“Well, I didn’t. I don’t know what’s going on, unless this is someone who doesn’t like me handing me over as a scapegoat. I walked over to the food slot and reached a hand through.
The Grau guards stepped forward. “Hands away from the prisoner!”
I rolled my eye, the other one slipped into Medusa’s palm. The suit provided me a holographic copy to fool these guys. I put my hands up. “Easy, just trying to touch her again for the first time in I don’t know when.”
The ship jolted. “What was that?” Sam asked.
Holly steadied herself on a wall. “Why did this thing do that? Shouldn’t the thing creating artificial gravity keep us from experiencing that?”
“What?” I asked, looking at her.
She shrugged. “I went to college, remember?”
“No!” I declared. Another jolt.
The guards looked at us, and one ran off. The other called out, “Stay here. Don’t touch anything!” then ran off.
A door nearby slid open and curly mess of tendrils grabbed the guard, pulling him in. Another door opened as well and some jiggly pink thing crab-walked out quickly, heading down the corridor. I looked to Medusa’s. No such luck. “Point the eye at the door, Maia.”
“Ok!” she called out. “Pointing!”
I created two portals back to back. Medusa stepped through one on the inside of her door and stepped out outside of the door. She jumped into a hug and asked, “I love you. What did you do?”
“Nothing this time, I think.” Alarms went off. They sounded a lot like human alarms. Makes me glad that the sound some other species uses for an alarm wasn’t the sound of, like, sex noises. “Prisoner escape! Harder daddy, harder, harder! All hands to battle stations. Pull my hair!”
I reached out and… did not see the fleet. The satellites around Earth no longer showed it present. Instead, it showed the massive maggot thing and the ship we were on. It rumbled all around us. “Lethac crew and prisoners. I, Prowbst the Grand, have broken free and altered the core of this ship to power my size-shifting technology to its full potential. I have stolen the rest of the Grau fleet and will hold them hostage. I will free all prisoners, who have a chance to serve me and go free. Together, we will take revenge on those who would lock us away.”
“Alright, let’s get out of here,” I said. “Huddle up, team!” Holly, Sam, and Medusa all joined the huddle.
“How do we get out of here?” Sam asked.
“Ready, break!” I clapped my hands together and stood up. The four of us were back in my basement.
“That was easy. We’re getting good at this,” Holly noted. She was shut up by Maia grabbing her and kissing. Sam too. Maia nearly knocked me down when it was my turn.
Of course, I got an incoming message on the public line from Senator Robson, the guy who did the favor of speaking up and ask for me to go on that little journey. Medusa popped my eye back into its socket while I reluctantly answered that.
After the first five straight seconds of screaming cut out, there was just that old guy yelling, “Ah, save me, save me, save me!”
“You probably should save them all,” Medusa said with a groan. “I hate saying it as much as you hate hearing it.”
“Fuck those guys,” Sam said. “Those French aliens were stuck up.”
“Yeah, but you think maybe that big worm is going to be a jerk?” Holly wondered.
I didn’t have an answer to that question until about an hour later, when the alarms started. Of course it was in the middle of fun time. “Pull my hair!” I yelled at Maia.
“Wait, you hear something?” she asked.
The computer switched from playing Fatal Attraction by Midnight Danger to the sound of that giant maggot. “People of this planet. I am your new ruler. All who disobey will be shrunk to the size of a small creature and squashed! Mwahaha!”
“Fuck!” I yelled, lowering my head where I could look back at my knees on the bedspread.
To my surprise, Maia reached her fingers into my hair and gave it a tug. The world could wait.
New Normal 2
Maia, aka Medusa, has been arrested by someone in connection to an attempted bombing on the U.S. Capitol when an alien envoy was present. There are dozens of different ways she could have been framed. I don’t know why the aliens are here, but they’ve got a fleet parked in orbit and I think we all want to avoid yet another alien war. It’s getting old at this point, and there are more aliens than there are people on Earth, so the numbers are against us.
Sam and Holly, other girlfriends of mine, took the news well. Sam pulled out her bronze knuckles and Holly grabbed a morning star off the wall. I held up my hands. “Let’s not go off half-cocked here.”
“Really?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, I’m still putting together armor. Also, I don’t know who actually has her right now. I figured I’d try diplomatic channels. First thing’s first, I’m trying to talk to Isabella.” I thought Venus would be getting back to me in no time, so but she told me she needed to talk later. Meanwhile, I’ve got whole villainous base mobilizing. “Creating clones, assembling nanomachines, and manufacturing drones, too. But mainly, I’m trying to get the armor right.”
Sam patted my shoulder. “Baby, you don’t need armor. You’re not fighting in person.” She reached out and touched my belly. Ever since I got this damn belly, people just touch it without asking. Holly set the morning star down and reached out to rub my belly, too.
“I am the most dangerous person on Earth. I’ve got a loaded pregger hole and I’m not afraid to use it!” I declared. I got a ring back. My eye HUD told me I had a call incoming. “I gotta take this, it’s Venus.” I backed away to try and escape their hands. I turned and headed downstairs to my basement lair. “Isabella, my baby daddy, what’s the situation?”
“I am at the Master Academy. I cannot believe I have to hide here. Alright, Maia, right; they think it might have been me instead and they want me arrested by the government and turned over to them. I think that means it’s the aliens who have her.”
“Any idea what they are? They don’t look like Fluidics or Trobogorians. Or Cercopagus Lysis. Or those guys with the space opera-”
“I don’t recognize them either, but they call themselves the Consortium of Grau. That may not be their species. This is all my fault.” I had never seen Venus so uncertain of herself as she’s been since we resolved the issue where she stole godlike power from me and tried to fix the world.
“Did you blow up the capitol? I mean, you know I’m not snitching,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“Then it’s not your fault. Duh.”
“They’re here because of what I did. They detected it through fancy high tech alien whatchamacallits and came to make sure Earth wasn’t going to fuck everything up. That I wasn’t going to fuck everything up.”
“You’re not, so there. Issue resolved. Moving on,” I said. She stayed quiet. I sighed. “Ugh… ok… as much as I don’t get rehabilitation, you’re generally a force for good. You even… ya know… me. And I did a lot worse than you ever did. I’m proof that not only are you not terrible and the worst person in the world, but that people can change for the better. And it was thanks to you. Oh my god, kid! Your baby won’t get off my damn bladder.”
She laughed. “Ok, the Grau took her up to a ship, but you can talk to them at the Capitol. They’ve landed delegations in major nations’ capitols around the world. That’s if you want to talk. I’m reaching out to the Exemplars for when that fails and we have to beat my sis out of them. I think they have a spaceship in case of complications.”
“Smart. I’ll talk since the aliens don’t want me dead as far as I know. Plus I have that bit of space celebrity from that opera. I doubt I’ll get anywhere, but maybe I can arrange a visit so we can pin down her location.”
“You might need to put a tracker on us,” Isabella suggested. “Something other people can’t track like a phone.”
“Funny how I’m the violent option on Earth, and the diplomat to the stars,” I mentioned in parting.
Sam and Holly insisted on coming with me, so we had to get a babysitter for Qiang. I trust Qiang… within reason. She’s getting up there. The stuff with the altered reality interrupted her latest birthday party, but she’s getting to the age where I can tell she doesn’t want to spend time with me and might even be embarrassed by me. I guess that goes double now that I’m puttering around all aching, fat, and gassy. We figured she wouldn’t need a sitter for long. For the sake of the sitter, I hoped she was prepared for a challenge.
The pair even donned a pair of costumes. I saw them when gathering up my gear at the store and prepping the Flyer in case I needed it for a diplomatic mission-turned-fight with aliens. Scattered around were boxes, containers, a few drones, and snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks were absolutely essential. I’d already gone through half a bag of Dove chocolate and a package of smoked gouda pretzel sticks by the time my other girlfriends showed up. And also a few pickles. Some nutella. I ordered a Hawaiian pizza because I wasn’t sure how long they would take and it actually sounded delicious to me right now.
Sam wore a shiny red corset, white jacket with red studs over that, and pants trimmed in white. She protected the short mohawk she was going for with a red armored helmet and tinted white visor. She had on reinforced biker boots. Holly’s outfit was looser, with a shorter maxi skirt over the pants that had red leopard print spots in places. The back of her top turned into a hood with stiff supports to hold it up or retract it when she needed to. And her shoes were practical as well; modified Under Armor Ubers that The outfits looked like they were all about fashion because of the subtlety of the armoring and some of the gadgetry built into it, like electric stun pads in the gloves, hidden boot knives, and radios.
Sam was Rose Red and Holly was Snow White.
“Wow,” I said, seeing them in that in person rather than memory.
“Yeah. We liked the costumes from memory,” Holly said, twirling and making skirt go spinny.
Sam walked over, working those lovely curves. She put a hand on my chubby mommy belly, because of course she did. “You’re just wearing this outfit?”
I was in a loose boho skirt and tank top. I pointed behind me to the small treaded vehicle the size of a small car headed up the ramp from the extensive underground base under my store. “I got more clothes in there.” It settled in next to where some body doubles of me were seated on chairs. Unlike me, these weren’t pregnant.
“Good, you’re not going into a fight yourself,” Sam said. She took my hand. Holly took the other one. A moment later, we appeared in my portal lair. When I got my hands on wormhole technology, I exploited it to create a base that combined pieces of various dimensions and locations within the universe. We appeared in a cave with air portaled in from over a section of ocean higher than the tallest ships and lower than any plane that would be traveling that far from civilization. I activated a giant monitor and a hologram station to give me a complete view of the alien fleet over Earth.
I had a moment of viciousness. “I could just… wipe them all out. Every single one. Crack them in half, douse them in the heart of a star, suck them all into black holes, vent atmosphere, flood them with deadly creatures. Drowning, electrocution, throwing a planet at them. I am death incarnate… except I need Maia and I don’t know where she is. And if I kill them, maybe they send another fleet. Or they send someone with the ability to negate wormhole technology. Or they just destroy Earth from afar before we even realize we’re under attack, doing to us what I do to them.”
Sam squeezed my hand. Holly booped my nose. “Boop. Why so serious?”
I shook my head. “Heh. Guess it’s a good thing I had so many mental problems before. I was mad without power, so I already know to be careful. Ok, enough with the boring-ass introspection. Everyone ready to go deep into Congress’s tightwad?”
They nodded. A door opened in front of us, with me humming the Twilight Zone theme. We stepped through and out into Congress near to various people in suits. I tapped one of them on the shoulder. “’Scuse me, I need to see an alien.”
“Who the hell are you?!” asked a startled man somewhere around his thirties with a bit too much forehead and chin.
“I am the Psychopomp and I request a meeting with the envoys. Take me to them.”
“You look like some fat woman with two cosplay chi- oh my God,” he backed away when I warped my body away and replaced it with a spare body wearing a set of my armor. I had armor for myself, but it looked better without the rounded belly. Someone ran up, Capitol Police. Holly and Sam were ready, but the guy I’d scared held up his hand. “Officer, this group needs to be shown to the alien envoys. Take them there immediately.”
The officer took his hand off the very large gun and held them up to show he wasn’t going to do anything, then waved us toward him. “Sorry, right away.”
We walked through what they call the halls of power. There, the slimiest and most craven of power-grubbers oozed around looking for ways to collect checks and prestige without doing anything. And that’s after I’d killed all the malicious ones through accidents when I was a god. Finally, we were shown through a cordon of guards, including aliens in power suits that hid everything but their body shape and number of limbs. To play nice, I stepped back out with my real body and my sore cankles to look less threatening.
“This is cool!” Holly said.
“It’s lame,” Sam countered.
“I could really go for Korean fried chicken,” I said.
The cop presented us to some guy in a suit, who presented us to a room with a big table where Americans in suits sat with teal aliens who had lion-lake manes made of quills or feathers depending on the alien. “Psychopomp Gecko, and guests.”
“Thank you,” I said to the cop. I handed him a fiver. “Tell you what, go buy yourself some really cheap love.”
He stepped away, and my group stepped up to the table where some confused Senators, ambassadors, and aliens all stood up at my presence. One of the feathered ones turned to me and said in French-accented English. “You are the opera star. This is an uncommon delight.”
“Hon, hon, hon, now you send celebrities?” a petite quilled alien asked, directing the question to the politicians.
“I am not here as a celebrity, though I will sign autographs after the meeting,” I announced. Holly pulled a black marker out of her utility belt for emphasis. “I am here because you have arrested my wife under suspicion of trying to blow you all up and would like to negotiate for her release.”
In one back corner, I saw a silver-haired agent in a much cheaper suit whispering into the ear of a man from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The small alien gestured to another in its group. This one was larger, and had a couple of rings gathering up quills on opposite sides of its face. “That is not possible. What she did was a violation of the sanctions of safe harbor and diplomacy of the Consortium.”
“Let me visit her then,” I said.
The Senator from the SSCI spoke up, “We would consider it a personal favor of goodwill if you honored the request of Psychopomp Gecko to see her wife.” I glanced at him and nodded my appreciation. That’s Torian and now this guy I’m going to owe favors to.
“You have a child from the prisoner?” asked the alien who recognized me from the space opera I’d been in a little bit. That feathered alien reached out across the table for my belly, then actually climbed across it to place her hand on my belly. Holly and Sam both snickered.
I sighed. “Yeah. And if you let me up to see her, I’ll let anyone in the room who wants to touch my belly do so, on top of the good will incentive.”
I’ve never had so many hands on my stomach. “It is agreed!” the quilled alien with the slight build declared. “We will provide you with what you Earthlings call a conjugal visit, eh?”
“That’s not,” the one Senator who helped me out started to say.
I held up a hand. “Speak for yourself. I fully intend to get up there and conjugate her brains out.”
“We will have you on the next diplomatic shuttle,” the petite envoy declared. Meanwhile, the one who recognized me pulled out a plush doll of me for an autograph.
Topsy Turf 1
So here’s the score… I shared power with Isabella, aka Venus, the version of my nemesis-turned-lover pulled out of time a few years back. She wanted to marry me after I used my godlike powers to give myself her baby, so we got hitched and took a honeymoon in space where I merged with her symbiotically. I also decided to let her use my power for something of her choosing when we got back to Earth.
Now, I’m a fucking human. Not homo machina, human. I have real eyes without lasers, no internal wifi router, and my skin went from bulletproof to squishy. And she made it where I’m a retired superhero who can turn into a reindeer-woman. As far as I can tell, every other villain on the planet is a superhero like this.
Mix N’Max runs pop-up pharmacies. Spinetingler is a pumpkin-man who lures people into his haunted house to scare them straight. Powder, who is literally powered by cocaine, is in the hospital because of sudden withdrawals. And if you’re wondering how Spinetingler has anyone to scare, I think Venus only swapped over super criminals. The Greens gang either became super cops or turned their lives around, but she wrote the past so that mundane purse snatchers and burglars existed. And crimes are still happening. My computer has a link to the Shieldwall Database.
Shieldwall’s a thing again. It went from a bunch of people I pissed off trying to stop me as a supergroup, to being a worldwide superhero collective. I have an inbox full of superheroes congratulating me on the recent marriage like they know me. Including, it turns out, from my sister Dame. Yeah… now she’s my sister. I think Venus just plain erased the Three Hares conspiracy, so now Dame and I are twins who grew up in a nice fancy place. Dame tests security for banks and museums.
That made me wonder what she did to my actual brother, who was over in our home dimension. To make it more confusing, this Earth was connected to yet another version. That one, everyone was all swapped around so the heroes were villains and villains were heroes. I was overwhelmed with questions and missing my omniscience. Also, really wish gravity couldn’t touch me anymore. I feel so heavy now, and that’s not the pregnancy talking. I don’t have the enhanced musculature either.
I didn’t need this shit. I had a direct line to Venus. After all, she’s the goddess now. Just had to igure out prayer. I once heard that it’s actually pretty easy; “you just put your hands together and hope.”
Venus’s face appeared on my monitor. “Gecko! I should say ‘Delilah’ now. You got back to me fast. How are you getting adjusted?”
“Ve- Isabella, I know you made all the villains heroes, but what else did you do?” I questioned her.
“You’re upset.” She sighed. “Give it a fair shake, ok? I’m giving you a shot at a boring domestic life and at being a hero. There’s no past for you, but not just for you. I gave all of them a chance.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose in exasperation. “You did a lot more than that and you shouldn’t.”
“Why not? Your power is all-knowing and all-powerful. It’s not capable of making a mistake,” Isabella said.
She plucked the accusation of a mistake from my mind. Before I could speak, Isabella continued, “Just give it time. Please. You know you’re contrarian and you pretend you don’t want a chance to be a hero.”
That’s not true, readers, but even if it was, you can’t just make people heroes. I was going to tell Venus about it, but she left my computer monitor. Just left. Didn’t pop out to continue talking with me or anything. Left.
I put my hands together again. “Get your ass back here!”
“I know you’re listening! I remember how annoying prayers were until I tuned them out!”
“I’m your wife, dammit!”
A halo of light erupted from the computer monitor. I got up and went about my usual day. I woke my adoptive daughter up, fed her, got her ready for school. My sister and I passed some texts back and forth, since she was still up just after a heist. Then it was off to the store instead of tackling Holly back into bed. Selling weird and quirky gadgets to small town America, aka Radium. Someone even came into the shop and got an autograph from me for her action figure.
It was a nice, boring, easy day. Yeah, it was nice to be with my family. Everything else was boring. Being some shop owner. I’m almost a nobody.
The next day, I woke up and got my daughter ready and off for school. But I had to put the store on hold. My Shieldwall Reservist alert watch activated. I threw on my spare costume at the store while reading the alert. Somehow, the Greens had gone crazy. They were an order of environmental guardians who protected the Earth after having been exposed to a mysterious chemical in their drugs. They’d ended up animalistic, with fur, horns, even hooves. And now, all of a sudden, they were rampaging around the city. They were rapid-growing trees on streets and bridges, destroying every car, and were trying to take down the city’s electrical grid.
Heh. Don’t know why I felt so smug and cynical, but I guess they realized a conflict between keeping the peace and opposing damage to the environment. Now, Shieldwall was calling up some reservists from all over to come to Empyreal City to fight them. Something felt off about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Instead, I stepped out of the Empyreal City Shieldwall Meeting Hall teleporter tubes and activated my powers.
It felt just like the first time transforming. It’s uncomfortable. It never happens evenly. My muscles tore and stretched. Bones shifted and grew, sometimes breaking as they moved. The bone growths that spouted from my head were the worst part. The antlers grew out of my head, only appearing after the velvet burst, all bloody and gory. I almost gagged when I got slapped in the face by some of the velvet.
Somebody walked up to me, a guy in slacks, shirt, and tie. “Whoa, we don’t need you. You look too much like the guys who are doing all this.”
“Like hell we don’t,” an older, guy said. He was dressed the same as the first, but heavier set, no shades, and his clothes seemed more worn. “Residents near the natural gas plant in Jamaica are telling me the skies are filling with pollen there. Everyone else is busy. Do you know how much energy this fucking city takes? Beggars and choosers, Davidson, for Christ’s sake.”
Davidson and Jameson, liason officers from the Office of Superhuman Resources.
“Jamaica?” I asked.
I flew into the air and took off through the roof access of the Meeting Hall, humming the Sorting Song from Futurama. Everybody say Jamaica!
My antlers glowed. Sometimes, people wonder if I might be trans or something because of the antlers thing, but female reindeer have them and keep them for a long time and-.
Oh, there was the cloud of pollen. Like a flower explosion happened in Queens. The Kennedy International Plant was hidden under a thick yellow cloud that immediately made me wish I didn’t have a nose. “Oh deer. I wish I wasn’t going into all that.”
I activated the sonic arm cannons and flew directly overhead, firing downward to force the pollen onto the ground. The cloud settled, revealing what the Greens had been hiding. In its place was a huge flower with thorns on the edges of the petals and along its waving branches. It snapped its petals closed, using the thorns like fangs. My antlers lit up, but there was the whole natural gas plant it had grown right near. I had to be careful. Pipes and such. The very thing that more easily gets rid of it is exactly what gets rid of the power plant I’m here to save.
Ok, so I can’t do this easily. If I was going to be lazy and take the easy way out every time, I’d have just been a cop.
Where’d that come from?
I swooped right down the middle of that flower, into, past grasping stamens that swallowed me whole. I ended up trapped in the bottom of its main stem, squeezed on all sides. I pressed my arms and legs against the walls, especially aimed upward and downward. I turned the sonic weapons up high and fired, tearing the flower off and splitting the stem, freeing myself. Chunks of the flower fell down on me. A big part fell on me, slamming me into the body of the giant plant and landing on the top of the root bulb and throwing up a shitload of pollen that had landed.
I felt it growing back around me. I blasted it again, trying to give myself room. Finally ended up clearing enough space to do some light blasts into the roots, tearing out chunk after chunk as I went, sneezing all the while because of all the pollen.
When it no longer seemed to be trying to grow back, I crawled my way out of the sticky mess, covered in chlorophyll that trapped pollen all over me. I was sneezing, goopy, I had things in too many unpleasant cracks. In the words of Master Shake, “I am 30 or 40 years old, and I do not need this.” And then I get outside and see people posting that shit on Tiktok for likes. Curious onlookers who couldn’t bother to, ya know, run from the potential giant fireball that would have happened or the plant with thorns the size of their bodies.
And then word came in from Jameson about some of the Greens elsewhere.
I was glad to finally get back home, cussing and muttering to myself about them teleporting me but leaving the fucking goo all over. Lives saved, power plants still most operational, and meanwhile we’ll all get called fucking corporate shills because we didn’t want people to go without heat or hospitals to go without power and all that shit. We’re not the ones who decide to build wind turbines and tidal turbines and nuclear plants. At least the Greens didn’t try to fuck with those.
First thing when the teleporter dropped me off in my basement, a shower. The one down there was built to handle all sorts of biohazards. Just… really not fun getting the chlorophyll out of some of those places. When I got out was a message on my computer monitor. “Do you see yet?”
I shook my head. Motherfucking Venus… Isabella… she brainwashed me! That message was the trigger to revert it. She tried to make me a hero for a day and a regular person for another. In the middle of my anger, I had a long laugh over the fact that it didn’t stick that well even when it happened. I hated being some spandex cop. I was still me, though. I still had my perspective.
That’s what did it for the Greens, too. She changed their minds temporarily, but whatever thing they’re into, however it affects them, it changes their perspective, too. As far as they’re concerned, what they were doing was right, and there are others who believe in it as well. Pull the plug, destroy all that stuff, and that way the rebuild might as well be clean sources of energy. If it happened to them and started to happen to me, it was going to happen to others. Medusa, Maia, for instance. The reason she went from being Venus to taking that identity was because she got to the point where she couldn’t stand upholding a flawed system blindly, where the worst abusers were protected because they were rich or come from the right family.
So that’s a flaw. It’s something I can use to maybe convince Isabella to turn things back. Or she might try to correct things again.
I knew I needed a plan, and I needed allies. I didn’t want to think about it, but my wife and I might get into a domestic dispute over all this.
Oh my god, and she made me a cis woman. I mean, sure, now guys who beat their wives will stop objecting to me playing Jeopardy, winning beauty pageants, and being middling at sports, but at what cost? That’s… I don’t even know. I was furious at her for everything she did, all these changes, some of them like she didn’t even know me but wanted to force me to do what she thought was right.
The fabricator had a new suit of power armor ready for me by the time I woke Qiang up the next morning.
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